Time Travel

I. Course description

Scholars will take a look at the science and the fiction in selected science fiction films and short stories. They will have the opportunity to react to the idea of time travel as it is presented in the media with respect to the present scientific view of space-time including special relativity, general relativity and quantum mechanics.

II. Instructor’s educational preparation and current employment

Dennis Nickelson received a BSE in chemistry and physics from Central Missouri State University, earning a varsity letter in football and named the outstanding graduating physics student, a M.Ed. from Lincoln University, and an Ed.S and a Ph.D. in Science Education from the University of Missouri. Dennis has taught science in Missouri for twenty-five years, the last twenty-three at Jefferson City High School. At Jefferson City High School he has taught physics, AP physics, astrophysics, modern physics, chemistry I and II, earth science, geology, and astronomy, and science research. Dennis has coached football, wrestling, baseball, girl’s basketball and softball on the high school level. He has received several recognitions for teaching, including “The Teacher of the Year” – Jefferson City Public Schools, the Sigma Xi – Central Missouri State University award for the teaching of science, the Monsanto Science Teaching Award, and the Outstanding Science Teacher Award from the Missouri Academy of Sciences. He is a Physics Teaching Resource Agent with the American Association of Physics Teachers. Dennis currently holds an Adjunct Professor appointment at The University of Missouri-Columbia, (Curriculum and Instruction) and Adjunct Instructor appointments at Lincoln University and Linn Technical State College.

Dr. Dennis Nickelson

Jefferson City High School
609 Union
Jefferson City, MO  65101


III. Rationale for inclusion in a program for gifted students

The course is a physics course with a theme of time. This allows students to look at time in a different manner than they normally would. Students will also learn how to interpret science fiction stories and explain the difference between science and fantasy.

IV. Major topics covered
  • Special Relativity
  • General Relativity
  • Cosmology
  • Quantum Mechanics
  • Science and Science Fiction of Time Travel
V. Prerequisite knowledge

No specific knowledge required

VI. Learning objectives
  • Students will explain the development of the theory of special relativity and how it has affected our view of time
  • Students will explain the concepts of time dilation, length contraction and the increase of mass for objects moving very fast in another frame of reference
  • Students will explain the development of the theory of general relativity and how it has affected our view of time
  • Students measure the age of the universe using the data of Hubble and current data of the motion of galaxies
  • Students will be able to analyze science fiction works to determine ideas that are based on science concepts and those which are fantasy
VII. Primary source material
  • Bradbury, Ray (1980). A Sound of Thunder. The Stories of Ray Bradbury. New York:Knopf.
  • Bradbury, Ray (1971). A Scent of SasparillaA Medicine for Melancholy and Other Stories. New York:Bantum.
  • Freedman, David H. (1989) Cosmic Time Travel. Discover. (10)06, 58-64.
  • Heinlein, Robert. (1942). All You Zombies. From. The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag. New York: Gnome Press.
  • Sagan, Carl (1980). Cosmos. New York: Random House.
VIII. Supplementary source material
  • Calder, Nigel (1979). Einstein’s Universe. Dallas: Penguin Books.
  • Coveney, Peter and Highfield, P. (1990). The Arrow of Time, A Voyage Through Science to Solve Time’s Greatest Mystery. New York: Fawcett Columbine.
  • Davies, Paul (1995). About Time, Einstein’s Unfinished Revolution. New York: Simon and Schuster.
  • Einstein, Albert (1966). Relativity, The Special and the General Theory, a Clear Explanation That Anyone Can Understand. New York: Crown.
  • Einstein, Albert and Infield, L. (1966). The Evolution of Physics From Early Concepts to Relativity and Quanta. New York: Simeon and Schuster.
  • Folger, Tim. (2000). From Here To Eternity. Discover. (21)12, 54-81.
  • Freedman, David H. (1999). Faster Than a Speeding Photon. Discover. (19)08, 70-79.
  • Freedman, David H. (1989). Fission in the Fusion Camp. Discover. (10)12, 32-42.
  • Gamow, George. (1966). Thirty Years That Shook Physics, The Story of Quantum Theory. New York: Dover.
  • Hewitt, Paul G. (1998). Conceptual Physics, 8th Edition. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.
  • Hawking, Stephen W. (1988). A Brief History of Time, From the Big Bang to Black Holes. Toronto: Bantam Books.
  • Herbert, Nick. (1988).
    Faster Than Light, Superluminal Loopholes in Physics, A journey Beyond the Einstein Limit. New York: Penguin Books.
  • Krauss, Lawrence M. (1997). Beyond Star Trek, Physics from Alien Invasions to the End of Time. New York:Basic Books.
  • Krauss, Lawrence M. (1995). The Physics of Star Trek. New York: Basic Books.
  • Lightman, Alan. (1993). Einstein’s Dreams. New York: Warner Books.
  • Nahin, Paul J. (1999). Time Machines, Time Travel in Physics, Metaphysics and Science Fiction. New York: Springer-Verlag.
  • Thorne, Kip S. (1994). Black Holes and Time Warps, Einstein’s Outrageous Legacy.  New York: W. W. Norton
  • Twain, Mark (1981). A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. New York: Bantam Books.
  • Weinberg, Steven, (1992). Dreams of a Final Theory. New York: Vintage Books.
  • Weinberg, Steven, (1988). The First Three Minutes, A Modern View of the Origin of the Universe. New York: Basic Books
IX. Computing and the Internet (if applicable)