Tag Archive for Time Travel

Infinite Dimensions

Previously, I wrote about there being two kinds of time travel.  More specifically that there are only two kinds that work and make sense without leaving giant gaping holes in the stories.  Now I’m going to spin-off into an examination of dimensions…

The Big Bang

If you ignore the faith-based beliefs that the Universe just sprang into existence when a deity willed it to be, then you pretty much have to accept the theory of the Big Bang, that everything exploded out of “something”.  For a while, science and science fiction grasped on to the idea that eventually at some point down the line, the Universe would stop expanding and would begin to contract.  People really like this idea because it lends itself into a nice loop.  Everything racing back together, getting faster and faster, exceeding the speed of light, warping back in time billions and billions of years and then exploding again.  The end is the beginning.

Assuming a warping of space and time, it isn’t hard to jump to the idea that when the Big Bang happens again that it doesn’t have to be exactly the same.  In one way of looking at it each version of the Universe is happening in sequence.  The end of Universe 1 is the beginning of Universe 2, and end of U 2 is the beginning of U 3, and U 3 to U 4 and so on.  Thanks to the warping of time and space, however, you can get to the idea that these Universes are also happening simultaneously but somehow out of phase with each other.  This conjures up the idea of wonderful strangeness, like in our Universe there are nine planets (Pluto, I’ll never let you go) but in one of our neighbors, X-1 or X+1, there are ten and due to some sort of anomaly, that tenth planet occasionally influences or even crosses over into our Universe.  Your keys weren’t sitting on the table the whole time you were looking, they had actually slipped into X-1 but found their way back eventually.

Now we have evidence that the expansion of the Universe isn’t slowing, and may even be speeding up.  It’s hard to tell what is going on with all the dark matter out there and whatnot.

Echoes

But how does an examination of dimensions of this sort relate to time travel?  You have to stop thinking so three dimensionally.  What if the Big Bang wasn’t just a simple explosion, but instead ripped right through space and time.  Now you have Universe 1 beginning, and then a tiny fraction of a second later Universe 1 sub 1 begins.  A tiny fraction later Universe 1 sub 2 begins, and U 1 sub 3 shortly after, and U 1 sub 4, and so on.  And infinite number of Universes trailing behind us through time.  And since we are just as likely to not be the first Universe as we are to be it, there are an infinite number of Universes extending out in front of us as well.

Now, when you travel through time, you aren’t really.  You are simply jumping to another copy of our own Universe.  Jumping forward in time by one hour is actually sliding to a Universe that began exactly as ours did but an hour out of alignment.

The very first time that I thought about this was when I was watching the movie Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.  In it, Rufus explains to them that no matter what they do or where they go, they have to keep an eye on their watch because the time in San Dimas is always moving forward.  This is because the phone booth isn’t actually travelling in time, it is sliding between dimensions where the intended time is happening “right now” and when they return to their own dimension if they’ve been gone for an hour it will be an hour since they left.  Time marches on, so to speak.  The only real problem with that theory as far as the movie is concerned is Rufus’ stated reason for being there.  His mission would appear to be a closed loop (he’s going back in time to help them with their report because he did go back in time to help them with their report that they almost failed), but then you get the paradox of how that loop got started.  It would have to be that a Rufus (or someone) from a Universe that didn’t have a successful Bill & Ted pinpointed the need for them to pass the history exam 700 years prior (or however long they needed) and traveled to the appropriate world to fix it, then returned home to live in his unacceptable world (or maybe he didn’t go home).  In that world, 700 years later, Rufus climbs into a time machine in a perfectly excellent world to go back 700 years to ensure it still happens… or rather, that it happens for someone else.  So either lots more cross Universe communication is happening, or only one world every 700 years gets to be excellent.  In a manner of speaking.

Of course, the second movie completely throws that out the window with all the jumping forward and backward and delivering items to themselves.

But assuming the Echoes theory is true, it means that you can’t change your past or future.  You can only change the worlds offset from your own, and in order for your world to change an offset you needs to be the instigator of change.

No matter what, thinking about time travel this much will probably give me an aneurysm.

Two Kinds of Time Travel

As I am prone to do, I spent an inordinate amount of time over the weekend considering the concept of Time Travel.  Central to any and all discussions of time travel, once you’ve accepted the possibility of it, is the paradox.

The most common of which can be described simply: you build a time machine, go back in time to before you built it and stop yourself from building it.

If you stop yourself from building a time machine then you can’t have stopped yourself from building it, so you will build it and can then go stop yourself…  It’s confusing to even talk about because impossible logical loops make most people’s brains hurt.  You’ve heard this before, though probably more in the “go back and kill your grandfather” mode where you actually prevent yourself from being born and then wouldn’t be alive to travel back and prevent yourself from being born which means you’d be alive, and so on…

So, taking that into account, there exists only two kinds of time travel that are logically possible.

