Ronald L. Mallett, Ph.D.
(Physicist, Univ. of Connecticut)
4.9 – The Time Travelers (4.27.12)
5.5 – The Einstein Factor (1.18.13)
8.6 – The Other Earth (9.28.15)
Ronald Lawrence Mallett (born March 30, 1945) is an American theoretical physicist, academic, and author. He has been a faculty member of the University of Connecticut since 1975 and is best known for his scientific position on the possibility of time travel.
Early life and education
Mallett was born in Roaring Spring, Pennsylvania, on March 30, 1945, and grew up in The Bronx in New York City, New York. When he was 10 years old, his father died at age 33 of a heart attack. About one year later, at age 11, Mallett found a Classics Illustrated comic book version of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine. Inspired by this literature, he resolved to travel back in time to save his father. This idea became a lifelong obsession and the basis of his research into time travel. Mallett served in the United States Air Force for four years, during the Vietnam War. He returned to civilian life in 1966. This was the year that the science fiction TV series Star Trek started, in which he “quickly became immersed”. During its first season, Mallett watched the episode The City on the Edge of Forever that “involved both the theme of time travel and lost love”, and this became his favorite of the entire series.
In 1973, when he was 28 years old, Mallett earned his Ph.D. in physics from Pennsylvania State University. In the same year, he received the Graduate Assistant Award for Excellence in Teaching.
In 1975, Mallett was appointed a job as Assistant Professor at the University of Connecticut. He was promoted to the rank of full professor in 1987 and has received multiple academic honors and distinctions. His research interests include black holes, general relativity, quantum cosmology, relativistic astrophysics and time travel. As of 2018, he is a Professor Emeritus of Physics at UConn.
In 2007, Mallett’s life story of pursuing a time machine was told on This American Life, Episode #324, Act 2.
Time travel research
For quite some time, Ronald Mallett has been working on plans for a time machine. This technology would be based upon a ring laser’s properties in the context of Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Mallett first argued that the ring laser would produce a limited amount of frame-dragging which might be measured experimentally, saying:
“In Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, both matter and energy can create a gravitational field. This means that the energy of a light beam can produce a gravitational field. My current research considers both the weak and strong gravitational fields produced by a single continuously circulating unidirectional beam of light. In the weak gravitational field of an unidirectional ring laser, it is predicted that a spinning neutral particle, when placed in the ring, is dragged around by the resulting gravitational field.”
In a later paper, Mallett argued that at sufficient energies, the circulating laser might produce not just frame-dragging but also closed timelike curves (CTC), allowing time travel into the past:
For the strong gravitational field of a circulating cylinder of light, I have found new exact solutions of the Einstein field equations for the exterior and interior gravitational fields of the light cylinder. The exterior gravitational field is shown to contain closed timelike lines.
The presence of closed timelike lines indicates the possibility of time travel into the past. This creates the foundation for a time machine based on a circulating cylinder of light.
Funding for his program, now known as the Space-time Twisting by Light (STL) project, is progressing. Full details on the project, Mallett’s theories, a list of upcoming public lectures and links to popular articles on his work can be found at the Mallett’s UConn web page, and an illustration showing the concept on which Mallett has designed the time machine can be seen here.
Mallett also wrote a book entitled, Time Traveler: A Scientist’s Personal Mission to Make Time Travel a Reality, co-written with author Bruce Henderson, that was first published in 2006. In June 2008, motion picture director Spike Lee’s production company announced it had acquired the film rights to Mallett’s book. Lee is co-writing the movie script and directing the picture.
In 2006, Mallett declared that time travel into the past would be possible in the 21st century and possibly within a decade. Mallett uses general relativity to attempt to substantiate his claims.