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USA Book Reviews
Published in the USA
October, 2006
Time Traveler:
A Scientist's Personal Mission
to Make Time Travel a Reality

Ronald L. Mallett
with Bruce Henderson

Click to order on-line:

UK Book Reviews
Published in the UK
August, 2007
The Time Traveller:
One Man's Mission
to Make Time Travel a Reality

Ronald L. Mallett
with Bruce Henderson

Click to order on-line:



UK Book Reviews


Alexander Waugh reviews

"The Time Traveller"
October 25, 2007
Online at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts

Making Time Travel a Reality

On May 22, 1955, Ronald Mallett's father, a 33-year-old TV repairman from the Bronx, died of a sudden heart attack. Mallett was 10 years old at the time and the trauma of the event, not unnaturally, knocked him for six. A year later, he read a 15 cent illustrated redaction of H G Wells's classic novel The Time Machine, which gave him the idea to build a device that would allow him to return to 1955 and save his father's life.

So far the story is fabulous, painful and babyish, the stuff of Hollywood - but fast-forward 47 years to June 2002, and the same Ronald Mallett, now professor of theoretical physics at the University of Connecticut, is delivering a paper in Washington to around 50 of the world's most distinguished physicists at the International Association for Relativistic Dynamics third biennial conference, in which he explains how a machine involving a circuit of lasers could, in theory, send a particle backwards in time.

It has long been known that Einstein's relativity allows for certain forms of theoretical time travel. If you whizz off into outer space at the speed of light, you will find upon your return that time passed much quicker for those on Earth than it did for you in your rocket.

In 1974 a mathematician, Frank J Tipler, worked out that if you could get your hands on some material denser than a neutron star, forge it into a cylinder 100 kilometres long and 10 kilometres wide, and spin it really fast (at least two rotations per millisecond), and then drive a spaceship up to the edge without crashing or getting sucked into the holes at the end, then you might stand a chance of travelling through time. Others have posited the existence of so-called worm holes, corridors that link different regions of space-time through black holes.

Mallett is still working on his prototype, which he believes is capable of creating a closed loop in time. "As for travelling into the past, I believe it will ultimately happen," he says, but the tragedy he concedes is that he will never get to see his father again even if his machine is ready by tomorrow: for it will only allow him back as far as the moment when it was first switched on.

As a popular guide to the most recent developments of relativistic science, it is lucidly written in the style of John Gribbin and should prove popular among non-scientists wishing to broaden their horizons.

When the quantum physicist Bryce DeWitt heard Mallett expounding his theories for the first time, he told him: "I don't know if you will ever see your father again; but I do know he would have been proud of you."

MotorBar Book Reviews Online
October, 2007
Online at www.motorbar.co.uk/bookreviews.htm

THE DEATH OF A LOVED ONE brings with it shock and disbelief but sometimes - particularly for a child - the grief is so unbearable that it never leaves you. And, faced with such a tragedy, who wouldn't go back in time and change the past if they could?

Ron Mallett idolised his father, an electronics whiz who died when Ron was just ten years old. Time, he says, stopped for him on 22 May, 1955. Such was his grief that the young boy, after reading H G Wells' The Time Machine, resolved to build his own time machine to go back and save his father.

The Time Traveller: One Man's Mission to make Time Travel A Reality is a terrific book that tells the amazing and true story of scientist Ronald Mallett's discovery of the basic equations for a working time machine. But is also an inspirational tale of a son attempting to journey to the past to save his father. Driven by filial love and obsession, Mallett tells his personal story of how he planned and shaped a time machine, through which he hoped to change the course of this future.

This memoir of a man, inspired by both the memory of his father and Einstein's theories on space-time, is a wild and exciting journey though science. Ronald's intelligence and determination took him on a path of discovery and development of which his father would have been proud. While working towards his goal, Ron Mallett achievement - if not quite what he strove for - was astonishing; and he refused to allow poverty, racism (he is an African American) or depression to impede his progress.

Having discovered H G Wells, Ray Bradbury and other science fiction, Ronald tried to put together a time machine. But he soon realised he needed scientific knowledge. He was introduced to Albert Einstein via a book by Lincoln Barnett called The Universe and Dr Einstein. On page 59 he discovered a formula that showed how time was affected by motion. And he learned that the young Albert Einstein had to find a tutor to teach him the sophisticated language of mathematics he would need to present his revolutionary theories about time. Einstein also believed that "imagination is more important than knowledge".

Ronald was amused to come across this quotation: "Do not worry about your problems with mathematics. I assure you mine are far greater." He hated arithmetic but kept his goal in his sights.

