If a Time Machine Could Take You Anywhere for One Day, When/Where Would You Go?

Thanks to reader Michael M. from Houston for today’s question. Here’s how Michael put it:

I often find myself wondering: if I could live for any single day in the history of mankind (from anyone’s point of view), what day would I choose to live?

DT24 - Time Machine - PFor example, November 22, 1963 and from the point of view of a spectator in Dallas. I don’t buy into the conspiracy theories, but it would be weirdly fascinating to see what happened and how it all played out — maybe take a look around the grassy knoll or follow Lee Harvey Oswald’s exit from the book depository.

Or July 21, 1969 and from the point of view of Neil Armstrong himself as he walked on the moon.

Or maybe I’d be Abraham Lincoln on the day he delivered the Gettysburg Address. We all practiced that speech in school, so how awesome would it be to actually give it!

Or I could be a visitor to the Roman Senate on the Ides of March. Begin the day by exploring ancient Rome and then end it by watching one of the most important assassinations in the history of the world. Popcorn optional.

I think part of the rule has to be that you can’t meaningfully interfere with what happened on that day — otherwise we’d probably all be morally compelled to go back in time and kill Hitler circa 1929.

_________

I’m going to make two adjustments:

1) I’ll add a follow-up question about which date you’d pick in the future. So let’s say this: You have a time machine that allows you to enter a specific date and location, and you’re taken then/there for one day (it teleports you to the location too). You arrive at 6am and 18 hours later, at midnight, you’re safely returned to the present day in your home. It can be used once to bring you to the past and once to the future. Then it disappears.

2) I like the idea of actually being in the eyes of a person in history, but let’s say you can also choose to just be you plopped down there if you want to.

A couple other notes:

  • Like Michael said, when you’re in the past, you can observe or interact with anyone you want, but you won’t affect anything about the modern world. In other words, the day you spend there will cease to exist once you return to 2015—once you return, the original day that actually happened will again have happened. Your presence in the alternate time has no consequences.
  • Likewise, assume there’s no risk to you—you can abort the mission at anytime if you’re being harmed, and if you somehow die, all it does is abort the mission and you’re returned safely home.
  • One of the time machine’s talents is it drops you off automatically dressed in clothing fitting of the time, so you can choose to blend in and quietly observe if you want to. But you can also bring objects from 2015 and choose to reveal yourself as not normal if you want to. That’s your choice.

___________

Tim’s Answer:

Buried in a post right now, so perfect time to write a really long response here.

1) The Past

Annoyingly hard. Some possibilities:

  • Go back to a time before humans, to like 80 million BC, to experience a world without humanity. And to see dinosaurs. But my suspicion is I’d get there and wouldn’t be able to find any dinosaurs, or if I did, it would be cool for 10 minutes and then they’d be eating some grass and I’d remember that dinosaurs were just animals and animals are incredibly boring.
  • Go back to 40,000 BC to a place with ancient human tribes. Again, worried about the boring factor. I’d watch them sit around the campsite and there’d be a couple dead animals there and some kids would be playing and everyone would be unattractive and I’d realize that this was a bad choice.
  • Athens around 350 BC, when both Plato and Aristotle were alive. Concern here is that I’d be on some little street and there would be guards who wouldn’t let me go up to the Acropolis and I’d ask them if I could go meet Aristotle and it would be the equivalent of showing up at the Oscars and asking a police officer if I could go in and meet George Clooney. Was Aristotle inaccessible? Unclear. Even if not, maybe no one would know where he was? Not a time you could call someone. At least here, in the worst case scenario, I’d be in Athens during its heyday and it would be deeply interesting to walk around all day and keep saying to myself, “I’m in BC.” But since this is a hypothetical time machine, I’m sure I could just ask it to put me in an Aristotle classroom and have that just happen and I could watch him teach. Still slight boring potential when I realized I could have done anything and I end up in fucking class.
  • Definitely agree with Michael about watching Caesar get stabbed. Super exciting. And being in Ancient Rome for the day would be fascinating. Kind of a bold move, but under Michael’s “you can be a historical figure” rule, it would be pretty cool to be Caesar on that day. Except again, you might have a moment of reflection as the 12th knife is being wedged into your ribs that you could have done anything with the time machine and this was the decision you made.
  • Anything related to Jesus. Assuming Jesus existed, which I think he probably did, I can’t imagine a bigger starstruck situation. I’d really want to talk to him and ask him questions about his mission and what he thought his impact on history would be. If he really were crucified, watching that would be quite the experience too, just to know how big a deal this was gonna be. But it might also be stressful to watch actual humans be crucified and give me nightmares for a while after.
  • Would be dramatic to go to the spot where the first European ship showed up on the coast of “the New World” on the day it got there. In the morning, before they arrived, I could walk around the area and see what a pre-Imperialism American civilization was like, and then when the boats arrived I could watch how haggard and shitty everyone looked after sailing across the ocean for months. Then I could watch the initial encounter, which must have just been bizarre.
  • Would be fun to watch Da Vinci actually paint the Mona Lisa on one of the days he spent all day working on it. But you’d have to be careful because if he saw you he’d freak out that there was someone in his house and he’d stop painting.
  • Back to the “being someone” thing, it would be incredibly fun to be Hitler for a day and just act super silly and watch everyone’s reaction. Like I’d be Hitler on the day of one of his impassioned speeches except I’d just get on the mic and sing the “Always have to steal my kisses from you” song or “Be Our Guest” from Beauty and the Beast to a stunned crowd.

I was gonna pick the Jesus one but I just changed my mind to the Hitler one.

2) The Future

Here it’s just a matter of how much you want to know and how baffled you want to be.

Going only 30 years into the future would be insanely interesting. The world might be totally different, but I’d also still probably understand things enough to quickly be caught up to speed. The world would still (probably) have the countries I was used to, I’d understand the language, and I could connect the dots enough to really get how our next three decades end up playing out. You’d learn a ton, but it would (probably) still leave a lot of mystery about where humanity is headed and the nature of the universe. We still might have a Fermi Paradox and it still might be a pre-ASI world.

Going 100 years in the future would undoubtedly be beyond belief—the technology we’d have, the things we will have learned, the way our present era will look through the clarity of 100 year hindsight… And while 30 years from now, the culture might resemble that of today, the culture of 100 years from now—the social norms and taboos, the music, the advancements in philosophies on life and happiness—would be vastly beyond our world and amazingly enlightening to learn about. I’m tempted to choose 100 years. 30 years has the possibility of being cool but not that cool, while 100 years would most definitely blow your mind.

It would, of course, be tempting to just go for it and pick 500 years or 1,000 years or something outrageous like 50,000 years in the future. But my worry is A) that humanity won’t be around, which would be so, so, so depressing, B) that I’ll learn of our demise or something else that will kind of ruin the rest of my life back in the present, C) that I simply won’t be able to comprehend the world then, and I’ll spend the whole day baffled and confused and just not get it.

It would be hard to not choose 1,000 years ahead because just imagine how interesting that would be. But I’d probably go with 100 years ahead—the year 2115—because that seems both boggling and potentially fathomable, while also leaving at least a reasonable chance that humans still exist.1 (I’d also take note of which companies to make sure I invested in over the coming decades.)

I think there’s an argument to just skip going to the future, since the downside of going might be higher than the upside—but nahhhhhh.

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  1. I’m probably doing the thing I said not to do in the AI post and likely vastly underestimating the future.

