A game: where would you go in a time machine?

When I was younger, I would invent a game for myself involving a time machine. The rules were these: you were given a time machine, and you could set it to go back to just a single place and time in the history of the Earth, and stay there for 24 hours. You would then be returned to the present. You would be allowed one notebook and pencils, but no cameras, video or otherwise, or recording devices.

And you could do this for two reasons: to answer as many scientific questions as you could by being in one place and time (you were allowed to bring your notebook back), or to simply satisfy your own curiosity.

There was one more provision: you could also specify to be set down in a single area where there were specific things you wanted to see, like a band of Neanderthals or a T. rex, for of course you wouldn’t know where or when you could see them in advance.

I never resolved this question for myself, even to the extent of seeing whether I wanted to answer scientific questions or just see what a T. rex really looked like.

I’m asking readers here (and I hope I’ve been sufficiently specific) this question: where would you want to be taken for 24 hours in your time machine?  Please state your reasons, too. 


  1. Posted February 24, 2017 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    November 5, 1955, of course.

    • rickflick
      Posted February 24, 2017 at 9:44 am | Permalink

      Isn’t that the date returned to in “Back to the Future” by Marty McFly?

  2. bluemaas
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    70,000 years BCE: the South of France


    • Posted February 24, 2017 at 8:37 am | Permalink


      • bluemaas
        Posted February 24, 2017 at 9:09 am | Permalink

        Persons then pretty much looked like, evolutionarily, persons of today — dirtily naked perhaps, but I am more than okay with that. (Part I: In the Beginning of Dr Rosalind Miles’ The Women’s History of the World of April 2001 – edition)

        It is warm there — fairly — year ’round so seasonally, even then, ‘d not be a chillin’ – / covering up – problem. For a mere 24 hours’ time.

        The crush of either H sapiens – and / or Neanderthal – populations’ pressure ‘d be nonexistent. Likely I would be all alone that one day as the only one of my species even actually there — in a woods, a forest next to a stream.

        And for a day’s worth ? No religions, no “need” for gods even yet then — especially if I am all alone and not a thing else but the landscape. And maybe a couple of small (smaaaall) animals — scaly, furry or otherwise !

        Just hangin’ —

  3. FloM
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    Utah, a Wednesday in the late Jurassic.

    • Posted February 24, 2017 at 8:38 am | Permalink

      Reason? (I’ve added “state your reasons” to the post.)

    • rickflick
      Posted February 24, 2017 at 9:46 am | Permalink

      I can guess why. The place was teaming with dinosaurs.

  4. BJ
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    Jerry, could you clarify one thing before we all answer? I’d like to know if, in this hypothetical scenario, others know of the time machine and our use of it, or are in some other way able to corroborate our accounts from the time and place to which we travel. This is a pretty crucial point for those choosing to use it for scientific discovery because if the entire claim of the information gathered is, “I have a time machine that I was only able to use once, and I went to this place and here’s what I found,” the information will have no value to the scientific community, only to yourself (thus conflating your two categories into the single categories of sating one’s curiosity).

    • Posted February 24, 2017 at 9:35 am | Permalink

      Well, I hadn’t thought of that, but yes, there would have to be public knowledge of the machine and assent that it works.

  5. Mike Hagan
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    Roman senate floor, 63BC to hear Cicero’s speech denouncing Catiline

    • David Harper
      Posted February 24, 2017 at 8:59 am | Permalink

      Better still, same place, but 19 years later, in mid-March, to hear Julius Caesar utter the immortal lines: “Infamy! Infamy! They’ve all got it in for me!”

      • Mike Hagan
        Posted February 24, 2017 at 9:00 am | Permalink

        So many moments during the late republic would be awesome to witness, maybe Jerry will allow us a longer visa?

        • Adam L
          Posted February 24, 2017 at 9:11 am | Permalink

          Do we the Dr Who’s Tardis’ ability to have all languages translated so we hear them in our preferred tongue?

          I haven’t done Latin since I was 13 and most of the speech would be lost on me otherwise

          • Mike Hagan
            Posted February 24, 2017 at 10:39 am | Permalink

            Is it too late to pretend I had thought of that…. typical, travel back in time and can’t understand a bloody word!

          • David Harper
            Posted February 24, 2017 at 11:06 am | Permalink

            Julius Caesar’s final words are best appreciated in the original: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kvs4bOMv5Xw

          • Posted February 24, 2017 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

            I suggest to all of you that you read “Doomsday Book” by Connie Willis. It addresses a number of the problems you’re commenting on in re time travel. Her two books about WWII also have time travel as a major component.

            So much history, so little time. I think I’d like to spend a day with Thomas Jefferson or James Madison at any time in their mature lives, but preferably while they were dealing with separation of church and state in Virginia.

            • Jenny Hoffman
              Posted April 18, 2017 at 10:57 am | Permalink

              Great book! Almost too real but perfect for anyone interested in history.

  6. zoolady
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    I’d want to interview the Pharoah Hatshepsut to learn how she managed to become Pharoah in a nation which had never had such a powerful female leader. (She must’ve had great charisma.)

    • Aelfric
      Posted February 24, 2017 at 8:56 am | Permalink

      I would (respectfully, I hope!) disagree with this assessment a bit. Egypt had known powerful females as far back as the First Dynasty (for instance, Neith Hotep). She also technically was in power in a form of regency. In that sense, Hatshepsut was very much in the mainline of Egyptian tradition, but in the ways she broke from it, iconographically and literarily, she was darned interesting indeed.

    • Posted February 24, 2017 at 9:36 am | Permalink

      You’d have to learn ancient Egyptian language before you went to pull that one off.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted February 25, 2017 at 12:24 am | Permalink

        Not if your time machine was a Tardis (see Adam L’s comment above). I think that’s probably an essential part of the proposition.


        • HaggisForBrains
          Posted February 25, 2017 at 3:53 am | Permalink

          Or take a Babel Fish.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted February 25, 2017 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

            Translator microbes?


  7. Ken Kukec
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    I’m sensing a high-concept tv series here, Jerry — residuals, syndication, movie option, points. Have your people call my people, and we’ll do lunch to talk pilot!

    • David Coxill
      Posted February 24, 2017 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

      I think it has already been done .
      Quantum Leap ,The time Tunnel.

  8. Terry Sheldon
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    So many intriguing possibilities, but for many years I have thought of being in Dealey Plaza in Dallas on November 22, 1963 to find out who really shot JFK. No great scientific discoveries involved, just satisfaction of a long held curiosity.

    • Terry Sheldon
      Posted February 24, 2017 at 10:01 am | Permalink

      Alternatively, October 22, 4004 BCE, to check Bishop Ussher’s math!

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted February 24, 2017 at 11:15 am | Permalink

        This question was asked on the Fox News show The Five a few months ago. Eric Bolling wanted to go back to the resurrection of Jesus so he could stick it to all the atheists.

        • Posted February 24, 2017 at 11:33 am | Permalink

          Yeah… does he even have a date to set this way-back machine to? Ha! you’ve got to be specific with a date, as best I can tell by the rules of the game, you just can’t call out some event.

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted February 24, 2017 at 11:45 am | Permalink

            Of course he does – Passover Sunday 33AD – though since the year 0 is almost certainly not when he was born even if he’s real he’s in trouble.

    • Leslie
      Posted February 24, 2017 at 10:13 am | Permalink

      Gosh, I’d be afraid I’d materialize either in place of the shooter or right next to him/her.

