We Are All Time Travelers

(To the future)

 Google shows well over 100,000 references to “Time Machine,” a phrase that first appeared in an H.G. Wells novella in1895. Throughout the centuries, the idea of time travel has captured the imagination of everyone from the average “Jane” to Nobel Prize-winning physicists. While time travel has been fantasized, fictionalized, filmed and debated, there is no real consensus on the viability of traveling forward or backward in time.

In April 2007, Stephen Hawking wrote, ”Time travel was once considered scientific heresy. I used to avoid talking about it for fear of being labeled a crank. But these days I’m not so cautious. In fact, I’m more like the people who built Stonehenge. I’m obsessed by time. If I had a time machine, I’d visit Marilyn Monroe in her prime or drop in on Galileo as he turned his telescope to the heavens. Perhaps I’d even travel to the end of the universe to find out how our whole cosmic story ends.”

In physics, time is described as a dimension just like the three we commonly think of: length, width and height. When traveling from your house to the work, however, you are not only moving in 3-D, but traveling forward in time, the fourth dimension. From this perspective, we are all Time Travelers, moving at the rate of 1 second per second in the direction of the future. Or are we?

Interestingly, we live about 80 milliseconds in in the past. Use one hand to touch your nose, and the other to touch one of your feet, at exactly the same time. You will experience them as simultaneous acts. But clearly, it takes more time for a signal to travel from your feet to your brain than from your nose to your brain. The reconciliation is simple: our conscious experience takes time to assemble, and your brain waits for all the relevant input before it experiences the “now.” Experiments have shown that the lag between when things happen and when we experience them is about 80 milliseconds. (per David Eagleman.)

Here you are, living in the past yet moving towards the future, so time travel is clearly possible. The challenge is to travel through time in increments that are perceptible: hours, days, years, decades and centuries. That brings us to Wormholes and Time Dilation, two of the most prominent theories of time travel.


A wormhole is a theoretical ‘tunnel’ or shortcut, predicted by Einstein’s theory of relativity, that links two places in space-time – visualized above as the contours of a 3-D map. Here, negative energy pulls space and time into the mouth of a tunnel, and it emerges in another space and time.

As illustrated above, a beam of light traversing a path between two points in curved space-time will take longer to complete the journey than a hypothetical spaceship taking advantage of a wormhole’s shortcut. **

While Wormholes are only hypothetical constructs, many physicists believe that they do exist, although microscopic in size and equally so in duration. Down at the smallest of scales, smaller even than atoms, we get to a place called the quantum foam. This is where wormholes are believed to exist. Tiny tunnels or shortcuts through space and time constantly form, disappear, and reform within this quantum foam, and they actually link two separate places and two different times.

Unfortunately, these real-life time tunnels are just a billion-trillion-trillionths of a centimeter across and last well under a billionth of a second. Some scientists theorize that it may be possible to capture a wormhole and enlarge so it becomes big enough for a human, or even a spaceship, to enter. Given enough power and advanced technology, perhaps a giant wormhole could be constructed. If so, it would be a truly remarkable device. One end could be here, near Earth, and the other far, far away, in some distant galaxy.

Theoretically, a time tunnel or wormhole could do even more than take us to other planets. If both ends were in the same place, and separated by time instead of distance, a ship could fly in and come out still near Earth, but in the distant past. Maybe dinosaurs would witness the ship coming in for a landing! Astro-physicists have theorized that the power necessary to keep a wormhole open will not exist in the foreseeable futures; but how often have we heard that, only to be proven wrong?

Time Travel to the Future Made Easy (-er)

In my second post, “7 Theories on Time That Would Make Doc Brown’s Head Explode,”  the author’s talked about how, “The Faster You Go, the Slower Time Moves” and “The Higher You Live, the Faster You Age.” These are the keys to time travel, and they arise from Einstein’s work during his  prolific period of 1905-1922. We can save the detail for later, but Einstein proved that acceleration and gravity were essentially indistinguishable. Both of these concepts are related to time dilation, and it happens because gravity warps time as well as space. The closer you are to the ground, the more you are affected by the Earth’s gravity and the slower time moves. On the other hand, as you get higher, gravity’s pull weakens and time speeds up.

