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El_Cadejo's avatar

Time travel questions.

Asked by El_Cadejo (34544points) February 26th, 2011

Ok so I just got done reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and its left me thinking about time travel a lot.

The first question is regarding the book directly though. SUPA SPOILA

Anywho, so , in the end when Sirius and Harry are surrounded by all the dementors and were about to both receive the kiss. Then they were saved by a patronus that was believed at the time to be James but is later discovered to just have been Harry. The problem I’m having with this is that some version of Harry would have had to survive the scenario to be able to make it to the hospital and use the time turner to go back the very first time. Which, seems to be impossible giving the scenario they were facing. Is this just a plot hole?

Second time travel question. If one were to go back in time 4 years to visit an earlier version of himself. He doesnt interact with that past self in any way just observes them. Now on this way back to his time machine he is killed by a stray <insert random noun> . Would that be the end of that mans life? I mean the younger version would still live on to grow to that fatal mistake right? I really dont know where im going with this I have a lot of questions about it but not sure how to really word it. egh >_<

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11 Answers

filmfann's avatar

To your first question, yes there is missing information here. Perhaps (and this is blind speculation) someone like Dumbledore used a time turner to save Harry, using his father, then was able to remove himself and his father from the situation. Who knows? I am sure there is lots of fan fiction to that point.

talljasperman's avatar

It makes sense if we live in a 10 dimensional universe… I will see If I can find the link try reading up on string theory

the internet changed the link from a video to a book

Soubresaut's avatar

There are two different ways of interpreting going back in time, often, in writing—one where you’re changing the very fabric of time (like in the new Star Trek) and one where you haven’t done it yet that you’re aware of, but your future self is back in time with you, and that future self will be you when you get there… gah does that make sense? I don’t know how to fully explain…

Basically JK Rowling wove it together very carefully—things like, in the ‘real time’ of Buckbeak’s execution, they never see Buckbeak killed, just hear the thud of the ax; in the back-in-time, they watch the executioner strike his ax into the wood, making a thud, in frustration of the missing hippogriff.
In JK Rowling’s timetravel, they weren’t changing anything, just doing their second part of that hour or however long it was. Buckbeak never died, Sirius and Harry never died, because it’s one string of time still. It was cleverly written to fit in.

I see your point in the logistics, and I think that in real life if we had time-travel, it would probably be like that. But what’s going on in the story is he did survive because his future-self, (that had been saved by the future-self when he was the past-self, and on and on in an endless loop) was there to save him… (does that make sense if above didn’t? I tried to explain it in different ways because I’m not sure if either does make sense in writing.)

For your second question… yes, it’s the end of his life. The past-self I guess is still technically alive somewhere in time, but his age when the time machine crashes is as old as he gets, and when he dies.

>> If you want a time-book that will mess with your mind, read The Timetraveler’s Wife. (Read, not watch, because while the movie’s good they leave a lot out and really take liberties with the ending).

El_Cadejo's avatar

@DancingMind I do agree that JK Rowling did it very well with how they never actually saw Buckbeak and Hagrid still said the same thing “he’s gone….gone” I just cant get over the end part. Like the patronus was clearly him affecting the other timeline. Which had the direct effect on their survival. Without it they would have lost their souls, I dont really understand how to get around it.

J0E's avatar

I’m not sure about the Harry Potter scenario. Your example in the third paragraph is correct though. Each of us has a timeline, and our timeline will end at some point. So if you go back in time and get killed, that would really be no different than dying of old age, it’s just another end. You reach that end when you get to it.

PhiNotPi's avatar

When Harry was being saved by his future self, he was actually very lucky. Either of two things could have happened when Harry was being attacked: 1) He dies (loses his soul), and there is no future self to save him, or 2) He is saved, and then time travels back to save himself. Harry is actually very lucky that the second option happened.

Also, there is another way to think about this same “saving your past self” thing. If you find yourself being saved by your future self, you don’t need to go back in time to save yourself. Since you have survived, your own survival has been guaranteed, no matter what you decide to do. However, this means that what you were saved by wasn’t actually your own future self, it was instead your future self from a parallel universe, or not a future self at all. But since, you have survived, this fact really doesn’t matter. This is the point of view used in Orson Scott Card’s Pathfinder, which deals heavily with time travel.

The neat part is that when a man decides to save himself when any preventable, non-fatal bad thing happens in his life, he will prevent all preventable, non-fatal bad things from happening in his life, without needing to travel back in time at all. If it is unpreventable, it will happen anyway. If it is fatal, then the same idea in my first paragraph applies, with him relying on his survival in order to survive. Besides this, any man who has a time machine will automatically become the luckiest man in the entire world.

