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Top 10 Mind-Blowing Theories about Time Travel

by Adrian Sharp
fact checked by Rachel Jones

Imagine a world where you could travel back in time, witness historical events, and even change the course of history. A world where the impossible becomes possible, and the laws of physics bend to your will. It’s an idea that has captured the imaginations of scientists and authors for centuries. Whether you believe that it’s possible or not, these ten mind-blowing theories will give you something to think about.

Note: Some theories are purely speculative, and the scientific community has yet to prove or disprove them.

Related: 10 Intriguing Theories Of Dark Matter

10 General Relativity

General Relativity Explained simply & visually

Einstein’s theory of general relativity; is a true masterpiece in the world of physics. And lucky for us, it provides the foundation for understanding the possibility of time travel. In a nutshell, Einstein’s theory states that time and space are interconnected, forming spacetime. Imagine spacetime as a giant trampoline, with massive objects like stars and planets creating dents in the fabric. These dents, or gravitational fields, cause objects to move in a particular way through spacetime.

Now, let’s say you wanted to time travel. According to general relativity, it’s theoretically possible to manipulate those gravitational fields to create a “shortcut” through spacetime, essentially bending it to allow you to travel back in time. It’s like creating a wormhole or a tunnel through spacetime.

But before you get too excited about the prospect of hopping into a DeLorean and heading back to whenever you think the golden age is, there are some significant obstacles to overcome.

The most obvious being we don’t have the technology to do that, and equally important though less talked about, creating a stable wormhole would require a massive amount of energy. To give you an idea, we could take every nuclear bomb in the world, harness all the energy from the explosions, and still not have enough energy to form a wormhole.

Nonetheless, in theory, the possibility is there, and imagining exploring different points in time is fascinating.

9 The Novikov Self-Consistency Principle

Can Time Travel Actually Change The PAST?

This is a juicy one. It’s a theory that suggests time travel could be possible without the risk of creating paradoxes. How, you ask?

Well, according to this theory, if you were to travel back in time and change something, the universe would somehow conspire to ensure that your actions didn’t alter the course of history. In other words, any actions you took in the past were already a part of history, so it would be impossible for you to change anything.

The Novikov Self-Consistency Principle is like a game of billiards. If you were to take a shot and miss the pocket, the balls would continue to bounce around until they ended up in their predetermined places. It can be a confusing concept, but it could allow time travel without creating paradoxes.

It goes without saying that the Novikov Self-Consistency Principle is still just a theory, but it’s fascinating to consider.

8 The Many-Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics

The Many Worlds of the Quantum Multiverse

This theory is one of the most mind-twisting theories out there!

According to the Many-Worlds Interpretation, the universe splits into multiple branches every time an event happens, creating a “multiverse” of parallel universes. In the multiverse, every possible outcome of every event exists in its own branch, so if you were to go back in time and change something, you wouldn’t be erasing or altering the past; you’d just be creating a new timeline.

So time travel in the Many-Worlds Interpretation is like exploring a vast forest with infinite hiking trails, each leading to unique and different viewpoints of the same waterfall. No matter which one you take, the rest won’t change.

7 Closed Timelike Curves (CTCs)

Solving the Time Travel Paradox | Closed Time-like Curves & Other Notions

Imagine you’re on a rollercoaster, flying through a loop-de-loop. As you twist and turn, you feel like you’re going back in time, right? Well, that’s kind of what happens in a CTC. CTCs are like loops in the fabric of space and time, where you can travel back to an earlier point in time and potentially change the course of history. It’s like a cosmic time machine.

But how does this work? In CTCs, the laws of causality get wonky. That means cause and effect don’t always happen in the way we’re used to, meaning one domino might not hit the logical next one. Instead, events can loop back on themselves and create a causal loop.

Now, CTCs are still purely theoretical, but some scientists believe they might exist in certain regions of space and time, like near a black hole. But whether we can ever use them to go back in time and change the course of history is still up for debate.

6 The Butterfly Effect

Chaos: The Science of the Butterfly Effect

Imagine for a moment that time is like a river—constantly flowing, with no beginning or end. Now, imagine that the butterfly flapping its wings in one corner of the world can create a ripple effect that eventually leads to a hurricane in another part of the world. That’s the Butterfly Effect. The Butterfly Effect suggests that even the smallest actions can have huge, unpredictable consequences.

