Time travel is the concept of movement between certain points in time, analogous to movement between different points in space by an object or a person, typically with the use of a hypothetical device known as a time machine. Time travel is a widely recognized concept in philosophy and fiction, particularly science fiction. The idea of a time machine was popularized by H. G. Wells' 1895 novel The Time Machine.
It is uncertain if time travel to the past is physically possible. Forward time travel, outside the usual sense of the perception of time, is an extensively observed phenomenon and well-understood within the framework of special relativity and general relativity. However, making one body advance or delay more than a few milliseconds compared to another body is not feasible with current technology.
As for backward time travel, it is possible to find solutions in general relativity that allow for it, such as a rotating black hole. Traveling to an arbitrary point in spacetime has very limited support in theoretical physics, and is usually connected only with quantum mechanics or wormholes.
Some theories, most notably special and general relativity, suggest that suitable geometries of spacetime or specific types of motion in space might allow time travel into the past and future if these geometries or motions were possible.
In technical papers, physicists discuss the possibility of closed timelike curves, which are world lines that form closed loops in spacetime, allowing objects to return to their own past. There are known to be solutions to the equations of general relativity that describe spacetimes which contain closed timelike curves, such as Gödel spacetime, but the physical plausibility of these solutions is uncertain.
Many in the scientific community believe that backward time travel is highly unlikely. Any theory that would allow time travel would introduce potential problems of causality. The classic example of a problem involving causality is the "grandfather paradox": what if one were to go back in time and kill one's own grandfather before one's father was conceived? Some physicists, such as Novikov and Deutsch, suggested that these sorts of temporal paradoxes can be avoided through the Novikov self-consistency principle or a variation of the many-worlds interpretation with interacting worlds.
Time travel to the past is theoretically possible in certain general relativity spacetime geometries that permit traveling faster than the speed of light, such as cosmic strings, traversable wormholes, and Alcubierre drives.
The theory of general relativity does suggest a scientific basis for the possibility of backward time travel in certain unusual scenarios, although arguments from semiclassical gravity suggest that when quantum effects are incorporated into general relativity, these loopholes may be closed.
These semiclassical arguments led Stephen Hawking to formulate the chronology protection conjecture, suggesting that the fundamental laws of nature prevent time travel, but physicists cannot come to a definite judgment on the issue without a theory of quantum gravity to join quantum mechanics and general relativity into a completely unified theory.
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