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1007/s10701-010-9448-9

**Closed Timelike Curves—Time and Again
**

Joachim Pfarr

Received: 26 October 2009 / Accepted: 15 March 2010 / Published online: 24 March 2010 © Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Abstract Sixty years ago, in 1949, Kurt Gödel published a paper dedicated to Albert Einstein on the occasion of his 70th birthday. Gödel presented a solution of Einstein’s ﬁeld equations for a rotating, homogeneous, stationary universe with negative cosmological constant. Among various surprising properties this universe allows closed timelike curves (CTC), i.e. travel into the past and into the future. Until today many papers have been published concerning physical, logical and philosophical consequences of these results and the existence of closed timelike worldlines in the General Theory of Relativity. Starting from a short survey on Gödel’s work we proceed to elucidate more modern interpretations of the existence of CTCs. Keywords General relativity · Cosmology · Closed timelike curves

1 Introduction Starting with Gödel’s metric in standard coordinates we give a solution of the geodesic equation followed by a proof of the nonexistence of closed timelike geodesics. For one particular CTC the force is given to maintain a travel along this curve and the minimum acceleration is presented. Some concrete values for time travel follow. CTCs do not only occur in Gödels space. There exist hundreds of articles dealing with “time travel” or “time machines”. Since Mittelstaedt [16] was permanently interested in questions of time and causality in physics, we restrict ourselves to a review of some of the articles which might be of special interest to him. Rather than presenting new results we only give an incomplete selection of more recent results about CTCs and discuss logical and causal consequences.

J. Pfarr ( ) Köln, Germany e-mail: JOPFARR@AOL.COM

Gödel’s metric reads √ 2dx ds = dt + βy 2 2 − dx 2 + dy 2 − dz2 . 2 2 (2) with β 2 = ρ and = − β 2 . Following mainly Hawking and Ellis [11]. z) reads ds 2 = √ 4 [dt 2 − dr 2 + (sinh4 r − sinh2 r)dϕ 2 + 2 2 sinh2 rdt dϕ ] − dz2 . √ ϕ t = β −1 2 2 arctan e−2r tan 2 −1 (3) (4) √ 2ϕ + 2t . r = r0 . x. In these coordinates let us denote by a particular closed curve parameterized with an arbitrary value α with t = t0 . ˙x ¨= t ˙y ˙ y. y y βy The dot indicates derivation with respect to the proper time s . μ dXμ 4 2 The condition for to be timelike is dX dα dα > 0. z) deﬁned by y = (cosh(2r) + sinh(2r) cos ϕ)−1 . ϕ ∈ [−π. Pfarr [19] and Rosa and Letelier [21] and for simplicity using units c = 8πG = 1 Gödel’s metric in standard coordinates Xμ = (t. r. ϕ. This leads to sinh r − sinh r > √ 0. Kurt Gödel [7] found an exact solution of Einstein’s ﬁeld equations. In “Cartesian” coordinates X μ = (t. Matter takes the form of a pressure-free perfect ﬂuid with Tμν = ρ · uμ uν . One has to exceed the closed null curve with r > log( 2 + 1). (βy)2 (7) The geodesic equation in these coordinates is √ √ √ 2 ˙2 x ˙2 + y 2 ˙y. That means “local” √ time-travel is not possible.Found Phys (2010) 40: 1326–1332 1327 2 Gödel’s Solution In 1949. Matter rotates about every point in space-time with constant angular velocity ω proportional to the square root of the matter density. (8) . The nonexistence of timelike geodesics in Gödel’s space has been proved by Kundt [14] and Chandrasekhar and Wright [1]. − (5) (6) z = z. 2 β (1) This metric satisﬁes Einstein’s ﬁeld equation 1 Rμν − Rgμν + gμν = −Tμν . π ]. y. where ρ is the mean density of the matter and uμ the normalized four-velocity vector. For completeness we here present a short proof by means of the integration of the geodesic equation following Rosa and Letelier [21]. z ¨ = 0. and thus r > log( 2 + 1). ˙ x ¨ = −β 2t ˙ y ¨ = β 2t ˙+ t ˙+ 2x . x=β (sinh(2r) sin ϕ)y. dt = dr = dz = 0.

