The University of Chicago Press, 2011, 268 pagesSci-fi makes it look so easy. Receive a distress call from Alpha Centauri? No problem: punch the warp drive and you're there in minutes. Facing a catastrophe that can't be averted? Just pop back in the timestream and stop it before it starts. But for those of us not lucky enough to live in a science-fictional universe, are these ideas merely flights of fancy—or could it really be possible to travel through time or take shortcuts between stars?Cutting-edge physics may not be able to answer those questions yet, but it does offer up some tantalizing possibilities. In Time Travel and Warp Drives, Allen Everett and Thomas A. Roman take readers on a clear, concise tour of our current understanding of the nature of time and space—and whether or not we might be able to bend them to our will. Using no math beyond high school algebra, the authors lay out an approachable explanation of Einstein's special relativity, then move through the fundamental differences between traveling forward and backward in time and the surprising theoretical connection between going back in time and traveling faster than the speed of light. They survey a variety of possible time machines and warp drives, including wormholes and warp bubbles, and, in a dizzyingly creative chapter, imagine the paradoxes that could plague a world where time travel was possible—killing your own grandfather is only one of them!Written with a light touch and an irrepressible love of the fun of sci-fi scenarios—but firmly rooted in the most up-to-date science, Time Travel and Warp Drives will be a delightful discovery for any science buff or armchair chrononaut. In recent years, a number of books have taken on real science that sounds like science fiction. Unfortunately, most are frothy concoctions that leave the serious reader unsatisfied. This is all the more reason to celebrate the arrival of Time Travel and Warp Drives—a deeply informed, richly detailed yet immensely readable account of science at the frontiers, by two physicists who know the territory. For well over a decade Allen Everett and Thomas Roman have been charting the strange realms of negative energy, twisted spacetime, temporal paradoxes, and travel between universes. In a wonderfully written and especially timely account, they share with us what they’ve learned. Time Travel and Warp Drives deserves a place on the shelf between Greene’s The Elegant Universe and Hawking’s A Brief History of Time.
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