In 2002, when he was a professor of physics at the University of Connecticut, Ron Mallett finally revealed to fifty of the worlds leading physicists, at The International Association for Relative Dynamics Third Biennial Conference at Howard University, his beliefs that the 21st Century would herald the dawn of the time machine - a daunting prospect in such illustrious company.

Ronald outlined his own theories based on Einstein's general relativity theory, and illustrated that space and time could be manipulated in a whole new way that would lead to the possibility of time travelling to the past. This book is riveting: don't be put off by the technical terms as the writer explains important ones in layman's terms. Neither is he blasť about his position: "My dream," Ronald tells an audience of young people, "helped keep me out of the state pen and got me into Penn State."

Born in Pennsylvania in 1945, Dr Ronald Mallett grew up in the Bronx. In 1973 he was one of he first African Americans to receive a PhD in Physics and he is now a Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Connecticut. He has published many papers on theoretical physics, and his time travel research has been featured in the TV special The World's First Time Machine as well as in publications as diverse as The Wall Street Journal, Rolling Stone and New Scientist.

With a retro-look cover, The Time Traveller: One Man's Mission to Make Time Travel a Reality will look great on your bookshelf. But even more, once you start to read it you'll be hooked. I was delighted to find brief storylines of science fiction books, films and episodes from television series. It gives you an insight into the world in which we so easily could find ourselves.

Co-writer Bruce Henderson is the author and co-author of numerous best-selling books including, most recently, True North: Peary, Cook and the Race to the Pole. He teaches non-fiction writing at Stanford University, and lives in Northern California.

The Time Traveller: One Man's Mission to Make Time Travel a Reality by Ronald L. Mallett and co-written by Bruce Henderson, was published by Doubleday in hardback and is out now, available at most good book shops.

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The Void - UK
Book Review
31 August, 2007
Online at www.the-void.co.uk

Some people have small dreams, like being able to go on holiday or to one day own their house. Others have bigger dreams, like becoming their country's leader or building their modest business into a huge corporation. However, no one had a bigger dream than Ronald Mallett, the Professor of Physics at the University of Connecticut.

Rocked by the loss of his father at a young age, and inspired by HG Wells' The Time Traveller, Ron fantasises of one day journeying into the past to warn his father about his dodgy heart and prevent his premature death. Whereas most people would give up on this idea after a few seconds, dismissing it as fantasy, Ron decides to pursue his dream.

Telling the story of both his growth as a person and a physicist, Ron (with co-writer Bruce Henderson) lays out the theories that impacted on his development of a theory for time travel. While his comments on general relativity, black holes and much more can be mind-boggling at times, the Professor is excellent at creating understandable analogies and turns what could have been a lecture in how he's so much cleverer than you into an engaging and, at times, moving read.

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Play.com Books
Book Review
Online at www.play.com

At the age of ten, Ron Mallett's father died. Suffocating beneath the weight of his grief, young Ron picked up a copy of H. G. Wells' "The Time Machine" and was inspired to throw himself into a quest to find his own Holy Grail - a means to travel back in time and save his father from his untimely death. Remarkably, this working-class boy from the Bronx stuck with his vision, struggling with poverty and prejudice to become one of America's first black Ph.D.s in theoretical physics. Ronald Mallett discovered that circulating laser light could twist not just space (a phenomenon known as frame dragging) but also time, thus creating a time loop through which subatomic particles, information and perhaps one day even people might travel. "The Time Traveller" follows Ronald Mallett's extraordinary journey of self - and scientific discovery as he describes in simple language and elegant metaphor the physics that makes time travel possible. From Einstein's seminal work in relativity, to closed loops in time, to black holes and the birth of the universe, Ron Mallett lays out his theories and presents the reader with what is an actual blueprint for a time machine. A dramatic and compellingly human memoir, this is also a story of astonishing achievement. An experimental machine to travel back in time is now being designed at a university laboratory using Dr Mallett's theories and equations.

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Ronald Mallett:
New Time Machine Planner

Book Review
01 August, 2007
Online at www.4engr.com

People who have little knowledge about technology or keep touch on it have heard about the name of Time Machine.

Just think if you could go back and warn someone that their lifestyle, their smoking or heavy drinking was driving them into an early grave.

You would not only be able to meet the dead - but to save them as well.

A new book tells the story of an extraordinary man whose life work is inspired by a longing to do just that.

Wells's book was, of course, entirely fictional, and yet, just a few years after it was written, a German-Jewish physicist called Albert Einstein blew the science community apart. Einstein showed that time and space were indeed different aspects of the same thing - a concept called spacetime - which is at the heart of how physicists understand the way the universe is.

Mallett became obsessed with the German scientist - who had died in 1955, the same year as his father. Most importantly, Mallett realised - as Einstein had himself - that the new way of thinking about gravity, space and time contained in the physicist's Special and General theories of relativity meant that a time machine was at least possible in theory.

