Monthly Archives: August 2013

Exercising in 1890

The exercise equipment in 1890 in some ways is similar to those today.  They seem to have used more flywheels rather than weights or bands for resistance.  Also, they wore pretty formal clothing for a work-out.  Still, I wonder how our equipment will be viewed over 120 years from now.


Zanders medico-mechanical gymnastics equipment

Equipment today.

Equipment today.


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After Watson, IBM Looks to Build ‘Brain in a Box’

After Watson, IBM Looks to Build ‘Brain in a Box’

By Jennifer Booton

Your World Tomorrow

Published August 22, 2013

  • IBM Watson Supercomputer, IBM

Imagine Watson with reason and better communication skills.

The Watson supercomputer may be able to beat reigning Jeopardy champions, but scientists at IBM (IBM) are developing new, super-smart computer chips designed from the human brain — and that might ultimately prove much more impressive.

These new silicon “neurosynaptic chips,” which will be fed using about the same amount of energy it takes to power a light bulb, will fuel a software ecosystem that researchers hope will one day enable a new generation of apps that mimic the human brain’s abilities of sensory perception, action and cognition.

It’s akin to giving sensors like microphones and speakers brains of their own, allowing them to consume data to be processed through trillions of synapses and neurons in a way that allows them to draw intelligent conclusions.

IBM’s ultimate goal is to build a chip ecosystem with ten billion neurons and a hundred trillion synapses, while consuming just a kilowatt of power and occupying less than a two-liter soda bottle.

“We want to create a brain in a box.”

– IBM’s Dharmendra Modha 

“We are fundamentally expanding the boundary of what computers can do,” said Dharmendra Modha, principal investigator of IBM’s SyNAPSE cognitive computing project. “This could have far reaching impacts on technology, business, government and society.”

The researchers envision a wave of new, innovative “smart” products derived from these chips that would alter the way humans live in virtually all walks of life, including commerce, logistics, location, society, even the environment.

“Modern computing systems were designed decades ago for sequential processing according to a pre-defined program,” IBM said in a release. “In contrast, the brain—which operates comparatively slowly and at low precision—excels at tasks such as recognizing, interpreting, and acting upon patterns.”

These chips would give way to a whole new “cognitive-type of processing,” said Bill Risk, who works on the IBM Research SyNAPSE Project, marking one of the most dramatic changes to computing since the traditional von Neumann architecture comprised of zeros and ones was adopted in the mid-1940s.

“These operations result in actions rather than just stored information, and that’s a whole different world,” said Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates, who has written about the research. “It really allows for a human-like assessment of problems.”

It is quite a complex system, and it is still in early stages of development. But IBM researchers have rapidly completed the first three phases of what will likely by a multi-stage project, collaborating with a number of academic partners and collecting some $53 million in funding. They are hopeful the pace of advancement will continue.

Modha cautioned, however, this new type of computing wouldn’t serve as a replacement for today’s computers but a complementary sibling, with traditional analog architecture serving as the left brain with its speed and analytic ability, and the next era of computing acting as the right cortex, operating much more slowly but more cognitively.

“Together, they help to complete the computing technology we have,” Modha said.

Providing a real-life example of how their partnership might one-day work, Kay imagined a medical professional giving triage to a patient.

Digital computers would provide basic functions such as the patient’s vitals, while the cognitive computer would cross reference data collected at the scene in real-time with stored information on the digital computer to assess the situation and provide relevant treatment recommendations.

“It could be a drug overdose or an arterial blockage, a human might not know which is which [from the naked eye],” explains Kay. “But a [cognitive] computer could read the symptoms, reference literature, then vote using a confidence level that can kind of infer which one is more likely the case.”

Endless Possibilities Seen

The IBM researchers have put together building blocks of data to make cognitive applications easier to build and to create an ecosystem for developers. The data come in the form of “corelets” that each serve a particular function, such as the ability to perceive sound or colors.

So far they have developed 150 corelets with the intention to eventually allow third parties to go through rigorous testing to submit more. Eventually, corelets could be used to build “real-life cognitive systems,” researchers hope.

To help get the ball rolling, the researchers envisioned a slew of product ideas that would make perfect use of these genius chips in real-world functions.

