CNET también está disponible en español.

Ir a español

Don't show this again


Hawking's ideas for building time machine

In conjunction with his Discovery Channel documentary, Stephen Hawking offers some specifics about building your own time machine.

If there is one thing that would, perhaps, cement your relationship with the man or woman of your dreams, it is surely the offer of a one-week trip to Neptune.

Thankfully, this obvious truth coincides with Stephen Hawking's latest advice on how you might be able to achieve such a trip. As part of his documentary series on the Discovery Channel, Hawking has already warned us about aliens not being all that pleasant and promised that time travelwill, one day, be as feasible as getting a Prius to go 60 mph uphill.

Now, however, he has offered some specific pointers towards building your own time machine. In a moving, hopeful, and rather long disquisition published in the Daily Mail, Hawking offers what might seem to some a rather simple summation of his time machine construction manual: "All you need is a wormhole, the Large Hadron Collider, or a rocket that goes really, really fast." (Unless, of course, it was an editor who wrote that.)

Personally, I wouldn't be entirely sure where to locate a wormhole other than in a piece of very old Emmental cheese. However, Hawking insists: "The truth is that wormholes are all around us, only they're too small to see. Wormholes are very tiny. They occur in nooks and crannies in space and time. You might find it a tough concept, but stay with me."

I decided to stay and discovered that tiny wrinkles occur in everything. Even the model Bar Rafaeli. And there's every reason to believe there are wrinkles in the fourth dimension. All you have to do is to find one of these and enlarge it. Then, fly through it.

Perhaps you could begin to build your own time travel ship on the beach? Perhaps you already have. CCDavinS06/Flickr

Please don't think I am being gratuitously sexist when I mention Bar Rafaeli. Hawking himself dreams of holding a party in a precise moment in time and space. And he dreams of the attendance of a future Miss Universe. Then he worries that, ultimately, the Grandfather paradox, the one that suggests you won't really ever be able to shoot your former self dead, would prevent such a party ever taking place.

So, ever optimistic, he moves on to consider black holes. If even light can't emerge from a black hole, then time, as we know it, would be slowed. Yet just as he begins to excite, he throws in his doubts: "It's pretty dangerous. It's a long way away and it doesn't even take us very far into the future."

Let's focus, he says on building a time machine that will fly into the future. Yes, let's. And his hope is stimulated by the experiments in the Large Hadron Collider beneath the French-Swiss border.

It's all about speed, he believes. So the CERN experiments bring a true hope. Your spaceship might be a large version of one of the tiny particles that are being hurtled around the collider: "They can only get to 99.99 percent of the limit. When that happens, they too start to travel in time. We know this because of some extremely short-lived particles, called pi-mesons. Ordinarily, they disintegrate after just 25 billionths of a second. But when they are accelerated to near-light speed they last 30 times longer."

The near-light speed he is referring to is just under the "cosmic speed limit" of 186,000 miles per second. The conclusion, then, for all you who wish to dedicate yourselves to the cause of time travel is to build a very, very large spaceship that can go, say, 185,000 miles per second. "It really is that simple," says Hawking.

Hawking doesn't suggest specific materials from which your time machine should be made, but he is clear that it would have to hold a huge amount of fuel, so that, though it would start slowly, it would speed up to such an extent that it would zoom along at just under that cosmic speed limit.

Personally, I find the mind contortions involved in thinking about these things more taxing than living with lice. However, it seems to me that perhaps your best option, should you want to be the first human to take his lover to Neptune on a very fast spaceship, is to have some children pretty quick: Spaceship construction seems quite a time-consuming and long-labored process. You might not finish in, as it were, time. If you have some kids now, they will surely be able to carry on your good work.

And, once they have made the cosmic journey, perhaps they will defeat Hawking's assertion that time travel backwards will be impossible. Then, they will come back, raise you from the dead (did I mention that they froze you before you popped your clogs?) and then take you out through their wormhole to a new, happy, and celestial life.

Well, Hawking does say he's a dreamer. We should all be, shouldn't we?