Skip to main content

Time Travel for Beginners – Mary & John Gribbin ****

Although this is a children’s (or more accurately young adults’) book, it works reasonably well for adults too who want a basic overview of the science of time travel. It clearly is aimed at the teen market – it has biggish print, large line spacing and some rather gratuitous illustrations – but it also provides a very effective introduction to the basic physics of time travel.
After a quick introduction to relativity and quantum theory – the basics for any time travel device, the Gribbins plunge into time machines that work by dragging space-time, and time machines based on wormholes. I’m not sure they get wormholes quite right – the wormhole described here is bi-directional, implying it’s a pair of black holes rather than a black hole and a white hole, so it’s not quite obvious how you ever get out of it. But that apart, the basics are fine.
Most young readers will find it fascinating that time machines are not physically impossible, just very, very difficult to build, and the book should do well if the right people get hold of it. My only worry there is that to be old enough to understand this book, you probably will be able to read adult popular science. And if you are reading adult popular science, you probably won’t want a book from ‘Hodder Children’s Books’ that looks like a kid’s book, even though the text is, as mentioned, entirely suitable for a beginner adult.
I also found the last section, which woffles on about sum over histories for time travel a little confusing, as if the authors felt they had to include it, but weren’t sure quite what to do with it.
Overall, though, an effective introduction to the science of time travel.
Paperback:  
Review by Brian Clegg

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Feed (SF) - Nick Clark Windo ****

Ever since The War of the Worlds, the post-apocalyptic disaster novel has been a firm fixture in the Science Fiction universe. What's more, such books are often among the few SF titles that are shown any interest by the literati, probably because many future disaster novels feature very little science. With a few exceptions, though (I'm thinking, for instance, The Chrysalids) they can make for pretty miserable reading unless you enjoy a diet of page after page of literary agonising.

The Feed is a real mixture. Large chunks of it are exactly that - page after page of self-examining misery with an occasional bit of action thrown in. But, there are parts where the writing really comes alive and shows its quality. This happens when we get the references back to pre-disaster, when we discover the Feed, which takes The Circle's premise to a whole new level with a mega-connected society where all human interaction is through directly-wired connections… until the whole thing fails …

The Bastard Legion (SF) - Gavin Smith *****

Science fiction has a long tradition of 'military in space' themes - and usually these books are uninspiring at best and verging on fascist at worst. From a serious SF viewpoint, it seemed that Joe Haldeman's magnificent The Forever War made the likes of Starship Troopers a mocked thing of the past, but sadly Hollywood seems to have rebooted the concept and we now see a lot of military SF on the shelves.

The bad news is that The Bastard Legion could not be classified as anything else - but the good news is that, just as Buffy the Vampire Slayer subverted the vampire genre, The Bastard Legion has so many twists on a straightforward 'marines in space' title that it does a brilliant job of subversion too.

The basic scenario is instantly different. Miska is heading up a mercenary legion, except they're all hardened criminals on a stolen prison ship, taking part because she has stolen the ship and fitted them all with explosive collars. Oh, and helping her train her &…

The Laser Inventor - Theodore Maiman ****

While the memoirs of many scientists are probably best kept for family consumption, there are some breakthroughs where the story is sufficiently engaging that it can be fascinating to get an inside view on what really happened. Although Theodore Maiman's autobiographical book is not a slick, journalist-polished account, it is very effective at highlighting two significant narratives - how Maiman was able to construct the first ever laser, despite having far fewer resources than many of his competitors, and how 'establishment' academic physicists, particularly in the US, tried to minimise his achievement.

On the straight autobiographical side, we get some early background and discover how Maiman combined degrees in electrical engineering and physics to have an unusually strong mix of the practical and the theoretical. Rather than go into academia after his doctorate, he went into industry - which seems to have been responsible for the backlash against his invention, which we…