Here are just a few:

-An autonomous robot dubbed “Tumbleweed” could be deployed for search and rescue missions in emergency situations. Researchers picture the sphere-shaped device, outfitted with “multi-modal sensing” via 32 mini cameras and speakers, surveying a disaster and identifying people in need. It might be able to communicate with them, letting them know help is on its way or directing them to safety.

-For personal use, low-power, light-weight glasses could be designed for the near blind. Using these chips, which would recognize and analyze objects through cameras, they’d be able to plot a route through a crowded room with obstacles, directing the visually-impaired through speakers.

-Putting these chips to use in a business function, the researchers foresee a product they’ve dubbed the “conversation flower” that could process audio and video feeds on conference calls to identify specific people by their voice and appearance while automatically transcribing the conversation.

-Giving a glimpse into its potential use in the medical world, a thermometer could be developed that could not only measure temperature, but could also be outfitted with a camera that would be able to detect smell and recognize certain bacterial presence based on their unique odor, giving an alert if medical attention is needed.

-In an environmental function, researchers could see this technology being outfitted on sensor buoys, monitoring shipping lanes for safety and environmental protection.

Given the fluid motion of the project, it’s unclear how long it will take for the first generation of cognitive computers to begin applying themselves in real-world applications, but Modha and his team are optimistic they will be crafted sooner than later.

“We need cognitive systems that understand the environment, can deal with ambiguity and can act in a real-time, real-life context,” Modha said. “We want to create a brain in a box.”

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More dinosaur fossils found in NE Wyoming mass grave

More dinosaur fossils found in NE Wyoming mass grave

Published August 26, 2013

Associated Press
  • pictrex.jpg

    Tyrannosaurus rex stalks his hapless victims in the movie, “Land of the Lost.” (Universal Pictures)

Somewhere south of Newcastle, amid the wide-open prairie and rolling hills, rests a mass grave. A femur here. A tooth there. A tip of a tail barely poking through the ground somewhere else.

The cause of death is unknown. It could have been a lightning strike, disease or an attack by a band of marauding T. rexes.

The victims: At least four U-Haul-sized, plant-eating triceratopses.

Paleontologists worked for two months this summer and found 250 bones. Only 950 more to go.

On a hot day in mid-August, one paleontologist held up a pterygoid for inspection. A pterygoid is a portion of a triceratops palette in its skull. It’s roughly the size of a loaf of bread, and had never previously been found complete and alone.

Some portions measure only a single millimeter thick. Removing it from the earth was a painstaking task. The ground was hard and the bone weak.

“There are maybe 10 people in the world who care about this bone,” said Matt Larson, a paleontologist for the Black Hills Institute of Geologic Research.

“And four are here.”

What it represents is entirely different. That pterygoid could belong to the most complete triceratops skeleton ever found — something many more people care about.

The institute’s research team is unearthing what is, at minimum, four triceratops skeletons. Scientists believe the collection could be the key to answering how one of the prehistoric world’s unique vegetarians lived and died.

Experts always thought the triceratops was a loner. Skeletons were never found grouped together like some other horned dinosaurs, said Peter Larson, founder of the Black Hills institute.

Remains were most often limited to a skull in one place or a femur in another. They must have lived alone, because they all seemed to die alone.

This new find, hidden beneath layers of sand, silt and lignite, could tell a very different story of the life of the world’s best-known three-horned dinosaur.

Triceratopses roamed the wetlands of western North America 67 million years ago. It was the end of the Cretaceous period and shortly before the extinction of dinosaurs. Water prevented their movement west to other continents, and an inland seaway separated them from the east.

Only three skeletons have been found with more than 50 percent of their bones. Two were in Wyoming, one in North Dakota.

The most complete skeleton, a dinosaur named Lane, only has 75 percent of its original bones. Kelsey and Raymond, the other two triceratopses, are about 50 percent complete. The ones you gawk at in museums are actually collages of bones from many animals, some of which may not even belong to a triceratops, Larson said.

Why have so few bones been found of a dinosaur that measured 20 feet long and 8 feet high at the shoulders? Blame Tyrannosaurus rex.

“T. rex would not just eat the flesh from triceratops, it would eat a good share of the carcass as well,” Larson said. “It would ingest bones and everything else in some instances.”

