Physicists Explain How Doctor Who’s TARDIS Works… In A White Paper

Physicists Explain How Doctor Who’s TARDIS Works… In A White Paper

Advanced technology in science fiction is usually described using techno-babble — a combination of made-up words and concepts with a tenuous connection to reality. Brave is the person who delves into real science and tries to make sense of say, the time-travelling TARDIS from Doctor Who. Yet, that’s exactly what theoretical physicists Ben Tippett and David Tsang have attempted.

It’s all contained in “The Blue Box White Paper”, a white paper submitted to preprint science archive arXiv by the pair. arXiv isn’t peer-reviewed, but it’s not like the paper is trying to put forward a crazy new notion that’ll change the way we view physics (or is it?).

What it does have is humour. Take this snippet, which tries to explain Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity using K-9:

Imagine an old quarry, the floor of which is covered in smooth lips and bumps and bowls. Suppose that one were to ask one’s robot dog to enter the quarry, and to fix its steering wheels in the forward pointing position. Over flat ground, if the instructions were followed, the tin dog would move along a straight line. The curved terrain of the quarry will cause the companion’s path to bend and twist and skew (Fig. 1). Similarly, in Einstein’s theory the curvature of spacetime accounts for the curved orbits of the planets

Unlike the geometry of the floor of the quarry, in Einstein’s theory the curvature is dynamic. Both the degree to which the spacetime is curved and the character of the curvature depend upon the quantity and character of the matter present. The mathematical relationship between the curvature and the matter is called the Einstein Equation.

The full paper is 17 pages, but it’s not that dense and perfect for an afternoon read, especially if you’re planning a late weekend trip through time.

[arXiv, via Motherboard]

Image: Benjamin K Tippett / David Tsang