You won't need to get a DeLorean from Back to the Future, but maybe something similar is on the way. Prof. Ron Mallett believes that he has found the equation to make time travel possible, even if it's highly unlikely to happen during his lifetime.
The researcher believes that he finally cracked the code which will enable time travel after he had a revelation while being hospitalized.
Ronald Mallet, an astrophysicist who dedicated most of his adult life to proving that time travel is possible, found scientific equations and principles with whose help he says it will be possible to build a real and functioning time machine.
Mallett dedicated his life to time travel
Even though he recognizes that his designs and theories will probably not make time travel possible during his lifetime, he has been working on his ambitious project for years, in parallel to a respectable academic career, in order to reach his dream of traveling back in time to see his dead father again.
He now believes he has all the tools to "bend the space-time continuum" with the help of "a ring of rotating lasers forming a loop in time."
Moving forward and backward in space
The professor claims that the sudden death of his father, as well as H. G. Wells' novel The Time Machine, inspired a whole life of research. When his father died of a heart attack, Mallet was ten years old and his life's course changed completely.
His father, a TV technician, made his son read books and encouraged his developing passion for science. About a year after his father's death, the grieving Mallett came across an illustrated version of the classic science fiction novel, The Time Machine and was drawn into it.
"The book changed my life," he says, "It's the first paragraph that changed my life. I still remember the quote 'Scientific people know very well that Time is only a kind of Space. And why cannot we move in Time as we move about in the other dimensions of Space?'"
Mallett's moment of inspiration came while he was lying in hospital after suffering a heart condition.
"It turns out that black holes can create a gravitational field that could lead to the creation of time loops that could allow us to go back in time," he told The Guardian. "Let's say you have a cup of coffee in front of you. Start stirring the coffee with the spoon. It started to spin, right? That's what a spinning black hole does. In Einstein's theory, space and time are related to each other. That's why it's called space-time. So when the black hole spins, it will actually cause time to shift."
"It turns out that black holes can create a gravitational field that could lead to the creation of time loops that could allow us to go back in time."Prof. Mallett
Mallett would like to create an "intense and continuous rotating beam of light" that can "create gravity". Unfortunately, he said he would need "galactic amounts of energy" and didn't know how big this "time machine" would have to be to make it work.
He is also not sure when or if it will be done, but added: "I figured out how to do it. In theory, it is possible."
At the age of 74, Mallett is currently teaching physics at the University of Connecticut. His career was spent researching Albert Einstein's theories of black holes and general relativity. Mallett's main focus was time travel and the machine he dreamed of building.
How to build a time machine
He is still far from his goal and some of us would argue that he will never get there.
He created a prototype illustrating how lasers could be used to create a periodic beam of light that rotates space and time, inspired by his first work experimenting with the effect of lasers on aircraft jet engines.
"It turned out that my understanding of lasers ultimately helped me in my breakthrough," Mallett told The Guardian. "By studying the type of gravitational field created by a laser ring, it could lead to a new look at the possibility of a time-machine based on periodic light beams."
Mallett believes that eventually, his theoretical equation can be made to work.
"Eventually a rotating beam of laser lights can be used as a kind of time machine and cause a time warp that will allow us to go back to the past," he says.
"You can send information back, but you can only send it back to the point where you started operating the device."Prof. Mallett
His theory has constraints, however.
"You can send information back, but you can only send it back to the point where you started operating the device," Mallett told The Guardian.
While his desire to return to the 1950s is nowhere near a reality, he remains optimistic and continues to ponder the possibilities before him in the last years he has left to live.
Time travel - meaning movement between two points in time - has been a popular theme in science fiction since the end of the 19th century and until the present day. In many books, movies and TV series we see humans get into some kind of machine, travel to the past or the future and have adventures. The reality, unfortunately, is not quite as simple.