From classic books like A Wrinkle in Time and Time and Again to classic movies like The Time Machine and Back to the Future, children and adults alike have been fascinated by the concept of time travel for hundreds of years. But is it even possible? If it was, where — or when? — would you go?

The concept of time travel sounds simple: you just move back and forth between different points in time like you would between different points in space. You could jump forward into the future, or you could jump back to sometime in the past.

Exactly how would this be done? Most artistic works that feature time travel accomplish it with the help of a special device usually called a time machine. The time machine features whatever technology has been developed to transport people successfully to other points in time.

But is time travel merely the stuff of science fiction? Or could it really happen? Some scientists believe that parts of Albert Einstein’s theories of special and general relativity might allow for the possibility of time travel.

These theories are complex and very hard to understand. They involve exotic astronomical things like black holes and wormholes. Traveling faster than the speed of light might also be required!

To date, there are only theories and ideas…and hopes and dreams. Modern technology, as great and advanced as it is, has not yet begun to approach the level of sophistication that would allow humans to defy the laws of physics and travel through time.

It doesn’t hurt, though, to think about what the ability to time travel might mean. Would you go forward to the future or back to the past? Would you rather see what things are going to be like or how things were long ago?

It can also be fun to think about what problems might be presented by time travel. Some scientists and philosophers are quick to point out that traveling backwards in time to the past creates the potential for paradoxes.

A paradox is a situation which appears absurd or self-contradictory. For example, let’s say that you travel back in time to the day your parents met. Some people believe your very presence in the past could alter events.

What if your presence in the past did alter events? What if your showing up on the day your parents met caused a ripple in time that led to them not meeting? If they never met and got married, you were never born. If you were never born, how could you ever exist to travel back in time to cause the problem you just caused?

If that doesn’t twist your brain in knots, we’re not sure what will! As confusing as it sounds, we hope that any scientist who ever manages to make time travel possible works out these paradoxes in advance!

 

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    • We appreciate your comment to Wonder #222, Food Allergy Girl, and we appreciate your comment to today’s Wonder, too! We think traveling back to the time of the Revolutionary War sounds cool! Thanks for sharing with us today! :-)

    • We’re so happy to hear that you and your classmates love visiting Wonderopolis, Samantha! Thank you for letting us know that and THANK YOU for visiting today’s Wonder of the Day®! :-)

    • Thanks for leaving us a cool comment to let us know you liked this Wonder, Mr. Lego! We hope you have a WONDERful day! :-)

    • Hello, Viggo! We’re sure glad you enjoyed this Wonder of the Day® about time travel! Thanks for letting us know! :-)

    • Hi, Kaya! We really appreciate your comment! Thanks for letting us know you liked exploring this Wonder, and THANKS for the awesome smiley faces! :-)

  1. Here are some of the “times” our class would like to travel back to. We really enjoyed discussing this Wonder.

    Cameron – I would like to go back to when I was a baby because I could be a smart baby.

    Foxx – I would like back to 1979 because it is my favorite year to say.

    Jacob – The Vietnam War time because I would like to see my grandpa.

    Larissa – When I was a baby because I want my mom and dad to hold me.

    Allison – 1944 because my grandma was born then and I would like to see my grandma when she was a baby.

    Emily – When the pilgrims were around so I could see and meet them in person.

    Max – Dinosaur time so I could ride one.

    Sam – To the dinosaur period so I could learn more about them.

    Ayden – The time when they had the Battle of the Alamo because I would like to see the generals and learn more about them.

    Olivia – I would like to go back to the Indian time because I like the jewelry they make and I want to learn how they killed wild animals.

    Molly – I would like to back to 1874 because I want to see Native Americans.

    Taylor – I want to back when my dad was little because I want to ride in a tator tot, a little stroller.

    Audrey C. – I would travel to the time when the Titanic sank because I want to see what happened.

    Kelly – I want to go back to 1976 because I think that was when there is a little ride that goes around Jungle Jims.

    Gavin – I want to go back to 1912, the time of the Titanic because I want to ride on it.

