National Geographic Daily News
A Hollywood time machine.

Actor Rod Taylor tries to fast forward in the 1960 film The Time Machine.

Photograph from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Getty Images

Ker Than

for National Geographic News

Published April 12, 2013

It's not quite Back to the Future, but a young Iranian inventor claims to have built a time machine that can predict a person's future with startling accuracy.

Ali Razeqi, who is 27 and the "managing director of Iran's Center for Strategic Inventions," claims his device will print out a report detailing an individual's future after using complex algorithms to predict his or her fate.

According to the Daily Telegraph, Razeqi told Iran's state-run Fars news agency that his device "easily fits into the size of a personal computer case and can predict details of the next 5-8 years of the life of its users. It will not take you into the future, it will bring the future to you."

Razeqi says Iran has decided to keep his prophetic time machine under wraps for now out of fear that "the Chinese will steal the idea and produce it in millions overnight."

Iran's Deputy Minister of Science, Research, and Technology dismissed Razeqi's claims on Friday in an interview with Fars—a sign of just how much attention the story has received.

We talked to Thomas Roman, a theoretical physicist at Central Connecticut State University and a co-author of the book Time Travel and Warp Drives, to ask about the possibilities for a Razeqi-like time machine and to debunk popular misconceptions about time travel. Here's an edited version of our interview:

What do you think of Razeqi's claim that he's built a time machine that can predict a person's future?

It's completely nuts.

Does his alleged time machine break any laws of physics?

It's hard to know because it's so wacky.

What are some popular misconceptions about time travel?

One popular misconception is that you could go back to any time in the past. And that's not true. You can only go back as far as the time when the time machine was invented. So if I invent my time machine today and I wait 30 years and go back to the past, the farthest back in the past I can go to is today when I turned my time machine on.

Another major misconception—and you see this a lot in time travel movies—is the idea that you can go back in time and change the timeline. In these stories, the time traveler goes backward in time and does something that mucks up the future and subsequently has to do something to "restore the timeline." However, that can't be the case, since we can't have the same event both happen and not happen in the same universe. You can't change the past.

For example, suppose I go back in time and try to kill my grandfather. If I succeed, then of course I'm never born and I could never have made the trip back using the time machine.

Once again, we can't have the same event—the killing of my grandfather—both happen and not happen in the same universe.

Is there any way of getting around this "grandfather paradox"?

There are two possibilities. One is what's sometimes called the self-consistency scenario, in which all events along the time loop that I make are adjusted to be self-consistent.

So for example, if I go backward in time and try to shoot my grandfather, something will always prevent me from doing so. The recoil on my shoulder makes me miss, or my grandfather ducks, or I change my mind. It's like the universe and the laws of physics are conspiring to make things consistent.

The other possibility is that when I shoot my grandfather the universe splits and there's one universe in which I shoot my grandfather and there's another universe in which I did not shoot my grandfather.

Didn't split timelines play a role in the latest Star Trek reboot by J. J. Abrams?

Yeah, there was something along those lines. In the movie, the Romulan bad guy Nero goes back to the past to get revenge against Spock, who he claims is responsible for the destruction of his home planet Romulus. So he's going to get even by going back into the past to destroy [the planet] Vulcan.

But since Vulcan wasn't destroyed in the original timeline—the one Nero came from—then upon going back into the past, he causes the universe to branch.

So the Vulcan he destroys is not the one in his original timeline, but the one in the new branch. So he's not really getting revenge on the original Vulcan from his timeline. But I suppose revenge is revenge.

That aside, I thought that [using the concept of a split timeline] was a clever way of rebooting the franchise because then you have the same characters but you don't have to slavishly follow the past history of the episodes since you're in a new timeline where everything can be different.

Okay, so you might not be able to travel to the past. But is future time travel possible?

There's no problem with that. In fact, we know how to do it in principle. If you travel very close to the speed of light, time slows down for the space traveler compared to someone on Earth.

Another way of traveling to the future is by orbiting very close to a black hole. For example, if you orbit around the black hole at the center of our galaxy, you could also have your time stretched relative to observers on the Earth.

If future time travel is possible, then could a time machine like the one the Iranian businessman claimed to have built actually work?

Going to the future is no problem. A mechanism for traveling into the future is afforded by [Einstein's] special theory of relativity. It's when you try to go backward that you run into the grandfather paradox. However, that said, what the businessman claims to have built is still nuts.

One thing that's rarely mentioned in time travel stories is that if you travel back only in time but stay in exactly the same point in space, the Earth won't be there anymore. So wouldn't time travel require traveling through space as well?

