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Traveling Through Time: When Did We Start Believing It Existed?

Oct 25, 2016 06:00 AM EDT

From the well-defining characteristic of a time machine in the movie "Back to the Future" to scientific papers exploring time as an element, these are all proof that we humans are still fascinated about knowing the nitty-gritty of time travel. We know it is impossible, yet we still cling to the idea of it. How did it started, and why are do we end up chasing the concept? This is what James Gleick tried to unravel in his book "Time Travel: A History." 

Starting from the 1895 novel of H. G. Wells, Gleick emphasized that the idea of putting "time" and "travel" together only existed during this decade. This is because the novel tried to point out that time is considered as the fourth dimension and can be "traveled" using vehicles or machines, just like the way we do on water and on space. Later on, the time-travel craze boomed among teenagers in the 1920s, and the idea became a real hit on movies, stories, and printed magazines.

Gleick clarified that the mere definition of time has brought him to actually try to raise a question whether it really exists or how is it really quantified. Many of us have been using "time" as something easily spent and can be saved or as a medium to flow by with our day-to-day activities. Thus, the definition of time alone has given complexities to man's understanding.

Citing the works of Stephen Hawking, Gleick pointed out the impossibility of time travel. In an article published on the National Geographic through interviews by Simon Worall, Gleick mentioned the funny yet valid statement of Hawking that if time travel really exists, then we should have been entertaining today a number of people who came back from the future. Gleick also cited a paper published by Hawking on challenging time travelers to attend his party by giving out invitations in an event that already happened. The thing is, no one ever came.

Read here: Stephen Hawking's "Chronology Protection Conjecture"

But why is it that we still try to cleave ourselves to a seemingly impossible thing? Records show that every year, even experts produce around 50 scientific papers trying to explore time travel. According to Gleick, a deeper cause pulls people to hope for it. "Regret is the time traveler’s energy bar. But that’s not the only motivation for time travel. We also have curiosity about the future and interest in our parents and our children," Gleick said in an interview.

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