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Build Your Own Time Machine by Brian Clegg

01/02/2012. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy Build Your Own Time Machine in the USA - or Buy Build Your Own Time Machine in the UK

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pub: Duckworth Overlook. 290 page small hardback. Price: GBP14.99 (US). ISBN: 978-0-7156-4290-0.

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Time is rot. Hmmm…let me rephrase that. Time is a measure of decay. Author Brian Clegg doesn’t exactly say that in his book, ‘Build Your Own Time Machine’ as the correct word is enthalpy, which is the measure of any system breaking down. We might put something together but ultimately it always falls down again. Local time, such as the time of day, week, month and year are merely the means to put a label to the time past, present and future. Time marches on and whether time travel is possible or not, there’s a lot of things required to make it possible, including more energy than this world can generate to even get up to near light speed and that’s just to go into the future. Getting into the past is even more problematic.

Clegg makes a good point in that if time travel is possible, wouldn’t time travellers come back in time to see famous events happening like Kennedy’s assassination in 1963. Shades of the film ‘Grand Tour: Disaster In Time’ (based off the C.L. Moore story ‘Vintage Season’) which oddly he doesn’t reference, considering the number of other SF stories that he does. Equally, I could contest that as no one did a census of the crowd, who’s to say who was there. A time traveller is going to want to blend in not stand out from a crowd.

There’s a lot of incidental information given in this book, like how various people tried to sort time on Earth based on the lunar month, orbit around the sun and rotation of the planet. The oddest thing though was when Clegg explains the origins of the month and day names, he neglects to identify the Norse gods that Tuesday (Tyr – the god of war) and Friday (Freyr – the sun-god), even if it’s only to be orderly.

In some respects that although Clegg applies lip service to SF films and TV series with chapter titles, I do feel that he hasn’t looked at some of the things they address. The time traveller in HG Wells’ ‘The Time Machine’ and the DeLorean in the ‘Back To The Future’ movies are ordinary animals compared to ‘Doctor Who’s TARDIS which actually does address all the problems he’s noted already. It accesses an unlimited energy source and steps out of our reality before arriving somewhere else in space and time. When it comes to ‘The Terminator’ films, it’s a shame he didn’t read my own article where the assassination of the Connors was a diversion by Skynet to plant its own technology in the past to ensure its own creation. Saying that, Clegg does explore the ramifications of the grandfather paradox and leaving something like a sheet of music for Ravel to find to create a piece of music as creating something out of thin air because if Ravel had/hadn’t created it, just who did? I did ponder on this and think he overlooked the possibility that some things are just there waiting to be used and only waiting to be credited.

Clegg also spends a chapter exploring the possibilities of using black holes or wormholes for time travel and their impracticability as you’re stretched thin by the gravitational forces. I often think that if that was the means for convenient time or even space travel then it would have been done by some alien species by now.

Although I agree with Clegg that it would be difficult to time travel back beyond the creation of the time machine, that only assumes it’s of human creation. I would imagine all bets would be off if such a device was extra-terrestrial, although I also share his sentiments that it hasn’t happened yet.

To be fair to Arthur C. Clarke, his forecasts for technology that was used in ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ was based on how quickly things were advancing in the 1960s. After all, it took less than twenty years from the first satellite to the first landing on the Moon. He never allowed for inflation and the space race losing its momentum.

Although I doubt you could use this book to build your own time machine, a lot of the points raised in this book covers the points you have to consider and some of the options that are available and some of the dilemmas about doing such an activity. Time travellers beware. About the only point Clegg didn’t cover is you wiping out your own knowledge of time travel. What was the subject again?

GF Willmetts

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