Yes, it would have to. The Earth is turning on its axis, and it's orbiting the sun. So the Earth isn't always in the same spot in its orbit. So if you're staying in the same place and traveling back to the past, the Earth is gone from underneath you. When you stop your time machine, you'll be in a bit of a pickle.

Why do you think time travel is so popular in books and movies?

You have to admit, it's a pretty tantalizing idea. Part of the appeal is that you can go back and see things for yourself that you only know through history books and the geological record. I think everybody would think it'd be really cool to go back and see dinosaurs or go back and visit ancient Greece.

I think another appeal is we all have things in our past that we wished that we hadn't done, or that we wished hadn't happened. And I think there's the desire to be able to go back and prevent those things from having happened.

76 comments
Donovan Hinshaw
Donovan Hinshaw

I'm a senior physicist with Los Alamos labs in New Mexico. I also have a PhD in epistemology. I really get angry whenever anyone misleads others with personal concepts and lies.  I decided to weigh in, only because Thomas Roman is an idiot and liar.
Time travel is possible, but it would not be like you might imagine in science fiction books and movies. The truth is very complex to try and explain here in this limited space.  None, the less, I will explain as simply as possible.

It has long been scientifically proven that this world, our universe, is a construct.  Our universe is much like a very complex, multiple dimensional, holographic video game.  What appears to be mass, weight, etc. is not what it appears to be. Everything here is made up of directed particles, set in place to interact with the surroundings. If you simply removed the mesons(like a glue that holds thing together) in between particles,  a person or object would disappear before your eyes, falling to the ground or drift into the atmosphere to mix with other particles. The "video game" program was written by a, yet unknown, creator that set the stage for for very complex interaction with all varibles involved. There are millions of alternate realities, time lines, etc. that are a part of just one of millions of possible choices each of us can make on a daily basis. The outcome or path that is taken leans on what is chosen. As soon as a choice is made, there is the responding "reality" that takes over.  Since everything is a frequency, everything "vibrates" in it's specific way. Actually, everything continues to do so, forever.
Things can be changed, but not erased. The Grandfather paradox is misconstrued.  You could kill your grandfather, but it does not mean you will disappear. Rather you kill or do not kill your grandfather, are a part of two or more separate realities involving other dimensions. The outcome would be different in completely separate dimensional realities and timelines. The "program" was written so that no two dimensional alternate realities could impinge. There are new physic laws concerning these new principles being rewritten to account for multi-dimensions, realities, and timelines even as I write this.  Of course, there are many "physicists" still living in their academic past and lie to people, just because they don't really know what they're talking about..or don't feel that anyone has the right to know the truth.  It is not the responsibility of scientists to pontificate to people with lies about anything.  Lies have kept us back for far too long. I feel the world is ready for truth and and advancement in how we live our lives here.
I hope, in some small way, that I have given it a little kick start and I challenge students to surf the net and find the truth. Don't just take someones word on anything. Learn and make your own decision.

If you have any questions, I would be happy to answer.

Best to everyone,
Dr. Hinshaw

Stimulatingg Vibrationn
Stimulatingg Vibrationn

Hmmm, myb that iranian guy studied how tarrot cards works and how to obtain future information using vidic|draconian|animal|eastern|western astrologies... Hmmmm?

john darwin
john darwin

I think another appeal is we all have things in our past that we wished that we hadn't done, or that we wished hadn't happened. And I think there's the desire to be able to go back and prevent those things from having happened.

nah. its all about whats going on tomorrow. and can i have a spaceship and a robot body that lasts millennia. 

maybe, just maybe id go back,........... for just one thing.  

john darwin
john darwin

I think another appeal is we all have things in our past that we wished that we hadn't done, or that we wished hadn't happened. And I think there's the desire to be able to go back and prevent those things from having happened.

or t'other way round.

s'always tomorrer in't there though ?

Joseph Burkhalter
Joseph Burkhalter

First off, we'll never have a time machine that goes into the past. Simply because their would have been proof already.

And second, this is ridicule

Brian Alvarado
Brian Alvarado

If anyone makes it so you can go back in time, take me with you to the 90's

or.. make it so grunge is still popular in 2014

vicki swartz
vicki swartz

If I die on this universe, does the other me's in other universes die too?  I am an out of the box thinker and each year the information we learn is changing by the day, so why not jump ahead?