cos2 σ + N sin2 σ 2dσ y= + z0 . ˙ μX ˙ μ = 1 (z = 0) reduces to The relation X √ ˙2 2 2 x ˙2 + y ˙+ x ˙ − = 1. (13) where x0 . d. t= β 2 N √ 2 N η sin σ cos σ x= + x0 . C y ˙= βy(x − x0) . 2 x − π 2 =x π . t 2C x ˙= βy(y0 − y) .1328 Found Phys (2010) 40: 1326–1332 The ﬁrst integrals are 2y − y ˙= √ 0. z0 are constants of integration and the parameters σ . s0 . and thus From the ﬁrst integrals of the geodesic equation we get y0 2 y0 > 2η 2 . 2 π π π π π x(− π 2 ) = x( 2 ) and y(− 2 ) = y( 2 ) are obvious from (11) and (12). respectively. y0 . C. t (− 2 ) = t ( 2 ) gives √ √ π N +1 2 π − 2 arctan − √ + t0 N tan − β 2 2 2 N . N and η are σ= 2 − η2 β y0 2C (s − s0 ). C z ˙= d . N= y0 − η . C (9) Further integration gives the solution √ √ 2 N +1 2 arctan N tan σ − √ σ + t0 . Thus the projections of geodesics into the xy -plane for this coordinate system are circles. 2 − η2 β y0 z= 2dσ 2 − η2 β y0 (10) (11) (12) + z0 . y0 + η (14) 2 η2 = (x − x0 ) + (y − y0 )2 . (15) t βy (βy)2 2 = 2(C 2 + η2 ). t0 . In standard coordinates this condition is y0 In order to be timelike and closed the coordinates of this geodesic should fulﬁll the following conditions: t − π 2 =t π . 2 y − π 2 =y π . (16) 2 > 2r 2 .

Found Phys (2010) 40: 1326–1332 1329 √ √ 2 π 2 arctan = N tan − β 2 this means N +1 2= √ 2 N or π N +1 − − √ 2 2 N + t0 . However. For a mass density of 10−30 g/cm3 we get for the time of rotation about 2 × 1011 years. Our universe is expanding. The amount of time for a round trip and the amount of necessary energy have been calculated by Pfarr [19] and Ozsváth and Schücking [17. ηβ 0 F1 = 2y (x − x0 )F. Being stationary Gödel’s space-time cannot be a proper description of this universe. η F 3 = 0. √ 4 N = N + 1.27 × 1011 years and v/c = 0. one has to exert forces upon a test particle if it has to follow a closed timelike curve. The radius of the optical horizon for an observer is about 2 × 1010 lightyears. According to Ozsváth and Schücking the necessary mass for the fuel of a rocket has to be of the order (1022 /t 2 )M . In 1974 Tipler [22] could show the following: If the cylinder rotates with more than one half of the velocity of light space and time are so extremely distorted that one can—moving around the cylinder—reach . η F2 = − F= 2y (y − y0 )F. He considered an inﬁnite rotating cylinder consisting of dust. This cylinder contains CTCs through every point. 18]. β 2 η(y0 − 2) . He demonstrated that the √ total integrated acceleration of any closed timelike curve must be at least log(1 + 5).) 3 Consequences of CTCs The idea of closed timelike curves in solutions of Einstein’s ﬁeld equations is already present in a paper by van Stockum [23]. (Gödel [8] found a solution of Einstein’s ﬁeld equation for a rotating universe with expansion. van Stockum did not discuss the existence of CTCs.998 we still get τ ≈ 109 years. (17) 2 = 4 η2 which contradicts condition (16). For one particular CTC Rosa and Letelier gave the following forces in Cartesian Coordinates: √ 2 2 F = (x − x0 )F. 2((y0 − 2)2 − 1) The minimal acceleration necessary for a temporal round trip has been calculated by Malament [15]. when t is the duration of the travel in years measured by the comoving observer and M is the initial mass of the rocket. The proper time of a comoving √ √1−(v/c)2 1 observer is τ = 4π 2 2(v/c)2 −1 · α . Replacing N from formula (14) we ﬁnd y0 3 Since there do not exist closed timelike geodesics. For α −1 = 2.

