Time Travel

The book A Brief History of Time (1988) by Stephen Hawking is a one of a kind introduction to todays physics. It recently became a record standing over a hundred weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List and about 237 weeks in The London Sunday Times best-seller list. The book has been translated in forty languages and has reached international popularity in many countries. Its author, Stephen William Hawking (1942), is one of the brightest scientist of our time, replacing the chair once held by Isaac Newton, as the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics.

At first I was looking for some explanation about the Big Bang, my brother got me into the subject the day we saw the Blockbuster movie Contact. The motion picture is based on the novel created by Carl Sagan, a historical man of science. The movie is directed by Robert Zemeckis starring Jodie Foster as a radio astronomer who first intercepts an intelligent alien radio signal from a distant region in space. When the message is fully understood, it is known that inside that signal were blueprints for creating a machine capable of sending a traveler to another world.

This causes a religious, political and scientific chaos in our society. The movie beautifully combines the purposes of both science and religion into the ultimate search for the truth. And the possibility of reaching out this far changes the way humanity look at themselves and their world. I found it fascinating how much there is to question and how little I knew. The beginning of Contact shows our little planet Earth, and in the background is the latest song released by Spice Girls in the radio. As the camera fades away, the radio and television transmission gradually changes to old songs and programs.

The creators of the movie used remarkable pieces of our century to make the audience realize that the radio frequency waves goes on to infinity, travelling through space. We listen to the Beattles, the historical documentary of the men been sent to the moon, and even the I Love Lucy show. After that its a complete silence since at that time in space humanity hadnt yet invented the radio or the television. And we have the oportunity to see just how our Universe looks like in the big picture. I was surprised, I have never thought of myself as insignificant as we all are- relatively.

I wondered what and how could anything produce something so big, and how is that possible that the Universe is in fact expanding. When the movie ended I walked home with my brother. As usual we were discussing how good the movie was. I said that I really liked the beginning, making a question-coment about how can anyone possibly know, or even guess the Universes structure the way the movie showed. Then I began to ask him all the questions that filled my head while watching Contact. My brother probably knows more physics than an ordinary person, so most of the terms he used to explain my simple questions were a whole other language to me.

I had no idea what a singularity was and I thought of a black whole as a giant vacuum device. He said that I had a lot to learn before having this conversation with him – thats what he does. He criticises me for not being smart or good enough hoping that Ill do something about it. Just out of curiosity and maybe to prove something to myself, I decided to make a brief research on my own. Since I am studying Physics in one of my courses, I had a great insight from my teacher, Mr Ferguson, about the bibliography I should be looking at. He mentioned Stephen Hawking as a good author, but to get started I should look for Asimov or Gamow.


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