Why Time Travel Is More Likely to the Future Than to the Past

Updated on June 6, 2020
Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok has a Master of Science degree. He enjoys studying concepts of time and envisioning theories regarding the space-time continuum.

Stephen Hawking spent years trying to prove that time travel can’t be accomplished. However, he couldn’t find any laws of physics that stood in the way. He eventually admitted that it might be possible, even if not practical.

Time travel to the future is likely because it doesn’t break any laws of physics. However, going back to the past is doubtful because we can’t change what had already occurred.

To comprehend the concept of time travel, a little knowledge of quantum physics will shed light on the process. We also need to understand how time is considered as the fourth dimension. So let's begin with those explanations.

Quantum Leaps in Time

Quantum physics shows that there is a means of moving within our three-dimensional space without the passage of time.

Scientists have been able to make particles move from one physical location to another without ever existing in-between. That's why it's called a quantum leap.

If we could do that in the fourth dimension, that would mean moving from the present to the future without existing in-between. Yes, we would call that time travel. It’s a fascinating subject that has enchanted people throughout the ages.

Why Time Is Considered the Fourth Dimension

The following explanation should help understand why time is the fourth dimension.

  1. Imagine a two-dimensional world (such as a drawing on a flat surface).
  2. Now imagine other two-dimensional worlds, all parallel to the first. Their existence implies that there must be three dimensions for all of them to exist within.
  3. Taking this a step further, imagine more three-dimensional worlds, parallel to the first. That implies a fourth dimension, and all the three-dimensional worlds exist within it.

The fourth dimension represents time. The three-dimensional worlds within it are images of all past periods, our present, and all future periods. Each one is a snapshot of a present moment in time, progressing linearly through the fourth-dimension.

How One-Way Time Travel May Be Possible

The existence of a second three-dimensional universe implies that there must be four dimensions for both of them to exist simultaneously.

I don't mean simultaneously in space. I mean simultaneously in time.

If that were so, perhaps there is a connection between the two of them, a path from one to the other. This connection is what was meant by the Einstein-Rosen Bridge,1 a wormhole that connects from one three-dimensional universe to another.

Time travel from one point in time to another is similar to moving from one point in space to another. When we travel from point A to point B, a certain amount of time goes by. We don’t ever end up at the destination at the same instant as when we left. And most certainly, we don’t arrive at the destination before we left.

Traveling through a wormhole might transport one back or forward in time. Although going backward would be improbable, as I'll explain in a moment.

Time travel through a Einstein-Rosen Bridge wormhole
Time travel through a Einstein-Rosen Bridge wormhole | Source

The Concept of Moving Through Time

To understand the concept of traveling through time, you have to relate everything in our three-dimensional world to the fourth-dimensional world of “time.”

You can make that easy to imagine with this exercise:

  1. Take a piece of paper. That paper has only two dimensions—length and width.
  2. Draw two dots on that paper, one on each edge.
  3. Think of those dots as inhabitants of this two-dimensional world.
  4. Now fold the paper, so the two dots meet.
  5. You have just bent a two-dimensional world and made the inhabitants of different points in that space meet at a single location.

If we were to do the same with time, which is separated in four dimensions, and bend it over onto itself, we would make the inhabitants at different periods in time meet at a single point in time.

Proof That Backward Time Travel Will Never Happen

Here’s proof that backward time travel will have had never been discovered in the future. (Note the weird grammar when writing about past events in the future).

If future generations will have had found a way to travel back to the past, we would be aware of visitors from the future now, suddenly appearing before us when they weren’t here a moment earlier! Wouldn't you agree?

Besides, these visitors would have the ability to change our present and their history. That would mean that we would cause massive changes to their future. That is clearly explained with the butterfly effect.

The Butterfly Effect explains how small changes today can profoundly effect the future.
The Butterfly Effect explains how small changes today can profoundly effect the future.

How the Butterfly Effect Disrupts Time Travel

If one were to go back in time, anything he or she does would drastically change the future from which they came.

Anything we do, any small action, can have an enormous effect on the future. Future behavior is highly sensitive to past events.

This sensitivity is known as the butterfly effect2 derived by Edward Lorenz. The flapping of the wings of a butterfly can eventually affect some future event that is much more forceful, such as a hurricane.

Small initial differences can yield widely diverging outcomes many years later. When you step on a bug and kill it, your action could cause a whole new variety of species thousands or millions of years later. That is because you eliminated that single insect’s hereditary evolution.

Looking at it the other way around, every species on Earth today evolved due to conditions in the past. If one were to go back in time to our past and stepped on a bug, the world today would be affected. Maybe we’d have different types of mosquitoes—possibly savage mosquitoes that eat humans.

