Monday, December 19, 2016

Time after time

Time Travel

By James Gleick

Publisher: Pantheon

Pub. Date: September 27, 2016

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

James Gleick starts off with a bombshell. One we should all already know but we don't want to admit. Time travel is impossible. At least the two-way type that we would all like to do. He does mention "time travel" as implied in speed of light travel but that isn't really time travel is it? That's more like a suspended animation that you stay awake for. . It is a Rip Van Winkle effect proven by experiments with atomic clocks. But the touristy version of time travel to the past and forward and back again? Fascinating. Tempting, However the sad fact is science and physics fights against the idea of that being a reality.

So why write a book of time travel, especially a history of time travel? Because the concept is so embedded in our brain that it pretty much affects everything in our modern world. It is in our literature, our media, and even in physics as it grapple with the paradoxes set forward in the many thought exercises that time travel gives us. After all, If quantum physics isn't an exercise in the paradoxes of our reality, what is?

Gleick starts his history with H. G. Wells and his novel The Time Machine. Pretty much everything we accept about the idea, including the idea of time as a fourth dimension, comes from Wells. From there he explores several ideas that continue to rise from the literature to come and how Physics chugs along right with them. Time Travel is basically a series of meanderings. It feels more like a continuing mind game, despite its chronological pattern, rather than a history of anything. That may offset a few people that want something really about time travel but for others, like myself, it is an almost poetic if challenging way to look at our perceptions. This is the kind of book more understood at a chapter at a time so you can absorb its idea. Definitely not a light read, it is still one that entertains while informing. If you like the topic, this is a must.

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