Einstein's equations showed that by twisting spacetime around, it is possible in theory to make a connection from future to past. Step into this timeloop, and you could emerge years later or earlier.

This idea would form the basis of Mallett's putative time machine. But, back in 1950s New York, he was a long way from his goal. Growing up poor and black, one of four children raised by a widowed mother who made ends meet by window-cleaning, is not an ideal recipe for academic success.

There are several important things to realise about Mallett's time machine. For a start, it would only be possible to travel back in time to a point after the machine was first switched on.

If you turned on the machine, on January 1 say, and left it running for three months, you could enter the machine in March and only travel back as far as January 1.

So no trips back to the Middle Ages or to Ancient Rome.

This would be staggering enough. Just think: a time-traveller could go back and meet himself. Or he could send back information into the past - including the results of horse races, stock market movements.

But consider, too, all the weird paradoxes that the time machine would create. You could come face-to-face with your past self, causing untold confusion. What, for example, would happen if you killed your past self? Would both versions of 'you' die at the same time?

Mallet believes these paradoxes would not in themselves prevent the construction of such a machine. But there are plenty of sceptics.

Mallett is now 62 years old. He still believes he will live to see the creation of the first time machine.

Sadly, the way it works means that he will never be able to fulfil his original wish - to warn his father about his deteriorating health. "My solace is that if this works, future generations will be able to use this technology to prevent the tragedy that I went through," he says.

If he is right, the little boy from the Bronx who lost his beloved father all those years ago will end up being the most famous inventor in history.

News Inside News:
The Dream start - His journey began in the early 1950s, when this intelligent and inquisitive boy was ten years old.

He lived with his parents Boyd and Dorothy in a working-class Jewish area of the Bronx, in New York city. The Malletts were happy there, having escaped the terrible racism of the Deep South.

Boyd Mallett was a gadget freak, and a talented, respected electronic technician - one of his jobs was to wire up the new United Nations building being constructed in Manhattan.

His son worshipped him, and the pair would spend many hours in the evenings experimenting with capacitors and circuits, building crystal radios and other gadgets.

Then, the night after his parents' 11th wedding anniversary, Boyd died suddenly of a heart attack.

"For me, the sun rose and set on him," Ron Mallett said later. "It completely devastated me."

Boyd Mallett's death was probably preventable. He had always been a heavy smoker and workaholic and had started drinking too much.

His son sank into a despair that would not lift; indeed, he became severely depressed. Ronald simply could not accept that he would never see his father again. And he began to wonder if there was a way they could be reunited.

Mallett devoured the pulp sci-fi comics of the time, and began to realise that time travel was, at least in fiction, a possibility. Then he read what is one of the finest science-fiction stories ever written, HG Wells's The Time Machine.

In the novel, the time-travelling hero explains: "Scientific people know very well that time is only a kind of space. We can move forward and backward in time, just as we can move forward and backward in space."

Mallett was dumbfounded. If he could build a time machine, he could go back and change history and prevent his father's death.

From that day, Mallet became obsessed with time travel, despite having no clear idea of how it could be accomplished.

His career:
Undaunted, he studied hard at school and achieved good grades, particularly in the sciences. However, a university education was out of the question - there was simply no way his family could afford to pay for it.

So Ron Mallett joined the U.S. Air Force, in the hope of being granted a military scholarship so that he could later study physics. His test grades were so good that he was fast-tracked into the USAF's electronics school.

Despite his success, the past still intruded in the most horrible ways. Mallett's first tour of duty was in Biloxi, in the Deep South. There, for the first time in his life, he encountered the soul-destroying racism that had driven his grandparents north 40 years before.

"The first thing I noticed," he writes, "were the signs, the likes of which I had never seen before. 'Whites only'. 'No Colored'."

There was talk of beatings and worse for black servicemen who strayed off base. Mallett made a vow to remain on base for the entire duration of his training, which included courses in electronics and computing. He also spent hours in the well-equipped library, devouring everything he could both by and about Einstein.

His studies paid off. After he was discharged, he won a place at Pennsylvania State University, and began a degree in physics.

Eventually, in 1973, he won his doctorate, only the 79th black American ever to do so in this subject. Part of his thesis was an investigation into the theoretical possibility of using gravity to reverse the passage of time. In 1975, he was awarded a job as a professor of physics at Connecticut University - where he has worked ever since.

Despite the respectability of his CV, he still felt he couldn't discuss his ideas openly. "I feared professional suicide," he says now.

But, as his work continued, the story got out. Mallett's time machine went public in 2001, when New Scientist magazine ran an article about his design, and TV appearances followed.

