Physicist needs $20,000 for time-travel experiment

Without funding, lab space will be lost

The Seattle scientist who wants to test a controversial prediction from quantum theory that says light particles can go backward in time is, himself, running out of time.

It’s not a wormhole or warp in the space-time continuum. The problem is more mundane — a black hole in the time-and-money continuum spawned by today’s increasingly risk-averse, “performance-based” approach to funding research.

“I guess you could say we’re now living on borrowed time,” wryly joked John Cramer, a physicist at the University of Washington. “All we need to keep going is maybe $20,000, but nobody seems that interested in funding this project.”

It’s a project that aims to do a conceptually simple bench-top test for evidence of something Albert Einstein called “spooky action at a distance.” The test involves using a crystal to split a photon, a light particle, into two reduced-energy photons that — through careful manipulation — Cramer thinks could reveal a flash of time traveling backward.

The UW physicist has applied for funds from the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC) and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Both agencies have, in the past, funded far-fetched ideas and, on occasion, had big hits — such as the Internet.

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