Professor S.S. Dragomir

Other Scientific Interests


Time Traveling and Modern Physics

Time travel has recently been discussed quite extensively in the context of general relativity. Time travel can occur in general relativistic models in which one has closed time-like curves (CTC's). A time like curve is simply a space-time trajectory such that the speed of light is never equalled or exceeded along this trajectory. Time-like curves thus represent the possible trajectories of ordinary objects. If there were time-like curves which were closed (formed a loop), then travelling along such a curve one would never exceed the speed of light, and yet after a certain amount of (proper) time one would return to a point in space-time that one previously visited. Or, by staying close to such a CTC, one could come arbitrarily close to a point in space-time that one previously visited. General relativity, in a straightforward sense, allows time travel: there appear to be many space-times compatible with the fundamental equations of General Relativity in which there are CTC's. Space-time, for instance, could have a Minkowski metric everywhere, and yet have CTC's everywhere by having the temporal dimension (topologically) rolled up as a circle. Or, one can have wormhole connections between different parts of space-time which allow one to enter ‘mouth A’ of such a wormhole connection, travel through the wormhole, exit the wormhole at ‘mouth B’ and re-enter ‘mouth A’ again. Or, one can have space-times which topologically are R4, and yet have CTC's due to the ‘tilting’ of light cones (Gödel space-times, Taub-NUT space-times, etc.)

General relativity thus appears to provide ample opportunity for time travel. Note that just because there are CTC's in a space-time, this does not mean that one can get from any point in the space-time to any other point by following some future directed timelike curve. In many space-times in which there are CTC's such CTC's do not occur all over space-time. Some parts of space-time can have CTC's while other parts do not. Let us call the part of a space-time that has CTC's the “time travel region" of that space-time, while calling the rest of that space-time the "normal region". More precisely, the “time travel region" consists of all the space-time points p such that there exists a (non-zero length) timelike curve that starts at p and returns to p. Now let us start examining space-times with CTC's a bit more closely for potential problems.