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Set in distant future, a group of super advance civilization formed a special task force to observe and guard timelines, and they are called Time Keepers.

The Time Keepers will scan for spacetime anomalies and dispatch their personnel to the scene. Once they established that there is a violation in accordance to the protocol they have to bring in the suspect and log the incident into their diaries. The problem in relativity is there is no absolute point in spacetime for reference. An event happening in one's past could still be happening right now in one's present, or one's future, etc.

So is there a way for them to effectively keep a log? Time travel technology is classified but people have tried to abuse it somehow.

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    $\begingroup$ So as I understand it these Time Keepers are free to travel throughout time and space? They can be anywhere at any time? And they can travel through all of the dimensions and alternate universes? Flip from one universe to the other? As such, infinity would mean nothing to them. $\endgroup$ Jan 17 at 4:52
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    $\begingroup$ Obviously, for them the map is the territory, and vice versa. They would keep notes by observing the state of the Everthing. It's the only possible "diary" that can be complex enough, can contain enough detail, is the universe itself. $\endgroup$
    – PcMan
    Jan 17 at 7:20
  • $\begingroup$ I think this is more a matter of time-travel convention than it is a matter of record keeping. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Jan 17 at 13:58
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    $\begingroup$ If they know how to calibrate a time machine to travel to a specific point in time, then they can refer to that point in time by whichever method the time machine used. $\endgroup$ Jan 18 at 5:01
  • $\begingroup$ Bill and Ted's watch was always set to San Dimas time (as long as Ted remembered to wind it) $\endgroup$ Jan 18 at 19:28

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They can reference the time to the the temperature of the relic radiation

The photons that existed at the time of photon decoupling have been propagating ever since, though growing less energetic, since the expansion of space causes their wavelength to increase over time (and wavelength is inversely proportional to energy according to Planck's relation). This is the source of the alternative term relic radiation.

and log all the entries with a sequential and unique identifier. Therefore their log would look something like

  1. 2 K bla bla bla
  2. 10 K bibbidibu
  3. 1 K cha cha cha
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    $\begingroup$ CMB temperature evolves over very long time scales. How many decimal places will you need to carry in these temperature measurements to distinguish between, for example, 2022 and the dawn of human civilization? $\endgroup$
    – Nobody
    Jan 18 at 13:05
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    $\begingroup$ @Nobody : A good bet is up to 34 decimal places. As many as the Planck constant has. 6.62607004 × 10-34 m2 kg / s. Anything with more precision than this is unreliable when measuring radiation and basically impossible. With that many decimal places, time since big bang can be measured with a precision of nanoseconds (10e-9 second) with seven decimal places to spare. $\endgroup$
    – Mindwin
    Jan 18 at 14:26
  • $\begingroup$ @Mindwin The issue is not if you can measure something to that precision, but being able to isolate it from all the interference of everything else. Normal variations in the atmosphere would be enough to change your readings by millions of years. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Jan 18 at 14:46
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    $\begingroup$ @Nosajimiki I, XXI century stack user, can't measure it accurately. But, for example, the travelers can use CMB probes sent to float undetected back in time and relay the readings over a sec, like a timeframe GPS system. The question's assumes a "super advanced civilization". $\endgroup$
    – Mindwin
    Jan 18 at 15:20
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    $\begingroup$ @Nosajimiki we are already assuming time travel exists, and that is the realistically hard part. $\endgroup$
    – Mindwin
    Jan 18 at 15:20
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The diary itself is a timeline

The entries happen one after another and as such are representative of the owner's personal timeline. They don't have to be dated, they merely have to be presented in the order in which they were written. If the author is present at a particular spacetime reference, or was for the purposes of the entry, then that is recorded as part of the entry. Attempting to anchor any entry any more specifically to a more mundane timeline is certainly futile and likely to be counter productive.

The diary is a personal reference and refers only to personal time. The log is perfectly effective as such.

