A question worth considering is: has anyone thought about creating a time machine based on a particle accelerator? Pushing matter about a cyclotron like at the LHC, could create time-dilation for matter (like a neutron), as it is being flung around in a circular path near the speed of light. It should be noted that matter will not reach or exceed the speed of light.
Prof. Ronald Mallett‘s theoretical research shows that light and not just matter could effect gravity. Professor Mallett has proposed creating a machine which circulates laser beams to create space-time dragging for an elementary particle. Creating a ring of light, in a cyclotron-like machine will create a gravitational drag effect, this will be noticeable for small elementary particles, such as a neutron [Footnote 1]. However the machine will not have an effect on any other matter outside of the apparatus itself. The function of time-dragging will operate within the local reference frame of the matter trapped within a cyclotron stream. This does not make a time machine for an external observer, but will create time dilation effect on matter caught in the light-stream’s drag.
So how does one make a time-machine? Understanding space (space-time) is an important part of this puzzle. Just as matter can’t break the light barrier, neither can matter reach a temperature of absolute zero. So what else can one do? Create a massive gravitational body, engineer a magnetar using a stellar-manipulator, possibly, but technology to create this is theoretical, and most likely won’t be feasible for hundreds, thousands or even hundreds of thousands of years. There are however other more practical solutions which we could use to build a working time machine in the 21st century.
Where matter exists, such as within galaxies, whether that matter consists of stars, planets, asteroids, etc., we know that the space between planetary objects is being held ‘in-place’ and shaped by those objects within the local galaxy. We assume that space which exists within atoms at the quantum level, though to space about-us on our planet, and space outside our planet’s atmosphere within the Earth’s Solar System, and space between other stars within our galaxy “The Milky Way” as with the space within other galaxies, and the space between these galaxies, interstellar space, is all made up of the same space stuff.
In the future we may learn that interstellar space maybe different from space within galaxies which is shaped by matter, Einstein’s space-time. On the other hand, it may prove to be the same space stuff. Then there is dark matter and dark energy. We know that within interstellar space, the “big” space between galaxies is expanding, this is where dark energy comes in, and galaxies are flying apart from one another (Redshift Distance Law of galaxies); as discovered by Edwin Hubble circa 1929.
So assume (hopefully not making an ass of one’s self) that space is made of the same stuff, no matter where it is within the cosmos. We know that space and time are linked, where matter curves or warps space, generating gravity and therefore shaping space-time. We also observe space expanding faster than predicted by existing theoretical models, possibly caused by space being a negative pressure to matter’s positive pressure (Einstein’s “biggest blunder” – the cosmological constant).
One conclusion we can be certain of, is that our current understanding, or state of knowledge, is missing more pieces of this puzzle. We know a lot more than we did, but there is still a lot to learn; dark matter and dark energy demonstrate this. However for our day-to-day lives, such as placing satellites into orbit about the Earth, our existing theories work very well. Therefore one can assume that for all practical purposes, our current theories on matter and light demonstrate that photons themselves can warp space, act as a positive pressure to the negative pressure of space.
Lets throw into this melting pot another idea or thought-experiment. Neutron Stars are strange creatures which have squeezed out almost all of the empty space between them, leaving a densely packed mass of neutrons squashed together, with a strong magnetic field [Footnote 2]. Pulsars are neutron stars which spin rapidly radiating a stream of electromagnetic radiation, such as gamma-rays or x-rays into deep space like a light-house on a coastal shore.
A Magnetar is a neutron star which generates very strong magnetic fields, far stronger than a ‘standard’ neutron star. This special property enables a magnetar to eject gamma-rays and x-rays into interstellar space. A magnetar’s magnetic fields are so strong that any matter-based object getting too close, would be stripped down to raw components, i.e., to atomic or sub-atomic level. Magnetars not only produce the strongest known magnetic fields, but also strange space-time warping effects; this is no coincidence.
Quasars are very active galactic centres which emit jets of electromagnetic radiation and plasma, thought to be powered by a black-hole. So what has this all to do with space and time travel? By observing the universe we can learn a lot. If we could fly in a fast space-ship to distant stars and galaxies, we could use strange stellar objects like magnetars as time machines; however this is currently beyond our existing technology. Although there is a limit to the speed a space-ship can attain, there is no limit to which the speed of space can move.
Understanding what space is, is key to understanding how to travel vast distances through space or time, freely forwards and backwards. So how does one make space move, apart from creating massive gravitational bodies like neutron stars, magnetars or black-holes? And once learnt how to make space move, how does one make space move faster than the speed of light?
One could say that space itself is a form of energy. Space itself contains vast amounts of energy at the Planck level, which can be utilised by force carriers or can be used to create more space fabric. The vacuum energy of space, Zero-point energy can be observed indirectly through the Casimir effect.