it is not possible to decide who follows the other. Pfarr [20]. In his ‘Relative state’ formulation of quantum mechanics Everett III [6] claims that in quantum mechanical processes the universe splits in various states of the universe. . critical comments are available in Jammer [12]. Like whips they wind through the universe. Thus time travel undermines the concept of self identity and causality. If two persons move along the lines of a circle in the plane.g. Therefore the concepts of past or future are no longer valid. Someone can travel into the past and kill his earlier self. Their thickness is only 10−31 m.) According to this theory any possible quantum mechanical process branches the universe into two or even more universes which are identical and differ only in the quantum mechanical states just considered. and every meter contains the mass of 1019 kg. CTCs can exist if there are ‘cosmic strings’ in the universe. Thus there originate “mixed states” in the neighborhood of CTCs. these cosmic strings have nothing to do with the strings of the super string theory. This alternative avoids the temporal and causal paradoxes mentioned above. Like Schrödinger’s cat he is both dead and alive: two different states in two different universes. and the man kills the young boy. according to Hawking’s [10] ‘chronology protection conjecture’ this might not occur: quantum ﬂuctuations nearby the strings would prevent the forthcoming of CTCs. (For further details see e. Every observer has the possibility to travel into the past or into the future. Every observer has his own time and his own view of the world. Disregarding the dynamical and fuel problems the existence of CTCs is more puzzling. This theory was later called the “many world interpretation of quantum mechanics”. because the universe in which he survived is a different one. However. In order to remove these paradoxes from the theory Deutsch [3] followed the line of a particular interpretation of quantum mechanics. And a neighboring observer has a different view and a different time. de Witt [2]. Each of them follows the other one. Kanitscheider [13]. So the existence of CTCs leads to logical and philosophical paradoxes. and we can “travel” from t2 to t1 . But now there is no contradiction.1330 Found Phys (2010) 40: 1326–1332 either the future or the past. A different type of a time machine was considered by Gott [9]. A similar difﬁculty arises if a person via time travel meets himself at an earlier state of his existence and kills himself. There is no cosmic time in this universe. He arrives at the state of the universe which was identical with his own until the moment of his arrival. So his father cannot meet his mother and the man cannot be born. If two of theses strings pass each other with nearly the speed of light they distort the structure of space-time such that a ‘spaceship’ traveling around the bundle could be catapulted into its own future or its own past. However. This is the so called “autoinfantizid-paradox”. we restrict us to a father-paradox: A man travels into the past to meet his father when the father was a young boy. . These cosmic strings are “cracks” in space-time coming from the early universe shortly after the big bang. If a moment t2 is after t1 . . He does not kill himself in his universe. then t1 is after t2 . One of these paradoxes is known as the so called “grandfather-paradox”. Everett [5] claims that the system cannot be described by a mere wave function but rather by means of a density matrix. depending of the direction of the motion with or against the rotation of the cylinder. We face the same problem with a CTC. Deutsch’s interpretation has not been unattacked in the past.

