A Republican jokingly asked scientists about time travel at a hearing Wednesday where lawmakers were briefed on new discoveries that confirm one of Albert Einstein's theories.

“I’m a surfer of course," Rep. Dana Rohrbacher (R-Calif.) said at a House Science Committee hearing about the discovery of gravitational waves in space. "I find out about riding waves.

ADVERTISEMENT

“But will this discovery that you are talking about today make time travel, I mean this is one thing I’ve been hearing about, will it make it any more likely,” he continued.

“We wish,” responded Gabriela Gonzalez, a spokeswoman for the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, which made the discovery, to laughter.

At the hearing, scientists explained the impact of the groundbreaking discovery of gravitational waves.

Earlier this month, the team of scientists said they had recorded the sound of two colliding black holes. It was the first direct evidence

of gravitational waves since Einstein's theory a century ago.

“[The discovery] actually does show distortions of space time... We can see time traveling faster then slower, but it cannot make us travel in time,” Gonzalez explained.

Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) called it “one of the greatest scientific discoveries we will ever hear about.”

David Reitze, the executive director of LIGO, described it as a “truly stunning discovery.” 

“This is inspirational because it allows us to see the universe in a way we have never seen before,” Reitze said. “For all of us, that’s why we got into science.”

The LIGO research project began construction in 1994 and has cost more than $1.1 billion, said Fleming Crim, a directorate for the National Science Foundation. LIGO includes more than 1,000 members and 16 countries.

The scientists and National Science Foundation officials both stressed the importance of long-term funding from Congress for the project.

“It illustrated the importance of distinct funding for projects of this scale,” Crim said. “NSF embraced a new role in funding high-risk high-reward research platforms.”

Democrats hailed the findings and said it highlighted the need for continued research funding.

“It’s really easy for people to say I have bridges, roads and schools in my district that need fixing, but I think we would be better not just as a country but as a species if we continue this funding,” Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.) said. 

Asked about the practical effects of the finding, Crim said “we don’t know what the uses may be, but they are out there."