So you see, the point is that if we were able to go back in time, we would be able to create a change to the past that drastically affects our existence.

All Things Considered

I think it’s possible that someday our advancing human race will discover how to travel forward in time. That doesn't interfere with recorded history. Forward time travel is conceivable for that reason.

We are already traveling through time at a constant speed of one second per second. If you want to go to tomorrow, just sit in your favorite comfy lounge chair and wait 24 hours.

Okay, what we want is advancement through time at an accelerated rate. Or, better yet, an instant transfer.

A method of quickly moving forward in time may one day be discovered. As I mentioned earlier, quantum physics already shows examples of particles that move from one place to another without ever existing in the space between the two points. So we may one day have Quantum Time Travel, a leap into the future.

If it were possible for a particle to leap through three-dimensional space, why wouldn't it be possible to leap through the fourth dimension? That is, through time.

If science ever provides a method for forward time travel, the process might be useless because we need time to achieve our goals.

If we could leap to the future without any development to our society or our personal growth, what will we have achieved? The entire concept would be quite impractical. We need to stay where we are and put effort into working on creating our future.

“Time travel may be possible, but it is not practical”

— Stephen Hawking

© 2015 Glenn Stok

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    • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

      Glenn Stok 

      2 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Thedecadentone - You added more reasons why I say that backward time travel is not as likely. As for forward travel, yes, the world would be so different when and if that ever becomes possible that I’m sure technology will include safety measures.

    • profile image

      Thedecadentone 

      2 years ago

      One itty bity, teeny tiny nitpick. If past time travel were possible, it would be so far into the future that technology and systems would be in place to regulate the actions of time travelers. If past travel is possible, then anything else can be as well, such as creating time bubbles to keep timelines safe, ability to erase memories, etc etc etc.

    • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

      Glenn Stok 

      2 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Jyotsna - I wrote more on this subject in another article where I have answers to your questions: https://owlcation.com/stem/recurrence-of-the-unive...

    • profile image

      Jyotsna 

      2 years ago

      Glenn , thanks for sending me here.

      I get it that going to past would make a huge change in the future. What if it does ? May be we would have a different future in a parallel universe. Now existence of a person at two places is just impossible. And if we believe in one universe,it means we have a set of actions to be performed, and we abide to it. So we have a perfect set of future and that means we have no freewill or control on our destiny, it might look we do but really we don't.

      Also if time is getting created as we go on , there's no way we can go to the future. Because that time hasn't been created yet. And if future already exists it means there exists a parallel universe, which contradicts the reason of why we can't go back to past.

      I feel we never know which universe we will end up in.

      Well if you could tell me if parallel universe is a real thing, that would be helpful.

      Thanks a lot! This blows my mind.

    • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

      Glenn Stok 

      3 years ago from Long Island, NY

      RonElFran - Good one Ron. Makes sense. Can't argue with that one. Just be careful and don't trip up and change the future that had had occurred prior to your assignment to the Bureau.

    • RonElFran profile image

      Ronald E Franklin 

      3 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

      Glenn: For Your Eyes Only

      Thank you for doing an excellent job of convincing the inhabitants of the 21st Century that time travel into the past is impossible. I'm sure your article will make our job of regulating such excursions easier.

      Since we require that a traveler to the past have extensive training in the behavior and speech of the period, plus appropriate clothing, money, and other artifacts, if we are doing our job well, none of the natives of the period will ever notice their time visitors. And now, with your explanation of why such travel is impossible, they won't even be looking.

      Good job! I'm proud to be your supervisor.

      Zoal Ezzle, Chief of Station

      Time Travel Bureau

      21st Century Division

    • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

      Glenn Stok 

      3 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Faith Reaper - Thanks for your detailed comment, it shows that you perfectly understood where I was going with this. Many people argue when I try to explain the logic behind my conclusions, but you got it!

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 

      3 years ago from southern USA

      Hi Glenn,

      I'm so glad I found this fascinating article here! Time has always fascinated me and the thought of time travel certainly too.

      Your research on time travel and your findings that time travel going back in time will never be possible, certainly makes a lot of sense as you have explained it here. However, that is what most people would like to do. I don't think I would want to travel into the future, being, as you've pointed out, you can't come back and who knows what will be there, if anything!

      On another note, I just noticed that ad at the top of this hub, and I think it's the one I saw the arrow moving on, and now I think it is just part of the ad, being the arrow is clicking on the various squares on the ad ...

      Blessings

    • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

      Glenn Stok 

      4 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Reynold Jay - Your confirmation of my article's information means a lot to me because of your authority on the subject as a science teacher. Thank you so much.

