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That Useless Time Machine

Varzi, Achille C.

It is not our practice to raise complaints against a negative review report. We believe in peer refereeing and we respect it, whatever its content and consequences. However, in the case of our latest grant application (project named ‘The Time Machine’) we find it necessary to express our astonishment at the motivations with which our request for funding was turned down. Your main objection appears to be that our project is ‘philosophically interesting’ but ‘practically useless’, by which you mean that the project ‘has no potential for applications.’ We do not quite think that the main criterion for judging the scientific value of a project should be its practical usefulness, but never mind that. Let us agree that usefulness is a relevant criterion, especially when large amounts of money are involved. Why should that be a reason to turn down our project? Quite frankly, we cannot think of a project with better application potential than ours. Certainly you have noticed that our suggestions for practical applications of the time machine did not include any uses that could result in an alteration of the natural course of history. As a matter of fact, we believe that no such alteration is logically possible. According to our project, it is logically possible to visit the past but not to modify the past. No time traveler can undo what has been done or do what has not been done. So the logic is safe.

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Philosophy
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November 14, 2014