Scientists Give Time Travel Thumbs Down

Some people think the biggest problem in the SF field is staying ahead of real science. So many casualties – Burroughs’ Mars, Bradbury’s Venus, Asimov’s Mercury.

If that’s true, the second biggest problem must be coping with the actual invention of stock items in the science fictional repertoire. For example, it’s harder to make up a story involving a computer now that everybody thinks he knows how they work – regardless of the likelihood that they’ll work in new ways as they become more capable and user interfaces evolve.  

That’s why science fiction writers should be thanking the team of Hong Kong scientists who just showed time travel is impossible.

The possibility of real time travel was raised a decade ago by scientists who said they observed faster-than-light propagation of optical pulses in a specific medium. Here is a photo of the earlier team that claimed it observed time-travel.

Their report was later discredited as a visual effect but researchers continued to entertain the question whether a single photon might be able to exceed light speed. Now that has been ruled out:

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology research team led by Du Shengwang said they had proved that a single photon, or unit of light, “obeys the traffic law of the universe”.

“Einstein claimed that the speed of light was the traffic law of the universe or in simple language, nothing can travel faster than light,” the university said on its website.

What a relief this will be to SFWA members who’ll never have to hear someone griping that a writer’s time travel device is unrealistic because it doesn’t work like the one they have at home.

[Thanks to Janice Gelb for the link.]

3 thoughts on “Scientists Give Time Travel Thumbs Down

  1. Like most Chinese scientific claims, this is far overblown.

    No surprise that photons travel at c, just like the waves they make up. That says nothing about time travel using general relativity, a result Einstein knew in the 1920s.

    Tachyons, too, survive this work–if they exist. So TIMESCAPE is still safe.

  2. I worry about the Chinese wanting to explore the solar system. What will they tell us that’s hype, and how much real information will they classify? Will the solar system in 100 years have a “Bamboo Curtain” around certain parts? It would be better if they, and India, cooperated with NASA & ESA for joint exploration and put an end to Cold War style space races.

  3. I believe the tv series Firefly predicted that the U.S. and China would merge to create a central federal government and venture to the stars. Haven’t read or seen anything yet which perhaps more realistically predicts that China, in their role as loan shark, would send thugs to bust legs over our failure to not pay up.

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