Thursday, June 28, 2012


"The short answer is that time travel into the future is not only possible, it's been done, and we've known about it for over a century," says Davies. "The reason that the public doesn’t seem to know about it is because the amount of time travel involved is so pitifully small that it doesn't make for a 'Doctor Who' style adventure."

A phenomenon called time dilation is the key here. Time passes more slowly the closer you approach the speed of light -- an unbreakable cosmic speed limit. As such, the hands of a clock in a speeding train would move more slowly than those in a stationary clock. The difference would not be humanly noticeable, but when the train pulled back into the station, the two clocks would be off by billionths of a second. If such a train could attain 99.999 percent light speed, only 1 year would pass onboard for every 223 years back at the train station.

But speed isn't the only factor that affects time. On a much smaller scale, mass also influences time. Time slows down the closer you are to the center of a massive object.

"Time runs a little bit faster in space than it does down on Earth," Davies says. "It runs a little faster on the roof than it does in the basement, and that's a measurable effect."

A clock aboard an orbiting satellite experiences time dilation due to both the speed of its orbit and its greater distance from the center of Earth's gravity.