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June 19, 2005

Brilliant!

The One And Only Time-Traveler Convention We'll Ever Need

Some years ago, I wrote a short story called "The Pacifist," in which a "Time Commando" was sent back in time to assassinate Adolf Hitler, who was blamed for all the problems afflicting the future in question. An obvious date to go back to was the evening in February, 1933, when Hitler became Chancellor and spent a quiet evening with his associates while bands and torchlight parades provided plenty of noise and distraction outside in the streets of Berlin. The only problem was, numerous others at different points in the future also reached the same conclusion and arrived at the same solution. The result was that on that fateful evening, Berlin's Tiergarten, the park behind the government buildings, became littered with time machines popping into existence.

It seems some students at MIT must have read it. On May 7 last, they held a Time Traveler's Convention, which they asked everyone to help with by spreading the word and giving it as much publicity as possible, so that time travelers through all the ages and aeons ahead will know where to aim for and meet. The ingenious part is that only one such convention would ever be needed. As the introduction on the web site put it:

Time travelers from all eras could meet at a specific place at a specific time, and they could make as many repeat visits as they wanted. We are hosting the first and only Time Traveler Convention at MIT on Saturday, and WE NEED YOUR HELP!

Write the details down on a piece of acid-free paper, and slip them into obscure books in academic libraries! Carve them into a clay tablet! If you write for a newspaper, insert a few details about the convention! Tell your friends, so that word of the convention will be preserved in our oral history! A note: Time travel is a hard problem, and it may not be invented until long after MIT has faded into oblivion. Thus, we ask that you include the latitude/longitude information when you publicize the convention.

They rate the result as a mixed success. While attendance was overwhelming, there were no confirmed time travelers. This could be construed as devastating by science-fiction writers. But, as the organizers point out, it's entirely possible that many time travelers could have attended incognito to avoid being pestered with endless questions about the future.

 
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