The concept of time travel has always captured the imagination of physicists and laypersons alike. But is it really possible? Of course it is. We’re doing it right now, aren’t we? We are all traveling into the future one second at a time.
But that was not what you were thinking. Can we travel much further into the future? Absolutely. If we could travel close to the speed of light, or in the proximity of a black hole, time would slow down enabling us to travel arbitrarily far into the future. The really interesting question is whether we can travel back into the past.
Sagan on Time Travel
Carl Sagan, the astronomer, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, and legendary popularizer of science, gave this interview during the making of "Time Travel." True to form, he discusses arcane aspects of the field—from how you define time to what it might look like inside a wormhole—with flair and a refreshing dash of humor. Sagan was David Duncan Professor of Astronomy and Space Sciences and director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies at Cornell University when he died in 1996.
Einstein’s general theory of relativity allows for the possibility of warping time to such a high degree that it actually folds upon itself, resulting in a time loop. Imagine you’re traveling along this loop; that means that at some point, you’d end up at a moment in the past and begin experiencing the same moments since, all over again – a bit like deja vu, except you wouldn’t realize it. Such constructs are often referred to as “closed time-like curves” or CTCs in the research literature, and popularly referred to as “time machines.” Time machines are a byproduct of effective faster-than-light travel schemes and understanding them can improve our understanding of how the universe works.