What if we applied it to time travel? What if we could somehow control those ripples? What if we could create our own little waves in the river of time? The Butterfly Effect suggests that even the tiniest change can have a big impact. So if we could go back in time and make even the smallest alteration, we could create a whole new timeline.

Of course, this is all theoretical—we have yet to discover a way to control those ripples in time. But the Butterfly Effect offers an intriguing possibility that even the smallest actions can have huge consequences, which makes us wonder: What kind of ripple could we create with bigger action, like traveling back in time to stop a major event from happening? The real danger comes from not knowing what the consequences would be.

5 The Grandfather Paradox

Grandfather Paradox: Explained in Simple Words

This theory explores the possibility of traveling back in time and potentially changing the course of history, rendering our present-day reality unrecognizable. The paradox comes in if you travel in time to kill your granddad before he has kids, then you wouldn’t be alive to travel back in time in the first place. You can apply this logic to almost anything, but one way to potentially solve this paradox is through the concept of a “parallel universe.”

In the grandfather paradox, if we traveled back in time and tried to unalive one of our ancestors, we wouldn’t eliminate our actual grandpa but a different version of him. This means we wouldn’t be changing our present-day reality but altering a parallel one.

Of course, this theory is purely speculative, and the existence of parallel universes is still up for debate. But it’s exciting to imagine the possibilities of time travel and what it could mean for our understanding of the universe.

4 Time as a Fourth Dimension

Time Does Not Exist. Let me explain with a graph.

You’re standing in the middle of a room. You can move back and forth, left and right, and up and down. But what if you could also move forward and backward in time, just as easily as you move through space? That’s the basic idea behind the theory of time as a fourth dimension.

This theory sees time as just another dimension, like the three dimensions of space we’re familiar with. Like you can move in any direction in space, this theory says you can also move in any direction in time. An object’s position in space is determined by three coordinates, and its position in time is determined by the fourth coordinate.

How would time travel work in this theory? Want to travel back to the time of the dinosaurs? Just move backward along the time dimension until you reach that era. Want to see the future? Move forward along the time dimension.

Even with the practical challenges, the idea of time as a fourth dimension certainly opens up some fascinating possibilities and usually makes the concept easier to understand.

3 The Block Universe Theory

Is Time A Single Block? Eternalism And The Andromeda Paradox

If time is a giant block of ice. You can see the entire block at once, from beginning to end, with all of its twists and turns. Now, let’s say that you want to travel through time. In the Block Universe Theory, you wouldn’t actually move through the block of ice. Instead, you would simply exist at a different point within it.

This is because the Block Universe Theory posits that time is not a flowing river but rather a frozen river, with all events already set in stone. If you were to travel back in time, you wouldn’t be changing anything that has already happened—you would simply be experiencing it from a different perspective. Seems like a convenient way to avoid any paradox.

2 The White Hole Theory

What Is a White Hole? (Opposite of Black Hole)

This theory suggests that time travel may be possible through the use of a theoretical object known as a white hole. It’s accepted that a black hole is basically a cosmic vacuum cleaner that sucks in everything in its path, including light.

Its opposite, a white hole, would be a cosmic leaf blower that spits out everything, including matter and energy. According to the theory, if you could harness the energy of a white hole, you could potentially use it to travel through time.

The idea is that a white hole could act as a portal, allowing you to enter it and emerge in a different time or even a different universe. White holes are believed to be connected to black holes through a tunnel-like structure called a wormhole. If you were to travel through a wormhole, you could emerge at a different point in time or space.

And thanks to the theory of relativity, we know that it’s theoretically possible to travel through time via a wormhole.

1 The Tipler Cylinder

What If We Could Build a Tipler Cylinder?

Think of a donut-shaped object stretching out into infinity, rotating at high speed. This is the Tipler Cylinder.

Using this theory, if we could create a cylinder like that and rotate it at near-light speeds, we could travel back in time! To do this, the cylinder would warp space and time around it, creating a path through time that loops back on itself. Essentially a version of closed timelike curves.

If we were to enter this path and travel along it, we could potentially end up back in time, allowing us to visit any point in history we desire.

fact checked by Rachel Jones