When your party has been snubbed by people who aren’t even born yet. Image credit: Med Photo Studio/Shutterstock.com
On June 28, 2009, Stephen Hawking sat alone in a Cambridge University college and patiently waited for the party guests to arrive, but none of them showed up. Then he sent invitations.
Sending invitations after a party is a pretty sure way to make sure your guests don’t show up (a little pro tip for any introverts). However, Hawking wasn’t looking for former guests, he was looking for time travelers.
“Here is the invitation giving you the exact coordinates of time and space,” he said, speaking of the party in the 2010 Discovery series In Universe with Stephen Hawking.
“You are cordially invited to a reception for the Time Travelers,” read the invitation.
“I hope that copies of it in some form will survive for many thousands of years. Maybe one day someone living in the future will find the information and use a slot machine. travel back in time to get back to my party, proving that time travel will one day be possible.”
Sending invitations after the event was an essential part of the experience; only people capable of time travel could attend.
So why didn’t anyone show up?
There are a number of reasons why the Time Travelers didn’t show up. For example, the invitations may not have lasted until time travel was invented, time travelers may have shown up but Hawking kept it a secret to protect the space continuum- time, or maybe you can only go back to the point where time travel was invented.
Maybe the time travelers didn’t like the look of the party and decided not to go. It’s unlikely they haven’t heard of Hawking, as one of the most eminent scientists and science communicators on the planet. A brief history of time has sold over 10 million copies worldwide as astronomers are still trying to test its black hole paradox.
However, Hawking was publicly unoptimistic about what his individual party meant.
“I have experimental evidence that time travel is not possible,” Hawking told Arstechnica. “I sat there for a long time, but no one came.”
Of course, Hawking knew his experience wasn’t definitive proof that time travel can never exist. He noted that Albert Einstein seemed to offer the possibility that humans could warp space-time so much that we could time travel. Although he also noted that this warp could potentially trigger a flash of radiation that could destroy spacecraft and possibly even spacetime itself.
“What a pity,” he said in In-universe with Stephen Hawking. “I was hoping for a future Miss Universe to walk through the door.”
An earlier version of this article was first published on IFLScience in March 2018.