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Popular Science - UK
"The Time Traveller"
Reviewed by Brian Clegg

The idea of travelling in time has been a science fiction standard for at least a hundred years, but it's one of those subjects that real scientists tend to avoid like the plague. The fact is, scientists can be quite conservative about what they discuss, and though several have postulated that it could be possible to travel in time using impractical suggestions like wormholes, to dare to attempt to design a time machine for real is putting yourself in a real state of risk. Yet this is exactly what physics professor Ronald Mallett has done - and got away with it.

This charming book explains how a boy from a poor family was driven into science by the urge to go back and visit his dead father - it really is the stuff of fiction - and though he was worked on various topic along the way, underlying his progression has always been the belief that he would find a way to travel through time.

The book is superbly readable - it once again shows how academics can benefit from getting the help of a co-author. What might seem fairly unpromising stuff - boy grows up to be academic (yawn) - into a real page-turner. All along the way you want Ronald Mallett to succeed, such is his determination. A hugely readable book, a fascinating subject and a delightful story.

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USA Book Reviews


Asimov's Science Fiction
On Books by Peter Heck
Book Review
June, 2007
Online Issue 0706

Here's a non-fiction title of unusual interest to SF readers: the autobiography of an African-American physicist whose professional and personal life has been shaped by his quest to build a time machine. Not surprisingly, one of the key influences was his early love of science fiction, both in print and in other media.

Mallett's father, a TV repairman, died of a heart attack at age thirty-three, in 1955, when the author was ten, the oldest of four children. Mallett's discovery of H.G. Wells's The Time Machine, in the Illustrated Classics comic version, gave him new hope. If he could build his own time machine, he could return to the fifties and save his father! He tried and failed - like many of us in our childish days - but instead of showing him the dream was impossible, the failure made him decide to learn more about science. Despite bouts of depression that nearly led him to drop out of school, he began to study harder - and to read more science fiction.

School was followed by Air Force service, since the family had no money for college even if his grades had been good enough. Stationed in the Deep South, he became aware of serious racism for the first time; instead of crushing him, it simply made him withdraw into the world of his mind, learning advanced math and computer skills. Back in civilian life, he was ready for college, majoring in physics at Penn State.

He kept his time-travel project secret, knowing that it would mark him as a crackpot and derail any chance at a scientific career. But careful study of relativity theory convinced him that his dream was possible, after all. Mallett interweaves the story of his professional scientific career, full of conferences and publications, with the drive to make his dream of time travel - still being fueled by SF books and films - come true.

Surprisingly, his perseverance paid off. By the 1980s, leading physicists such as Stephen Hawking, Frank Tipler, and Kip Thorne were investigating corollaries of relativity in which time appeared to move backward. Their speculations, combined with Einstein's recognition that light is subject to the pull of gravity, led Mallett to investigate the effects of a laser beam following a tight circular path. After formidable calculations, he found a theoretical foundation for time travel - and saw it accepted by other physicists.

While his dream of going back in time to save his father remains unfulfilled - travel to times before the machine is built is still theoretically impossible - Mallett has achieved a significant scientific breakthrough. And his inspiration was one of the classic science fiction stories - based on an idea everyone once thought impossible.

Okay, we probably aren't going to see practical time travel any time soon - although Mallett does have a team working to see if they can turn his theory into an operational device. We do know we won't get the opportunity to go back and tell Lincoln to skip the theater. But it does show that wild dreams can come true, and good old SF was at the root of it.

This would be a good book to give to any of your old high school teachers who dismissed SF as worthless and unreal - except that we can't give it to them when it would have mattered, which is before they taught us. Maybe Mallett's hardware guys will figure out how to do that for us. And then maybe we'll get our flying cars and matter transmitters.

Asimov's Science Fiction: On Books by Peter Heck at Asimovs.com

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A Beautiful (Black) Mind:
Ronald Mallett

by Ajuan Mance
April 26, 2007

When Ronald Mallett was only 10 years hold, his father died suddenly and unexpectedly. Young Ronald was stunned by the loss. He had admired his father greatly. He was a smart, hard-working man whose skill in electronics and natural curiosity had dazzled and impressed his young son.

Shortly after his father's death, young Ronald read a book that would change his life forever. Mallet describes how his encounter with a science fiction classic set him on his life's course:

"Fortunately, among the many gifts my father bestowed on me was a passion for reading, and it was in books that I found some measure of solace. A little more than a year after Dad's death, one book in particular became the turning point in my life: The Time Machine by H. G. Wells. I was consumed by the possibility that I might be able to build a time machine that would allow me to travel to the past and see my father again. This time I would warn him that his bad habits would kill him - and soon.