    • jeremy pereira
      Posted February 24, 2017 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

      It was Lee Harvey Oswald. Sorry to be boring, but that is the truth.

  9. Brujo Feo
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    Jerry, while your second paragraph implies it, you don’t actually say: “…and you’re there strictly as an observer (like limited by “the Butterfly Effect”), and can have no interaction of any kind with anyone or anything.”

    Otherwise, for obvious reasons, I would be tempted to say: Linda Oakley’s birthday party, Macon, Georgia, October 29, 1971, just so I could say: “Uh, listen, Duane, leave the bike just this one time–let me give you a ride home.”

    Or the Haight, ca. 1967, just to find these guys in a certain band, and, just to see the look on their faces, tell them: “Listen, guys, you’ll have a good run, but eventually kids won’t listen to your music as much. But every goddamned lawyer in town will have a closet full of Jerry’s neckties.” (The other Jerry, obviously.)

    • Posted February 24, 2017 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I would have to incorporate some “don’t affect the past” features.

  10. GBJames
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    I’d hop back to about 1750 in the Philadelphia area. There’s a genealogical puzzle I’ve been stymied by…

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted February 24, 2017 at 11:18 am | Permalink

      I don’t know what, or rather who, you’re talking about, being an ignorant NZ. Do tell.

      • GBJames
        Posted February 24, 2017 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

        No reason you (or anyone else here) would know… There is a gap in my personal genealogy that occurs about that time. I believe it has to do with loyalist vs. revolutionist conflicts within the family.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted February 24, 2017 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

          Ah! Thanks. 🙂

          I’m glad I wasn’t being completely ignorant. 🙂

  11. Joe
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    Perhaps I’d go back to the first 24 hours (following the Big Bang) to see how well our current understanding compares.

    It would also be super cool to watch.

    • Joe
      Posted February 24, 2017 at 8:58 am | Permalink

      Sorry – I missed the part that it had to be Earth history. Still, seeing the Big Bang would be cool.

      • David Harper
        Posted February 24, 2017 at 9:00 am | Permalink

        Don’t forget the Nomex spacesuit!

        • Dave
          Posted February 24, 2017 at 9:17 am | Permalink

          But what would there actually be to “watch” in the Big Bang? And would it be possible to be an outside observer of it? As I understand it, the BB marks the origin of both Time and Space from a point far smaller than a fundamental particle, so to “observe” you’d have to be somehow “outside” of Time and Space. Maybe someone with greater knowledge of Cosmology or Physics can rationalise this, but it seems to me a lot less straightforward than landing your Tardis in Rome on the Ides of March 44 BC to watch Caesar being assassinated.

          • David Harper
            Posted February 24, 2017 at 11:09 am | Permalink

            A more serious limitation is that until around 400,000 years after the Big Bang, the universe was still so hot that it wasn’t actually transparent to light in the way that space is today, so it would be like watching static on a TV.

            • Jerod Webster
              Posted February 24, 2017 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

              More like not being able to see anything while the gamma radiation destroys every particle of your body lol.

              • David Harper
                Posted February 25, 2017 at 12:28 am | Permalink

                We’ll need to add a lead lining to that triple-layer Nomex spacesuit then 🙂

  12. Eddie Janssen
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    Like ‘zoolady’ I would like to go back to ancient Egypt but to the court of Ramesses the Great on the day he decided to throw out the Israelites, somewhere around 1270 BC.
    Reason: to find out if there is any truth in one of the most beautiful, but alas probably wrong, theories in history. Were the Israelites Egyptian followers of the then 50 year old cult of the Aten, the first (known) monotheistic religion in the history of mankind. A religion founded by a predecessor of Ramesses, Akhenaten, who abolished 60 years earlier all the existing Gods (and more important, their priesthoods) and replaced them with the Aten, the Sundisc.
    He met with a lot of resistance, needless to say…
    After his death the old Gods were restored but probably the cult kept followers.

  13. Bernhard
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    Vienna 1828 to meet Franz Schubert. Bach is the Father, Mozart is the Son, but Schubert is the Holy Spirit. I’d tell him that he made it to the pantheon.

    • phoffman56
      Posted February 24, 2017 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

      No dispute, but which religico-musical niche would the recently deceased Ludwig van Beethoven fill?

    • Robert Bray
      Posted February 25, 2017 at 8:18 am | Permalink

      Echoing the reply just above this one, what about Beethoven, whose ghost weaves in and out of the Schubert’s very late piano music? I have read that Franz carried a torch in Ludwig v’s funeral procession in 1825. Perhaps even then S. already sensed he would die too young, for there is an almost otherworldly intensification in the last sonatas and the three klavierstucke. But on the question of the Pantheon, surely it doesn’t have to have a prime number at its pinnacle. Let Beethoven make a fourth, for bridge at least on the dull days that have no music.

  14. Randy schenck
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    Because you are allowing such a brief visit (24)hours I would go back to Gettysburg, Pa in 1863 and sit in the front row to hear the speech. If I could go back for a summer, it would be Philadelphia in 1787. Reason – to see history being made.

  15. Hempenstein
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    IF we were allowed to do something that would change things, I’d pick July 20, 1944, in the Wolf’s Lair, to be able to put the briefcase back where von Stauffenberg put it to begin with, to see how things would play out then.

    • Historian
      Posted February 24, 2017 at 9:15 am | Permalink

      In your scenario you would be a participant, not an observer. As they say on Star Trek, you would be interfering with the space-time continuum. As with the infinite what-ifs of history, it would be fun in this instance to speculate what would have happened if Hitler had been killed by the bomb. Certainly, post-war Europe would have been quite different if Germany had negotiated a surrender in 1944.

    • Posted February 24, 2017 at 11:48 am | Permalink

      I think it would be even better to choose one of the earlier attempts on Hitler’s life!

  16. Merilee
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 9:04 am | Permalink


  17. Historian
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    There are so many possibilities. Seeing I only can pick one date and place, I will go with July, 4, 1776, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania State House (Independence Hall). Rarely have so many luminaries been in one place at the same time. Of course, this was the date the Declaration of Independence was approved.

    • Stephen Barnard
      Posted February 24, 2017 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

      Nitpicking here. The Declaration of Independence was actually approved on July 2, 1776.

      • Historian
        Posted February 24, 2017 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

        Picking nits again, according to Wikipedia, independence was voted on July 2nd, but the wording of the Declaration of Independence itself was approved on July 4th, which is why I wrote my last sentence as it is.

  18. Posted February 24, 2017 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    There are two flavors of answers we’ve already seen – historical (Roman senate floor) and scientific (T-Rex observations).

    I presume the premise includes some sort of safety shield so no one on the Roman senate can put a knife in you and no T-Rex can have you for lunch.

    Do I want to PROVE something (T-Rex’s DID have feathers!) or just observe something (mating habits of Neanderthal)?

    So many possibilities!

    I pick December 17, 1903. Kitty hawk South Carolina. Why? To see the historical start of aircraft because I’m an aerospace engineer.

    Definitely a great show. I’d watch.

    • Hempenstein
      Posted February 24, 2017 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

      I thought about Kitty Hawk, too, but then the rest of the 24hrs would be spent out on a relatively barren barrier island with little chance of getting anywhere else.

