1203: "Time Machines"

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kryton
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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby kryton » Wed Apr 24, 2013 12:42 pm UTC

try thinking of it this way, forgetting everything else about time machines from other movies/tv/print/etc.

This particular time machine is the "reverse" button on the remote control for the universe.
While the button is pushed the universe runs in reverse.
You are part of the universe so you also run in reverse.

As soon as you push the power on button to reverse the universe, you then also run in reverse and unpush the button.
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Shidoshi
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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby Shidoshi » Wed Apr 24, 2013 12:53 pm UTC

kryton wrote:try thinking of it this way, forgetting everything else about time machines from other movies/tv/print/etc.

This particular time machine is the "reverse" button on the remote control for the universe.
While the button is pushed the universe runs in reverse.
You are part of the universe so you also run in reverse.

As soon as you push the power on button to reverse the universe, you then also run in reverse and unpush the button.

I don't know why so many people are having such a hard time understanding this one. It was pretty clear to me the first time I saw it :roll:

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby hermitian » Wed Apr 24, 2013 1:09 pm UTC

kryton wrote:try thinking of it this way, forgetting everything else about time machines from other movies/tv/print/etc.



I think this is the key part that I struggled with. From all other media (movies, etc) the entire premise of a "time machine" is that it affects time for everything/everyone, with the exception of the operator and the machine itself.

Randall is throwing the last part out and saying that if it affects time for everything and everyone (including the operator and the machine itself), it isn't much use.

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby Pingouin7 » Wed Apr 24, 2013 1:21 pm UTC

Shidoshi wrote:
kryton wrote:try thinking of it this way, forgetting everything else about time machines from other movies/tv/print/etc.

This particular time machine is the "reverse" button on the remote control for the universe.
While the button is pushed the universe runs in reverse.
You are part of the universe so you also run in reverse.

As soon as you push the power on button to reverse the universe, you then also run in reverse and unpush the button.

I don't know why so many people are having such a hard time understanding this one. It was pretty clear to me the first time I saw it :roll:

Because what is obvious to you is not necessarily obvious to everybody.
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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby blowfishhootie » Wed Apr 24, 2013 1:33 pm UTC

Shidoshi wrote:
kryton wrote:try thinking of it this way, forgetting everything else about time machines from other movies/tv/print/etc.

This particular time machine is the "reverse" button on the remote control for the universe.
While the button is pushed the universe runs in reverse.
You are part of the universe so you also run in reverse.

As soon as you push the power on button to reverse the universe, you then also run in reverse and unpush the button.

I don't know why so many people are having such a hard time understanding this one. It was pretty clear to me the first time I saw it :roll:


Maybe it was obvious to you because you immediately jumped to a wrong interpretation? Your snobbery is only valid if you make the assumption that whatever interpretation you immediately came to is the only possible valid interpretation of the comic with the context provided. Also, even if that assumption were true, then what Pingouin said.

Sorry if a smiley rolling its eyes is somehow supposed to indicate sarcasm and I've missed it, but it certainly doesn't say that to me.

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby belliott4488 » Wed Apr 24, 2013 1:35 pm UTC

rmsgrey wrote:
TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:Should be "systems normal," no?

"normal" could mean "broken, just like always"

In the military: SNAFU = Situation Normal, All Fucked Up

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby belliott4488 » Wed Apr 24, 2013 1:39 pm UTC

Guys - look at his hands (as Cueballs' cousin is doing in panel 4).

Especially in panel 3 - that's not how you push a big handle down.

Get it now? ;-)

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby Unclevertitle » Wed Apr 24, 2013 2:01 pm UTC

Though come to think of it, if this machine is only reversing time's flow while it's on then that's an odd switch. Typically a switch like that is OFF for every position other than flipped all the way up. Yet the time machine reverts the switch back to all the way down. So that switch is weirdly different than normal... so...

xorsyst wrote:Clearly the problem with this time machine is that the switch is upside-down


Yep. However the alternative is to have time frozen into a constant moment (or at least vibrating around it). Then what do you do? Hopefully this will cause the time machine to explode.

