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This Day in Time (Travel)

The Grandfather Paradox

Today’s lesson in time travel theory centers around The Grandfather Paradox. So read on and allow your mind to blow.

Let us pretend for a moment that you are Adolf Hitler. You are knee deep in the Jewish Genocide and are responsible for the death of millions during World War II. Except you are a Hitler with compassion. You have decided that what you have done is incomprehensible. Suicide is not enough. You need to make it like you never existed so that all the wrong in the world that you created can never have originally happened. Whelp, good thing you bought that time machine from that Gypsy a few years ago! You will simply go back in time and kill your Grandfather before he meets your Grandmother. Thus ultimately preventing your death from ever occuring.

Sad times, Hitler. Going back in time to kill your Grandfather to prevent your birth is a paradoxical impossibility.

The reason why is a fairly simple concept but is difficult to ascertain. Going back in time to kill your Grandfather would prevent your birth from ever occurring in the first place, right? Sorta.

You see, this creates a paradox. If you went back and killed your Grandfather you would prevent your birth. However, if your birth never occurs, then you could never be alive in the first place to go back in time to kill your Grandfather. Therefore, there would not be anyone to travel back in time and kill your Grandfather. Your Grandfather would continue on the exact same path as if you never traveled back in the time in the first place, he’d still meet your Grandmother, and eventually you will be born.

Exciting stuff, no?

image courtesy of: here

  1. colin
    February 4, 2010 at 5:32 pm


  2. February 4, 2010 at 9:24 pm

    Absolutely, this is exciting stuff!

    However, I think the Grandfather Paradox ought to bve renamed. Given the amount of infidelity that goes on (and always has gone on – don’t let those Victorians kid you!) you really should be shooting your grandmother (on your mother’s side). It’s the only way to be certain she’s a direct ancestor of yours. With your grandfather, you can never be quite sure…

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