      • Posted February 24, 2017 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

        Show up 23 hours before the flight to watch the preparations then hang out the hour after while they discuss the success. Then disappear back to the future… 🙂

  19. eedwardgrey69
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    I normally say “The Future”, but if it has to be the past – Renaissance Italy. I’d have to make up my mind if it’s the 16th or the 17th century… I’d like to meet Galileo Galilee and Leonardo DaVinci, but apparently I can’t have both… 🙂

  20. Ian Clark
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    Back to the day the asteroid hit 65 million years ago, to experience the trauma that led to the age of mammals.
    (Even more interesting than going back would be going into the future – I’d like to go forward about 5 million years to see the status of intelligent life on earth.)

    • Posted February 24, 2017 at 9:37 am | Permalink

      Yeah, but where would you be sitting?

      • Ian Clark
        Posted February 24, 2017 at 9:49 am | Permalink

        Maybe 10-20 miles from the impact would be “ideal”?! I’d spend the 24 hours leading up to the impact observing wildlife.

        • Posted February 24, 2017 at 10:30 am | Permalink

          The chicxulub asteroid impact released the energy equivalent of a billion atom bombs exploding. You would not want to have been within hundreds of miles of the impact point.

          • Ian Clark
            Posted February 24, 2017 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

            You are right of course. my hypothetical time travel should be done with safety as a top priority.

            • Posted February 24, 2017 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

              😀 And your hypothetical time machine should be environmentally friendly with a low carbon footprint.

              • Ian Clark
                Posted February 24, 2017 at 3:53 pm | Permalink


      • Posted February 24, 2017 at 10:30 am | Permalink

        I’d ride the asteroid down shouting ‘Yeehaah!’ like Slim Pickens in Dr Strangelove

        • Ian Clark
          Posted February 24, 2017 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

          Now you’re talking!

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted February 24, 2017 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

      Stephen Baxter’s novel Evolution has a very nicely dramatized description of the event.

  21. Posted February 24, 2017 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    I’d go to the Parkes radio telescope in Australia on July 20, 1969, and use my pencil to write “do not erase” on the tapes that recorded the high-resolution video stream from the first moon landing.

  22. Rasmo carenna
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    Well, if I were allowed to interact, there are two or three people for whom I would like to cause a fatal ‘accident’. The history of mankind would be very different (and I venture to think that much better) without some very influential and evil individuals. I admit that makes me feel guilty of an imaginary crime and morally uncomfortable, not to mention all that ‘butterfly effect’ thing. But, hey, it’s just a game, ¿right?.

  23. Billy Bl.
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    To start, I would like there to be sufficient oxygen in the atmosphere so I wouldn’t die within the first few minutes. I suppose maybe on the Yucatan Peninsula for the 24 hours about 30 seconds before the asteroid hits. Both for scientific reasons and for the rush.

    • phoffman56
      Posted February 24, 2017 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

      I’m assuming the no-interaction proviso would provide a magical no danger corollary. So lack of oxygen (or standing beside Lee Harvey and his weapon, and etc. for many others’ suggestions) would be worry-free.

  24. Michael Day
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    I spent a lot of time as a kid reading National Geographic. One drawing I remember vividly was of ancient hominids walking through fresh volcanic ash. That was an artist’s conception of the footprints at Laetoli, discovered in the 1970s by Mary Leakey. I even remember at the time (I must have been 9 or 10) thinking how neat it would have been to watch them walk by. So, I’d like to head back to near that spot, 3.6 million years ago and watch them walk by. I’ll assume that the time machine can pinpoint the time and place accurately.

    • Michael Day
      Posted February 24, 2017 at 9:29 am | Permalink

      Perhaps “hominin” would be the better term; I’m not sure…

    • nickswearsky
      Posted February 24, 2017 at 9:44 am | Permalink

      I’m with you. I’d like to see some early hominins and observe their appearance and behavior. I’d say East Africa about 2 million years ago.

    • Brian Davis
      Posted February 27, 2017 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

      Maybe there weren’t any early hominids, and those are your footprints.

  25. Posted February 24, 2017 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    My first instinct is to go some time into the future, to gain some hopefulness about the current situation of the world, maybe to bring back insights as to what we can avoid or something.

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted February 24, 2017 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

      You’ve provided the perfect place to post this!

      Here is a superb half-page story which addresses the OP in a not-so-oblique manner, especially for those wanting to go into the future.

      There’s another story–I don’t remember either the name or the author, but I’m guessing Cordwainer Smith–about a rich guy who goes into the future, and sees the whole world is in a terrible depression. As he works his way back to the present, he finds out that the crash and ensuing depression started the very same day he left. When he gets back, the first thing he does is to call his broker to sell all his stocks. Of course, “sudden, unexplained dumping” of his stocks causes the panic that leads to the crash and the depression!

      • Richard
        Posted February 25, 2017 at 3:11 am | Permalink

        I think it was actually Cyril Kornbluth who wrote that.

        • Mark Joseph
          Posted February 25, 2017 at 9:57 am | Permalink

          Yes, that sounds plausible. I’ll check it out.

      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted February 25, 2017 at 4:03 am | Permalink

        That’s a cracking short story, Mark. I think I may have read before, about fifty years ago. Thanks!

        • Mark Joseph
          Posted February 25, 2017 at 9:58 am | Permalink

          My pleasure. If only I could have been a librarian!

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted February 25, 2017 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

        I recall reading that story by Hilton Young that you linked to. Intriguingly enigmatic.

        That’s what I like best about sci fi short stories. They lend themselves admirably to a ‘sting in the tail’.


      • Posted March 25, 2017 at 12:37 am | Permalink

        Ahhh playing with time travel paradox is such fun!

  26. Dave
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Although there are many events in human history I’d love to witness, I think if I had only one opportunity I would have to take a “Deep Time Safari” of some kind. Sure, watching the historical milestones of ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt etc. would be fascinating, but basically it would be human beings doing things that I can accurately imagine human beings doing – and already see reasonably accurate facsimiles of on TV or in the movies.

    In contrast, I think that actually seeing now-extinct animals in their natural ecosystem would be far more likely to contain real surprises, with some of our current best guesses about how these creatures looked and lived being wildly wrong. There are just so many points in Earth’s history I’d love to see that it’s hard to pick just one, but off the top of my head I’ll choose to visit Montana or Wymoming in the Late Cretaceous (but well before that nasty big rock falls out of the sky!)

  27. Posted February 24, 2017 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    I would spend the last 24 hours with Einstein before he finally finished his equations for general relativity.

    Or, second choice, the first time Galileo looked at the sky through a telescope.

    Finally, third choice would be Woodstock, although all three days would be stretching the Roolz a bit.

  28. Fernando Peregrin
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 9:28 am | Permalink


    23th February 1685

    George Frideric Handel, German-British baroque composer and organist (Messiah, Water Music), born in Halle, Duchy of Magdeburg, Germany (d. 1759)

  29. Jeff
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    April 19, 1775, in Lexington or Concord Massachusetts.

    I am not a professional historian, but I spend an enormous amount of time trying to get into the heads of the colonists who fought the American Revolutionary War. What a monumental undertaking! I’m not sure enough people fully appreciate the gravity of the events of 1775-1783… and I’m including myself. Nothing would satisfy my curiosity as much as being able to be present for the opening shots of the war.

  30. mfdempsey1946
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    Any day in 1914 when D.W. Griffith was shooting “The Birth of a Nation”,

    to witness the personality and working methods of both this film’s and film in general’s principal creator,

    and to look for any clues that might have been perceivable as to how he could end up with a picture that is so significant to film and social history both artistically and financially while being at the same time poisoned by racism.

