Episode 59 — Chapter 67
“Ladies and gentlemen, Ty Cobb in the flesh!” Coventry motioned for Cobb to take a seat on the sofa next to his desk. “It’s a distinct pleasure to have you join our show, Mr. Cobb. I will confess this… you have certainly ignited interest into the national past time… and baseball could use a little igniting.”
The Braves had an off day before returning home to Atlanta. With the media clamoring for a piece of Cobb, Bolt figured he couldn’t afford to pass up the exposure of his player on the nationally-syndicated Jason Coventry talk show in New York City.
Cobb had been reluctant to make the unexpected trip, but Bolt’s sweetener of a rent-free condominium in the Atlanta suburbs for the remainder of the season dispelled his hesitation; he was only too grateful to vacate his hotel-home in Atlanta. Bolt wanted to capitalize on his new acquisition as long as possible, fearing that Cobb might soon fizzle, like a plethora of other debuting rookies over the years, once major league pitchers figured out their weakness.
The waiting really hadn’t bothered Cobb much, but the process of being made-up did. It reminded him of the vaudeville circuit—the last thing that had been on his mind before fate intervened to play its cruel joke. At length, an assistant appeared and ushered Cobb onto Coventry’s lavish set.
Bright lights were Cobb’s first welcome and the healthy applause his second. Jason Coventry came from behind his desk to greet Cobb, with his patented wide grin, gleaming white teeth and exaggerated handshake.
Turning to the camera and live audience, Coventry continued the introduction of his guest, “For any of you who have been in a coma the past couple of weeks, Mr. Cobb plays for the Atlanta Braves. There has never been such a media sensation accompanying a rookie’s debut before. He’s batting over .400 and helping the Braves to their best start in years. Of course, the most intriguing part of Mr. Cobb’s story is his claim to be the legendary superstar from yesteryear.” The talk show host continued with questions about the Braves’ future fortunes and Cobb’s take on his rough-and-tumble style that hadn’t been seen in baseball for decades, before breaking for a commercial.
Coventry received the live signal from the cameraman and continued. “We’ve invited a couple of guests to our show, experts in their respective fields, to see if they can shed some light on Cobb’s remarkable reappearance.” Cobb hadn’t been forewarned for this development and looked suspiciously at the host. Just then, the director switched cameras to the distinguished looking middle-aged Dr. Lloyd, entering the set.
“Dr. Lloyd is one of the nation’s leading physicists, well known for his work in mathematics and quantum physics, particularly his controversial papers confirming the theoretic possibility of time travel…” Cobb’s ears immediately perked up. The physicist looked every bit his part, from the graying goatee and moustache to the wide-rimmed glasses. A bit overweight and shorter than Cobb, he dressed as though his physical appearance was the least of his concerns.
“… and we are also joined by Dr. Sterling, who possesses a doctorate in parapsychology from Oxford University…” Just then, the camera shifted to the more youthful looking and better-dressed Dr. Sterling, whose slender and taller frame contrasted with that of the physicist’s.
“… he has documented many cases of reported time travel, and has made this fascinating subject his life’s work.
Facing the camera again, Coventry re-introduced the topic. “Ladies and gentleman, Mr. Cobb claims to be the very same legendary sports hero that ushered in twentieth-century baseball with a bang, playing for the Detroit Tigers. Dr. Sterling,” Coventry turned to the parapsychologist seated directly to his left, “is it possible that Mr. Cobb is who he claims to be?”
“I believe it is possible, Mr. Coventry. I have, myself, documented a number of cases where individuals claim, and make a convincing case, of having been whisked forward into time twenty, fifty, even a hundred years or more. There are also recorded transcripts from persons who contend to have traveled from the future back to the present—although those cases are extremely rare and basically impossible to confirm.”
Glancing briefly down to his outline, Coventry asked, “Do the people who claim to have traveled through time share any common characteristics?”
“Without question. There are several variables that have surfaced in many of our case-studies. But I should point out, first of all, that for every hundred or so people we study who claim to have experienced this phenomenon, only one or two meet our stringent investigative criteria and are considered plausibly legitimate. The vast majority are mentally unstable, impressionable, seeking notoriety, or suffering from some hallucinogenic addiction.
“However, to return to your question, in many instances the subject loses consciousness prior to the time displacement; our study shows that the transport often occurs while the subject is sleeping…”
Coventry interrupted with a surprised look, “It happens in their sleep?”
“Precisely. For years we have known that the brain has extraordinary untapped powers that we are only beginning to understand, and then only in a very simplistic way. Scientists have theorized for years that brain function increases dramatically during sleep, creating the elaborate world that we experience in dreams and the not uncommon illusion of out-of-body experiences. Our studies indicate that time-travel subjects often exhibit intense brain activity—in the top one tenth of one percentile of the population–when they’re asleep. In many cases, these individuals have recently undergone an emotionally jarring event—such as the loss of a loved one or a near miss with death—a somewhat recent example being the celebrated case of the young girl who was allegedly the sole survivor of a plane crash in the 1930’s.”