Other creatures would likely scavenge the parts the T. rexes didn’t eat, acting like prehistoric coyotes and vultures.

The Newcastle bones may have been fed upon after the triceratopses died. But, until the scientists find teeth marks or actual T. rex teeth at the scene, they won’t know for sure.

And they may never know what killed the beasts.

Late-August 2012, an amateur paleontologist approached rancher Donley Darnell. He’d found dinosaur bones on Darnell’s land while looking for them on a nearby ranch.

Darnell hadn’t given him permission to be there, and he wasn’t going to let the man take the bones. What was buried was more than a lone collector could handle, he said. Instead, he called Larson.

The rancher is no stranger to fossils, museums or collectors. He has collections of invertebrate skeletons — mostly shellfish — at natural history museums in Denver and New York.

Records show dinosaur bones were cherry-picked from the area as early as the 1910s.

The way the dirt settled in the area over millions of years created an environment perfect for dinosaur preservation. Almost like a delta, the land sank, filled in with sediment and then sank again, perhaps many more times. At one point, as much as a mile of earth covered the triceratops bones, Larson said.

Land eroded away as the Black Hills rose and left some bones exposed and others covered by only feet of soil.

“More rapid sedimentation would be able to preserve moments in time,” he said. “They’re snapshots in history.”

Larson would know. He started the Black Hills Institute of Geologic Research in 1974 in neighboring Hill City, S.D. Since then, he’s helped uncover Sue, a famous T. rex, and two of the most complete triceratopses.

But, it wasn’t the triceratops site that first interested the Black Hills Institute. Darnell showed them a few T. rex bones he’d found in another location on his land. The paleontologists jumped at the chance of a T. rex, calling a museum in the Netherlands, the Naturalis Biodiversity Center, that was looking for a T. rex skeleton.

The two institutions partnered on the T. rex dig. When the scientists couldn’t find more of the meat-eater’s bones, they switched to the triceratops site.

Larson and his crew wrapped up digging for the year in mid-August.

On one of the last days of the dig, the paleontologists exposed two frills, the iconic shields behind the triceratopses’ heads, a few ribs, the pterygoid and a tooth.

Each solid-looking bone is actually fractured into thousands of tiny pieces from the compression of tons of earth. The scientists clean them with small knives and paintbrushes and squeeze glue into the cracks. Then they cover the entire bone with another type of glue, flip it over and do the same to the other side.

Some bones are so intertwined the team takes them out in large blocks.

When they started digging in early May, it looked like they had three triceratopses: two adults and one youth.

They soon realized they wouldn’t be done in June as planned. Perhaps the end of August, Larson speculated.

They just kept finding bones, including another two femurs. The site now has at least three adults and one juvenile — a gangly teenager, all legs and no real body size.

“We have this big mass of bones we just can’t separate,” Larson said. “We will finish it next summer or spring.”

If the bones keep creeping into the hillside, it may take even longer.

The real work begins when the bones are all removed and in a lab.

Each triceratops has about 300 bones. To bring one animal from field to display takes about 20,000 hours, said Matt Larson, one of two of Peter Larson’s sons who work for the institute.

The skeletons haven’t been sold, yet. They will likely go to Naturalis, a partner in the dig.

“Naturalis will expand its dinosaur hall, and a triceratops skeleton — or maybe even a little herd — would certainly be an interesting addition,” wrote Anne Schlup, a paleontologist for Naturalis, in an email.

Darnell, the rancher, doesn’t care as much where the skeletons end up, as long as they’re someplace public where people can see them.

“And then maybe we will have some answers,” he said.

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Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian, and others Should Not Go to North Korea

In America if you have a sex tape like Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian, you get to be famous, get a reality TV program and become rich.  Apparently, in North Korea, even if you slept with the Great Leader, your punishment is death by machine gun with your family watching.  Your family is then packed off to concentration camps never to be seen again.  I guess when Dennis Rodman hung out with the dictator no red line was drawn concerning shooting musicians.  

korean execution

Back when they dated, and she was still alive.

The story is here:

Hyon Song Wol, Kim Jong Un’s Ex-Girlfriend, Reportedly Executed For Making Sex Tape

The Huffington Post  |  By  

Unconfirmed reports claim the ex-girlfriend of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was executed by firing squad along with 11 others, after the group allegedly made and sold a sex tape.

