Posted in Life & Happiness


Generally speaking, we live our lives trying to avoid making a mistake. Perhaps it is because we were brought up to do everything as perfectly as possible. Perhaps it is because we fear the consequences. Perhaps it is because we refuse to accept that we are imperfect beings.

Regardless of the reason, we have a constant nagging voice in the back of our minds asking us: “Are you sure you want to do this? What if it’s all a big mistake?”.

This mentality affects our work, our financial decisions, our sense of adventure and even our relationships. Sometimes, we even go as far as not taking any action in fear of screwing it up. The fear of mistakes makes us take less risks and leaps of faith, hindering our ability to live a full life.

But to quote a great captain, Jean-Luc Picard:

“It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness. That is life.”

Life is full of mistakes. No matter how hard we try to minimise risk, life will always find a way to trip you up. Because we are not a time-travelling supercomputer that can see and predict every variable, it is impossible to make no mistakes. Ergo, it is okay to make mistakes, because to err is to human.

In fact, mistakes are not always bad.

A “mistake” such as the singer’s voice cracking on a live performance may make it a more special performance, because it is a sign the singer poured all of their emotion and energy into the song, rather than playing it safe to avoid a mistake.

Columbus discovered the Caribbean because he mistakenly thought that he could reach Asia by sailing due west of Spain.

Everyone has a story of getting lost while travelling and stumbling onto an unforgettable experience that they could not have possibly planned for.

Sometimes, we will look back on our life and realise that what we thought was a mistake back then turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because each and every mistake we made led us to where we are now.

Lastly, we are all the products of billions of years of mistakes. Evolution is fundamentally based on the concept that genetic mistakes during cell division (mutations) allow for diversity of traits. Without mistakes, we wouldn’t even be here.

Of course, some mistakes carry irreversible, dire consequences, such as drinking and driving, or falling asleep while a nuclear reactor fails (Three Mile Island accident). But outside of these, most mistakes in life are something that you can learn something and move on from.

So don’t beat yourself up if you make a mistake.

It’s okay to make mistakes.

We are only human.

Posted in Philosophy

Changing The Past

If time travel was possible and you could go back in time to change one thing in the past, what would you change?
Would you try to change the world by attempting to kill Hitler before World War 2 starts? Would you buy stock of a company you know is doing extremely well in the present? Would you take a leap of faith that you never did, such as asking out someone you didn’t have the courage to, or moving to a city that you always wanted to live in?

If we ignored the numerous hypothetical troubles that come with time travel, such as the grandfather paradox and chaos theory, the possibilities seem endless. This is because hindsight is 20/20 and we have a tendency to obsess over roads not taken and missed opportunities. Even though we cannot change the past, we lament how if we had the choice, we’d make so many changes to make our present and future better.

Now ask yourself this question: if you from the future could travel back in time to now, what changes do you think they’d want to try to make? The thing with time is that it marches on linearly, making every moment a past of the future. A major difference in this scenario is that unlike the first scenario, we actually have the power to change in the present and the future.

So whenever you catch yourself regretting how life would be different if you had made different choices in the past, change your frame of mind. Instead, consider what changes you could make now to make your future self have less regrets. Maybe it is treating yourself (within reasonable limits), or finally taking that trip you always dreamed of, or taking a chance on something you are unsure or anxious about, or keeping resolutions on living a healthy, better life.

Although physics (currently) dictates that time travel is impossible, our minds have the power to travel in time virtually from the future to now, letting us make choices and take actions so we can live with less regrets.

(Image from the movie About Time)

Posted in Science & Nature

Grandfather Paradox

Is time travel possible? In 1943, a science fiction writer called René Barjavel posited the following paradox.

A man travels back to the past and kills his biological grandfather before he meets his grandmother. Thus, his grandparents would not have sired a son (the man’s father) or daughter (mother), which then suggests the man could not have been conceived. If so, who killed the grandfather? As there was no one to kill the grandfather, he would have had a child and the man would ultimately be born, travelling back to the past and killing his grandfather. This paradox suggests that time travel is impossible.

