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Time Travel and Modern Devices: Science Fiction?

Updated on October 21, 2017
DzyMsLizzy profile image

Words, wordplay, reading, and writing have been favorites of Liz's since early childhood. She enjoys exploring science and science fiction.


As a fan of assorted science fiction tales, I have long been fascinated by the concepts presented, and the possibility that any of those technologies might be translated into reality in our lifetimes. It turns out, many such things have indeed become commonplace items. Some are things we use daily; others are more the exclusive domain of the military organizations. Nevertheless, it is still fascinating to ponder the future, and what may lie in store.

The reader should be aware that the ideas I present are very over-simplified explanations or examples, as this is not intended as a scientific treatise. I am not a scientist of any discipline, nor am I a mathematician. I am merely a lay person with a great interest in these concepts.

Jules Verne

Jules Verne 1828-1905
Jules Verne 1828-1905 | Source
Tomb of Jules Verne, Amiens, France See copyright restrictions below. Creative Commons License within the USA
Tomb of Jules Verne, Amiens, France See copyright restrictions below. Creative Commons License within the USA | Source

Submarine Travel

The birth of science fiction as we know it has a long history, dating back probably to Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. At the time he wrote that book, (published in 1870), there was no such thing as a submarine vessel of this nature. This was pure fantasy and science fiction.

The very first trials of submarine vessels originated with the American Civil War, circa 1862 or 3, with the H.L. Hunley. Used by the Confederacy against the Union forces, it was strictly a weapon of war, and not a practical vessel in which to live for extended voyages. It was a failure, however, as none of the soldiers survived the experiment. If news of this fatal experiment reached Verne, it may have served as inspiration for his book.

As an interesting side-note, the original work was published in French, and the title was “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas” ..note the ‘seas’ in plural form. The plural “s” got lost in translation, so that folks have the idea that the distance refers to the depth at which Captain Nemo’s sub, the Nautilus, traveled.

This is not so. Twenty Thousand Leagues is a distance equal to a little over eight times the diameter of the Earth itself, so that is not possible as a depth. Rather, it refers to the total distance traveled while submerged at various depths. (See chart below.)

Easy Comparison of Jules Verne's Concept With Real Distances

Concept in Vernes' Book
English Equivalent
Metric Equivalent
20,000 Leagues
69,046.8 miles
111,120 kilometers
Diameter of Earth
7,918 miles
12,742.79 kilometers
1 League
3.4523383 miles
5.55600 kilometers
Deepest Part of Ocean
36,070 feet (6.831 miles)
10,994 meters (10.9941 km)
In this chart, it is easy to see that Twenty Thousand Leagues referred to linear distance traveled, and not depth of travel.

H.L. Hunley: First Military Attack Submarine

Cell Phones

How many fans does the long-running science fiction show “Star Trek” have? They number in the millions, I’m sure. The original series began in 1966, and aired through 1969 in 79 total episodes. The show at that time got low ratings, and was cancelled. However, the studios misinterpreted the Nielsen figures, and dealt themselves a blow with this action.

Not only did the show run in syndication for many years afterwards, (and still does on some cable channels), but it also spawned numerous spin-offs and movies, not to mention umpteen toys, action figures and costumes. From there, it was re-issued onto DVDs for both the series and the movies. Star Trek conventions can be found all over the world, several times a year. There is a serious cult following of this fantasy into our possible future, and I believe that is a large part of its appeal.

What, though, is more ubiquitous and reminiscent of the original series than the communicator? Each of the crew members has such a device, and it is flipped open, and used to call the ship for a beam-out, or to alert or locate other crew on an away mission.

Look at the device again. Now, look at your own cell phone, especially if you had, or still have, the type that flips open to call or answer. The resemblance is undeniable, and probably not accidental.

Star Trek communicator replica from the original series This is a file from the Wikimedia Commons.
Star Trek communicator replica from the original series This is a file from the Wikimedia Commons. | Source
Cell Phone, or Communicator?
Cell Phone, or Communicator? | Source

Time Travel

This is the “biggie.” Theoretical physicists today are pondering the likelihood of this idea. There are a number of problems and paradoxes within. First of all,this author wonders:

  • If you travel back to a time before you were born, will you actually still exist?
  • If you are able to go backwards, and still exist, will the technology that was not yet invented then fail, leaving you stranded backwards in time?
  • Assuming neither of the above were a problem, if you traveled back to prevent something, would you cause something worse?
  • If you traveled forward in time, past the date you would have died, would you then actually die?

