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Is time travel possible?


Time travel is usually thought to be the province of pure science fiction. It may sound a little flip, but the truth of it is that you are travelling through time at this very moment. Well, it certainly isn't standing still! However, it seems that your only option is to travel in the "forward" direction, and then only at a rate determined by the hands of your clock. Is more possible?

The truth is that, in the realm of science, time is still rather poorly understood. For example, there is still no known reason why time should flow only in the forward direction. And the rate at which that time flows is assumed to be paced by certain periodic events in nature, like the swing of a pendulum.

In fact, the known mathematics of time seems to support the existence of time moving in a backward direction. Certain theoretical particles, called tachyons, move only backward in time!

One of the complicating factors is that our perception of time seems to be very limited. It might be a limitation on our normal senses that only allows us to percieve time moving forward, much the same way that our eyes cannot see x-rays or radio waves, or the way we see the world outside right-side up, even thought the image of the world on the retina of our eyes is actually upside-down.

It might just be that our senses percieve time only in the forward direction to prevent confusion, so we don't see things "doing" and "undoing" at the same time. We always think of whatever direction we are looking in as being "forward", even though we know there is no real or absolute "forward" or "backward" in the three spatial dimensions. But, is does prevent confusion in our own personal frame of reference.

It is curious, though, that there might be exceptions in these limitations of our senses. For instance, many of us have had unaccountable dreams of the future, apparently perceptions of events well outside of current circumstances, or "dejavu" - prior recollection of things currently happening. Likewise, it is odd when you think of it that we should be able to relive the past through memory, when it no longer exists. Can we call our memory a way to adventure into the past?

There are certain thermodynamic reasons put forward by physicists why time should move forward, having to do with the flow of heat only from hot to cold, and so on. But mostly, these are just descriptions of events that take place in one direction and not the other, not reasons for movement only in one direction. As the understanding of hyperdimensional physics unfolds, it is becoming ever more clear that movements through space and time once thought purely speculative now appear very real. For example "quantum teleportation", remeniscent of the teleportation in science fiction movies like The Fly, has actually been accomplished for atom-sized particles. Relativistic slowing of time has been recognized for some time as a scientific fact - perhaps not a realization of H.G. Welles' Time Machine, but a real physical alteration of time nonetheless!

The day may not be far off when objects big enough to be seen, perhaps as large as a flea, can be practically teleported or altered in time. After that, who knows...


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This page last updated 21 April, 1999.
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