About your second question, it is helpful to think about time from your body’s point of view. No matter what the “world’s time” is doing relative to you, your own timeline moves foward constantly as you expirience it. As a real-world example, some muons and other subatomic particles seem to live longer than expected when moving at extreme speeds. Due to time dialation, the muon’s time gets slowed down. From the muon’s piont of view, the muon is living to the same age, but to the muon, the rest of the universe seems to speed up. From our point of view, it is the muon that slows down. From my piont of view when I travel back in time, I still expiriance time as normal. The “real world’s time” is just different from my time. If I die in the past, my past self still continues along my path, to die in the my past self’s future. It is only the “real world” time of my death that changes, not my time of death from my point of view. I put “real world” in quotation marks because time is relative to every object, and completely, perfectly empty space (as far as is known) doesn’t have a time flow.

El_Cadejo's avatar

@PhiNotPi so then how was harry saved the very first time? Its rather unclear.

Also what would happen to your consciousness in the second scenario? I would imagine the younger self having no seen time traveling self would have no idea of this early fate, so would he be doomed to repeat this endless loop of time over and over. I mean to say when he gets older will he again hop in the time machine see younger self, get killed and so forth?

@talljasperman ive seen that before, love it.

PhiNotPi's avatar

@uberbatman There is no endless loop. From the person’s point of view, he lives his life, hops in a time machine, goes back to the past, and dies. From the world’s point of view, he lives through the majority his life, and then another older version appears (from the time machine). The older version dies, and the younger version disappears (into the time machine).

Harry is saved by his future self. He is either rescued by his future self, and then rescues himself, or he isn’t rescued by his future self, and dies, so there is no future self.

Soubresaut's avatar

@uberbatman—Lemme see if I can explain better what’s going on in the book? (Regardless of how time travel would actually work.)

I think the confusing thing is that people write of time travel in different ways. The way you’re thinking of is more like in the new Star Trek, where going back in time altered the very fabric of time. (Probably more correct but not how this instance of time travel was written)

How (I think?) you’re thinking of the whole ordeal: Harry (1) and Sirius are at the lake, and the dementors are closing in on them. (Harry 2 and Hermione 2 aren’t here yet, because it’s the beginning of this time-loop) Harry’s trying to stop them, trying to stop them… he can’t, his and Sirius’ souls are sucked out of them. They’re gone now, so they can’t go back in time. Hermione could by herself and save them, or go with someone else and save them, and create an alternate reality/parallel universe. But, the way it’s done in the story is impossible, because before Harry can be a future-self (Harry 2) that goes back to save himself, he has to survive to that future-self. (right?)

How JK Rowling was thinking of the whole ordeal: Harry (1) and Sirius are at the lake, and the dementors are closing in on them. (Harry 2 and Hermione 2 are here, because the time-loop has no beginning or end.) Harry 1 is trying to stop them, trying to stop them… he can’t, his and Sirius’ souls are in danger of being sucked out of them. Harry 2 knows that Harry 1 and Sirius are going to be saved by someone, because he was saved by someone when he was in that situation. Harry 2 realizes that he was only saved because there was a Harry 0 (or 3?) hiding behind the scenes like he is now. Or, that he was Harry 1 before, and now he’s Harry 2… Here, the going back-in-time isn’t changing anything, just completing things, explaining the rest of the story in that hour to both the characters and to us. (If he weren’t to save himself, I think he would then die, watching himself die.)

The thing with Buckbeak: do you think he did die at one point, the sounds/reactions just happened to be the same the second time around? Or that he never died because Harry 2 and Hermione 2 were always there to save him?
The first way matches up with the dead-Harry scenario, the second with the double-Harry scenario.

…Did I explain better this time?
It’s not that the way she wrote it is technically correct by the laws of the universe, it’s how she bent the rules for a book?

El_Cadejo's avatar

@DancingMind Your first explianation is exactly what I was thinking. And no i dont think Buckbeak ever died. I think JK Rowling was clever in how she did that. My problem is as you illustrated harry couldnt possibly save harry since well he died. Hermione by all means could have gone back and saved him but thats not how it seemed to have happened. I get the whole Harry (0 or 3) thing but still that would imply a previous version survived in some way to go back and get there. I realize Harry (2) didnt really change the flow of events in any way but a previous Harry did. How the hell did he get there ? lol

@PhiNotPi ahhh ok, got ya.

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