British physicist Brian Cox has long been a member of the scientific community who has achieved popularity the world over, due in part to a brief career in music and his frequent championing of scientific programming on television, presenting such miniseries as Wonders of the Solar System and Stargazing Live. That popularity isn’t going to wane now that he’s saying time machines are possible and that we may soon be able to explain how the TARDIS, as seen in Doctor Who, is bigger on the inside than the outside. Okay, so he isn’t saying these things definitively with mounds of proof behind them, but I’m pretty sure we can trust his informed conjectures.
“Can you build a time machine?” Cox asked a crowd while giving a speech at the British Science Festival last week. “The answer is yes.” But we’re not talking about some Bill & Ted-style excellent adventure back to the days of Napoleon, and he says going back into the past is impossible. What he’s talking about is a time machine that could take you into the “future” by traveling near the speed of light, so that the universe around you would be experiencing events much more quickly than you, relatively speaking. Of course, no one has been able to construct such a device just yet, even though related progress has been reached on a molecular level. (I’m guessing watching Primer 12 times a day isn’t going to teach me how to make such a device.)
“If you go fast, your clock runs slow relative to people who are still. As you approach the speed of light, your clock runs so slow you could come back 10,000 years in the future,” he continued. You just can’t go back into the past to tell anyone that it worked. And I’m assuming if the process is a success, then going 10,000 years into the future will put you smack dab in the middle of a civilization that travels to the future all the time, so that all that’s left is people who can’t afford to do such a thing. That, or people will have cloned dinosaurs who wiped out the rest of humanity. I mean, according to, like, seven million books and movies out there, the future just has to be a dystopia, doesn’t it? Anyway.
He went on to say that wormholes may not be the key to time travel that sci-fi fans are waiting for. “Hawking came up with the ‘chronology protection conjecture’ — physics we don’t yet understand that means wormholes are not stable,” Cox said, while considering that traveling to different dimensions may be easier for people. “We look for extra dimensions at the LHC (Large Hadron Collider). You can imagine extra dimensions in space, and that we are living on a sheet of higher dimensional space.” That’s something Peter Capaldi is going to have to get used to whenever he takes over the TARDIS next year.
A self-professed Whovian, Cox will be delivering a 60-minute speech on Doctor Who that will be screened by the BBC on November 23, and he’ll go into such topics as trans-dimensional travel, time travel, and extraterrestrial life. I’m guessing he’s going to be expounding upon the notions asserted above.
Cox was recently on Conan O’Brien’s late-night talk show, and you can imagine things going a little off-topic. But at least the time traveling masturbating bear didn’t show up.