The possibility of time travel became more real in my mind when, a few years later, I came across a popular book about the work of Albert Einstein. Einstein, said the book, was able to show that time is not unchanging but can be altered; in fact, if you move a clock fast enough, time slows down! This gave me hope that one day I might actually be able to build a time machine. I learned, too, that Einstein was a physicist. There was no other route: I would have to take science and learn higher mathematics to understand his work and embark on my own journey.

Daily life was a constant struggle for my family after my father's death. I was the oldest of four children my mother had to provide for on her own. Somehow her inner strength kept the family together and allowed us to survive. My dream of a time machine remained a secret and after high school I enlisted in the US air force to get money for college.

Studying on my own while I was in the military, I learned that Einstein had developed two theories of relativity. His special theory of relativity, which has to do with the speed of light, allows the possibility of time travel into the future. This form of time travel had already been demonstrated experimentally. His other theory, the general theory of relativity, has to do with gravity and allows for the possibility of time travel into the past.

When I was discharged from the air force, I set to work and eventually won my PhD in physics from Penn State University. At college, I researched cosmology, which allowed me to study the structure and evolution of the universe as well as the theory of black holes. These subjects provided cover for my interest in building a time machine, which I feared would not be taken seriously.

by Ronald Mallett in New Scientist Magazine - November 11, 2006
Turning Point: Back to My Future

Eventually Mallett's passion would earn him tenure at the University of Connecticut. More importantly, his work on black holes, of great interest for their ability to slow and distort space and time, has earned him the respect of his colleagues as a cutting-edge theoretical physicist.

Ironically, the young Ronald Mallett was not terribly enthusiastic about school. His drive to excel was fueled by his singular passion to uncover the mysteries of space and time and return, eventually, to the past to reconnect with (and possibly to save) his father.

Mallett's story serves as a reminder that the difference between reluctant or apathetic learners and engaged overachievers can be as simple as the presence of a passion, an interest, or question, or topic, or skill that lends relevance to the pursuit of knowledge.

If you have a passion, share it with a young person you know, especially if it's a kid who seems disinterested in school and learning. You just might ignite his or her intellectual curiosity. You might just be setting him or her on the path to become the next Einstein, the next Feynman, the next Banneker or Carver, or Woodson ... or the next Ronald Mallett.

On-line review by Ajuan Mance at Twilight and Reason Wordpress

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The Cuyahoga Astronomical Association
The Observer
A Publication of The Cuyahoga Astronomical Association
Time Traveler - A Book Review
January, 2007
by Stephen L. Gallant, M.S.L.S.

The possibility of time travel to the future is not disputed, at least for objects traveling near the speed of light. On the other hand, travel to the past, while not disallowed by Einstein's theory of relativity, is more problematic. Dr. Ronald Mallett has nonetheless made it his life's goal to create a time machine that that would accomplish this feat. Time Traveler is the story of his remarkable life and accomplishments in working to achieve a lifelong dream.

Ronald Mallett was born in Roaring Springs, Pennsylvania in 1945, the product of a loving and supportive family. He idolized his dad, an electronics wizard, and was devastated when the man died of a heart attack in 1955. Soon afterward, Mallett read H.G. Wells's novel The Time Machine, a book which was to change his life. He decided then that he would learn and do whatever it took to build a time machine of his own with which he could go back in time to save his father.

The boy subsequently read every thing he could find about his hero Albert Einstein, took courses in algebra and electronics in high school, and, on graduation, entered the United States Air Force where he continued his studies in electronics and computer science. As an African-American stationed in the South during the early years of the civil rights movement, he was all too aware of the bigotry that existed in this country. For the most part he stayed within the confines his base and studied. Mallett entered the physics program at Pennsylvania State University after leaving the air force in 1966. In 1973 he received his doctorate in physics, one of only 250 African-American physicists in the U.S. out of a total of 25,000. After spending time as an industrial scientist, Mallett joined the faculty of the University of Connecticut in 1975, where he remains to this day.

Throughout his career Mallett pursued his dream of time travel, while keeping quiet about it to avoid being labeled a crackpot. His research focused on the space-time disturbances which may be caused by the gravitational fields of controlled laser beams.

Mallett's contributions to relativity theory and astronomy include the papers Weak Gravitational Field of the Electromagnetic Radiation of a Ring Laser published in Physics Letters A. 269, 214 (2000); Cosmic Degenerate Matter: A Possible Solution to the Problem of Missing Mass, published with M.P. Silverman, in Classical and Quantum Gravity 18, L37 (2001); and The Gravitational Field of a Circulating Light Beam in Foundations of Physics 33, 1307 (2003). In the midst of his work he personally encountered such luminaries as John A. Wheeler and Stephen Hawking.

