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Will We See Time Travel in Our Lifetime?
Physicist Ronald Mallett believes he will build a real time machine
I was amazed to discover recently that there is a man alive today who sincerely believes he will be able to construct a time machine in his lifetime. In fact, he has dedicated his life to it since the age of 10. Everything he has done in his life, everything he has read, every area of skill he has developed, and every activity he has pursued from that tender age has been geared toward the goal of seeing his dream of building a time machine come to fruition. Who is this man and why is it so important to him to build a time machine?
The man is Dr. Ronald Mallett and he is a physics professor at the University of Connecticut. The reason he wants to build a time machine so badly is because his daddy died when he was 10 years old and Dr. Mallet wants to travel back in time so he can save his dad from dying of a heart attack by encouraging him to seek medical attention.
Professor Mallet has written an absolutely fascinating autobiographical book about the steps in his life that have led him to the precipice of his goal entitled Time Traveler: A Scientist’s Personal Mission to Make Time Travel a Reality. He traces his journey from childhood through his college education and then on to becoming one of America’s first African-American theoretical physicists.
Filled with grief and mourning over his recently departed father, little Ron stumbled across a comic book version of H. G. Well’s The Time Machine. The book thrilled his heart and filled him with a renewed sense of hope that he might one day be able to see his father alive again on earth by building a time machine.
He completely dedicated his life to studying science toward this end. He became a passionate science fiction reader and eventually learned about the great Albert Einstein. He started spending all the time he could spare in libraries studying all about Einstein and his special and general theories of relativity as well as the works of other great physicists. Young Ronald was surprised to discover that Einstein passed away just a few weeks before his own father did.
Dr. Mallett's work on time travel is accepted by the scientific community
Throughout his young life and even into the present, Dr. Mallett has suffered badly from severe depression which he attributes to being unable to come to terms with his father’s death. He even described how, at one point, his depression became so bad that he completely withdrew into himself and hibernated for months. This resulted in the disintegration of his 20 year marriage. He eventually remarried a supportive woman with two young children.
The climax of this book is near the end when Dr. Mallett is making a presentation of his time travel theory and calculations before an audience that included highly regarded physicists of the day. The occasion was the annual meeting of the International Association for Relativistic Dynamics in 2002 at Howard University. He was apprehensive of what the other physicists would think about his theory. This was a defining moment in his career. He felt his professional reputation was on the line. In fact, for much of his career he had kept his true reason for studying relativity, black holes and worm holes a secret for fear of committing professional suicide and becoming a laughingstock of the entire academic and scientific world. After all, he had had enough hurdles to jump over and prejudices to overcome by being an African-American physicist and didn’t need to add to them.
After Dr. Mallett finished his presentation (he had embraced vulnerability by ending it with an explanation of his lifelong search to find a way to see his dad again) the entire room became quiet for a few moments which seemed to him like an eternity. Finally, one of the famous physicists, Dr. Bryce DeWitt, stood up to address Dr. Mallett. He said, “Dr. Mallett, I don’t know if you will ever see your father again, but I do know he would have been proud of you for what you have accomplished.” To say that that comment made his day would be an understatement in the extreme. He said at this point he began to feel whole again for the first time in many years.
Books and Movies on Time Travel
Steven Hawking says that if time travel were possible, we would have seen visitors from the future by now. My reply to this is that maybe they are here but choose to keep a low profile. Why would they do that? Because they know that if they get too involved in what is happening in this age it could potentially change the future (including theirs) in undesirable ways. But I’m no scientist.
Ronald Mallett, however, says the reason we have not seen any visitors from the future is because at the present time there is no portal from which the time travelers from the future can enter through. Dr. Mallett explains that once a time machine is built and turned on, it will provide the necessary portal and we will begin to receive visitors from the future. Dr. Mallet, as a theoretical physicist, expects to see his plans for a time machine come to fruition within ten years. He has already applied for a patent and he has teemed up with an experimental physicist to work it out (experimental physicists are the ones that actually put the theories to work).
Dr. Mallet is now in his middle 60’s. He has come to the realization that it is unlikely that he ever go back to the time before his father died of heart attack during his lifetime. He has accepted that fact but appreciates where the journey has taken him nevertheless. He recognizes that his complete dedication to finding a way to see his father again by time travel probably kept him out of a lot of trouble. He spent most of his time growing up in libraries instead of on the street or in partying. He didn’t do much socializing so was not greatly influenced by peer pressure like many young people are. He never dated or had a girl friend until he was well into his twenties.
The thing I really appreciate about this book is that Dr. Mallett shares the thoughts and feelings he was experiencing each step of the way in his life journey. He shared so much about his inner musings, that after having read this book, I feel like I know him personally. This is unlike many biographies and autobiographies which are presented factually and in which the shortcomings of the subjects are often minimized. Dr. Mallet comes across so real and human in this book: the reader struggles along with young Ronald as he overcomes each mountain in his path.
In addition to baring his soul, Dr. Mallett also explains in a simplified manner much of the scientific information related to his lifelong studies. He explains the difference between Einstein’s special and general theory of relativity. He also explains what black holes, worm holes, and space dragging is. I learned a lot about science in this read. For this reason and the one given in the paragraph above, I recommend this book as a most inspiring and enlightening compendium of time travel.
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