Leaning on Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity and the work of Steven Hawking and others, scientists from the University of Queensland working at the quantum level may have solved a paradox of time travel – at least for photons.
Called the "Grandfather Paradox," it goes like this: If time travel was possible and you went back and prevented your grandparents from meeting, you would prevent your own birth and then the subsequent time travel.
A paper by the scientists at Queensland, "Experimental Simulation of Closed Time-Like Curves," examines time travel on the tiniest scale, replicating a quantum particle traveling through a space-time loop to arrive where and when it began, according to Engadget.com
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Although most people may think time travel involves Flux Capacitors and driving DeLoreans like Michael J. Fox did in "Back to the Future," real time travel theories involve what is called a "closed time-like curve," or CTC, noted Scientific America magazine
"Closed time-like curves are among the most controversial features of modern physics," according to the paper's original abstract published in June in the journal Nature
. "As legitimate solutions to Einstein's field equations, they allow for time travel, which instinctively seems paradoxical. However, in the quantum regime these paradoxes can be resolved, leaving closed time-like curves consistent with relativity."
"The study of these systems therefore provides valuable insight into nonlinearities and the emergence of causal structures in quantum mechanics – essential for any formulation of a quantum theory of gravity," said the paper's abstract.
According to Scientific America, Hawking and other scientists believed that CTCs were problematic for time travel because they created paradoxes, but as far back as 1991 theorist David Deutsch believed those paradoxes could be avoided.
"It's intriguing that you've got general relativity predicting these paradoxes, but then you consider them in quantum mechanical terms and the paradoxes go away," Tim Ralph, a University of Queensland physicist, told Scientific America. "It makes you wonder whether this is important in terms of formulating a theory that unifies general relativity with quantum mechanics."
Scientific American reported in 2009 that Seth Lloyd, a theorist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, introduced an alternative theory to the CTC model using teleportation, but in the end admitted there is a lot more research to be done to determine the right and most workable answers.
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