  • Luca

    Well, for the past I would like to have a look at the making of Pumapunku temple site and its perfect cut straight stones.
    For the future, 2 options:
    -50 years in the future to satisfy my curiosity.
    -1 year, (or even a week) write down the numbers for the lotto, come back and play them 😀

  • Mike

    Why wouldn’t you be able to comprehend what happened in the next 1000 years? I’m sure they have some kind of machine that shoves information into your head in a matter of seconds, or they upload you into the matrix.

    • Adam

      (1) They might not take you seriously, or understand what you’re saying (data from our era could have been lost/destroyed, so language could be an issue). If they think you’re mad, you’re not going to learn much of value.

      (2) There might not be anyone alive. Nuclear weapons, climate change or who knows what else (how much more dangerous will technology get in the next few decades?) could have wiped out life on Earth in a hundred years, let alone 1000.

  • Charles Zeringue

    Past: The day of Jesus’ crucifixion. Without a doubt. It would change me completely and not only would I experience one of two events that flipped the world upside down, I would get to talk to Him before and get to talk to his friends afterward.

    Future: I would have to go with 100 or 200 years. Or Luca’s idea of one week just to get the winning lotto numbers.

    • Sh3rlocked

      Past: …Plus, when there is no darkness, for however long they say there was, you’d know all the supernatural stuff was made up. Score!

  • Richard Kenneth Niescior

    For the past, I’d like to by some magical voodoo force observe the ‘big bang’.
    For the future I’d like to go to 200 years into the future. If things evolve at a exponential scale technologically then hello ASI 🙂

  • Ezo

    Go 300 years into the future, memorize key breakthroughs in technology, cause singularity to happen faster in our times. Alternatively, go 1 day minus minute before the big bang and watch what happens.

  • Miss_sunshine

    1. I wish I could go back in time and spend a day with my grandfather. Everyone says he was an extraordinary guy.
    2. I would also choose a day with dinosaurs and I do not think I would get bored.
    3. A day with Miyamoto Musashi – a legendary samurai or Genghis Khan (maybe not a battle day :))
    4. I would love to witness the discovery of fire.
    ….
    ohh, jezz, I could on and on with wishes of this kind!
    What if I go back and witness my birth? or a specific day in my early childhood? :)))))

  • FuzzyBunnyFeet

    The future is easy. Like Luca I would go one year in the future. I’d learn how the stock market dd during that year and then work to make investments that were not so brazen that they attracted attention.

    For the past, I would want to be John Jay for a day in early September 1789 and talk to James Madison about the US Constitution, the Bill of Rights pending before Congress, and some hypothetical scenarios involving a future with rapid fire guns, new religions, old religions that make a come back, and a United States that extends beyond the Mississippi with Philadelphia and New York size cities in every state.

    Perhaps I could bring along a GoPro, 8 fully charged batteries and 2 64GB SD cards.

  • PinkTheBush

    Honestly I think I’d like to go back to just the U.S. 90-100 years ago. You know how you see antiques or photos from decades long past and they’re faded and, while familiar enough to be recognizable, so clearly old-fashioned? I’d be interested to see what they looked like in a fresh coat of paint, installed in a society that sees them as modern and commonplace; see how society really looked then without all of the sensationalizing it gets from the period movies and television we have now. Sometimes I go to the grocery store, for example, and look at all the product branding and marketing, and the way we’re dressed and our dialects/lingo, and wonder how it’ll all look to people 100 years from *now.* Historically speaking, there are obviously more exciting times, but I always think like… “What if I caught the plague, or I went somewhere like Medieval Europe and didn’t have the language and people thought I was a like a witch or something and burned me alive.”

    For the future… maybe the same thing in the opposite direction. With all of the civil rights movements going on in the U.S. right now, I’d be interested to see when, and to what degree, they succeed. I’d like to check in 100 years from now and see/pray that the last bigots and homophobes are dying out in a cave somewhere, women are getting equal pay and no college kids are getting high-fived for raping a co-ed, the Middle Eastern family-run market on my block isn’t getting egged and tagged, and transgender kids aren’t killing themselves or ending up dead in a ditch, because there isn’t anything to worry about anymore.

  • Innocent Bystander

    Tim makes me think that he is on to something. A lot of times the exact moment that history is being made or something amazing is being created isn’t known at that moment. And the moment itself can be quite boring. It isn’t until later when we appreciate it does it seem exciting in retrospect.

    So I think my answer isn’t to find something that I participate in or am close to, but rather something I know I would enjoy as a spectator.

    -A baseball game
    October 16, 1962, Candlestick Park
    Game 7 of the World Series
    http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/SFN/SFN196210160.shtml
    (Bonus: I’m in San Francisco, so that’s a pretty cool rest of the day!)

    -A concert
    January 30, 1969
    Apple headquarters
    The Beatles rooftop concert
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Beatles%27_rooftop_concert
    (Bonus: I’m in London, so that’s a pretty cool rest of the day!)

  • Innocent Bystander

    Might go late ’70’s New York City in the mid-coke/pre-AIDS era and just party my ass off with no consequences for the day. That could be fun.

    • Pen Guin

      OMG! Think of all that polyester!

  • Olly

    In the past, I would visit Normandy, on the 6th of June 1944. If possible, is like to land with the gliders at the bridges over the Caen canal and the river Orne. Just to be the start of something as big as the allied invasion of Europe would be staggering, the sheer numbers of men and machines involved would be staggering. And I would meet and possibly fight alongside the men who are written about in history books.
    Or maybe to the moon landings, another staggering part of history, to feel what Armstrong felt walking on the moon, and the significance of that step he took.
    Or maybe to meet Isambard Kingdom Brunel, as a young engineer, building one of his greatest creations, the SS Great Britain, or opening the Great Western Railway.

    In the future, I think somewhere 50 to 100 years from now, to a space colony if such a thing exists, or to my home if it doesn’t, to see how things have changed.

  • stretch.kerr

    Future: 50 years.
    1. Hopefully Elderly me is still alive – catch up with myself and my wife. Find out what my regrets are. Seek their advice. Find out if any friends or loved ones from present day develop cancer or other diseases, or die before their time. Take notes in order to try and prevent these personal tragedies. See how my kids turned out.
    2. Download every scientific and medical journal, patent, stock market data, currency exchange data and lottery results for the 50 years I just skipped. Get a copy of a sports almanac like in Back To The Future 2. Download the current version of Wikipedia, or the future equivalent.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Database_download
    3. See how we’re doing with space exploration.

    Past: See if Moses really did part the waters etc. I’d like to observe Jesus’s crucifixion and (alleged) resurrection to see how much truth there is to the story, but that would take 3 days or so.

    • Adam

      Yeah, the thought of going into the future and obtaining huge amounts of data occurred to me: I’m not sure what you’re allowed to bring back with you, so every journal/encylopedia/database might be stretching it a bit far. I think you should at least get as many memory sticks as you can carry (although you’d have to make sure you didn’t go so far into the future that you got to a point where memory sticks are outdated and useless).

      At the bare minimum, you can get all the info you can store in your head: information from future you and your future friends and family would be very valuable. Presumably, while history remains intact after your journey, the future you visited might not occur if you act differently based on what you saw.

  • July 20, 1969, somewhere in America, and I would watch the Moon landing

    • Martin Stoehr

      A nice thought. I was born just 6-ish months after the first Moon landing and of course was not even talking by the time the landings had ended. I would love to be at the Cape during the launch of one of the Saturn V rockets. I never was able to see the STS go up live, even though I tried. To witness the landing would have been very inspirational–but you can relive the day pretty easily since we had broadcast (and recorded) television then. Being there “live” would be quite inspirational.