“I remember reading about that…” Coventry interjected, glancing quickly at his outline. “Sheila Jamison—the experts were completely baffled by it.”
“Because the alleged time displacement generally occurs during sleep, we have performed extensive studies on many of our subjects while sleeping. Their brain activity during sleep is often five or ten times more pronounced than that of a normal person. It also seems that their dreams are far more intense than most people’s, as well as more vivid and conflicted. For example, most of us, when we awake from a dream immediately discern the difference between our dream state and awakened state. Our subjects often have a hard time distinguishing between the two upon waking. In a few exceptional cases, it may take them several minutes to make the distinction and their waking memories sometimes conflate glimpses of dreams with conscious experiences…’
Cobb was mesmerized by Dr. Sterling’s analysis, recognizing at once some characteristics he had in common with the doctor’s subjects.
“I don’t suppose you’ve ever been able to replicate time travel under laboratory conditions,” Coventry actually wanted to know.
“Unfortunately, no. If ever that happened, it would likely be the biggest news story in the history of mankind.”
“I’ll second that,” Coventry caught the signal to move on. “Enough of the techno mumbo-jumbo. You have briefly profiled Cobb’s case history. Does he qualify as a potential candidate for time travel?”
“I have taken an interest in this case… but before responding, I wonder if I might direct some questions to Mr. Cobb.”
Cobb felt uncomfortable opening up to strangers about his private life, but the desire to return home to his world trumped any hesitation. He nodded toward Dr. Sterling.
“Mr. Cobb, you have heard me describe the dream-state of many of the subjects we have studied. Does that resonate with you?”
“My dreams are incredibly vivid and dramatic… and very real.” Cobb continued responding to a series of other emotional and psychological queries.
“Of course, this is a very hasty profile, understand, with very limited input. Nevertheless, based upon my very brief study of Mr. Cobb, he appears to exhibit some of the characteristics of the classic time traveler. Naturally, there may be thousands in the viewing audience who recognize some of these qualities, who have never had the fortune or misfortune of traveling through time.”
It was time for another commercial break. Cobb’s mild annoyance at not being forewarned about the experts had long since dissipated.
Following the break, Coventry gave way to the physicist. “Dr. Lloyd is considered one of the world’s top experts on postulates of Einstein’s theory of relativity. Could you briefly share it with our viewing audience, hopefully in layman’s terms?”
With his right hand smoothing his goatee, Dr. Lloyd cleared his throat louder and longer than Coventry would have preferred. “It is quite complex. But briefly stated, all physicists agree that if an astronaut were to travel to a nearby star and back—moving at a velocity approaching the speed of light—he could, in theory, travel hundreds or thousands of years into the earth’s future, while only aging the duration of the trip as it pertained to him. The Hafele-Keating experiment in 1971 confirmed Einstein’s theory when it placed four cesium-beam atomic clocks aboard commercial airliners, which circumvented the earth several times, backwards and forward.”
Coventry didn’t need his notes for the next question: “I understand that Einstein presents the possibility of time travel into the future, under circumstances that are presently beyond man’s technological ability. But what about traveling into the past?”
Cobb waited impatiently for the physicist’s response.
“Many physicists have studied that very point. Kurt Godel constructed a rotating cosmological model in which one can, in principal, travel to any point in the world’s past as well as the future—although travel into the past in his model is ruled out as a physical impossibility. Some years before, Richard P. Feynman received a Nobel prize for his space-time approach to quantum mechanics wherein he described antiparticles as particles moving momentarily into the past.
“My own extensive study of Einstein’s theory leaves open the possibility in my mind, and that of many of my colleagues, that if a particle could move faster than light, it may move backwards in time. Such hypothetical particles are named tachyons.”
“Tacky-ons?” Coventry inquired. “How is that spelled.”
Dr. Lloyd spelled the word and continued: “But, in truth, time travel into the past presents us with enormous problems. If one living in the future could, in fact, interact with the past, there could be some intriguing dilemmas. For example, if I went back to the past prior to my birth and met my parents—and for the sake of hypothesis only, of course—killed my mother, would that mean that I would immediately cease to exist as well, because I had not yet been born and could not be born? …” Dr. Lloyd continued expounding on paradoxes that seemed to make time travel into the past impossible, to Cobb’s visible chagrin.
“Mathematics seem to allow travel backward in time through geometric structures called time-like curves. A wormhole is such a curve. According to general relativity, a rotating black hole could create a wormhole—essentially a theoretical link between two points in time or possibly two different universes. If there were a spacecraft that could somehow withstand the intense gravitational force of a black hole, who knows what would really happen if a craft or person was able to travel through one. The concept of time portals, widely used in science-fiction stories, is similar–it presumes that through some instability in the space-time continuum, a temporary door opens up between two different times.”
