Twenty years ago, if a scientist mentioned time travel, he’d be laughed at. Today, the world is different and scientists are opening up to the real possibility of devising a way to move through time. In his new book, How to Build a Time Machine, Brian Clegg gets down to the essence of time travel, making the possibility of it feasible for the very first time. Read the review.
By now (2012) it’s common knowledge that science fiction writers came up with a fantastic idea one hundred years earlier. Today, scientists discover a way to turn it into reality. This is how H.G. Wells’ marvelous idea of time travel rematerialized. At last the curtain is ready to rise on the daunting task. Before the curtain call, however, the props had to be dragged in. That’s where Albert Einstein made his appearance and spelled out the mathematical behavior of relativity. He described how space and time are really part of the same thing and warping space would effect time. By showing that gravity was responsible for warping space proved Einstein’s theory of relativity. It was illustrated by observing light from distant stars bending around the sun during a solar eclipse earlier in the 20th century.
The next phase would necessitate two more elements. The first was the medium necessary to warp time and the second was the enthusiasm among scientists to pool their efforts. Both of these have been established. There is now a long list of time traveling theorists to explore time travel in a meaningful way. The medium is no less than what some of the greatest minds have uncovered long ago. They include: quantum entanglement, black holes, superluminal speeds, neutron star cylinders, and wormholes.
When two atoms become entangled, a phenomenon not well understood, they behave as though they were the same—even though separated by great distances. Theoretically, entangled atoms can be in two places at the same time. This relationship may be the driving force to harness time travel.
Superluminal speeds—those that approach he speed of light area can cause an interesting time distortion: time slows down for the traveler. This has been demonstrated on the Space Shuttle. While orbiting at 17,500 mph, astronauts experience a slowing down of the aging process. They age slower than those on Earth, because time for them slows down a tiny bit. Consequently, space station residents move into the future as they orbit. The more they orbit, the more into the future they go. It’s only milliseconds, but it’s still time travel.
Neutron star cylinders are among the least understood. However, it seems that anything in the universe that has vast power can distort time and space. The problems occurs when one attempts to harness this energy. So does the neutron star. Eventually, these become black holes. A puzzling idea that results from these monsters come from string theory. Perhaps learning how it works might allow us to travel inter-dimensionally, through time as well.
Finally, the science fiction favorite, enter the wormhole. They connect different parts of space and probably time as well. Harnessing one may be a gateway to another time. Even laser technology has entered the game field. Ronald Mallett lost his father as a boy. He’s been struggling ever since to uncover the mysteries of time travel so that he can travel back in time and see his father again. In his work, Mallett discovered interesting twists from his experiments with lasers. Unfortunately, his idea needs giant amounts of energy to make it work and even then only tentatively. Still, we are at the crossroads of understanding the nature of time travel in a significant way.
One of the quirks of time travel is an agreed upon, unwritten rule by scientists that traveling backward in time one cannot travel back to a point before the time machine was invented. It would be a logical contradiction. Also, time seems to want to flow from cause to effect, not from effect to cause. However, quantum entanglement appears to contradict this.
Another big name emerging in the literature and TV circuits is Michio Kaku. He makes frequent appearances on various science programs and is a self-proclaimed visionary in the world of theoretical physics, astronomy and cosmology. He believes time travel is indeed possible.
While Einstein was building his fame a strange limerick by A. H. Reginald Buller in Punch (Dec. 19, 1923): 591) put Einstein’s general theory of relativity into perspective:
There was a young lady named Bright,
Whose speed was far faster than light;
She started one day
In a relative way,
And returned on the previous night.”
I also have my own take on it: Now I lay me down to glean, I pray to make a time machine. If I should die before I time-traveled, I’ll return to my birth to undo what unraveled.
D. Wayne Dworsky addresses the importance of being informed of Currents in Science & Nature by participating in science & nature book reviews, writing feature articles, aviation and preparing students for State examinations in mathematics and language arts. He’s been reviewing science and nature titles for Sacramento Book Review for the last two years.
In addition to his own literary career, he hosts a radio talk show on Blog Talk Radio’s Alpha Centauri & Beyond . And he writes a blog at his website, Alpha Centauri & Beyond.com. He remains active as an airman and writes articles for American Chronicle.