Review – Jacob’s Paradox

“We are always getting away from the present moment. Our mental existences, which are immaterial and have no dimensions, are passing along the Time-Dimension with a uniform velocity from the cradle to the grave. There are really four dimensions, three which we call the three planes of Space, and a fourth, Time” H.G. Wells had written in ‘The Time Machine’ (1895).

Jacob’s Paradox is an independent thriller/drama/sci-fi short film from actor and first-time director Michael Peake. I enjoyed the premise of the film, with its strong characters, detailed storyline and well-shot cinematography. It beautifully blended the themes of science, love, loss and hope.

In Jacob’s Paradox, Jacob Matthews (Michael Peake), a quantum physics professor  suffers from alcohol and depression due to the loss of his wife. In his grief, he feels compelled to try to alter the past by building a time machine to travel back in time to save her from a tragic incident. Love lives on after death. The story asks if we had the ability to change the past, are we prepared to risk the unforeseeable consequences it will have on the future, and have we considered the probability of an unfavorable outcome? The film makes reference to the grandfather paradox: If one goes backwards in time and kills one of their ancestors before he had children, the traveler cannot exist and therefore cannot kill the ancestor. This is the classic paradox of time travel by French science fiction writer René Barjavel, where the universe will create events to avoid the paradox, such as the idea that the past is unchangeable. Barjavel’s vision was that in a cruel and uncertain world, we have love to guide us. He focused on the human condition. This is reflected in the character of Andrea (Mindy Heithaus) Jacob’s colleague, a philosophy professor who teaches her students that in addition to the love of wisdom, philosophy requires you to love. It is the glue that holds the universe together. Love is a binding agent in science, needed to unite the fields of mathematics, biology, physics, chemistry, Love is therefore important in understanding the mysteries of the universe. Her passion for the sciences is commensurate with her love for Jacob.

Being consumed by his grief over losing his wife, Jacob does not see Andrea’s affection for him. She is his moral conscience, enlightening him to the lines that blur between science, morality and religion, and the choices we must make. Science more often asks can it be done than the ethical one of should it be done. This foreshadows Jacob’s decision to build a time machine to try and change his past. He takes a chance on reuniting with the love he lost, and trusts that Andrea will destroy the time machine after his journey. In turn, it is her love that may end up saving him, unbeknownst to him.

Philosophers have debated the nature of time long before Albert Einstein and modern physics. The prevailing view in physics has been that time serves as the fourth dimension of space. According to Einstein’s theory of relativity, if an object is moving fast enough through space, it can alter its passage through time. Speed of light is the same no matter how fast you’re moving towards it or away from it. The gravity of planets, stars, black holes can cause space to bend. Space and time are linked into what Einstein called space-time (a four-dimensional entity). When space is
curved (or warped) so is time, as evidence from the bending of light, making time travel a possibility.

Physicist Stephen Hawking believes space-time in our past was fixed, because we have observed it, and seen that it is not warped enough to allow travel into the past. Although we can warp space-time only in the future, it would still leave room for paradoxes. According to Hawking, there is the consistent histories approach, where one must find a consistent solution of the equations of physics even if space- time is warped and allows for travel to the past. The other is the alternative history approach, when the traveler returns from the future, he enters an alternate history, where events unfold differently from our reality. In Quantum Theory, the universe has every single possible history, each with its own probability. According to string theory, (which Hawkins feels is our best hope of uniting General
Relativity and Quantum Theory into a Theory of Everything) space-time ought to have ten dimensions, not just the four that we experience.

As with Jacob’s Paradox, our fascination with time travel is evident in films from Back to the Future, Sliders, Star Trek, to Doctor Who.

By Aspasia Katerinis


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