  31. Posted February 24, 2017 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    I would take the time machine back to the time and place of its manufacture to see how the heck it was done. 🙂

    • bluemaas
      Posted February 24, 2017 at 9:54 am | Permalink

      Oooo, darwinwins: assuming my accompaniment ‘d occur during a different 24 – hour span, may I please, please come WITH you, too, to there ? !

      Y E S !

    • Posted February 24, 2017 at 10:27 am | Permalink

      What if you taking the time machine back in time allows the ‘inventor’ to merely copy the time machine so it isn’t really ‘invented’ as such?

      That’s an information paradox.

      • Gregory Kusnick
        Posted February 24, 2017 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

        Time machines don’t work that way. In General Relativity, a time machine isn’t a vehicle; it’s a road (i.e. a region of warped spacetime). The machine itself doesn’t travel anywhere; it’s the infrastructure you travel within, and it can’t take you anywhere the infrastructure doesn’t already exist.

  32. Angela
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    So many choices. My first thought was the late Cretacous, a day before the asteroid hit, but then I had a better idea. As long as the time machine could double as a submersible, I’d want to cruise a Cambrian sea to observe all of the fantastic creatures like trilobites and especially anomalocaris. Maybe see anomalocaris snacking on a trilobite.

    • Dominic
      Posted February 24, 2017 at 10:12 am | Permalink

      The day after might be interesting!

  33. Robert Bray
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    A place called Major’s Hall, Bloomington, Illinois, late in the afternoon of May 29, 1856, to hear Abraham Lincoln’s ‘lost speech.’ The convention was called an ‘anti-Nebraska’ meeting, but in fact it turned out to be the founding of the Republican Party in Illinois. And Lincoln was the last speaker of the day, the one everyone anticipated. But the row of newspaper reporters seated up front, even those with stenographic skills, for reasons unknown, after the first few minutes of Lincoln’s speech, ailed to take down the rest. So history has no text.

    Some have speculated that they dropped their pencils as they dropped their jaws, so spell-binding was Lincoln’s incandescent rhetoric against the evils of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the southern slaveocracy and the complicit Democratic party. Conspiracy theorists have had their innings too: Lincoln was so over the top in his denunciations, so tainted with abolitionism in his statement of the natural rights of those held in bondage, that, did his words fly off along the telegraph wires, the party in Illinois would be born dead. So every single verbatim report had to be squelched; only vague summaries allowed.

    Because this lover of Abraham Lincoln believes that he was a moderate ruler by his mind and hand, while a radical in his secret heart, I’d like to hear just what he said.

    • Historian
      Posted February 24, 2017 at 9:59 am | Permalink

      In addition to hearing Lincoln’s “lost speech,” attending any of the Lincoln-Douglas debates would be quite an experience. I am glad you mentioned the Kansas-Nebraska Act because I have been thinking of it lately. Probably 99.9% of the American public have either never heard of this legislation or have absolutely no idea what it was about. Yet, it is arguably the most significant law passed in the history of the country since it very much exacerbated sectional tensions and began, some would argue, the inevitable downslide to civil war. In other words, this act made any amicable reconciliation between North and South nearly impossible.

      • Mark Joseph
        Posted February 24, 2017 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

        Well, until last weekend, I was part of that 99.9%. Then I read an excellent story, an alternate history of Mark Twain, very much concerned with the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Interesting enough that I looked up several web pages about the Act, and some of the characters involved in Quantrill’s Raid.

        The story is The Territory by Bradley Denton. Besides the Wikipedia pages on the Act and the various characters, there are also good short articles at http://www.legendsofamerica.com

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted February 24, 2017 at 10:21 am | Permalink

      I find it hard to agree that Lincoln was over the top as you say with his denunciations or so tainted with abolitionism. First of all, Lincoln was not an abolitionist and he was far to clever a politician to ever “go over the top” on the subject of slavery. None of his speeches or writings that I am aware of, show this.

      • Historian
        Posted February 24, 2017 at 10:53 am | Permalink

        Note that Robert Bray is talking about conspiracy theorists. And it seems conspiracy theories usually arise out of the febrile minds of those divorced from reality.

        You are quite right that Lincoln was not an abolitionist; he was an anti-slavery man. The former demanded that slavery be immediately abolished throughout the United States. The latter hoped that slavery would someday disappear, but conceded that the federal government had no authority to tamper with the institution in the states where it already existed. However, they vigorously opposed the expansion of slavery into the territories, which the federal government did control. As students of the period know, the Kansas-Nebraska Act significantly influenced how the federal government dealt with the expansion of slavery into the territories.

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted February 24, 2017 at 11:24 am | Permalink

          Yes conspiracy theorists were everywhere and always have been. We have one in the white house presently. However, because of them, it would have no affect on someone who knew better of Lincoln and his views.

          The Kansas-Nebraska Act, killed the compromise of 1850 and threw the slavery battle back into the faces of people in the North. The South believed it was spread the product or die and it was they would elected to die. As we all know, Lincoln did not start the war, the south did.

        • Posted February 24, 2017 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

          Lincoln tried a number of methods of dealing with the slavery issue. One was to pay the slave owners for their slaves and send them (the slaves)to land purchased in Central America (where it was thought the climate would be agreeable to them.) Before the Emancipation Proclamation was declared, Lincoln tried to get each state to come up with a solution to the slavery issue on its’ own. Didn’t happen. So, with no help forthcoming from the states, he emancipated the slaves in the Confederate states.

          In a letter Lincoln wrote to a southern friend, Joshua Fry Speed, in regards to the Kansas-Nebraska Act on August 24, 1855 from Springfield, he states that he opposes the Kansas-Nebraska Act and was for the Missouri Compromise. He also states that: “I do oppose the extension of slavery, because my judgment and feelings so prompt me; and I am under no
          obligation to the contrary. If for this you an I must differ, differ we must.”

          Elsewhere in the letter he states:

          “…You inquire where I now stand. That is a disputed point. I think I am a whig; but others say there are no whigs, and that I am an abolitionist. When I was at Washington, I voted for the Wilmot proviso as good as forty times,
          and I never heard of any one trying to unwhig me for that. I now do no more than oppose the extension of slavery.

          I am not a Know-Nothing. That is certain. How could I be? How can anyone who abhors the oppression of negroes, be in favor of degrading classes of white people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that “All men are created equal.” We now practically read it “all men are created equal, except negroes.”
          When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read “all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics. When it comes to this I shall prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty — to Russia, for instance, where despotism be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.”

  34. Peter
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    On, or before the 16th of August 1501 in the yard of the Florence Cathedral workshops when the then 26 year old Michelangelo first inspected the 6 ton block of Carrera marble that he would carve into David. What did he say to the Operai to convince them to give him the commission?

  35. Posted February 24, 2017 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    Count me in the group that would prefer a trip to the future, therefore I would instruct the time machine to pick a past day at random and keep its decision secret so a trip to the past will be more like one to the future. I wouldn’t know what to expect hence I would be more open to the experience.

  36. Posted February 24, 2017 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    I’d go back to the Triassic period and crush a butterfly just to see if Ray Bradbury was right.

    • Posted February 24, 2017 at 10:51 am | Permalink

      Yes. The term “butterfly effect” should be credited to Ray Bradbury rather than Edward Lorenz.

    • Posted February 24, 2017 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

      Unfortunately, if the correct model of time travel is the “fate cannot be mocked” version, you can’t test that hypothesis, at least that way.

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted February 25, 2017 at 4:25 am | Permalink

      As a lifelong Bradbury fan, I was shocked to discover some years ago that The Butterfly Effect did not refer to A Sound of Thunder, but instead to some stupid chaos theory.

