Posted by: jeannineatkins | October 16, 2007

What I’m Reading: The New Time Travelers

A few days ago I went to a book launch gathering at Amherst Books for The New Time Travelers: A Journey to the Frontiers of Physics, which was written by David Toomey, who is the coauthor of a favorite book, Amelia Earhart’s Daughters: The Wild and Glorious Story of American Women Aviators from World War II to the Dawn of the Space Age.

Instead of reading or thanking or mingling, Dave did a kind of stand up routine, taking questions that he’d planted in the audience from three colleagues who seemed most eager to help his career, and suggested we should all work as a team contacting librarians, writing Amazon reviews, blogging Then he took purported calls on his cell from his purported agent who was purportedly in Hollywood on his behalf, though to no avail. I was amused.

Many of us have read books in which time travel takes place. Some of us have written them. We who write historical fiction may kind of sort of do it in our own ways. What Toomey’s book brings out are the small but highly regarded group of theoretical physicists who are studying the phenomenon. With my lackluster scientific background, I’ll be surprised if I understand much of this book, but Toomey tries to reach readers like me, and he sketches out the personalities of the physicists, which gives me a rope to hold onto when discussions get too, you know, physics-y. Maybe I’l get just a shade more of an understanding of the nature of black holes or gravity or quantum thises and thats; maybe I’ll get why days and years seem shorter as I get older. Just reading the opening pages, in which he talks about the spell H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine cast upon his as a boy, and how he sees the novel years later, make me jealous of the nonfiction writing students he teaches at UMass-Amherst.

Can time travel happen? I don’t want to be skip ahead too much. And as Dave said, in his tongue-in-cheek Q and A, for some answers you have to shell out the cost of the book. But it seems the scientists haven’t ruled out its possibility.

(E – good luck on your art history tests today!)

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