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Frivolous Uses of Time Travel (1)

I've returned from the European Spreadsheet Risks Interest Group conference in Cachan, of which more later. But one problem always faced by conference organisers reminded me of a novel use for time travel, which I found in Michael Swanwick's Bones of the Earth, his novel of Stegosauri, timelike loops, and the ultimate nobility of curiosity. Swanwick knows the practice of science:

The dirty little secret of scientific journals was that not only did they not pay for the papers they printed, the authors had to pay them a fixed rate of so much per page. Not that money alone could get you into a serious journal; you still had to write a paper that would get past peer review and impress the editors enough to want it. But, particularly if you were just starting out, you might delay publication of some papers for year, while waiting for your financial situation to clear up.

The system, for all its faults, did have one positive effect, though: it kept the papers terse.

Swanwick also has a feeling for the vastness of geological time. Chapter 13 begins with one of the characters prodding a washer-sized copper disc from the rock, above a tributary of the Aegean River. Rock that, squeezed and twisted by the same forces that have shaped the mighty Mediterranean Mountains visible on the horizon here in the Telezoic era, turns out to be metamorphic macadam. Geologically transformed roadbed, 50 megayears in the future. The copper disc is a coin.

But never mind the megayears; one year is long enough to do something useful:

One advantage of time travel was that the Proceedings could be made available at the beginning of the conference. It still took a year or more for the papers to be assembled, edited, and printed, but the books themselves could then be shipped back and sold at the registration table, so that they could be carried from talk to talk, and annotated as the papers were presented.

So when time travel is finally announced, that will be one conference whose programme committee shall not need to sweat. Much thanks to EuSpRIG's, who did.