KEY POINTS

  • A university student presents a breakthrough math formula proving that paradox-free time travel is possible
  • His calculation suggests time travel is possible in our universe
  • The math modeling proposes that the present is not changed by a time-traveling decision

Traveling back in time without contradicting or negating current events is possible, according to a mathematical formula designed by an undergraduate from the University of Queensland in Australia. And yes, that also means the coronavirus pandemic will still happen even if someone went back in time and quarantined patient zero.  

Germain Tobar, a fourth-year student taking up Bachelor of Advanced Science, investigated the possibility of paradox-free time travel. He then came up with mathematical modeling that showed people can exercise free will even when traveling back in time to change an event. Unlike with the common notion that people, if indeed they can travel in time, would have to limit their actions to avoid paradox when they go back to the present, Tobar’s equation showed time-travelers could act for themselves.

Tobar’s mathematical equation is presented in detail in the paper titled Reversible dynamics with closed time-like curves and freedom of choice, which he wrote with UQ physicist Fabio Costa. The paper is published in the journal Classical and Quantum Gravity. 

Tobar’s math modeling floated the possibility that no matter how a time-traveler changed an event, all other scenarios surrounding that action would follow suit to accommodate the adjustment made. In the end, the events will remain logically consistent with how they unfolded in the present time. 

Albert Einstein Einstein’s theory of relativity survived another test. This time it involved Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy, and the star S0-2. Pictured: German-born American physicist Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955) in 1946. Photo: Getty Images/Central Press

To some extent, Tobar’s calculations square with Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity, which first introduced the possibility of time travel. In Einstein’s theory, an event can be both in the past and future itself. 

Costa, who supervised Tobar, used the pandemic happening at present as an example to expound on Tobar’s equations. If for example, someone traveled in time and treated COVID-19’s patient zero to stop the pandemic from happening, when that person goes back to the present, there is no longer a reason for him to pursue his time travel in the first place. A paradox happened in this scenario. 

With Tobar’s math modeling, on the other hand, a person can travel back in time, treat the patient zero, but all other events will adjust and could result in another person being the patient zero.

“No matter what you did, the salient events would just recalibrate around you. This would mean that – no matter your actions - the pandemic would occur, giving your younger self the motivation to go back and stop it. Try as you might to create a paradox, the events will always adjust themselves, to avoid any inconsistency,” Costa explained in the university's UQ News.