Hyon Song Wol, a singer in North Korea’s famed Unhasu Orchestra, was killed by machine gun along with 11 other members of the orchestra and the Wangjaesan Light Music Band, another popular state-run music group in North Korea, according to a report in The Chosun Ilbo, South Korea’s largest daily newspaper.

The report, which cites an anonymous source in China, says the group was arrested Aug. 17 for filming and selling a pornographic video featuring themselves. The clip reportedly found its way across the border to China. Their families were forced to watch the execution, which took place three days later, and were then sent to the country’s notorious prison camps, the source said.

Read the full report at The Chosun Ilbo.

Hyon was a famous performer whose fame peaked around 2005 with the popular song “Excellent Horse-Like Lady.” She is said to have dated Kim in the early 2000’s, after the young leader returned from boarding school in Switzerland. But she disappeared from the public eye around 2006, near the time Kim Jong Il began grooming his son to be Supreme Leader. (Kim Jong Il reportedly disapproved of the relationship and ordered Hyon to leave the orchestra to keep her away from his son.)

Shortly after the breakup, Hyon is said to have married an officer in the North Korean army and given birth to his son. But after Kim Jong Il’s death in late 2011, rumors spread among Pyongyang’s military elite that Kim and Hyon had rekindled their romance.

Pop Singer Recently Executed

Pop Singer Recently Executed

A young woman photographed next to Kim at a concert in Pyongyang last summer was thought by South Korean intelligence officials to have been Hyon. Experts speculated that the photos were circulated as a play to make Kim seem more approachable. However, reports later said the woman was Ri Sol-Ju, Kim’s current wife. (Ri was also a member of the Unhasu Orchestra before she married Kim, but it’s unclear if she knew Hyon personally.)

Hyon’s ties to Kim raise the question whether it’s possible there is an ulterior motive for the execution. In North Korea, executions have been carried out as a way to eliminate perceived threats to the power of the Supreme Leader and his inner circle, but with such a dearth of facts in this case, it is hard to say anything for certain.



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Politicians That Look Like Disney Characters

I saw this on another site and thought you all my like it.  I don’t think they all work, but some are dead on.

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Researchers control each others’ body movements using only their brains

Researchers control each others’ body movements using only their brains

Published August 28, 2013
  • TMS1.JPG

    Andrea Stocoo, or subject 2 (the “Receiver”) with his right hand resting slightly above the “fire” key on the keyboard. The screen behind the subject shows the Sender’s game screen which is not seen by the Receiver. (University of Washington)

There’s still no cure for the common cold, but soon we may be able to control each others’ body movements.

Researchers at the University of Washington have successfully completed an experiment where one researcher was able to send a brain signal over the Internet to control the hand movements of his colleague.

“The Internet was a way to connect computers, and now it can be a way to connect brains,” experiment participant and researcher Andrea Stocco told ScienceNewsDaily. “We want to take the knowledge of a brain and transmit it directly from brain to brain.”

Stocco and fellow researcher Rajesh Rao donned swim caps with electrodes hooked up to an electroencephalography machine that reads electrical activity in the brain. The two men sat in separate labs and a Skype connection was set up so they could communicate during the experiment, although Rao and Stocco could not see each other.

Rao sat before a computer screen and played a video game using only his mind. When he wanted to fire a cannon, he imagined moving his hand to hit the “fire” button without actually moving any part of his body.

Almost simultaneously, Stocco involuntarily moved his hand to push the space bar on his keyboard as though to hit the “fire” button.

“It was both exciting and eerie to watch an imagined action from my brain get translated into actual action by another brain,” Rao said. “This was basically a one-way flow of information from my brain to his. The next step is having a more equitable two-way conversation directly between the two brains.”

Stocco likened the feeling of having Rao move his finger through thought to that of a twitch.

“I think some people will be unnerved by this because they will overestimate the technology,” assistant professor in psychology at the UW’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences and Stocco’s wife Chantel Prat said. “There’s no possible way the technology that we have could be used on a person unknowingly or without their willing participation.”

The University of Washington experiment sounds like something out of a science fiction movie. Stocco jokingly likened the results to the “Vulcan mind meld.”

