Review: “How To Build a Time Machine” by Brian Clegg

thHow to Build a Time Machine: The Real Science of Time Travel by Brian Clegg. St. Martin’s Press. 307 pages.

No self-respecting science fiction writer would try to write without actually reading some science, and this is more ammunition for my speculation gun. Brian Clegg holds a physics degree from Cambridge University, and is the author of other popular books on physics such as Before the Big Bang and Armageddon Science. He does a good job of writing about some pretty heady stuff (quantum theory) without losing most of his readers. In contrast to most physicists, he also had the ability to communicate complex subjects in a very readable way.

Before you head down to Lowe’s with your credit card, ready to buy all the necessary items for your own time machine, Clegg makes it clear that while there are no physical laws that prevent us from building a time machine, it will be very, very, very hard to do so. At one point, he talks about Ronald Mallett, a respected physicist who has committed his life to the feasibility of a time machine. For $11 million, he figures he can build a machine that will slow down time, at least a little bit. Therefore, anyone in the chamber who steps out of the chamber after the procedure will actually be going forward in time. The next step, actually traveling forward far enough to make it meaningful, would take a lot more money and a lot more effort.

According to Clegg, there are certain rules that will limit the time traveler that at this point must be observed. One of the most disappointing is the fact that you can’t go back to before there was a time machine. That means you can’t go back and visit your great-grandfather. That’s disappointing. You could conceivably build a time machine, travel forward 20 years, build another time machine, then use it to go back to where you started. If you kept building machines, you could go pretty far into the future, and get back.

I won’t give you all the details of how this is all possible (hint: it involves either wormholes or faster than light travel), but his arguments are sound. It’s just that our technology hasn’t caught up with the theory yet.

Sigh. And I had my garage all ready for construction….

I give this book four out of five stars.