      I’m starting to wonder now if someone actually did step on a butterfly, and now Deutscher is President.

  37. RPGNo1
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    July 1, 1858. Linnean Society of London.
    The presentation of Charles Darwin’s and Alfred Russel Wallace’s paper “On the Tendency of Species to form Varieties; and on the Perpetuation of Varieties and Species by Natural Means of Selection”

    It is the beginning of the modern evolutionary theory. And Darwin and Wallace are the forefathers of luminous evolutionary biologists such as Dawkins, Dobzhansky, Gould, Coyne and many more.

    • RPGNo1
      Posted February 24, 2017 at 10:26 am | Permalink

      Plus, I speak and understand the English language well enough. Big advantage! 😉

  38. Michael Reagan
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    I’d like to go back to around 50 A.D. somewhere around the Middle East. Find the apostle Paul and kill him. Then maybe the plague that is Christianity might never have caught on.

    • RPGNo1
      Posted February 24, 2017 at 10:30 am | Permalink

      Don’t blame Paul, but Constantine I the Great. Without support of his imperial authority (see the first council of Nicaea) Christianity would probably died out due to infighting along time ago.

    • Taz
      Posted February 24, 2017 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

      If you had to pick one, which would you kill – Paul or Muhammad?

      • Mark Joseph
        Posted February 24, 2017 at 8:09 pm | Permalink


  39. rickflick
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    September 10th, in the year 414 in at the library of Alexandria with Hypatia the female philosopher, who was teaching philosophy, mathematics, and astronomy to students that day. I’d love to hear one of the most learned scholars of the time expound. I would hope she would take time to show me an astrolabe she was completing at the time.
    It is sad to say, she was killed by a fanatical mob of (you guessed it) Christians in the following year. I would not want to be around for that event as it is described as a brutal affair in which her flesh was ripped off the bones using roof tiles.

    • Dominic
      Posted February 24, 2017 at 11:28 am | Permalink

      I was thinking of a walk in the library, frantically copying scrolls before the ruddy christians burnt it! Would have to learn ancient Greek first…

      • Posted February 24, 2017 at 11:58 am | Permalink

        + 1. To be precise, I’d wish to swim next to a Steller’s sea cow, cut a skin sample and bring it back for cell culturing and genome sequencing. But I suppose this is against Prof. Coyne’s Roolz for the game. So, the next best thing would be a quiet day in the Alexandria Library to write down some Aeschylus’ plays that I miss.

  40. MP
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    In late 70s. So that I can buy all the vinyls that my parents couldn’t afford, and are impossible to find in this day and age

    • Posted February 24, 2017 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

      Lost cultural heritage! Would you specify which ones you would buy first?

  41. Sakebomb
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    40k years ago, Europe, to see Neanderthals, mammoths, etc. Did Saber tooth tigers live there too? That would be awesome indeed. Second choice would be Rome, the colosseum, to watch either gladiators or a sea battle.

  42. Posted February 24, 2017 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    I think if you offered everyone a trip back in time there’d be a very crowded grassy knoll in Dallas.

  43. mikeyc
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    There are too many days to pick from but I think I’d like to just spend a day strolling through the gardens at Down house with Darwin. I’d like to hear his synthesis and his thoughts.

    As an aside. It is fun thinking about time travel but if it were at all possible, why hasn’t anyone found a gum wrapper or a discarded cigarette from the 22nd century? You know what I mean?

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted February 24, 2017 at 10:41 am | Permalink

      Mikeyc One semi-scientific theory claims that one can’t travel back before the time the ‘time machine’ was built

      Thus we can assume that a time machine has not yet been built in our neck of the universe yet or if there’s one around the place [say left by aliens] we haven’t found it yet

      • mikeyc
        Posted February 24, 2017 at 10:59 am | Permalink

        I should think that the limit on time travel is that one cannot travel back to a time before one was born.

    • Richard
      Posted February 25, 2017 at 3:22 am | Permalink

      Oooh! Take a dead rabbit back to the Precambrian, bury it and leave it fossilize.

      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted February 25, 2017 at 4:28 am | Permalink


      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted February 25, 2017 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

        Y’know, one of the things that occasionally strikes me about the general erudition of this list is that everyone ‘gets’ a comment like that.


  44. Michael Fisher
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    Hello driver

    Please take me to a high point [top of a barrow perhaps?], near Stonehenge, 12 hours before the local spring equinox in 2,000 BC & don’t spare the timehorses!

    • barn owl
      Posted February 24, 2017 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

      My first thought was Stonehenge as well, only I would want to be there at winter solstice, ~ 2300 BC, after the sarsens and bluestones were all in place. How many people gathered there, and what were they doing?

      My other thought was Mesa Verde, Colorado, around 700 CE, during the first Puebloan period. Any time of year would be interesting, but maybe harvest time would be best, to see the crops and how they were processed and stored. I would just like to see the daily activities of people and how they lived in their homes (much like when I travel to different countries in the present!).

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted February 24, 2017 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

        @Barn Owl That’s why I chose 2000 BC – I wanted a date AFTER all the groovy stones were in place, but I’ve given myself a few hundred years’ buffer in case archaeologists got their dating too early on those stones you mention.

        Why do you prefer Winter solstice over Spring equinox? The sun stays low & minimum hours of daylight – doesn’t seem ideal observational conditions to me. I bet nobody stuck their noses outside their little stone/wood yurty-looking homes in December, except to go to the pub of course.

        • barn owl
          Posted February 24, 2017 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

          According to this article, Stonehenge is aligned with the winter solstice sunset:


          There’s evidence that people gathered there around the time that cattle were typically slaughtered (so they wouldn’t have to be fed through the winter) and various ferments were ready, so sounds like a prehistoric solstice party to me … but then I’m a Texan, so, you know, BBQ and beer are particularly appealing.

          I read that Stonehenge might also have been a Lourdes-type site to which people traveled for healing miracles. In that case, perhaps Mesa Verde is the better option. :-S

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted February 24, 2017 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

            Fair point

            Are you one of the DFW area atheist damned or are you damned from some other part of that massive country pretending to be a state called Texas? I know a few in DFW.

            • barn owl
              Posted February 24, 2017 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

              I’m South Texas damned. The county goes Democrat at least, but it’s verrry religious.

          • Richard
            Posted February 25, 2017 at 3:27 am | Permalink

            There’s a short story by Harry Harrison in which two scientists send an automated time machine back to the construction of Stonehenge to find out why it was built, only to find that the natives built it to commemorate the “magical” apparition of the machine itself.

    • rickflick
      Posted February 24, 2017 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

      Last spring I visited the Boyne valley north of Dublin. There are megalithic sites called passage tombs that are 5000 years old. The research done there over the last 40 years has produced a pretty good picture of life in that era, but exactly what their rituals and beliefs were is not known. That would be another great place to visit.

  45. Todd J Morgan
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    Earth, before life made it to land.

  46. Posted February 24, 2017 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    If I had 24 hours in the past I’d follow Jack Bauer around and tell him where he’s going wrong.

  47. David Duncan
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    Rome at the time Cicero was in full flight against Catalina or Verres.

    I’m an ancient history (especially Rome) nut and live reading the political and judicial “speeches” of orators like him. Sorry there’s no scientific angle.