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    $\begingroup$ This is it. If you really need the diary to conform to a full timeline: Gift each Time Warden a mechanical wrist clock at the swearing in ceremony, including a calendar. They always carry it with them, so they can fully log dates, rest times and so on of their own timeline. $\endgroup$
    – Hobbamok
    Jan 18 at 8:08
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If they know the time-line of a universe they will know the universes entropy pattern, not the specific locations in space-time of each celestial object but their positions in relation to each other.

This would involve some serious mapping of all orbital paths and positions but every position will be completely unique down to the smallest increments of time.

The Supermassive blackholes of the central galaxies in the main large clusters of the local superclusters could be used as the initial space-time locators then homing in to the planets location, relative to its star, its galaxy and then those main location pointers. This position pattern will give the locations precise time in the universe.

A highly complicated but precise method that should be achievable by advanced beings outside of the universes time dimension.

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  • $\begingroup$ They probably have a shorthand way of writing it, too. August 3, 1973 is specific to a bunch of more complicated stuff relating to the position of the sun and the earth and so on, but we don't write all that. $\endgroup$ Jan 17 at 18:39
  • $\begingroup$ @coppereyecat Exactly, they could type in Earth (or whatever location), lat/long coordinates (for the planet or structure), 13.77.... Gy, hour/min/sec and the computer would do all the hidden positioning calculations. $\endgroup$ Jan 17 at 19:35
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Expand the Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) Standard

Thanks to the circulature of the Earth, man has already had to solve the issue of offset time systems. Let's say a person in New York, USA were to show up in Madrid, Spain. His watch would say 1:00PM, but everyone else around him would be at 7:00PM. This would makes things confusing, but UTC says he can just change his time zone, and the watch will start showing the right time. He does not need to worry about this messing up any timestamps internally in the watch because the timestamp and time zone are 2 separate data points

The way we solve this problem in the real world is to take an arbitrary point of reference and pair it with a time zone to modify it based on local time. So, what UTC does is says that the master clock is a specific atomic clock located in Greenwich, England which all other clocks must report in relation to. So, when you look under the hood of everyone's modern smart watches, you will see that the watch in Spain is actually set to UTC + 1 hour, and the watch in New York is set to UTC - 5 hours, and they are both using this time zone data point to modify thier timestamp to local time.

Time Keepers also have a Universal Clock. We will call this this Coordinated Temporal Time (TTC). So, lets say the atomic clock is started at exactly "2100-01-01 @ 12:00AM". As long as you are in sync with the TTC timeline, you timestamp everything with whatever that clock says +/- your timezone, but lets say on "2150-05-02 @ 7:00AM" you jump back to "2080-03-15 @ 1:00PM ", you are now at (TTC - 614,730 hours).

When you jump through time you can also apply local UTC offset giving a time mark now 3 data points instead of 2. So, if your time traveler goes back to 2080 in New York, his timestamp is marked as (TTC - 614,730 - 5) Where you get the TTC reference time, +/- the TTC offset, +/- the UTC offset.

In this way when the time traveler logs an event in his computer/diary, you can compute the local time while simultaneously preserving its relationship to a universal time. TTC also makes sure that time travelers are not running into themselves or aging inappropriately in thier home timeline because a time traveler always leaves from and comes back to (TTC + 0 + timezone) So, if you go back and spend 5 days in Nazi Germany, you don't come back to the time you left, but to 5 days later (local time) to get an offset of zero since your watch continued to run while you were away.

To measure displacement, just sync your watch to your time machine. Time Travel, just like other forms of travel, is measurable. A car knows how far its gone by counting wheel rotations or by measuring the speed of passing objects. Likewise, your time machine likely has some kind of countable mechanic that can be used to measure how far its gone. It could be a measure of tachyons generated, some kind of field pulses, power used, etc. What ever it is that allows you to move through time, it is measurable.