Stocco explains that should they continue to be successful in their research, it could eventually result in helping a flight attendant land a plane should the pilot become incapacitated.

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Nice Picture Goes Viral

Jesse Cottle lost both his legs serving his nation.  During rehab, he meets super-cute Kelly who reminds me a bit of Kate Upton.  Hero wins her heart and they get married.  A photographer takes a candid picture and it goes viral on the web.  Why?  Because we all like happy stories and good endings for our heroes.

Double-amputee Marine in viral photo of wife carrying him hopes it can inspire others

Published August 29, 2013

A double-amputee Marine pictured in a viral photo being carried by his wife hopes the image will “represent overcoming any kind of adversity, big or small.”

Jesse Cottle was in Afghanistan in 2009 as part of an infantry squad when an IED exploded, costing him both his legs.

When he returned home to the U.S. for rehabilitation in California, he met his future wife, Kelly Cottle, at a swim meet.

“The more I got to know him, the more things that would surprise me about him,” Kelly Cottle told “Fox & Friends” on Thursday.

“The more I got to know him, the more things that would surprise me about him”

– Kelly Cottle 

Kelly Cottle said the two visited Idaho to get pictures with her family and the photographer asked to take a few photos of the group standing in a stream.

Jesse Cottle took off both of his prosthetic legs for the shots, and the photographer, Sarah Ledford, decided to take a few impromptu photos of Kelly carrying Jesse on her back as they returned to the shore.

The photos were posted on Ledford’s Facebook page on Aug. 17 and quickly went viral.

“We were like, oh that’s nice. And that’s about it,” Jesse Cottle told ‘Fox & Friends.’ And then it started blowing up from there and it just…boggled our minds from the beginning.”

Kelly Cottle said people’s reactions to the photo online were “supportive and encouraging.”

“It was hard to believe because they seemed kind of inspired about it, which was strange because it’s so normal to us,” she said. “But we kind of realized how great that is, that if we can inspire someone that’s so cool.”

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No Wire, No Power Source – New Devices Work in Thin Air

Devices Connect with Borrowed TV Signals and Need No Power Source

Devices that can make wireless connections even without an on-board battery could spread computing power into everything you own.


A novel type of wireless device sends and receives data without a battery or other conventional power source. Instead, the devices harvest the energy they need from the radio waves that are all around us from TV, radio, and Wi-Fi broadcasts.

These seemingly impossible devices could lead to a slew of new uses of computing, from better contactless payments to the spread of small, cheap sensors just about everywhere.

“Traditionally wireless communication has been about devices that generate radio frequency signals,” says Shyam Gollakota, one of the University of Washington researchers who led the project. “But you have so many radio signals around you from TV, Wi-Fi, and cellular networks. Why not use them?”

Gollakota and colleagues have created several prototypes to test the idea of using ambient radio waves to communicate. In one test, two credit-card-sized devices—albeit with relatively bulky antennas attached—were used to show how the technique could enable new forms of payment technology. Pressing a button on one card caused it to connect with and transfer virtual money to a similar card, all without any battery or external power source.

Here is a video of the prototypes:
“In that demonstration, the LEDs, touch sensors, microcontrollers, and the wireless communication are all powered by those ambient TV signals,” says Gollakota.

The devices communicate by varying how much they reflect—a quality known as backscatter—and absorb TV signals. Each device has a simple dipole antenna with two identical halves, similar to a classic “rabbit ears” TV aerial antenna. The two halves are linked by a transistor, which can switch between two states. It either connects the halves so they can work together and efficiently absorb ambient signals, or it leaves the halves separate so they scatter rather than absorb the signals. Devices close to one another can detect whether the other is absorbing or scattering ambient TV signals. “If a device nearby is absorbing more efficiently, another will feel [the signals] a bit less; if not, then it will feel more,” says Gollakota. A device encodes data by switching between absorbing and not absorbing to create a binary pattern.

The device gets the power to run its electronics and embedded software from the trickle of energy scavenged whenever its antenna is set to absorb radio waves.

