A DeLorean time machine car
The DeLorean time machine from "Back to the Future" will never be able to time travel, whether it hits 88 miles per hour or not. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

The possibility of traveling forward or backward in time has been the subject of science fiction novels and films for some time. It seems a fantastic idea, but a team of Chinese scientists recently made a discovery that could dash any hopes of time travel.

Nothing found can move faster than light

The possibility of time travel has fascinated writers and readers of science fiction for more than a century.. Authors including Mark Twain, Jules Verne and Kurt Vonnegut have all produced classic works that involve man traveling through time. However, the possibility of being able to travel through time in reality seemed miniscule, and it appears it is going to stay that way. A team of Chinese physicists, according to Time, recently published a study concerning the speed at which light particles travel, finding that individual light particles don’t travel faster than light, thus making time travel impossible as far as its understood by modern science. The findings were published, according to Discovery, in Physical Review Letters, an American peer-reviewed scientific journal.

Study debunks faster-than-light particles

The team of researchers from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology replicated an experiment from almost 10 years ago that discovered photons, or light particles, appeared to be traveling faster than light. The team, headed by Dr. Shengwang Du, according to the BBC, attempted to observe optical precursors ahead of photons traveling at the speed of light, or in other words, if any of the waves of light emitted by light particles were traveling faster than the photons emitting them. They shot photons through a vapor held at near absolute zero, the coldest temperature possible. They found that in all conditions, optical precursors traveled at the same speed as the photons emitting them. All light particles and sub-particles travel no faster than the speed of light. The university stated, according to the Herald Sun, that Albert Einstein’s assertion that the “traffic law” of the universe is the speed of light, or C in Einstein’s famous equation E=MC², has been held up as correct.

Other methods still possible

This experiment confirms that light speed is the speed limit of the universe, and nothing travels faster. It has been theorized using Einstein’s theory of general relativity that the faster something gets to the speed of light, the faster it travels in time, and faster-than-light travel would effectively mean time travel. However, this experiment shows it appears impossible to go faster than light speed. This does not mean that time travel is entirely impossible. The next most popular idea is that because time is part of the fabric of space, or space-time, if a “wormhole” opened between two points in time, it could be traveled through. No wormholes have been confirmed to exist, but it is theoretically possible.


Time: http://newsfeed.time.com/2011/07/26/paging-marty-mcfly-time-travel-is-impossible-scientists-say/

Herald Sun: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/technology/hong-kong-physicists-put-an-end-to-time-travel-talk/story-fn7celvh-1226101130129

Discovery: http://news.discovery.com/space/time-travel-impossible-photon-110724.html

BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-14289114

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