Then when you get there, you watch should at the very least be very close to local time. One final point is that many historical calendars were not particularly accurate or consistent; so, you may need additional displacements to better sync to true local time. This is where a database of time zones becomes important. For example, in our world the time zone "America/Chicago" is sometimes UTC-6 and sometimes UTC-5 depending on daylight savings time, but "America/Tegucigalpa" is UTC-6 year round. Your timetraveler's database would just need to extend these standards by when they went into/out of effect. "America/Chicago" would have to become "America/Chicago/2022" since this time zone changes every year. So once you measured how far you've gone and where you are, it is a simple matter of doing a database lookup to set your watch to local time. That way you can log things normally by writing down local times, and your time piece saves it relative to the universal standard so on the backend, a timestamp may look like (2150-05-02t7:15:45,-614730:44:15,"America/Chicago/2080") and it would contain all the information you would need to convert your local time to any other conceivable time keeping system at any other point in time.

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They have their own flow of time

The fact that the Timekeepers see the entire flow of time at once (so they are outside it), and they can do stuff (so casualty exists wherever they are) means that there must be another flow of time, or temporal dimension, running perpendicular to the time we are familiar with. That is the one they are bound to.

Much like how we can see an entire piece of flat paper because we extend in the third spatial dimension, Timekeepers can see all time because to them it is flat and consistent. Naturally they can make changes like we can write on paper, but they know the start and outcome at any given moment.

So how do they track their interventions? Well, whatever means of time measurement that make sense for their surroundings. Do they live on a planet? If so they can count their own days and years. They would be speaking of yesterday's time intervention: that being their yesterday, and the intervention itself could have taken place anywhere in the primary timeline and have taken however much primary time.

If they don't live on a planet, then maybe they count something absolute like the number of vibrations of a caesium atom - that is assuming matter is composed of atoms wherever they are. And even if they have the same atoms, the same temporal properties would probably not hold in this second temporal dimension.

So what do they use for time measurements for their diaries? Whatever is regular and countable, as it propagates through their secondary flow of time.

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There is only one time machine.

The single time machine is also the single record keeper. It acts as a fixed point, traveling forward in time at the normal speed, where records of all voyages are stored. This removes problems about different travelers having different timelines.

Depending on the nature of your time travel, it is possible to look at the records, see one thing, then go back in time

To simplify further the machine itself does not travel -- it just sends people through time a set amount. From their point of view they stay in the new time for however long they set and then are magically brought back to their starting time. From the machine's point of view the travelers enter then immediately exit.

Because the travelers exit immediately after entering, the machine can only handle one voyage at a time. This prevents problems with one voyage interfering with another one.

To simplify FURTHER the machine cannot handle nested voyages. A nested voyage is where you hop in the machine today, travel back two days, then hop in the machine from two days ago and travel somewhen else.

Depending on the nature of your time travel, the records might change. It might be possible to look at the record of 15 June 2524, see one thing, then go back in time to 14 June 2524 and convince an earlier voyage not to happen, then return to your time and look at the 15 June 2524 record to find it is different to your memory.

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It's not Easy

As highly evolved as the advanced civilization is, well...this is a bit embarrassing, is it alright to admit the imperfections in the whole process?

The dangerous problem has forced the timekeepers to create a database that although holographic and interactive and four dimensional, could simply be called a map. It shows the location of every registered time machine in service, the licensed user, date of inspections, registration numbers, dates of entry and exit, current status, and so forth. Encrypted Trackers are built within every legal machine. Thankfully.

After return, a debriefing must occur, so that the travel log can include the travellers' observations on divergences from the Origin Timeline. No way around it, paradoxes happen, and they are dangerous.

Unfortunately, to draw a parallel to the 21rst century, just because there are laws of the road doesn't mean people obey them. In fact, they look at their cell phones, eat while driving, drive tired, steal cars, and drunkenly bump into guard rails going the wrong way on the highway.

Time machines go off line or get stranded. Tracking equipment can go on the fritz. Agents go into active duty to apprehend stolen or damaged machines. Though no one wants to admit it, Timeline Enforcement may even be botching or even falsifying the records, and criminal organizations are trying to hack in. Internal affairs has a heck of a time tracking Timekeepers who don't want to be found. However, these are only exceptions to the rules.