In the tests, the devices were able to transfer data at a rate of one kilobit per second, sufficient to share sensor readings, information required to verify a device’s identity, or other simple tidbits. So far the longest links made between devices are around 2.5 feet, but the University of Washington team could extend that to as much as 20 feet with some relatively straightforward upgrades to the prototypes. The researchers also say the antennas of backscatter devices could be made smaller than those in the prototypes.

Gollakota says the devices could be programmed to work together in networks in which data travels by hopping from device to device to cover long distances and eventually connect to nodes on the Internet. He imagines many of a person’s possessions and household items being part of that battery-free network, making it possible to easily find a lost item like your keys. “These devices can talk to each other and know where it is,” he says.

The researchers tested that scenario by placing tags on cereal boxes lined up on a shelf to mimic a grocery store or warehouse. Each tag communicated with its nearest neighbor to check if it was in the correct place, and blinked its LED if it was not.

That demonstration impresses Kristofer Pister, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, whose work on tiny devices dubbed “smart dust,” which gather data from just about anywhere, helped spawn many research projects on networked sensors. Using TV signals to enable such applications without batteries is “a really clever idea,” he says.

While Pister and others around the world—including the Washington group—have spent years creating the technology needed to make cheap, compact sensors practical (see “Smart Specks”), such networks are relatively scarce. Josh Smith, a University of Washington professor who led the backscatter project with Gollakota, says that being able to do without onboard power could help.

Bhaskar Krishnamachari, who works on sensor networks at the University of Southern California, notes that in some rural areas and indoor environments, there may not be enough ambient radio waves to support the battery-free approach. “For many practical implementations, an onboard battery may be unavoidable,” he says. “However, the proposed approach may go some way in extending the time between battery-charging events.”

The backscatter communication technology was developed by Gollakota with Smith and David Wetherall, also a University of Washington professor, along with grad students Vincent LiuAaron Parks, and Vamsi Talla. A paper on the technology won best paper award at the ACM Sigcomm conference in Hong Kong this week.


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Prehistoric palates may be more refined than we think.

NBC News reports that the earliest conclusive evidence of humans cooking with spicehas been discovered from 6,100-year old clay cooking pots found in Neolithic sites in Denmark and Germany. Burnt food remains on the pots revealed traces of garlic mustard seeds along with meat and fish fats.

old pot

While spices have been found in older sites, it is unclear whether they were used in food or for medicinal or decorative purposes. This new discovery shows well-preserved food scraps without any whole seeds, suggesting that the seeds were crushed to release flavor.

According to a Smithsonian magazine blog post, experts previously thought that cooking with plants during this time period was largely motivated by a need for calories, but garlic mustard seeds have little nutritional value.

The findings suggest culinary spices were in use more than 1,000 years earlier than previously thought, predating the discovery of tumeric and ginger in 4,500-year old cooking pots from northern India.


Lead researcher Dr. Hayley Saul tested the primitive recipe and likened it to today’s popular mustard seeds. “It went down very well,” she tells NBC News.

Check out the slideshow above to find out more about this surprising discovery and what other ancient spices have been found.

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Wormhole best time-travel option

Wormhole best time-travel option, astrophysicist says

By Jillian Scharr

Published August 27, 2013

  • Back to the Future

    In the movie “Back to the Future,” Doc Brown builds a time machine into a Delorean. (Universal)

The concept of a time machine typically conjures up images of an implausible plot device used in a few too many science-fiction storylines. But according to Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, which explains how gravity operates in the universe, real-life time travel isn’t just a vague fantasy.

Traveling forward in time is an uncontroversial possibility, according to Einstein’s theory. In fact, physicists have been able to send tiny particles called muons, which are similar to electrons, forward in time by manipulating the gravity around them. That’s not to say the technology for sending humans 100 years into the future will be available anytime soon, though.

Time travel to the past, however, is even less understood. Still, astrophysicist Eric W. Davis, of the EarthTech International Institute for Advanced Studies at Austin, argues that it’s possible. All you need, he says, is a wormhole, which is a theoretical passageway through space-time that is predicted by relativity. [Wacky Physics: The Coolest Little Particles in Nature]

“You can go into the future or into the past using traversable wormholes,” Davis told LiveScience.

Where’s my wormhole?
Wormholes have never been proven to exist, and if they are ever found, they are likely to be so tiny that a person couldn’t fit inside, never mind a spaceship.

