A Brief History of Scientists Hunting for Time Travelers

October 11, 2014 - Physics, Science
A Brief History of Scientists Hunting for Time Travelers

A Brief History of Scientists Hunting for Time Travelers

Time travel is possible—or at least a lot of serious physicists say so. It’s probably not possible to pull it off in a souped-up Delorean, but there are wormholes, Tipler cylinders, and other Einstein-inspired theories for how it could work. Which raises the question: Why haven’t we met any visitors from another time?

It sounds like a silly question, but it’s one that many scientists actually take very seriously. Meeting someone from the future would, of course, serve as definitive proof that we can indeed travel through time, and that would be a quite a simple way to solve a huge scientific riddle. So it’s no surprise that a handful of enthusiasts and experts have staged experiments in order to attract the time travelers that could be hiding among us.

One of them is Stephen Hawking. The renowned physicist totally believes time travel is a scientific possibility, and even says he knows how to build a time machine. He also famously wondered, “If time travel is possible, where are the tourists from the future?” It’s a good question. Here’s how we’ve tried to answer it.

Why we think time travel is possible

Time travel’s been one of man’s wildest fantasies for centuries. But in the last century scientists came up with theories that suggested it was indeed plausible to take a leap into the future. Going back in time, unfortunately, is much more complicated.…

According to Einstein’s theory of general relativity, a wormhole could act like a bridge through space-time by connecting two distant points with a shortcut. Certain types of wormholes, it’s theorized, could allow for time travel in either direction, but there are several major caveats of traveling back in time. Mainly, the simple fact that we’d need a method for creating wormholes, and once created, the wormhole would only allow us to travel as far back as the point in time when it was created.

Another option for time travel involves a phenomenon called time dilation, also based on Einstein’s theories of relativity. It refers to the idea that time passes more slowly for a moving clock than it does for a stationary clock. The force of gravity also effects the difference in elapsed time. Thanks to the space program, we’ve actually been dealing with this effect for many years. This is why the clocks on the International Space Station tick just a little bit more slowly than clocks on Earth do.

A Brief History of Scientists Hunting for Time Travelers

The implications of this are huge. What if you took this to the extreme? If you jumped in a spaceship that flew super fast, time would pass more quickly for people on Earth. You could do a lap around the galaxy and return to Earth in the future. The question is, how far can we take it? And is it possible to go backwards through time, too?

Once again, we don’t really know. And we won’t really know exactly how that works until we try it, and at the moment, we don’t really have the means to do that. One easy way to find out is simply to search for time travelers walking amongst us. No laboratory required! And that’s exactly what several zany scientists have done.

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