Those are all things I’ve wondered when thinking about time travel. What kind of machine or device would you need? What would be involved? Speed? Some kind of energy waves? How would it feel? We’ll probably never know any of these answers in our lifetimes.


Referring back to the Star Trek model, though, at the end of the Star Trek: Voyager series, there is a time-travel episode, in which Captain Katherine Janeway travels back to her ship, which has been stuck for years in the Delta Quadrant, trying to find the way back to the Alpha Quadrant and planet Earth. Her mission is to show them the way home, with a shortcut.

However, this episode begins with her back on Earth, as an older woman with gray hair. So, as the captain of the Voyager, she was out there with the crew as they sought their way home. Obviously, they made it, or she wouldn’t be back on Earth to try to go back and help them. As a crew, they were all travelers together.

So, the paradox is, since they all did eventually make it back, why and what purpose is served by her trying to go back to get them home? Naturally, they all aged on the journey back. Was the motive to get them home before they got old? That’s the only motivation I can imagine. But then, since she took a shuttle-craft and went on her own, all the crew that was home with her, was still on Earth. How would they also still be out in space?

Then, there is the already-established “grandfather paradox,” which states that should you travel back in time, and somehow cause the death of your grandfather, then you yourself would cease to exist as neither you nor your father (if you went back far enough) would have been born.

What Would You Like?

Given a choice of futuristic technology, which would you like best?

See results

Other Futuristic Possibilities

Not only is time travel an interesting concept, but so is the idea of parallel universes. (In fact, I wrote a very non-professional spoof on the parallel universe theory myself.)

Below is a short video featuring famed theoretical physicist, Dr. Michio Kaku, expounding on both of these ideas.

Is Time Travel a New Literary Concept?

Star Trek notwithstanding, there is a much earlier story involving the concept of time travel, and that is, A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur’s Court.

Warning: spoilers and rampant speculation follow!

In this story, the man is transported back in time after a blow to the head, so I postulate that it is likely a type of dream sequence that unfolds while he is unconscious.

Nevertheless, the rest of the story plays out as if he has really gone backwards in time. He helps the realm to repel an enemy by threatening to take away the sun (because from his era, he knows the date an eclipse will occur). He also beats the court sorcerers at their own game, and is revered as a wise wizard; in effect, he becomes Merlin, making the real Merlin jealous.

He then returns to his own time by means of a blow to the head; I suspect it is his waking up, and then becoming aware of the original knock to the noggin that sent him 'back in time' in the first place.

This tale was penned by none other than Mark Twain back in 1889, and was intended as comedic satire. However, it does give one food for thought on the topic of time travel.

Is This The Original Time-Travel Story?

A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur's Court
A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur's Court

The original time-travel story? It was one of my favorites as a child, and I am still fascinated by this tale.


In Conclusion

Read science fiction. You never know when it may become science fact. Look around you at now-familiar devices, and think about their origins. So many of the things we now take for granted started as the brain child of creative writers.

Who knows; one of my fellow authors here may yet become the next celebrated genius who was the inspiration for some new gadget we won’t be able to live without in the future!

Live long and prosper!

Copyright Notice

The photo of the tomb of Jules Verne, above, is copyright-restricted as follows:

Do not copy this file to Wikimedia Commons.
This file is free content in the United States
but non-free or potentially non-free in its country of origin. 

Wikimedia Commons only accepts files 
that are public domain in both the country of origin 
and the United States.
For more details, see Commons:Licensing, Wikipedia:Copyrights 
and talk for the PD-US license template.

This file will not be in the public domain in its home country
until January 1, 2023 and should not be transferred to Wikimedia 
Commons until that date, as Commons requires that images be free 
in the source country and in the United States.

© 2014 Liz Elias


Submit a Comment

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 6 months ago from Oakley, CA

    True, we are constantly moving forward through time, but ah, the fantasy and thrill of being able to zip about through the timeline at will. Yes, we probably would corrupt history, even cause our own demise perhaps.

    I have read, however, from such experts in the sciences as Dr. Michio Kaku, that rapid travel through time--going forward--is theoretically possible. However, you'd be stuck there, as there isn't a way to go backwards. Such a dilemma! ;-)

  • escole61 profile image

    colin powell 6 months ago from march

    I think we can travel forward in time. Because we do at our lifetime pace. We are born and get to where we are now because we have moved through time. It happens, but we cannot control the pace or reverse it. We dream of doing it and realise the many problems you mentioned. It would be grand to have such a right of indulgence without corrupting history. :D

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 2 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello there, rasta1!