  • Chad LaBorde

    For the past portion of this question, my answer is going to seem much more bland than most other answers.

    My favorite band is Led Zeppelin. Their music is a huge part of my life. However, I am only 25, and they broke up 10 years before I was even born. Outside of a great family, the main thing I want in life is to see them in concert. I’ve heard most of their concerts(their are a ton of Zeppelin bootlegs) and although they were all great, one concert stood out to me as my favorite. Partly because of the setlist, and partly because they just killed it. June 23, 1977 at the Los Angeles Forum.

    I’d choose to just be myself at the show and get to fulfill a dream that likely won’t come true otherwise.

    • JameyB

      That’s literally what I was about to post. Well done Chad.

      Screw the important dates in history and all that…I would love to see Led Zeppelin.

  • Jonathan

    I’d jump 1000 years in the future to read the next Wait But Why post.

    BOOOOOM!!!!

  • d

    I would like to go back and be a guy who didn’t ask me out so that I can finally know Why.

    • Jonathan

      I don’t ask girls out often because I’m shy. A million anxious thoughts run through my mind and it’s easier to just live with the dull ache of loneliness than enter that super stressful state.

    • Adam

      That’s a bloody interesting thought. But I think that probably wouldn’t work, because you just end up in the guy’s body, but with your own “brain” (or consciousness or whatever). So you wouldn’t get to find out the person’s reasoning – you’d just be thinking whatever it is you would think in that situation.

      At least, I’m assuming that’s what would happen under the given parameters based on Tim’s Hitler thing: you don’t have to enact the events Hitler did on that day; you can do your own thing.

      If you could do that, I think I’d definitely love to experience the world with someone else’s thoughts for a day: I’d go “back in time” maybe a week or something. It would be fascinating to find out if there are any thoughts which I think are unique to me, but that everyone else think in reality, and it might help me work out if there is anything genuinely special about me, and the way I think.

      • Adriano Di Gregorio

        if i could experience someone else’s mind i think i would go for someone with a special condition. it doesn’t matter if a genius or a crazy person, there are some feelings people “not normal” can quite explain, and experiencing them might be the only way to understand. i might not be pleasant, but i’m quite sure it would be one of the most interesting things you’ll ever do.

      • Rich Persoff

        IMHO we’re all somewhat different, but mostly very much alike; few are ‘genuinely special’, in terms of what we do or how we affect others.

  • Veronica

    For the past, I would like to spend a day as J.K. Rowling as she was writing Harry Potter, ideally before the first book was even published. I would like to spend a day in her thought and writing processes of planning that series more than almost anything.

  • Adam

    The idea of “take somebody else’s body and basically fuck around with it” is incredibly appealing to me; I like the idea of going back a day or so, infiltrating a close friend/relative’s body and acting really strange around myself, to see how I would react. Alternatively, I could use it to find out something serious about myself: for instance, would I really intervene if I saw someone being bullied? How would I react if I witness someone attacking someone else on the street?

    And the idea of taking a famous person’s body and messing around with it is, of course, still a great one: I’d love to be in David Cameron’s body and go around trying to push Monster Raving Loony policies into parliament, or to be Daniel Radcliffe during filming of Goblet of Fire and start waving my arms around madly during filming, pretending that I wasn’t doing it on purpose, to see how the director reacts.

    If I’ve got two chances, one future and one past, I could do something serious and something stupid. If it was serious historical events, I’d actually love to be in the control room of NASA when Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the moon — NASA employees celebrate madly when they know the mission they’ve been working on for years has actually worked. In the future, I could go forward a bit and find out how far AI has developed, how much damage climate change has done etc.

  • Alex Mac

    For the past I would probably go back to see Jesus as one of his apostles when he did one of his miracles, for the future I would go probably 75 years, see how the world is, when or if I die, get some lottery numbers, see what companies get big so I can invest in them, and see what problems the world has to try to fix them.

  • I would hate to waste my one day in the past settling annoying religious questions, but I have to admit meeting the carpenter they called Christ would be highly interesting. He was supposedly the rare exception, the guy who was both nice AND powerful. In today’s world, you can’t have one without trading away the other. I like being nice, so I can never be powerful. From where I sit, it looks like the whole of ethics was invented and promulgated just to keep the common man from behaving in ways that would promote power, so as to keep down the competition at the top. The people at the top in today’s world defy all those rules, and they’re downright evil. The most powerful guy I know personally used to traffic teenage girls through his brothel, and now he’s a preacher. Of course! So, anyway, I’d like to get this stuff straight from Jesus, and find out what all of this was really supposed to be about. Pick a day; doesn’t matter.

    As to the question of what date in the future, let’s just set the clock for 1,000 years. It will either be amazing technology beyond imagining today, or it will be stone arrows and spear throwers and hide tents all over again. It would be interesting to know where we’re heading, but I won’t live long enough for it to matter either way.

    • Chiel Wieringa

      Off Topic:
      I love your explanation about the connection between niceness and power. In our world this seems to be true. But there is a paradox here imho. Are you really powerful if you can’t be nice? For me “evilness” is a sign of weakness. It means that there is a threat to you that you have to contain which automatically means you are not that powerful. For with true power there are no threats.

  • Jacob Nestle

    Ha, Jesus. Of course. But the day of the Sermon on the Mount–assuming his omniscience, it would be super telling to see how he reacted to my presence.

  • Adriano Di Gregorio

    This is how I see it:
    There are 2 ways to play this; for your own amusement or for the good of humanity and all that kind of crap.
    I think Tim covered pretty well the first part, so i’m looking at the second case:

    if you consider the past, just think of all the unsolved mysteries you could solve: i said something similar in the “if you could bring someone back to life” discussion, but i can think about asking Fermat his demonstration for his last theorem, you could study ancient lost civilization, gather the material needed to decipher linear c, and answer one of so many other questions that might be unsolvable otherwise.
    I’m not even going to explain what you could gain by going to the future: just think if someone form the 1920’s came here and copied all he could before going back and invent computers, cellphones, H bombs, rockets and become the king of the world. And the lotto. Of course.

    Then i thought to something more distant in the past: something like seeing how dinosaurs got extinct, studying how life formed,or maybe the big bang itself. it might even be wort to just TRY setting the machine before the big bang, just for know what would happen, and maybe discover if there is a “before the big bang”.

    And at this point i had a realization: the machine has two settings. Time AND space. if you can go in any point in space, why just stick to Earth? why not going to Saturn, to look at (or stay in) its rings? why not going on Mars? why not going to Mars when it had liquid water (and maybe even life!!)? why not inside a black hole? why even not ride the Chicxulub as it came down and fucked 75% of life on earth?

    All of time and space; everywhere and anywhere; every star that ever was. Where do you want to start?

    • Adam

      When Tim brought up dinosaurs, I thought about their extinction, but the problem is that you have to pick a specific date. There’s no chance you would manage to pick the exact right day that the dinosaurs became extinct on. The same applies with early life: you can’t just pick “the day life first existed on Earth”, and you would only get 18 hours to watch it anyway.

      • Adriano Di Gregorio

        you’re right about the dinosaurs part, if you can’t know the date it is quite like trying to win the lottery (and without the time travel trick), but i think the one about life on earth is still possible. As far as i know life didn’t form in a day, it is a process which took probably thousands of years. By picking a random date in this period you would get probably not the first cell at all, but a glimpse of how life actually formed, and maybe (i know it might be science fiction, but just maybe) observe cells which didn’t work through the same mechanisms modern life works, and got later extinct after life as we know it colonized the planet.

