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Time Travel

A History

By James Gleick
10-minute read
Audio available
Time Travel: A History by James Gleick

Time Travel (2016) details the history of a captivating concept. These blinks explain how the idea of time travel came into the popular consciousness, what problems the theory presents and how you might already be time traveling without even knowing it.

  • Anyone who has ever wanted to travel through time
  • Students of physics
  • Lovers of science fiction

James Gleick has written a range of books on the history of science and scientific thinking that cover chaos theory and the lives of prominent figures.

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Time Travel

A History

By James Gleick
  • Read in 10 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 6 key ideas
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Time Travel: A History by James Gleick
Synopsis

Time Travel (2016) details the history of a captivating concept. These blinks explain how the idea of time travel came into the popular consciousness, what problems the theory presents and how you might already be time traveling without even knowing it.

Key idea 1 of 6

The idea of time travel is only about a century old.

Nowadays, time travel is just about everywhere you look, from films to TV shows and even literature. And that’s no accident: society has become obsessed with the idea of traveling through time.

However, that wasn’t true just 150 years ago. The portal was opened by H. G. Wells’ novel, The Time Machine, which was published in 1895.

In The Time Machine, Wells describes a man, called simply the Time Traveler, who builds a machine that enables him to move throughout the course of history and into the future. The story is important because it approaches time as something flowing, that, with the appropriate vessel, could be sailed.

Before this book came out, time was basically viewed as a one-way street. You could only go forward, and only at one speed. In this way, Wells’ fictional account transformed the way people viewed time and time travel.

But why was it so successful?

Largely because it came out at the end of the nineteenth century when tremendous change was in the air. As the twentieth century dawned, people were becoming incredibly excited for the future. It was a period of huge technological as well as scientific growth and, for the first time ever, people were living in a way that was dramatically different from the generation before them.

In other words, it was the first time that the past, future and present would be entirely different. This simple historical moment is what made time travel so riveting.

It’s important to remember that before this, the future was considered to be similar to the present. Stories regarding future events would often be based on prophecy, as in Oedipus Rex or Macbeth. Such tales of prophecy center on a personal journey that will happen to a particular character in the future. But they fail to envision a major change in how people generally live. The twentieth century, and H. G. Wells, changed all of that.

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