What is it about John Titor that people find so compelling?
Personally, I’d say it’s two things:
1.) John Titor said, “Perhaps it would be better if you just considered me a fraud.” This might be a perfect example of reverse psychology at work, but time and again Titor stated that he didn’t care if anyone believed him. I honestly think that had a major impact on the believability of his story. And,
2.) John Titor shared a lot of information. His “predictions” may have been debunked, his science may have been faulty (maybe), but that doesn’t altogether matter: at the time, he shared far more information, including pictures, than most would-be time travelers.
He also gave quite a bit of detail regarding his time machine, the C204 Gravity Distortion Unit. The specifications of the machine, how it felt to travel through time, and he even shared snippets of the unit’s operating instructions.
What do you say we investigate that a bit?
“I was just about to give up hope on anyone knowing who Tipler or Kerr was on this worldline. The basics for time travel start at CERN in about a year and end in 2034 with the first “time machine” built by GE.” – November 2, 2000
According to John Titor, the ability to time travel is discovered in Geneva, Switzerland at CERN, during (I’m assuming) experiments involving the Large Hadron Collider. I can assume that because he also said:
“The source of power for the C204 that allows it to distort and manipulate gravity comes from two microsingularities that were created, captured and cleaned at a much larger and ‘circular’ facility…The breakthrough that will allow for this technology will occur within a year or so when CERN brings their larger facility online.” – January 31, 2001
After the technology was discovered, General Electric then began producing the displacement units. Titor outlined the basic specifications of the units that allow time travel:
“1. Magnetic housing units for dual microsingularities.
2. Electron injection manifold to alter mass and gravity of microsungularities.
3. Cooling and x-ray venting system
4. Gravity sensors (VGL system)
5. Main clocks (4 cesium units)
6. Main computer units (3)”
If so, I’ve set up a page with one of Titor’s lengthier posts, in which he walks us through the basics of how his machine operates and the science behind it. Check it out: John Titor & The Invention Of Time Travel
The Variable Gravity Lock System
“…this problem is actually the most difficult part of time travel. Although some of your assumptions about matter displacement are a bit off, the problem is real. Inside the displacement unit are a series of very sensitive clocks and gravity sensors. This system is called the VGL (variable gravity lock).”
The most important piece of Titor’s time machine was the VGL, or Variable Gravity Lock system. This was the system that kept the machine (and its passenger) fixed in place in its environment, so it wouldn’t end up floating out in empty space, or melding with any other objects, when it arrived in another time.
“Basically, the unit takes a reading of the local gravity and samples it during the ‘trip’ in pulses. If the gravity is too far off, the unit stops or reverses itself to the last sample period where the readings were correct. If there is some sort of failure, the unit shuts down and drops out to where ever you may be.” – November 4, 2000
Later, Titor elaborated:
“…before the unit “leaves” a worldline, it takes a base reading of the local gravity and adjusts the Tipler sinusoid to ‘lock’ into that position. Although the temporal physics of this statement are wrong, in effect, it holds you to the ‘Earth’. During travel, it periodically checks to see that the field has not varied. If it does, it stops and reverses course or drops out at that point. Buildings and other terrain features are avoided in the same way.” – December 10, 2000
It didn’t take much to trip the VGL, either: according to Titor, simply placing a desk where the time machine was expected to arrive would trigger the VGL and prevent it from arriving. Likewise, the unit could not be used safely while in motion:
“The unit must be stationary during operation due to the sensitivity of the gravity sensors. Any motion with an acceleration component would throw the gravity measurement from the singularities off.” – March 3, 2001
Computers And Clocks
“My ‘time’ machine is a stationary mass, temporal displacement unit manufactured by General Electric. The unit is powered by two, top-spin, dual-positive singularities that produce a standard, off-set Tipler sinusoid.” – January 27, 2001
Titor’s C204 unit also included a set of three computer systems and four cesium clocks.
The computer systems would “work with” the VGL to plot the machine’s course, and could “record” the trip to make the traveler’s return to his or her origin worldline as easy as possible. According to Titor, “the really interesting technology is in the computer.” Of course, he never got much more specific than that.
