The New Time Travelers: A Journey to the Frontiers of Physics

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9780393060133: The New Time Travelers: A Journey to the Frontiers of Physics
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The story of physicists' quest to answer a mind-boggling question: How can we travel through time?

Since H. G. Wells' 1895 classic The Time Machine, readers of science fiction have puzzled over the paradoxes of time travel. What would happen if a time traveler tried to change history? Would some force or law of nature prevent him? Or would his action produce a "new" history, branching away from the original?In the last decade of the twentieth century a group of theoretical physicists at the California Institute of Technology undertook a serious investigation of the possibility of pastward time travel, inspiring a serious and sustained study that engaged more than thirty physicists working at universities and institutes around the world.Many of the figures involved are familiar: Einstein, Stephen Hawking and Kip Thorne; others are names known mostly to physicists. These are the new time travelers, and this is the story of their work--a profoundly human endeavor marked by advances, retreats, and no small share of surprises. It is a fantastic journey to the frontiers of physics. 15 illustrations

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About the Author:

David Toomey is a professor of English and director of the Professional Writing and Technical Communication Program at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. He lives in Amherst.

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According to Toomey, professor of English who teaches technical and nonfiction writing at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst, the concept of time travel successfully made the transition from science fiction to the research literature of physics about 20 years ago. This is not to say that physicists uncritically accept the idea but simply that it is now a topic for rigorous scientific discussion. Because Toomey (Stormchasers) spends as much time describing the personalities of those investigating this odd field as he does the subject's technical aspects, he is able to bring the topic fully to life. The contributions made by Stephen Hawking, Carl Sagan and Kip Thorne, in addition to other lesser-known physicists, are described, but even the author's fine writing is not able to make all of the highly technical material easily understood. Given that time travel, if it can occur at all, is likely to involve wormholes and worldlines, multiverses and Minkowski diagrams, as well as negative energy and naked singularities, this is not surprising. Toomey is at his best treating the many paradoxes that time travel engenders and exploring the ways around them, from Hawking's chronology protection conjecture to David Deutsch's creation of multiple universes. While physicists have, to date, been unable to demonstrate that any laws of nature make time travel impossible, Toomey makes it clear that we shouldn't expect to make such a trip any time soon. 15 illus.
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