Ronald L Mallett, a theoretical physicist at the University of Connecticut, believes his "tunnel" of laser light could send messages through time.

The 69-year-old hopes to use the invention to save his father who died from a heart attack when he was just 10 years old. Mallett, who is the subject of a new documentary, “How To Build a Time Machine," has based his "tardis" on Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, and the fact that light can create gravitational fields.

The respected scientist explains his motivation and how his machine could save thousands of lives.

What inspired you to create a time machine?

My inspiration to create a time machine started with a personal tragedy. I grew up in the Bronx, New York in the 1950s. My father was a television repairman who I adored. He died unexpectedly of a massive heart attack at the age of 33. I was 10 years old. His loss left me completely devastated. A year after he died I came across a Classics illustrated version of HG Wells' classic "The Time Machine," which stated that scientific people knew that travel in time was possible. This was my inspiration. I felt that if I could build a time machine I might be able to travel to the past to see my father again and perhaps save his life.

So, that’s your primary goal?

Yes, saving my father's life. There is of course the fantasy of visiting ancient times and seeing great historical events. Another important goal would be to use a time machine as an early warning device so that I could warn about major natural disasters such as hurricanes, tsunamis and earthquakes. I would have the potential to save thousands of lives.

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What are the difficulties you are facing with creating it?

The public generally doesn't realize the extreme cost of scientific research. The greatest difficulty that my research has faced is acquiring the necessary funding to do the experiments.
 
How is the process going so far?

My research is based on Einstein's general theory of relativity. I solved Einstein's gravitational field equations and showed that a circulating laser light beam can cause a twisting of space and time. The twisting of space could have important practical applications for ultrafast information transfer. This step is a new theoretical prediction that needs to be experimentally verified. Eventually the twisting of space could lead to the twisting of time and this would lead to time travel to the past. If quantum mechanics is taken into account this could perhaps lead to a relaxation of certain restrictions, such as the limitation of how far one can travel in the past. However, the theory needs to be worked out.
 
When will your machine be ready to go? 

It is not possible to predict how long it will take to complete the research. This is not unusual for real scientific research.

Is time travel dangerous?

Any new technological development has a potential for good or harm. To put it somewhat simplistically, it is not the tool but the tool user that is the potential problem. So with time travel there will need to be necessary regulations.

What’s next?

There will certainly be possible applications. However, first it needs to be demonstrated that manipulation of space and time by light is possible. When this is done, it will lead the human race into a whole new frontier.

—Dmitry Belyaev