cover image Time Travel: A History

Time Travel: A History

James Gleick. Pantheon, $27.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-307-90879-7

In a dazzling voyage through the concept of time, science chronicler Gleick (The Information) explains that, “like all words, time has boundaries, by which I don’t mean hard and impenetrable shells but porous edges,” challenging readers to consider the porousness of reality as depicted in philosophy, science, and literature. Beginning with an homage to H.G. Wells, whose 1895 novel The Time Machine influenced both writers and physicists, the book careens back and forth, “free to leap about in time.” The popularity of Wells’s story paved the way for a willingness to accept the paradoxes in the science of Einstein, Eddington, and Feynman, among others. Gleick explores the wealth of speculation that was set in motion when time became considered fluid. Can one go back in time and prevent one’s own birth? Does time travel create “forks” in the universe with alternate events? What does it mean to be outside of time? Gleick quotes from scientists and writers who have wrestled with these questions, and he explores the way novels, short stories, films, and television programs have handled eddies in time (his suggested reading list is priceless). Deeply philosophical and full of quirky humor—“The universe is like a river. It flows. (Or it doesn’t, if you’re Plato.)”—Gleick’s journey through the fourth dimension is a marvelous mind bender. Illus. [em](Oct.) [/em]