After receiving a full professorship and tenure from his university, Mallett finally decided to go public with his plans of building a time machine. In February, 2001, at a physics colloquium at the University of Michigan, he presented the talk The Gravity of Circulating Light: A Possible Route to Time Travel. The response of his peers was polite but skeptical. Still, no one found fault with his theory or his calculations.

The media's response, however, was huge. Mallett became a celebrity, the subject of numerous popular articles as well as a documentary film.

Regardless of whether or not Dr. Mallett's current experiments succeed, Time Traveler: A Scientist's Personal Mission to Make Time Travel a Reality is nevertheless an intriguing and inspiring book.

- Review by Stephen L. Gallant, M.S.L.S. for The Cuyahoga Astronomical Association

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San Diego Tribune
Book Review
December 24, 2006

Rolling back the hands of 'Time'
by Bruce Lieberman

His secret dreams led Ronald L. Mallett to physics; 'Time Traveler' is a surprising, poignant memoir

In 1955, Ronald Mallett's father died of a heart attack. The trauma sent the heartbroken boy, then 10 years old, on a lifelong quest to see his father again.

That is the premise behind Mallett's very serious and very personal memoir, "Time Traveler: A Scientist's Personal Mission to Make Time Travel a Reality." Mallet, a 61-year-old physicist at the University of Connecticut, is no science-fiction writer. Some of his peers question whether it will be ever possible to build a time machine for people, but there's nothing about the laws of physics that forbids time travel. It's actually theoretically possible, and Mallet is now working on an experimental machine designed to transport neutrons into the future.

In "Time Traveler," Mallett is driven by a singular mission - from a withdrawn childhood comforted by science fiction, to an ascetic life in the military, to an intellectual blossoming in academia. Mallett doggedly pursued a life in physics, devouring books on subjects he did not yet understand, using food money for books, seeking training in the military and college, then industry, then back to a life of scholarship.

The author takes us along with him as he slowly begins to grasp the insights of Hendrik Lorentz, Albert Einstein, Erwin Schrodinger, Kurt Godel, Richard Feynman, John Wheeler, Kip Thorne, Stephen Hawking, Alan Guth and a galaxy of other scientists who influenced Mallett's life.

If you're not interested in physics, then, this isn't the book for you. The narrative of "Time Traveler" often feels like a college lecture, but, Mallett is such a great teacher that the complex ideas that shape modern physics aren't so scary under the professor's easy guidance. Physics and Mallett's pursuit of his dream are the centerpieces of his memoir, but readers are also taken on a trip to America in the 1950s and 1960s, where a black boy and then young man encountered periodic racism. It's not insignificant that Mallett never experienced such small-mindedness in academia, where a series of teachers and colleagues supported him and opened doors.

Still, Mallett kept his dream of building a time machine - his prime motivation for studying physics in the first place - a secret to most people. As one of a handful of black physicists in the country, he didn't want to risk being labeled a crackpot and jeopardize his future.

By the late 1990s, however, Mallett found that time travel had actually become a serious theoretical field of study.

It was Einstein who showed that gravity is the bending of space and time. Anything with mass or energy distorts the fabric of space and the passage of time near that distortion. That explains why a clock runs slower close to the Earth's gravitational field, and faster when it's far away.

Any mass that's spinning "drags" space and time around with it, like milk in a cup of coffee being dragged around in a circle by a spoon. Take this circular motion to an extreme, with an ever-dense mass and ever-faster spin, and theoretical physics tells you that you'll create "closed loops in time."

Mallett has postulated that rings of ;aser light wrapped into a cylinder can also create space-time distortions, albeit tiny ones. In 2003, he and his colleagues began building a machine that may eventually demonstrate the movement of neutrons and other tiny particles across time.

Yes, it's all hard to understand, but Mallett does an outstanding job of placing these tough subjects within a lay reader's grasp. And the book does a much better job of explaining the particulars than any book review can.

The physics concepts laid out in Mallett's memoir are progressive - that is, one idea builds on the next. In that sense, a reader can see how Mallett finally came up with his concrete idea for a time machine. If it ever sees the light of day, it will have been built on centuries of amassed theory, observation and knowledge.

As Mallett contemplates his time machine, he raises several mind-bending issues. What happens, for example, if you go back in time and kill your grandparents? Will you ever be born? Science fiction has played a lot with that idea and others like it.

Toward the end of the book, it becomes apparent that the time machine Mallett envisions will not enable him to see his father again. The time machine will only point us toward the future, and we would only be able to travel back to the time the machine was first turned on, and no further.

"I would not be able to use my time machine to see my father," Mallett writes.

"The grown man and scientist I had become could now let go of the final emotional vestiges of his shattered childhood. My father was gone, and there was nothing I could do about it other than live my own life with pride and courage, and fill as many days as I had left with valued people, times and works."

