This one has been on my list for quite some time, and I finally got around to reading it. I first came across J. Richard Gott when I read his theory about Closed Time like Curves that he proposed, which I will get in later in this review. But also what I think is most fascinating is his Copernicus Method, which is really interesting and something that can kind of predict the future.
Richard Gott is a physicist from Louisville, Kentucky, which I think is interesting as there are not that many famous people that come from my home town, but perhaps you have heard of a fellow named Cassius Clay or you probably know him better as Muhammad Ali. He studied at I think Princeton where he is now a professor and has received many awards for his work, too many to mention. You can read his full bio here if you are interested, and as always I asked him for an interview but never heard anything back. O well.
As the title states the book opens up discussing different types of time travel in movies, which was kind of funny as Gott explains each situation and how or if this type of time travel is possible. From there the book then goes into some very intricate detail about time travel to the future, which is very possible and to a very small degree we can achieve now, albeit in very very small increments. What is a bit harder in terms of energy and physical laws is travel to the past. That is something that despite my limited knowledge of physics seems extremely difficult as the book states. There is even a contingent, which includes Hawking, that says that even if were to be able to figure this out via a wormhole, that the laws of physics would prevent it because of the intense levels of radiation among other things. Through the middle of the book gets into some very intricate detail about theories of how the universe began. The ending of the book was by far the most interesting and this portion discusses Gott’s speculation about humanity as well as his Copernicus Method, which is arguable the most interesting aspect of the book.
This book was quite interesting, but I have to be honest it was difficult to read at times. Honestly it ranks near the bottom in readability compared to other science and physics books I have read. I will take some of the blame for this on myself. As much as I would like to say I am somewhat of an amateur expert in physics I was really lost and or had difficultly following along through a large portion of the middle of the book. I would like to say that Gott did a good job dumbing some of these complex ideas down, but in my opinion he did not. Still I think you have to expect some of that when choosing this subject matter.
I also felt the title is somewhat misleading. When I first saw the book I really wanted to read it because I think time travel is very interesting and I wanted to read and perhaps understand the possibility and or impossibility of travel to the past. While the first part of the book does discuss time travel and how it is very possible and quite easy to travel to the future, I would say that only about half or less of the book actually focuses on time travel as a the overall subject matter. The middle part talks about the origin of the universe and how Gott has his own theories about the origins of the universe. This is the portion of the book that I felt was very difficult to understand and follow. Gott is an extremely smart fellow and one of the leading physicists out there, but I think he forgets that at times not everyone is as smart as he is. It was still an interesting read but I had trouble keeping my focus when I didn’t understand what I was reading. So if you can suffer through this middle portion of the book you will finally get the crème de la crème, which is the ending.
But before I discuss the ending I wanted to talk about time travel a little bit more. I mentioned that in this book and it has been proven that time travel to the future is very possible on many different levels. The book also talks about travel to the past, and this is where things get a bit more complicated. Gott lays out a few different scenarios where this could theoretically be possible, but none of them are easy or practical for that matter. Most require exotic matter, such as dark matter, which may or may not exist, and extreme amount of energy. So much energy that the energy requirement, among many other things, is one of the major deterrents. After reading this portion I slowly and somewhat disappointed came to the conclusion that time travel to the past is almost extremely not possible. I don’t want to say impossible, but based on what Gott says in this book I really have a hard time believing that it is something that our civilization could accomplish. With all that said I was kind of disappointed to come to this conclusion, and still I have some sliver of hope that if we become a super civilization that we could figure out this conundrum, but I am not holding my breath. However, I still have some hope that as we understand more and more about the universe that we may be able to figure out shortcuts around the physical laws that seem to be preventing time travel to the past.
One point that I have heard before and that was mentioned in this book is the fact that if we figure out travel to the past, that you could not go back further than when the time machine was created. So if the machine was created right now, in ten minutes you could only go back 10 minutes to the past, or when the machine was created. I have never understood this and it still does not make sense to me. Even though many smart individuals have made this comment I still do not see the reasoning, but some things you just have to accept as fact.
Another interesting point that Gott talks about on more than on occasion is the fact of going back in time to meet yourself. He explains how this is possible though a variety of ways, but what I think is somewhat strange is not so much meeting yourself but having the same molecules in the same place and same time. We are all made of the same stuff and I wonder what would happen if a slightly older you touched a slightly younger you or if there is some law that would be violated by having the same matter in the same place. I don’t think it would be like matter and anti-matter, which will annihilate each other on contact. I just find it strange that the same molecules will be in the same place and time, but he made no mention of this being an issue so I guess it is not a problem.
As I stated above the most fascinating point in the whole book is what he calls the Copernicus Method. He named it thus because it was Copernican that confirmed that we, Earth, was not the century of the universe, thus there was nothing special about us. And that is what the principle states. Given any event, and given that there is nothing special about it or you, sorry you are not special, that you are witnessing that even during the middle 75% of that thing or events lifespan. He has most famously applied this method to Broadway plays which he has a 95% success rate and even more famously the Berlin Wall which he predicted it possible fall. I know I am not explaining this very well, but when you really think about it, it mostly makes sense and can be quite accurate. The only thing I would like some more clarification on it what would be considered a “special” event or thing. As that would certainly change how the principle is applied. I will be talking about this more in an upcoming post.
All in all I did find this book quite fascinating. I will also say that it did get a little tough to read in the middle and the title is somewhat of a misnomer. Still I found quite a few very interesting talking points in the book and that is what matters to me, and of course I learned something which is always a good thing. If you are like me, just fight through the middle, or you may be smarter than I and totally understand the middle, and more power to you if that is the case, but it was beyond me. Still I think if you have any interest in time travel or just like to learn, check this one out it will certainly get you thinking about new ideas.