Yes! Next question!
It may seem like pure science fiction but travelling forward in time is scientific fact. What’s more, it has actually been done! (Well, on a very small scale.)
We know that time travel is possible thanks to a certain Albert Einstein, who devised the famous ‘Theory of Relativity’.
In our daily lives, we think of the ideas of ‘space’ and ‘time’ as two completely separate concepts that have no bearing whatsoever on each other. How fast we move around our world and the speed of our watch have nothing to do with each other, right? Einstein disagrees. He discovered that ‘space’ and ‘time’ are two sides of the same coin – they are intrinsically linked and the universe actually exists as ‘space-time’.
(Don’t expect it to make too much sense – it is mind-bendingly complex. Einstein isn’t remembered as a genius for nothing, you know…)
How to travel forward in time
Einstein’s Theory of Relativity revealed that the universe has a strict speed limit – the speed of light. Nothing can ever go faster than the speed of light. It’s like driving a sports car that maxes out at 150 mph – you can accelerate closer and closer to top speed but never quite go faster. The universe’s speed of light limit is so strict that if you start moving fast enough to get near it, the very nature of space-time (i.e. the universe itself) begins to bend and contort to stop you from breaking the rules.
Bear with me on this one, but what it boils down to is that if you move fast enough, time will start to tick slower for you (compared with someone not moving at all).
To have any noticeable effect, you need to be travelling at a ridiculously high speed. At the moment, the closest thing we have to real time travellers are astronauts who spend a few months whizzing around the Earth in space stations. When they touch down on Earth, they are a few seconds younger than their terrestrial colleagues, because time has been ticking ever so slightly slower for them during their time in orbit. They had, in effect, moved forward in time by a few seconds.
Big leaps forward are possible – in theory. If you spent 5 years zooming through space in a ‘time machine’ spaceship travelling at 99.5% of the speed of light, when you returned to earth time would have advanced 50 years. After your high-speed space voyage you would return home 45 years in the future!
Sadly for wannabe time-travellers, the fastest manmade spacecraft so far can only move at 0.02% the speed of light. What’s more, travelling backwards in time is a big Theory of Relativity no-no – so once you got to the future you’d be stuck there. Your friends and family grey and old, many thousands of unread emails in your inbox, most of them spam, and your knowledge of pop culture hopelessly out of date.
So for the time being you’re going to have to just sit it out, and wait for the weekend to arrive the old fashioned way.
Answered by Nick Waszkowycz
Image credit: Bob Owen on Flickr