Time Travel Is Easy Once You Get Around Relativity

Time Travel Is Easy Once You Get Around Relativity

Going back in time may seem like an impossibility, but so did air travel at one point. According to Mark Thompson, the astronomy guy from BBC’s The One Show, it’s all a matter of side-stepping Einstein’s theory of relativity.

As Thompson explains in a special guest article written for Discovery, time travel is already possible. It has been achieved. It’s over and done with. We can all go home now, or several moments later than now, all thanks to the concept of time dilation.

Time dilation is a phenomenon that is describe in Einstein’s theory of relativity, in which a stationary object moves faster through time than a moving object.

Thompson uses the example of an experiment that’s been performed with atomic clocks to illustrate the phenomenon. One atomic clock was left on the ground, while another was taken up in a high speed aircraft. When the clocks were united, less time had passed on the one that got the plane ride.

Basically, the faster we move, the slower time passes. If we travel fast enough, we go backwards. Simple enough, right?

Unfortunately there is a fly in the ointment, an effect of Relativity is that the faster you go, the heavier you become and as you reach the speed of light, you become infinitely heavy! To accelerate something that is infinitely heavy requires an infinite amount of energy. Therein lies the problem. There isn’t an infinite amount of energy in the Universe and if there was, it’s a little selfish of you to use it all in your fanciful flight backward in time!

Mr Thompson might not be counting the theory of relative caring, which states that the closer I get to travelling back in time the less I care about what other people think of my methods, but this is not a problem that can be solved with sass.

This is a job for quantum physics!

There may however be an alternative. Einstein’s theory’s of relativity only precludes travel at the speed of light, he never said anything about travel faster than light. Of course it will still take an incredible amount of energy, but crucially not an infinite amount.

Thompson is talking about quantum tunnelling. It’s the process used by electrons to move between two points without traversing the space between. It’s pretty much the basis for the quantum communication system used in Mass Effect 2 that allowed the Illusive Man to communicate with the Normandy at all times.

If we could harness this process, we’d be able to make the jump to faster-than-light speed without every hitting light speed itself.

All that remains is to fly around at this speed as time for the rest of the Universe rolls backward, decelerate at the appropriate moment and hey presto, you’ve popped out in July 1973 and time for one of the greatest moments in history, my birth.

Of course he actually means May of 1973, but his point still stands. Travelling backwards in time might seem like an impossibility, but humanity is extremely clever.

It’s all just a matter of time before we master not just space travel in a big way but also to conquer one of the final challenges left to mankind, the ability to travel through time and I for one, think that one day, it will happen.

So You Want To Be A Time Traveler? [Discovery News]

And no, I never can resist a chance to post a Doctor Who image.


  • I don’t think it’s out of the question, but I won’t be gathering everything after I send this comment to get ready. In the mean time, I can play with some Magnetic Thinking Putty.

  • Wasn’t the Illusive Man’s quantum communication system based on a pair of quantum entangled particles? Rather than actual FTL transmission it’d just be a matter of changing the quantum state at the source for the state change to register at the destination.

    Also, Doctor Who FTW! Hope the game will be available to the non-brits soon

  • Yeah this guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

    Let’s give him that it IS possible to travel faster than the speed of light. Well first off, this results in Einstein’s formulae for mass to have the square root of a negative number on the denominator – a complex number. Alright, let’s assume that there is an as yet unobserved side of the graph on the side greater than the speed of light, and the current formula is mirrored around the speed of light. But then that means that, rather than slowing down, an object faster than light will speed up instead. Its mass will decrease as it increases velocity, and so it will move faster ad infinitum. We would get infinite energy from nothing.

    If we were able to make a MASSLESS CRAFT then this stops being important and is possible. So before we can move back in time we need to figure out to change ourselves into energy and back… which is still millenia away. Also since you have no mass, you can’t slow down, so you would NEVER STOP.

    It can be done but not like this.

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