A Scientist's Personal Mission to Make Time Travel a Reality
Title: Time Traveler: A Scientist's Personal Mission to Make Time Travel a Reality
Published by: Basic Books
Release Date: 11/09/2007
Time Traveler is the compelling and very human story of a man whose deep childhood trauma — the loss of his father at a young age — propelled him toward scientific greatness. Suffocating beneath the weight of enormous grief, 10-year-old Ronald Mallett picked up a copy of H. G. Wells’s The Time Machine, and it changed his life forever. From that moment on, he threw himself into a quest to find his own Holy Grail — a means to travel back in time and save his father from an untimely death. Remarkably, the working-class African-American boy from the Bronx stuck with this vision, struggling with poverty and prejudice to become one of America’s first black Ph.D.’s in theoretical physics. Dr. Mallett discovered that circulating laser light could twist not just space (a phenomenon known as frame dragging) but also time, thus creating a time loop through which subatomic particles, information, and perhaps one day even people might travel.
Time Traveler follows Dr. Mallett’s journey of self- and scientific discovery as he describes with simple language and elegant metaphors the physics that makes time travel possible. From Einstein’s seminal work in relativity, to closed loops in time, to the already-proven ability to travel forward in time while moving at great speeds, to black holes and lasers and the birth of the universe. Dr. Mallett lays out his theories and presents the reader with what is an actual blueprint for a time machine. An experimental machine to travel back in time is currently being designed at a university laboratory using Dr. Mallett’s theories and equations.
“Physicist Mallett’s theory that “space and time can be manipulated” to make time travel possible has gained national media attention. His research and theories flow nicely through this easy-to-read autobiography. Mallett, one of the first African-American Ph.D.s in theoretical physics, has lived under the shadow of his father’s death when he was 10. His struggles with poverty, racism and depression, coupled with his extreme drive to succeed at building a time machine so as to see his beloved father again are inspirational. Mallett’s (and bestselling author Bruce Henderson’s) simple prose makes for clear and concise explanations of the science involved. The author comes across as a warm, inspired, driven, troubled man who is generous in his descriptions of others and must be an excellent teacher at the University of Connecticut. Suited for a general audience, or as an inspirational text for aspiring young scientists.
“In a parallel universe, Dr. Ronald Mallett is a TV repairman working in his father’s shop. In this one he’s a theoretical physicist. In that other universe his father didn’t die of a heart attack when Mallett was only 10. In this one his father’s death seeded Mallett’s raison d’être: to travel back in time to warn his father to take better care of himself. Time travel? When pigs fly. But perhaps nothing seems impossible to Mallett, who so far hasn’t let anything deter him from pursuing his grand endeavor — not the poverty of his youth or the racism he experienced as an African American, not even the skepticism he still encounters from some of his peers. It isn’t surprising, then, that Mallett’s memoir, Time Traveler, is as inspirational a read as watching underdog Rocky Balboa knock down the impressive Apollo Creed… His path was not always smooth, nor was it straight, but as happens to the fortunate few, certain events converge to make a life appear predestined…
“Whatever physics is needed to follow Mallett on his life’s quest is explained, and without mind-numbing equations. Perhaps because Time Traveler is co-written with Bruce Henderson (True North, And the Sea Will Tell) or because Mallett is used to explaining abstract theories to his students, the result is that even quantum physics is rendered digestible. Happily, Mallett never comes off as a puffy-chested smarty-pants. His delivery is humble, his voice enthusiastic, his optimism contagious. For anyone, but especially for the aspiring scientist, Time Traveler is a worthwhile and surprisingly entertaining read.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
When I was approached by a major publisher to become Ronald Mallett’s co-author and assist him with his memoir, my concern was that the science involved would be over my head. In my first conversation with Ron, I admitted that not only had I not taken physics in school, but I had avoided all sciences that weren’t mandatory, preferring history and journalism. Of course, I told him what I had told other subjects with whom I had written books: that he was the expert and knew enough about his subject for both of us, and that my area of expertise would be in helping craft his story for a general readership. Ron thought that sounded fine. Then, I asked: “Can we agree early-on that there is no such thing as a dumb question?” He laughed, and explained good-naturedly that as a long-time teacher of undergraduates, he had fielded plenty of dumb questions. Thus began what turned into a great collaboration, which has morphed into a genuine and warm friendship that I know will last the rest of our lives.
Ron and I had our ups and downs with this project, not in terms of the material or working together, but from the outside world. We lost our first editor, and her replacement didn’t like the early chapters, so we asked for a release from our contract. Then, to our surprise, we had difficulty finding another publisher, and ended up with a small publishing house that went out of business shortly after the hardcover was published, although not before we found ourselves working with a third editor. The title is now available in paperback from Basic Books, and Ron continues to be a popular speaker at events and appearances. Our book has been translated into several languages, with foreign rights sales to China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, and the United Kingdom.