    • Matt

      I’ll give my opinion about the astronomic part: is not worth it.

      Big Bang: teleporting to observe or just verify the Big Bang could be a little extreme, you remember the start of Big Bang Theory’s song? Hot dense state? I mean really dense and really hot, like all the matter of the universe in a relatively little space, very short trip, very very short and completely dark. Before big bang is a contradiction: there was no time before Big Bang.

      Saturn: no atmosphere on the rings, if we suppose someone could resist 3 minutes with the air forcing is way out from your lungs you will just pass them avoiding the blood pressure in your eyes to explode and just try to not to die in agony and not managing it well too. Short trip, not good view because of uncooperative eyes. In Saturn even shorter, super pressure, very ketchup. And is foggy.

      With Mars you could be more lucky but with one only shot is difficult to predict when you have the biggest chance to find liquid water, magnetic field and again atmosphere (if it existed at all).

      Inside a black hole could be the worst choice of all. Time doesn’t work inside a black hole (theoretically) so you could discover a new physical state or a lost word and fairies because we don’t now nothing about but you probably gonna end up frozen in time until the black hole expires, looong trip.

      Asteroid; same as saturn’s rings, moreover you’ll have the problem to stay on it (no gravity) and you either die before its entrance in atmosphere or immediately vaporized if it’s already in. Short trip.

      At least this is my knowledge in the field, if someone knows it better could correct it. Or better knowledge in english too.

      • Adriano Di Gregorio

        interesting comment. don’t worry about the English, the important thing is the message, not how it is delivered (it was quite good as far as i can tell by the way). Also, if anyone finds any flawed notions in my comment i appreciate correction too.
        Said that, you’re right about the big bang, being alive for more than a few nanosecond would be hard. it definitely isn’t a viable idea, but i liked the concept of “being around during the big bang”.
        I’m not sure about the fact time before the big bang didn’t exist: we know nothing about the first instants after the big bang because our physics just stops making sense, so everything we can say about the moment itself of the big bang or anything before it (if it makes sense) is just speculation. it might be true that time didn’t exist, and that’s why i would try: it might give us an answer even if it didn’t work.

        About the dying in space scenario, i supposed the machine wouldn’t teleport you naked, but with whatever you were wearing, so my solution was to wear a spacesuit before going. I didn’t think however of how much yous air supply would last.
        A quick online search told me that it is 6 to 8.5 hours in a standard Nasa’s EMU suits. this is kind of a big deal, so you would have to bring with you supplementary oxygen tanks if possible, or maybe use a different model able to hold more oxygen, since the alternative is a slow death by suffocation, maybe even worse of your 3 minute scenario. on mars a different model wold be required, since EVA suits are not thought for being used while weighted down by gravity, but i’ll let the engineers deal with that stuff.

        “it is difficult to predict when you have the biggest chance to find liquid water, magnetic field and again atmosphere (if it existed at all)”
        you’re right on this point, we would need to study more the history of mars, in order to choose the right time. it would be disappointing to come to late and find it similar as today or too early and end up in a lake of molten lava as mars still had to cool down.

        in a black hole it could end badly, but it might be worth it. we have no idea what there is inside it and we could actuality find fairies as far as we know, but this might be only way to find out and come back to tell the story. about the time not working part and being stuck for a long time, i blame it on the fact that i don’t think that Michael though about relativity when thinking of this time machine. i suppose it would be 18 hours in your reference frame, not matter what it is, and if it is so you would experience 18 hours of time no matter what happened.

        About the asteroid… i didn’t think about it seriously… even if you managed to do it, it would indeed be a short trip.
        But it would probably be a glorious one.

        • Chiel Wieringa

          A little verse I wrote in dutch about (my understanding of/non comprehension of) the Big bang including an attempt on the translation

          Als iets uit het niets is ontstaan
          moet niets dan niet iets bevatten?
          maar als niets iets moet bevatten
          dan kan er niet niets bestaan

          if something came out of nothing
          then nothing has to contain something
          but if nothing has to contain something
          then there can’t be nothing

  • Douglas

    Since i’m 15 I would go into maybe 30-40 years in the future to see how I’m doing with my life, assuming i’m still alive. I would also see how my friends are doing in the future. would also memorize or write down all the big events that happened from 2015 to 2045-2055 so when I come back to 2015 I will know what kind of things I will be expecting. If I see myself living in the streets eating off of dead rats then I would definitely do something to not be so. If I am successful, then I will continue living on the life I normally live. Id be interesting.

    Also I could try witness an event the bible mentions so I will know the answer to the long debate of whether god exists or not. Since i’m an atheist, that might be life changing to know.

  • Martin Stoehr

    Very interesting question as to which times to visit. Coming to an answer obviously starts to focus on where peoples’ interest lay. One caveat not mentioned in the rules/notes section, the machine would drop you off in period attire but would you be able to speak the language? This would be a big problem for me if I wanted to see Plato in Greece, da Vinci while he was sculpting or drawing a new war engine, or Galileo when he first looked through his new telescope–I speak a little Spanish and may be able to understand
    Italian, but not likely from 400 or 500 years ago, Greek from 2500yo would be about impossible.

    That would force me to only go back as far as revolutionary times in the North American colonies or England. I would find it fascinating to see a day in the life of Thomas Jefferson and/or Benjamin Franklin, maybe while they were conversing over a new invention from France or a enlightenment-era discovery. I bet my scientific side would win out over American history and I would just have to spend a day with the Write Brothers in their Dayton shop, tail Oppenheimer around Los Alamos on the day of the Trinity test, or hang out in Maxwell’s lab when he discovered that an electromagnetic field propagates at the speed as light.

    Probably the Trinity test for me, because it is close enough in time that I could relate and I know that eventually humanity recovered from the first use of the fusion bomb. Having a front seat at such an immense event, being able to see the relief on their faces when the atmosphere did not start a cascade reaction and the fear in their gut when they see the power of the mushroom cloud as they opened the door on such a new technology.

    As for the future, I expected to see people shoot right at taking advantage of the tool by cheating the system to “win the lottery”. Really? That is the best you can come up with? After Tim’s exploration of ASI, I feel almost compelled to pick a date that would be soon after the transition. However, I would not want to choose a time that would naturally fall within my expected life-span since I should be able to see that with my own eyes as I travel into the future naturally. So, how about 100yrs from now? Ya, that sounds good. Too much further and I would not recognize anything—maybe not even be able to understand the new world (or language).

    What about just after the Big-Bang or the Death of the Universe, I suspect that floating in free space may be a little painful and would cut the day short too quickly (no period attire would be able to protect me for any lengthy observation—besides the universe was still opaque for like 380ky after the beginning). Seeing a deep infrared universe with widely distributed mass of atoms also does not sound very interesting.

    We are creatures of interaction and thus I think that I would need to talk with someone, a scientific historian that could explain to me in “old terms” how we got past the ASI threshold without being killed by the new silicon-based consciousness, or how we discovered gravity waves and started using them for cheep transportation. Yes, 100yrs sounds about right.

    • Adriano Di Gregorio

      i really like your comment, and i hate to be nitpicking, but i just cant help it…
      it was fission nuclear bomb in the trinity test, not a fusion one. those were way more powerful and were tested only 6 years later. sorry if my ocd had to kick in.

