The Tardis in 'Doctor Who' Can Be Explained as a Bubble of Space-Time
But actually making one would require an extra-dimensional building material.
When Jodie Whittaker’s 13th Doctor takes her companions to faraway alien planets and different time periods in Doctor Who, it seems like her ship, the Tardis, moves from point A to point B with relative easy. But the science behind how that blue box functions in the universe of Doctor Who is insanely complicated, and theoretically possible — assuming we could access a dimensional plane that connects to all of space and time and discover some kind of exotic matter that shatters the current laws of physics.
That may sound like a stretch, but in a paper titled “Traversable Achronal Retrograde Domains In Spacetime,” physicists Ben Tippett and David Tsang theorized that all of this really is possible. They conceptualize the Tardis as a bubble of space-time that moves back and forth through loops of time, but after enough loops are connected, the Tardis would conceivably gain access to all of space and time. The only catch? This relies on the Tardis being able to create closed timelike curves.
These barely comprehensible structures are a theoretical solution to general field equations included as part of the broader theory of general relativity. In simpler terms, it’s a loop of space-time. So if we were able to create a device or ship that could create and somehow travel through one, we’d be able to travel through time. And the math checks out: Physicist Willem Jacob van Stockum first discovered the concept in 1937 and Kurt Gödel confirmed it in 1949.
This is roughly where the exotic matter comes in because a Tardis would have to be built out of matter unlike anything that exists. It would have to somehow exist in our dimension while also having properties that connect it to another dimension, the time vortex.
In Doctor Who, the Time Vortex is a plane of existence that connects to everything in space and time. The Tardis has an otherworldly power source called the Eye of Harmony that lets it dematerialize in physical space, travel through the Time Vortex, and rematerialize somewhere else (and at a different point in time if they want). The inside of a Tardis is theoretically endless as it exists in its own kind of pocket dimension. That’s why to create something even remotely close, we’d need those exotic particles.
Much like the broader universe of Doctor Who, digging too deep into the science of Tardis and time travel is a lot of fun, but it’s also incredibly difficult to grasp.
This December, Inverse is counting down the 20 best science moments in science fiction this year. This has been #14.
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