Which Time-Travel Movies Hold Up to Science?
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A week ago, the scientific journal Physical Review Letters published the most depressing news of the decade for any science fiction lover or (anyone with a wish to party in the year 3500 A.D): Time travel, it seems, has been officially disproved.
Schengwang Du, a professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), and his team of researchers recently came to the depressing conclusion that a photon is not allowed to surpass what he calls the universe’s natural “traffic law” of 186,000 miles per second.
While this research crushes our DeLorean dreams, it reaffirms Einstein’s theory that nothing can move faster than the speed of light. If it were possible to do so, the object (or, in more exciting terms, a person) would be able to move forward as well as backward in time. Unfortunately, Du’s team found that although the photon’s precursor wave front (the fastest part of the particle) moves at exactly the speed of light, the most important part, the part that holds the actual information, always travels slower, confirming Einstein’s theory that an effect cannot occur before its cause. Or, in laymen’s terms, we’re not going on dinosaur safaris or Jetsons-like space outings anytime soon. Or ever. Sorry.
Luckily, there are some time-bending hypotheses that might still stand a chance, even in the face of Du’s new discovery. In light of this, we thought it wise to clarify which time-travel methods are officially bunk in the eyes of science, and which movie plots still have some lingering feasibility.
A Phone Booth: Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure
Not possible. Especially the part when they actually kidnap historical figures and take them along for the ride. In other words, for better or worse, Socrates and Lincoln, until further notice/discovery, have to stay in their respective centuries.
A DeLorean: Back to the Future
The DeLorean is supposed to travel to a certain date upon reaching 88 miles per hour. That’s a relatively far cry from the 186,000 miles per second pace of the speed of light. Even sports cars can’t reach that pace (Yet.)
The Portal: Kate and Leopold
Good news for everyone who still hopes to find a nice 19th century gentleman to fall in love with: Portals are, like black holes, still technically feasible. The new research disproves conventional time travel (particles moving really, really fast until they’re blasted into the future), but wormholes and weird portals are too weird for this theory, and still unexplained.
Warp Drive: Star Trek
Totally possible! Unlike the Bill and Ted or Marty and Doc, the crew of the Enterprise is based in outer space. And in the multiverse, the laws of physics might differ from those here on Earth. Therefore, their super-fast machines might actually be able to bend the laws of time and space.
The Tesseract: A Wrinkle in Time
On one hand, the tesseract is explained in the book as a sort of wormhole, which is maybe possible. On the other hand, in another part of the book a character describes the act of “tessering” as... wrinkling time. Just moving one point closer to the other and wrinkling it, which isn’t as scientific as the idea of an actual wormhole. The jury’s out.
The Time Machine: Napoleon Dynamite
Obviously not possible. A good rule of thumb would be to not trust any time machine you have to place between your legs.
Rereading Journals: The Butterfly Effect
Maybe reading old journals can lead to flashbacks, but definitely not actual time travel that would allow you or Ashton Kutcher or anyone else to make a real difference in anything. You especially can’t travel back back to your mothers womb, like Ashton does. Thank goodness. That sounds not only disgusting, but painful.
Time Turner: Harry Potter
More good news: Hogwarts probably is not affected by this new time-travel research. In a world where centaurs are real, anything is possible.
The Time Warp: The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Ok, technically the Time Warp is just a dance. This is just a reminder that, although time travel might be out, transsexual aliens have yet to be disproved! We’d rather travel to outer space with Dr. Frank N. Furter than travel through time, anyway.