“But, Dr. Lloyd… time travel into the future.. does that carry the same paradox?” the host asked.
“Not at all. Physicists agree that time travel into the future is definitely possible. And an individual traveling forward in time would not be interacting in such a manner as to create a paradox. Only if he were to return to the past could those problems exist.
“But, there are some interesting theories about such an eventuality. Some physicists—by no means those in the mainstream—believe that persons traveling into the future of their universe can do so without complications, but the moment they enter the past—the universe splits into two parallel worlds, each with its own time track. Along one track rolls the world as if no looping had occurred; along the other track spins the newly created universe, its history permanently altered.”
Coventry cut in on cue, wondering to himself if the frequent viewer was gullible enough to believe that he was so well versed on every topic that graced his set. “I remember reading a Ray Bradbury tale about it…” His downward glance went unnoticed by the majority of viewers. “I believe that it was titled Sound of Thunder. A man traveled into an ancient geological past under elaborate precautions to prevent any alteration of the past. For example, I believe he wore an oxygen mask to prevent his microbes from contaminating animal life. But he violated a prohibition and accidentally stepped on a living butterfly. When he returned to the present, he noticed very subtle changes in the office of the firm that had arranged the trip. He was executed for illegally altering the future.”
“Exactly,” confirmed the physicist. “And with the metacosms of branching time paths, it is not possible to generate paradox, because the first universe would continue unchanged, not having been tainted by the time traveler.”
“Doctor, is this theory possible? I mean it sounds totally ludicrous. There could be thousands, even millions of parallel universes in such a case.”
“Mathematically, one can chart it… and calculations support the possibility. A number of articles have been written about it. As I said before, it is not accepted by the mainstream experts, but there are certainly those who consider it a possibility…”
After another interruption by the sponsors of the program, Coventry returned his attention to the parapsychologist. “Dr. Sterling, you previously profiled for us a typical time traveler. But, are there any extrinsic aspects relating to these occurrences?”
“As a matter of fact, there are. Some of the subjects have experienced a time change at locations that underwent turbulent upheaval.”
“What do you mean by turbulent upheaval?”
“A case in point: We studied an alleged traveler that was transported into time while in a subconscious state at or near the eye of a tornado. Another case involved a subject who claimed to have experienced time travel at the precise moment of the 9.1 magnitude earthquake off the Pacific coast of Tohoku, Japan some years ago; the subject was located precisely at the epicenter of the quake and may have escaped serious injury as a result of the time warp.
“In other cases, it is possible that a time traveler was present at the exact point of turbulence of the disturbance—two parallel cases involved the Hiroshima blast site—but, not at the time of the upheaval; one of the subjects claimed to have been actually displaced forty-seven years before the blast occurred, the other person, several years after the blast—each alleged disappearance taking place within inches of the other, and also, interestingly enough, on the same exact day and time, although obviously a different year. If true, it appears that the time travel portal does not travel through space—the earth doesn’t jump around in its orbit—but remains in the same precise spot of the earth’s orbit, though the year differs, when the portal opens.”
“Let’s take Mr. Cobb’s case for example,” Coventry was surprised to actually find the topic of discussion stimulating. “Is it possible that… say… ten, twenty or fifty years from now, that a nuclear blast may take place where he allegedly leaped forward in time—somewhere in Atlanta, thank goodness…” the New York audience laughed, “…thereby blowing a hole in the space-time continuum and opening a portal for him from the past to the future?”
“That theory is gaining growing acceptance in our circles, inasmuch as more than half of the plausibly-legitimate occurrences have no upsetting event in nature…”
“So, it may be prudent for those living in Atlanta to evacuate,” Coventry said tongue-in-cheek, expecting and receiving a chorus of laughter, at the same time noticing that the cut-off signal had been given.
“Except that there would be few places left on earth to live, if we were to chart every natural or man-made eruption. However, you do bring up an interesting point: Our misunderstood and frequently ridiculed time travelers may provide a link to our ability to predict future earthquakes and other catastrophes.”
“Well, it has been an interesting show!” It had been the first time in weeks that Coventry had wished the show could continue for a more in-depth analysis of a topic. “Gentleman, I thank you for your time. And Mr. Cobb, may the Braves win the pennant… but then, of course, lose to the Yankees in the World Series.” Coventry laughed hard as the audience erupted in wild applause.
Following the show, Cobb talked briefly with Dr. Sterling. The parapsychologist gave him a business card and encouraged him to visit his research center in Philadelphia and undergo further study. For the first time since his inexplicable arrival in the twenty-first century, Cobb felt a ray of hope.
Was a return trip in time possible?