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Is There Real Proof of Time Travel?

Karen Frazier
Time traveler holds a clock

In H.G. Wells's The Time Machine, the Time Traveller hops aboard his time machine invention and explores both the past and the future. The work is science fiction, but many have proposed that time travel is possible. Is there proof of time travel, and if so, what is it and how credible is it?

Is Time Travel Scientifically Possible?

According to various scientists interviewed by Scientific American, time travel may, indeed, be possible. Or, at least the door isn't closed on the possibility that humans may be able to travel into the future or the past.

What Science Says About Travel to the Future

In fact, Einstein's theory of special relativity shows that time travel to the future is possible based on the principle that time slows as objects approach the speed of light, so a person traveling on a spaceship that is accelerating towards the speed of light into outer space and then returning to Earth may only experience 40 years of human aging aboard the ship but will return to the planet around 50,000 years in the future from the point they left. However, currently the technology doesn't exist to carry a human being that far into space with enough power to approach the speed of light, so barring some top secret projects of which no one is aware, nobody is known to have done this.

What Science About Travel to the Past

The math equations used in the theory of general relativity show that it may be possible to travel into the past, but these calculations are purely theoretical, so there is no generally understood path to making that happen at this time. There is no main strean experimental evidence showing that a human has ever undertaken time travel in this manner.

A Scientific Study Based on Internet Mentions

In 2014, two scientists at Michigan Technological University conducted an experiment in which they twice searched the internet for credible and evidentiary mentions of time travel by looking for prescient information posted at a time before it was known and experienced in the real world. Their study, which was shared at American Astronomical Society, AAS Meeting #223, found no evidence of time travel based on a time window between 2006 and 2013.

Anecdotal Evidence of Time Travel

So, while there isn't any current experimental evidence that supports time travel, there are still some people offering anecdotal evidence that time travel has occurred. Some of the tales they tell and the supporting evidence they offer are compelling.

The Chaplin Time Traveler

One of the most well-known clips of video footage that ostensibly offers intriguing evidence supporting possible time travel into the past is known as the Chaplin Time Traveler. The footage was brought to public attention in 2010 when a film producer saw an outtake from a Charlie Chaplin film from 1928. In the clip below, a woman appears to be walking past talking on a cell phone. Some feel this is evidence of time travel, although the more likely explanation is that she is carrying some type of a hearing device that was available in the 1920s.

Andrew Basiago, Chrononaut

Attorney Andrew Basiago claims to be a chrononaut (time traveler). Among Basiago's claims, he states that in the 1960s he participated as a child in U.S.-led time and space travel research called Project Pegasus, and that he time traveled as part of this program on multiple occasions. Among his many claims, Basiago says he traveled back in time to attend the Gettysburg Address and points to a photo of a young man as evidence that he was there. Basiago also claims that as part of another U.S.-led space-time exploration initiative, he teleported to Mars.

The Modern Man

The Modern Man, also called the Time Travel Hipster, appears in a photo from 1941 in British Columbia, Canada at the opening of a bridge. In the photograph, typical 40s looking people surround a decidedly modern looking young man with sunglasses, an apparently modern camera in his hands, and wearing clothing and a hairdo that look like hipster fashion. And while many people believe that everything in the images that points to the young man being modern can be explained by items available in 1941, others think it is evidence of time travel.

Conversational Time Travel

One type of time travel that is possible is something called conversational time travel, in which during conversations, people discuss their past or future. One study showed that people spend about 21 percent of their talk time in conversational time travel.

Proof of Time Travel?

While some have claimed first-hand experience of time travel, most of the evidence is shaky at best with numerous possible explanations for what seems to be modern devices and styles appearing in photographs from times long past. Likewise, there are many urban legends about time travel that have been disproved. So while time travel is a scientific possibility, if people are actually traveling through time, no scientific data exists to prove they have done so except in conversation.

Is There Real Proof of Time Travel?