  48. Anthony
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    I wonder if a journey could be planned that could convincingly adjudicate the historicity vs. mythicism of Jesus. With only 24 hours to investigate, it would be tricky. Finding the right time and place to show up and look for evidence / lack of evidence of him would require some planning so that when you come back you can convince people that the man never existed (which is what I expect you would find out).

    • Posted February 24, 2017 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

      Let’s go to the day that the pillars of the church –Peter, James, and John– have their spiritual revelation of the mystical Jesus.

  49. Mark R.
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    You didn’t specify that the time machine could only go back in time. I’d be more interested in the future. I’d like to see NYC on my 300th birthday: 4/2/2269. Hopefully if there is anything of humanity left, the planet won’t kill me in 24 hours.

  50. BobTerrace
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    I’m good, right here, right now.

  51. Posted February 24, 2017 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    Please place me on a beach at the beginning of the Siderian Period, 2.5 billion years ago. What kind of paper? I request permission to bring litmus paper to take my notes on, so that I am able to measure the pH of the ocean at this crucial time in the transition from reducing to oxidizing conditions. I don’t suppose you will let me bring binoculars? Oh well, I can measure the angular diameter of the moon and calculate it’s distance by marking its visual diameter on the litmus paper held at arm’s length. No microscope either? Hmm. I guess we are not allowed a bottle to bring back a water sample. Not good. I must insist on bringing my watch so that I can measure the length of a day. It will be much shorter than twenty-four hours, so this time constraint is not a problem 😉

    • Posted February 24, 2017 at 11:37 am | Permalink

      I just realized that it is not a problem if I am not allowed to bring a water bottle. I can vent out what little oxygen remains in my HUGE oxygen bottle and fill it with seawater at around 23 hours 59 minutes. I can hold my breath during the last 60 seconds of my Siderian getaway.

  52. Dominic
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    I am torn. I am veering towards when the Atlantic breached the straits of Gibraltar to flood the Mediterranean – the Zanclean flood – circa 5.3 mya – that would be perhaps spectacular. IF it did happen, which is not certain!

  53. nicky
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    Ooh, too many choices, but several of them not very healthy.
    Of course I’d like to know if T rex really had feathers, but no, I’d probably not survive T rex.
    Same goes for Thrinaxodon in the Karoo, hairy or not, and how did it chew? I’m no volunteer to find out too close. But then, we’ve got only one go, ne?
    93.000 years ago at the southern tip of the Red Sea, did they really cross then?
    16.500 years ago at Monte Verde in Chili, were they indeed that far before Clovis?
    What about 30 AD in Jerusalem? Was there really a Jesus? Or 630 AD, was there really a Mohammed in Mecca?
    No, if I really could, I would choose Darwin in the Downs in say 1870. On the condition I would be able to have a conversation with the great man, and be allowed to tell him about the future.

  54. Heather Hastie
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    I can’t pick just one day, or even a few. I’ve spent my life wishing I could go back to various times and places to see what really happened or what it was really like. (I’ve been watching Dr Who since earliest childhood.) There are at least hundreds of ideas battling for supremacy.

    • nicky
      Posted February 24, 2017 at 11:53 am | Permalink

      Hundreds is an understatement, I think.

  55. nicky
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    And if Darwin-with-conversation is not allowed, what about Erathostenes of Alexandria, or Hero, who invented the steam engine? But there the same goes as with Darwin, if it is a criterion (no conversation). I would like to have a conversation, and my greek is somewhat wobbly too, to put it mildly. Nicholas D’Oresme, Archimedes?

  56. Posted February 24, 2017 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    I would like to go back maybe 50,000 years, back when hominins were just making footprints in the sand, but I would like to go somewhere that had yet to be touched by them. I would like to see some species that we have driven to extinction in their full, original glory. Basically, I’d like to go back to see the world as close to present-day as possible, but untouched by humans.

    There are so many exact places I could think of that I could choose to go, but maybe I would pick Iceland during the breeding season of the Great Auk. I’d like to be plopped down in the middle of one of their colonies, maybe a week after the first chicks started hatching.

    • nicky
      Posted February 24, 2017 at 11:51 am | Permalink

      Uf you put it that way, Australia 70.000 years ago, before humans and dingos. Or New Zealand 20.000 years ago: 11 species of Moa and Haast eagle!
      Or Madagascar 15.000 years ago.
      Better even, South America 3M years ago.
      Reason: viewing the fauna.

      • loren russell
        Posted February 24, 2017 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

        YES. Even my back yard about 20,000 BP. Pretty much the entire LaBrea fauna was about. And I too would love to see — at a safe distance — the “Jurassic Park” dinos and especially pterosaurs.

        But all of these are well enough known to approximate to a wildlife viewer’s experience. If I had one chance, it should be ancient enough to be really alien, something we know just enough to wonder and know there would be spectacular. And butterfly effect or not, I’d love to visit tidepools and turn over rotting logs..

        So, not the Burgess shale, where we kinda know the fauna [and however diverse, it really wasn’t as diverse as a good modern reef, and nothing on land at all].

        My pick would be right around the beginning of Romer’s Gap — either the latest Devonian or the first 20 million years of the early Carboniferous. I’d want to bring my pocket camera, notebook, a hand lens. Possibly binocs, but they might stay in my pack. A nice estuary somewhere near the equator, say northern Scotland or nearby in Nova Scotia or Pennsylvania. It would have to be on the coast, because the oxygen is already a bit low. I might be disappointed by the tetrapods and fishapods in the shallow lagoon or basking on shore. They would probably all look. But, here’s where the mystery begins. Do I see some of the salamanderish critters burying eggs in the dry sand — Wow. And look at the shells on the beach — all shapes of cephalopods, pieces of crinoid everywhere and even blastoids. All kinds of trilobites, still — the eyes are amazing, aren’t they. A ginormous crab-like claw — a eurypeterid — looks like it would take my head off. And real scorpions, some in the water. I’m a bug guy, so I try rolling logs [what kind of tree?] Enormous millipedes and oddly segmented ‘spiders’ Clouds of springtails, very much what I see every day at home. But what else? That’s what I came for– are there insects already flying, biting, sucking? I’ll only know when I step off the time machine.

        • nicky
          Posted February 25, 2017 at 4:30 am | Permalink

          Would not the middle to late Carboniferous, with high oxygen and giant dragonflies be the time to go for a self confessed “Bug Guy”?

  57. Posted February 24, 2017 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    July 1, 1916

    The beginning of the Battle of the Somme. Also, D-day on June 6, 1944, would be really cool. In both cases, I would need some sort of armored invisibility cloak, which I guess would be trivial if we’ve already figured out time travel.

  58. littleboybrew
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    About 2 1/2 days after the death of a person known as Jesus, within viewing distance of his tomb. Why? Well if the time machine returns a 404 error page, that tells me a lot. Otherwise I am going to have one hell of a book deal…

  59. nicky
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    Jerry, this is really a great question,
    but it will cause me a sleepless night.
    And tempt me to break Da Roolz for wanting to post too much.
    I will desist.

  60. Posted February 24, 2017 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    Am I allowed a microscope and suitable add-ons? Am I allowed to assume I can survive any environmental conditions?

    If so, I’d like to examine the first reproducing cell. (“First life”, in a way.)

    And if I see Q and Picard, I know we have a bigger problem 😉

    • phoffman56
      Posted February 24, 2017 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

      Could one find a time and place and bring instruments which basically allowed one to solve within 24 hours the problem of non-living matter becoming life? Not likely, I’d suppose.

