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Time Travel 2012

Page history last edited by lindseywhite 9 years, 6 months ago


Lindsey W.


From the imaginations of sci-fi writers and movie makers, time portals and super fast spaceships have inspired the public to dream about time travel for as long as can be remembered. There is good news for those dreamers and story makers! Einstein’s theory of relativity does not rule out the possibility of time travel, and scientists like Ronald Mallet have pioneered the field actually creating molecular-level space-time portals! There are many different hypothetical situations driving both young and old scientists to try and bring humans safely to different time periods. Below are some methods that may one day take humans and turn them into time travelers. 


     Everyone time travels. We just travel into the future, at what seems a steady pace. We can see this by watching ourselves age, or by observing stars be created or others die. This phenomenon is called the time arrow. The time arrow is how we orient ourselves, when we spill a glass, it drops to the floor and breaks, but at not time will it put itself back together.  Although, even as we count time in seconds, minutes, and hours, time does not really follow such precise intervals. In space, time ripples, slowing down in some parts, and speeding up in others. This can be explained by Einstein’s theory of relativity. Take for example a person shines a light into space, he would see the light traveling away from him at the speed of light, at the same time, another person is traveling at half the speed of light. He would see the same light traveling away from him, still at the speed of light. This indicates that the person traveling at half the speed of light is experiencing time slower than the person standing still.



     You may have travelled into the future yourself! If you have been on an airplane or a bullet train, you will have advanced one billionth of a second into the future. Bullet trains can travel 358mph, and airplanes 500-600mph. because they move more quickly than humans do normally, the clocks on board move slower than the rest of the world. This is an example of time dilation. The basic idea behind time dilation is that a clock on a stationary object moves faster than a clock on a moving object. This idea is mathematically supported by these equations. 


      Another theory, the time space continuum, states that any event that happens must involve both space and time.That is why the space-time 'grid' really involves four dimensions, three space dimensions, and a fourth time dimension. Gravity has a lot to do with time as well. Satellites that orbit around the earth age a third of a billionth of a second into the future. As a result, the clocks on board must be specially calibrated to account for the change. If it were possible to park a spaceship next to a black hole, a year for the astronaut, would be two years for the rest of us on earth. This has been labeled the gravity lensing effect. It is easy to understand gravity lensing about it if you think about space-time as a blanket. Heavy objects like stars, weigh down the blanket, causing ripples in time. When a person ages very little, while the world around them ages at ‘normal’ speed, the person is essentially moving into the future.





     Einstein’s theory of relativity does not exclude the possibility of traveling backwards in time. This hypothetical situation is difficult for people to fully understand because it involves a fourth dimension. And because it totally flows against the arrow of time, it has proven to be more challenging than traveling into the future.

     There is another problem with traveling back in time; it violates the law of causality. The law of causality outlines the sequence of the first event (the cause) and the second event (the effect). Take for example the grandfather effect. A person travels backwards in time and kills his grandfather; this means his grandfather never helps to create his father, and his father never creates him. So how is he alive to kill his grandfather? This creates a paradox, and paradoxes cannot exist in the universe. One way around this is the idea of parallel universes. A person can travel back into a similar universe and do what he pleases, without damaging anything in his world. He is theoretically free to move about, and do what he pleases, without altering the change of events in his own world. While of course this idea has never been proven, it still may be a reasonable suggestion. 

     There are other problems with bringing a whole human into the past. One thought is that by accelerating faster than light, a human would be able to go to the past, but right now at least, this is an impossible feat. The weight of the human would require tremendous amounts of energy.

Another theory uses the idea of the space-time blanket, mentioned earlier. Because space-time is not constant, it has ripples from speeding up and slowing down. Scientists hope that one day the will be able to be able to use the ripples to our advantage, by ‘surfing’ on the ripples, eliminating the need for vast amounts of fuel to power super engines. Of course, these scenarios are mostly theoretical at the moment.




     Wormholes seem to be the most popular of all the theories of time travel. They have been written down in many a storybook, and shown in many a sci-fi movie. What makes wormholes so exciting is that they may actually be a reasonable possibility for human time travel. Stephen hawking wrote about molecular sized wormholes discovered around the level of quantum foam. Quantum foam can be described as subatomic space-time. John Wheeler discovered it in 1955. On this tiny scale, subatomic particles seem to have more 2D qualities than 3D. Within quantum foam, energy can decay into subatomic particles without violating the law of conservation of energy.

The famous theory of relativity states that any mass curves space-time, because of gravity. Einstein correctly predicted that two ends in the space-time grid could connect two time periods. Two large objects are able to bend the space-time blanket, and if they are in the right places, a whole forms between them. Because the two ends are theoretically on the same plane, they have the same time.

     However, the created wormholes only blink in and out of existence for a second or two, and so far, they have only been documented on small scales. Despite this sad news, wormholes may be our best chance at time travel, because they do not involve sitting next to black holes, or fueling a person to the speed of light.













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