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How to Build a Time Machine Reprint Edition

30 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0142001868
ISBN-10: 0142001864
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Is time travel possible? If so, what manner of machine would one need to traverse this fourth dimension? Covering ground similar to J. Richard Gott's Time Travel in Einstein's Universe, this slim, tongue-in-cheek treatise invokes the primary tenet of Einstein's special theory of relativity that both time and space are elastic to illustrate that time travel, while impractical, is definitely possible. The time travel mechanisms Davies (The Fifth Miracle) envisions are dramatically different from the devices that SF authors H.G. Wells and Ray Bradbury have employed in their fiction. All that's needed to travel to the future, noted theoretical physicist Davies asserts, is a little help from gravity and a spaceship that can reach speeds just under the speed of light. Traveling to the past is a trickier task, however, and Davies spends the bulk of his book explaining the components needed to construct a wormhole (a black hole "with an exit as well as an entrance"). Despite the author's penchant for diagrams and his habit of highlighting and repeating his major points, readers will struggle to accept some of his more difficult and extreme propositions such as the existence of an exotic matter possessing antigravitational properties, which is vital to his construction of a wormhole. While Davies's discussion of the paradoxes inherent in time travel and of the physical laws that seem to prevent it is both thought provoking and accessible, his limited focus on wormholes may disappoint those hungering for a broader discussion of time travel technology.

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Scientific American

Is time travel possible? Yes, says Davies, who recently retired (in his early 50s) as professor of mathematical physics at the University of Adelaide in Australia to concentrate on his writing. But "a moment's thought uncovers some tricky questions." Whereupon he discusses lucidly and engagingly both the concepts of physics that establish the possibility of time travel and the tricky questions. You could reach the future "by simply moving very fast." For visiting the past, the most popular proposal is a wormhole, "a sculpture in the structure of space that provides a shortcut between two widely separated spaces." There may be "cosmic taboos," though, that make time travel forever elusive.

Editors of Scientific American --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (March 25, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0142001864
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142001868
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.4 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #234,466 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Paul Davies is an internationally acclaimed physicist, cosmologist, and astrobiologist at Arizona State University, where he runs the pioneering Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science. He also chairs the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Post-Detection Taskgroup, so that if SETI succeeds in finding intelligent life, he will be among the first to know. The asteroid 1992OG was officially renamed Pauldavies in his honor. In addition to his many scientific awards, Davies is the recipient of the 1995 Templeton Prize--the world's largest annual prize--for his work on science and religion. He is the author of more than twenty books, including The Mind of God, About Time, How to Build a Time Machine, and The Goldilocks Enigma. He lives in Tempe, Arizona.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

53 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on June 8, 2002
Format: Paperback
First of all, If you have already read some books on black holes and worm holes/time travel, you probably won't learn much from the book as it is non-mathematical (the only equation is E=mc^2) and introduces only the fundamental aspects of time, space and time travel. Otherwise you might want to take a moment and read on before buying it.
I understand that most authors spend a lot of time on their books, even though the books themselves might not stand out in the end. As such, I am really reluctant to give their books any low grade. But this book really has little to deserve my praise, so I give it a 3.
The book is rather short. English is not my native language, but I still finished it in 3 hours in a bookstore.
I feel the book is divided into 3 parts: first part introduces relativity (including things like light and gravity) and black holes; second part discusses how to construct (at least in theory) a worm hole that can be used as a time machine; and the last part deals with the paradoxes and implications of time travel.
I think the author was not sure what level of audience he's targeting. The first part is easy to understand for everyone. But that is not what audience want to learn from the book--they want to know about time machines. So they turn to the last two parts, which may be a bit hard for them. For instance, the author mentioned rotating black holes, but nowhere in the book he explained what they are. He also mentioned their ring-like singularity but he didn't even put a drawing to help readers to understand. I am quite serious about science and I read a few books on the subject so I know what rotating black holes are like.
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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Paulo C. Rios Jr. on March 2, 2002
Format: Paperback
Paul Davies is a great author. But some readers may find some of his books long as books usually are. This one not. It is short, but clear cut goal-oriented and conceptually deep. You will understand some concepts that seemed so confusing too you. Most of all, you will see things under a different light. Physics at its best. Just a warning: you can read it in an afternoon, but you will probably become so interested that you will want to spend a lot more time with wonderful books and subjects like these. The fun will last only about 150 pages.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Robertomelbourne on May 29, 2003
Format: Paperback
Davies has attempted a very difficult task: how to write a brief and easily understood account of the physics and mathematics underpinning the idea of time travel.
In the main part Davies succeeds admirably. It is clearly not that simple to condense highly complex mathematical equations, and concepts of and about quantum physics to a level that the ordinary person will not only grasp but perhaps think about.
The book is effectively divided into two parts. The first is a synopsis of the theories underpinning time travel. In this section Davies provides a speedy overview of the history of thinking about time travel, the development of the theories, and he attempts to at least conceptually work through the possibilities and problems associated with the main theories that hold currency.
In the second part, Davies sets out the mechanics of how to build a time machine. The content contained in is part, not matter how hard Davies tries, and despite its brevity, was very difficult for this reader to understand. Having no background in pure physics, I became a bit lost in places. But struggling through out, it is still informative and challenging.
Overall, the book is a valuable starting point for the general person to get a grip on this though provoking topic.
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15 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 17, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Those with a theoretical interest in time travel will appreciate Davies' attention to explaining in detail the intricate theory behind the components of time travel. I think the real winner though will be the engineer with a slant toward the practical application side. Davies' presents a potential design (complete with flow diagram!) of the process steps needed to construct a time machine. Theories of black holes, worm holes, gravity, anti-gravity, causality etc. are presented in crisp yet coherent detail.
As a literary style, I at first didn't care for the many cartoon type drawings which decorate nearly a quarter of the book, but as it went on I realized that not only where they illustrative to the the book's finer details, but also a symbol for the fanciful possiblity of time travel. Reader's with further interest will also appreciate the detailed bibliography.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Wesley L. Janssen VINE VOICE on June 30, 2004
Format: Paperback
Well, I hate to ruin it for you, but Davies isn't really telling the reader "how to build a time machine" so much as he is taking advantage of a gee-whiz slice of science fiction fun to build a quick tour of the fundamental theories of modern physics.
"So can it really be done?" asks Davies, one of the most frequently cited mathematical physicists of our day. And away we go, flying through the ideas of Newton, Einstein, Gödel, Hawking, and Penrose, and leaping into wormholes in space-time. As we go, the great modern physical theories come into play one after another. Davies is good at this. Quickly treated are singularities, entropy and the arrow of time, the special and general theories of relativity, exotic matter, antigravity, the topology of space-time, quantum uncertainty, and other stuff including a bevy of time-travel paradoxes.
To be sure, the author describes time machines that 'might' work. "So can it really be done?" Again, I don't want to ruin it for you. But some reviewers seem to have come up with the wrong answer. Here's a hint, "The purpose of science is to provide a consistent picture of reality, so if a scientific theory produces genuinely paradoxical (rather that merely weird or counterintuitive) predictions, that is a very good reason for rejecting the theory" (p 123). This isn't going to be remembered as one of Davies more important books (I recommend 'The Mind of God' and 'The Matter Myth'), but this is aimed at a different audience/readership.
A fun little book.
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