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Marshall Barnes: The reality of time travel

Michael McGee | 4/3/2014, 5:07 p.m.
Marshall Barnes knows that when he talks about time travel being a reality, it raises eyebrows. He expects doubtful looks ...
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

He then instructed participants to draw a circle somewhere on the line, then take a cellphone photo of the graphic.

Next, the audience was told to draw an arrow from the line to outside of the circle, then curve the arrow back toward the circle, touching the circle, but not entering the circle.

“Let’s say that circle is a wormhole that takes you back to the past.” Barnes explained that the curving arrow the audience added represented travel through the wormhole.

If time acts like a geometric line moving ever forward then it is impossible to occupy space twice in the same geometry, he decreed. The visual representation proved time travel backward to change the past cannot occur within the timeline we exist in. Scientists who juggle the paradox of a man going back in time to kill his own grandfather are missing that the paradox itself cannot exist.

“Since there’s nothing preventing you from going back in time, then you can’t be in the same space-time geometry that you were in, or prior to the events that took place,” he reasoned. “You have to be in a parallel universe. There’s no other way for this stuff to work.”

Barnes assured his audience that there was nothing fictional about parallel universes by disclosing that physicist Hugh Everett III theorized the concept in 1957.

Pressing on, Barnes then referred to a hypothetical situation that Hawking created for the Discovery Network program Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking.

In that scenario, Hawking had a scientist open a wormhole set one minute in the past and then shoot himself through the wormhole. While the incident was intended to raise a “what would happen”-type of question, Barnes said it further underlined that travel into the past in order to change it was impossible.

“That’s wrong. Why? Because time keeps moving forward.” Barnes said that not only is our present time always moving forward, but if we could generate a wormhole to the past, that exit to the past would also continue to “drift away” from the target point it was set for.

He explained that for Hawking’s supposed paradox to take place, there would have to be a second, stand-alone overlapping wormhole for one action to link the past to the present.

“He’s not the greatest mind on the planet,” Barnes scoffed in regards to Hawking. “He’s just the world’s most intelligent comedian.”

Such theories captured the imagination of Jessica Davis, 26, who sat in on the lecture. She talked about the significance of science outside of the classroom or the lab.

“I think as long as we keep learning it keeps us young as a society,” she said. “It might sound silly, but when we decide that we need to stop researching technologies that’s when everything starts to go downhill.”

Researching technology has been another next step to Barnes’ pursuit of real-life time travel. During the lecture he showed video of his work in a classroom using a mechanism called the Verdrehung Fan. Invented by Barnes, the object is fitted with a rotor blade and can sit on top of a desk. Barnes described it as a working prototype and precursor to a practical time travel device that would employ electromagnetic field generation.