As I explored in a previous post about Germany’s Zeitpyramide, the concept of time has the ability to allure, confuse, and ultimately terrify us. Our inability to manipulate time has conjured countless novels, films, and discourse surrounding fantasies of time travel and the hypothetical creation of our own H.G. Wells inspired time machine. As far as we know, no such device exists. However, a bizarre article from the Iranian news agency Fars reported in April 2013 that a local inventor had created a form of time machine. The article was mysteriously removed almost as quickly as it was posted — but not quickly enough to evade the radar of international press.
Ali Razeghi, the alleged inventor of the Iranian time machine, was said to be the managing director of Iran’s Centre for Strategic Inventions when the device was registered under the name “The Aryayek Time Travelling Machine”. According to Razeghi, he had worked on his time machine for more than ten years alongside the development of 179 other inventions that were credited to his name. If this was true, Razeghi – who was 27 at the time – had been developing his time machine since he was a teenager.
The disappointing reality of Razeghi’s time machine (other than the fact that it almost certainly never existed) is that it isn’t really a time machine at all but instead, as The Atlantic sarcastically called it, “the world’s first functional, laptop-case ready crystal ball.” While the DeLorean in the Back to the Future films could physically transport Doc and Marty backwards and forwards in time, Razeghi’s time machine was allegedly only capable of predicting the future. The phrase ‘time machine’ seems to have come from a Telegraph article that originally exposed the Fars article to the Western world. This was where the English translation of the phrase “The Aryayek Time Travelling Machine” was first used. A confusing but important point when discussing Razeghi’s claim.
The original Fars article, while deleted from their website, is still available to read via the Wayback Machine. The article makes some pretty extreme claims that sound straight from the script of low budget scifi film. A rough English translation (via Google) from the original Persian can be read below:
It was done by an Iranian researcher
Travel to the future through the Iranian time machine
An Iranian researcher succeeded in building a time machine to predict future events
Ali Razaghi, head of the Strategic Guidance Center for Inventors and Innovators of the country and the record holder of patents in the country with the registration of 179 designs, in a conversation with the reporter of the university group Fars news agency said: Time machine is a device that can predict the future for humans. He added: The time machine is a device the size of a computer case that can predict all the information of people for the next 5 to 8 years. This Iranian inventor continued: This device tells information such as age of marriage, number of children, education, occupation, war, illness, etc. with 98% accuracy and reliability, and its tests have also been done on currency prices. Razaghi stated: This plan is neither palm reading nor divination, but based on scientific and physical references, which was registered this year and solves the needs of many people in today’s society. He said: The United States has been looking for this technology for about half a century, for example, in the last 4 years, it has spent more than 10 billion dollars annually to achieve such technology, but the country of Iran was able to achieve it by spending only 400 to 500 thousand to make a time machine.Fars, Travel to the Future through the Iranian time machine, 7 April 2013 (via Wayback Machine)
Razaghi’s reference to the United States’ $10 billion time machine research budget seems about as real as his own time machine — but it is true that some American scientists are attempting to crack the time travel code. Ron Mallett, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Physics at the University of Connecticut, is one such academic on a lifelong pursuit to travel back in time for a very personal goal: to save his deceased father. And the American government has in the past dabbled in some strange, esoteric programs for the sake of military defence. A standout example is the bizarre Stargate Project that involved experiments in ‘remote viewing’ that continued from the late 1970s to the mid 1990s.
In a later interview (discussed below), Razaghi is asked if he believed the Americans had succeeded in the creation of a time machine, but Razaghi says that he would have either seen them (I assume in the ‘future’) or that they would have tried to stop him from completing his own time machine.
Answers to why Fars posted the article in the first place and why it was quickly removed are all based on speculation, but international ridicule seems to have played a part. An article posted on 22 April 2013 on Iranian news site Tabnak claimed that the spread of the Fars story has only contributed to “The West’s propaganda and media war against Iran”. But what’s especially interesting about the Tabnak article is it’s points out the fact that the so-called “Strategic Guidance Centre for Inventors” doesn’t actually exist in Iran and that the Telegraph‘s report on Razaghi’s time machine makes it sound as if this non-existent organisation is associated with the Iranian government. And a quick Google confirms that the Strategic Guidance Centre for Inventors isn’t mentioned outside of references to the Fars article online.
A Huffington Post article published 11 April 2013 acknowledges the less than legitimate nature of the Fars article as well as the legitimacy of Razeghi’s claims. They conclude that “this is either a joke, or the work of a slightly deluded inventor. Which is nothing new. Either that or the news of Razeghi’s machine created a time paradox in which it never existed in the first place. Only time will, or will not, tell.”
Fars (or False) News
Some important survival tips when surfing the world wide web: don’t take anything at face value, read beyond the headline, consider where the information is coming from, who wrote it, who their sources were, and remember that the source of a claim is just as important – if not more important – than the claim itself. Are you going to believe a lion cub was birthed by a human because the National Enquirer told you so? Hopefully no. And just because a newspaper runs a story on the other side of the world doesn’t mean everything written in it is true or reflects the beliefs of every single person within that country. So a conversation around Razaghi’s time machine needs to include an analysis of the original agency that covered the story. In this case, Fars News Agency.
Founded in 2003, the Iranian news agency Fars is managed by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which (as of January 2023) the United Kingdom is in the process of labelling as a terrorist group, a designation that has already been declared by the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain. Even without this questionable connection, Fars has made some fairly unhinged claims in the past which ultimately show that anything read on this website should probably not be taken seriously.
