Astrophysicist Ron Mallett believes he’s found a way to travel back in time — theoretically.
The tenured University of Connecticut physics professor recently told CNN that he’s written a scientific equation that could serve as the foundation for an actual time machine. He’s even built a prototype device to illustrate a key component of his theory — though Mallett’s peers remain unconvinced that his time machine will ever come to fruition.
To understand Mallett’s machine, you need to know the basics of Albert Einstein’s theory of special relativity, which states that time accelerates or decelerates depending on the speed at which an object is moving.
Based on that theory, if a person was in a spaceship traveling near the speed of light, time would pass more slowly for them than it would for someone who remained on Earth. Essentially, the astronaut could zip around space for less than a week, and when they returned to Earth, 10 years would have passed for the people they’d left behind, making it seem to the astronaut like they’d time traveled to the future.
But while most physicists accept that skipping forward in time in that way is probably possible, time traveling to the past is a whole other issue — and one Mallett thinks he could solve using lasers.