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the rotating blue light trail surrounds the crystal ball

Ring Lasers Can Allow Time Travel, Scientist SaysQi Yang – Getty Images

  • Ronald Mallett is still working on rotating lasers to travel back in time.

  • His working theory is based on Albert Einstein’s relativity discussion.

  • The prototype laser loop he developed ends up bending time, hypothetically allowing movement back—at the farthest—to the moment the machine was turned on.

Ronald Mallett loves the concept of time travel. He has since he was a kid. At 77, the former University of Connecticut physics professor still isn’t backing down from his theory: A spinning laser loop can bend time in an ongoing way.

With his story chronicled anew by The Guardians, Mallett says his concept of creating an artificial black hole—which could muster a gravitational field that might lead to loops of time being created, allowing you to go to the past—comes in the form of his ring laser. The prototype, which has been running since 2019, can create a continuous rotating beam of light. Mallett says “light can create gravity, and if gravity can affect time, then light itself can affect time.”

“Let’s say you have a cup of coffee in front of you right now,” he explains to The Guardians. “Start stirring the coffee with the spoon. It started swirling around, right? That’s what a rotating black hole does. In Einstein’s theory, space and time relate to each other. That’s why it’s called space-time. So as the black hole is rotating, it’s actually going to cause a twisting of time.”

And you’ve got to start that twisting concept somewhere. “The Wright Brothers didn’t just build a plane,” he said a couple of years ago. “First, they actually built a wind tunnel to determine the best configurations for aircraft wings. When it comes to a time machine, we need to build a wind tunnel before we can think about building a plane.”

So Mallett made his prototype machine. He thought it could work. But it hasn’t yet, and if it does, it doesn’t have the infinite ability to go as far back as he’d like. Instead, he says the dip back in time can only go for as far back as when the loop was created. Think: 2019.

He’s still hopeful, though. “Let’s suppose that we had already had this device going on a few years ago, and now we have medicines that can cure Covid,” he said. “Imagine if we could predict precisely when earthquakes are going to occur, or tsunamis. So, for me, I’ve opened the door to that possibility.”

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