Stephen Hawking, after making a powerful claim mere days ago that aliens likely exist elsewhere in the universe and adding himself to the legion of respected scientists who have said the same has now made another, possibly even more startling claim. Hawking has now gone on record as saying he believes time travel may one day be possible.
Hawking made his theory public in the latest installment of a series of documentaries he is making on the Discovery Channel entitled “Stephen Hawking’s Universe.” The world renowned scientist and mathematician says that the science is finally coming together to build a strong case for time travel to be possible one day. And many who are well read in the field of astrophysics are chiming in to support his claim. The British theoretical physicist, and winner of the 2009 presidential medal of freedom (the highest civilian award possible in the United States) certainly has enough credentials to make even the staunchest of skeptics take notice.
Hawking suggests that as technology progresses, we will eventually build ships capable of traveling incredible speeds. As these speeds approach the speed of light, travel on vessels will be altered greatly. One day on a star-ship traveling close to the speed of light would be more than a year’s worth of Earth time. Of course this theory of time travel comes with a very large asterisk, since one would only be able to propel themselves forward in time. Hawking suggests that time travel in the opposite direction would be impossible, as it would violate the fundamental rule that cause comes before effect. Hawking believes that this theory of time travel would be impossible, as it would create paradoxes. For example, if someone traveled back in time to their point of origin and told the inventor of the spacecraft (or time machine) to not invent the device, then the trip would have been impossible. And yet the invention of the device wouldn’t have been stopped unless the time traveler had traveled back in time in the first place. In addition, the exact memories of the person traveling through time would have to be exactly those that ultimately resulted in them time traveling or there would be yet another opportunity for paradox. And every single atom in the universe would have to remain constant or even the slightest deviation would be inconsistent with the original time line.
“It would take six years at full power just to reach these speeds,” Hawking said, referring to achieving something that approached light speed. After two years at full thrust a vessel would reach 90 percent the speed of light, and after two more years it would achieve 98 percent. Hawking suggests that while traveling at 98 percent the speed of light, a crew could reach the edge of the galaxy in 80 years. When asked why he never spoke on the subject sooner, Hawking revealed that he was conservative with his views for so long for fear of being labeled a crank. He then said jokingly that he was much less cautious now. It’s hard to be labeled a crank when the science is backing up your theories.