These Two People Are Earnestly Trying to Build Time Machines

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
May 8 2014 1:22 PM

These Two People Are Earnestly Trying to Build Time Machines

timemachine
A replica of the time machine H. G. Wells imagined in his novella.

Photo from How To Build A Time Machine.

Some days you just want to get in your time machine and go hang out with Mark Twain.

The problem is that time machines are currently limited by the fact that they don't exist. You can listen to Windows startup sounds, but you can't actually transport yourself back in time. There are people who really, really want to, though, and they're working on it.

Advertisement

How To Build A Time Machine is a documentary by filmmaker Jay Cheel about two men working separately to build time machines. One, Rob Niosi, has spent 11 years creating a full-sized replica of the time machine described in H.G. Wells' novella. He obsessively improves it and adds new elements that either contribute function or decoration.

Meanwhile, physicist Ronald Mallett (once featured on a segment of This American Life) is obsessed with understanding and mastering time so he can go back and save his father from an untimely death. Mallett, who is also motivated by Wells, says his obsession with seeing his father again has isolated him from other loved ones.

The documentary was inspired by Jon Titor, a man who claimed he was from the future, and was originally set to focus on Titor’s Internet posts. Based on the trailer below it seems like the film has evolved beyond just a focus on him, and there is clearly some commentary going on about the ways in which a fixation on time travel can overlap with delusion.

How To Build A Time Machine doesn’t have a release date yet, but you can check for updates on its Twitter.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Lily Hay Newman is lead blogger for Future Tense.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Congress’ Public Shaming of the Secret Service Was Political Grandstanding at Its Best

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

A Plentiful, Renewable Resource That America Keeps Overlooking

Animal manure.

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

Politics

Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Hasbro Is Cracking Down on Scrabble Players Who Turn Its Official Word List Into Popular Apps

The Ludicrous Claims You’ll Hear at This Company’s “Egg Freezing Parties”

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 30 2014 9:33 PM Political Theater With a Purpose Darrell Issa’s public shaming of the head of the Secret Service was congressional grandstanding at its best.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM Going Private To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  Life
The Vault
Oct. 1 2014 10:49 AM James Meredith, Determined to Enroll at Ole Miss, Declares His Purpose in a 1961 Letter
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 10:54 AM “I Need a Pair of Pants That Won’t Bore Me to Death” Troy Patterson talks about looking sharp, flat-top fades, and being Slate’s Gentleman Scholar.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 10:44 AM Everyone’s Favorite Bob’s Burgers Character Gets a Remix You Can Dance to
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 10:27 AM 3,000 French Scientists Are Marching to Demand More Research Funding
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 1 2014 7:30 AM Say Hello to Our Quasi-Moon, 2014 OL339
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.