      • Martin Stoehr

        Good catch Adriano. You are correct of course and do not worry about picking nits–I love to be gracefully corrected. 🙂

  • TJH

    more personal for me…For the future, I’d visit me the day before I died. Maybe impersonate a doctor, or an orderly, and ask me about my life. For the past, I’d visit one of my grandparents, or maybe my dad during one of the wars they participated in. Maybe join a mission to see what they were like during a life and death situation.

  • Jane

    I’d totally travel to see the construction of the Great Pyramid. Not entirely convinced it was built by ordinary beings.
    As for the future, I’d want to be in the body of my friend, or maybe next door neighbor, and see what kind of person I’ll turn out to be in 30 years.

    • Harald

      What if; you go 30 years ahead, and the guy/girl the machine picks out based on your request, lives next to the cemetary you’re burried in (or by the mountain where your ashes where spread etc. etc) BOOM. Would you like to know that?

  • analitok

    go 1 week to the future and write down the lottery numbers

    • SelectFromWhere

      You can’t influence past events, though, when you get back

  • Bri

    The past is such a hard decision because so many things interest me but I do feel like no matter what your religion it’s super hard to not pick Jesus and see for yourself if he seems like the real deal. I also don’t know how long I would really spend following him around when there is also ancient Rome to explore. As someone from the U.S I would also have loved to be around for the writing of our constitution to observe and possibly ask for clarification from our founding fathers. I completely agree with Tim I would want to go to 2115. The biggest downfall I see though is what if you go forward and there has been a huge nuclear war or something that has wiped everyone out. The only possible course of action is to immediately start trying to prevent it however no one will ever believe you. It would be so psychology scarring to know that mankind is fucked and no one will listen to you.

    • DrSuess

      yeah… becoming a real-life Sarah J. Connor or Time Traveller from HG Wells would not be fun. Good point!

  • ScHmo

    the day my niece passed away. there is nothing i can do about it. she suffered a massive brain seizure in the middle of the night. would love to just hold her one more time, talk about stuff, get a burger, whatever. although i would probably have a tough time holding it together.

    • Martin Stoehr

      ScHmo, interesting choice. I was thinking about my brother who passed away about 9ya but since anything we did would be wiped, I would not be able to change anything and that week afterwards was probably the worst week of my life. Much better to remember the happy moments rather than relive the bad of the day.

  • Thomas Waybright

    Perhaps the invasion of Inchon? Or Seminary Ridge, July 3, 1863? The fall of Saigon? These are all pretty dark, but you have to wonder what happened those days.

    OOOOOH BUT WAIT! The Christmas Truce of 1914? That’s the one!

  • KIC

    I’d go back to yesterday. I think I could have swum more laps than I did at the rec center. 🙁

  • Janice Jiang

    one of my choices is probably go to Singapore in the 1960s and see how Mr Lee Kuan Yew build up a country just like that. It will be cool and really inspiring to be in his office for a day and see how he worked.

    Ancient China in the Tang Dynasty? It’s probably the richest era of Ancient China and I REALLY want to see for myself how awesome it was. Maybe be one of the Emperor’s advisors for a day. But I’ll risk myself getting killed because of ignorance of rituals etc.

    Definitely agree with you on the future one. 100 years would be cool. or 50 years so I can plan what to invest my time and money in and be rich for the rest of my life. Checking out future technology would be insanely cool.

  • Janice Jiang

    oh and of course back to the times where China had it’s cultural revolution- just experiencing a day like that would be interesting, however again I might risk myself getting killed for not following communist principles or whatever. I should probably find my grandparents and see how they lead their lives at that time.

  • lldemats

    The past: Either a) getting to meet and talk to Jesus at some quiet moment, perhaps when he was anguishing in the garden before the Roman soldiers hauled him off, and deciding if he was just some crazy guy who thought he was divine, and learning what his real motives were, also getting to meet Judas and b) being at the Alamo when Ozzy Osbourne pissed on it. I assume we could take pictures and bring them back to the present with us. The Future: BEING the first human to set foot on Mars.

    • antsandbeans

      Being able to be at the Alamo when the crusty us general told the Mexicans to sod off would be pretty sweet

  • cybernetichero

    Popcorn moments come to mind like a convenient hill overlooking the crash of the Hindenburg or the sinking of the Mary Rose, Pompeii, or the Nedelin Catastrophe and it would be nice to clear up the confusion over Nelson’s last words. I was thinking about a variation of this question today and one day, one place just won’t cut it, I want a package tour of the domestication of the dog and see a little bit of each step and pat a few puppies here and there. As for the future, well, it has to be First Contact when people publicly meet intelligent creatures from another planet. The only thing we can be pretty sure of is that they will be different to anything we have ever seen.

  • Chris W

    Might be a cop-out because I’m not sure of the exact day (or month or year or century…), but I’d like to be around for the Yucatan asteroid explosion – and then quickly teleport back to the present before the fireball/shockwave/tsunami/etc hit me. Just to see that amount of power would be mind-blowing. Bonus: I might be able to check out some dinosaurs while I was there! Anti-bonus: would be quite a bummer if I got attacked by a dinosaur pre-asteroid strike and was force to return to the present without witnessing the event.

    • Jake

      Ooooooh good one!

  • BillMontreal

    Maybe hang out with my brother the day before he committed suicide.

    See The Beatles perform at The Cavern.

    One of my great grandfathers was adopted and I don’t know his true biological background. I would love to solve that mystery and be able to meet his birth parents and learn where they were from. His DNA indicates no European background. He was a mix of East African, West Asian, South Asian. Somehow wound up adopted in Newfoundland by a European descended couple.

    How is that for a mix of choices?

  • Aaron Barbee

    You could do SO many immoral things with the future one. Heck, make it five years ahead and spend all day at the library or an internet cafe. Look up every winning lottery drawing for five years and just share numbers with family and friends. I like the idea of looking up stocks to invest in. Again, look at their historical rise from 2015 and find the best performers. Came back educated and end up rich.

    Not focusing on that crap, 50-100 years would be cool. I’d be curious to see what my son (or his future-kids) were up to, but then again… maybe not. What if something happens to him/them? Never mind. I just want to experience his life with him. But, anyway, I’m a huge geek and would love to see the technology of 50-100 years from now.

    The past is tricky. I considered going back on “Easter” just to not watch some mythical beast push a rock aside (yes, stirring up shit here, but this is just so I can argue with my religious family members when I get back). No need to reply about this, as you won’t change my beliefs.

    But, I do like the idea of viewing some of the more significant scenarios in history, just to see it for myself. Like when the pilgrims landed and what they did that first day. Maybe hang out with Lewis and Clark for a day, while they traveled the US. Seeing dinosaurs would be totally kick-ass.

    I wonder what it would be like to watch the raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound? But, unless I’m invisible, I’m not sure how a “silent observer” would work when the US military is involved. So many choices…

    • SelectFromWhere

      The lottery numbers thing wouldn’t work because you are not allowed to influence past/future events. Otherwise you could do just like Back to the Future II (which ironically was just on TV last night) and get a “Sports Almanac” and then make a fortune on betting.

      • Aaron Barbee

        Yeah, I guess that would fall under the influence rule, huh? Boo. But, the same would hold true for the Stock market scenario. The “rule” would magically erase your memory of that part of the day, I suppose. Dang… 🙁

  • Jeff Lewis

    I’d travel into the future to where time machines had been perfected, so I could take as many trips as I wanted instead of just one to the past and one to the future.