    So true. I'm glad you enjoyed this hub, and the general concept. SciFi is a lot of fun. Thanks so much for stopping by.

  • rasta1 profile image

    Marvin Parke 2 years ago from Jamaica

    Time travel is one of my favorite themes for science fiction. Time is the fourth dimension and we still can't fathom it. Makes you think about the mysteries of the 5th dimension.

  • Glenn Stok profile image

    Glenn Stok 3 years ago from Long Island, NY

    I'm familiar with that theory of parallel universes. That is definitely one solution to the paradox. It works as follows: if you go back in time, you are not going to a past in the same universe. You are going to a past in the parallel universe where things are different. They are different due to the changes caused to history by being where you were not originally. The thing that makes it a non-paradox is that the original universe remains unchanged with it's history intact. That is, each parallel universe can have different histories. Actually an infinite number of histories. Have fun thinking about that.

    Thanks for Hawking's article link. I'll check that out.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 3 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, Glen Stok!

    It is a fascinating field of the imagination, if not yet reality. Who's to say if the cell phones were fashioned after the communicators? I'm tempted to think so, given the very first cell phones were more like carrying a brick around, with a suitcase full of batteries to boot!

    I was just reading an article the other day--linked from Face Book, in which Stephen Hawking was talking about a new theoretical field in which backwards time travel might indeed be possible, avoiding the so-called "grandfather paradox," because, if I understood it correctly, you'd essentially only be in a parallel universe. Here is the link:

    Have fun--it was a bit too technical for me; I grasped only the general gist...

  • Glenn Stok profile image

    Glenn Stok 3 years ago from Long Island, NY

    I have an interest in similar things as you and many times I spend hours thinking about these things.

    I wonder if it's just a coincidence that the Star Trek communicator is similar to the flip type cell phones that we have today, or if the cell phones today were designed after Star Trek's communicator.

    As for time travel, I gave a lot of thought to that. I think someday we may be able to travel forward but we will never be able to travel backwards. The reason why is because if we could, we would be able to change history. That is impossible because it would create a present state of constant flux, without any consistency.

    Anyway, loved you hub.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 3 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, craiger-m,

    So true. The thing about time travel that strikes me involves the whole concept of "warp speed" as used in Star Trek, as well as the wormhole theory, in which you essentially 'fold space' in half to shorten the travel distance to places light-years apart. What happens to everything else next door, as it were, if you are able to fold space?

    Is this a part of the time-travel theory? I believe there was also an episode of "Superman," in which Lois Lane, his love interest, gets killed, so he flies out in space, and circles the earth at super-sonic speeds to turn time backwards so he can save her.... also not within the realm of possibility, but as fictional entertainment, a stellar concept.

    Thanks so much for stopping by and I'm glad you liked the article.

  • craiger-m profile image

    The Hatter 3 years ago from Great Britain

    You raise a lot of interesting concepts and thought provoking ideas. A lot of science fiction has now become science fact but I don't think we will ever travel in time.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 4 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, cam8510--

    LOL I know what you mean! It is an interesting concept to think about, and fantasize. I'm glad you enjoyed the article. Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving feedback. ;-)

  • cam8510 profile image

    Chris Mills 4 years ago from Missoula, Montana at least until August 2018

    DzyMsLizzy, my head hurts. This whole subject gets me all intellectually twisted around. There are so many paradoxes, so many possibilities and impossibilities. I love reading the genre though. Thanks for the fun and thought provoking hub.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 4 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, Jane Arden,

    Always nice to connect with other Trekkies. ;-) I'm most pleased that you enjoyed this hub

    Thanks for your comment; much appreciated.

  • profile image

    Jane Arden 4 years ago

    I am a complete and utterly fanatical geek when it comes to Sci-Fi especially StarTrek. I didnt know that it got cancelled for low ratings. Also, I'm glad you wrote this hub in layman's terms so ordinary folk like me can understand. Loved it.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 4 years ago from Oakley, CA

    @ Glimmer Twin Fan--Yes, you are quite correct. And boy--the way some people drive, I'm kind of eager to see that driverless car become reality! Glad you enjoyed the Hub! Thanks so much.