Hermes Mercury
Hermes Mercury

Seriously?  Scientists HAVE to get off the dime on acting like religious people.  "It's just nuts" is not a scientific argument, although "he's a heretic" is a religious one.  Just recently Dr. Eric Davis, who researches FTL travel and is connected to MIT said in an interview that scientists needed to act like scientists and use the scientific method and STOP having views that interfere with that.  I agree, and I think that here we have the perfect example of a MAJOR scientist who obviously does not do that, and given his treatment of work he's never seen probably cannot do that -- and I personally find that both pathetic and disgusting.

Noimy Climaco
Noimy Climaco

For me this is some kind of machine that calculate what will might happen to you in the future, just like numerology it gives you a calculation and prediction of things you might happen on you. But if a time machine really exist I think it's better to just travel your present memory to your past instead of physical travelling. So you have the idea what will gonna happen and change the past. And their's no need the universe to split or happen just like a grandfather paradox. This is just my opinion.

Catherine D'Jay
Catherine D'Jay

I can't help but think of Doctor Who when I read this article. especially the episode in which they go back in time and Rose tries to save her dad, resulting in a paradox.

Muhammad Ahmed
Muhammad Ahmed

The fact that time travelling can be done by travelling at the speed of light is also confusing ,like if i can travel at the speed of light what does it have anything to do with travelling to the future.if i have a watch with me in this machine that is travelling at the speed of light wont time on it b the same as on earth ? Wierd :s .. if i had to travel back in time i would want to stop the US from becoming a power.as it pokes into every countries matters !

Adeel Khan
Adeel Khan

I INVENTED THE TIME MACHINE THAT WORKS I TRAVEL IN TO PAST AND FUTURE ITS TRUE I DON'T LIE PLEASE ANYBODY TRUST ME

Adeel Khan
Adeel Khan

I INVENTED THE TIME MACHINE THAT WORKS I TRAVEL IN TO PAST AND FUTURE ITS TRUE I DON'T LIE PLEASE ANYBODY TRUST ME

Adrian M.
Adrian M.

I doubt the grandfather paradox is really as problematic as people say. I know just as much about backwards time travel as the next person, not much, because no one has experienced it to the public's knowledge, but if a person went back in time to shoot their grandfather, I doubt the universe would somehow consciously alter the fifth dimension to avoid a paradox. It would just happen. Their grandfather would be dead, and the time traveler would experience that timeline as the new reality. They wouldn't cease to exist, they would just return to a future that doesn't have any idea who they are, because they and one of their parents hadn't been born. I figure once you manipulate time, you become dislodged from it. It's also pretty much the same as shooting yourself through some kind of time portal. If you shot yourself through that portal of you loading the gun 1 minute earlier, you'd be fine, because all possibilities exist simultaneously, and you would just continue on in the timeline you see with your own eyes.

Dan Jones
Dan Jones

Sounds to me as if someone got hold of Heinlein's short story, "Life-line".

H CA
H CA

Another fundamental misconception is that you would return to 'your own past' (that is the past  you remember). 

Even having the right machine prepared as indicated  in the article, you would most likely arrive on the other side to an alternative past (containing a time machine), but never to the one you remember. 

In fact the collapse of wave functions (for the physicists& chemists who understand what i mean)  should introduce also uncertainty when you are moving back in time, preventing you of retracing your past when moving back in time.  (Everett Many Worlds interpretation, see Wikipedia: ...Many futures, Many pasts

 Cheers!

Amrita Antil
Amrita Antil

Is "Time Travel Machine" really exist .If yes then can I travel in it to go to the backward or in My past?& If yes then sir please tell me what is the procedure for that.

Raul de Vera Jr.
Raul de Vera Jr.

"Razeqi says Iran has decided to keep his prophetic time machine under wraps for now out of fear that "the Chinese will steal the idea and produce it in millions overnight."


After reading the entire article, it seems like any glorified zodiac machine making use of "complex algorithms" -- I don't believe in this crap. He's much worse than his fears about the Chinese.

Saahir Saahir
Saahir Saahir

well, i think its just a calculating machine, that calculate things and predict about you, like an astrologist, he just calculate and predict, it might be happened or not. In computer Sciences it not so difficult to built a program that ask u some things and predict. :) 

Isabella Azevedo
Isabella Azevedo

I have no idea, but I wouldn't want to know my future. 