    • Chiel Wieringa

      lol, cheater! 🙂

  • Louis A. Cook

    I’d definitely go to my home town, Philadelphia, on the summer solstice in 1491 or earlier. It would be amazing to hike around the marshes and imagine all it took to change from that to the place I walk around and know so well now.

  • Jeff Lewis

    December 17, 1903 would certainly be on the short list. I can’t think of many new technologies that have had such a dramatic demonstration. And since my meddling wouldn’t change the timeline, I might just remind them to tie down the Flyer while they were eating lunch so that wind gust didn’t destroy it and they could get a few more flights in that day, or maybe even suggest a change to the canard rigging, so that they could get even longer flights.

    Key figures in a lot of the world’s religions would be pretty interesting – Solomon, Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, Lao Tzu, etc. But since I’m already reasonably certain that these figures have been mythologized a great deal (if they all even existed as real people), I’m not sure how much I’d get out of the visit. It could even be really, really disappointing, like finding out some of them were the equivalent of L. Ron Hubbard or Jim Jones.

    There are a few civilizations I’d really like to see – Egypt, Rome, Greece, Anasazi, Mayans, China, and probably a few others I’m forgetting right now. Maybe I could double up this with one of the religious ones and go to Jerusalem early in the first century. That way I’d get a taste of a Roman province and get to see the start of Christianity.

    But I think ultimately, I’d choose to go way back. The first life would be interesting, but not particularly exciting. Some time when vertebrates were transitioning to land would also be interesting (such as Tiktaalik), but I have a feeling those creatures would look like glorified mud skippers or leaping blennies (not that those would be boring – my wife had to drag me away from the leaping blenny exhibit the last time we went to an aquarium).

    I’d probably go for the dramatic, and pick the late Cretaceous so that I could see a living Quetzalcoatlus. Just imagine seeing a creature as tall as a giraffe jumping into the air and flying. And even if I only got to see Quetzalcoatlus for just a short part of the day, there’d still be plenty of other ancient critters to see. Just about every time I’ve gone hiking/camping in remote areas, I’ve seen interesting animals. And since Cretaceous animals wouldn’t have any particular fear of humans, I’d probably see a lot more of them.

    As far as the future, I wouldn’t want to go any time into the near future. I like not knowing exactly what the future holds, and I’d feel constrained, or even doomed, if I knew exactly what was going to happen, especially the bad things.

    I think I’d take a similar tack to the past, and go way into the future, maybe 500 million years or a billion years, to see how evolution has played out, and what types of new organisms had evolved on the planet. Would vertebrates even be the dominant multicellular animal life that far in the future?

  • for the past i would most likely go into a day where i was with my dead german grandpa – he died when i was 4 and according to my mom he had a lot in common with me. also in that time i would get to witness how i was as a toddler – probably would be embarassing as fuck, but still would be interesting to see 5-year-old me from the outside, not from the inside.

    for the future … that’s harder. i’m tempted to just go to a typical day in 30-year-old me’s life, but i’m afraid i might not like how i am in the future, just like i always can’t help but always see past me as some kind of moron. it would be neat to just go to a typical day though.

  • laura

    I’d go back to the day my parents got married. I was really young when they divorced, and I have no memories of them as a couple. I’ve never seen them interact together beyond the obligatory parental events, so seeing their wedding day would allow me a glimpse of what they were like together. This would also allow me to meet my grandmother, whom I’ve heard a lot about, and who died right before I was born.

  • Scott Pedersen

    The future was the first thing that sprung to mind when I saw the title. The question doesn’t specify if we can bring anything back. If we can bring back physical objects, then going to a future hospital and cramming every medicine and medical device you can grab into the machine seems like the way to go. If we can only bring back information then probably a science and tech museum, for all the hints and explanations for new tech as well as basic science. About a hundred years in the future is probably about right in either case. However, If the rules about altering the timeline apply to the results of the future trip the same way they apply to the past trip, so I couldn’t bring back any object or information that would change the world much, then I don’t know. Maybe Eurodisney? (In this case the Euro is for Europa).

    The past is a much tougher decision. The more history I learn, the more glad I am that I wasn’t around at those times, even for a day. The smell alone in most places would be horrifying beyond any modern comprehension. Settling a question about a major historical figure like Jesus would be interesting. However, barring some kind of TARDIS-like magical translation ability, Jesus would just be some middle-eastern guy who was indistinguishable from all the other people of his era as far as someone like me could tell. Anything that involves communicating with people or understanding what they’re saying means I’d need to limit myself to people who speak Modern English. For things that don’t involve communicating with people, the first thing that springs to mind is seeing what the antikythera mechanism looked like in its original working state.

    Forgetting about people for a moment, there are some natural events that might be great to see. However, most interesting cosmological and geological events happen over too long of a timescale to see much in one day. Seeing the Big Bang at t=0 would be interesting, but the amount of energy being released would mean that you’d see the first attosecond of a flash, and then you’d be dead and the time machine would be putting you back together at your home time. However, if there were any way to bring along instruments and collect data, that might be worthwhile. Seeing the K-T imapct or maybe even the Carrington Event might be interesting.

    A more personal and probably more petty answer would be to visit myself in the 80s sometime. There are some people I’d like to talk to, and a few people it would be satisfying to puch in the face, and I’d like to see how well my memories stack up against the truth.

  • drew66

    Okay, now I’m assuming that I’m not limited to this planet and that the machine is smart enough to know where to take me to fulfill my request. In that case, I would use my “past” choice to travel in the past to the planet nearest to earth with super advanced, intelligent life which is the closest to humanoid form and with an atmosphere most earth-like so I can survive it. Fun to hang out for a day in appropriate clothing (and appropriate humanoid form). If possible, Tim, I’d like to be able to speak the language or utilize planet-appropriate nonverbal communication. As for the future, I’d like to be in the time and place when intelligent life first lands on earth. Hopefully they wouldn’t just incinerate the place or fatally infect every living earth creature.

  • Schaaschaa

    Since I grew up in Eastern Germany, but am just a bit too young (born 1986) to remember this, this is a no-brainer for me:

    November 9, 1989 in Berlin. I’d like the 24 hours to begin shortly before noon, to experience some real GDR and then join the party for the whole night.

    As for the future, I’m not that interested. I’m constantly going to the future at a rate of a day every 24 hours.

  • DrSuess

    I’d like to go back 65 million years ago (+/1MA) and watch the KT impact event. What I can’t decide upon is whether to just get a space suit and watch comfily from a recliner on the moon, and see the impact and several hours of the aftermath. I think it would be pretty spectacular.
    Or
    take some hiking gear and a scuba suit, go hiking on the shore, then diving in what was the Great Bear Sea (now modern Alberta), and see the full active ecosystem in action. Maybe a high powered rifle, too. There were some big, chompy fellas. Tim did say the time machine zaps us right back home if we die, so to watch the impact from the edge of the “total freaking instant incineration zone”, then a few seconds of crispy ouchy-ness, then… “pop”… wake up at home, safe and sound would be pretty cool.

    • antsandbeans

      The watching the asteroid from the moon thing is probably the best idea I’ve heard. It would be a hell of a view Jesus Christ.

      • David K

        Unless the Asteroid impacted on the opposite side of the Earth you were facing;)

  • SelectFromWhere

    I have in fact said that if I could have any superpower, it would be the ability to be a “fly on the wall” at ANY point in time or space, present or past (I think I’m afraid to try the future).

    Limiting it to one day? Hmmm…because I was adopted and know nothing of my biological parents, I’m tempted to say to go back to the date of my own birth–if this is all fantasy, then I could somehow be there in the delivery room to watch myself being born, and also later be around for the aftermath of “what do we do with this damn baby now?”

