Journey to Frontiers of Physics: New Time Travelers

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Way Ahead Of Its Time

The New Time Travelers

“Superbly written.” – The Guardian

“An engaging look at modern physics at the far-flung theoretical frontiers.” – Times Higher Education

“An honest, intelligent and largely accessible work of impressive scholarship on a difficult subject.”– Nature “It is a remarkable fact that time travel is not obviously ruled out by the known laws of physics. In fact, they appear to provide numerous avenues for cheating time. All are described here in fascinating detail by David Toomey. From Einstein’s general theory of relativity to wormholes and closed time-like curves, this is an entertaining and authoritative survey of a mind-blowing, scarcely believable field, and the story of the theoretical physicists at the forefront of its study. It’s proof, if proof be needed, that science is far stranger than science fiction.” – New Scientist

David Toomey teaches technical writing and nonfiction writing at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

The New Time Travelers should only be read at your own peril. If you are somewhat technically short-suited, forget it. If you’ve never considered the possibility of actual time travel, this is not your kind of book. If you’ve never opened your mind realizing just how big this universe is, this is not your cup of tea. If you don’t think there’s a God, or if you can’t conceive of any dimensions in this world beyond three, this book is well beyond your comprehension.

The Cats Eye Nebula
Three thousand lightyears away, a dying star throws off shells of glowing gas. This image from the Hubble Space Telescope reveals the Cat’s Eye Nebula to be one of the most complex planetary nebulae known. In fact, the features seen in the Cat’s Eye are so complex that astronomers suspect the bright central object may actually be a binary star system.

But if your mind is allowed to escape the confines of our known universe, you may decide to read on.

Toomey Majored In English?

David Toomey (author), literally makes this book the place where science-fiction blends into reality. Toomey received a PhD in English Literature, and graduated from the University of Virginia (1988). How he understands items described in this book-such as an Event Horizon, Alcubierre warp drive, Cauchy Horizon, Copenhagen Interpretation, black-hole, frame-dragging, grandfather paradoxes, hyperspace, negative energy, neutron star, quantum foam, supraluminary, time dilation, string theory, singularity, wave-particle duality, etc., etc…-one cannot know.

Toomey begins with how a “wormhole”-a hypothetical shortcut through space-was discovered by Ludwig Flamm to solve Einstein’s field equations (1916). It was studied by Einstein again in the 1930s. As H.G.Wells [author original “The Time Machine” (1890)] puts it, “Education becomes more an more a race between education and catastrophe”.

Knowing More Than Three Dimensions Exist

Sixteen-hundred years ago, St. Augustine produced a reasonable description of the difficulties in understanding time. “I know well enough what it is, provided that nobody asks me, but if I am asked what it is and try to explain, I am baffled.”

He explains ‘future-ward’ time travel-which has been proven to exist-occurs when a body increases its velocity, and will experience time dilation. The accelerated body’s clock will tick slower than the clock of the universe outside. Travel to the star Arcturus (36 light-years from earth) and back at near light-speed, will reduce the trip time for the traveler by 10 years.

It turns out many of Einstein’s ideas came to fruition, including the fact time slows in the vicinity of gravitational fields, and slows greatly in the vicinity of intense gravitational fields. Black holes are so massive, and their gravity so great, light itself cannot escape. Hence, “black” (as in black-holes) with no escaping light.

Going Back In Time

“Backward” time travel, is also considered possible, after close examination of Einstein’s theories in the 1920s and the late 1970s. The dictum “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” propelled many scientists to forge ahead on backward travel.

If you ask a cosmologist if why a collapse of the universe is not likely, they’ll say the rate of expansion is accelerating.

Other Time Travelers?

From Toomey, we understand the reasons why we probably haven’t seen any time machines from the future, is their civilization did not survive long enough to develop time travel. More candidly (and directly hinting God must exist ), he says if one imagines the universe starting over with even one of the values adjusted up or down a fraction, “life” could not have appeared. Had the interaction between neutrons been slightly weaker, we would have a universe in which chemistry, and hence biology, would have been impossible.

Had the force of gravity, or electromagnetism, or even one of the many other constants adjusted up or down even slightly, the universe simply would not exist. He says our existence is either a miracle, or a fluke.

Common Carbon Started All Life

Formation of all terrestrial life-the carbon atom-fought against all odds. If the resonance level was only 4% lower, carbon atoms could not form, and life would not exist. In the 1970s, cosmologist Fred Hoyle had an intellectual crisis. While researching resonance states of carbon atoms, his atheism was “shaken” by this discovery. As Hoyle puts it: “A commonsense interpretation of the facts suggest that a super-intellect has ‘monkeyed’ with the physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature.”

The odds against all the constants having vales conducive to life are higher than astronomical. Lee Smolin (Penn State physicist) estimates chances of randomly chosen constants in elementary cosmological particles leading to a carbon chemistry necessary for life are 1 in 10 to the two-hundred and twentieth power. [Smolen; Three Roads; p. 202]

Toomey says in the late 1980s physicists have found general relativity allows for ‘past-ward’ time travel through an effect called ‘frame dragging’. They have learned the effect must employ the unphysical-or, impossible, in the universe we know. It took Toomey the last few pages of the book, to reveal ‘learned ignorance’ is inextricable with knowledge. That is, the more we learn, the more we learn how much we do not know.

The New Time Travelers: A Journey to the Frontiers of PhysicsNew York and London: W.W. Norton & Company 2007

ISBN: 978-0-393-06013-3

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