Stephan “Jay” Olson says he’d probably be thinking obsessively about how the universe works, even if he wasn’t paid to do it.
In fact, one of his most memorable scientific epiphanies came while he was playing a hand of poker at a New Orleans casino.
hadn’t had a good hand in like 30 minutes, and my mind wandered,” said
Olson, 34, who at the time was a graduate student in physics at
Louisiana State University. “Then I made the key realization for my
Ph.D. thesis to work out.”
The theoretical physicist, who grew up
in Nampa and recently returned home for a visit after finishing his
post-doctoral work at the University of Queensland in Brisbane,
Australia, has become something of a geek media darling in recent weeks.
Scott! Scientists Claim Time Travel Is Possible,” screams the headline
on a Jan. 18 article posted to PCWorld.com about a paper that Olson
co-authored with colleague Timothy C. Ralph.
Movies like “Back to the Future” and “Hot Tub Time Machine” reflect Americans’ fascination with the notion.
a Marist Poll this month, Americans said the super powers they’d most
like to have are time travel and ability to read minds (time travel was
most popular with men and Baby Boomers).
While time travel may one
day be possible, Olson says it’s a leap from his research to that
conclusion. But he can see why some might make the connection.
Olson believes he and Ralph have described a “fundamental new property of nature.”
“Essentially, we have demonstrated another way in which time seems to be interchangeable with space,” he said.