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Will We Time Travel This Century?

By Rob Schwarz on January 3, 2014 at 12:52 pm
spacetime

If time travel is possible…

Well, that’s a really big if, isn’t it? But if it is possible, and human beings are ultimately capable of traveling backwards through time, when do you suppose it will happen?

One professor believes we’ll time travel within this century, maybe even within the next few years. His name is Dr. Ronald Mallett, a theoretical physicist who teaches at the University of Connecticut.

His obsession with time travel is rather typical among those who fantasize about traveling to the past. When he was ten years old, his father died of a heart attack. This tragic event, coupled with his love of science fiction stories like H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine, led to a lifelong interest in physics and, more importantly, in devising a way to travel back in time to save his father’s life.

His ideas have garnered him a fair amount of criticism, but he remains undeterred. In the above video, Mallet discusses the professional obstacles he’s faced in the pursuit of creating a time machine, as well as his ideas for how time travel is possible.

The “time machine” would consist of circulating beams of laser light (that is, energy), which would warp space and, in doing so, warp time. Imagine stirring a cup of water with a spoon, and the vortex that results. Eventually, this would create a closed timelike curve, allowing travel to the past or the future, with one caveat: you can’t travel back to before the machine was built.

water-vortex

Mallett’s idea isn’t so far off from another time machine design: the Tipler Cylinder, devised by physicist Frank Tipler. Both “time machines” would distort spacetime in a similar manner, allowing travel to the past or the future.

Unfortunately, both designs have another thing in common: they’re incredibly impractical, if just for the insane amounts of energy (and, well, space) needed to distort spacetime in such a way. There’s also this pesky little thing thought up by Stephen Hawking called the chronology protection conjecture, which would theoretically prevent such closed timelike curves from appearing at all.

But, again, Mallett is unfazed. He’s been working on a prototype of his machine, using a ring laser to hopefully warp a small area of space. As I said, he believes it’s possible we’ll time travel within this century, perhaps even during his lifetime. Do you think it could happen?

Image credits: Robert Couse-Baker and Tony Hisgett

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About Rob Schwarz

Rob Schwarz is a freelance writer, blogger, and part-time peddler of mysterious tales. Follow him on Twitter @Dimentoid or on Google+, and be sure to like Stranger Dimensions on Facebook!
  • Matt Mars

    With respect, to Professor Mallett, Einsteins work (specifically, ‘Electrodynamics’), seems to just ‘assume’ time, with a future and a past exist. (see > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ii3gxxn2reA : thought experiments)

    But essentially, Einstein seems to just (as in ‘only’), describe the ways rates of change may be dilated, and, explains this in terms of “time”.

    But he does not prove, or point to a proof that the past, or future, or time with a flow and direction actually exist. And if we have no genuine scientific reason to even assume ‘the past’ or ‘future’ exist, then all time travel might be moot.

    If Relativity is just about rates of change and not time, then the whole space time, and time travel scenarios change dramatically, suggesting, as i try to show in this video, other approaches to time travel paradoxes etc.
    just a thought

    mm timelessness.co.uk

    (auth ‘a brief history of timelessness’)

    see also > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSJ8A-w78xM for a more detailed PowerPoint talk.

  • Casey Lee Anderson

    about this sentence: Eventually, this would create a closed time-like curve, allowing travel to the past or the future, with one caveat: you can’t travel back to before the machine was built., i believe you would be able to travel back in time to before the machine was built, example the movie back to the future had a time display for the destination, presented and departed time didn’t, if we could figure out on how to do some of similar things like back to the future it would be possible to travel back in time before the machine was built, and in back to the future marty traveled back to 1955 before the delorean was even invented let alone before doc discovered the secret to time travel, and i know back to the future is sci-fi, what happened if some one from the future came to the past and lived like a regular person but kept the secret that they’re actually from the future how would one know about the supposedly future generations living amongst us. if you creating a time machine, in order to travel to the past you would need a time display as well as for traveling to the future first and second you would need the entire world’s nuclear plants linked together plus with a bolt of lightning(artificially or naturally) in order to travel back to before the machine would be built. and it’s possible to travel backwards in time to before the time machine would be built but there may be a limit on how backwards in time before the time machine would be built, say the time machine was built in 2015, according the physicists you couldn’t travel back farther than 2015, but i believe you could though if you do what i say and nobody ever seems to listen to me at all, which always makes me angry, if you can’t travel backwards in time to before the time machine is built why bother making one in the first place. 1. in order to build the time machine it HAS TO BE ABLE TO TRAVEL INTO THE PAST BEFORE THE MACHINE WAS ACTUALLY BUILT. NO MATTER WHAT OR ELSE IT SHOULDN’T EXIST. 2. if a person(the one who travels back in time) shouldn’t mess with the time stream or shouldn’t be involved and only should be candid observers, not involvers. 3. if you build a time but can’t figure out on to access the backwards doors to the past before the machine was built, there would be someone who could. 4. if the supposed time-machine can only travel into the future say invented in 2015, and you can travel backwards in time more than 2015, then it would be classified as a full time machine, it would be classified as a half-assed time machine. sorry for yelling and cussing in this post but it had to be said. and time travel to the past before the machine is built is possible because of all the strange deja vus we’ve all had.