When I was young my mother was in college and she took me to one of her film studies classes. I was maybe 8 or 9, and the movie we watched was an avant garde French black-and-white flick called La Jetee, about a man from a desolate future who travels back in time and is killed. A boy watches the man die, and the boy turns out to be that man as a child (You can watch the whole movie here).
Since then I’ve been hooked by time travel stories. They’re a staple of sci-fi, and some of my favorites are The Terminator series, Doctor Who, SyFy channel’s Continuum, and 12 Monkeys, which was based on La Jetee.
While time travel is an interesting fictional conceit, it’s been pretty much dismissed as an impossibility for several reasons:
1. How could it be done physically?
2. The possibility of time-destroying paradoxes — the most famous one being, what if you went back in time and accidentally killed your grandfather before your parent was conceived?
3. If time travel is possible, then why aren’t time travelers all around us?
I’ve never been convinced by number 2. Number 1 never interested me. Number 3 has always been the most persuasive.
Nevertheless, scientists are getting closer to solving the riddle presented in number 1.
According to this report, a team of Australian physicists have simulated time travel on a quantum level using particles of light. The particle “traveled” through spacetime on a closed timeline curve. This means that the particle returned to its original starting point. It did not create a new curve.
In the simulation, the particle was sent back to an earlier point in time and interacted with the original particle before returning back to the present.
Don’t ask me to explain the nitty-gritty science behind this stuff. I failed physics in college.
So, if I’m reading this correctly, time travel is theoretically possible, at least in the quantum world. Will this mean that we can one day travel through time? Probably not, but who knows?
In the meantime, I’ll keep going back, time and again, to time travel stories.