      • Posted February 27, 2017 at 11:41 am | Permalink

        No, but if we’re allowed to say “see a Neanderthal family” or “see a t-rex herd” …

        Could I solve the problem? No of course not, I’m no biochemist. I just thought it would be interesting to see what can be called “first life”. Of course, I could also have said “the universal common ancestor”, which may be different.

  61. Darren Garrison
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    Well, some things I’d like to see would require taking an advanced genetics lab and team of scientists with me (various key moments in precambrian evolution.) Extinct species I’d like to see are spread far and wide. As I’ve written elsewhere before, if I could choose one time but travel from place to place, I’d choose 50,000 years ago, since that would let me see anatomically-modern humans during a large technological leap, Neanderthals Denosovians and hobbits (oh, my!), and various extinct megafauna (I’d start with giant ground sloths and glyptodonts) and pristine animal populations (I’d love to see the giant herds/flocks/schools of various things that are now much less common.)

    Since none of those really fit your parameters, I think I’d go with a bit of personal family history. I’ve been recently attempting to find information (unsuccessfully) about an incident that happened to my grandmother during WWII when she was in her early 20s. She was home in rural South Carolina taking care of my infant mother when a military plane caught fire and broke up over her house, spreading plane and bomb debris (and parachuting crew) around her house and my great-grandfather’s house. Since it is fresh in my mind and I’m not finding information about it, I guess I might as well go watch that crash.

  62. jeffery
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    Were Jerry to “build-in” an “Anti-Butterfly Effect” component to this time machine, it must needs, then insulate the traveler from any effect the past world could have on US (example: you wouldn’t have to step on a butterfly, like Homer Simpson did- for it so simply blunder into YOU would suffice to change all subsequent events.)
    That being said, I, too would like to experience the Chicxulub impact; arriving 16 hours beforehand, leaving 8 after, in order to see just what the Dinosaur populations were like as well as the impact effects. I would probably choose a location on the East shore of the sea in the Western U.S. to find out just how far the effects reached.

  63. Marilyn
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    Since I am one of those people who think Richard III got a bad rap, I’d like to go back to the Tower of London on the day his nephews left. Were they spirited off by someone who actually cared about them? Were they murdered on the spot? Who did I it? Were they buried in the Tower?

  64. jrhs
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    The 24 hours before my mom passed away. For selfish personal reasons.

  65. dabertini
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Skiing with the birkebeinar officers who escorted two year old Haakon Haakonsson, heir to the throne to safety from Lillehammer to Osterdalen and then to Trondheim. I love to ski and I love Norway. Although I would have to break the rules because I would want to use my ski equipment. Ain’t no way I am going back to using birch skis. I can’t! I won’t!

    • phoffman56
      Posted February 24, 2017 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

      I don’t imagine they had a tracksetter machine leading the way. But it would be interesting to know just what kind of pace those guys would have been able to maintain!

      • dabertini
        Posted February 24, 2017 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

        As obscure as i thought mine would be, i knew someone would bring this up!! My time machine would double as a groomer of course.

        • phoffman56
          Posted February 24, 2017 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

          I’ve raced a lot over the years in Canada (5 this year at age 75), and have done the (real!) Birkebeiner 4 times (plus 2008 when the wind cancelled us), so your suggestion hit the spot with me. Have friends, almost closer than relatives, in Asker, so good accommodation and social life when there, almost every year.

          Looks like the so-called Birkie in the U.S. is cancelled this year with the tropical temps. That messes up about 15,000 skiers this weekend!

          • dabertini
            Posted February 25, 2017 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

            Good for you!! I have a friend going to the Norwegian event this year. Another went to the American birkie but as you mentioned did not get to race because of global warming.

  66. Posted February 24, 2017 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    My own house, two years in the future. I would simply peruse stock prices and look at new companies that have sprung up and done well. Upon my return, I would invest accordingly. My reason? I’m 62, have only a little money and no pension. I wish to avoid poverty in my old age. I could also look at winners of future athletic contests while I’m at it, and place winning bets on them. In fact, why not write down the winning Powerball number?

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted February 25, 2017 at 12:41 am | Permalink

      Now that is the most practical and useful suggestion I’ve seen, within the parameters of the proposition.


  67. Hugo
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    there are many moments to choose from.

    I would like to be with the first group of people migrating from Siberia crossing the Bering Strait and experience what they went through.

    My 2nd choice would be to be a witness to the art being made in the Lascaux caves in the southwest of France.

    • phoffman56
      Posted February 24, 2017 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

      Likely they and several generations lived their entire lives on dry land (snowy?) which, in some sense, is now underneath that Bering Sea.

  68. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    Enough to solve any one of several historical mysteries a la Marilyn post #63, who stole my first answer (although unlike her I am unconvinced Rich 3 got a bad rap).

    However, do I have to actually watch Jack the Ripper do his killings to figure out his identity (or watch Jimmy Hoffa or JFK get killed to find out what happened)?
    And would I be killed if I witnessed the Tunguska Explosion? These might involve too high a price to solve a mystery.

    I expect no surprises if I watch Joseph Smith write the Book of Mormon.

    OK then,
    Choice #1- the building of Stonehenge!!!
    Choice #2- the making of the Uffington white horse.
    Choice #3- the abandonment of Roanoke Island

    And if after one trip, I get a second shot, I want to see Lady Godiva riding through Coventry. (Well, it might be legendary- it’s uncertain.)

  69. Taz
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    On a boat on the Isis in the summer of 1862 with Dodgson, Duckworth, and the three Liddell sisters.

  70. rgsherr
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    London in Elizabethan times to see an early production of Hamlet and perhaps have a chat with Shakespeare. It would be quite dangerous though. England was a police state at that time and anyone looking at all out of the ordinary would be suspect. For that matter just about any time we traveled to would be quite dangerous for the traveler. Strangers did not experience much friendliness in the old days.

    • Posted February 24, 2017 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

      Oh, I wish I’d chosen Shakespeare! Then I could find out if Shakespeare was really Shakespeare, or if Christopher Marlowe was Shakespeare, or one of the many other of his contemporaries who were supposedly Shakespeare.

  71. jeremy pereira
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    Judea, 33AD, Saturday afternoon, about tea time. Allegedly, that was the date of the Sermon on the Mount.

    Seriously, I’d like to know about the real Jesus, if he existed and what really happened to him, if he did. Unfortunately, historical details are sketchy, so I’d have to bend the rules a bit.

  72. Rod
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    I’d like to look over Leif Ericsson’s shoulder as he navigated his few ships to safety in Newfoundland. Then I’d tell him where a better place to land might be and how to get there. Without interfering, of course.

    Second choice: Hastings in Oct. 1066, and see what Harold might have done to carry the day.

    • phoffman56
      Posted February 24, 2017 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

      Even more interesting, learning at the time of the earliest Viking settlers (really farmers actually!)of Iceland whether there actually had been any other humans there at the time (or earlier). Given the lack of evidence other than Irish monk writings, I’m pretty dubious about that. Trouble is, this is a good example where non-existence can never be established with any certainty, whereas existence, which I doubt, would be.

      In a similar vein, could one go to Greenland something like 4 centuries after Leif and find out what really became of that Viking settlement,i.e. what caused its demise,the Inuit, or just plain starvation, or what? Pretty clearly the Inuit were far better adapted to the environment.

