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Marshall Barnes: The reality of time travel

Michael McGee | 4/3/2014, 5:07 p.m.
Research and development engineer Marshall Barnes explains his efforts to create a functional time machine during All-Con held in Dallas/Fort Worth. Mike McGee

The Dallas Examiner

Marshall Barnes knows that when he talks about time travel being a reality, it raises eyebrows. He expects doubtful looks and sarcasm. Nevertheless, he discusses the topic with enthusiasm and has an interesting – if not convincing – explanation to back his claims.

Over the last few years, Barnes has made waves by claiming he not only discovered a flaw in one of physicist Stephen Hawking’s time travel scenarios but also that he is on the brink of making traveling through time feasible.

The African American research and development engineer specializing in time travel theory listed the scientific degrees he’s earned related to his studies of quantum mechanics.

“I have the same academic credentials as Nikola Tesla, Thomas Alva Edison, the Wright brothers, Philo Farnsworth …” he said, reeling off notable inventors who put their hypothesis into practical use, then answered, “None.”

The lack of a formal degree didn’t stop Barnes from becoming one of the few African American scholars involved with Scientific American magazine’s “1,000 Scientists in 1,000 Days” education initiative in 2012. He also lectures at STEM events, according to his online schedule.

Barnes was a featured guest during All-Con, held March 13 through March 16 in Addison. Themed, “A Gathering of Heroes,” the Texas-based convention allowed a diverse audience to experience all that is science and science-fiction.

With the sartorial flair of a rock star and the hairstyle of physicist Albert Einstein caught in a sudden springtime downpour, Barnes stood before the audience to lecture on the “Practical Development of a Working Time Machine.”

“Literally, even the physicists that talk about time travel, they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about,” he stated bluntly.

In talking about time travel paradoxes – questions like “What would happen if someone went back in time and changed history?” – Barnes showed disdain for physicists who ponder the issue and held that such investigators ask questions that are impossible to answer rather than try to work toward real solutions.

“Let’s say, you go back in time; you’re going to save the Titanic,” he illustrated. “We already know the Titanic sank. We already know who survived. We already know who died. We already know where the ship is. We’ve seen pieces of the ship. There’s a record. The thing’s gone, okay?” Barnes affirmed.

“If you go back in time, the mere act of you going back in time – to where we know you weren’t there the last time – that is where the paradox, quote, unquote, would begin. It has nothing to do with what you do once you get back there.”

Barnes hypothesized about the mechanics of time travel by use of geometry and the concept of wormholes.

Physicists Einstein and Nathan Rosen originally conceived of wormholes. PBS’s Strange Stuff Explained described them as theoretical “tubes” that act as shortcuts through vast expanses of space-time, such as the distance that makes up a light year. They potentially enable travel faster than the speed of light.

“Does anyone have pencil and paper?” Barnes asked, using an audience participation exercise to refute one paradox. “I want you to draw a horizontal line and then stick a little arrow at the end of it on the right hand side.”