MIT historian and theoretical physicist, David Kaiser. Photo: Len Rubenstein
MIT historian and theoretical physicist, David Kaiser. Photo: Len Rubenstein

In Charles Dickens’s novel A Christmas Carol, the help of ghosts is needed to visit the past. In the movie Back to the Future, a souped-up DeLorean car and a bolt of lighting catapulted Michael J. Fox from the 1980s to the 1950s.

But is it possible to travel backwards through time? The website HIPPO Reads recently asked MIT theoretical physicist and historian David Kaiser to weigh in.

“Does backwards-in-time travel stir up paradoxes? It certainly does. The standard, rather gruesome scenario involves traveling back in time to murder your own mother, thus destroying the chance that you would be born in the first place,” says Kaiser, the Germeshausen Professor of the History of Science and the department head of MIT’s Program in Science, Technology, and Society. “Or, on a happier note, you could travel backward in time to adjust your investment portfolio just before the huge financial bust of 2008 that triggered the Great Recession—and then buy your mother a nice gift (rather than killing her off). Either way, backwards-in-time travel suggests all manner of concerns about self-consistency.”

Visit Hippo Reads for Kaiser’s full answer to the question.

And if you were wondering “What is the shape of the universe?” or “Can you escape if you get sucked into a wormhole?” Kaiser offers his thoughts on these questions, too, as part of the site’s “Ask Me Anything” series.

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