The Synchronic / Gödel Model for Time Travel

The topic of… the possibility of… time travel… is a recurring theme throughout the Townsend Brown saga.

In The Man Who Mastered Gravity, the connection is first introduced in Chapter 20: Gravity & Electricity, Space & Time (Notes from the Rabbit Hole #5).  After a prior description of Townsend Brown’s experiments to produce synthetic gravitational fields with a stacked capacitor device he called the ‘gravitor’ (or more commonly the ‘gravitator’), Chapter 20 ends with this speculation:

Text "from The Man Who Mastered Gravity" that introduces the possibility of time travel

The prospect is revisited several times in passages that originate with the mercurial source I code-named “Morgan.”  For example, in Chapter 31 – Reflections on Biscayne Bay, Morgan wrote to me that in a private, late night conversation, Townsend Brown “dropped a bombshell on me…”

Morgan calls us back to that moment in Chapter 59 – You Have The Green Light, when he describes a clandestine encounter with Townsend Brown in Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia, which he described to me in an email message in June of 2005:

Text "from The Man Who Mastered Gravity" that introduces the possibility of time travel

And finally, in one of his last messages to me, he addressed the theme again:

Text "from The Man Who Mastered Gravity" that introduces the possibility of time travel

That’s why I keep thinking about and returning to the topic of Time Travel as it might apply to the Townsend Brown story – to the point that I keep a Google Alert on the topic.  I will occasionally get notifications that a scientist somewhere has arrived at the conclusion that time travel is possible.  Indeed, no less an authority than Scientific American tells is that…

Scientists don’t think this conception is likely in the real world, but they also don’t relegate time travel to the crackpot realm. In fact, the laws of physics might allow chronological hopping, but the devil is in the details.

If you Google the right keywords, you can actually find all kinds of articles that insist that time travel is possible – it’s just that the technology hasn’t caught up yet with the math and physics that say so.

And, needless to say, popular culture is replete with time travel fantasies.  I already cited the one that neatly combines the ‘unrealized technologies‘ suggested in both of my books.

Lately, the metaphor for time travel that has piqued my curiosity is this quick scene from the 2019 science fiction film Synchronic, in which the creator of a time-travel inducing drug explains the infinite spiral of time:

Now we fast-forward to a ‘blink and you missed’ moment in the 2023 film, Oppenheimer.  

In the movie, after Edward Teller comes up with the calculations suggesting that a nuclear detonation could set off a runaway chain reaction that would ignite the atmosphere and destroy life on Earth, Oppenheimer takes the calculations to Albert Einstein in Princeton.

But for the purposes of this post, I’m not interested in Einstein.  I am interested in the man in Einstein’s company when Oppenheimer interrupts their daily stroll the physicist/philosopher Kurt Gödel.

After seeing Oppenheimer, I started scouring web for more info on the pantheon of mid-20th-century physicists who make cameo appearances throughout the movie.  In the course of that rummaging, I learned a bit more about Gödel, a colleague at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton that Einstein held in the highest esteem.

Kurt Godel , time travel imagineer
Kurt Gödel

Who was Kurt Gödel?  Well, I’m glad you asked…

Kurt Gödel, a famous mathematician and logician, proposed a theory of a rotating universe in 1949. His theory was based on the idea that the universe could be modeled using Einstein’s theory of general relativity, which describes the relationship between space, time, and gravity.

Gödel’s theory suggested that if the universe was rotating, then it would be possible to travel back in time by following a certain path through space. He showed that the laws of physics would allow for the existence of closed time-like curves, which are paths through space-time that loop back on themselves and allow for time travel.

In the twisted quantum caverns of my brain, the idea of a ‘rotating universe’ sounds a lot like… a rotating phonograph record.

Gödel was never able to find any mathematical  proof of his theory for a rotating universe, but still,  the obvious question: was Justin Benson – the screenwriter for Synchronic – familiar with Gödel’s theory?

Or did two creative individuals from disparate times and disciplines just happen on essentially the same idea?

Does any of this add up?  Of course I don’t know.  All I know is what Morgan told me late in our correspondence:

In other words, somebody is trying to tell us something.

We just need the courage – and some suspension of disbelief – to hear it.


Kurt Godel and Albert Einstein on their daily walk at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton, no doubt discussing how time travel has left them stuck on this planet in this time.
Einstein said he went to his office at the Institute for Advanced Study “just to have the privilege of walking home with Kurt Gödel.”


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