Quantum physics and Marty McFly: A professor's time travel theory

UConn physics research professor Ronald Mallett based his work on the theory which claims time is affected by gravity. This theory dictates that as gravity increases in strength, time slows down. (File Photo/The Daily Campus)

Marty McFly traveled to the future on Oct. 21, 2015, meanwhile UConn physics research professor Ronald Mallett has been working on a theoretical way to travel back in time since he read H.G. Wells' novel, "The Time Machine," at age 11.

In the wake of his father’s passing from a sudden heart attack at age 10, young Mallett was interested in finding a way to go back and spend time with his father.

“I wanted to travel back in the past to see my father,” Mallett said. “It turns out Einstein had developed a second theory that allows for that possibility, and that second theory is Einstein’s theory of general relativity.”

Mallett based his work on the theory which claims time is affected by gravity. This theory dictates that as gravity increases in strength, time slows down.

“A clock at the surface of the earth, where the gravity is strong, will actually run slower than at higher altitudes where gravity may be weaker,” Mallet said. 

Mallett also employed an example of the GPS systems installed in cars. He claimed the main issue when these devices were first invented was the incorrect display time. Due to the lesser gravitational pull in space, the clocks traveled faster on the satellites than in the devices back on Earth. 

Mallett took this knowledge of Einstein’s theory of general relativity and used the theory of the speed of light to generate a way to travel back in time.

What Mallet’s theory dictates is a way to send information in time by using binary code (with zeros and ones) coded to the up (one) and down (zero) spins of neurons, transmitted through lasers. 

“We can create an early warning device for future national disasters and hurricanes,” Mallett said. “Now this is where the tricky part comes in. If a parallel universe exists, that information is coming to form our future and, depending on where that information is coming from, can lead to many interesting consequences.”

The concept of parallel universes is established through the quantum theory of physics, established in 1957. This states that for each decision made, a parallel universe or parallel universes are created with the other options afforded to the decision maker. 

The complexities of time travel through Mallett’s theory have not yet been tested due to a lack of funding for feasibility testing, costing over a quarter of a million dollars. 

Mallett is not letting his hopes of time travel cease there. At 69 years old, Mallett is determined to see his theories and equations put into practice. 

“First, have a goal and a goal that excites you,” Mallett said. “Second, develop a strategy for achieving that goal, the inability to get financing is not an excuse and the fact that others don’t think that what you are trying to achieve is possible is not an excuse. And third, putting in the self-effort and the work that is necessary to do that and if you can do that you can achieve whatever it is you want to achieve. I am an example of that.”


Elizabeth Charash is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at elizabeth.charash@uconn.edu.