Considering the actor of today's comic seemed to recognize that something did/didn't happen as expected then he can react accordingly and thus eventually stop trying to flip the switch.

Note to self: For safety purposes, all active switches and levers on any time machine will be upside down/backwards. So that any misfires will undo themselves and we can get on with the practice of meddling with the fabric of the universe.

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby Fire Brns » Wed Apr 24, 2013 2:06 pm UTC

Wooloomooloo wrote:Ok, we're clearly not getting far with this one. Here's something else instead: who else finds Hawking's "proof" of perpetual infeasibility of time travel (announcing a party for time travelers on a fixed date then waiting for them to show up from the future) seriously disingenuous? He surely must realize after all there could be about a zillion other reasons preventing any willing time traveler to participate...?!?
Obviously a time machine culture wouldn't travel to a point in time before the invention of time machines so as not to screw up everything.
Maybe passive observation of stuff like dinosaurs but they couldn't show up and be like "time travel, bitches!" and then we see the rough shape of the time machine and know one can be built and end up developing one decades or centuries before we were supposed to.
Even within their own culture any time travel would be regulated to mundane things like first responders showing up to save lives and not missing your kid's birthday.

Unclevertitle wrote:Though come to think of it, if this machine is only reversing time's flow while it's on then that's an odd switch. Typically a switch like that is OFF for every position other than flipped all the way up. Yet the time machine reverts the switch back to all the way down. So that switch is weirdly different than normal... so...
Maybe it's like a light switch where a spring* keeps it one way or another away from the fulcrum. In that case it would get stuck just in a loop of the connection being made reversed and pushed back in place by the spring.

*not quite a spring, bending piece of metal under a lot of tension.
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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby egc52556 » Wed Apr 24, 2013 2:18 pm UTC

Unclevertitle wrote:Though come to think of it, if this machine is only reversing time's flow while it's on then that's an odd switch. Typically a switch like that is OFF for every position other than flipped all the way up. Yet the time machine reverts the switch back to all the way down. So that switch is weirdly different than normal... so...

xorsyst wrote:Clearly the problem with this time machine is that the switch is upside-down


Yep. However the alternative is to have time frozen into a constant moment (or at least vibrating around it). Then what do you do? Hopefully this will cause the time machine to explode.

Considering the actor of today's comic seemed to recognize that something did/didn't happen as expected then he can react accordingly and thus eventually stop trying to flip the switch.

Note to self: For safety purposes, all active switches and levers on any time machine will be upside down/backwards. So that any misfires will undo themselves and we can get on with the practice of meddling with the fabric of the universe.


Maybe it's like a ceiling light with multiple switches: sometimes UP is on, sometimes DOWN is on. It all depends on the position of the other switch(es).

Presumably the "other switch(es)" are in alternative timestreams / realities.

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby Someguy945 » Wed Apr 24, 2013 2:20 pm UTC

Fire Brns wrote:Obviously a time machine culture wouldn't travel to a point in time before the invention of time machines so as not to screw up everything.


I bet you would enjoy the episode of Futurama in which the professor's forwards-only time machine malfunctions and sends him too far into the future. His only recourse is to continue traveling forwards until society invents a time machine that can go backwards. Then more stuff happens, but why spoil it?

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby Fire Brns » Wed Apr 24, 2013 2:33 pm UTC

Someguy945 wrote:
Fire Brns wrote:Obviously a time machine culture wouldn't travel to a point in time before the invention of time machines so as not to screw up everything.


I bet you would enjoy the episode of Futurama in which the professor's forwards-only time machine malfunctions and sends him too far into the future. His only recourse is to continue traveling forwards until society invents a time machine that can go backwards. Then more stuff happens, but why spoil it?
I know that one well. But I take a different view of time travel anyway: everything has already happened and anything you do will just conform with the flow of time. Not that I would test it if I had the ability and the rest of the planet scientists included still disagree.
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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby Роберт » Wed Apr 24, 2013 2:34 pm UTC

blowfishhootie wrote:
Shidoshi wrote:
kryton wrote:try thinking of it this way, forgetting everything else about time machines from other movies/tv/print/etc.