Some people use the parallel universe theory to argue against the paradox. They suggest that as soon as the man travels to the past to kill his grandfather, an alternate universe is created where the grandmother meets a different man and the course of time is changed. This is a valid theory but the grandfather paradox still holds strong in disproving time travel. However, the grandfather paradox only states that travelling back in time is impossible; it says nothing about time travelling to the future.

Posted in Science & Nature

Dimensions: Time Warp

The first three dimensions covered the three variables that determine space: length, width and depth. Then what could the fourth dimension possibly add? The answer is duration. The third dimension effectively becomes a point and the 4th dimension connects different 3D points to form a line that we refer to as time. For example, the “you” at this exact time is different to the “you” in five years time. These two “you”s are different (3D) points that lie on a 4D line (more specifically, your life). This is exactly the same principle as the 0th dimension being points in a 1D line, except three dimensions higher.

As a “moment” in 3D space is just a point on a 4D line, travelling from one point in time to another (i.e. time-travelling) would be as easy as walking along a straight line for a four-dimensional being. This concept is mind-blowing for us as we cannot fathom the concept of manipulating time. We are unable to see time as a dimension as we exist in a lower dimension. Every single moment in our lives is a brick that paves the road called time, meaning that we can only see each individual brick and not the overall picture. This is exactly the same as how a Flatlander could not understand the concept of depth and how we can be above them.

Although we see time as linear and straight, we are under the same illusion as the ant walking down the Mobius strip. Time is actually twisting and turning in the fifth dimension, creating multiple timelines that branch out like a tree of possibilities. These branches are influenced by our own choice, chance and the actions of others.
In other words, if a man proposes to girl A then he will go down the branch where he marries girl A. However, if he chose not to propose, he would end up marrying a different girl (or not at all). Therefore, he has entered a different branch than the girl A branch.
Now, if the man wanted to go from a timeline where he married girl A to another timeline where he married girl B, what could he do?

One method would be if he bent the 4th dimension (time) on itself through the 5th dimension to travel back in time to when he met the girl and not ask her number. This is exactly like folding a 1D line into a 2D circle to make the end point meet the starting point. However, to marry girl B he would have to make the right sequence of choices that lead to him marrying girl B (much like a role-playing game). This is the long-way round that would be too time-consuming and complex.

A simpler approach would be if he folded the 5th dimension through the sixth dimension and jump from the ending of timeline A to timeline B. This would be like the finger-lifting analogy we have been using time after time. If we pretend that the 5th dimension was a piece of paper, then we could fold it into a 6D cylinder so that the two edges meet. Now we are able to jump from one ending to another effortlessly, just as we did in the 2nd dimension.

It is easy to confuse the 5th and 6th dimension as they both deal with “alternate realitites”. Here is one way to differentiate the two: 5D space is like a 2D space for time – a flat plane where different timelines cross each other. Therefore, it can contain all of the possible outcomes from an initial condition – that depends on an action, choice or chance – such as your conception (visualise a dot on a piece of paper with many lines radiating out from it).
If we were to put a dot on a piece of paper above the first piece of paper (in the 3D space for time), we have entered a universe where there is a completely different starting point (before your conception), such as dinosaurs not existing. This means that the line called “you” may not even exist, and the two pieces of paper would never meet. The only way to jump from one piece of paper (5D) to the other would be through the 6th dimension.
Therefore, by jumping up a dimension, we gain a degree of freedom where we can move in yet another direction. This is seen between every dimension, such as 2D versus 3D. The 6th dimension merely lets us travel between different sheets of 5D paper.

So somehow we have reached the 6th dimension where one can not only time-travel, but jump from one alternate reality to another. Shall we venture further into the seventh dimension – infinity – and beyond?

(This post is part of a series exploring the concepts of dimensions. Read all of them here:

(Stick figures from xkcd)