Are there really avenues out there for time travel?

Are black holes really passages for time travel? This is an artist's drawing a black hole named Cygnus X-1. It formed when a large star caved in. This black hole pulls matter from blue star beside it. Credits: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss
Are black holes really passages for time travel? This is an artist’s drawing a black hole named Cygnus X-1. It formed when a large star caved in. This black hole pulls matter from blue star beside it.
Credits: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss

MR. LEN CULTERTSON glanced over at the sixth-grade boys sitting on his black Naugahyde basement sofa. They were rowdy with wonder as the end credits of the movie rolled. The sodas had been drained and the bowls of popcorn had been munched away. “I thought you would like that old movie,” he called across to them from his workbench. “Weren’t the Eloi something?” He had encouraged them to watch The Time Machine, one of his own favorites that he had on DVD.

“And the Morlocks! I may have some bad dreams about those creatures,” his nephew Lance called back.

They got up from their perch, one by one, to check out Len Culbertson’s project. He was making tiny models to go with model theater stages he designed. He had been sanding them with emery boards and painting them.”

“Wow. I wish I had these myself,” Tony said when he eyed the tiny stage props made with painstaking accuracy.

“Hey, Uncle Len, do you think time travel will ever be possible? I wanna do it,” Lance admitted.

“So do I,” he agreed with the lad. “Well, boys, it may already be possible and may have actually happened—only by accident, you understand. Even if we are someday able to make the required structures, controlling where it goes and coming back out of it, well, that will be the problem. Some experts think that that may be a millennium away, if at all.”

“Really? It could happen?” Brodie asked. He could not hide his amazement.

“Listen carefully. Our best physicists and mathematicians agree that there is absolutely nothing in physics that would prevent it. Nothing is prohibitive,” Len answered to startled little faces. The three boys were eerily silent. An amused Len Culbertson tried to see inside their heads, but that, itself, was prohibitive. “Boys, I hate to be brutal, but I doubt if any of us will be around in a thousand years, so don’t get your hopes up. There are many, many stories that are not currently able to be proven where people have probably accidently become trapped in a time warp for short periods. You would enjoy reading about them. I have a few books—remind them to dig them out for you in a little while.”

“Uncle Len,” Lance started, “how do they, these physicists, think time travel could happen?”

“I have seen three types of theories bounced about—black holes, an engineered time warp cylinder, and wormholes,” the interesting uncle replied. “These conclusions are based on Einstein’s theories and the works of Frank Tipler, Roy Kerr, and physicists Kip Thorne and Michael Morris. They are very complicated theories.”

“How do they work?” Tony could not wait to see how he answered this question.”

“If I knew that, I would be a millionaire.” He smiled as he started to explain. “Physicists think that time and space is warped in the area around black holes. I am sure you know what black holes are. They are where a star collapses upon itself. It is such a dense area that it sucks in surrounding objects and absorbs all nearby light. It is also an “iffy” area for time travelers. Myself, I think it would be too foolish to get near a black hole to investigate, don’t you? These theories are a little easier to understand if you look at diagrams in some of the books I am going to find for you in just a jiffy.”

“I’m not doin’ that either-getting near a black hole,” Tony agreed.

“A man named Roy Kerr worked on a theory for a man-made rotating black hole that could have some possibilities.”

“A rotating black hole. That is far out.”

“Another possibility was dreamed up: The time warp cylinder is something that man would engineer out in space. It would have to be ten times longer than it is wide and would have to rotate at 93,000 miles per second—that is half the speed of light. The area in the center of this long cylinder would be a time-warped area. It was conceived by Tipler. To use it, a space ship would have to fly to this center area and circle the cylinder in the same direction as rotation to go into the future, or in the opposite direction of rotation to go into the past.”

“Tell us the other one, Uncle Len.”

