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Ask Julia: Why Don’t Historians Use Time Machines?

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By Julia Crumpleman

Greetings, fellow history buffs!  Today’s question comes from Julia (hey, nice name!) from Frenchtown.

So, I keep seeing all these superpeople go back in time for God knows what, and it got me thinking.  Why don’t we use time machines to learn about history?  I’m sure historians and archaeologists would like to know what happened in the past.

Julia, that is a fantastic question!  It’s one I’ve often wondered about from time to time, so I did a little digging.  Unfortunately, I don’t think time travel archaeology expeditions are going to happen (at least not often).

Despite how often time travel seems to happen, the majority of time travels occur from one of our many futures.  According to the State Department’s statistics, 76 of the known 126 time travels are of this kind of travel.  Someone from one of our many futures comes to our present.  Only about 40% of all time travels begin from our time.

Even so, that’s still 50 time travels.  That’s a lot, right?  It is, but you have to look at who took those travels and where.  19 were taken by The Amazings alone in their many adventures; 12 were taken by supervillain Herr Gerfahr; and 8 were taken by the Peace Force or one of their enemies.  That’s 39 of the time travels, and the other 11 are various superheroes, supervillains, aliens, space monsters, and Dark Lords.  None of these time travelers teach at a university.

The fact is that time travel takes up massive amounts of electricity to open a time portal.  The exact amount is classified, but it’s an insanely large amount.  Dr. Amazing was quoted, back in 1983, that one hour of time travel (that is, going back in time one hour) takes “about as much energy as a nuclear power plant produces in a day”.  That’s a lot, but it also depends on the model of time machine.  Ones built within the last ten years use about a fiftieth of those models from the 80s, but the length of time travel increases the amount of power needed.  Today, you can travel back a little over two days into the past on the same amount of power that a 1980s machine needed to go back one hour.  It’s still a lot of energy, and energy is expensive.

Dr. Amazing gets grants from the government and money from patents and speaking engagements to power his time machine (and, reportedly, a highly-experimental energy source).  The Peace Force has wealthy investors, although their time jaunts are made on a case-by-case basis.  And Herr Gerfahr is evil.  The only other way to time travel would be through someone’s superpower or magical ability, or by finding a wormhole by chance, but again, none of these are readily available to historians and archaeologists.

And that’s not even taking into account any time paradoxes and alterations from time travel.  Trust me, those will give you headaches.

So, for now, we’ll have to stick with the old-fashioned methods, Julia.