Time travel: Science or fiction


The concept of time travel has been attracting a large number of scholars as well as laymen for many centuries. Fiction fancies the fantasy of time travel while scientists strive to explore its scientific possibility.  The right brain knows no bounds or limitations that frequently challenge the scientific explorations, but the science is not completely deserted by the destiny, either. Right from the days of Einstein’s theories of general and special relativity to Stephen Hawking’s more recent takes on the topic, there have been a number of popular and unsung scientists working relentlessly on time travel.

Right from the mythical stories till the novel “The Time Machine: An Invention” – written by HG Wells in 1895, the topic has left neither the left nor right brain fraternity and its presence has always been felt in one form or the other.

It took just a decade for science to chase the fiction when in 1905 legendary and sagacious scientist Einstein came with the theory of relativity.  He established that relative motion of observers had a definite effect on spatial distances and time intervals dividing a series of events. He was the first popular scientist to give a more tangible format to the time saying that space and time were interrelated and together they “knitted” the fabric of the universe.

The difficulty to digest time travel possibility

But the concept of space-time is not an easy one to digest. Unlike space where you can travel to and fro at will, the time has a one-way route preventing you from walking against the forward direction. Besides, the scientific possibility of time travel is further challenged by grandfather syndrome or as cited by today’s highly celebrated scientist Stephen Hawking “Cause cannot precede effects”. Then, there is second law of thermodynamics that dwells on the scale of disorder that follows time and cannot be reversed. The shell of walnut that you just cracked using a nutcracker, cannot instantly be un-cracked or retained to its original format. A single word to describe these phenomena is entropy that acts as a partition between past and future thus marking a permanent line of difference that is impossible to be effaced.

Stephen Hawking suggests the chronology protection conjecture that simply limits the time traveler’s journey beyond a certain point where the effect is about to or capable of destroying the cause thus destroying its own existence.

However, Stephen Hawking is not completely opposed to Time Travel. He is only more practical in his approach. He believes in traveling to the future rather than the past that offers a number of conundrums. Hawking looks at time as a river that has different flowing speeds in different places. He is basically reiterating the idea that stuck legendary brain of Einstein during his stint with time travel.

But a number of physicists refuse to accept the possibility of time travel. One among them, Brian Greene dismisses the theory as it treads on the fringes of well-known physics. Adding further, it is about challenging the limits of our understanding but pushing the very basic boundaries of science – physics to be precise. Ironically while moving away from these basic boundaries of format the science ceases to be science.

Even if it becomes more generous and supposes the existence of space-time fabric as suggested by Einstein, the distortion it requires in order to travel through the past is a distant possibility. The space-time fabric needs to be “holed”, engineered or curved to travel through the past. But that will require inexplicable amounts of energy. According to the calculation of scientist even the energy of lightning strike is insufficient to make much difference and this is pretty concise statement nullifying the very foundation of further arguments.

The hope

Also, if you have told someone in the 10th century that they can instantly “transfer” words in tangible format to a person living seven seas away, the people would have acutely doubted your sanity but we saw that the invention of the internet has made it a reality. However, it went through a series do developments and inventions: the telephone, computers, network systems, and the likes so what seems utterly imaginable now, might start a gradual journey and with a series of other innovations and discoveries, we might be able to travel through time.

A strong pillar of the foundation of time travel theories is that the subjects that hit the mainstream science start getting more exposure attract bright brains in large number and finally finds some solid, palpable and real ground to rest firmly. Let us mentally go back to 10th century. A man comes to you saying that the earth is spherical in shape. You would have laughed at him, made fun of him, shrugged your shoulders or simply refused to give your precious reaction to such an outright fool who didn’t even knew that the earth was flat. But fast forward to present day and all you would say is “Hmm, we all know that! What’s new?” But between these 2 points of time (10th century and present century) lots of development occurred that simply attracted more and more scientists to probe further into earth’s shape and getting acceptance in and outside their fraternity. Till now Time travel is a subject that hasn’t hit the mainstream science and has been oscillating between hypotheses. Once it will touch the mainstream it will attract deeper research, funded and supported by government, introduction in educational streams as a formal subject and more and more scientists joining the field of research,

The basic argument

According to science, the objects have 3 dimensions height, width, and length. The legendary fourth dimension simply means the length of time. A journey through this length of time is time travel.

We take for example a rollercoaster ride. While the ride is marching forward in the single direction we call it a length and as it turns too left or right we see that another dimension appears. Going down into the pool adds height the third dimension. It is the tangible format of time we took to travel that forms the fourth dimension.

According to Einstein’s theory of relativity, any 2 places in space and time are linked by the wormhole and that pulls it inside the tiny tunnel using negative energy. The tunnel emerges in a different universe. Though hypothetical till now, it cannot be dismissed as completely fictional.

The idea of wormholes borrows its existence from characteristic of first three dimensions as holes and crevices are always present in three dimensions, including the objects with the plain structure like table tennis ball that has tiny crevices on them. So if time is considered to be the 4th dimension it also should have crevices and holes and they are known as wormholes, the tunnels or wormholes appear in the quantum world where quantum foam exists. This foam is smaller than atoms. It is the holes found in this foam that forms wormholes. Just like foam where bubbles keep on bursting and new holes and trails are constantly formed, the wormholes constantly keep on forming and modifying in quantum foam.


However, these wormholes are the trillionth of a centimeter and that’s why the idea of human beings journeying through wormholes seems so unrealistic. But scientists suggest other solutions. If a human being cannot enter these tiny wormholes, maybe the special machines could expand the wormhole to accommodate a human being. The time machines could expand these wormholes trillionths of times so that a person can travel through them.


The black hole

According to scientists the heaviest object in the galaxy is a humongous black hole that lies in the center of Milky Way and is as far as 26000 light years. It has the weight equivalent to 4 million suns and more importantly at a single point the black hole is crushed by its own gravity that is immense. Even the light is swallowed by this black hole.

Suppose a spaceship goes near this black hole. What appears to be 30 minutes on the earth the same span will appear as only 15 minutes there, for every 10 years they spent there 20 years on the earth have passed.  Thus when the people in spacecraft would return they will find themselves to be much younger than the people they had left on earth. !!!

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