    • All those time travel wishes are AMAZING and inspiring, Mrs. Phillips’ WONDER Class! Thank you so much for sharing them with everyone in Wonderopolis today! We can tell you guys did some really good thinking about “when” you would go if you could travel through time! :-)

    • Thanks for letting us know you enjoyed the video for this Wonder of the Day®, Mikayla! We appreciate your comment! :-)

  2. This is just, wow. So if I were to be walking around in a city and a guy walked up to me explaining that he was from the future, should I think he was crazy or that he used a wormhole? This is a very mind blowing subject. And, since it seems a lot of other people are doing this, I’d like to go back during World War II and see what the world was like.

    • That’s a really awesome question, Clayton! We like how you WONDERed about this topic even more, and we like your time travel wish, too! :-)

  3. I would travel to when wonderopolis was just made, so I could see all the wonders!!!

    Also just an awesome wonder!!!!!!!!!

    • Happy Monday, Landon! Guess what? You don’t need a time machine to visit all the Wonders in Wonderopolis! You can visit any Wonder anytime you like! You can click on the “categories” on the right hand side of the page, or type what you are WONDERing about into the “search” field at the top of the page. With more than 525 Wonders to choose from, we’re sure there will ALWAYS be a Wonder you will enjoy! :-)

    • We think traveling to the future sounds like AWESOME fun, Alex! Thank you for sharing your comment with everyone in Wonderopolis today! :-)

    • Thanks for visiting this Wonder of the Day® and for wanting to learn more about black holes and wormholes, Amoolya! We’ll both have to WONDER a bit more about those interesting things, but we DO think they BOTH are GREAT ideas for future Wonders of the Day! :-)

  4. I would get 100 of the most advanced gadgets of that time, go forward, and use all of those gadgets to stop the Big Crunch.

    • That sounds like a great reason to travel forward in time, Rey! We like that you shared your idea with everyone in Wonderopolis…thanks! :-)

    • Thanks for letting us know you liked the video for this Wonder, Bryan, and thanks for visiting Wonderopolis! :-)

  5. I would go to when I was born so I can see myself as a baby and see what happened while I was a baby and couldn’t remember.

    • That’s a really cool idea, “Wonder!” We think it would be FUN to do that, too! Thanks for sharing what you would do if you could travel through time! :-)

    • We think you’re AWESOME, Eric! Thanks for traveling with us as we Wonder about time!! We hope you have a WONDERful day, Wonder Friend! :)

  6. I liked the wonder other than making it life size. I made it leprechaun size. I think you should edit it to being mouse size not human size. Thanks for the wonder though.

    • What a great idea, Wonder Friend Maddison! We are glad you’re thinking about different editing techniques and what you would have done differently! HOW COOL! We are so glad you’re here today– we hope to Wonder with you again soon! :)

  7. The video was really interesting and I love the article. I really hope someone in my day comes up with a way to time travel because I would love to go back in time to when my great great great grandparents died because I have never seen them before. I also would love to travel back to when I was three so I could hug my grandma one more time. I also would love to travel back to last Thursday to hug my other grandma before she left to go to the Philippines.

    • Hi, Haylee! Thanks for WONDERing with us today! We agree, time travel sounds like it would be WONDERful. Keep WONDERing, Wonder Friend! :-)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • What time would you travel to?
  • Is time travel possible?
  • What is a paradox?

Wonder Gallery

Try It Out

Ready to design your own homemade time machine? If you have plenty of spare parts and a big garage, feel free to make a life-size time machine that you and your friends can play in. If space is limited, you can use your art supplies to design a time machine on paper.

Will your time machine look like the contraption in the movie The Time Machine? Or will it look more like the sleek DeLorean car in the movie Back to the Future? Personally, we think a DeLorean would be a pretty sweet way to travel back and forth in time, but you might come up with an even cooler design.

When you’re finished, be sure to share your creation with the rest of your Wonder Friends. Post a picture of your creation on Facebook, so that everyone can see what you’ve come up with. We can’t wait to hitch a ride through time with you in your new machine!

 

Still Wondering

In National Geographic Education’s Crossing the Atlantic: Then and Now activity, children use a map to compare and contrast transatlantic travel during Colonial times and today, including changes in travel time and comfort.

 

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