By Dick Pelletier
At a UCLA workshop attended by yours truly and an assortment of future-thinkers, the late physicist Dr. Robert Forward told the group that further understanding of general relativity and quantum mechanics would one day enable humans to travel backwards and forwards through time. “Given the money and the mandate,” Forward said, “a time machine will be built.”
This workshop convened in 1983, and today, 24 years later, scientists are bringing this bold concept closer to reality. Professor Amos Ori at Technion-Israel Institute of Technology recently created a theoretical model of a time machine based on Einstein’s theory of relativity, which would allow people to travel back in time.
Ori’s theory, published in the prestigious science journal Physical Review, describes how a future time machine could be built by forming “closed time-like curves” in a donut-shaped area of space-time. A person traveling around this donut loop would go further back in time with each lap.
Although the laws of physics permit time travel, the concept is laden with uncomfortable contradictions. Say we travel back in time and stop our parents from getting together. This would prevent us from being born; we would not exist and our journey in time could never happen. Scientists call this a paradox; we created a past different from the one that already exists.
Clearly, mischievous time travelers cannot change the present. People are not suddenly disappearing because a rerun of events has prevented their birth. Therefore, something is stopping time travelers from changing our present, and Stephen Hawking, Michio Kaku, and other visionaries believe they know what it is – parallel universes.
If we travel to the past and prevent our parents from meeting, we are immediately thrust into a parallel universe, similar to our old universe, but one where we never existed. In this universe, we appear as a visiting time-traveler from another universe; however returning home could pose a problem. If roundtrip procedures have been developed, we’re OK; if not, we may be stuck forever in a strange world.
Though construction of Ori’s time machine is beyond today’s science, many believe that exponentially-advancing technologies could turn this dream into reality by the end of the century.
Advantages to time travel are mind-boggling. A glimpse into the future would reveal what our lives will be like in the 22nd century and beyond. Will we find extra-terrestrial intelligent life? And visiting the past could allow us to scan the minds of lost loved ones before they died and bring them into our time to continue their lives.
Four billion years ago, life was only a biochemical machine capable of self-reproduction. Today, we venture into space and study ideas ranging from general relativity to quantum cosmology. We’re already thinking about teleporting people instantly from one location to another; and some bold scientists believe that humanity will one day achieve an indefinite lifespan, eliminating the causes of most deaths.
Who knows how far we can evolve. Will we merge with intelligent machines by mid-century as futurist Ray Kurzweil and others predict? If so, these creations could survive virtually forever with human ideas, hopes, and dreams carried with them. Welcome to our incredible “magical future.”
This article will appear in various print media and blogs; comments welcome. See other published work by Dick at positivefuturist.com and click on the “published work” tab.
zondag 2 maart 2008
By Dick Pelletier