This particular time machine is the "reverse" button on the remote control for the universe.
While the button is pushed the universe runs in reverse.
You are part of the universe so you also run in reverse.

As soon as you push the power on button to reverse the universe, you then also run in reverse and unpush the button.

I don't know why so many people are having such a hard time understanding this one. It was pretty clear to me the first time I saw it :roll:


Maybe it was obvious to you because you immediately jumped to a wrong interpretation? Your snobbery is only valid if you make the assumption that whatever interpretation you immediately came to is the only possible valid interpretation of the comic with the context provided. Also, even if that assumption were true, then what Pingouin said.

Sorry if a smiley rolling its eyes is somehow supposed to indicate sarcasm and I've missed it, but it certainly doesn't say that to me.

Arguing about the interpretation of something only makes sense if the interpretation isn't straightforward.
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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby ctdonath » Wed Apr 24, 2013 3:14 pm UTC

Fire Brns wrote:Obviously a time machine culture wouldn't travel to a point in time before the invention of time machines so as not to screw up everything.

Where's the fun in that?

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby Fire Brns » Wed Apr 24, 2013 3:31 pm UTC

Are any regulations fun?
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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby San Fran Sam » Wed Apr 24, 2013 3:36 pm UTC

OP Tipping wrote:I thought maybe the time machine had taken his hands away.


Maybe they're not his hands? They got switched out with the BHG's hands.

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby Soaphead_Church » Wed Apr 24, 2013 3:37 pm UTC

My understanding is that when he turns it on, it begins to automatically travel backwards in time, hence the switch moving back into the position it had been in before (alt text makes sense this way, as the count moves backwards), and then stopping the movement back in time. Any time you would activate it, it would begin to go back in time in a linear fashion (instead of just taking you to a particular date/point), and one of the first things that would happen is that it would go into the "off" position that it was in just a second or two before.

I could be wrong, though. After all, I'm just a lowly English major who doesn't even STEM or watch Dr. Who.

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby Kit. » Wed Apr 24, 2013 3:45 pm UTC

Shidoshi wrote:I don't know why so many people are having such a hard time understanding this one. It was pretty clear to me the first time I saw it :roll:

Cool. So, tell us why the wall socket is dark in the last panel.

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby Angelastic » Wed Apr 24, 2013 4:00 pm UTC

Kit. wrote:
Shidoshi wrote:I don't know why so many people are having such a hard time understanding this one. It was pretty clear to me the first time I saw it :roll:

Cool. So, tell us why the wall socket is dark in the last panel.

Duh. The same reason it's dark in the second-to-last panel. :roll:

I was wondering that too.
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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby jozwa » Wed Apr 24, 2013 4:32 pm UTC

Reminds me of this one comic: http://pbfcomics.com/111/

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby blowfishhootie » Wed Apr 24, 2013 5:08 pm UTC

Роберт wrote:
blowfishhootie wrote:
Shidoshi wrote:
kryton wrote:try thinking of it this way, forgetting everything else about time machines from other movies/tv/print/etc.

This particular time machine is the "reverse" button on the remote control for the universe.
While the button is pushed the universe runs in reverse.
You are part of the universe so you also run in reverse.

As soon as you push the power on button to reverse the universe, you then also run in reverse and unpush the button.

I don't know why so many people are having such a hard time understanding this one. It was pretty clear to me the first time I saw it :roll:


Maybe it was obvious to you because you immediately jumped to a wrong interpretation? Your snobbery is only valid if you make the assumption that whatever interpretation you immediately came to is the only possible valid interpretation of the comic with the context provided. Also, even if that assumption were true, then what Pingouin said.

Sorry if a smiley rolling its eyes is somehow supposed to indicate sarcasm and I've missed it, but it certainly doesn't say that to me.

Arguing about the interpretation of something only makes sense if the interpretation isn't straightforward.


Are you trying to make a circular argument as a joke, or are you unaware of how little sense this makes as a response?

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby menJop » Wed Apr 24, 2013 5:47 pm UTC

Unclevertitle wrote:Though come to think of it, if this machine is only reversing time's flow while it's on then that's an odd switch. Typically a switch like that is OFF for every position other than flipped all the way up. Yet the time machine reverts the switch back to all the way down. So that switch is weirdly different than normal... so...


