GeekOut

'So You Created a Wormhole' authors combat bad pop culture time travel

Let's be upfront about it: Phil Hornshaw and Nick Hurwitch aren't scientists.

But the friends definitely have a love of the science of time travel, which they poured into their new book, "So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler's Guide to Time Travel."

Hornshaw and Hurwitch have seen way too many bad time travel movies and they have the same questions as other sci-fi fanboys and fangirls: "It’s hard to walk out of a time travel movie and not go, 'How do these things sync up?'" Hornshaw told CNN Geek Out.

"Phil and I are longtime geeks," Hurwitch said. "The atrocities of time travel plot devices began to stack up. We simultaneously came up with an original time travel show [still in 'drawing board phase'] and a guide book on how to do it properly."

Hornshaw said that their interest in theoretical physics and astronomy came from a lifelong interest in science fiction; the pair have been friends since third grade in Novi, Michigan.

"We read Michael Crichton’s 'Timeline' back in high school, and both of us were into the concepts from that book," he said. "What we wanted to do with the guide was to make it as simple as we could because it can get so expansive. We pay a lot of attention, but we don’t study up on anything more than what we’re interested in."

"In the book we’re more concerned with how science affects plot, as opposed to how it affects science," Hurwitch said.

Read more about their research and the best and worst moment in pop culture time travel after the jump:

CNN Geek Out: So exactly how much research was involved?

Hornshaw: We did a lot of research to make sure that we weren’t totally in left field, but at the same time, we were focused on plot, so we took some liberties. Nobody should expect to get “real” science knowledge. But we wanted to be as close to the real thing as we could be, and still have a lot of fun.

Hurwitch: [We did] a lifetime [of research]. A lot spawned from fandom. Obviously, when we wrote the book, we expanded into bad time travel movies no one has heard of, and things we hadn’t yet experienced, like “Doctor Who.”

CNN Geek Out: So this book was borne out of frustration with time travel in pop culture, really.

Hornshaw: I remember seeing “The Butterfly Effect.” It was a fun movie, but when I came out of it, all I could think of was plot holes.

Hurwitch: Even the best time travel movies make pretty glaring errors. It’s not to say, “Oh, man! Everyone’s doing it wrong! How stupid!” I think subconsciously, that led to the tone – that’s why it’s absurd and fun. Hopefully people will understand, “Oh, that’s why it’s a plot hole.” It expands the experience coming out of a time travel movie and allows you to enjoy it without hating.

CNN Geek Out: What did you hope to accomplish with the book?

Hurwitch: One of the biggest compliments we got in the early equations was when someone with Penguin [Publishing]’s marketing came to us, and said, “My boss read it, and he can understand relativity for the first time!”

Without using equations and convoluted examples, we use the pop culture references at our disposal to help people understand time travel and enjoy it more.

Plus, if you like nerdy stuff like we do, the book is just fun. I think that’s paramount.

Hornshaw: The survival guide that makes up half the book came out of other things we were inspired by and other people’s work. Crichton’s “The Lost World” involved being lost out in the woods with all these dinosaurs. That sounded like a lot of fun: What if you get lost out there?

The more time we spent with it, the more we realized how much there was to draw on, and how much time travel opens up, because there are so many possibilities. The more time we spent, the more we wanted to go nuts with all these things we like.

CNN Geek Out: Do you think time travel to the past would ever be possible?

Hurwitch: From a realistic perspective, I’d like to think it might be possible one day. Travel to the past would be similar to how Crichton describes it in “Timeline,” and that’s getting down into the weirdness of quantum foam, and that’s more interdimensional travel. Yeah, I would say it’s possible. Why not?

Hornshaw: I really geek out when things like faster-than-light neutrinos pop in a movie. I want to believe, but realistically – er, I don’t know. Stephen Hawking has probably got it right. I wish he was wrong, though!

CNN Geek Out: Any examples of the best or worst time travel movies or series?

Both: "Back to the Future."

Hornshaw: The scene from the third act of “Back to the Future Part II,” when Marty is getting out of his own way, and interacting with the timeline from the first movie, it’s just dynamite. Even if it isn’t strictly scientific, you can’t help but just love those scenes – the idea of time travel, and how much it gets, I just love that.

Hurwitch: The original “Superman: The Movie” where he reverses time by flying backwards around the world: That is the worst thing ever written or filmed.

“Déjà vu” [starring Denzel Washington] was a big turning point. I enjoyed it, it’s a pretty fun movie. The time travel in it is frustrating, because in the beginning of the movie, he sees things that he later does, and when he comes across them later, he doesn’t connect the dots, or realize “I’m the one who did this stuff.” It make you facepalm a little bit.

Hornshaw: Yeah, it’s one of the genesis moments of the idea. I called Nick up and said, 'This movie drove me crazy!'

Tell us in the comments: What are the best and worst moments in pop culture time travel?