    Of course there are certain “milestone days” in my own life I’d like to relive, and there are some days where I wish I had been somewhere else (though your scenario doesn’t let us undo actual events). It would be incredibly freaky to go back to Sept 11, 2001, and be a passenger on one of the planes (I am hoping we would die instantly, but knowing what went on, on each plane, and watching the people around me get on the plane knowing they were doomed–but would be immortalized for happening to be on that plane, that day–would be overwhelming. Ditto with being an office worker on one of the floors of the WTC, wondering just what people were doing right before the planes hit. I’d want to replay it over and over, on different floors, sometimes going up to the roof, sometimes being lower and seeing the (doomed) firemen going up the stairwells….so many possibilities from this one event that I have thought about many, many times.

    I guess you could go back to being a sailor at Pearl Harbor for the same reasons, though I wouldn’t want to be one who was burned alive.

    Or for happier memories, go back to Christmas Eve when I was 7 or so, old enough to really appreciate it but still young enough that it was magical.

    Go back and spend a day with someone who is now dead–really, I could not stop this fantasy at ONE day.

    But I still think I’d be afraid of the future.

    • Chiel Wieringa

      I’d love to have that superpower to, but I do hope I will keep my own intellect and comprehension of things when I’m a fly.

  • John

    For the past I’d have to go back and see family. The older I get the more I realise there’s so much about my parents I don’t know. If I could just observe them as people, not the mater and pater, it would be very insightful.

    For the future, I’d have to see my own children as adults.

    • antsandbeans

      Would you want your children to see you? Or would you prefer to watch from a distance?

  • fevates

    So you go into the past and the day then reset and any trace of you is gone. But you probably keep your memories from that day, but if it’s in the past, there is not much problem.

    But when it comes to future, the day also disappear from the future, but you knowledge from that day stays, so you may for example find out about the number for a big lottery in your own time. So then when you come back you will go play lottery and win, witch will change the past considerably the future (at least your own), so if the future is changed, it may not exists like the one you just visited.

    Other example is you will go and kill the baby (in your own time) that will become the US president that will launch a nuclear strike against Russia (I feel I gave all the keywords for NSA to check on me 😀 ) and all the things that follow, then the future will be totally different from the one you visited. And you cannot visit a future that doesn’t exists. So that’s a paradox.

    But if I had to choose, for the past I will probably go as Napoléon during one of his famous battle or maybe when he was set Emperor (I’m french so he is important for us) or maybe as one of his close friends. I’m fascinated about this guy, I would love to see how he was for real.

    And if we can somehow fix the above paradox, in the future I would also like to go 100 years later, by then either humanity will be gone for good, or partially (ASI, Nuclear, Global warming, Global war or else) and it will be interesting to know how the story went (maybe finding someone who survived to get infos), Or the humanity will have find a way to survive and have amazing life and then you can understand why it would be interesting to be there. In my opinion it’s either way, I don’t think we as humans can go on like we do now for another 100 years, it has to change for good or for ill.

  • Judith

    An Otis Rediing concert, for sure. Just to see the magic happen.

  • ericsp23

    As a lover of classical music, my choice would likely be to go back and visit one of the great composers from the past, although, I’m having a hard time deciding which one. I think it would be fascinating to play music from our times (both modern classical music and popular music) for them to see what their reaction would be. I can probably narrow it down to J.S. Bach, W.A. Mozart, or Beethoven before he went deaf. I think these composers would be astounded to hear that people are still listening to their music centuries later (maybe not Beethoven though since he did seem to have some sense that he was writing for posterity late in his life).
    If I had the ability to make a lasting change to history, I would definitely choose to bring Schubert a dose of antibiotics to treat his syphilis so he would not die at the tragically young age of 31. To think what that man might have accomplished with a longer life is mind boggling. Unfortunately that is outside of the parameters of this particular thought experiment.

    As far as the future is concerned, I assume that there is no corresponding rule that you cannot use information you learn from the future to make decisions that might alter how things turn out. If that is the case, I’d probably wait until the next large Powerball lottery jackpot and go forward just a couple of days to get the winning numbers then buy that ticket when I return.

    • Shadowbox Wanamaker

      http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2013/may/27/rite-of-spring-100-years-stravinsky

      I think the Rite of Spring premiere in 1913 would be pretty cool to watch, to see how crazy everyone got and see how exaggerated the reports of the riot were.

      tl;dr if someone reading this isn’t a classical music nerd like me: A ballet depicting the ritual sacrifice of a virgin in pagan Russia, set to super dissonant and ahead-of-its-time music by Stravinsky. It was so shocking to the Paris classical scene that the audience started shouting, throwing things, and otherwise rioting inside the theater, for the duration of the show, while the orchestra was playing and the dancers were dancing. The story is something of a legend in classical circles.

  • antsandbeans

    Honestly. If someone appeared in front of me right now, I would just decline and spend the day doing me. There’s not really anything I’m dying to see:P I think that’s just how I am

  • C KARTIK

    This reminds me of the movie “Primer” where the two
    mathematicians build the machine by sheer accident and use it further monetary
    gains by investing in the stock market.

    That’s logical. We do cater to the greed in us. But, as the
    events we foretell wouldn’t have any effect; guess running up to the folks in
    Nepal a week ago and warning them of the impending earthquake or even flying
    over to Thailand and Indonesia in 2004 warning them nice people of the
    sea-quake would be useless.

    So, my options sort them out by themselves:

    1. The Jesus option’s been taken so I’ll sidle up to the
    Prophet Mohammed and show him some videos of what the Taliban, the ISIS are up
    to and ask his opinion on it.

    Not too sure if I’ll get access to him but if I do, am
    pretty sure he’s not going to be chuffed by the way it’s all panned out.

    2.15th August 1947 when India won its
    independence or suffered the death throes of partition.

    (Classic case of birth and death going hand-in hand).

  • Madame Blue

    I agree with an earlier post about seeing family, and experiencing them as people. I was adopted by older parents, and while it’s tempting to say my bio-mom, I’d much rather spend the time with the people I knew as my mom and dad, my older sisters, and maybe certain extended family. I lost most of them when I was too young to comprehend seizing the opportunity to ask about their lives; my parents both passed in 2002; my remaining sister passed a few years later. When she was still alive, she shared some things about her life. My mom told me some stuff about hers too, but we didn’t always get along so well. I’d welcome an opportunity to set everything aside, and just spend time with them all as I am now. Maybe I’d tell them I write for Life magazine, and that I’m doing an article on the average American family to justify my questions.

    Future family, I’d like to visit my grandkids as adults and see their families. Or maybe a couple generations further along. Being recognized could get awkward.

  • It would be boring to go to the past since I know what’s going on and as you said it would interesting for ten minutes and then it’s like “so what?”!
    But even with that in mind, I would choose past before future. The reason is going to 30 or 40 years into future does no good because I’m going to be there eventually. There would be the chance of never reaching there but with that, there is absolutely no point in making myself sad that “I’m here only for a day”!
    Going to the past, I really want to be in France during the revolution. It’s the most interesting event I can think of and there is a lot of things to see even in one day!

  • MrPickles

    seeing how history is written and rewritten in the perspective of the winners, it would undoubtedly be cool to be in just about any time period. i’d have trouble interacting with the people around me due to unfamiliar customs/habits, etc. Heck, I even have trouble interacting with people in my own life. But that’s a discussion for another time

  • Hernando Castro

    I will definitely like to go back to the Medieval Middle East. When people refer to Medieval Era they mostly think of Europe but it would be pretty cool to go and see all the advancements in sciences that Arabs had back in the day, especially in medicine.

