A scientist's journey through grief, aspiration, affirmation, and a loop in time
By Tara MacIsaac, Epoch Times | October 24, 2014
The universe is full of mysteries that challenge our current knowledge. In "Beyond Science" Epoch Times collects stories about these strange phenomena to stimulate the imagination and open up previously undreamed of possibilities. Are they true? You decide.
At the Follow the Truth: The Conspiracy Show Summit in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada, on Nov. 16, Dr. Ron Mallett will talk about his work on sending information into the past. The summit will bring together researchers exploring the power of the mind, past lives, time travel, and more.
Dr. Ron Mallett is a celebrated theoretical physicist at the University of Connecticut, but he was once a little boy with a copy of “The Time Machine” by H.G. Wells. Mallett’s father died when Mallett was 10 years old, and when he read this book a year later the idea of traveling back in time to prevent his father’s death gripped his imagination.
It wasn’t a passing fancy. He studied physics in college, with a special interest in black holes. He figured that understanding black holes could help him understand time travel. At the time, black holes were considered “crazy, but at least it was a legitimate crazy,” Mallett said; time travel, on the other hand, was considered “crazy crazy.”
“I used black holes as a cover story,” he said with a laugh.
Albert Einstein described time as a 4th dimension and he said that time and space are connected, thus physicists talk of space-time. It is said that space-time bends and twists around rotating black holes. Mallett wondered if he could replicate these conditions here on Earth.
A couple of coincidences helped him figure out how.
When he graduated college, he wanted to start his research right away, but it was a time of recession and colleges weren’t readily hiring. He ended up working with lasers, learning about their cutting capabilities for industrial use. After two years of this work, he got the job he originally wanted at the University of Connecticut.
To understand the progress of his research, one must understand two of Einstein’s theories:
1. According to Einstein’s Special Relativity Theory, time is affected by speed. It’s already been proven in the lab that subatomic particles can be hurled into the future at high speeds. An accelerator has been used on particles known to disintegrate after a certain amount of time. The particles appear in the future, in a young state, without having disintegrating over the usual time period. The particles’ aging slows down as they speed up.
2. According to Einstein’s General Relativity Theory, time is also affected by gravity. It’s already been proven that clocks on satellites in orbit show a slight difference in time than clocks on Earth if they aren’t adjusted to compensate.
Dr. Mallett knew that gravity could affect time, and that light could create gravity. He pondered and pondered, and then his “Eureka” moment hit. Lasers!
He remembered from his earlier work with lasers that a ring laser creates circulating light. “Maybe circulating light will do the same thing to gravity that a rotating black hole would do,” he thought. He wondered if a ring laser could be used to twist space-time into a loop—present, future, and back to the past.
+A concept illustration of how a time machine could look. The lasers would create a circular movement of light, bending the time-space within the machine. (Screenshot of footage in Professor Chandra Roychoudhuri's laboratory, courtesy of Dr. Ron Mallett)
A concept illustration of how a time machine could look. The lasers would create a circular movement of light, bending the time-space within the machine. (Screenshot of footage in Professor Chandra Roychoudhuri’s laboratory, courtesy of Dr. Ron Mallett)
If the laser could create such a loop, information could be sent to the past in binary form. Neutrons spin, Mallet explained. A string of neutrons could be arranged so that some are up and some are down, representing 1s and 0s respectively, thus creating a binary message.
If Dr. Mallett had found the research job he wanted right out of college, he wouldn’t have worked with lasers and gained this knowledge that helped him so many years later. “I had something in my background that my colleagues who work in this area didn’t, so it was having that in my background that led me to that breakthrough, which I may not otherwise have had,” Dr. Mallett said.
Now for the hard part—testing this theory in mathematical equations. That’s where the second coincidence came in. Dr. Mallett was diagnosed with a heart condition shortly before he was struck with his inspiration to use ring lasers for time travel. He was on medical leave from many of his duties at work.
Without having to teach classes or perform committee duties, he was free to concentrate wholeheartedly on his research.
“If I hadn’t had that time, I don’t know if I would have been able to not only have the breakthrough, but also the time to work it out,” he said.
It took him six months to prove that circulating light could twist space. It took another couple of years to prove that the twisting of space could also twist time. Though it was a long, laborious effort, Dr. Mallett noted that it took Einstein 10 years to show that gravity affects time.
“It was worth it … to actually see the equations and to see that they predict that [time travel is possible] is a thrilling thing,” Dr. Mallett said.The next thrill came when a refereed journal published his first article on time travel.
With trepidation, he presented his findings to relativity experts at a conference held by The International Society on General Relativity and Gravitation. He was particularly nervous to talk about time travel in front of Dr. Bryce DeWitt, a prominent no-nonsense physicist who worked with Einstein. Dr. DeWitt spoke right before Dr. Mallett, a tough act to follow.
At the end of Dr. Mallett’s presentation, however, Dr. DeWitt got up in front of the whole audience and said, “I don’t know if you’ll get a chance to see your father again, but he’d be proud of you.”
In one short sentence, years of labor were validated, his aspirations realized, and his initial purpose fulfilled. Though he’d dreamt as a child of preventing his father’s death, he feels the discoveries he’s made, motivated by his father’s memory, are more than sufficient.
His father was the object of great love and admiration in the young Dr. Mallett’s life. His mother worked hard to support Mallett and his three siblings in the Bronx borough of New York City. It wasn’t easy especially in the 1950s as an African American woman to earn a living and the family fell into poverty. He realizes how hard it must have been for her, only 30 years old at the time, to lose her husband to a heart attack so young and to work to raise her children.
Dr. Mallett wrote about his personal journey as well as his discovery in his book, “Time Traveler: A Scientist’s Personal Mission to Make Time Travel a Reality.”