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The Science of Back to the Future

It's "Back to the Future Day"!. Even if you are not a fan or have never seen the movie, by now, you know today is the day Marty McFly and Doc Brown travel to in Back to the Future II, well 2015 was the exazct day. While we might not have flying cars or shoes that lace themselves. We do not rehydrate our food and fax machines have for the most part "gone the way of the dodo". The movie did get a few things correct. The Cubs are in the chase for the World Series, however down 3 games in the semi finals. They need to pull out a 2004 Red Sox come back. We have 3D movies and drones that could walk dogs. Video telephones exist. Hoverboards while not exactly as depicted in the film do actually exist in various versions.

But is time travel actually possible? Stephen Hawking says no, but if you listen to Dr. Michio Kaku, he explains the physics behind time travel and its possibility.

While we haven't quite mastered reaching the speed of light yet, if we were to reach light speed, traveling into the future is possible. However, I am not quite sold on whether we can go backwards in time. I would love to think we could to go back and fix old mistakes but then we do not know what our alternate future might hold if we were to change those mistakes and don't our mistakes make us stronger and help us become who we are today? Thinking about Back to the Future and time travel and movie physics. I question how much of the physics the movie got correct?

One of the downfalls of being an analytical thinker is that I pick apart everything. There are days I wish I could just sit and enjoy the movie magic. That being said, NASCAR drivers routinely drive faster than 88 miles per hour and don't time travel but those cars also do not have a flux capacitor . According to Doc Brown, the flux capacitor is the key to making time travel work. I don't really know much about how the flux capacitor works. However, the flux capacitor must be capable of opening up wormholes and black holes similar to that of the large Hadron collider in Switzerland. Also according to Doc Brown, you need 1.21 GigaWatts of energy to activate the flux capacitor which is where the 88 mph and plutonium comes in.

I do not think I personally will ever time travel, I do believe it is possible and in the future, just maybe not our immediate future. While I can postulate all day on whether time travel is possible and movie physics, I wanted to share a quick class activity for students to calculate velocity and acceleration using a clip from Back to the Future III

In Back to the Future III, we see Marty and Doc Brown on the train tracks. The Delorean breaks through a sign that indicates the train tracks end in one 1/4 mile. At this point the Delorean has just reached 80 miles per hour.

Using stop watches and a clip from the movie, calculate the Delorean's acceleration and velocity. Can the Delorean reach the required 88 miles per hour in the 1/4 mile indicated?

So if you were able to go the future or back to the past where would you go? Imagine you were designing a scene from a movie set 30 years in the future, in 2045. What inventions and trends would you depict?

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