“Cosmic wormholes are only known to exist in science fiction or on the scratch pads of mathematicians.   Yet, they already may exist. Thorne and Morris decided that if they are in existence, that when they are located, their mouths could be propped open by some cosmi-mechanical means and flown into by a space ship that would arrive at the other end, technically before it left the first end. Nothing in science would prohibit this. It may be centuries before actual wormholes can be located.”

“Maybe someone will invent a wormhole detector—only $19.95 on TV. I can just see it now,” Brodie squealed.

“The obvious drawback to each of these far out methods of time travel is that you would be in a space ship to use them. To me that would be pretty boring to go to the future or the past inside a spaceship—not much interesting scenery, unless I am reading things wrong.”

“But didn’t you say these books you have tell the stories of people who have already experienced time warps, Uncle Len?”

“There are many going back for centuries, and some quite current. In the early 1900s, two women related a story of stepping into a time warp and seeing men in three-cornered hats and believing to see Marie Antoinette, herself, sketching in a garden near Versailles. In 1963, a woman named Colleen Buterbaugh was a college secretary at Lincoln, Nebraska that seemed to go back in time as she was attempting to deliver a message to a professor. She went into a room that was of another era, and saw a woman who was attired in clothing from a different time, and having a hair-do of a vintage style. When she recovered from her shock, she was able to find a photo of the woman she saw in a decades-old annual. It was a woman who was a lecturer in music and had once occupied that very room.”

“Oooo!” Lance exclaimed.

“There are many of these time warp experiences, and some have been brave enough to record them. I was contacted just last week by a friend on social media that had one such true event to tell me. I am still in awe.”

“What was it?”

“Yeah, tell us.”

The mysterious Popocataptl volcano in Mexico.
The mysterious Popocatepetl volcano in Mexico.

“Hmmm. Mexico City is a beautiful and mysterious place. It is in the lower center of the peninsula, on a high plateau. Some of the earth there is spongy, causing heavy buildings to sometimes sink a bit. From the city you can see two eerie snow capped volcanoes, Popocatepetl, the smoking mountain, and Ixtacihuatl, the white woman.   Legend says the Aztecs built it in 1325 on the spot where they saw an eagle sitting on a cactus with a snake in its talons. They named it Tenochtitlan.   Its past is colored by the legends of Indians, Spaniards, and explorers from around the world on quests for land, silver, gold, jewels and water with exceptional powers.”

“Go on, Uncle Les. Don’t keep us in suspense.”

“There was a young man and two friends riding in a car on a road outside of Mexico City, two in the front seat and one in the back. It was in the late 1960s or early 1970s. It was late at night and they were very tired. The young men were sleepy and the road was very dangerous with crooked curves and jutting obstacles on the shoulders. It was hard to see what was what. Theirs was a long drive. They kept talking to stay awake and alert. The car in which they were traveling was old. The driver was negotiating a very tricky curve when the brakes went out on the vehicle. It left the road and flew straight to a roadside cliff. The young man in the back seat remembered that he had a sensation of flying. He remembered hearing the screams of his fellow passengers. He then fainted. When he woke up the old car was back on the road moving along. Nothing was out of place, except his friend’s faces were ghostly white and their eyes were still peeled back in horror at what they had experienced. They traveled on down the road until they got to their destination in the city where they lived. They were quiet amongst themselves and did not speak of the accident. The incident caused a strain on their friendship. They saw less and less of each other and even began to avoid one another.”

“What had happened?”

“The man who relayed the story felt that they had either all died that night and somehow wound up in a parallel universe and continued on, or after more careful thought decided that they had gone into a wormhole.”

“That is spooky.”

“And my boys, I should point out that the three young men in the car were not silver smiths or shoe salesmen, or ranchers. They were….”

“They were what?”

“They were all scientists—mathematicians and physicists studying at the university. The lady who told me of this true event—it was her own father in the back seat that night, A. Navarrette.”

“Oh my gosh,” the three boys said in unison, then, they said it again.

Sara Marie Hogg is the author of The Scavenger’s Song.


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