The Closed Loop

In the closed loop, you can’t change anything.  If you were to go back in time to try to prevent yourself from building the time machine, you will, in some fashion, fail at your task.  In fact, unless you recall someone trying to stop you when you were building your time machine, not only will you fail, you won’t even get to try.

Going with the grandfather example.  Your grandfather tells you a story about this one time he was almost hit by a car, but he jumped clear, the car swerved, drove off an embankment and the driver died in a fiery wreck.  When you are older, you build a time machine and on your journey you decide to visit your grandfather as a young man, you see him on the street, lose control of the car you are driving, almost hit him but he dives clear, the car swerves and drives over an embankment and you die in a fiery wreck.

What makes the closed loop interesting as a story telling device is that no matter how much evidence you provide that things cannot be changed, the reader, along with your protagonist, will fight you and insist that it can be changed.  The challenge of using a closed loop is craft the story in such a fashion that even though the inevitable inevitably happens and nothing changes, nothing changing turns out to be what needed to happen to get the resolution the story demands.  The book and movie The Time Traveler’s Wife actually handles the closed loop very well.  It manages to tell a compelling love story while both characters experience it in different orders, and even with every event being unchangeable the expectations of the audience is twisted to keep elements of it surprising.  In fact, the only real sticking point it has (the lottery ticket) is handle well enough that it still fits within a closed loop design.

The Parallel Reality

In this kind of time travel, you can change things, but by doing so you create a separate reality.  You build a time machine, you travel back and then you successfully prevent yourself from building a time machine… but you still have the one you built, so you hop back in and return to your own time, two weeks from this moment, only to discover you are now at the correct time, but in a world where you didn’t invent the time machine.  You are an anomaly, because the other you, the one without a time machine, is still hanging around – he doesn’t have a time machine to get into a vanish with unless he steals yours.

Meanwhile, back in the world that you left after building your time machine, you’ve gone missing.  Once people notice, police reports are filed and searches are made, and eventually you become a segment of a TV show like Unsolved Mysteries about a man who vanished without a trace.

Here is where it gets complicated.  You decide you want to go home, so you travel back in time again and prevent yourself from preventing yourself from building the time machine.  Assuming that in your original timeline there were no attempts at all by other versions of yourself to stop you, that you are the “prime” reality, the world you are in right now still isn’t home.  While the you in this reality has just built a time machine and sailed off into history to stop himself from building a time machine, you are standing in a world where not only do you (you prime) exist, but there is also an unconscious you (only because we assume that you didn’t kill the other you to stop him from stopping you) sitting on the ground.  There are two anomaly yous (and third you who just vanished into history is about to go create more yous).  The end result of these actions is that there will exist worlds without you and worlds with two yous (unless you do actually kill you to stop you, you bastard), on into infinity until you decide to stop trying to stop yourself.

This form of time travel intrigues me because I like the idea that you can’t change your own past, but you can change the past of another version of you.  Imagine if you were building your time machine so you could prevent the death of a loved one.  When you leave your own time, the world continues on with the loved one still dead and now with you missing, but in a parallel reality you save the loved one, everything is different, except you, who knows the loss parallel you will never know, and he’s knowing non-loss that you can only observe (unless you kill parallel you and take his place).

Other Possibilities

Of course, there are more theories, but most of those require mental gymnastics or forgiveness of giant flaws that make them feel of much lesser quality that the two I’ve illustrated.  Most commonly used is the “reality fixes itself” idea, that the world changes around you when you alter the past, but it only does this by pretending that paradoxes don’t exists.  You stop yourself from building a time machine and your machine vanishes and you are suddenly you again, only now you didn’t build a time machine… but do you remember doing it?  If you don’t, why wouldn’t you just do it again?  Or are we accepting that whatever you did to stop yourself was enough to convince you to never even attempt it?  If you do remember it, are you just going to sit on that knowledge?  When things go wrong in the future, why not just build that time machine and go fix it?

