Random Thoughts – Randocity!

Alleged Time Traveler – John Titor

Posted in odd postings by commorancy on December 10, 2008

John Titor — Time Traveler or Time Waster?

John Titor is the alleged time traveler from the year 2036. He was apparently born in 1998 and would be 10 years old in 2008. He also claims that a civil war begins in 2005 and ends by 2015 which, Titor says, leads to a very rapid nuclear holocaust on major cities in the US. Anyway, in 2008 we should be right in the heart of Titor’s described civil war. So far, I don’t see it. Anyway, that’s not my point, but it does support it.

2038 UNIX Problem

One of the consistent things that Titor kept mentioning in his posts is the 2038 UNIX problem. Unfortnately, he didn’t describe this problem in detail. Well, the UNIX problem that he keeps mentioning is related to a 32 bit issue with the clock. UNIX sets its epoch (starting point) to midnight 1/1/1970. Calculating 32 bits out for the clock, the clock will end in 2038 (the clock rolls over). It’s basically the millennium clock issue over again in UNIX. His arguments completely ignore the fact that 32 bit UNIX could be fixed by resetting the Epoch time to a more recent date. This fix would postpone the 32 bit issue to a much later date. Note that this 2038 issue should actually be affecting us already in 2008. The reason is that new 30 year mortgages and other long term investment or loan situations would already be affected (and miscalculated) because of this problem. I digress.

The problem I have with his consistent commentary about this UNIX issue is that by 2038 we should be using 64 bit operating systems almost exclusively (if not even more bits than that). 64 bit operating systems do not have the 2038 clock problem because the clock variable would be 64 bits in size and the clock’s rollover value would be orders of magnitude larger (tens of thousands of years in the future).

Secondarily, he implies that he has traveled back to get an IBM 5100 (old 70s portable mainframe computer) because of the impending 2038 UNIX problem. I don’t see how the two are related. It’s possible that the original UNIX developers used a 5100 to help develop the original UNIX (or should I say Multics from which UNIX was born). But, Linux and other open source UNIX systems offer ways to recompile the kernel from within itself. So, you wouldn’t need a 5100 to recompile UNIX (unless you’re running the original UNIX developed by AT&T). Who would be doing that in 2036 and why? With Linux, you could fix the issue and recompile the kernel in itself.. and you could do it better and faster on notebook from the 2000s than you could on a computer from the 70s. So, his argument needing a 5100 is rather flawed no matter what ‘special mode’ it offered. Again, why would anyone in 2036 be operating a computer from the 70s? If time travel were possible, why would you choose such an old computer and then why would you go back to the time when it was new? For example, you could pick one up cheap in 1996 from eBay (presumably you could even find one today).

Inconsistent arguments

These inconsistencies, among others, in his time travel tales just don’t make sense and don’t ring true. Granted, his arguments can be excused based on the string theory of time travel (to which he clings). Assuming infinite strings and that you can only travel to strings not your own, then traveling to another string suggests his original timeline may not have developed 64 bit UNIX or any other modern unix flavors. But, that doesn’t exactly jibe with his 2.5% string divergence argument. Not developing 64 bit UNIX indicates a lot more than a 2.5% divergence. Note that Titor claimed he jumped to our timeline because the divergence from his own timeline was no more than 2.5%.

But, that assumes time travel is possible at all…

For fanciful time travel tales, I suggest watching Stargate SG1. This series had several well thought out time travel episodes that postulated string theory time travel. In these episodes, the series suggested that one timeline could have had such major changes that little was the same as the ‘real’ timeline.

So, John Titor, I’m just not convinced that you did time travel. That doesn’t mean time travel is not possible, it just means I’m not convinced you actually did. After reading through your answers, I’m still unsure of your agenda on the message board so many years ago… that is, unless you were a doctoral or masters student using that 4 month stint as research into your thesis or dissertation. Let’s hope you got an A on it.

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