Time Travel in Einstein's Universe: The Physical Possibilities of Travel Through Timeby J. Richard Gott
In this fascinating book, the renowned astrophysicist J. Richard Gott leads time travel out of the world of H. G. Wells and into the realm of scientific possibility. Building on theories posited by Einstein and advanced by scientists such as Stephen Hawking and Kip Thorne, Gott explains how time travel can actually occur. He describes, with boundless enthusiasm
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In this fascinating book, the renowned astrophysicist J. Richard Gott leads time travel out of the world of H. G. Wells and into the realm of scientific possibility. Building on theories posited by Einstein and advanced by scientists such as Stephen Hawking and Kip Thorne, Gott explains how time travel can actually occur. He describes, with boundless enthusiasm and humor, how travel to the future is not only possible but has already happened, and he contemplates whether travel to the past is also conceivable. Notable not only for its extraordinary subject matter and scientific brilliance, Time Travel in Einstein’s Universe is a delightful and captivating exploration of the surprising facts behind the science fiction of time travel.
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Read an Excerpt
The neighborhood children think I have a time machine in my garage. Even my colleagues sometimes behave as if I have one. Astrophysicist Tod Lauer once sent me a formal letter inviting me to Kitt Peak National Observatory to give a talk on time travel. He sent this invitation six months after I had already given the talk. The invitation explained that since I was an expert in time travel, I should presumably have no trouble in returning to the past to make the appearance. On another occasion, at a cosmology conference in California, I happened to wear a turquoise sports jacket -- which I imagined might fit in nicely with the California ambiance. Bob Kirshner, then chair of Harvard’s astronomy department, came up to me and said, “Richard, this is the ‘Coat of the Future’; you must have gotten this in the future and brought it back, because this color hasn’t been invented yet!” Since then, I’ve always worn this coat when giving talks on time travel.
Time travel is certainly one of the most fun topics in physics, but it has a serious side as well. I have received calls from people who want to know about recent developments in time travel because they wish to return to the past to rescue a loved one who died under tragic circumstances. I treat such calls with great seriousness. I have written this book partly to answer such questions. One reason that time travel is so fascinating is that we have such a great desire to do it.
Physicists like me who are investigating time travel are not currently at the point of taking out patents on a time machine. But we are investigating whether building one is possible in principle, under the laws of physics. It’s a high-stakes game played by some of the brightest people in the world: Einstein showed that time travel to the future is possible and started the discussion. Kurt Gödel, Kip Thorne, and Stephen Hawking have each been interested in the question of whether time travel to the past is possible. The answer to that question would both give new insights into how the universe works and possibly some clues as to how it began.
This book is a personal story, not a history of science. Imagine me as your guide, taking you to the summit of Mount Everest. The climb is sometimes challenging, sometimes easy, but I promise that we will ascend by the easiest possible route. It’s a path of ideas I know well, having marked some of the trail myself. Along the way, we will intersect the work of many of my colleagues. I have mentioned many of them to give you a fair idea of the other trailblazers of this terrain. Some contributions are emphasized and others briefly noted, in or out of historical sequence, as they play into telling my story. To those whose work I’ve not mentioned -- though it may be equally important but following a different route up the mountain -- I apologize in advance. We start our journey at base camp: the dream of time travel itself and the pathbreaking science fiction of H. G. Wells.
What People are saying about this
(Neil Degrasse Tyson, astrophysicist and director, Hayden Planetarium, New York City)
(Richard Preston, author of The Hot Zone and The Cobra Event)
Meet the Author
J. RICHARD GOTT III is a professor of astrophysical sciences at Princeton University. For fourteen years he served as the chairman of the judges of the National Westinghouse and Intel Science Talent Search, the premier science competition for high school students. The recipient of the President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching, Gott has written on time travel for Time and on other topics for Scientific American, New Scientist, and American Scientist.