Mallett ends his memoir in the throes of work. His story, after all, is continuing. In the final pages, he speculates what he might say to Einstein if he could sit with him on a park bench. Then, coming back to his father, he tells how he revealed to his mother, only recently, that his life's work was always driven by his desire to see his father again.

It's a fitting end for this strange, interesting and ultimately touching memoir.

- Bruce Lieberman is a staff writer for the Union-Tribune at San Diego Tribune

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San Francisco Chronicle
Book Review
December 20, 2006

by Julie Mayeda

In a parallel universe, Dr. Ronald Mallett is a TV repairman working in his father's shop. In this one he's a theoretical physicist. In that other universe his father didn't die of a heart attack when Mallett was only 10. In this one his father's death seeded Mallett's raison d'etre: to travel back in time to warn his father to take better care of himself.

Time travel? When pigs fly. But perhaps nothing seems impossible to Mallett, who so far hasn't let anything deter him from pursuing his grand endeavor -- not the poverty of his youth or the racism he experienced as an African American, not even the skepticism he still encounters from some of his peers.

It isn't surprising, then, that Mallett's memoir, "Time Traveler: A Scientist's Personal Mission to Make Time Travel a Reality," is as inspirational a read as watching underdog Rocky Balboa knock down the impressive Apollo Creed -- though in comparison, Rocky's personal victory was, well, a no-brainer. For Mallett to score his, he needs to either close in on the speed of light (and only Superman can do that) or find a way to manipulate the space-time fabric. It's the latter he's been working on, for most of his life.

Mallett's fixation with time travel began at 10 and by way of a comic book depicting H.G. Wells' classic, "The Time Machine." In it he read, "We can move forward and backward in time, just as we can move forward and backward in space." "Did this mean," Mallett wondered, that "I might be able to go back in time and warn my father to go to the doctor, slow down, take better care of himself?"

A few years later, Mallett bought a used copy of Lincoln Barnett's "The Universe and Dr. Einstein." It contained a formula that "became a sort of mantra." "While I didn't understand much of its meaning, I did feel its power. I would often repeat to myself and idly scribble the equation for time as though it was some holy script." Einstein utilized this equation to show that time slows down the faster you move. So began Mallett's ever-deepening immersion into Einstein's theories of relativity and his lifelong reverence for the man himself.

Mallett found inspiration in other kinds of books as well. While reading Sammy Davis Jr.'s autobiography, "Yes I Can," "I began to understand that I, too, might find protection from prejudice by utilizing my skills and talents." Reading James Baldwin's "The Fire Next Time" made him "more determined than ever to succeed in becoming a physicist."

His path was not always smooth, nor was it straight, but as happens to the fortunate few, certain events converge to make a life appear predestined. As a freshly minted Ph.D., Mallett was unable to secure an academic position.

Instead he became, for a time, an industrial scientist working on lasers. Thirty years later, Professor Mallett was contemplating an earlier finding that light, like matter, can be a source of gravity. "It was then that I had a Eureka moment."

"I knew from my time working with lasers at United Technologies that there was a device called a ring laser that could produce an intense and continuously circulating narrow beam of light" and that it "might produce gravitational effects similar to that of rotating matter." Mallett explains, "My earlier studies of Kerr rotating black holes indicated that the rotating matter of the black hole resulted in a dragging of space around the black hole, rather like a rotating apple in a vat of molasses. ... In addition, the rapidly rotating black hole also leads to the formation of closed loops in time."

Cylinder of stacked ring lasers, gravitational effect, twisting of space, closed loops in time leads to time warp, then time travel! At least Mallett hopes so, for the subatomic particles he and his colleague, experimental physicist Chandra Roychoudhuri, intend to shoot through their prototype time machine. If it works, then the lifetime of those extremely short-lived particles should have been measurably extended.

If the above doesn't quite make sense, reading "Time Traveler" will put it aright. Whatever physics is needed to follow Mallett on his life's quest is explained by and by and without mind-numbing equations. Perhaps because "Time Travel" is co-written with Bruce Henderson ("True North," "And the Sea Will Tell") or because Mallett is used to explaining abstract theories to his students, the result is that even quantum physics is rendered digestible. Happily, Mallett never comes off as a puffy-chested smarty-pants. His delivery is humble, his voice enthusiastic, his optimism contagious.

For anyone, but especially for the aspiring scientist, "Time Traveler" is a worthwhile and surprisingly entertaining read. Learning some physics is a bonus, but it's keeping one's eyes on the prize that's the take-home.

