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When H. G. Wells put pen to paper in 1895, he started something that shows no sign of abating. The Time Machine, Wells’ first novel, was social commentary disguised as science fiction. But his idea that time travel might be possible has fired the imaginations of authors, screenwriters — and scientists — ever since.

Wells proved to be ahead of his time scientifically as well as artistically. He imagined time as occupying the fourth dimension 10 years before Albert Einstein portrayed the ­cosmos as a 4-dimensional space-time continuum in his ­special theory of relativity. Einstein’s ideas opened the door to scientific inquiry into time travel.

Yet the subject remained fringe science for decades. Not so now. Today, researchers publish articles in leading scientific journals that discuss not only the possibility of time travel but how it might be accomplished.

Although the day when you can hop into a time machine and travel anywhere — or anywhen — you want lies a long way off, limited forms of time travel into the future already exist. Thanks to their greater speed, airline passengers emerge from their trips having aged slightly less than their earthbound compatriots. Now, some scientists speculate travel into the past — something Wells’ time traveler could do with the pull of a lever — might be possible one day.

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