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Our future, our universe, and other weighty topics

Monday, May 12, 2014

Planetary Rewind: A Science Fiction Story

When President Walter Douglas woke up on January 17, 2065, he had expected to have a normal day working on his State of the Union address and various budgetary matters. He had no idea that a small extraterrestrial spacecraft would silently land on the White House lawn. A single small individual emerged from the strange spacecraft, and made his way into the White House, where he was quickly granted a meeting with President Douglas.

“So this is the famous Oval Office I have heard about,” said the extraterrestrial. “Somehow it seems a little smaller than I expected.” 

alien in white house
President Douglas wondered what to say. Greeting visitors from other planets was not in his list of skills.

“Uh....in the name of the United States, and the entire planet Earth, I greet you in a spirit of peace and cooperation,” said President Douglas.

“There is no need for such formalities, Walter,” said the extraterrestrial. “Let's get down to why I am here. I have some bad news for you. Your time is up.”

“My time is up?” said the President.

“I'm not talking about you in particular,” said the extraterrestrial. “I'm talking about your whole civilization. Your time is up. You've tried hard, but we've decided that you're going to fail catastrophically. Our projections indicate there is a 95% chance that your planet will experience an environmental disaster that results in the extinction of your species.”

“I know about the environmental problems,” said President Douglas. “The planet's getting hotter, and the oceans are getting more acidic. But we're working on it.”

“It's too late,” said the extraterrestrial. “So now we're going to take drastic action.”

“What do you mean?” asked the President. “Do you mean you're going to conquer our planet?”

“No, something much different than that,” said the extraterrestrial.

“Do you mean – you're going to destroy us?” asked the President.

“No, don't be silly,” said the extraterrestrial. “We're just going to...rewind you.”

“Rewind us?” asked the President. “What do you mean?”

“Oh, sorry, I'm not explaining myself,” said the extraterrestrial. “Where to begin? Let's start with the concept of the Arrow of Time. I know some of your primitive physicists use that concept, and they speak as if there was a single Arrow of Time that moves forward throughout the universe at a constant rate. But the truth is there is not a single Arrow of Time for the entire universe. Basically each solar system pretty much has its own Arrow of Time. My race, which has been monitoring yours for a long time, is in control of the Arrow of Time of this solar system. We can move it backwards whenever we think it is necessary. We call that a planetary rewind.”

“A planetary rewind?” said the President.

“Yes,” said the extraterrestrial. “A planetary rewind is what happens when we Overseers rewind your planet back to an earlier time. It's a drastic step, which we don't like to use unless it's absolutely necessary. But sometimes you silly humans dig yourselves into a hole so deep that we come to the conclusion that you have no further chance for surviving. That's when we have to use a planetary rewind.”

“How do you know this 'planetary rewind' won't fail and mess up the whole planet?” asked the President.

“Because we've tried it successfully several times before,” said the extraterrestrial. “Let me tell you the secret history of your planet. The first time the Cuban Missile Crisis occurred, it resulted in a global thermonuclear war. So we Overseers did a planetary rewind, resetting the clock of your planet back to 1960. The next time the Cuban Missile Crisis worked out okay. But then in 1982 there was another nuclear war during the early Reagan administration, caused by a training exercise misunderstanding. That caused a 'nuclear winter' that killed almost everyone. So we Overseers did another planetary rewind, setting your planet's clock back to 1970.”

The President listened with his mouth agape.

“Then things went well on your planet until the year 2035,” said the extraterrestrial. “But then there was a horrible biological war which put the human race on the brink of extinction. So we did another planetary rewind, setting your planet's clock back to 2015. We had hoped that would be the last planetary rewind we would have to do, that your fledgling species would finally make it all the way to becoming a successful star-faring race. But now you've got yourself in this hopeless environmental mess, so it's time for another planetary rewind.”

“But won't the same things just happen again if you rewind time?” asked the President.

“Not necessarily,” said the extraterrestrial. “Quantum uncertainty means there's always a chance of a different outcome after we do a rewind.”

“But if you've made up your mind to do this 'planetary rewind,' why did you even come here?” asked President Douglas.

“I just thought it would be interesting to see the famous building called the White House,” said the extraterrestrial.

The extraterrestrial left the Oval Office, and returned to his small spacecraft waiting on the White House lawn. The spacecraft lifted off into the sky, and returned to its mother ship. Millions of humans watched the event on their paper-thin holographic 3D wall screens.

The next day inside the White House the President of the United States woke up in his bed. It was the new president's first full day in office. President Barack Obama thought to himself: I have no idea whether I can handle this job, but I'm going to try my best.