As much as I love the Back To The Future trilogy, if I spend too much time thinking about them, I get irritated.  By the end, if Doc Brown is a commended scientist, respected in his work, then would he have been building a time machine using plutonium he has to swindle from Libyan terrorists?  If Marty’s family is well off, he has the girl and the truck and his band is doing well, would he be hanging around Doc Brown at all?  They even go to the extent of explaining in the second film that since the future has been altered they can’t go forward to fix time, they need to go back to prevent the divergence.  Only before they go back and fix the divergence, wouldn’t there have a been a Marty that went to 1955 from the first film who returned to 1985 AFTER old Biff from the future had changed things but BEFORE having gone to the future himself?  There would have to be, since old Biff gives young Biff the book and alters time BEFORE Marty from the first film leaves 1955.  That said, in the future, after old Biff returns… wait… how did he return to a future that doesn’t happen anymore?  He changed it by going back and giving himself the book.  Old Biff should have gone to the future of alternate 1985, not the future of original 1985.  And how did Marty get to alternate 1985 from the future anyway?  Wasn’t he in the original timeline?  They leave Jennifer on a porch in alternate 1985 because “reality will change around her”, but then why didn’t reality change around them in the future after old Biff dropped the book off to young Biff?  I’m going to stop now.  BTTF is great fun.  I’m going to go back to enjoying it now and not analyzing it.

Most times it’s best just to avoid time travel altogether.  And yet, I am fascinated by the concept and keep trying, unsuccessfully thus far, to craft a time travel tale.  Someday…

Dragon*Con 2009: Day One

The day began as no day should… waiting in line for registration.  However, once let inside, well, lets just say that a couple hundred geeks in a room being forced to walk a maze of a line can be pretty hilarious.  Some people shot video of it, I’ll provide a link if I ever see it posted online.

After a spot of breakfast I headed off to the “Write a Story in an Hour” panel, which I visit every year, because its funny to hear people shout out story elements and craft a beautifully weird story… not by the panel, mind you, they tend to ignore the really out there stuff, but there is always a group of us taking the best ignored suggested, like a typewriter possessed by the ghost of Hunter S. Thompson that requires a bottle of liquor to be poured on it before it will function, and making our own ridiculous plot.

Then it was off to the Fallen Earth panel where we got to hear that people who work on games tend to like working on game, and that crafting is the center of the game, and that they have no current plans for a series of Fallen Earth novels, but everyone would like to see that happen.

Next up… the Crypt of Trailers, where we watch movie trailers and make snappy jokes, like how the new Twilight movie, New Moon, would be much better if they just added a Predator, or some Aliens… yeah, Aliens vs. Predator vs. Twilight.  Hollywood? Are you listening?

After that I got to sit and listen to a panel of writer’s talk about how fun it is to destroy the human race in the Apocalypse Writer’s Roundtable.  John Ringo, S.M. Stirling, Kevin J. Anderson, Walter Jon Williams, Michael Z. Williamson, and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro.  They were a very talkative and funny bunch, while also being very knowledgable and open.  Excellent panel.

Down into the bowels of the Hyatt I went to join the wife for a panel on Steampunk.  Steampunk, if you didn’t know, is the new Goth, or perhaps the new Vampires.  Everyone is steampunking it up, and it is awesome.  I’ll post some photos later as I take some around the con.  Beautiful stuff.

The third rule of Dragon*Con (the first being: shower, and the second being: sometimes you must go down to go up – if you’ve been, you know what that means) is don’t forget to eat.  Nothing ruins a party like drinking on an empty stomach and passing out early, so remember to feed yourself.  In accordance with this rule, we took a short break for sandwiches and chips.

With a full belly, I hit the Machinima panel.  I have an odd relationship with machinima.  The idea behind it is very cool – to take a game/game engine/game art assets and make a movie out of it.  Some of the best machinima, however, is clearly rendered in professional tools just using assets, while items rendered in the game engine often look stilted and of poorer quality, especially when it comes to characters talking.  Anyway, the result is that I generally don’t like the machinima people actually create, but I respect the ideas and effort that goes into their creation.  That said, Ignis Solus is just awesome:

I decided to end my day of panels with the Zombie Walk, which in hindsight was a poor choice.  Not enough zombies showed for it to be really great, and I never did complete my Francis from Left 4 Dead outfit, so it ended up being about 20 zombies walking through the con… I gave up and left them half way through.  Maybe next year.

The way a day at Dragon*Con should end is with parties, but I lost my enthusiasm for the Zombie Prom, and the line for the Time Travelers Ball was too long, so I hung out with some friends for a bit and then made my way to the All-Night (5am) Global Agenda party where I played absolutely zero Global Agenda.  Instead, I spent a good hour or more, maybe two rockin’ the mic in Rock Band.  Thank you Atlanta!  Good night!

Day One at Dragon*Con is a wrap!

Movie Round-Up: August 14th, 2009

Bandslam:

Disney is making bank off their little sing song movies, and this looks to be no different. I’m sure it will be safe to take the kids to, and a fine fun guilty pleasure for adults, just like the High School Musical movies. Personally, I’ll wait for it to stream on Netflix, if I ever see it at all.

Ponyo:

An animated film by Hayao Miyazaki. As a kid I saw Warriors of the Wind and loved it, and I own a copy of Spirited Away on DVD but have never watched it.  I’m not itching to see it, and might never, but if your kids aren’t in to singing teenagers, this could be your weekend alternative to Bandslam.