“The computer system is connected to the unit through an electrical bus. There are actually three computers linked together that take the same signals from the gravity senors and clocks. They use a Borda error correcting protocol that checks the integrity of the data and trips the VGL system.”
The four cesium clocks calculated seconds as their basic units of measurement, and were used to calculate the course of the journey itself and the amount of worldline divergence:
“…in a sense you do *dial in* a date and the computer system controls the distortion field. At maximum power, the unit I have is capable of traveling about 10 years an hour.” – January 31, 2001
In regards to the microsingularities, Titor said the following:
“…there are 2 singularities in the unit. The gravity field is manipulated by three factors that affect it in distinct ways. Adding electric charge to the singularities increases the diameter of the inner event horizons. Adding mass to the singularities increases the area of gravitational influence around the singularities. Rotating and positioning the polar axis of the singularities affects and alters the gravity sinusoid.” – January 15, 2001
These singularities were housed in “an enclosed magnetic field.”
Ironically, the method of time travel itself, involving the singularities, wasn’t the real issue with constructing the machine. Instead, it was everything else:
“Miniaturizing the clocks and sensors, creating clever ways to vent x-rays and creating a computer system dependable enough to calculate the changes required to the field were the main challenges.” – January 31, 2001
Finally, the unit also had two “security systems” in place:
“One, it has a code that must be entered correctly. Second, and probably more effective now, the unit cannot be used by anyone who can’t add and substract.” – November 15, 2000
John Titor’s time machine was only accurate “to about 60 years.” He couldn’t travel much farther than that, because the worldline divergence experienced in doing so would render his destination practically unrecognizable. In Titor’s words, “the longer the unit is on past a safe divergence confidence, the ‘stranger’ the worldline becomes.”
“The C204 begins to ‘break away’ at about 60 years. This means the level of confidence drops rapidly after 60 years of travel and the worldline divergence increases. In other words, if I wanted to go back 2000 years and meet Christ, there is a better than average chance I would end up on a worldline where he was never born.” – November 4, 2000
This divergence confidence was calculated to be about 1-2%, and newer versions of the time machine were being perfected in the future to make this more accurate:
“I would equate the ‘future’ GE distortion units to their current jet engines. The first one worked great but they can always make it better. The C204 unit uses 4 cesium clocks. The C206 uses 6 cesium clocks but they use an optical system to check the oscillation frequency. This makes the worldline divergence confidence much higher.” – November 7, 2000
According to Titor, you could “imagine your path through time [as] through a cone. The farther away from the center of the cone, the more differences you will see in the worldline.” See the image above for a simple illustration of this effect.
The VGL, computer systems, and clocks worked together to measure the divergence:
“The measurement for worldline divergence is an observation variable isolated to the distortion unit. An effective analogy would be a ‘gravity radar”. The unit’s sensors take a ‘snapshot’ of the local gravity around the unit before a flight. During travel, this baseline is periodically checked to make sure there are no major changes in the environment that would cause a catastrophic mass failure (brick wall appearing from nowhere). The percentage of VGL divergence from one worldline to another is a calculated guess by the three computers that control the unit based on its starting point. It is useless in describing characteristics of individual worldlines.” – January 10, 2001
“On my worldline: (A) in 2036, I was given a mission in 1975. I turn my machine on and jump to another worldline (B) in 1975 with about a 2% divergence from (A).
From the very point I turn my machine off on (B), I create a new worldline just because I’m there. This line can be described as (C) and started when I got to (B).
I am now doing my mission on line (C) in 1975 when I discover a very good reason to go forward on (C) and see what happened. I turn my machine on and go forward on (C) to the year 2000.
When I turn it off, I start another line called (D). So from my perspective, here we are on line (D) in the year 2000. In order to go home to line (A) I must turn my machine on and go back on (D) until I reach (C) which in turn would take me back to (B) which in turn takes me to a point before I arrived on (B) then I go forward from the point I arrived on (B) back to (A).”
