Some aspects of the movie are scientifically accurate, like traveling forward in time, which is theoretically possible, along with altering a given timeline by changing past events. However, in the movie, the protagonist also travels backward in time; according to the current theories, this is impossible, making it scientifically inaccurate.
Time travel has been part of movies and literature for a long time now. There have been countless movies and books on the subject, but one of the most famous works in this genre is the movie Back to the Future directed by Robert Zemeckis.
The movie was released way back in the year 1985 and had two sequels, the last one being released in 1990.
Many people say that the movie was way ahead of its time because of the predictions the movie made about the future, including flying cars, self-drying jackets and hover-boards, which the movie predicted would be available in the year 2015.
Now, we all know that we don’t have those things yet, but we still need to applaud the creators of the movie for their ambitious vision.
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There has been a lot of debate over the years on the scientific accuracy of the movie and whether the concepts used in the movie are true?
Well, to answer that, according to theoretical physicist Michio Kaku, time travel is theoretically possible.
Anyone who has read about the Theory of Relativity, developed by Albert Einstein, knows that whenever a body moves closer to the speed of light in space, time passes slowly for that body, thus proving the fact that traveling to the future is a possibility.
However, traveling backward in time is still disputed by mathematicians and physicists, but this happens a lot in this movie.
That means the time-traveling done by Marty and Doc in the future can be explained, but the part where they travel back in time is still theoretically impossible.
One more important aspect of time traveling is the ‘timeline’, which is the representation of all historic moments. Suppose there is a timeline ‘A’ where we exist. If we somehow acquire the technology to travel back in time and decide to go to the past, we might undo a certain event!!
For example, a popular example is stopping Adolf Hitler before he could take over Germany by informing the countries that will eventually be known as the ‘Allies’ against the German-lead ‘Axis’ powers.
If this were to happen, the timeline from which we had gone to the past—timeline ‘A’—would cease to exist and a new timeline would be created, timeline ‘B’.
In this timeline, Hitler never took over Germany and World War II never took place.
When we returned to the year from which we had come, everything would be different; in fact, it would be possible that we might cease to exist in the new timeline, so we would simply fade away.
This is exactly what happens in the first part of the movie, when Marty travels back in time and Marty’s mother Lorraine falls in love with him (her son in the future) instead of his father, George.
Thus, in this case, she would never marry George, so the timeline from which Marty had come would not exist and would be replaced by another timeline where there is no Marty!
This is why Marty starts to fade away in the movie because of the alteration of the events in his original past.
Along the stretch of the three movies, so many different timelines are created that it becomes nearly impossible to keep track.
Another theory in the movie is that if we go to the future and meet our future selves, it will cause space-time to stop and thus bring about the end of the universe, according to Doc. However, in reality, if we go to the future to meet our future self, nothing inherently bad would occur; rather, our future self would be ready for us because he has already met himself in his timeline.
Hence, this would be his second meeting with himself, so he would be prepared to answer all the questions that his past self would have asked him.
Yet in the movie, when Jennifer (Marty’s girlfriend from the present) meets her future self (Marty’s wife), her future self should have been prepared to meet her past self, because she has already met her future self in her past.
It’s confusing, right? But this is time travel we’re talking about… it’s supposed to be complicated!
The creators of the movie tried hard to wrestle the concepts of time travel and use them in the movie, but they couldn’t provide a proper scientific explanation for a few things in the movie.
Still, what they achieved back in the year 1985 is just amazing. This is one of the best time-traveling movies in history, even if it isn’t perfect.
References (click to expand)
- BACK TO THE FUTURE!!! – A critique – Scientific Scribbles - blogs.unimelb.edu.au
- Science Behind the Fiction, Special Edition: Back to the Future .... anl.gov
- The Physics of Back to the Future's DeLorean Time Machine. scienceandfilm.org
- Welcome back to the future - Science Museum Blog. The Science Museum