Additionally, the faster you travel, the slower time moves. ( See Time Dilation http://www.phys.unsw.edu.au/einsteinlight/jw/module4_time_dilation.htm) You may already know this, thanks again to Einstein – if you’re going the speed of light, time pretty much stops. We can save the math for another day, **but in his famous work on special relativity in 1905, Albert Einstein predicted that when two clocks were brought together and synchronized, and then one was moved away and brought back, the clock that had traveled would lag behind the clock that had stayed put. Einstein considered this to be a natural consequence of special relativity, not a paradox as some suggested, and in 1911, he restated and elaborated on this result as follows:

“If the stationary organism is a man and the traveling one is his twin, then the traveler returns home to find his twin brother much aged compared to him. The paradox centers around the contention that, in relativity, either twin could regard the other as the traveler, in which case each should find the other younger—a logical contradiction. This contention assumes that the twins’ situations are symmetrical and interchangeable, an assumption that is not correct.”

Furthermore, accessible experiments have been done that support Einstein’s prediction. In 1911, Paul Langevin gave a “striking example” by describing the story of a traveler making a trip traveling at 80% of the speed of light. The traveler remains in a projectile for one year of his time, and then reverses direction. Upon return, the traveler will find that he has aged two years, while 160 years have passed on Earth. [[**See Wikipedia – Twin Paradox]] Thus, the traveling twin will have travelled 160 years into the future while his clock shows only 2 years have past!

This is not supposition and has been verified through rigorous and continuous experiments since 1911. While theoretical problems persist, i.e. long term space travel and the absence of the vehicle that can attain anywhere near 80% the speed of light, it is indeed foreseeable that this issue will be overcome in the century ahead of us.

The Case Against Travel To the Past

 We will spend time discussing this concept at a later time, but suffice it to say that the overwhelming consensus is that it is not possible under current laws of physics to travel backward in time. If travel to the past were possible, the world would be filled with billionaires making their riches from betting on sporting events.  Moreover, have you ever heard of anyone sanely stating, “Hello, I am from the future.”

As Robert A. Heinlein concluded, “His older self had taught his younger self a language which the older self knew because the younger self, after being taught, grew up to be the older self and was, therefore, capable of teaching. ”



It is certainly easy to ascertain ‘WHEN IN TIME” it is at any given moment:  it’s 3:54pm on Sunday, February 12, 2012.  “WHERE” in time his another question. As illustrated by Euclidean geometry there is another dimension in time that could tells us, on a city map for example, the street, the floor and where in the room that particular time exists. So in edition to 3:54pm on Sunday, February 12, 2012 we are on the northeast corner of the 5th floor at 700 13th Street, Washington, DC 2016. USA, Earth. This would be considered precise in most situations.

 BUT does anybody really know what time it really is?

As precise as the above example illustrates, we are always seeing into the past due to the time light (photons) takes to travel. Light travels at a speed of 186000 miles a second or 700 million miles an hour.  The sunlight which warms your face, departed the surface of the sun eight minutes ago. The photons that left the center of the sun left hundreds of thousand of years ago.  Looking into a clear night’s sky the closest of stars are EIGHT to TWENTY MILLION light years away.  We see them as they existed eight to twenty million years ago! Some are no longer there.  These oldest of galaxies appear to us as they existed THIRTEEN BILLION YEARS AGO.  We will spend much more time dissecting this at in a later post.


If Angel is standing stationary on the train embankment as the train travels West-to-East, and Buffy is riding in the last row of only car the engine is pulling, and Cruela is in the front row or that car; as the train runs 55 mph Angel will perceive the train pass him at the same 55 mph. Now if our Buffy is standing still she will also perceive the same 55 mph as she looks out the windowing relation to Angel. But in relation to a stationary Cruela, who is also on the train, there is no perceived movement at all.

Now lets change the facts:

  • The train travels at 60 mph East
  • Buffy runs 3 mph east
  • Cruela is sitting stationary

Now, therefore,

  • Angel perceives the train traveling 60 mph west-to-east
  • Angel perceives the Buffy traveling 63 mph (60mph + 3mph)
  • To Cruela the Buffy is traveling 3 mph east (0 + 3 mph)

Now, can Cruela run 61 mph East relative to Buffy – and why ??



7 Theories on Time That Would Make Doc Brown’s Head Explode




With Thanks to:   

There are a few things in this world that we can always rely on as constants: The sun will always rise each morning, the seasons will always change and time will inevitably march forward at its predictable clip. Except the sun doesn’t actually rise, seasons are disappearing and time … well, see, time is tricky, too.