- Julie Mayeda is an Oregon writer for San Francisco Chronicle

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UConn Advance
Book Review
November 6, 2006

"Physicist's New Book Recounts Personal Quest For Time Travel"
by Kenneth Best

Great storytellers receive applause from their audience following their tale. In his new book Time Traveler: A Scientist's Personal Mission to Make Time Travel a Reality (Thunder's Mouth Press), UConn physics professor Ronald Mallett recalls the time his students applauded after a lecture.

Mallett's autobiographical story of his quest to build a working time machine - which includes a crash course in physics - is generating a similarly enthusiastic response.

Publisher's Weekly says Mallett's "simple prose makes for clear and concise explanations of the science involved," noting that "he must be an excellent teacher."

Mallett says he could not separate his drive to pursue time travel from his life; his passion for his work stems from the premature death of his father, who died at age 33 from a heart attack.

After reading The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, Mallett hoped to see his father again by going back in time.

"I want people to realize this interplay of science in my life is woven into the fabric of my life," he says.

"I didn't want it to be a science lesson. By having it autobiographical, I want readers to acquire the science information as I did."

The physicist says he kept his work on time travel a closely held secret for years, fearing ridicule.

However, a colleague at the University of Michigan, astrophysicist Fred Adams, encouraged him to "come out of the time travel closet," because many other respected physicists were beginning to do serious research into the subject.

"Fred had originally suggested doing a book about it," Mallett recalls.

"I didn't want to write a book about other people's contributions to time travel, unless I made a contribution."

The favorable reaction and publicity surrounding the publication of his time machine concept in the journal New Scientist in 2001 established Mallett as a pioneering contributor to the theory of time travel.

He continued working and publishing papers on the theoretical equations needed to complete the concept, culminating in the publication of the second part of his theory in the journal Foundations of Physics in 2003.

He says the basic equations are founded upon "solid physics," including Einstein's general theory of relativity, which indicates that the key to time travel - creation of a gravitating field of circulating light that will simultaneously twist space and time - is possible according to the laws of nature.

Mallett hopes Time Traveler will help draw support for moving his theoretical work to the experimental phase of building a time machine.

While there has been interest from some government agencies and Wall Street investors, he refuses to do his work in secret, as those potential funding sources required.

"Any new technology needs to be regulated, but that's different than being top secret," he says.

"Regulation does not mean complete, exclusive control. It would be the equivalent of the government realizing that flight was possible with the Wright Brothers and calling it top secret. I have faith there will be visionaries out there who have the money and vision to say this is something that needs to happen."

He continues to collaborate with Chandra Roychoudhuri, a research professor of physics at UConn, who will carry out the experiments necessary before moving to phase two - actual construction of a time machine.

- Book interview on-line by Kenneth Best

UConn Advance

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Science a Go Go
Book Review
November 2, 2006

Against the backdrop of one man's inspirational struggle against the odds, University of Connecticut physics professor Ronald Mallet outlines his basic equation for time travel. While a theory for time travel is in itself extraordinary, Mallet's own story of how he became one of the first African-American PhDs is just as remarkable. Mallet lost his father when he was 10, and subsequently spent much of his life having to cope with racism, poverty and depression. Intertwined with Mallet's personal story is his discovery and insatiable thirst for Einstein's work on space-time, and how such a theory may permit time travel. After 30 years of research in theoretical physics, Mallet's own work on circulating laser light has led him to his theory that suggests the development of a time machine should be possible. Mallet's highly readable prose on how "space and time can be manipulated" makes understanding his theory almost effortless; no mean feat. There have been a number of time travel books published of late, but this is one of the more accomplished. His theory is the first serious and practical attempt at making the impossible possible. Time Traveler is about far more than theory, however, and will undoubtedly serve as inspiration to budding scientists and the general reader alike.

"Science a Go Go" book review

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Publisher's Weekly
Book Review
September 4, 2006

Physicist Mallett's theory that "space and time can be manipulated" to make time travel possible has gained national media attention. His research and theories flow nicely through this easy-to-read autobiography. Mallett, one of the first African-American Ph.D.s in theoretical physics, has lived under the shadow of his father's death when he was 10. His struggles with poverty, racism and depression, coupled with his extreme drive to succeed at building a time machine and so see his beloved father again are inspirational. Mallett's (and bestselling author Henderson's) simple prose makes for clear and concise explanations of the science involved. The author comes across as a warm, inspired, driven, troubled man who is generous in his descriptions of others and must be an excellent teacher at the University of Connecticut, where he is a physics professor. Mallett describes the path of his education and research into black holes and circulating lasers, which he believes drag time into a closed loop suitable for time travel. Due to the basic level of the science content and the focus on Mallett's personal quest, this book is best suited for a general rather than a science-leaning audience, or as an inspirational text for aspiring young scientists.

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1998-2008 Department of Physics, University of Connecticut
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