Building a time machine: STEP-1!

How brilliant would it be to patent an entire time travelling device under your name! To have the Government travel up to your hostel room for copyright signatures, how good will it be to alter, re-alter and customise your future: APNE HISAAB SE!!

Early morning news posts and online reads of Iran and frankly everywhere else, on April 13th, 2013, were brimming with the news item on a TIME MACHINE!! Not the regular glossy-oh-so-many-wires-how-huge kind of the H.G. Wells’ time machine, albeit a scaled down counterpart! It claimed that what had been built doesn’t just take you to the future, technically it brings the future to you. What is to date being called the “Aryayek Time Machine”, allegedly, easily fits into the size of a personal computer case and can predict details of the next 5-8 years of the life of its users and what’s more, the data can be stored in a personal folder. You might want to take a printout of the future, eh? The next surprise quiz, the next problem statement of Embedded or hell, question paper of the approaching Mid-Sems!

Figure 1: A Stereotypical Time Machine!

Don’t be over-excited already, though, since presently, the Iranian authorities are busy testifying that all such claims are fake!

However, to think about it, time travel is something, at least I have dreamed about multiple number of times, especially after my not-so-splendid MTH101 quizzes. How exhilarating must it be to experience the future before future dawns! What if “gazing up at the stars” from the future could alleviate us from the “grindstone of pain and prosperity”? [Err. This isn’t my dialogue, its #Copied. From The Time Machine: H.G. Wells]. The question now is whether we can truly master “The Sands of Time”!

Not just me, I believe everyone has had one of those HOW-I-WISH-I-COULD-GO-BACK-AND-CORRECT-THIS moment. And that includes Stephen Hawkings too, though the mere understanding of such a moment of his requires algorithms and in depth knowledge of philosophy and physics. The typical BADE LOG, if I may say so! In an interview he has been quoted as saying “I’m more like the people who built Stonehenge. I’m obsessed by time. If I had a time machine I’d visit Marilyn Monroe in her prime or drop in on Galileo as he turned his telescope to the heavens. Perhaps I'd even travel to the end of the universe to find out how our whole cosmic story ends.”

Coming back to time travel, understanding how it might work is a colossal task and yet, how fascinating might it feel to dispel what thermodynamics tells us and what sir just taught us in the last Thermodynamics lecture! While we are still stuck with the idea of android phones with 3d screens, the Samsung HDTV 3-D and of course the dear old coordinate geometry courses that have constricted our thought process to the three dimensions, there is, out somewhere, another, or a few more dimensions that are still lurking in the deep abyss!

Simply put, everything has, along with the regular length X breadth X height, a length of time associated with it too. When a friend of mine, in 9th standard stood up in class to say that Gravitation is nothing but a curvature of space-time and that sir shouldn’t be telling us about the “laws” in gravitation because there is no such thing as a gravitational force, all of us mocked him for being a typical case of loosened nuts and falling bolts! So basically, what I am trying to say is that he was right! There is a fourth dimension of time that gets added to the space geometries and gravitation is, actually, the curvature of space-time.

What the billion-dollar-figment-of-imagination time machine does is that it creates a path through the fourth dimension, a tunnel through time. A time traveller, a brave, perhaps foolhardy individual, prepared for who knows what and wearing God only knows what [if anything, that is. Remember “The Time Traveller’s Wife”? :P], then steps into the time tunnel and emerges who knows when. The concept may be far-fetched, and the reality may be very different from this, but the idea itself is not so crazy.

So, all you need for the building the time-machine is a super gigantic time tunnel, you would think.

Think again. And again. For you are not so correct this time around. Let me explain. Suppose I travel through a time tunnel. I would see myself as I was a minute ago. But what if I decide to use the tunnel to shoot my earlier self? Now, I am dead. So, who fired the shot?! Technically, shouldn’t effect be preceded by its cause? So, then, what just happened? Where did the tunnel theory fall-out?


©Science and Technology Council, IIT Kanpur