[[Thanks to M. Yezpitelok and M. Asher Cantrell, this is an great start at looking at some of the issues the confound, confuse and totally invigorate the physics community – enjoy, we will pick up each on to discuss in detail]]

For example …

#7. We May Not Live in the Present

What if we told you that what you think of as “the present” is actually slightly in the past? Basically, your life isn’t a live feed: It’s a delayed broadcast that your brain is constantly editing and censoring for your convenience.

The delay isn’t much — what’s 80 milliseconds between you and your brain? Nothing, right? Well, a group of neuroscientists disagree. They’ve come up with some freaky time-altering experiments to prove that this difference can change your perspective of cause and effect. For example, in one experiment the volunteers were told to press a button that would cause a light to flash, with a short delay. After 10 or so tries, the volunteers were beginning to see the flash immediately after they pressed the button — their brains had gotten used to the delay and decided to edit it out. Yes, that’s a thing your brain can do.

”Being a brain is kind of boring, but we’ve got lots of time for pranks.”

But that’s not the freaky part. When the scientists removed the delay, the volunteers reported seeing the flash before they pressed the button. Their brains, in trying to reconstruct the events, messed up and switched the order. They were seeing the consequence first and the action second.

”You really don’t want to see the copies.”

Not convinced? Try this: Touch your nose and your toe at the same time. Logic says that you should feel your nose first, because it’s right there in your face (hopefully) and therefore the sensory signal doesn’t have to travel too long before reaching the brain, whereas your toe is at the extreme opposite end. The physical distance a message has to travel on neurological pathways is much longer from toes than from nose, and yet you feel both things at the same time. According to neuroscientist David Eagleman, that’s because your brain always tries to synchronize the sensory information that it gets from your body in a way that will make sense to you, but it can only do that by pushing your consciousness slightly into the past, like a radio station that’s always on a five-second delay in case somebody curses on air.

The bizarre real-world implication is that the taller you are, the further back you live in the past, since it takes longer for the information to travel through your body — and if you’re a little person, you live closer to the present.

The shortened reflex time gives them an enormous advantage at bull fighting.

But we’re only talking about our perception of time here. It’s not like time itself can actually slow down or speed up in reality … right?

#6. The Higher You Live, the Faster You Age

If you want to experience a real time warp, simply walk up some stairs. It turns out that time isn’t the same all over — it actually runs faster in higher places. In a recent experiment, scientists placed two atomic clocks on two tables, then raised one of the tables by 33 centimeters … and found out that the higher clock was running faster than the lower one at a rate of a 90-billionth of a second in 79 years.

”Timmy, you get down from there before you get cataracts!”

These are the most precise clocks ever made, and the only difference between them was their distance from the Earth. That means people who live in higher places age slightly faster than people at the ground level. So for anyone keeping score, that’s giant people 0, dwarfs 2.

This is called time dilation, and it happens because (as Einstein’s theory of relativity predicted) gravity warps time as well as space. The closer you are to the ground, the more you are affected by the Earth’s gravity and the slower time moves. On the other hand, as you get higher, gravity’s pull weakens and time speeds up.

”Finally! First thing I’m doing is moving away from Colorado.”

Keep in mind that this is an insignificant amount of time we’re talking about here. It has absolutely no bearing on your life — unless you rely on GPS equipment, that is. Because a clock inside a GPS satellite runs at 38 microseconds per day faster than the same clock would run on Earth, a computer has to constantly adjust everything to make up for that difference. Otherwise the consequences would be disastrous: In only one day, the entire system would be off by 10 kilometers, and it would just get worse from then on.

”You have arrived in Calgary. Probably.”

Oh, and by the way, gravity isn’t the only thing that can mess up time …

#5. The Faster You Go, the Slower Time Moves

Another thing GPS satellites have to take into account is speed: The faster you travel, the slower time moves. Now you almost certainly knew that already, thanks to Einstein — if you’re going the speed of light, time pretty much stops. But it turns out that you don’t need an ultra fast spaceship to slow down time — your shitty car will do.

Seriously, man, just let it go. It’s time to move on.