Matter which warps space-time, follows the laws of mass-energy equivalence. Mass-energy equivalence acts as a barrier for all Hadronic and Fermionic matter, where mass itself (not for the particle force carriers, such as photons for electromagnetic radiation, as with visible light), cannot travel faster than the speed of light; there will never be enough energy within a system to travel faster than light using conventional methods, such as a rocket space-ship.
Under the right conditions, matter in various forms and their force carriers can warp space so much, that time can be slowed down to a crawl or reversed in direction by being captured into a loop (a closed time-like curve). Space could be compressed (warped) and dragged towards matter making the distance to travel small, thus beating other photon carriers at their own speed race, which have to travel along the longer path of uncompressed space-time. Travelling faster than an uncompressed photon can be achieved by many means, from fast travelling rocket ships through to extreme warping of space using gravity or magnetism. If one could create a pocket-sized neutron star, or magnetar, then one would have an engine to power an ultimate warp-ship or time-machine.
Putting aside making a pocket sized magnetar with the current existing technology we have, a modified particle accelerator could be used to create a basic time machine, albeit one which only allows backwards travel until the machine was turned on. So how would one go about creating a “transference module” like a TARDIS without its inner dimensions, a “vortex manipulator” or the time-traveller’s time-machine?
I believe that Prof. Ronald Mallett is on the right track [Footnote 3]. Although Prof. Mallett’s theoretical machine is designed to carry subatomic particles, such as a neutron, or information, there is no reason it could not be scaled-up to also carry larger clumps of matter, like a capsule containing a person. However the restriction of not being able to travel to before this time machine was turned on would apply.
So how would one escape the restriction of not being able to travel to before this time machine was turned on? The solution is simple, but maybe complicated in its practical application. Think of boxes within boxes, as exemplified by refrigeration and Maxwell’s Daemon. By constructing a time machine which has its mechanics exposed to a world reference frame, only matter within the light-stream would be effected. However if one could encapsulate the time machine’s mechanisms so that the machine and its occupants exist sealed off from the external universe, creating a box within a box so to speak, then this self contained mechanism would enable the occupant to travel unrestricted to before the machine was turned on. Such a mechanism could be powered by water and steam generating electrical, magnetic and electromagnetic radiation as required to power the machine’s time engine. Alternatively in the future, a pocket fusion engine could fulfil such a power source role.
Notions for a time machine as visualised in “The Time Machine” (2002 film, Simon Wells director) are possibly closer to a working model than many may realise. The time traveller, protagonist Dr. Alexander Hartdegen, invents a machine which captures the machine and occupant inside a bubble of time, made out of light sealing in the occupant (light frame dragging), able to transverse backwards or forwards in time within a fixed spatial reference frame. As we move forward in time, we also move in space, not just our walking about, but or planet, solar system, galaxy, cluster of galaxies, all move within space-time; this idea I discuss at some length in an article I wrote for spatial coordinates and time-travel published to USENET in 1995.
I propose the following Gedankenexperiment, an invention and innovation on previous ideas, what if… what if one adds to the ‘bubble of light’ electrical energy from a tesla coil and magnetic fields? Thinking about the mechanics of creating a compressed light field, one would need either to use Bose-Einstein condensate conditions to slow light, or meta-materials. Fresnel lens mechanisms would be constructed to function two fold, like a series of mirrors, while also slowing down light through their meta-material construction. These Fresnel lenses can be used to focus the generated light into a sphere, or series of spheres rotating in different directions, which merge and intersect to make a large light-sphere or spheres. The light being produced is from a combined cathode ray, microwave cavity and ‘pure’ light source which is fed into the light sphere. Strong magnetic fields generated about the machine also help to contain and twist the light/matter (sphere) stream. I don’t want to give too much away, but this should be a good foundation to start from, and there are always… possibilities.
Footnote 1: It has been observed that muons can slow down their ageing process from micro-seconds and expand their age for about 10-11 seconds, when they smash into the Earth’s atmosphere with great velocity.
Footnote 2: Magnetism is part of the electromagnetic force; electricity and magnetism work together. Without the electromagnetic force, and more specifically electrical particles, electrons, matter as we know it would not exist. Atoms are generally made out of three sub-components: protons, neutrons and electrons, with the exception of hydrogen. Atoms also have isotopes, additional neutrons. Within atoms, electrons orbit protons and neutrons (nucleon) with a lot of space between the nucleon and the electrons. While the contents (quarks) of a proton or neutron is held together by the (strong) nuclear force, atoms and molecules are held together by the electromagnetic force. And just to muddy the waters a little, when a neutron goes through beta-decay, it produces a proton, electron and an electron antineutrino.
Footnote 3: For further information on Prof. Ronald Mallett’s time travel research, please see the following articles:
- This American Life, archive episode 324, My Brilliant Plan, transcript originally aired 01-26-2007. Transcript: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/324/transcript.
- Time twister, Michael Brooks, 19 May 2001, New Scientist Print Edition, issue 2291, page 26. Alternatively this article can be found on the New Scientist website at: http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg17022914.500-time-twister.html.