Time Travel: Scitacular

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We have seen time travel in many sci-fi movies. Wouldn’t it be great if we just skip a bad day into the future or go back and redo our mistakes. If only it was possible. But can we rule out the possibility altogether? Lets look at the possibilities of accomplishing that dream.

First, lets learn what is time. All physical objects have 3 dimensions i.e; length, breadth and height. But there is another dimension called time. Space consists of the 3 commonly known dimensions and space and time combined makes our universe. Everything has a length in time. Higgs boson has about a thousandth of a billionth of a billionth of life time (1.56×10−22 sec), Humans have around 60 years of average life time, our sun has about 10 billion years of lifetime. When you think about it, this isn’t so hard to understand after all.

We saw in Star trek movies that they enter a portal and appear at another part of the universe for a mission. Can we do the same thing ? It appears we can, we can use wormholes. They are everywhere. But they are tinier than a molecule or even an atom, so we cant see them. Hundreds of millions of wormholes pass through our bodies every second. If we can concentrate the required energy to create a wormhole that can fit a human then we can possibly travel through space and time at the same time. We can Travel from the present Eiffel Tower in Paris to Taj Mahal when it was being built in 1648. But going into the past will result to the occurrence of paradoxes.

Imagine if u had a wormhole which can make you go back to the time when you were not born yet. You go and kill your mother. Then how did you kill your mother if she died before u were even born? This is a paradox. So these paradoxes restrict us from going to the past. And frankly speaking building a usable wormhole is practically impossible.

Lets look at other possible, more accessible alternatives. Einstein’s theory of relativity states that gravity can bend space and time. Gravity is the direct result of mass. Every object which has mass exerts gravity. Even you and me have our own gravitational field. We too bend space and time.

Our GPS network consists of 31 satellites orbiting our earth. Every satellite contains a very precise clock. It gains about 1/3rd of a billionth of a second every day. The system corrects this gain everyday to avoid catastrophe in our navigation systems. The problem is not of the clocks, they run fast because the time itself is faster there compared to here on earth. The reason for that time shift is the mass of the earth. The heavier the object the more time shift it causes. Even you and me cause time shift but it is negligible. So to make a difference and slow down time enough we need a bigger, more massive object. Black Holes serves this purpose. The nearest black hole is at the center of the milky way about 26,000 light years away. It is the heaviest object in our galaxy, it is about 4 million times the mass of our sun. It is 50 million miles in diameter and even light cant escape its gravitational pull. An object of this caliber has a dramatic effect on time. This is a natural time machine.

If we build a space ship and launch it in the orbit of this black hole at a safe distance like our satellites orbit our earth. We can stimulate the same time shift process and slow down time by about half that at the earth. If they had orbited for 2 years around the black hole and returned to earth, the people on earth would have aged 4 years rather than 2. That means the ship had traveled through time and accelerated time by 2 years. The ship has traveled through all the 4 dimensions. But being half as old is not enough. We need some other alternate which can take us into a farther future.

There is a more straight forward way of travelling through time. We just have to travel faster, a lot faster. Physics has a universal speed limit called the speed of light (3 x 10^8 m/s). No object can travel faster than that. But we will try to  challenge nature and test its limits. We will build a space craft with enough power to accelerate to the speed of light. The space craft starts its journey, lets say to another planet at the edge of the universe. The ship starts off accelerating at a tremendous rate. But just as it had reached the 99.99% of the speed of light, the laws of physics prevents it to go any faster. To compensate this, the time slows down at an extraordinary rate. The closer we are to the limit the slower the time. Hence, we can travel into the far ends of the universe and our future just by travelling fast. But building a space craft that can go that fast is quite impossible.

But we have built a similar machine as the craft. At the worlds largest particle collider at Cern Geneva, Switzerland. It has a 16 mile long tunnel. Here they accelerate tiny particles at the rate of 60,000 miles an hour in a fraction of a second. When we increase the power they travel faster and faster to almost the speed of light but not quite. These particles normally live for around 25th of a billionth of a second but when they are accelerated to near light speed, they last 30 times longer. These particles truly travel through time. They are real time travelers.

So time traveling is not impossible. Well not theoretically at least. If you want to go into the future just travel faster.

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