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Time Travel has been a questioning topic on many storytellers’ and scientists’ minds. Although this concept can seem very complicated, J. Richard Gott uses simple ways of explaining these complex ideas. He uses references such as fictional movies to better portray the possibilities of time travel. He also uses many pictures and graphs to explain the even more intricate parts of time travel. It may seem impossible, but Gott proves that time travel has already happened, and will continue to become more improved. Gott explains how every astronaut that goes into space, time travels. Using Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, we must have two general assumptions: the speed of light is the fastest speed anything can travel, and the speed of light is the same to all observers. Using this theory we can show that when Astronauts go to space, they travel at extremely high speeds, therefore having time go “slower” for them. Relativity is the beginning of all Time Travel. While Gott explains the mathematics behind time travel, he also uses fiction novels and movies to describe the possibilities of the future. Movies such as “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” and “Back to the Future” display how fiction becomes reality. We all like to read fiction novels and watch fiction movies because they are not real, so that we can imagine our own lives outside of the norm. Scientists take these ideas and put research into them to make them real. Many of the inventions today all come from the imaginations of artists we all enjoy. Imaginative ideas, such as an invisibility cloak, are coming ever closer to existence. Scientists in France have invented a device that can warp heat waves, so that they bend heat around an object, and keep the object at a certain temperature. There is only one more step to create the invisibility cloak that no one thought was possible. What we can take from this novel is that imagination is the driving force behind science, for all inventions come from the inspiration of creative artists. This book creates a fascinating experience for any reader, although more preferably for one who is interested in physics. The book may incorporate complicated physics, including integrals, graphs, and other mathematical queries, but Gott expresses these terms in simple ways, so that the average reader can understand the physics behind time travel. All people should read this book. This book will educate one with fascinating knowledge about the unknown, and what future possibilities await us. Some other novels related to physics are The Fabric of Reality and Why Toast Lands Jelly Side Down. The Fabric of Reality is a bit more complex book than Time Travel In Einstein’s Universe, as is contains more intense equations that a physicist would know. One without a physics background should not read this book. Why Toast Lands Jelly Side Down on the other hand is much more simple, it only incorporates the most basic physics equations, so it suits any person of any background.
Time Travel In Einstein's Universe is Possible In Time Travel in Einstein's Universe: The Physical Possibilities of Travel Through Time J. Richard Gott uses Albert Einstein's theories to prove that time travel is possible, and explore the different ways of traveling to the future or past. Throughout the book Gott uses easily understandable diagrams and math to prove how it is possible. The major message of this book is that time travel could possibly be accomplished sometime in the future when the technology has advanced enough. He explains how one could travel backwards in time through wormholes in space or by traveling in warpdrive (moving faster than the speed of light). He also explains how traveling forward in time could be possible using Einstein's theory of relativity, and explores both using various theories. My favorite aspect of this book was the use of diagrams for explanations. The explanations paired with the diagrams and pictures help the reader to understand the more obscure theories. I also enjoyed the movie connections that the author made in the first chapter. He discussed the types of time travel in movies such as "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" and "Back to the Future" and explained why they were or were not possible. However the authors ego hinders a good portion of the book while he proves and praises the theories that he produced. I think that anybody who is interested in time travel or even anybody who likes "Back to the Future" or "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" should read this book. It gives many different methods for traveling through time which he proves using Einstein's theories and theories of other famous scientists while keeping good perspective on reality, and is very well explained making it fairly easy to understand. I would also recommend reading the book "A Brief History of Time" by Stephen Hawking because many of the theories that Gott uses in his book are explained more in depth in Hawking's book. Overall I give this book four stars because it is very interesting and the concepts are explained adeptly enough for non-physicists to understand.
This book is one that you just can't put down. There is obviously no storyline t it but the way it is put together is just perfect. Gott uses modern, everyday scenarios to make sure you fully understand the concept of what he's trying to teach you (i.e. using the 50% and 95% Copernican Argument to predict how long things like Manhatten and the human race will continue to exist.) I would definitely recommend this to anyone who has ever been remotely interested in astrophysics.
This book is spectacular so long as you rip out the last chapter once you remove the book from its box. It wonderfully delves into the time travel concept from a physicist's perspective, showing how General Relativity makes time travel easily acceptable in theory (if not quite so easy in practice). Cosmic strings are a delight to read about. But what is the last chapter doing in there? It basically consists of a poorly reasoned, several-times-debunked statistical method that the author pats himself on the back for way too much. It should have been left out on account of irrelevance alone, not to mention its many flaws and the arrogance with which the author presents it. Gott is correct to suggest the importance of starting space travel sooner and more intensely than we might have otherwise thought necessary, but he needs to lay off a bit on the know-it-all self-admiration with which he praises himself for a statistical method that's weak, wrong, and useless in general.