Grandview Heights High School physics students saw a demonstration last week of a device its inventor believes could be the first step toward creating a time machine.
Marshall Barnes, a research and development engineer who splits his time between Columbus and Yellow Springs, completed work in August on the device he calls a Verdrehung Fan.
His appearance Friday, Nov. 2, at the high school was the first hands-on demonstration of his invention.
Grandview High School is special to him, Barnes said, because he developed much of the technology he uses in his device at a lab he operated in the early 2000s on Dublin Road. He has made previous visits to the high school's science classes.
The Verdrehung Fan "is an accelerator because it affects space. It distorts it and contorts it and so it causes forward motion," Barnes said.
In his Nov. 2 demonstration, which included the assistance of students "so they could get a close-up look at it," Barnes used his device to cause an electric fan to change speed.
"In no way was the machine attached to the motor. I used a simple one-speed fan," he said. "The electromagnetic field that is created accelerates things because it is distorting the space around the object, in this case the fan."
A strobe light was used as a measuring device "so we can see when the fan is changing speed," Barnes said.
At one point, the fan's spinning blades appeared to slow down and almost stop, he said. Despite the optical illusion, the fan actually was increasing its speed.
The device he demonstrated is a prototype that puts out only about 50 watts of power, Barnes said
"If I had something that produced 14,000 watts of power, I believe it could rip a hole in space and time," he said.
His next step is to continue working on advancing the Verdrehung Fan, he said.
Barnes said he believes within a few years he will be able to "scale this machine up" so that he will be able to demonstrate something "approaching what we call science-fiction-level effects" that will show time travel -- at least on a small scale -- is possible.
He is involved in a sort of competition with Ronald Mallet, a theoretical physicist at the University of Connecticut, who came up with a time-machine design but has been unable to secure the funding to develop it further.
Barnes said he offered to join forces with Mallet and provide him with the technology he has developed, but Mallet declined.
And what if time travel were possible?
The practical use of time travel would not be to go back in time to alter the course of history as is a common theme in science-fiction novels and movies, Barnes said.
"If you wanted to go back in time and stop the Kennedy assassination, it wouldn't work because you would be in a parallel universe," he said. "The Department of Defense might worry about someone going back to help the Nazis win World War II, but it couldn't happen."
Historians could go back to study a particular time in history, Barnes said.
But it would be impractical to go too far back, say, to ancient Egypt, he said, because no one would speak English and a modern human being would look conspicuously different from people from that time.
Time-travel vacations could be a possible use of a time machine, Barnes said.
He scoffs at noted theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, who has dismissed the concept of time travel by asking where all the time-travel tourists are in the present day.
"They wouldn't want to make themselves known," Barnes said, comparing a time-travel tourist to a scientist studying animals in the wild.
"They stay hidden away so they can observe the animals without being detected."