The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard:

I loved Used Cars!  And hey, I’m a Jeremy Piven fan from way back, so what’s not to like?  I might not make it to the theater for this one (see District 9) but I absolutely will see it at some point.

Spread:

Its a limited release, but from what I’ve seen it look to be a decent film.  I want to see it, but likely won’t since it is sure to vanish from theaters too quick.

District 9:

I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while now. It just looks awesome, so I will find a way to see it this weekend. I have to before people spoil it. This is going to be great!

The Time Traveler’s Wife:

I got to see a screening of this film, and I can’t say if its just because I had fairly low expectations or if it was a good film, but I enjoyed it quite a bit.  I suspect it is a little of both.  To be honest, I went in expecting The Notebook, in part because of Rachel McAdams but also because it was a sort of “star crossed lovers” kind of tale, only with the thing keeping them apart being his random uncontrollable time travel instead of more typical problems.  And maybe that’s the element that drew me in.  Henry (played by Eric Bana) keeps bouncing around through time, sometimes for minutes and sometimes for weeks, but always, it seems, around the people and events that are important to him.  I think the movie does very well at conveying the changes in time as the story moves around, but a number of people at the same screening mentioned not being able to follow it.  To each their own I suppose.  Overall, it was a sweet movie with just a touch of science fiction that kept me watching.  Good stuff.

The Awesomest Story Ever Told

That is the title of my NaNoWriMo project this year.  Originally I was going to work on something called Necromancer, but I stalled out on it really early on and after a few days being totally stuck I decided to bail on it in favor of something that will be far easier to write.

So, what is The Awesomest Story Ever Told?  It is the tale of a clan of ninjas who protect the world from threats of the undead who encounter a spaceship from the future crewed by two astronauts, a monkey and a robot who have traveled back in time to prevent a zombie apocalypse.  Right away they discover that the apocalypse of the future was the product of a group of mad scientists who unleashed the zombie hordes in their bid to overthrow all the governments of the world.  As the scientists activate their own time machine and slip away, our heroes reconfigure the spaceship from the future to follow them.  It is a journey through history fighting for the future and encountering everything awesome that has ever existed.

As you can see, my basic story already contains much awesome.  Ninjas, zombies, astronauts, a monkey, a robot, mad scientists, spaceships and time travel.  There are already plot points to include dinosaurs, cavement, pirates, wild west gunfighters, sharks, vampires, werewolves, a medieval castle and knights, but this story needs to include all of the awesome.  All of it.

So, I implore you, every reader, suggest something (or many things) that is awesome.  Feel free to explain why it is awesome, or don’t.  Just suggest awesome and I will try to work it in to the story, and I’ll give credit to the first person to suggest an item of awesome should this work ever see publication of any form.

The Sarah Connor Chronicles

11 out of 13 nots
for Terminator fighting awesomeness

When I first heard about the new TV show The Sarah Connor Chronicles, I was excited.  I love the Terminator movies, and I always wanted to know more about the points in between, particularly the gap from Terminator 2 to Terminator 3.  However, after watching the premier episode, I was left with a general “meh” attitude.  The show certainly didn’t suck.  It wasn’t garbage, but it also lacked a certain pizazz I was hoping for.

I’m glad I stuck with the show, because in my opinion it got much better… more after the break.

Read more

The Unintended Take Away

In the business world, be it advertising, marketing or any facet of business, the “take away” is what sticks with you when a meeting, product, or whatever is done.  With advertising and marketing, the take away they usually want the consumer to have is “I want that”, or better yet “I need that”, though sometimes they just want you to leave with “That’s a good product or company.”  While the immediate punch might be dealt with humor, they want you to remember the product and not the joke, unless the joke reminds you directly and fondly of the product.

I’ve always been a fan of the unintended take away.  This is usually some idea that either they didn’t think of or even one that they expressly did not want to show, but wound up embedding it in the audience’s minds anyway.

Take a look at these two commercials for Liberty Mutual:

Now, the idea they want you to take away from this is that Liberty Mutual looks out for people and is a good company.  They aren’t selling you anything in particular, but they are trying to sell you the brand, the general positive attitude toward the business practices of the company.

The other night, the wife and I saw the second commercial and the conversation went like this:

Her: I especially like how the end is the beginning, like time travel.
Me: Yeah.
Her: Its as if doing good deeds…
Me: … get you trapped in a Groundhog Day time loop?
Her: Yeah.
Me: Better stop doing good deeds then.
Her: Maybe that’s why people are mean to each other, fear of getting caught in a time loop.

The unintended take away.

Yeah, we are weird people.