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There’s an unmistakable paradox surrounding the sudden death of Ron Mallett’s father when Mallett was an impressionable kid growing up in the Bronx: Had Boyd Mallett survived, his son never would have devoted himself with such obsessive zeal to unraveling the mystery of time travel in hopes of saving his father’s life.

Should Ron Mallett someday succeed — traveling backwards in a time machine to warn his father about this two-pack-a-day smoking habit — he would, in theory, be extinguishing the flame that has burned inside him for decades.

(Have you seen the movie “Interstellar”? Yeah, it’s kinda like that.)

“My love for him is still as strong as it was 60 years ago,” Ron Mallett told The Washington Post of his father, who died in 1955 at age 33. “When I’m on my death bed, I will be thinking of him. His death is the reason I am what I am.”

What he is is a 69-year-old theoretical physicist at the University of Connecticut who, at the tail end of a celebrated career, finds himself closer than ever to building the time machine that has mesmerized him since childhood.

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