For example, in 2012 a year before Razaghi’s time machine, Fars posted an article that was originally written in The Onion (a satirical online newspaper) claiming that a poll conducted with rural white Americans showed that they preferred the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over then US President Barack Obama. And in January 2014, Fars claimed that Edward Snowden had leaked information confirming that the there was a secret regime based on aliens (called “Tall Whites”) running the United States. The same article blamed “Tall Whites” on the power gained by the Nazis and included a graphic showing President Obama and Adolf Hitler on a backdrop of an American flag and an extraterrestrial.
The article also says the Federal Security Services claims “the “Tall White” agenda being implemented by the “secret regime” ruling the United States calls for the creation of a global electronic surveillance system meant to hide all true information about their presence here on earth as they enter into what one of Snowden’s documents calls the “final phase” of their end plan for total assimilation and world rule.” This article was even published in English on Fars‘ website, so the target audience for this conspiracy wasn’t just Persian readers, but also easily influenced Americans.
And a final example of the type of news agency Fars is: In 2016 Fars contributed $30,000 dollars to a bounty for the killing of Salman Rushdie in response to controversy surrounding his novel The Satanic Verses, a magical realism story inspired by the life of the prophet Muhammad. People have been so riled up since the book’s original publication in 1988 that an assassination attempt was recently made on the author’s life when he was stabbed multiple times during a lecture on artistic freedom at the Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, New York in August 2022. According to Reuters, the Fars article written on Rushdie’s stabbing called the novelist an ‘apostate’ that “insulted the prophet”.
So is it surprising that this particular Iranian news agency would promote a false narrative of Iran beating the USA and China in some sort of secret time machine building competition? Not at all. It seems perfectly on brand for them and makes an already unbelievable story all the more absurd.
Later Developments in Razaghi’s Time Travelling Saga
By the time I’d finished reading about Fars News Agency I had a hard time believing that Razaghi was even a real person and to be honest, I’m still sceptical he exists at all. However, I found another Iranian news agency (possibly Entekhab.ir, but it might have been originally published elsewhere) that allegedly interviewed Razaghi at the end of April 2013, a few weeks after the original Fars article. The full interview can be read here, but I’ll include some highlights below.
According to the interview:
- Razaghi’s ‘time machine’ presents written results that can be read or listened to.
- Some information the time machine can predict are dates of marriage, birth, and gender of children before birth.
- Razaghi was reluctant to disclose his education credentials (or whether or not he has any) as he felt it wasn’t relevant to his research. He said “an academic degree does not help me as an inventor”.
- It’s unclear, but it appears that a family member died during the first test of his time machine? Or the death of a family member coincided with the first test? Either way, Razaghi claims that he predicted this individual’s death, presumably with his machine.
- Razaghi was concerned that if details were leaked about the specifics of his time machine that China (specifically) would begin production of time machines.
- He claimed there was a plan to mass produce his time machine: “We want to offer this product to the community”, but it isn’t clear how much he would personally be involved.
- Other than predicting an individual’s future, Razaghi said it could also predict wars and the worth of global currencies.
- For unknown reasons, Razaghi has personal beef with Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton. He doesn’t clarify why.
- The time machine comes with an instruction manual for easy use.
- Allegedly, one of Razaghi’s predictions claims the tension between North Korea and America will somehow benefit Iran economically, but he says he isn’t able to disclose any further information.
- The interviewer questions if the time machine conflicts with the teachings of the Quran since according to their religion only God is meant to know the future. Razaghi said that the machine is based in science and physics and has no supernatural basis, but that he had friends that also voiced similar religious-based concerns.
[As a disclaimer, I do not speak or read Persian and I am relying on Google translate so take this with a grain of salt and double check the translations on your own time.]
Pretty much everything that comes out of Razaghi’s mouth in this interview feels like a lie. He claims that not only did his ‘time machine’ exist, but it was fully functioning. His proof? His own words. We just have to trust him, I guess. It isn’t completely out of the question that an Iranian scientist would be pursuing time travel, surely there are scientists all over the world that dream of making this piece of science-fiction a fully functioning science-fact. But in Razaghi’s case (a non-scientist with questionable academic credentials) this whole thing is either entirely fabricated for the sake of clicks, or Razaghi really believes he made a box that tells the future and Fars was taking the opportunity to profit off a vulnerable person.
So what we ultimately have here is a non-story about a non-time machine… isn’t reality exciting? And since things in Iran are currently not going so great, I think it’s safe to assume their government’s access to any form of crystal ball is pure fiction.
For an interesting and easy to read explanation of the real science behind time travel, check out NASA’s article Is Time Travel Possible?
Sources and Additional Reading
Entekhab – “A person who claims to build a “time machine”” (2013)
Fars – “Travel to the future through the Iranian time machine” [via Wayback Machine] (2013)
ITV News – “Iranian Scientist Claims to Invent Time Machine” (2013)
Maclean’s – “Scientist in Tehran says he has created a time machine to see into the future” (2013)
National Geographic – “Iranian Scientist Claims to Have Built “Time Machine” (2013)
Tabnak – “”Time Machine” or a tool to mock the Iranian Nation” (2013) (Please note, this link opens to a link that opens up a ‘print’ screen, I can’t find a version of the article that doesn’t do this.)
The Atlantic – “Back Off, World: Iran’s ‘Time Machine’ Creator Isn’t a Scientist” (2013)
The Telegraph – “Iranian scientist claims to have invented ‘time machine'” (2013)
Washington Post – “What time machine? Iranian news agency quietly deletes a report that Iran had built one.” (2013)
Wired – “Iran’s New Fake Inventions: Time Machine, ‘Islamic Google Earth'” (2013)