Time continues flowing backwards while the flux capacitor discharges. Pretty basic time-machine theory.

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby TimXCampbell » Wed Apr 24, 2013 6:18 pm UTC

It seems to me that if the time machine displaces itself in time, the electrical connection (via the plug) will be lost. Thus, the machine will go back in time maybe one unit of Planck time, and then it's back where it started.

My explanation is probably wrong.

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby Coyne » Wed Apr 24, 2013 6:24 pm UTC

Fire Brns wrote:
LucasBrown wrote:What's with the wailing?

Cooling fans for the immense amounts of heat radiated from the energy being used?


Already got that handled: That's what the mushroom cloud is for.
In all fairness...

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby feldgendler » Wed Apr 24, 2013 6:34 pm UTC

The time machine has been invented numerous times. Each time it was used to alter the past in ways that made the present worse, then even worse in attempts to correct, and finally to prevent the invention of the time machine, ultimately undoing all the unfortunate alterations. This is why there are still no time machines.

A longer version in my blog: http://my.opera.com/feldgendler/blog/20 ... he-present

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby mric » Wed Apr 24, 2013 6:46 pm UTC

This comic doesn't quite work for me.

Time machines work (as we all know) by transporting 'something' as it is at the point of the operation of the machine, unchanged, to a different point in time (and also by accommodating all the tricksy problems of making sure that move doesn't cause two objects to try filling the same space in a probably explosive fashion, and ensuring the new location is the same wrt Earth geography, rather than stranding the travelling object in the same place wrt, say, the sun). The classic time machine causes the 'something' to disappear and teleport to the different time - the one in the comic appears to involve some sort of continous route for the travelling 'something'.

So what are the options for the 'something' here? It could be the machine and its user, but then the comic panels don't make sense, since the machine itself would, according to my reasonable definition of a time machine, not itself change in the process of travel, and so the switch should still be 'on' in the final panel. It could be just the machine, but again the comic panels don't work for the same reason, and more - i.e. the machine should have disappeared (provided the comic is in user-time sequence) . It could be just the user of the machine, in which case there should be a second user there (or at least the relevant bits left over when the first user has taken over roughly the same space).

Since none of these seem to be the case, I am not really sure what the objects affected by this particular time machine are.

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby Steve the Pocket » Wed Apr 24, 2013 6:52 pm UTC

This is one of those comics that made perfect sense to the person who wrote it, but doesn't convey its message well. The problem is that there's nothing to suggest it's a machine that reverses time, and "time machine" doesn't suggest that to the average person even if it's a big box with a switch instead of something you step into. I got the joke once I read the mouseover caption, because it got my mind thinking about time reversal.

It probably would have worked as a video too, since intentionally turning off a big switch looks different from playing the footage of turning it on backwards. And also you could have the machine make a sound that can be played backwards.
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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby endolith » Wed Apr 24, 2013 7:05 pm UTC

Marty: Wait a minute, wait a minute, Doc, are you telling me that you built a time machine out of a DeLorean.

Doc: The way I see it, if you're gonna build a time machine into a car why not do it with some style. Besides, the stainless, steel construction made the flux dispersal- look out.

Marty: What, what is it hot?

Doc: It's cold, damn cold.


Clearly, he is looking at his hands because the time machine suddenly got very cold.

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby skuk » Wed Apr 24, 2013 7:20 pm UTC

The eeEE's make it look like it's spinning up or building to full power. Lots of movie time machines have spinning parts, and they often show some sense of the travel through time accelerating. So when they start they can't just "jump past" the time they were turned on, they move past it slowly enough to encounter it. That would be just one interpretation to how time machines would work if they did (which they wouldn't). Does time reverse for the machine and those connected with it, or does it reverse in the whole universe except for the machine, or both? In this comic, the machine changes time for itself.

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby PhiloteSplitter » Thu Apr 25, 2013 12:44 am UTC

What if this is just incredibly meta, and the "problem with time machines" is just that it is impossible to have a clear description of them.

