Who among us has never fantasized about traveling through time? But then, who among us hasn't traveled through time? Every single one of us is a time traveler, technically speaking, moving as we do through one second per second, one hour per hour, one day per day. Though I never personally heard the late Stephen Hawking point out that fact, I feel almost certain that he did, especially in light of one particular piece of scientific performance art he pulled off in 2009: throwing a cocktail party for time travelers — the proper kind, who come from the future.
"Hawking’s party was actually an experiment on the possibility of time travel," writes Atlas Obscura's Anne Ewbank. "Along with many physicists, Hawking had mused about whether going forward and back in time was possible. And what time traveler could resist sipping champagne with Stephen Hawking himself?" "
By publishing the party invitation in his mini-series Into the Universe With Stephen Hawking, Hawking hoped to lure futuristic time travelers. You are cordially invited to a reception for Time Travellers, the invitation read, along with the the date, time, and coordinates for the event. The theory, Hawking explained, was that only someone from the future would be able to attend."
Alas, no time travelers turned up. Since someone possessed of that technology at any point in the future would theoretically be able to attend, does Hawking's lonely party, which you can see in the clip above, prove that time travel will never become possible? Maybe — or maybe the potential time-travelers of the future know something about the space-time-continuum-threatening risks of the practice that we don't. As for Dr. Hawking, I have to imagine that he came away satisfied from the shindig, even though his hoped-for Ms. Universe from the future never walked through the door. “I like simple experiments… and champagne,” he said, and this champagne-laden simple experiment will continue to remind the rest of us to enjoy our time on Earth, wherever in that time we may find ourselves.
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.