Time Travel: From Ancient Mythology to Modern Science
Time travel and time machines have been a topic of science fiction and countless movies for many decades. In fact, it appears that the possibility to travel in time, either into the future or into the past, has appealed to the imagination of mankind for centuries. While many may think it is absurd to believe that we could travel backwards or forwards in time, some of the world’s most brilliant scientists have investigated whether it could one day be made a reality.
Research into Time Travel
Albert Einstein for example, concluded in his later years that the past, present, and future all exist simultaneously, and most are familiar with his well-known concept of relativity. That is, that time is relative and not absolute as Newton claimed. With the proper technology, such as a very fast spaceship, one person is able to experience several days while another person simultaneously experiences only a few hours or minutes. Yet the wisdom of Einstein's convictions had very little impact on cosmology or science in general.
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The majority of physicists have been slow to give up the ordinary assumptions we make about time. However, if time travel really was possible, one can hardly contemplate what this may mean for humanity. Whoever had the power to move through time, would have the power to modify history. While this may sound attractive, it would be impossible to know the consequences of any alteration of past events, and how this would affect the future.
Illustration from the Menologion of Basil II of the Seven Sleepers, a medieval legend about a group of youths who hid in a cave to escape persecution and emerged over 300 years later. (Public domain)
Time Travel in Ancient Mythology
If we look at ancient texts, we can find a number of references to time travel. In Hindu mythology, there is the story of King Raivata Kakudmi who travels to meet the creator Brahma. Even if this trip didn’t last long, when Kakudmi returned back to Earth, 108 yugas had passed on Earth, and it is thought that each yuga represents about 4 million years. The explanation Brahma gave to Kakudmi is that time runs differently in different planes of existence.
Similarly, we have references in the Quran about the cave of Al-Kahf. The story refers to a group of young Christian people, who in 250 AD tried to escape persecution and retreated, under God’s guidance, to a cave where God put them to sleep. They woke up 309 years later. This story coincides with the Christian story of the seven sleepers, with a few differences.
Another story comes from the Japanese legend of Urashima Taro, an individual who was said to visit the underwater palace of the Dragon God Ryujin. He stayed there for three days, but when he returned to the surface, 300 years had passed. In the Buddhist text, Pali Canon, it is written that in the heaven of the thirty Devas (the place of the Gods), time passes at a different pace where one hundred Earth years count as a single day for them. There are many more references to time travel to be found within ancient mythology.
Urashima Taro returning from the Dragon King's Palace, only to find that 300 years had passed. (Public domain)
Scientific Research into Time Travel
Probably the most well-known story of accidental time travel is the Philadelphia experiment which allegedly took place in 1943 with the purpose of cloaking a ship and making it invisible to enemy radar. However, it was said that the experiment went terribly wrong – the ship not only vanished completely from Philadelphia but it was teleported to Norfolk and went back in time for 10 seconds.
When the ship appeared again some crew members were physically fused to bulkheads, others developed mental disorders, a few disappeared completely, and some reported travelling into the future and back. Allegedly, Nikola Tesla, who was the director of Engineering and Research at Radio Company of America at the time, was involved in the experiment by making all the necessary calculations and drawings and also providing the generators.
Have you heard about the Chronovisor? Supposedly invented in the 60's, it was a machine that could catch electromagnetic information remaining in the æther and visualize it, so you could literally watch history. pic.twitter.com/D24QsvxYEU
— N'Golo 69%… (@NgoloTesla) June 22, 2020
In 1960, we have another interesting case report of scientist Pellegrino Ernetti, who claimed that he developed the Chronivisor, a machine that would enable someone to see in the past. His theory was that anything that happens leaves an energy mark that can never be destroyed (something like the mystical Akashic Records). Ernetti allegedly developed this machine that could detect, magnify and convert this energy into an image – something like a TV showing what happened in the past.
Scientists have long been curious as to the possibility of time travel. (drawlab19 / Adobe Stock)
Controversial Experiments Related to Time Travel
In the 1980s, there are reports of another controversial time travel experiment, the Montauk project, which again allegedly experimented with time travel among other things. Whether the Philadelphia and Montauk experiments actually took place is still under debate. However, it is common sense to assume that the military would definitely be interested in the possibility of time travel and would engage in extensive research on the subject.
In 2004, Marlin Pohlman, a scientist, engineer, and member of Mensa with a Bachelor, MBA and PhD, applied for a patent for a method of gravity distortion and time displacement. In 2013 Wasfi Alshdaifat filed another patent for a space compression and time dilation machine that could be used for time travel.
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According to PHYS.ORG, the physicist Professor Ronald Lawrence Mallett of the University of Connecticut was working in 2006 on the concept of time travel, based on Einstein’s theory of relativity. At the time, Mallett was absolutely convinced that time travelling was possible. He predicted that human time travel will be possible in our century. Particle physicist Brian Cox, quoted in a 2013 article published in HuffPost, agreed that time travel is possible but only in one direction.
We also have the mysterious story of Ali Razeqi, managing director of the Iranian Centre for Strategic Inventions, who The Daily Mail reported had claimed to have developed a device that could see anywhere from 3 to 5 years in the future. His initial story disappeared from the internet a few hours after it was published.
In theory, time travel is possible, even if it is difficult to comprehend. Has the research cited above brought us closer towards making time travel a reality? If so, we can only hope that the technology does not get into the wrong hands.
Top image: Is time travel possible? Source: rolffimages / Adobe Stock
By John Black
Arnold, L. 23 July 2013. “The Time Machine Chronicles: Where Nuts and Pencil-necks Collide” in Mysterious Universe.
Ozaki, Y. T. No date. “The Story of Urashima Taro, The Fisher Lad” in Japanese Fairy Tales. Available at: https://etc.usf.edu/lit2go/72/japanese-fairy-tales/4881/the-story-of-urashima-taro-the-fisher-lad/
Zyga, L. 4 April 2006. “Professor predicts human time travel this century” in PHYS.ORG. Available at: https://phys.org/news/2006-04-professor-human-century.html