When Chinese scientists recently declared that time travel is impossible, it really got my flux capacitor in a twist. Call me old fashioned, but I believe that all of our science fiction dreams can come true one day, from sonic screwdrivers to warp drives.
After reading the article, we at DVICE — and many of you, no doubt — concluded that the test results do not eliminate all of the methods for time travel that science fiction has given us. With respect to those scientists, and in support of the farsightedness of people such as H.G. Wells and his book, The Time Machine, we present you five time travel methods that the Chinese experiment does not de-bunk.
1. The Einstein-Rosen Bridge
In Fiction: In Carl Sagan's novel/movie, Contact, Eleanor Arroway is whisked through long conduits that bridge the enormous distances between points in space, and a similar thing seems to happen in everything from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine to Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure.
Lost in Space (the movie) demonstrated the concept when the crew of the Jupiter 2 arrived after a rescue team, that was in turn sent after the ship. Even Gene Roddenberry presented this in his original Star Trek pilot, "The Cage." Captain Christopher Pike gives the helmsman an order for "time-warp factor," and not just "warp-factor" as in the later Kirk-era and beyond. Perhaps he took it out to avoid confusion in storytelling.
Fact Check: Traveling through these conduits, you're essentially traveling forward in time at a rate which would be the ratio between the length of the wormhole and the actual distance in real space. Let's say you wanted to go through a bridge to a star a mere five light years distant. When you look at the star from Earth, the photons that are reaching your eyes left the star five years ago, so you are seeing the star as it was five years ago. If your wormhole to this star is a mere mile long in your relative space, you could traverse it in seconds. When you arrive at the star, you would see it as it would exist five years in the future, relative to Earth time.
2. Travel by Self Hypnosis
In Fiction: This theory was probed two different ways by the same piece of fiction (sort of). It was explored by the movie Somewhere in Time, based on Richard Matheson's novel, Bid Time Return. The novel gave protagonist Richard Collier a brain tumor, so the slant was that his time travel was a hallucination. The movie creators apparently wanted to make this a true science fiction story like in Jack Finney's novel, Time and Again, so they added a mysterious pocket watch that Christopher Reeves as Richard (pictured) can use to hypnotize himself, and not by giving him brain cancer.
The premise of time travel by self-hypnosis was also explored in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, "Where No One Has Gone Before." The Episode has the Enterprise, guided by a strange alien from Tau Alpha-C, warping to unknown universes, times and beyond. In the episode Wesley Crusher looks at the settings being entered into the ship's warp drive by the alien and says that his inputs made him think that "space, time and thought are not the separate things we believe them to be."
Fact Check: If particles such as photons exhibit wave like tendencies, and — according to quantum theory — those patterns can be interfered with by particles in another quantum universe — could brain waves, as well? Hey, it worked on TV!
3. Traveling through "Quantum Foam"
In Fiction: In Michael Crichton's book-turned-movie Timeline, the characters travel through time in a way that does not follow the typical linear interpretation of forward-and-backward-on-the-axis-of-time presented in most time travel scenarios. It's more of a slipping sideways to another quantum reality in which the selected time events are occurring in parallel to the present day of travel.
Without going too deep into the subject, the multiverse theory states that for every possible decision point that exists in our personal time, another alternate reality exists that can be said to "skew" off into an alternate course of events. If this has happened for every other turn of events in the course of history, almost any conceivable (or inconceivable) reality must exist somewhere in parallel to our own. The theory is somewhat similar to the TV series Sliders, but much more mature and expansive as far as multiverse possibilities and navigation.
Fact Check: Instead of a hole to jump into, the technology in Timeline (the book and the movie) converts a person down to a quantum data stream and then projects the traveler to a specific, calculated target through quantum universes in holes in what is called "quantum foam" (pictured). Quantum foam is the theoretical, irregular arrangement of quantum disturbances at the subatomic level.
4. Particles and Waves
In Fiction: The movie Frequency explores the possibility of communication with another time through a radio frequency. Although the story does not go into the technology too deeply, there is at least a hint of how this might be possible.
There is the concept of wave-particle duality in which all particles exhibit wave-like properties and vice-verse at the quantum level. The theory can be examined in watching the behavior of photons, which can move and behave like waves as they move from their source to a target.
Wave-particle duality is more often cited in regards to teleportation in the same breath as the complementary principle, proposed by Danish physicist Niels Bohr. At its most basic, the idea here is that to make an object travel unobserved between two points, you have to change its waveform. The sticking point here is that would we be making an object just appear to vanish in one place and appear in another — while still traveling, aging, etc. — or could we actually make something vanish and reappear, and for said object the journey was the blink of an eye.
Fact Check: Based on this theory, one could extrapolate that radio waves, at the quantum level, could theoretically penetrate similar barriers in quantum reality as described in #3, above.
5. Travel by TARDIS
In Fiction: Doctor Who has the advantage of almost fifty years of lore. Countless writers have added their take on how the TARDIS travels, but the basics have remained the same.
Here's how it works, inside the Doctor Who universe: All Galifreyan time capsules (TARDIS, SIDRAT, etc.) draw energy from the Eye of Harmony, which is the harnessed energy of an exploding star. The Eye, thanks to fifth dimensional physics (and Omega) can be described as existing both on Galifrey and at the heart of each time capsule. This tremendous energy moves the TARDIS through the "Time Vortex," the nature of which is never 100% clear, though one may speculate that this is the fourth dimension. Since the TARDIS is fifth dimensionally constructed, with its interior being much larger than its exterior, we might assume that this is just one axis of which its interior is constructed.
Fact Check: So as long as no one can disproved propelled movement along a fourth dimensional axis in this manner — to which we say good luck — this one is still open as a possibility.
Hopefully, these theories will renew your hope that time travel may yet be possible in some way shape or form. I promise that if I find a different way to travel through time in the future, that I will come back and correct this entry. You can't beat that guarantee.
Have a favorite instance of time travel in fiction? Warp down into the comments below.