From Time-Turner to TARDIS, How Time Travel Works in Science Fiction [Infographic]

Sunday, 18 October 2015 - 12:50PM
Sci-Fi TV Shows
Interstellar
Doctor Who
Sunday, 18 October 2015 - 12:50PM
From Time-Turner to TARDIS, How Time Travel Works in Science Fiction [Infographic]
Science fiction has proposed many methods for time travel over the years, and every work has its own rules. Now, we have a (by no means comprehensive, but nifty) infographic from Space.com that details several different sci-fi methods of time travel and their (pseudo)scientific explanations:

How Time Travel Works in Science Fiction

Although time seems to move forward in the human consciousness, physicists believe that it's simply another dimension of spacetime, similar to distance. As a result, subatomic particles are able to move freely backwards and forwards in time, but humans subjectively experience time only going forward, a phenomenon called the "arrow of time."

Humans have broken this rule in sci-fi time and time again, sometimes using relatively plausible methods. In Interstellar, for example, Matthew McConaughey's Cooper uses the theory of time dilation, which is extrapolated from Einstein's theory of relativity. According to this theory, a person near the high-gravity field near a black hole will experience time more slowly relative to a person who is on Earth, which is why Cooper ages much more slowly than his daughter, Murph. This phenomenon has been confirmed in various tests of general relativity; in fact, we've found that astronauts on the ISS age 0.007 seconds less for every six months they are in space.

Similarly, special relativity dictates that anything that can move faster than the speed of light could potentially travel back in time, a method that was used by the protagonist of the 1980 novel Timescape, as well as Christopher Reeve's Superman in 1979's Superman: The Movie. But special relativity 

There's a distinction in sci-fi that involves the time it takes to time travel. In works like Back to the Future, the time travel happens instantaneously, while passengers of Doctor Who's TARDIS experience time normally while they travel through an interdimensional vortex. But the example that's most polarized to Back to the Future is the cult hit Primer, which depicted a time machine that required the traveler to stay in the machine for the amount of time he or she wants to travel backwards. To go back 24 hours, for example, 24 hours must be spent in the box. Then, once he or she emerges, there are two versions of the traveler: the one who time-traveled and the one who hasn't yet time-traveled, similar to the Time-Turner in Harry Potter, which allowed Hermione to attend multiple classes at once.

(The infographic also mentions that the Time-Turner in Harry Potter transports Hermione back in time while she is standing still, which scientists have argued is impossible, as it would cause a whole mess of paradoxes. But then again, Harry Potter is magic, so that's pretty much the end of that argument.)
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How Time Travel Works in Science Fiction [Infographic]