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Time Travel and Warp Drives: A Scientific Guide to Shortcuts through Time and Space

3.9 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0226224985
ISBN-10: 0226224988
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Editorial Reviews


“In recent years, a number of books have taken on real science that sounds like science fiction. Unfortunately, most are frothy concoctions that leave the serious reader unsatisfied. This is all the more reason to celebrate the arrival of Time Travel and Warp Drives—a deeply informed, richly detailed yet immensely readable account of science at the frontiers, by two physicists who know the territory. For well over a decade Allen Everett and Thomas Roman have been charting the strange realms of negative energy, twisted spacetime, temporal paradoxes, and travel between universes. In a wonderfully written and especially timely account, they share with us what they’ve learned. Time Travel and Warp Drives deserves a place on the shelf between Greene’s The Elegant Universe and Hawking’s A Brief History of Time.

(David Toomey, author of The New Time Travelers: A Journey to the Frontiers of Physics)

“There have been plenty of light popularizations of the puzzling physics of time. This book stands out in its depth and range. Written by two who have done the calculations, followed the field, and thought about what it all means, it leads the reader through the byzantine labyrinths of current theory. I found it enlightening and fun to read. If you have time for one book in this field, let it be this one.”

(Gregory Benford, author of Timescape)

"I have been searching for years for a book like this. With Time Travel and Warp Drives, Everett and Roman have written an illuminating exploration of the physics of time travel. What sets this book apart, however, is that the authors do not rely on analogies or metaphors. They actually explain the underlying science in a clear and accessible way. My search is over: this book is my new guide to a place stranger than science fiction--our universe."

(Charles Yu, author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe)

“Einstein meets Captain Kirk in this improbable foray into the frontiers of theoretical physics, where readers survey the exciting possibilities for traveling through time and between galaxies. . . . Relying only minimally on technical jargon and formulas, the authors open to view the exciting conceptual prospects for designing a time machine capable of slipping backward through the centuries and of riding fast-than-light warp bubbles through the cosmos. . . . Armchair scientists share the thrill of peeking into the universe’s deepest secrets. Penetrating science illuminates humankind’s most audacious dreams."

(Booklist starred review)

"Everett and Roman are physicists who have probed the theoretical possibilities of time travel. Their expertise shines."
(Science News)

 "Whenever anyone asks me whether time travel is possible, or rapid insterstellar travel via spacewarps is possible, I send them to this book.  It is the best source of answers at a level accessible to nonexperts."
(Kip Thorne, author of Black Holes and Time Warps: Einstein's Outrageous Legacy Feynman Professor of Physics, California Institute of Technology)

About the Author

Allen Everett is professor emeritus of physics at Tufts University. Thomas Roman is a professor in the Mathematical Sciences Department at Central Connecticut State University. Both have taught undergraduate courses in time-travel physics.


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 280 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (December 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226224988
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226224985
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,154,617 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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The authors have set before themselves a very ambitious task: that of explaining physics that is nearly inexplicable to students or readers with very little background in physics. As someone with a B.S. degree in physics, graduate degrees in engineering (including graduate level physics courses), who has published papers using modern physics, and continues to read textbooks on quantum physics and quantum field theory (but not general relativity)--I find this book quite challenging. That said, I do not wish to scare off the reader who is neither a professional scientist or holder of advanced degrees in physical science or engineering. The authors do succeed in explaining a great deal without the use of mathematics beyond high school algebra. Nevertheless, there are many advanced concepts, ranging from general relativity to quantum physics that are addressed in a sophisticated way that would challenge any reader who is not well versed in these topics.

I have the advantage to have been acquainted with one of the co-authors, and remember him as one of the most engaging raconteurs who I have had the pleasure to know. I can well imagine that he is able to engage even liberal arts majors with little previous background in physics and impart many of the concepts in this book in a meaningful way. For the solitary reader, however, making your way through this book without the enthusiastic author at your elbow would be rather more difficult. Certainly this book is accessible to anyone with a B.S. degree in physics. Most advanced undergraduates working towards a degree in physical science or engineering (especially those who have taken a two-semester junior level modern physics course) would benefit from this book.
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Format: Hardcover
The unifying theme of Time Travel and Warp Drives appears be that the necessary quantities of "exotic" (negative-energy) matter required for both is effectively forbidden by laws known as the "quantum inequalities", which were deduced back in the 1970s by one of the authors. About half of the book is devoted to introducing the reader to basic concepts of relativity - mostly special relativity. Conspicuous in its absence is any real attempt to introduce the reader to the fundamentals of quantum theory.

This is particularly surprising in that the chief concerns of the book are the implications of the quantum inequalities. The first significant mentions of quantum theory don't occur until a discussion of wormhole time machines in the middle of the book. And this isn't a discussion of fundamentals. Rather, it's a summary of one of the author's published critique of the Many World's Interpretation of quantum theory as a means of avoiding time travel paradoxes. While such a critique is welcome and interesting, the authors failed to balance their discussion with a mention of the serious deficiencies in the Copenhagen Interpretation that motivated the invention of the MWI. The book does a good job of cataloging the various categories of time machines, their associated paradoxes, and the strategies for avoiding these. It contains the most thorough explanations of exotic-matter-based methods of superluminal travel that I've seen in a popular science book. The authors, moreover, speculate about means through which their conclusions might be circumvented. I was disappointed, however, by the lack of any mention of wormholes or warp drives in the context of reasonable extensions of general relativity such as Gauss Bonnet gravity and Lovelock gravity.
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Comment 13 of 15 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
Time travel and warp drives are widespread in science fiction. So it is natural to ask whether these subjects must be forever confined to fiction, or whether the laws of physics might somehow permit things to move faster than light or to travel backward in time. A serious treatment of this question requires a basic understanding of special and general relativity, which the authors provide in chapters two through eight of the book. Then in chapters nine and ten, they show how the equations of general relativity allow certain solutions where it is possible to visit one's own past. They then show that (contrary to intuition) the logical paradoxes that one would think are associated with time travel can be avoided.
But the fact that general relativity allows certain solutions doesn't mean that they can really happen. In particular, these time machines need negative energy (and lots of it!). So the question then becomes can one get lots of negative energy? Here we readers are lucky that our authors are world experts on exactly this question! They note that negative energy comes from quantum mechanics and is subject to the uncertainty principle. This tends to confine the negative energy to small regions of space and for tiny amounts of time. Much too small to permit the sort of time machines or warp drives that people have written down using the equations of general relativity. Thus the answer to the question "do the laws of physics permit time travel?" seems to be a cautious "probably not."
This book is beautifully written, and is a clear exposition of a fascinating subject. Little prior knowledge of physics or mathematics is assumed; but the book does require very careful reading (and even more careful thinking about what has been read).
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