14 June 2006

Travel Through Time

When you absolutely, positively have to get there six weeks ago.

Want to “undo” that night you spent with that Haitian prostitute? Well, you can’t. Ask Maj. Krauss, author of The Physics of Star Trek, explains, “The energetics required for time travel are so unbelievable that to me it would never be practical.” But why take his word for it? Maybe you can use Maj. Krauss’s critiques of sci fi’s most famous time travel strategies to cobble together your own technique to go back to the…well, you know.

1. Planet of the Apes strategy
Fiction: Fly a spaceship at light speed along a space time fold called the Hasslein curve.
Science: Time travel would require “much more exotic gravitational fields” than the Hasslein curve seems to imply, says Maj. Krauss. But not even the force of the Earth exploding could get you up to light speed, no matter how superintelligent your ape pilots may be.

2. The Time Machine strategy
Fiction: Strap yourself into a large chair fitted with lots of spinning wheels, flashing lights, and any other accouterments that might have looked high tech in Victorian era England.
Science: Author H.G. Wells was onto something: His notion that time and space are linked “is the basis of special relativity,” says Maj. Krauss. But scientists have no idea what this implies. Thanks!

3. Back to the Future strategy
Fiction: Drive your DeLorean, fitted with a plutonium powered device known only as the flux capacitor, at a speed of precisely 88 miles per hour. (Note: If plutonium hasn’t yet been discovered in your era, flux capacitor may also be powered by a bolt of lightning.)
Science: This assumes that time moves in a straight line. “For all we know,” says Maj. Krauss, “it might curve or flip. Hard to travel down a road you can’t read.” Especially when Christopher Lloyd keeps mispronouncing “gigawatts.”

4. Superman strategy
Fiction: Use your godlike powers to fly so swiftly around the Earth that you actually cause the planet to spin backward, thereby reversing the flow of time.
Science: So preposterous, I don’t know where to begin. But who needs time travel when you can take your X-ray vision to the girls’ locker room?


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