Questions Answered About Time Travel

Doctor Who, A Breach in the Vortex

Hello and a happy Tuesday to all humans, cats, dogs, and horses (actually all animals except insects- yeek!). Today, I want to talk about something that I hope all of us (I mean the entire Facebook community…hee…hee…get it?) can get to watch in this lifetime-time travel. I don’t remember when I learned about time travel, but when I was in school, I would listen to my friends, mostly boys, talk about astrophysics, physics, and time travel. Back in the day it was a very “boys” topic and not many of my girlfriends were interested so to the boys I went.

Now, I am happy to report that I for one am very happy with how many women are in the fields of Sciences and Engineering. Although bioengineering is the most favorite among women graduates, fields of computer science, electrical engineering, and astrophysics are slowly seeing gender diversity. I am happy to report that I have even met a female mechanical engineer, which was a source of great excitement for me in college. For those of you who are curious, it was my sister’s friend and we all used to carpool together. Anyways, the point is that women should still be encouraged in topics like engineering and theoretical sciences like astrophysics. For example, during my research, I have found only a handful of women write on time travel. If you are curious to read some literature by them, check out HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE. On the other hand, men are on the forefront in engineering and sciences.

For those folks who want to attend astrophysics lectures in the Bay Area, the SETI Institute holds free events monthly covering topics in the latest science technologies, space missions, research data, and findings. The next event will be held in Menlo Park on February 21st and is titled “Big Astronomy Begins: Searching for Exoplanets with AI” (See HERE). On the same day, they are putting on a talk titled “Mission: Mars, Dr. Pascal Lee-East Bay” at the Castro Valley Center of Arts (See HERE). Please reserve a ticket asap because these talks do tend to sell out.

History of Time Travel

I found a great article online that covers time travel and I want to share it with you. You can read it HERE. It describes time travel in very simple terms. It says, “in some sense, of course, we’re all time travelers: We move forward in time from one minute to the next. But going back in time, whether to avoid some mistake or perhaps to repeat it, is something far more elusive.” In other words, the very definition begs the question “what is time travel?” Is it as natural as moving forward in space-time, which we all do naturally, or does it describe breaking the laws of physics and artificially moving forward and back in space-time.

Little has been recorded about time travel before Albert Einstein. If you are curious about references about it in pre-Albert Einstein era, see HERE. However in 1905, when Albert Einstein wrote down his special theory of relativity that showed space and time are intimately linked, and in 1916, when Einstein’s general theory of relativity showed that space and time are malleable, the idea that time travel can be possible became apparent. Albert Einstein’s theories solidified that physical laws govern space-time and only matter or energy (which is microscopic matter) can warp, bend, expand, and contract it.


Is Time Travel Still Thought To Be Impossible?

The article claims that “if one can imagine space being filled with some exotic form of energy, then space and time could warp in a way so that time, as well as space, could bend back upon themselves like circles, allowing one to move forward in a straight line and still return to one’s starting point in both space and time”. However, “physicists haven’t advanced the ball very far. We recognize that while Einstein’s equations do allow for round-trip time travel (at least in principle), other physics considerations probably rule out creating the exotic forms of energy that would make it possible.” So sadly, currently we are still in the phase of imagining time travel as a possibility.

However, still the key to understanding time travel is understanding “The Theory of Relativity” and the idea that everything from mass to motion is connected. We are all on the hunt to find a unifying theory, a mathematical formula that describe EVERYTHING in the universe and understanding Einstein’s theory maybe the first step because honestly that’s the best thing we got so far. The first person to write down “a mathematical solution of the general relativity equations” that described an exotic type of space-time permiting time travel was mathematician Kurt Gödel, a close colleague of Einstein’s at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J. Theoretically, this can allow us to calculate how much energy it would require to extremely warp curved space and be able to time travel. But, this requires serious advance math. In other words, “since general relativity implies that the configuration of space-time is determined by the nature of the matter and energy within it, one needs to determine whether it’s possible to create the appropriate type of matter and energy in the laboratory.” For that we need a formula or an equation-you know-two part baking soda, one part Sprite (or whatever).

While, writers have described time travel as traveling in an actual time machine, scientists have described time travel as creating a “wormhole” or a shortcut through curved space, like a tunnel under a mountain (or for our purposes here a tunnel connecting two distant points in space). Is it still impossible? Sadly, yes.


Can There Be Several Time Zones in Time Travel?

This is where it gets really complicated and only an astrophysicist is equipped to explain this well. That’s why I will be referencing the article a lot because I, myself have not looked into this YET. The article states, “special relativity tells us that observers in relative motion experience time differently, such that — to a ground-based observer — clocks on a fast-moving rocket ship would tick more slowly than clocks on the ground. Thus an observer riding on the wormhole’s mouth as it zooms through space might determine from his or her clock that the round-trip took a week. But an observer at the other end of the wormhole, at rest in the background space, would look at his clock and determine that the trip took, say, three years. If the second observer then moves through the wormhole and comes out the other end, he or she will arrive to meet his or her colleague at the other end — and discover that the time is now three years before he entered the wormhole in the first place!”

Confused? So am I! For me time is constant and the only thing warping it is mass or “mass”ive amount of energy. So how to create that amount of mass or energy in a laboratory is beyond me. Scientists have discussed black holes as mediums to time travel, but since we do not know much about them, we do not know if we can return safely from our time travel “adventures”.

What Are the Current Possibilities?

Some possibilities discussed in the article are: “to create some material with very peculiar characteristics — namely a material that was gravitationally repulsive — it might be able to hold a wormhole open against gravitational collapse. And that would bring time travel a step closer to reality. All the evidence so far suggests that it is probably impossible for us to create such a material. Yet ultimately, it is the limitation of our understanding of general relativity, especially in the domain where quantum mechanical effects might be significant, that currently prohibits us from proving the impossibility of building a time machine.”

Although still imagined as a possibility, most physicists now working would bet against the possibility of time travel, not merely because of the practical difficulties of generating the necessary conditions to allow it, but also because of “the implications of time travel if it becomes possible”. What does that mean? Read on…

What do “Smart People” Say?

There are many ethical paradoxes associated with time travel. The article explains, for example, if we were to go back in time and change the past, we would also change the future. And it leads to a host of possible paradoxes, including what would happen if you went back in time and killed your grandmother before she gave birth to your mother. If your mother was never born, of course, then you would never have been born. But in that case, how did you go back in time and kill your grandmother in the first place?

Then the idea of legal ramifications. The article writes, “the fact that Bill Gates remains the richest person in the world argues against the existence of a forward-and-back time machine. For example, if you could jump forward even a single day and then return to the present time, within a year you could make investments in the stock market that would turn even a small sum into an astronomically large one. Gates’s mere $80 billion fortune would seem minuscule.” Scary, huh? However, will you making that money that way a legal way to make that money? Paradoxical, right?

Stephen Hawking presented another interesting argument against the possibility of time travel. He said that if it were possible, then we would forever be inundated with tourists from the future. Don’t think he likes tourists. Lol.

So readers, bottom line is that there is much to achieve by the human species before we can even try to understand, let alone accomplish the task of time travel. At least for the foreseeable future, time travel will remain the stuff of science fiction.



For those astrophysicist fiends out there-seasoned or budding, please answer the following questions:

1. Take a twist tie and twist it. Answer the questions:
Is it now straight? When it’s straight, is it curved? What evidence based on observations and theories supports your answers?
2. Think about the natural forces in the universe:
How many can you count? Is there really ONE natural force in the universe? If there is, what could be the possibilities?
Ok, guys, read on and stay bright. Happy Reading!!

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