    • Reynold Jay profile image

      Reynold Jay 

      4 years ago from Saginaw, Michigan

      You have me interested in this I was a science teacher and taught lots of this. Well done article that gave this reader the information I needed, Glenn. Glad you are here with these science articles.

    • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

      Glenn Stok 

      4 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Nell Rose - Interesting experiences you mentioned. There are many explanations for these types of phenomena. A person's perception can be affected by what the mind judges to be real.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      4 years ago from England

      I love quantum physics, and time travel is one of my favourite subjects! it totally fascinates me. I do tend to think that we sometimes have a glimpse of future or past time travel, I remember reading about a woman who looked up in the sky and 'saw' an old air balloon from the first world war. she watched it for a few minutes then it just disappeared. in the same way that Edgar Cayce mentions the fact that someone was driving along a road back in the 40s? not sure, but as they travelled they saw a shiny car type object go past. Evidently the person in the other car saw him, and he saw them! then they disappeared! so, yes time is a strange thing, hope one day we will figure it out! great read! nell

    • profile image

      Old Poolman 

      4 years ago

      I love discussions like this. Gets my old brain juices flowing again.

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 

      4 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Yes, Glenn, I realize all of that... for # 2 and # 4, I was being facetious; #3, I just thought was a funny story of the girls' experience. ;-)

      You must remember: I am a professional smart-ass! ! I didn't spend 3 years in improv comedy for nothing. LOL ;-)

    • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

      Glenn Stok 

      4 years ago from Long Island, NY

      In response to each of your points:

      1. That would be correct. Time travelers would be stuck in the future.

      2. Yes. A wormhole is the theory. But I proposed the idea that one can only go forward in time, if at all possible. Traveling to another galaxy would be travel through three-dimensional space. That's another subject.

      3. Not so. Just because you set your watch back or forth does not imply time travel. Proof is that if you make a phone call from your new destination to someone in your home time zone, you would be able to talk to the other party in real time. (Not taking into account the fractional time delay for the electrical impulse to travel).

      4. The TV program "Quantum Leap" has nothing to do with actual scientific physics research and has nothing to do with what I was talking about. I know you knew that, but just keeping the record straight.

      Thanks for your comments and info on the other hubs. I'll check them out. I enjoy light hearted tongue-in-cheek humor too.

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 

      4 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Very interesting. Some random observations:

      1) If travel to the future might become possible, but never backwards time travel, those travelers would be stuck in the future, whether or not they liked what they found.

      2) "Traveling through a wormhole might transport one backward or forward in time." ... Or, you might instead travel to another galaxy or parallel universe, and get stuck for years in the Delta Quadrant. ;-)

      3) We do experience time shifts fairly rapidly now, both forwards and backwards in time, if only from our human-imposed artificial timekeeping system. Any time you travel across the time zones, you are moving backwards or forwards through time, depending upon direction of travel.

      The International Date Line throws a whole other aspect into this. When my daughter was in the San Francisco Girls' Chorus, we hosted some girls from an Australian choir. They had a 14 hour journey, including a change of planes in Hawaii. Upon arrival at our home, they were understandably very tired, but one of them said, "Well, according to my watch, we just left home a half hour ago!"

      4) Quantum Leap, eh? I recall a TV show by that name, but it was more about leaping into different situations, (and into the actual body of a person in the situation), in different locations to solve a problem, and not time travel. It was an amusing show, even if it was a very far-fetched plot line.

      Very interesting article. But no backwards travel? Hmm.. check out Nell Rose's article on the Liverpool Time Slips. There are a couple she's written around this topic. And I have a very tongue-in-cheek nonsense bit of fluff I wrote about "How the Universe Works."

      Too bad they took away our voting buttons, for this is worthy of all the votes.

    • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

      Glenn Stok 

      4 years ago from Long Island, NY

      MsDora - Actually, forward time travel is scary too. We might travel to a future that is void of life. But that's the subject for another hub that I might write someday.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      4 years ago from The Caribbean

      Yes I find the article interesting though it challenged my gray matter. Happy that backward time travel won't happen. If there is anything good at all about it, the bad might scare us away from it. Thanks for the challenge to think.

    • profile image

      Old Poolman 

      4 years ago

      Your point of changing the future by traveling to the past is awesome. Changing history would have an immediate and permanent effect on the present. Now if the time traveler was a sane and educated individual with a clear cut mission, this might be OK. But with some of the nut cases roaming our streets today time travel to the past could, and probably would, wipe out all signs of human life.

      I'm glad you wrote this. It gives me something to think about today.

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