Will Time Travel be possible before 2022?
Professor predicts human time travel this century
Ronald Mallett, Professor at the University of Connecticut, has used Einstein’s equations to design a time machine with circulating laser beams. While his team is still looking for funding, he hopes to build and test the device in the next 10 years.
Black holes, wormholes, and cosmic strings - each of these phenomena has been proposed as a method for time travel, but none seem feasible, for (at least) one major reason. Although theoretically they could distort space-time, they all require an unthinkably gigantic amount of mass.
Mallett, a U Conn Physics Professor for 30 years, considered an alternative to these time travel methods based on Einstein’s famous relativity equation: E=mc2.
“Einstein showed that mass and energy are the same thing,” said Mallett, who published his first research on time travel in 2000 in Physics Letters. “The time machine we’ve designed uses light in the form of circulating lasers to warp or loop time instead of using massive objects.”
To determine if time loops exist, Mallett is designing a desktop-sized device that will test his time-warping theory. By arranging mirrors, Mallett can make a circulating light beam which should warp surrounding space. Because some subatomic particles have extremely short lifetimes, Mallett hopes that he will observe these particles to exist for a longer time than expected when placed in the vicinity of the circulating light beam. A longer lifetime means that the particles must have flowed through a time loop into the future.
“Say you have a cup of coffee and a spoon,” Mallett explained to PhysOrg.com. “The coffee is empty space, and the spoon is the circulating light beam. When you stir the coffee with the spoon, the coffee - or the empty space - gets twisted. Suppose you drop a sugar cube in the coffee. If empty space were twisting, you’d be able to detect it by observing a subatomic particle moving around in the space.”
And from October 2011: A blog with input from the great man himself, it makes for an interesting bit of reading, here is an exert.
“In the aforementioned discussion with Ms. Rutter, she states; â€˜Twisting of the space makes time swirl and twist in the same way. And it is this twisting of time that makes time travel possible’. Is it really that simple?”
“The concept using a circulating beam of laser light to twist space and time is straightforward. However, the theoretical details are quite involved and the experimental implementation of the concept is challenging. Einstein showed that mass and energy are the same thing. The time machine we’ve designed uses light in the form of circulating lasers to warp or loop time. Say you have a cup of coffee and a spoon, the coffee is empty space, and the spoon is the circulating light beam. When you stir the coffee with the spoon, the coffee â€“ or the empty space â€“ gets twisted. Suppose you drop a sugar cube in the coffee. If empty space were twisting, you’d be able to detect it by observing a subatomic particle moving around in the space”.
“In the episode of This American Life entitled My Brilliant Plan: Tragedy Minus Time Equals Happily Ever After [#324 January 26, 2007] you made a profound pronouncement to reporter Josh Gibson; â€˜So if gravity can affect time and light can create gravity then light can effect time’, can you elaborate?”
“According to Einstein’s general theory of relativity, clocks run different rates in a gravitational field. This has real practical implications that affected the initial set up the global positioning system (GPS). It turns out that clocks in the GPS unit of your car, which is at the surface of the earth where gravity is stronger, run at a slower rate than clocks at high altitude such as those aboard satellites orbiting the Earth. The effects of gravity on time at different altitudes had to be taken into account in order for the GPS system to work. In Einstein’s theory it turns out that not only matter such as the Earth can create gravity but also light. It is the energy of light that creates gravity. Consequently, since time is affected by gravity and light can create gravity due to its energy then light can also affect time. That is the core of my research”.
“So would it be safe to say then that your theory of time travel is the third piece of the time travel puzzle, with the other pieces being Newton’s law of universal gravitation and Einstein’s rule of general relativity in a chronological timeline?”
“My time travel theory could be seen as a culmination of our understanding of gravity first considered by Newton and then understood at a deeper level by Einsteinâ€¦What I teach students is the importance of realizing that the possibility of time travel rests on solid physics based on the work of Einstein and his special theory of relativity, right in that theory is the possibility of time travel into the future”.
“Your theory of time travel is based upon one of the two theoretical subsets of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity â€“ general relativity â€“ as opposed to special relativity. However, does it also take into account the other pillar of physics, quantum?”
“Although my work is based on Einstein’s general theory of relativity, it does not directly take into account quantum mechanics. Nevertheless, quantum mechanics could definitely play a role in understanding the consequences of time travel, namely, the so-called Grandfather Paradox. This paradox addresses the question of what could happen if, for example, you went back in time and prevented your grandfather for meeting your grandmother. In that case, your grandparents would not have your parents and your parents would not have you. So how could you go back in time to prevent your grandparents from meeting â€“ that is the Grandfather Paradox. Quantum mechanics offers a way out via the concept of parallel universes. According to this concept, when you travel back in time you will arrive in a different universe. In that universe you can do whatever you wanted to and it would not affect the original universe you came from”.
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