China Swears It Isn’t Building a Time Machine

From the annals of “nothing to see here,” China’s largest state physics lab is insisting it’s not helping a private company build a time machine. The strange happenings are straight out of the scientist version of TMZ, with a leaked PowerPoint presentation and gossip swirling.

So: Is the Chinese government collaborating with a startup in order to travel through time?

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Earlier this month, unsubstantiated documents began circulating online that seemed to suggest the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of High Energy Physics is partnering with the private Ruitai Technology Development Technology on something called the “Space-time Tunnel Generation Experimental Device.”

China’s The Paper Journalist, which obtained a leaked PowerPoint presentation containing information about the project, has more about the device, via 6Park News:

The PowerPoint also claims, per 6Park, that the team behind the project “has reached a preliminary cooperation agreement with a research and development team composed of well-known experts and academicians of the Institute of High Energy Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences,” and that Nobel Laureate Gao Kun “recognized and praised” the device, in addition to other esteemed scientists.

Not long after the PowerPoint document spread online, however, the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of High Energy Physics issued a statement vehemently denying its involvement in the project. Per 6Park:

Even odder: The Paper Journalist discovered that Ruitai Technology has only been a company since December 31, 2020, and Nobel Laureate Gao Kun doesn’t actually exist. Ruitai also denied its involvement, according to the Chongqing Morning News, claiming a financing information platform “mistakenly created the presentation.”

Uh, classic misunderstanding?

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Whatever the hell actually happened here, it does beg the question: Just what would a state-funded time machine look like, anyway?

The mythical device in question, which “could prolong life by using Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity to distort space-time,” per Yicai, sure sounds like some kind of hibernation, if the “time travel” is accomplished by “prolonging life.”

In the Bible, Methuselah didn’t time travel to age 969. But the right hibernation could suspend the human body for long space journeys, for example. Like a Star Trek character, someone could wake up several centuries after they went to sleep.

But is that really time travel? It comes down to semantics. Certainly being able to pause and then resume life with a time period between fits the literal idea of traveling in time. But unlike, say, using lasers to bend spacetime, prolonging life does not extend backward in time. That’s usually a key part of any time travel schema, because traveling into the future can just seem like, well, very efficient waiting.

At the same time, it’s easy to see why hibernation time travel would be highly sought after by investors.

It does seem farfetched for a third party outside of science to make up a list of academic luminaries for a fake PowerPoint presentation. So what’s really going on? The truth may only be revealed when Chinese leaders start to reach their 150th birthdays.

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