Monday 6 February 2017


DOCTOR Who fans can now examine his time travel theories and experiences during a new Glasgow University course.
The short course entitled Dr Who and Philosophy: Time Travel And the Nature of Reality will see tutors examine if time travel is possible, and if it is, what it tells us about the nature of reality.
Students who attend on Monday June 5 or Saturday July 1 are promised a tour of philosophy's deep mystical questions using characters and episodes from the series during the course which will take place in June and July this year.
The uni which has previously offered a Game of Thrones Philosophy course as well as one inspired by The Simpsons says the £30 course is already proving a hit with Doctor Who fans who want to explore the possibilities of having a tardis of their own.
Tutor Dr John Donaldson said: "This is a course offered by a part of the University Centre for Open Studies to give people a taster of the courses we offer. They are open to the general public."
Following the success of our Simpson's Introduction to Philosophy we looked at other figures in popular culture and Doctor Who has quite an obvious connection with Philosophy and Metaphysical questions of Time Travel.
There will be twenty five students in the class from 10am until 4pm and I'm still working on what clips from the show we will use, but there are two main issues in the philosophy of time; first the nature of time and what time is and the second issue is of time travel itself.
The nature of time brings up some big metaphysical and philosophical issues and there are different views we will examine from the Block Universe View which says the universe is an unchanging four dimensional block where time exists equally in the past present and future.
We will also look at the Growing Block view where only Past and Present exist, not the Future and and thirdly we will examine Presentism where the Past and the Future don't exist.
It is most obvious how time travel can occur if the Block Universe View is used but there are theories about the other models too, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.
"With regards to Doctor Who and his Tardis, travel into the future is in theory easier than into the past. Relativity theory says the faster you travel as a proportion of the speed of light the slower time goes for you relative to someone else, so time for them will go much faster than it will for you.
"Even today we can build a spaceship to travel ten to twenty percent to the speed of light and even when we got on a plane and off a plane we become a few milliseconds younger than when we got on.
Travelling into the past however, like the Doctor also does, is a lot harder because to travel into the past, if you accept what physics says, you need to build a wormhole and use it to travel back to the time when you first built it."
Dr Johnson is planning to illustrate his course with some episodes which see the Doctor Who travelling back and forth in his tardis.
For example, in one story called Father's Day the Doctor and his companion Rose travelled back into the past to save Rose's father from dying but the result was a paradox in which monsters known as Reapers destroyed almost all life on Earth until the time stream was set back on track.
Dr John Donaldson explained: " To the question, 'Can I visit myself?' You build a wormhole and wait while you travel back to meet yourself just after you built it. We run into serious issues with the grandfather paradox though because if time travel into the past is possible then it's possible to travel back into the past to kill your grandfather before your grandfather meets your grandmother, or even directly kill yourself. It means you'd never come into existence."
"Doctor Who approaches time travel differently from Back To The Future and we will examine the complex debates surrounding his method. We won't be looking so much at the technology but more about the issues surrounding it.
Dr Donaldson is unsure at the moment if the actual Doctor Who who is said to have studied at the university, will use his tardis to attend his particular course, but he laughed: "If anyone wants to wear a long scarf I'd be more than happy to have some Doctor Who's in thr audience. We all time travel to a point when we fly on a plane but I haven't had the opportunity to go inside a time machine. I would be severely tempted if I had the opportunity. I'm not sure if our physics department are working on that.

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