On his initial trip, John Titor’s time machine was placed inside a 1967 Chevrolet. On part of his return journey, he used a 1987 4WD, because “the vehicle needs a strong suspension system to handle the weight of the distortion unit,” and the vehicles needed to match their respective time periods. I’m not sure what vehicle Titor chose for the final stretch of his trip.
Titor described the journey through time as dark, like “driving under a rainbow,” followed by “driving under a tunnel and being in total black.” During the journey, “the car is off and the brake is on.” The gravity field “overtakes you very quickly,” generating a steady G force, and you “feel a tug toward the unit similar to rising quickly in an elevator.”
“The unit has a ramp up time after the destination coordinates are fed into the computers. An audible alarm and a small light start a short countdown at which point you should be secured in a seat.” – November 4, 2000
The machine gives off quite a bit of heat, and the traveler must carry extra oxygen if the trip is likely to be a long one. You hear “a slight hum as the unit operates,” and electrical crackling from static electricity. “Everything is black,” he said.
“When the machine is turned off, it is the reverse affect. It appears you are driving out from a bridge. To tell you the truth, I’m usually sleeping when the unit turns off but yes, it does appear that the world fades in from black.” – November 4, 2000
To the observers watching Titor and his machine leave in 2036, he explained the appearance of gravity distortion:
“Outside, the vehicle appears to accelerate as the light is bent around it. We have to wear sunglasses or close our eyes as this happens due to a short burst of ultraviolet radiation.” – November 4, 2000
Later, he said:
“…the time machine does not move as it goes from one worldline to another and then returns. The people watching on the original worldline would wave good-bye and watch as the machine is turned on. There would be a static discharge and the air would appear to ‘ripple’ as if it were getting denser. Then, it would stop and the machine will have appeared to have disappeared. If the machine doesn’t move its position from worldline to worldline, the observer would not see it disappear at all.” – November 20, 2000
A “large chunk of ground” would also be missing from the area surrounding the machine.
“I wouldn’t quite say it ‘scoops’ up the ground cleanly. It sort of vibrates it loose and takes it along for the ride.” – November 22, 2000
As it left, the machine would also be “quite dangerous to get too close” to, because it vents radiation and “has a very strong localized gravity field.”
According to Titor, “from their perspective, I will only have been gone for a split second.”
Back to the Future
When asked if Titor could take anyone else with him back to the future, he simply stated that he didn’t think anyone here would like 2036 very much.
He did, however, imply that his machine could support “about three people and equipment,” though he’d have to offload a lot of archival material to fit them in (“There are mass limits to what can be taken back,” he said). The journey to the future, itself? He explained it like this:
“For all of you interested in coming back with me to 2036, perhaps we should discuss the trip. Please be aware, the displacement unit moves through time, not space.
First, we will be driving the current vehicle (Chevy truck) with the displacement unit in it to Tampa Florida. From there, we will go back to my arrival date on this worldline. Then we will have to drive to Minnesota, sell the current vehicle and get another one that would have been around in 1975.
We will then move the displacement unit (500 lbs or so) into the new vehicle and go back to 1975. Once in 1975, we’ll drive back to Tampa and make the final hop to 2036. If you’d like to stay in 1975, you’re welcome to do that.
It can also get quite hot and stuffy during the trip and you’ll be subjected to a 1.5 to 2 G force the entire time. You’ll also need some sort of a re-breather system or oxygen supply.”
Not exactly the romantic time travel adventure we’re all used to seeing in books and movies.
Finally, here are a few images of the time machine’s operating instructions, which John Titor shared during his time here:
“There is a cut-a-way drawing of the entire unit that I will probably post before I leave.”
Of course, the instructions were only useful to a point, and if something went wrong with the machine, well…
“There’s a running inside joke about the technical issues. If the unit has a serious problem it’s not as if anyone can use those drawings to take the electron manifold off the singularity housing with a flat head screwdriver.” – November 25, 2000
1967 Chevrolet Corvette image courtesy Alden Jewell.