3 Simple Ways to Time Travel (& 3 Complicated Ones)

3 Simple Ways to Time Travel (& 3 Complicated Ones)


Time travel can be complicated – and complicating,
so let’s ignore all the paradoxical stuff and talk about a few simple ways that you
can time travel without leaving your home. First, 1) Do nothing – you’re already traveling through
time! I mean, here you are – fifteen seconds into the future since the start of this video!
Easy, huh? The point is, we’re all always traveling forwards through time. But that’s
boring time travel. What’s interesting is time travel relative to other people. To do
that… 2) Start walking, and you’ll travel through
time relative to someone standing still! We’ve known for over a century that time and space
are really just two components of a single “spacetime”, and the faster you move, the
slower time will pass for you. If you take a walk around the block, you’ll be 3 femtoseconds
younger than your friend who stayed home. Except, in order to walk around the block,
you had to… 3) Stand up. You’re now further from the Earth,
and so gravity is a tiny bit weaker for you. Which means you’ve traveled through time relative
to your friend who’s sitting down. That’s right, more gravity makes time slow down,
too. If you stand up for a minute your feet will have aged 10 femtoseconds less than your
head. On the other hand, GPS satellites high in orbit experience less of earth’s gravity
and thus travel noticeably faster through time than we do, which is why their clocks
are calibrated to run slow. But maybe you want to time travel more than
a few femtoseconds. Get ready for your head to start spinning – I mean, the universe. 4) Because if the whole universe were spinning
really fast, general relativity predicts there would be time-loops all over the place. Moving
along one of these loops, you’d always feel like you were moving forwards in time, but
overall you’d loop around and travel back to a time and place in your own past. It’s
a little like how you can keep moving forwards on the Earth, but Earth’s curvature brings
you back to where you started. Unfortunately, our universe isn’t spinning.
Maybe it would be easier to build… 5) An infinitely long, super-dense spinning
cylinder, which would also curve space-time enough to create a time-loop. The problem,
of course, is how do you build something that’s infinite in size? Maybe you could just make
it really really really big? MmmNo. If you tried to squeeze this time machine into finite
space, you’d need negative energy – something nobody knows how to create – to make it work.
Otherwise you’d end up with a black hole. Wait, but what if instead of a black hole,
we… 6) Built a wormhole? Wormholes are hypothetical
(but not physically impossible) bridges through space-time, shortcuts that can instantaneously
connect two different places and times in our universe. If you had a wormhole you might
be able to use it to travel into the past or the future. The problem is that no-one knows how to build
a wormhole. Or, once you’ve built it, how to keep it from collapsing: as Sean Carroll
has eloquently written, “keeping wormholes open requires a form of negative energies.
Nobody knows how to make negative energies, although they occasionally slap the name “exotic
matter” on the concept and pretend it might exist.” Well that’s too bad… but as consolation,
welcome to the future! Almost three minutes have passed since the beginning of this video,
and we have personal jet-packs now!

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