    @ Ann1Az2--Oh, yes, the Time Machine. Another good one. Always nice to meet a fellow Trekkie. Thanks so much for your comment and adding that movie! Glad you liked the article.

  • Ann1Az2 profile image

    Ann1Az2 4 years ago from Orange, Texas

    One of my favorite all time science fiction movies is The Time Machine - I actually like the remake better with Guy Pierce. I'm also a trekkie. Enjoyed the hub!

  • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

    Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

    Every time I think that "they" can't do something, it gets done. I just saw a tv news story that said that self driving cars will be commonplace in a few years. So who knows about time travel! Interesting hub.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 4 years ago from Oakley, CA

    @ Crystal Tatum--I agree. If this is even ever possible, I don't see it happening within my lifetime. Perhaps in that of my great-grandchildren who may one day be born! ;-) I'm pleased you liked the article--thanks much for the votes!

    @ ajwrites57--Thank you very much. I'm glad you enjoyed this hub. Verne was indeed most prescient. Thanks for stopping by!

  • ajwrites57 profile image

    AJ 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

    DzyMsLizzy enjoyed your hub. Love science-fiction. Jules Verne was an amazing writer and possessed incredible prescience. Thanks!

  • Crystal Tatum profile image

    Crystal Tatum 4 years ago from Georgia

    An intiguing topic. I think it would be great to be able to time travel and undo our mistakes, but I don't hold much hope for that! Very interesting info on the submarine. Voted up and more.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 4 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, Jayfort--

    Thanks so very much. I'm delighted you enjoyed this hub. I had to laugh at your showing your dad up with the cell phone. That's funny!

    Thanks for sharing that.

  • profile image

    Jayfort 4 years ago

    Awesome Hub. My Dad said we'd never have a communicator so small that could carry over thousands of miles. When he purchased his first flip phone, I asked to borrow it for a minute. Once in hand I turned it around (the flip part was designed to fold DOWN) lifted the flip part slightly with my thumb, then flicked my wrist in that oh, so familiar manner. The flip flipped out just like a communicator's! I looked at Dad and repeated the process a couple of more times, then gave him back his phone. He said, "Okay, smart aleck!"

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 4 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hi, FlourishAnyway.

    Thanks so very much for your thoughtful comment. I agree--we could end up being deemed both mad and dangerous, and possibly executed in a time before our time! What a conundrum that might be!

    I'm glad you liked this article!

  • FlourishAnyway profile image

    FlourishAnyway 4 years ago from USA

    I especially enjoyed your thought provoking questions about time travel. Just imagine if we had the ability to travel back in time. Would we be able to undo atrocities or would we be disbelieved or deemed mad or dangerous? There have been events that have been such historical or technological game changers that few could even imagine them before they happened. Very interesting hub, Liz!

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 4 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, nArchuleta,

    Thanks so very much for such high praise! You are right--I had forgotten that one. ;-) Also, as you go further into the series, there is also the tablet computer and laser scanners....who knows where we may go with the Holodeck technology. That one still puzzles me: how would you physically interact with an object or person composed solely of light beams?

    Thanks for stopping by and adding to the thought process!

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 4 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Thanks much, Jodah!

    I like the theoretical point Dr. Kaku makes in the video, that if you traveled back, and changed anything, it might be in a parallel universe, not your you wouldn't foul up your own life by changing things. LOL

    There are so many things to consider about such technology. Even the old, old, OLD movie of "It's a Wonderful Life" touches on the concept in a sideways sort of manner.

    Thanks much for the comment and vote! Glad you enjoyed the article.

  • nArchuleta profile image

    Nadia Archuleta 4 years ago from Denver, Colorado

    Stellar Hub, as always. Actually, concerning Star Trek, floppy disks originated there, too.

  • Jodah profile image

    John Hansen 4 years ago from Queensland Australia

    Great hub Lizzy, I am a sci-fi geek. Always have been, always will be and the thought of time travel intrigues me. I did even write a list of things that I'll change if I ever do have the chance to travel back. True. I have read and watched H.G.Well's Time Machine so many times, and more recently Dr Who. The movie 'The Butterfly Effect' is a worry however. In it you can go back and change things, but by doing so there are often worse outcomes caused. Also many gadgets and things mentioned in science fiction books and movies have come to be, the black and white movie Metropolis for instance is an amazing example. Anyway, great job. Voted up.