Bored & Confused: How would time travel work?

Sometimes, I think that having a big, old “rewind” button would make everything better. Hindsight and just one flick of a switch to rewind would seem to solve all my problems and cringe-worthy moments. I’ve also thought of traveling into the future — I want to see new technology and changes, and how society evolved from our current state. Based on the popularity of science fiction franchises such as “Doctor Who” (1963–present) and “Back to the Future,” (1985) we all seem to agree that time travel would be really freakin’ cool. And while time travel has cemented its place in our daydreams and movies, how would time travel actually work?

We first have to examine the concept of time to understand time travel. Physicist Albert Einstein revealed that time is relative, varying depending on where you are and how fast you are traveling in space. It is the “fourth dimension,” another direction coupled with the three dimensions of space to make the space-time continuum. Einstein hypothesized that you can actually speed up or slow down time — time travel — depending on your speed of motion. So, the faster and closer you get to the speed of light, the more time actually slows down relative to you; you can beat time and thus, time travel.

The main theory on how to outpace the speed of light and jump forward in time is by creating a “wormhole”, a passage between different, far-away places in the space-time continuum that cuts down travel time and distance. Wormholes cheat time by providing shortcuts through not just places but the actual dimension of time. The main problem with wormholes, however, is their lack of stability and the lack of adequate technology to produce our own wormhole.

Scientists have proposed other methods of time travel as well.  Scientist Frank Tipler hypothesized accumulating matter 10 times heavier than the sun, then shaping it into a cylinder. Tipler would then spin the cylinder very quickly and send a spaceship to orbit around the cylinder, creating a closed loop that would provide a different speed of time than our current one. Other scientists proposed sending a ship to move very quickly around a black hole, increasing their speed to extreme rates and splitting the rate of time in half. Once the ship left the black hole region, they would have experienced only half the time Earthlings had, and therefore would have skipped ahead into the future. The final popular method of time travel is a time machine similar to the one in movies. Scientists have claimed that this time machine would be a doughnut-shaped vacuum that would bend space-time to create a closed, time-modeled curve; the faster and more laps taken on this curve, the more a time traveler would move back in time.

Time travel could work in many ways, with the ultimate goal of somehow manipulating Einstein’s proposed space-time continuum. And while we still have a long way to go until we finally discover the exact method of time travel, in the end, we have all the time in the world.