A Brief History of Scientists Hunting for Time Travelers

Posted by K R on

The Party Approach: One of the earliest well-publicized attempts at finding time travelers was hardly scientific. (I'll get back to the real scientists in a second, I promise.) It happened in the early 80s, when computers and consumer electronics started merging science and science fiction in fascinating ways. It was also when the first space shuttle, Columbia, blasted off. These sorts of things got people thinking. A group of artist types in Baltimore acted on these curiosities in 1982 with an event The New York Times described as "an epidemic of temporary lunacy." In March of that year, all nine planets were as close together as they'd been in almost 200 years, and a group that called themselves Krononauts gathered together to welcome "visitors from the futures." The Times reports, "The Krononauts drank, danced, and after midnight some of them took off their clothes." No time travelers actually showed up, but it sounds like everybody had fun. Fast forward 30 years and a similar—although simultaneously entirely different—party took place in Cambridge, England. This time the ringleader was not a wild pack of twentysomethings but Stephen Hawking himself. Hawking's party was wonderfully deliberate. There was champagne and snacks in a fancy room at Cambridge University, where a banner had been hung: "Welcome Time Travellers." Hawking had always suggested that time traveling tourists could be proof that time travel was possible, so he invited only them. Nobody showed up. It's hard to tell how tongue-in-cheek Hawking's futurefest was supposed to be. On one hand, Hawking believes time travel is feasible, so he wasn't necessarily laughing at the idea. He might've even expected someone to come. But, in Hawking's words, "There's a twist." The sneaky scientist didn't tell anybody about the party until after it happened. Somebody in the future would have to find out about the event after the fact and hop in a time machine in order to hang out with the famous physicist. Still, there's a good chance that Hawking was just trying to prove a point. As his friend and contemporary Kip Thorne explains in his book Black Holes and Time Warps, one of the most feasible methods for building a time machine would involve creating and manipulating wormholes. But this would only allow people in the future to travel back as far as the invention of the time machine itself. So if this is indeed how we might build a time machine and we haven't built it yet, it would be impossible for people from the future to travel back to Hawking's party. More methods via Gizmodo.

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