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Tell It To The Time Lords

First, I’ll give you the opening of a press release from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology:

A group of physicists at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) led by Prof Shengwang Du reported the direct observation of optical precursor of a single photon and proved that single photons cannot travel faster than the speed of light in vacuum. HKUST’s study reaffirms Einstein’s theory that nothing travels faster than light and closes a decade-long debate about the speed of a single photon.

You know what that means, right? No time travel. Time travel, they’re saying, is impossible. The study was a response to scientists’ discovery of what seemed to be optical pulses traveling faster than the speed of light, which proved to be a optical illusion, but got them thinking that it could happen, that we could someday go back and forth in time. But, according to this release, it can’t.

No TARDIS? No Doc Brown DeLorean? No San Dimas phone booth? Yes, time travel is a staple of nerd culture, from Star Trek to, well, everything. Are you ready to give up on the idea that time travel is possible? Is the Hong Kong report going to kill off your dreams? Debate in the comments below. And if you’re here from the future… hey, any hot investment tips?


  • With Quantum Mechanics, you don’t need “speed” to travel in time. Photons have been observed in two or more locations *simultaneously*. It’s all about observation [insert Schrodinger cat story here].

  • I think China would keep the rest of the world in the dark if they discovered that time travel is indeed possible. They must be close. This is just to slow everyone else down.

  • Well, uh, time travel is really science, like, uhm, the future. And, like, the science they do doesn’t, er, say that…

  • Didn’t Science also once prove that the Earth was the center of the Universe, There was an edge of the world that we could sail ships off of and that pretty much any illness could be cured with a good set of leeches? All they’ve done is proven that *this* version of Time Travel is impossible.

  • The Doctor’s TARDIS can still travel in time as it does not travel through time but instead for shortness of explaining it opens its door to a specific time/place.

  • As Emily said, there’s more than one theory on how to time travel. In fact, from what I have read, American scientists are working on sending a particle back in time using frame dragging. Basically you turn the machine on and a beam of light spins around dragging a tiny bit of space with it. You put a particle in the beam and it loops it back. The only problem is that you can only go back as far as when the machine was turned on. Not much of a Tardis unfortunately

  • Naaaaa, time travel is possible, we just havn’t learned to poke holes in the universe and things like that. I dont think it’s going to happen any time soon, but can it happen? Sure.

    Time travel is to now, as the internet is to the 1800’s.

  • Well, technically you CAN travel in time using existing technology… but only in 1 direction: into the future.

    Every time we send astronauts up on the (former) Space Shuttle their speed and distance from the center of the Earth mean that when they return they are very very very very slightly younger than their counterparts here on Earth.

    They’ve effectively traveled very slightly into the future.

    Perhaps we should call them Chrononauts?


  • Traveling forward through time would simply be scrambling ones molecules and re assembling them at a future point. Think about it like a microwave. Put in a glass of water. Hit it with nuclear energy. It will turn in to steam, and eventually back to water. The eventually is the time travel. It’s simplistic. Make sense?

  • I just finished the third episode of series 3 of Dr. Who, and only started watching it based solely on the Nerdist Podcast. No time travel,, pshaa, Time And Relative Dimension In Space. Work it out scientists.

  • pffft…these guys will be disproven as data-manipulating-hacks by weeks end. A couple years ago they did a similar trumped up experiment where they put a charles shultz character into a closed box his feline pet to prove they could determine both its position and activity without opening the lid in a failed attempt to disprove the Schroders Cat Theory.

    #thankyou!thankyou!be-sure-to-tip-your-waiter, #BadPunsR-US

  • It may be true that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light, but it is theoretically possible to ‘cheat’ by warping the space around an object, placing it ‘closer’ to a distant object (sort of like folding a blanket from one corner of a bed to the other), as shown in a series of papers by astrophysicist Miguel Alcubierre (1994)–meaning that time travel may be possible by this method, if we were ever able to develop the technology in the far future.

  • But but but but… Tachyons! This doesn’t mean it’s impossible for particles to have always been traveling faster than light, does it?
    I mean, it probably does, but I’m not going to look into that far.

    Plus, this only (sort of) disproves faster-than-light travel. Various other made up time-travel solutions aren’t impossible i.e. trans-dimensional travel.
    The TARDIS doesn’t travel faster than light, it travels through the time vortex.

    So there.

  • the hong kong guys measured one photon and it was running along about average. i was in alabama this weekend and i saw some real slow photons down there, let me tell you. on a muddy road in the piney woods. then, a couple swigs of white lightning and some of them were going way faster than light, in circles.

  • When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
    -Arthur C. Clark’s 1st law of prediction.

  • @Mitchell Craig
    Their last contribution was loaning the Americans a huge shitpile of money that they’re going to default on paying back and cause a Worldwide economic downfall.

    China then rules the World.

    I for one welcome our new Communist Overlords.

  • Will I really hope they’re wrong… and if they aren’t then I hope Matt is right and there’s another way. I would be so freaking sad if we found out that time travel is impossible.

  • It’s been awhile since I’ve seen the special relativity/time dilation equations, but I seem to remember them suggesting that at speeds faster than the speed of light, passage of time (as a mathematical quanity, anyway), became imaginary – i (or j, if you prefer) – rather than a negative quantity that would suggest some kind of time travel…

  • Actually recently there has been a particle that has been discovered that is supposedly faster than light, there are many facilities dedicated to testing this out but so far it has been considered as plausible. Look up Neutrinos and faster than light travel.

  • Technically if you think about it, one way forward time travel is possible, due to special relativity. The closer you get to the speed of light the more time slows down for you but not for everyone else. This effect has been proven. It just time travel backwards in time is impossible.