Artistic Bootstrap Paradox
Artistic Bootstrap Paradox

Imagine, you have several questions about the theory of relativity, you have tried a lot but you are not getting the relevant answers. So you think, how nice it would be if I would be able to travel back in time and ask Albert Einstein. Opportunely you develop a time machine and travel back in time with Einstein’s theory of relativity research papers and books.

But when you reach to Einstein and asked him about your questions about the theory of relativity, he tells you that he doesn’t know anything about relativity, he also says he never published any research papers, and he is a farmer, not a scientist. By knowing these things in Einstein’s own words, you shocked. You tried to make Einstein understood and asked “where did the theory originate?”, but he never understood. In disappointment and anger, you left all the research papers and books with einstein, keeping in mind that one day he will understand and then you travel back to your own time(present time).

Now over the coming decades, Einstein claims the theory of relativity as his own work and published it. In the present time, a copy of it again reaches in your hands and you again take it back to Einstein, with the same question that “where did the theory originate?”

Here we cannot say that it came from you(the time traveler) as you have learned it from Einstein’s relativity research papers and books, we also cannot say that it is the original work of Einstein, since he was taught by you(the time traveler) and then, Einstein claimed it as his own discovery. Then who discovered the theory of relativity? and where did the theory originated?. This is the Bootstrap Paradox, a theoretical paradox of time travel.

What is Bootstrap Paradox?

Traveling back in time would allow for causal loops involving events, information, people, or objects whose histories form a closed loop, and thus seem to arrive or emerge unexpectedly. The notion of objects or information that are “self-existing” in this way is often viewed as paradoxical, with several authors referring to a causal loop involving information or objects without origin as a Bootstrap paradox, an information paradox, or an ontological paradox (Ontology is the branch of metaphysics dealing with the study of being and existence).

The term time loop is sometimes referred to as a causal loop, but although they appear similar, causal loops are unchanging and self-originating, whereas time loops are constantly resetting. Bootstrap Paradox also known as a causal loop, an information paradox, or an ontological paradox.

Thus, the Bootstrap paradox is a paradox “in which an object or information can exist without ever being created.” It can be compared to the predestination paradox in the situation that time travel induces the event in which the person traveled back in time to stop (since otherwise the “information” of the scenario never would have occurred).

In other words, The Bootstrap Paradox is a theoretical paradox of time travel that happens when an object or part of the information sent back in time becomes trapped within an endless cause-effect loop in which the object or part of the information no longer has an observable point of origin, and is said to be uncaused or self-originated.

Visual Info-graphic Explanation of Bootstrap Paradox

Bootstrap Paradox, a theoretical paradox of time travel
Bootstrap Paradox, a theoretical paradox of time travel

The term “Bootstrap”

The term or the meaning “Bootstrap” in this context refers to the expression “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” or “pull oneself over a fence by one’s bootstraps”, it seems an impossible task. The first reference of this impossible task is widely believed to originate from an 18th-century literary classic, The Surprising Adventures of Baron Munchhausen, in which the eponymous hero is stuck in a swamp, and manages to escape by pulling upwards on his own hair.

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Later the term “bootstrap paradox” became popular when science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein, wrote a book, By His Bootstraps (1941). In his book, Heinlein tells the story of Bob Wilson, and the time travel paradoxes he encounters after using a time gateway. Wilson traveling to the future and giving a notebook by his future self, before then traveling to an earlier point in the future and using the book’s useful information to set himself up as a benevolent dictator. After the notebook becomes old, Wilson copies the information into a new notebook and disposes of the original. He later thinks that there never were two notebooks, and that the newly created one is actually the one given to him in the far future. So who wrote the book, and where did its information actually originate?

Video Explanation of Bootstrap Paradox

This Video Explanation of the Bootstrap Paradox is presented by Smart by Design.


We know that Time is the indefinite continued progress of existence and events that occur in seemingly irreversible succession from the past, through the present, into the future. It is a component quantity of various measurements used to sequence events, to compare the duration of events or the intervals between them, and to quantify rates of change of quantities in material reality or in the conscious experience.

We also know that yesterday, today, and tomorrow are consecutive and flows uni-directionally still we always fantasize about time traveling. Though time-traveling is still an imaginary and theoretical concept, it brings along many paradoxes like Grandfather Paradox, Fermi Paradox, Bootstrap Paradox, or Causal Loop, and more, these paradoxes may alter the whole vision of the world we live up. If one day we will be able to travel time then What? Think of it…


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  2. Visser, Matt (1996).Lorentzian Wormholes: From Einstein to Hawking. New York: Springer-Verlag. p. 213.ISBN1-56396-653-0.”A second class of logical paradoxes associated with time travel is the bootstrap paradoxes related to information (or objects, or even people?) being created from nothing.”
  3. Smith, Nicholas J.J. (2013).“Time Travel”. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Accessed on Aug 05, 2020.
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  9. Klosterman, Chuck (2009). Eating the Dinosaur (1st Scribner hardcover ed.). New York: Scribner. pp. 60–62. ISBN 9781439168486.
  10. Toomey, David (2012). The New Time Travelers. New York, New York: W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0-393-06013-3.
  11. Smeenk, Chris; Wüthrich, Christian (2011), “Time Travel and Time Machines”, in Callender, Craig (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Time, Oxford University Press, p. 581, ISBN 978-0-19-929820-4.
  12. Ross, Kelley L. (1997). “Time Travel Paradoxes”. Archived from the original on January 18, 1998.
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This Article was Published On: 10 August, 2020 And Last Modified On: 25 March, 2021

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