Aatman Patel
Aatman Patel

i think he may have made the ultimate time machine...!!!
but i guess its not working  :P

claudia clemens
claudia clemens

D

I have always enjoyed 'Back in Time' movies and books even knowing it's not possible.  However, since everything is energy and has frequency, the past is recorded somewhere just like our memories.  If in the future someone really learns how to tap in  or attune to those frequencies they could reproduce the past for us similar to the way TV or radio works.  We could view it at least.  Imagine a future where a dedicated area or room in our home is setup for holographic recreations of the past (or present) sent out via network channels.  We could then experience the adventure and excitement of those 'Back in Time' events...but in the safety and comfort of our recliner enjoying a bowl of buttered popcorn.


claudia clemens
claudia clemens

D

I have always enjoyed 'Back in Time' movies and books even knowing it's not possible.  However, since everything is energy and has frequency, the past is recorded somewhere just like our memories.  If in the future someone really learns how to tap in  or attune to those frequencies they could reproduce the past for us similar to the way TV or radio works.  We could view it at least.  Imagine a future where a dedicated area or room in our home is setup for holographic recreations of the past (or present) sent out via network channels.  We could then experience the adventure and excitement of those 'Back in Time' events...but in the safety and comfort of our recliner enjoying a bowl of buttered popcorn.


claudia clemens
claudia clemens

D

I have always enjoyed 'Back in Time' movies and books even knowing it's not possible.  However, since everything is energy and has frequency, the past is recorded somewhere just like our memories.  If in the future someone really learns how to tap in  or attune to those frequencies they could reproduce the past for us similar to the way TV or radio works.  We could view it at least.  Imagine a future where a dedicated area or room in our home is setup for holographic recreations of the past (or present) sent out via network channels.  We could then experience the adventure and excitement of those 'Back in Time' events...but in the safety and comfort of our recliner enjoying a bowl of buttered popcorn.


claudia clemens
claudia clemens

D

I have always enjoyed 'Back in Time' movies and books even knowing it's not possible.  However, since everything is energy and has frequency, the past is recorded somewhere just like our memories.  If in the future someone really learns how to tap in  or attune to those frequencies they could reproduce the past for us similar to the way TV or radio works.  We could view it at least.  Imagine a future where a dedicated area or room in our home is setup for holographic recreations of the past (or present) sent out via network channels.  We could then experience the adventure and excitement of those 'Back in Time' events...but in the safety and comfort of our recliner enjoying a bowl of buttered popcorn.


claudia clemens
claudia clemens

D

I have always enjoyed 'Back in Time' movies and books even knowing it's not possible.  However, since everything is energy and has frequency, the past is recorded somewhere just like our memories.  If in the future someone really learns how to tap in  or attune to those frequencies they could reproduce the past for us similar to the way TV or radio works.  We could view it at least.  Imagine a future where a dedicated area or room in our home is setup for holographic recreations of the past (or present) sent out via network channels.  We could then experience the adventure and excitement of those 'Back in Time' events...but in the safety and comfort of our recliner enjoying a bowl of buttered popcorn.


Elizabeth Cohen
Elizabeth Cohen

Yeah, now it is time for him and his president to take off to another time and place. 

Kathy Olson
Kathy Olson

Are we living in the Present? Perhaps everything has already happened and we are living in an illusion of space and time?    

Barth Leight
Barth Leight

poppycock.! algorithms to predict the future?better off going  to a palm reader,at least you'll get some entertainment.

mogamat souma
mogamat souma

@Adeel Khanif you say you did..... send me proof as i want a request of whats real..... i so want to go back in time to change an event in 2009.....

Brian Alvarado
Brian Alvarado

@Adeel Khan PLEASE!!! Make it so grunge and pop punk is still popular by the time 2014 comes please!!!

Walid El-Darwiche
Walid El-Darwiche

@Adeel Khan I do trust you so much that you may never believe how much. I will give-up all to just travel in time.

god is my witness. travel in time doesn't mean you need to change the world it is up to us in the present to change our future

me you
me you

@Adeel Khan Why would you care if anyone believes you? Just record your travels for yourself. No one else matters.

Surojit Paramanick
Surojit Paramanick

@H CA Speaking of uncertainty, there's a possible chance you will go back to your past successfully and at the same moment (not to confuse with time) another version(copy) of you will or may end up stuck between space and time as  a parallel universe will be created the moment you start your machine. this is possible because the wave function will only collapse after the time traveller stops his machine and observe's the place where he landed.

siv strawberry
siv strawberry

@Barth LeightIf Razeqi was just as close minded as you are, he wouldn't have discovered that algorithms can be used to predict the future. If the science world were only filled with people who aren't afraid to see the same things differently, we wouldn't have new inventions. 

mogamat souma
mogamat souma

@Adeel Khani meant Dasoumavodamail.com or dasoumagmail.com  i would really like to see how it works

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