      • Posted February 27, 2017 at 11:43 am | Permalink

        I’ve always wondered what it would take to have the central Siberian migration that produced the Sami in the West and the Siberian natives and then the Inuit in the East to “come full circle”. Say have the Inuit meet the Sami in, say, Iceland …

  73. Wayne Robinson
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    I know it’s rather morbid, but I’d pick Thursday evening, November 8, 18888 on Dorset Street, Spitalfields, East London. I’d follow Jack the Ripper home (after his last murder) to discover his identity and solve a mystery.

    I wouldn’t be allowed to intervene by the rules, alas, in order to prevent history being changed. Unless killing Jack the Ripper after his last murder wouldn’t be prohibited (why did he actually stop? Could he have been pushed under a moving horse carriage by a time traveller?)

    The body of Mary Kelly (his last victim) was discovered the next morning at 10:45 am

    • Richard
      Posted February 24, 2017 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

      “why did he actually stop?”

      The Vorlons took him. 🙂

  74. Posted February 24, 2017 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    A (safe) day in Laramidia (late Cretaceous) would do it for me!


  75. David Coxill
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    Austria July 1888 ,try and explain to a certain Frau Hitler that it would be a very ,very ,very bad idea to submit to her husband’s carnal demands for a while .

  76. Rachel
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    I can’t decide, so here are my top three, in no particular order:

    1. London, July 1602, to see the first production of “Hamlet” (possibly with Shakespeare himself as the Ghost).

    2. Philadelphia, prior to April 2007, so I could tell my favorite childhood author, Lloyd Alexander, that I named my cat after him. It wouldn’t change anything, but it would make him happy. (If you want to know just how crazy he was about cats, read “My Five Tigers.” It’s charming.)

    3. I’d love to see my beautiful White Mountains before the Europeans came, before the logging and the roads and the pollution. I’d like to climb Mount Washington (Agiocochook) and look at the stars from the summit.

  77. phoffman56
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    Is there a time, about 2000 years ago, and place, near the east end of the Mediterranian, for which close observation for 24 hours would determine with high certainty whether any male human existed who fits the criteria for being the person we English speakers call Jesus Christ? If so and the answer were negative, I wouldn’t be foolish enough to expect that, upon return, I’d have any effect on Christians’ beliefs.

  78. Richard
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    15th September 1940, in the operations room at RAF Uxbridge.

    So that I could sit by Churchill as he watched the day’s events unfold in the climax of the Battle of Britain.

    Churchill: “What other reserves have we?”
    Park: “There are none.” (every squadron in 11 Group was committed)

  79. Taskin
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    I would love to go back and hear J.S. Bach playing his own music. There is no question that Bach was a virtuoso at the keyboard and it would be wonderful to hear what it sounded like when he performed himself. There are things about music from the time before recording was possible that musicians still have to make educated guesses about. I would love to see what modern interpretation has got right and wrong.

    Being present at the first performance of one of Mozart’s operas or Beethoven’s ninth symphony would also be cool.

  80. Neil Faulkner
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

    I would stay exactly where I am now (Margate, Kent) but go back about 10,000 years to a day in mid-September, in the middle of the autumn migration. I’d spend the day comparing the avifauna back then with what it is now.

    How many more birds are there in the present compared to the present? (I suspect a lot.)

    How does the diversity compare, then and now? No Ring-necked Parakeets back then, of course!

    Are any of them noticeably different in appearance or call? I would expect some minor differences here and there, but not enough for anything to be considered a different species.

    And perhaps most intriguingly, would I see any species that has gone extinct (probably through anthropogenic causes) in the last ten millennia without ever being known to science? Probably not, but you never know…

    Binoculars and telescopes are not recording devices so I presume I can take them with me. I wouldn’t want to go without them anyway.

  81. loren russell
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    I’m truly amazed that most of these are in human history. Given that few of us would understand anything in any language more than 500 years ago.

    And that just about any culture from any time before the enlightenment would be inclined to put us to death as witches or heretics…

    I already nominated Romer’s Gap with a hand lens. For a do-over I’d try China with coin flip for mid-Cambrian or late Jurassic. ‘Anomalocarids and onychophorans on the reef or pterosaurs and feathered birdoids in the sky. If the latter, binocs for sure. IF the former, Ill need to take a dipnet and facemask/snorkel. Only time between Silurian and now, I’d hazard swimming!

  82. Posted February 24, 2017 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

    “You would be allowed one notebook and pencils, but no cameras, video or otherwise, or recording devices.”

    A plant press is none of those. And if I can get back, surely whatever I’m carrying can too. 🙂

    The middle Jurassic to early cretaceous would be very interesting somewhere on land. Maybe China.

    Staying alive for a day will be an issue, I imagine. Are we allowed to carry personal protection devices?

  83. J Cook
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    Lascaux or Altamira on a day the artist worked. With some language skills.

  84. Max
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

    I intend to go back in time and make it so Trump wins the election, just to mess with people.

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted February 25, 2017 at 4:51 am | Permalink

      So it was you!

  85. Posted February 25, 2017 at 12:44 am | Permalink

    If I’m not allowed to affect the past or the present, I’d go to 1637 to meet Pierre de Fermat, to ask him to write out his proof (that was “too large to write on the margin of his book”) on the notepad.
    This would help solve one of the biggest mysteries of math that people tried to solve for over 350 years – was there a proof and what was it.

  86. Richard
    Posted February 25, 2017 at 3:15 am | Permalink

    Kryten from ‘Red Dwarf’: “I’d go back to a week last Thursday. I did the laundry and then we watched TV. Boy! We won’t see days like those again!”

  87. Frank Bath
    Posted February 25, 2017 at 3:45 am | Permalink

    I would like to return to the day of my birth and spend it with my mum and dad.

  88. aaronights
    Posted February 25, 2017 at 4:13 am | Permalink

    As far back in time in the history of the Earth that I could breathe the air and survive. So this would be after there is enough oxygen in the atmosphere to breathe.

    So little can be known about this early point in life, just taking huge amounts of notes would be a big benefit to understanding.

  89. nicky
    Posted February 25, 2017 at 4:37 am | Permalink

    October 4, 6531 years ago (or something, have to brush up on Usher), the first day of creation, I could note that there was already a lot going on before that first day of creation.

  90. HaggisForBrains
    Posted February 25, 2017 at 4:58 am | Permalink

    Great game, thanks, Jerry. By the time I arrived it had all been said.

    On a personal note, Late July 1938, to join my grandparents, father, mother and uncle on a motor yacht summer cruise around the Western Isles of Scotland. We are fortunate to have Dad’s 16mm movie of the holiday. Idyllic days before the war.

  91. Mike
    Posted February 25, 2017 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    Cretaceous, I’m assuming the Time Machine is suitably robust. Reason? I love Dinosaurs and to see a T’rex or Dienonychus is too tempting to resist.

  92. pali
    Posted February 25, 2017 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    Early July 1947 (ideal day isn’t known), near Roswell, New Mexico. Just in case it wasn’t a weather balloon. 😉

  93. Diana MacPherson
    Posted February 25, 2017 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Late to this but for me the Burgess Shale during the Cambrian to take a look at those weird creatures & figure out what they really looked like. I’ll even take my location here during the Cambrian because it was underwater.

  94. Sue Sommers
    Posted February 25, 2017 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Last night I attended a dark skies program so stars are on my mind today. I have often wondered what it must have been like for early humans that could see the stars at night without light pollution. Not just that but what did they think about the skies? So I would like to go to a camp site in France 18000 years ago. Maybe a 24 hour period when the men are away on a hunt and the women might not kill me on sight.

  95. Posted February 26, 2017 at 5:49 am | Permalink

    Great Britain, about 5k years ago.

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