‘There are numerous space-time geometry solutions that exhibit time travel.’

– Astrophysicist Eric W. Davis 

Even so, Davis’ paper, published in July in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ journal, addresses time machines and the possibility that a wormhole could become, or be used as, a means for traveling backward in time.

Both general-relativity theory and quantum theory appear to offer several possibilities for traveling along what physicists call a “closed, timelike curve,” or a path that cuts through time and space essentially, a time machine.

In fact, Davis said, scientists’ current understanding of the laws of physics “are infested with time machines whereby there are numerous space-time geometry solutions that exhibit time travel and/or have the properties of time machines.”

A wormhole would allow a ship, for instance, to travel from one point to another faster than the speed of light sort of. That’s because the ship would arrive at its destination sooner than a beam of light would, by taking a shortcut through space-time via the wormhole. That way, the vehicle doesn’t actually break the rule of the so-called universal speed limit the speed of light because the ship never actually travels at a speed faster than light. [Warped Physics: 10 Effects of Traveling Faster Than Light]

Theoretically, a wormhole could be used to cut not just through space, but through time as well.

“Time machines are unavoidable in our physical dimensional space-time,” David wrote in his paper. “Traversable wormholes imply time machines, and [the prediction of wormholes] spawned a number of follow-on research efforts on time machines.”

However, Davis added, turning a wormhole into a time machine won’t be easy. “It would take a Herculean effort to turn a wormhole into a time machine. It’s going to be tough enough to pull off a wormhole,” he told LiveScience.

That’s because once a wormhole is created, one or both ends of it would need to be accelerated through time to the desired position, according to general relativity theory.

Challenges ahead
There are several theories for how the laws of physics might work to prevent time travel through wormholes.

“Not only do we assume [time travel into the past] will not be possible in our lifetime, but we assume that the laws of physics, when fully understood, will rule it out entirely,” said Robert Owen, an astrophysicist at Oberlin College in Ohio who specializes in black holes and gravitation theory.

According to scientists’ current understanding, keeping a wormhole stable enough to traverse requires large amounts of exotic matter, a substance that is still very poorly understood.

General relativity can’t account for exotic matter according to general relativity, exotic matter can’t exist. But exotic matter does exist. That’s where quantum theory comes in. Like general relativity, quantum theory is a system for explaining the universe, kind of like a lens through which scientists observe the universe. [Video How to Time Travel]

However, exotic matter has only been observed in very small amounts not nearly enough to hold open a wormhole. Physicists would have to find a way to generate and harness large amounts of exotic matter if they hope to achieve this quasi-faster-than-light travel and, by extension, time travel.

Furthermore, other physicists have used quantum mechanics to posit that trying to travel through a wormhole would create something called a quantum back reaction.

In a quantum back reaction, the act of turning a wormhole into a time machine would cause a massive buildup of energy, ultimately destroying the wormhole just before it could be used as a time machine.

However, the mathematical model used to calculate quantum back reaction only takes into account one dimension of space-time.

“I am confident that, since [general relativity] theory has not failed yet, that its predictions for time machines, warp drives and wormholes remain valid and testable, regardless of what quantum theory has to say about those subjects,” Davis added.

This illustrates one of the key problems in theories of time travel: physicists have to ground their arguments in either general relativity or quantum theory, both of which are incomplete and unable to encompass the entirety of our complex, mysterious universe.

Before they can figure out time travel, physicists need to find a way to reconcile general relativity and quantum theory into a quantum theory of gravity. That theory will then serve as the basis for further study of time travel.

Therefore, Owen argues that it’s impossible to be certain of whether time travel is possible yet. “The wormhole-based time-machine idea takes into account general relativity, but it leaves out quantum mechanics,” Owen added. “But including quantum mechanics in the calculations seems to show us that the time machine couldn’t actually work the way we hope.”

Davis, however, believes scientists have discovered all they can about time machines from theory alone, and calls on physicists to focus first on faster-than-light travel.

“Until someone makes a wormhole or a warp drive, there’s no use getting hyped up about a time machine,” Davis told LiveScience.

Accomplishing this will require a universally accepted quantum gravity theory an immense challenge so don’t go booking those time-travel plans just yet.

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