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Trying to make a log entry based in a unitary dimension of 'time' would be like trying to log your position in space using a singular dimension like 'distance'.

The co-ordinates of any particular incident in multi-dimensional universe would have to be based on a multi-dimensional co-ordinate system, not a single dimension like 'seconds'.

The log would, at a minimum, need one indicator for the universe, another for the temporal position in that universe, and yet another for the spatial position in that universe.

There is absolutely no reason to believe that the constants, including c are the same in every universe, so time and c would have to be measured relative to that universe, as well as the acceleration of that universe. Thus, the log would have to include some method of recording what relativistic universe framework the log entry was recorded in.

There could be no universal time stamp, single variable, or other one-dimensional method of log entry designator.

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Time is not "relative" in the way you think; it is absolute. The "Big Bang" does not happen in one person's future and another person's past.

It is true that our year 1931 is in the future for people in 1900, and in the past for people of 1960, but that is immaterial, we just measure time from a fixed and arbitrary point of time in the entire universe, in our case AD 0, picked for no rational reason whatsoever.

The same thing goes for our years, days, hours, minutes and seconds: These are all arbitrary, picked for our own Earth-centric idiosyncratic circumstances. The same thing applies to our distances: A "foot" is the length of some King's foot, a cubit the length of some King's elbow to fingertip. But a "meter" is based on the circumference of the earth, divided by a power of ten, both of which are idiosyncratic to Humans or Earth, respectively.

If Martians did the same and all their names for time and distance were based on martian physiology, Mars or Martian history, we would (with examples) be able to translate.

So you embrace this arbitrariness. Pick some arbitrary points in time of your own, pick some arbitrary distance of your own, and treat time as a location being visited.

So say our arbitrary time is "days", and arbitrary starting point is AD 0, just like now. For convenience we standardize on metric prefixes: In powers of 10 for Deca, Hecto, Kilo (10, 100, 1000), and in powers of 1000 thereafter: Mega (106), Giga (109), Tera (1012).

About 3 decadays in a month. A hectoday is 100 days, a kiloday is 2.738 years, a megaday 2738 years, a gigaday 2.738 M years, teraday 2.738 G years. The Universe, at 13.8 G years, is about 5.04 teradays old.

Likewise we can pick an arbitrary point in time to measure from. Say AD 0 in our current calendar.

So the diary is a sequential series of entries, Each with a location: kday 875.4, Mars, Cairo Settlement:

Earth has 365.25 days per year, so translated, 875.5 kilodays is 2396.715 years, or day 261, in a leap year is Sep 17, 2396, Earth time.

The Time Keepers themselves wear a device that communicates with their home base. Their protocol is strictly periodic meetings, on some time schedule relative to the home base. Every decaday (10 days). The time keepers themselves age based on their location; on Earth, one day per day of the mission.

For convenience sake and to avoid confusion, they only return to home base on meeting days, to their own designated location there. But of course can communicate with each other from anywhere in the universe at any time. That perhaps creates causality paradoxes in Einstein's formulation, but we threw causality and Einstein's formulation out the window with time-travel in the first place. You really don't have to worry about Einstein's Relativity, because you have convincingly disproven it with Time Travel.

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I'd like to propose that they wouldn't use a physical document that has problems with linearity but instead some kind of database, with 'nodes' - each node being an entry, but can be indexed or inserted into one or more lists. After all, they have time travel, why would they use journals?

Even with relativity this still works: if you consider a spaceship logging individual entries, and a computer on earth logging both at one per second, the spaceship flies away and then comes back and docks, and the next node pointer (like a linked-list) point to the same node - the two branches have different lengths, but they come to the same point in "time".

You might consider it to be a tree, but only for the official space-time flow, but individual agents (or suspects), might have their own personal linking - a series of connections to nodes that represents their own journeys through space.