    My second choice would be going and spending the day in the Library of Alexandria, learning anything I could, because as some people believe destroying the Library of Alexandria meant losing 3,000 years of advancements in many different topics.

  • 115V

    Future is pretty obvious, i would travel only one or two weeks and check lottery and/or some sport results and make a fortune when i am back. Sounds pretty lame? Maybe but i think spending the rest of my life in economical safety is better then getting a glimpse of the farer future, which would be depressing either way. If the future is super cool you would be depressed because you know you never really be there, if the future sucks its depressing, too, or everything is soooooo advanced that you just can’t get it…
    Past is really really difficult… i really don’t know there are just to many really cool options.

    • Honza M.

      I would love the lottery or sports part too (or investing) but I am unsure because of the butterfly effect.

  • gerber

    Some people think the Grand Canyon was carved out in one day, and not by a slow process of erosion. If that is the case then I would go there to watch it happen. Except I would need a helicopter or something like that to be able to observe it.

    • Ryan

      Wait.. who thinks this?!

  • Dobby

    Information is everything. I would definitely go for the future not for mere things like money or anything to do with myself but for more information on just about everything. 2500 years into the future to be precise. 4515 A.D. would be really interesting as in by that time we would be probably past being a Stage II Civilization on the Kardashev scale. I am pretty sure we would already have all the answers to all the frustrating/interesting questions about ourselves and this whole concept of universe, matter and energy and everything else that we still haven’t thought of yet!!

  • Chiel Wieringa

    History would be ancient Babylon or Egypt (or whenever the megalithic structures where really build). To see the megalithic structures in full glory (or perhaps to see HOW they where build) would be amazing to me. (Somehow I think I will be shocked about this, even more shocked then traveling to the (relatively near) future)

    Second place would be the dark-ages to find out how the “dragon-myths” came into existence and what they actually mean.

    The future. Hmmm. I think I actually want to travel to the same time after an ELE on earth to where we are now. Would be interesting to see if humans where still around and how confused and psychological messed up we would be then. If there were no humans, perhaps there would be another form of “intelligent” life and I would love to see what form that would have.

    Second place would perhaps be witnessing my own death. Though I’m not to sure about this.

  • Enriko Horta

    A few years in the future. Take a harddrive with me and download all news and stock market movements. Hopefully when I get back things will happen the same and i can profit hehe. Seeing dinosaurs or something for a day is cool and all but I’d rather be rich for the rest of my life. Although the far future would be hugely interesting but hard to profit from unless you steal some tech and try to sell it here for reverse engineering.

    • Honza M.

      The problem I see in this kind of thinking is the butterfly effect (check Wikipedia). The stock prices would be totally different. By making even a small stock trade would lead to a different future, different from the one in which you did not trade, travelled to a few years in the future and took notes of the companies. The reason is that you would step into the order book of the stock exchange and simply different trades would be joined and the price would move in a different way. And that change would create even bigger changes, which would create yet again bigger changes.. see where I am heading?

      • Ryan

        The Butterfly Effect arises from chaos theory. A small perturbation would EVENTUALLY (does anyone else find it weird that you can’t italicize or bold text in comments sections?) cause a butterfly effect, but probably on a sufficiently long timescale such that you could have benefited from it. I did some simulation on chaotic systems in college, but I am by no means an expert so I could very well be wrong on this.

  • Jeff

    I would o to the future make my own freaking time machine that I can use whenever i what.

  • Jeff

    wow…fat finger

  • Nariya Tanoukhi-Bell

    For the past, I don’t know if I would go to the pyramids before they got all worn down, or to the wild Americas before Columbus.
    The pyramids would be cool because they used to be covered in white stone and topped in GOLD, imagine. The wild Americas would be cool because you would get to see the Amazon before we started cutting it down, and the giant herds of bison on the Great Plains (there were over 30 MILLION, just imagine!).

    For the future, I would go 100 years ahead, like Tim.

    Here’s an interesting thought:
    Suppose you go to the future and your Older Self is trapped in a prison and going to die in a painful way (torture, or something else horrible). So you talk to your Older Self and decide to kill them (you?) in a quicker, less painful way before that happens. Which raises a lot of questions, such as:
    – Was it suicide? Do your Younger Self and your Older Self count as one person, or two separate people as you are in different bodies?
    – If your actions in the past don’t change anything, do your actions in the future not change anything?
    – What if you commit suicide before then, because you don’t want to be tortured? Will it work, or is what you see in the future inevitable?
    – What if, since you know that you won’t really be tortured, you’re able to keep a level head in your cell and escape before your Younger Self shows up? Will it work? Again, is the future inevitable? When your Younger Self shows up, will he (you?) be in the cell, since that’s where you were supposed to be at that point in time, or will he (you?) be where you escaped to (assuming he [you?] wished to be where you are at X age, or right before death)?
    – If your Younger Self wished to be where you were right before death (which would be creepy) and you escaped, and he (you?) ended up where you escaped to, would it mean you die will right after
    that? Could just programming the time machine change how you die?
    – If you escaped because you have a level head because of your memories of saving yourself from torture as a younger person, then when the Younger Self gets there and finds nobody to save, so he (you?) doesn’t have a memory of saving himself, so
    your Older Self doesn’t have a level head and
    doesn’t escape, so your Younger Self does save him, so he escapes, so the Younger Self doesn’t save him, so he doesn’t escape, so–get the idea?
    – Is the above question–trapped in a cycle–an argument for the idea that nothing you do in the future matters? If so, would it be right to attempt suicide before the torture, as said in question three? Would it work?
    – If your Younger Self knows that killing your Older Self before the torture won’t change anything, would he (you?) still do it? Would human nature make him do it? What is human nature, anyway? Would it trump logic? What’s the difference?

    Intense.

  • Millifly

    Even if you can erase the history that you have been there in the past and don’t allow it to effect your present of future, but when you go to the future, by observing things, it effects your present life, then your present life effects your future.

    I would want to know who am i going to get married with, but knowing that will effect the way I live, think, etc. and that might alter the future. so if going to the future will effect my future, what will i see when i use the time machine to go to the future? *brain hurts*

    • Panda

      You will see the you that decided to see you in the future at one point in the past. My point of view is that any action of P(present) will affect F(future). So if P saw F, there is only one sequence of actions among the infinitely many sequences of actions that led P to F.
      If you were able to travel to the future two times, the P that traveled to F (says 10 years into future) and P then visit F2 (20 years into future). By the time you reach F2, the history (in F2 point of view) about F (10 years in the past of F2) will be different than what P knows about F from P visit to F. One sequence of action among the infinitely many sequences.
      Can I say for certain that’s suppose to be the case? Nope. Will we ever find out? I hope so. I’m ready to be mind-blown. lol.

  • Miroslav Umlauf

    In past some half day before the big bang, with a popcorn. As one of the skills of machine is to guarantee me dress fitting the time, I believe it should be some pretty high tech rainbow fluorescent spacesuit, but I would also like to be surprised. In the future? Let’s try what can machine do with the term “half day before big bang” in future. I might find myself eating popcorn there and that would be fun…

  • alrey

    I just need one business day in the future. I’ll record the financial chart and make tons of money trading with 200:1 leverage. My one day in the future enjoyed for the rest of my life 🙂

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