Paper: “Time travel and time machines”

by Chris Smeenk and Christian Wüthrich

Forthcoming in C. Callender (ed.), Oxford Handbook of Time, Oxford University Press.

Online available at the PhilSci archive.

Abstract:
This paper is an enquiry into the logical, metaphysical, and physical possibility of time travel understood in the sense of the existence of closed worldlines that can be traced out by physical objects. We argue that none of the purported paradoxes rule out time travel either on grounds of logic or metaphysics. More relevantly, modern spacetime theories such as general relativity seem to permit models that feature closed worldlines. We discuss, in the context of Gödel’s infamous argument for the ideality of time based on his eponymous spacetime, what this apparent physical possibility of time travel means. Furthermore, we review the recent literature on so-called time machines, i.e., of devices that produce closed worldlines where none would have existed otherwise. Finally, we investigate what the implications of the quantum behaviour of matter for the possibility of time travel might be and explicate in what sense time travel might be possible according to leading contenders for full quantum theories of gravity such as string theory and loop quantum gravity.

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