These Two People Are Earnestly Trying to Build Time Machines

Future Tense
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.

Lily Hay Newman Lily Hay Newman

Lily Hay Newman is lead blogger for Future Tense.

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.

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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.

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