Using the extremely precise atomic clocks we just mentioned, scientists have proven that the same thing happens to you every day, on a much smaller scale. Making one of the clocks move at only 36 kilometers per hour (around 20 mph) caused it to slow down its tick by almost 6 x 10-16. In numbers we can understand, that translates to “Not a whole lot, but still, holy shit, you guys.”

So, let’s say you’re driving to work at around 40 mph — that right there is apparently enough to cause time to move 0.0000000000000002 percent slower than it would if you were standing still.

And, no, that doesn’t explain the actions of the asshole in front of you.

In another experiment, one atomic clock was taken on a plane trip around the world while the other one stayed home (admit it — if you had an atomic clock, you’d constantly be thinking up shit like this). Even though the clocks were perfectly synchronized at first, the traveling clock came back from its 50-hour, 800-kilometer trip missing 230 or so nanoseconds.

And it transformed into a beautiful, majestic moose.

So the clock gained time from being farther from the Earth than the other one, but it lost even more just by going faster. What’s even weirder is that from the perspective of the clock on the plane, the clock back home is the one that’s running faster than normal. You don’t actually feel time slowing down or speeding up: Only someone outside your conditions can tell the difference. And that leads us a little further down this rabbit hole …


#4. Time Doesn’t Run at the Same Speed for Everyone

A trippy consequence of the stuff we just explained is that, apparently, different people can witness the same events happening at different speeds. Einstein claimed that events that appear simultaneous to a person in motion may not look simultaneous to someone who is standing still. So reality may actually be a mess of people walking around in slightly different timelines that sometimes synch up or intersect, depending on their conditions. This would help explain why everyone from Cream looks like a mummy now except for Eric Clapton.

And why he’s dressing as if he thinks it’s still 1978.

Neuroscientist Warren Meck conducted studies to prove that brain time is relative. In one experiment, he trained lab rats to push a small lever after a certain period of time — and found out that the exact same interval could be timed differently depending on the rats’ conditions. This means that 10 seconds can sometimes seem like 30 seconds, and 30 seconds can sometimes seem like 90 seconds, and so on. But you didn’t need lab rats to know that: Surely you’ve been cornered at parties by someone who wants to tell you what really happened on 9/11.

Well, according to Meck, this happens because there isn’t a single “clock” that tells the time in our brains: There are multiple brain clocks, all running at different speeds. So basically, the guy in the speeding train, the guy way up in the GPS satellite and the guy at the party working out an exit strategy all coexist inside our heads and our brain decides which one to believe at any given time.

”It’s been six minutes. Man, science is a dick.”

There are lots of other things that can alter our perception of time, like drugs, mental disorders, old age or even distance. With all these variables, time is constantly in flux for everyone. So the next time you’re late for something, just lay that nugget of truth on anyone waiting for you. They may think you’re an asshole, but at least it won’t be for your tardiness.

All we have to do is get them to fly around the Earth really fast so our rotation reverses, and …”

But before you start deciding which dinosaurs you want to see, or which episodes of Dinosaurs you want to see (depending on how lazy you are), keep in mind that we’re not talking about time machines, unfortunately. Scientists say that, at least at first, we’d probably only be able to send short messages back in time and not people or sports almanacs.

Think Twitter instead of Terminator. But even then, neutrinos are invisible and pass right through matter, so it wouldn’t be all that useful for things in the distant past, where they wouldn’t even be noticed. With no way to detect or read the messages, it’d be pointless to send them much further than the recent past. But that brings up an important question of why we’re not getting hundreds of microscopic messages today from our future selves …


#2. Time Stops Outside of a Black Hole

A common misconception with black holes is that they suck up everything around them like a vacuum, but that’s not entirely accurate. What’s really going on is that black holes are so incredibly dense that there is a point of infinite gravity at the center, called a gravitational singularity, and that’s what pulls stuff in — everything from asteroids to light itself. And we’ve already established that gravity and time don’t play well together. So what happens to time when it gets tangled up with a gravitational force so extreme that not even light itself can get free of it?

’80s music gets redefined, that’s what.

It stops. Encircling any given black hole is an area known as the event horizon. It is, for all intents and purposes, the point of no return for a black hole. After the event horizon, the gravitational forces are so powerful that nothing can ever escape.

And because of that insane amount of gravity, an interesting quirk of reality emerges when someone outside an event horizon watches someone inside of one. Imagine your astronaut buddy is David Bowie. Now, say David Bowie calls you (your name is Ground Control for the purposes of this exercise) and tells you he’s floating in the most peculiar way — directly into a black hole.

