Back to the Future and time traveling science

Back to the Future’s Marty McFly lived the dream: he traveled back in time, forward in time, rode hover boards, and won the girl.

To celebrate his imminent arrival – October 21st 2015 is the date he and Doc travel to in the second movie – we highlight the studies that show scientists are as heavily hooked on time travel as we are...

Mental time travel: Pat yourself on the back because you’ve already time traveled a million times over. Researchers have long-considered our ability to re-experience the past (memory) and pre-experience the future (forward-planning) to be mental time travel. And kids are surprisingly good at it, in a Back to the Future II kind of way. These researchers show children often travel forward in time to plan their and your lives out, whether you like it or not.

Eating primordial soup: Researchers show primordial soup was edible when properly cooked, making it the perfect biochemical snack for hungry time travelers. Mmm. But it does beg the question: If you went back in time and gobbled up Earth’s early life forms, would you have ever existed in the first place…?

Changing history: Scientists use immersive virtual reality – think big glasses with 3D video animations – to give the illusion of time travel. In this study, participants step into a virtual world and watch a tragic event. They’re then taken back a second time, but can now help their “past selves” ensure a positive outcome. It’s like Marty and Doc all over again, only this time we all walk away as heroes.

Placing bets on a sure-win: Remember when Marty ingeniously stole the sports statistics guide from the future? This computer scientist looks like he wanted a similar ace up his sleeve. He analyses how machines can better predict the results of the sports leagues. His paper is written for bookmakers, but you best believe I took notes while reading it.

Building a time machine: Theoretical physicist Ronald Mallet is actually building a time machine to reconnect with his dead father. Yes, really. He’s written an equation that’s rooted in Einstein’s general theory of relativity and that, he believes, has the potential to twist time and space. You can read more about it in his book and publications, which director Spike Lee has his eyes on for a movie.

Marty McFly lived the dream – and so are we. Thanks to scientists the world over, our time travel adventures are only just beginning…

McFly: “Whoa. This is heavy.”

Doc: “There's that word again. "Heavy." Why are things so heavy in the future? Is there a problem with the Earth's gravitational pull?”

Feature image courtesy of Frank Da Silva.