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby Invertin » Thu Apr 25, 2013 1:08 am UTC

"There's one problem with something that sets things back to a bygone time. You can't test it."

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby thelonesoldier » Thu Apr 25, 2013 2:26 am UTC

Personally I couldn't interpret what had happened from the minimal visuals, the only time I've ever had that problem with XKCD. It looked to me like the guy flipped the switch, causing the machine to start whining, and then unflipped it, ending the whine. All I got out of that was "they don't work", but I didn't think that was the joke. Glad I came here.

Seems more than coincidence this comes shortly after "Time" and "The Past"

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby Tova » Thu Apr 25, 2013 2:36 am UTC

Shidoshi wrote:I don't know why so many people are having such a hard time understanding this one. It was pretty clear to me the first time I saw it :roll:


I think I can explain this one.

It's because we read it... and say ok... then think "hmmm ... what is the joke? I must have missed it. Why don't I get it? I must be slow."

So we go to the forum or xkcd explained. And we read, and as we read we think:

"Yes, thats right... yes, understood that... yep yep... and then... oh that's all. That was actually the joke. Huh."

In short, it's easy to think you missed or didn't understand the joke when you understood everything but didn't laugh.

There you go.

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby Wooloomooloo » Thu Apr 25, 2013 4:56 am UTC

mric wrote:Time machines work (as we all know) by transporting 'something' as it is at the point of the operation of the machine, unchanged, to a different point in time (and also by accommodating all the tricksy problems of making sure that move doesn't cause two objects to try filling the same space in a probably explosive fashion, and ensuring the new location is the same wrt Earth geography, rather than stranding the travelling object in the same place wrt, say, the sun).

Yeah, I wondered myself why one would expect a time machine to have an Earth-based fixed spacial reference... This may in fact just have answered my own question as to why no time traveling seems to be going on - stupid time travelers are floating frozen solid out there in space, smart ones are still sitting by their machines and their frozen-solid-after-a-round-trip-to-space sandwich trying to figure out how to fix that. We clearly need to ask Dr. Who about how that works, threatening physical harm if he tries to chicken out with the "wibbly-wobbly" explanation again.

Also, the plugged-in time machine? That reminds me of the also-plugged-in bomb in one of the Naked Gun movies - and yes it might have some issues on its own... :)

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby Jan_ » Thu Apr 25, 2013 5:11 am UTC

slartibartfastibast wrote:Why'd the plug change?

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby Spaceman_Spiff » Thu Apr 25, 2013 6:46 am UTC

I misinterpreted it as well. I thought that since his hands were closer to the machine than the rest of him, they were affected by it to a greater extent. They would have experienced more time and aged faster, as well as having messed up blood flow. In the last panel, he was wondering, "why are my hands blue and my fingernails so long?"

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby OP Tipping » Thu Apr 25, 2013 7:52 am UTC

I don' see why he would notice anything amiss.
a) Please explain the specific MEDICAL reason for ordering this MEDICATION !
b) Please state the nature of your ailment or injury.
c) One a scale of one to ten, how would you rate your pain?
d) Please state the nature of the medical emergency.

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby Klear » Thu Apr 25, 2013 8:07 am UTC

Wooloomooloo wrote:Yeah, I wondered myself why one would expect a time machine to have an Earth-based fixed spacial reference...


And can you tell me why it should have any other fixed reference frame? They're all equal as far as I know.

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby speising » Thu Apr 25, 2013 8:14 am UTC

Klear wrote:
Wooloomooloo wrote:Yeah, I wondered myself why one would expect a time machine to have an Earth-based fixed spacial reference...


And can you tell me why it should have any other fixed reference frame? They're all equal as far as I know.


no, earth's is not inertial.

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby oliphaunt » Thu Apr 25, 2013 8:29 am UTC

speising wrote:
Klear wrote:
Wooloomooloo wrote:Yeah, I wondered myself why one would expect a time machine to have an Earth-based fixed spacial reference...


And can you tell me why it should have any other fixed reference frame? They're all equal as far as I know.


no, earth's is not inertial.


Nor is the sun's or the Milky Way's center's. It's hard to find a (practical) inertial reference frame, isn't it?
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