Don’t worry, the hair will most definitely survive the trip.

If you were watching David Bowie from a safe distance away, you’d see something really weird as he crosses the event horizon: David Bowie’s descent would get slower and slower, and then he’d just stop, and he’d appear to be floating there forever.

From your perspective, it would actually take him an infinite amount of time to fall into the black hole. David Bowie, meanwhile, would notice nothing different, assuming he hadn’t been ripped apart yet. Time would pass normally for him, and he’d still be a snappy dresser to boot.

In fact, if you could somehow exit the event horizon of a black hole after entering it, you’d find that the universe outside had probably aged a significant amount while a much shorter time had passed for you. It’s a foolproof way to travel into the future, except that a black hole can be as small as a tennis ball, and you’d surely be crushed to death.

Shrink rays, Science. Get on it.

Though there’s just as good a chance that we may never have the opportunity to wander through time willy-nilly, because …


#1. One Day, Time Itself Must Die


Time waits for no man, as the old proverb says. It can get all weird under certain circumstances, sure, but that steady beat will keep on going long after we’re dead.

But not too long.

At least not until Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt have a chance to fix it all.

See, the way scientists determine various formulas for how the universe works is via probabilities. The problem is that, if you assume that space-time is infinite, everything — from the mail arriving on time to our sun going supernova and wiping us all out — suddenly has an equal probability on a universal scale.

Since the universe doesn’t work like that and it was fucking with all their formulas, scientists have decided that there must be another answer, and the best they could come up with is that time isn’t infinite.

We have six and a half minutes. Get busy.

So how long have we got? In four out of five possible calculated scenarios, time is most likely to end in about 3.3 to 3.7 billion years. Whew. But in the fifth scenario, time could end before you finish this sentence.

So it turns out we live in a reality that’s like an old pocket watch, and one day it’s just going to wind down. In fact, when it happens, we won’t even see it coming. The scientists describe it like watching someone falling into the event horizon of a black hole, like we covered earlier. Things slow down and eventually just … stop.

Oh, irony, you are a cruel minx.

The whole of reality will just turn into one big Zach Morris time stop, minus a sassy teenaged guy speaking directly to an implied television audience. We won’t even be aware of what’s happened. Everything will work one second and won’t the next. We’ll all just be frozen in place, completely still. Forever and ever. If nothing else, this should be good incentive for you to literally shit or get off the pot, because you run the risk of being immortalized like that forever.


The Journey Begins – What is Time?

There are hundreds of books of the topic of Time; websites too many to count. Long before the ancient Greeks pondered the nature of time, humans have questioned its value, what it meant and how to count it. Yet even today, a hundred years after Einstein declared Time to be the fourth dimension (“spacetime”), there is no consensus on the meaning of this elemental and most basic of concepts.

Others have said:

  • Time is money (Benjamin Franklin)
  • Don’t waste Time
  • There is plenty of Time
  • Time is that which prevent events from happening at the same moment.
  • Time is woven into the fabric of our language and life
  • The indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole (dictionary.com)
  • Plan, schedule, or arrange when (something) should happen or be done (dictionary.com)
  • Time is self-evident; 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in a hour, 24 hours in a day, 365.25 days in a year. Yet all we have done is created arbitrary labels as descriptive elements for an undefined concept – Time.

So after listening to well over forty contemporary books* on the nature of time published by the worlds’ top theoretical physicists, and following the thoughts of astronomers/cosmologists from Ptolemy to Copernicus to Newton and Hawking, the only statement I can make confidently is that there is no “unified theory” of Time and Time is assuredly and truly relative.

Over the next few months we will confront the mysteries and misgivings about Time in hopes of developing a workable and sensible Theory of Time. Please join me by sharing your thoughts and dreams.

 *Recommended reading to begin your quest:

From Eternity to Here, by Sean Carroll is a popular-level book on cosmology and the arrow of time, published by Dutton in January, 2010.



 The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos, by Brian Greene, 2011





About Time, by Adam Frank 2011http://www.amazon.com/About-Time-Cosmology-Culture-Twilight/dp/1439169594/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1327802978&sr=1-1


Garrett Lisi has a new paper, “An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything.”