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Time Travel

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Author Topic: Time Travel  (Read 195 times)
Stacy Dohm
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« on: January 29, 2007, 03:14:52 am »

Time travel in theory

Some theories, most notably special and general relativity, suggest that suitable geometries of spacetime, or specific types of motion in space, may allow time travel into the past and future if these geometries or motions are possible.[3] In technical papers physicists generally avoid the commonplace language of "moving" or "traveling" through time ('movement' normally refers only to a change in spatial position as the time coordinate is varied), and instead discuss the possibility of closed timelike curves, which are worldlines that form closed loops in spacetime, allowing objects to return to their own past. There are known to be solutions to the equations of general relativity that describe spacetimes which contain closed timelike curves, but the physical plausibility of these solutions is uncertain.

Physicists take for granted that if one were to move away from the Earth at relativistic velocities and return, more time would have passed on Earth than for the traveler, so in this sense it is accepted that relativity allows "travel into the future" (although according to relativity there is no single objective answer to how much time has 'really' passed between the departure and the return). On the other hand, many in the scientific community believe that backwards time travel is highly unlikely. Any theory which would allow time travel would require that issues of causality be resolved. What if one were to go back in time and kill one's own grandfather (see grandfather paradox)? Additionally, Stephen Hawking once suggested that the absence of tourists from the future constitutes an argument against the existence of time travel—a variant of the Fermi paradox, with time travelers instead of alien visitors. (Of course this would not show time travel is physically impossible, only that it is never in fact developed; and even if it is developed, Hawking notes elsewhere that time travel may only be possible in a region of spacetime that is warped in the right way, and that if we can't create such a region until the future, then time travelers would not be able to travel back before that date, so 'This picture would explain why we haven't been over run by tourists from the future.'[4]) However, the theory of general relativity does suggest scientific grounds for thinking backwards time travel could be possible in certain unusual scenarios, although arguments from semiclassical gravity suggest that when quantum effects are incorporated into general relativity, these loopholes may be closed. These semiclassical arguments led Hawking to formulate the chronology protection conjecture, suggesting that the fundamental laws of nature prevent time travel, but physicists cannot come to a definite judgment on the issue without a theory of quantum gravity to join quantum mechanics and general relativity into a completely unified theory.

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