Phys.: The many universes interpretation of quantum mechanics. Schücking. New York (1974) 13. Everett. 3th edn. One very often discussed problem is the existence of CTCs inside a black hole.Found Phys (2010) 40: 1326–1332 1331 4 Conclusion Dealing with CTCs we restricted ourselves to the properties of Gödel’s space-time and we discussed some selected other possibilities for time travel.: Trägheitsbahnen in einem von Gödel angegebenen kosmologichen Modell. III: ‘Relative state’ formulation of quantum mechanics. 1126–1129 (1991) 10. Kundt.. Inst. 603–611 (1992) 11. L.: The geodesics in Gödel’s universe. Mannheim (1981) 20.W. path integrals. C. K. Rev. And last not least wormholes are candidates for time travel. Mannheim (1976) 14. J. Providence (1952) 9. Cambridge (1973) 12.. pp. many other solutions in general relativity that might lead to CTCs. Schücking.) Proceedings of the International Congress of Mathematicians. et al. D 46. Rev.. Nature 193. Hawking.Wissenschaftsverlag. Phys. Gödel. Jammer. BI-Wissenschaftsverlag. 111–127. Class.. Academic Press.: Do the laws of physics forbid the operation of time machines? Synthese 169. Gott.: Zur wissenschaftstheoretischen Deutung der ‘Many-Words-Interpretation’ der Quantentheorie. S. S.. I. Pfarr. 29. 454–461 (1957) 7. 447–450 (1949) 8. B. Lett. Rev. of course.: The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time. J. C. Ellis. 21. Kanitscheider. 91–124 (2009) 5. It will be a question of the future whether Hawking’s chronology protection conjecture will prohibit CTCs.: Rotating universes in general relativity theory. 26.: Der Zeitbegriff in der Physik. I. R. Malament. J. Chandrasekhar. Ozsváth. (eds. Rev. Math. Gen. 124023 (2004) 6. Wüthrich. K. Mannheim (1989) 17. Mod. Phys. Wiley. Mittelstaedt. (eds.P. Phys. E. Gödel. References 1. Proc. Bibliogr. New York (1971) 3.F.: Chronology protection conjecture. Furthermore CTCs might occur in the vicinity of rotating black holes. Everett. pp. Gravit. B.. Deutsch. Pfarr. J. Cambridge University Press. pp. In: Foundation of Quantum Mechanics. 3197–3271 (1991) 4. Quantum Gravity 18.: Finite rotating universe. E. Smeenk. Hawking. 341–347 (1961) 2. Acad. 175–181.: Time travel paradoxes. J. G. USA 47. D 44. Mod. [4] for instance sort out Gödel’s solution since there does not exist a global “time” slice separating the time into a “before” and an “after” a time machine could work. Rev. S. Z. On the other hand CTCs could be avoided by imposing appropriate initial or boundary conditions. Phys. P. 509–521. W.W. B.: Approaches to Gödel’s rotating universe. de Witt. Wright.. 774–777 (1985) 16.I.: Quantum mechanics near closed timelike lines.S. Phys. D 69.: An example of a new type of cosmological solutions of Einstein’s ﬁeld equations of gravitation. Earman. Earman et al. Sci. 145.M. The additional existence of electric or magnetic ﬁelds also will produce CTCs. 2243–2252 (2001) 19. A. In: Mittelstaedt.R. Natl.: Time-travel in Gödel’s space.. 611–620 (1956) 15. H. Rev. M. D. There are.: Vom Absoluten Raum Zur Dynamischen Geometrie. American Mathematical Society. P. 13. and the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. J. Relativ.. Phys. 1073–1091 (1981) . Ozsváth. 66. Phys.: Minimal acceleration requirements for ‘time-travel’ in Gödel space-time.: The Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics.: Closed timelike curves produced by pairs of moving cosmic strings: exact solutions.) Grundlagen der Quantentheorie. 1168–1169 (1962) 18. Pfarr. D. time travel and violation of causal sequence in general. In: Graves.

J. 39. Rosa. R. 1419–1435 (2007) 22..S.1332 Found Phys (2010) 40: 1326–1332 21. P. Phys.: The gravitational ﬁeld of a distribution of particles rotating about an axis of symmetry. Gen. Soc. D 9.: Stability of closed timelike curves in the Gödel universe. van Stockum.J. V. F. Gravit. Proc. Letelier. 2203– 2206 (1974) 23. Relativ. W. Tipler.M. 57. Edinb.: Rotating cylinders and the possibility of global causality violation. 135–154 (1937) . Rev.

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