Presumably, this also allows them to have documented points in time which no longer exist - there is a new node in their index that represents what happened, and what actions the agents made to rejoin it.

Have a think about how you think time actually works in your universe: is time a single strand and the agents are trying to re-join a divergent strand back to the 'official' line, or is there now two universes with different outcomes (like in the MCU Loki series), or is all of the future timeline now corrupt because a point has been changed (which suggests a more tree-like structure from a single origin - something like Looper or Continuum, where changes to a point in time, change the future (and we ignore the murdering your own grandfather paradoxes). How big an impact does a change have - is it all just localised, rather than the entire universe changing (although little changes do have a habit of rippling out over time).

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  • $\begingroup$ What do you mean with "physical document has a problem with linearity" and why would your database differ from any other physical representation of the information ? When will the database be updated ? $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Jan 17 at 18:37
  • $\begingroup$ Great question - A document such as ab ook has pages, and yes you could insert pages, but its still linear. One page follows another. A database doesn't have to have that - especially a 'graph database' - each node can be linked in a straight line, or to another node almost like Wikipedia. Consider Wikipedia having a big 'next' official button on the bottom of each page, but also other links as people go through it. The databse update could be any time I guess. is there an single server in the 'future', which the agents have access to via a device? Is it distributed? Are there copies? $\endgroup$
    – Jmons
    Jan 20 at 18:59
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Just write down two dates for each entry.

Lets say the time traveler has a calendar with him. This calendar shows the time and date of the time he left. Since they can travel through time and space the relativity thing isn't as much an issue, and if it was the personal timekeeping is what is important here.

The time traveler writes the date he is currently in, followed by the date of the time he left and will return to once he is done (assuming that is their modus operandi). Or they write down the "current" date in their timeline if they return to a date corresponding to the time they spend in the past. Anyone reading it will then understand the date the time traveler was at and the date that he came from. Naturally you can choose which date you write down first.

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Own age.

From their own reference frame, they would age normally. They can use their ageing biomarkers (like Telomere length, T-cell rearrangement, DNA methylation etc) to precisely calculate their age (like 32.145) and use that in their diaries.

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Through synchronized vibrations

In our universe, everything is moving, vibrating, and changing. There are a variety of frequencies at which even objects that appear to be stationary are actually vibrating, oscillating, and resonating. The movement that oscillates between two states is known as resonance. At its most fundamental level, all matter is nothing more than the sum of its individual vibrations. Because of this universal vibration, all of nature resonates at all scales. When two or more vibrating objects come together, it's common for them to begin vibrating at the same frequency after a period of time. They appear to "sync up" in mysterious ways at times. The phenomenon of spontaneous self-organization is referred to as this. Automatically they have the ability inbuilt to solve merging issues and actively monitor timelines.

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They just have to specify which is their own frame of reference in their log. If they have to follow someone who made a time jump they will have to log all the changes fro one frame of reference to the other.

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On each jump, log time elapsed, destination coordinates in space, time displacement set

A mechanical clock inside the time machine will keep the time elapsed. It is entered in the log and reset to zero, on any departure. Suppose the log will stay inside the time machine.. The absolute time does not need to be measured, the amount of time travel is known, you can add up and convert times into any reference frame afterward, if needed. Other information needed for the log: the time machine input destination, in 3d coords.. and the time machine's time target time displacement set (plus or minus in seconds). That data is also logged, at every jump.

Optional notes about the expedition can now be added: e.g. to check if the time machine works properly, you could measure and note departure time and destination arrival time in the local time frame. That would help to check if the time machine itself worked properly. And to make sure the suspect was not arrested before the crime was committed.

Together, all data relevant to a log will be there: the elapsed time will suffice to check if the agents performed their contractual working hours. The input log can be used to check whether they did travel to the designated time and place and if the prisoner from time X originating from time Y was brought in according to your time travel laws.

For most agents, this will be a routine boomerang time travel, returning to some home base and time, with the captured rogue time traveler. The next job will start from the same reference frame.

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