Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Scientist: Ronald Mallett


This ought to be under "shameless self-promotion" as well as "Mad, Mad, Mad," but a few months ago I wrote a piece for Newsweek on one Ronald Mallett, who claimed that (a) time travel was possible and (b) he could make it happen. Like I said, mad. Here's the thing, though -- he may be right. The time machine pictured with him here is a movie model, but he's planning to build a real one:

Basically, he wants to "swirl" empty space the way you'd swirl coffee in a cup, using a laser as the stirrer. Because space and time are more or less the same, swirling empty space could also swirl time. Mallett would then drop subatomic particles into his roiling cup of space-time and see if they're hurtled a few nanoseconds into the future. The idea sounds esoteric, but it's based in solid theory: Einstein's, in fact. "It's anchored in the general and special theories of relativity, and that's why people take it seriously," Mallett says.

The list of those who take Mallett seriously now includes the Science Channel, which featured his work on Sunday in a documentary called "Prophets of Science Fiction." Lucky for you, you don't have to travel back in time to catch it: It airs again this Sunday at 9 a.m. EDT.