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Temporal Anomalies

Main Page
Discussing Time Travel Theory
Other Films
Perpetual Barbecue
About the Author
Contact the Author

See also entries under the
Temporal Anomalies/Time Travel
category of the
mark Joseph "young"
web log
elsewhere on this site.

Quick Jumps

An Example Expounded
The The Billiard Ball
In Conclusion

Theory Pages
in no particular order

Discussing Time Travel Theory
A Primer on Time
The Science of Time Travel
The Two Brothers
The Spreadsheet Illustration
The Uncaused Cause
Mass Suicide and the Grandfather Paradox
Toward Two-Dimensional Time
A Critique of the Spreadsheet Theory
Response to A Critique
Temporal Theory 101
Temporal Theory Questions
  (From The Examiner)

Temporal Theory 102

Movies Analyzed
in order examined

    Addendum to Terminator
    Terminator 3:  Rise of the Machines
    Terminator Recap
    Terminator Salvation
    Terminator Genisys
Back To The Future
Back To The Future II
Back To The Future III
Star Trek Introduction
    Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
    Star Trek: Generations
    Star Trek: First Contact
    Star Trek (2009)
12 Monkeys
    Addendum to 12 Monkeys
Flight Of The Navigator
  Flight Of The Navigator Addendum
Army of Darkness
Lost In Space
Peggy Sue Got Married
Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure
Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey
Planet of the Apes
Kate and Leopold
Somewhere In Time
The Time Machine
Minority Report
Happy Accidents
The Final Countdown
Donnie Darko
  S. Darko
Harry Potter and
    the Prisoner of Azkaban

Deja Vu
    Primer Questions
Bender's Big Score
Popular Christmas Movies
The Butterfly Effect
  The Butterfly Effect 2
  The Butterfly Effect 3:  Revelations
The Last Mimzy
The Lake House
The Time Traveler's Wife
The Hot Tub Time Machine
Los Cronocrimines a.k.a. TimeCrimes
A Sound of Thundrer
Frequently Asked Questions
    About Time Travel

Source Code
Blackadder Back & Forth
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III
11 Minutes Ago
Men in Black III
La Jetée
Midnight in Paris
Meet the Robinsons
H. G. Wells' The Time Machine
The Jacket
Safety Not Guaranteed
The Philadelphia Experiment
  The Philadelphia Experiment II
Time After Time
About Time
Free Birds
X-Men:  Days of Future Past
Edge of Tomorrow
Mr. Peabody & Sherman
Project Almanac
Time Lapse

Copyright Information

The temporal anomaly terminology used here is drawn from Appendix 11:  Temporal Anomalies of Multiverser from Valdron Inc, and is illustrated on the home page of this web site.  This site is part of M. J. Young Net.

Books by the Author.

Temporal Anomalies in Time Travel Movies
The Uncaused Cause:
Failure of Fixed Time Stories

There is much to commend the Fixed Time Theory of time; yet once you introduce time travel to the mix, it becomes unworkable.  What makes this worse is that most of those who promote it fall prey to one of its most seductive errors.  They imagine this to be part of its strengths, when it is in actuality its most telling weakness.  It is the matter of the Uncaused Cause.

An Example Expounded

In illustrating this, we're going to blur the lines a bit between this theory section of the site and the main section, the movies analyses.  We're going to draw on events in one of the movies, 12 Monkeys, to show the problem.  This movie has been chosen because it is often presented as a perfect example of Fixed Time Theory, and it illustrates the failure with remarkable clarity once you are looking in the right place.

Let's look at the causal chain that is presented.  This is oversimplified; at each step, causes branch out to have other effects that have other causes, and we are skipping steps.  In causation, it's not a bad thing to skip steps; we do it all the time.  When we say that the heat caused the water to boil, we mean an incredible number of intermediary statements regarding individual molecules becoming excited and crashing into other molecules, causing chains of reaction until all the molecules are so excited, but in the end we admit that the heat caused the boiling, even though the intervening events were part of that.

We have a nice, tidy chain of causes and effects, which ties itself end to end.  It appeals to our sense of rightness, because we can see the cause, individually, of every event that happens.  Yet we fail to see the reverse; we are blinded by the lulling effect of seeing causation at every step into missing the broader picture.  Let's turn this around. Thus we've restated every condition in a negative:  if the cause does not happen, the effect does not happen.  This is as true a statement of the propositions as was just made when they were positive propositions.

It is also just as true that we can remove intervening steps in the chain without falsifying the results.  That is, we can say

All of that is still true.  It also means that all of these propositions are also true: Ultimately, the cause of Cole traveling from the future is that Cole traveled from the future; but there is no reason for that to have happened other than that it did happen.  The chain is an illusion.  It is a loop of internally consistent causes with no external cause.  The day before Cole arrived in the past, there was nothing to cause that to happen, nothing to cause the events which the movie claimed happened.  They can only happen if they happen.

To restate for clarity, in the story of 12 Monkeys, the world is destroyed only if it is destroyed; if it is not destroyed, it is not destroyed.  It will not be destroyed unless it is destroyed.  There is nothing to cause that destruction, so it can't happen.  All that causal chain is illusory nonsense.  There is ultimately no cause for anything that happens in the film, but itself.

More than one person has argued that there is a flaw in this chain; they maintain that there is no evidence that Dr. Peters released the virus because Dr. Goines changed the security protocols.  To their credit, they are correct that bio labs don't really work that way; someone like Dr. Peters would have had access to the organisms that could destroy the world all along, and it might well have been sheer coincidence that he released it at this moment.  For my part, it strikes me as overly coincidental that he would do this the day after the protocols were changed, and from a literary and dramatic standpoint it seems to want us to believe that Peters has been waiting for his opportunity which finally came when he was given control of access.  Further, although in real bio labs it might well be that everyone who has a doctorate and clearance to work there has clearance to help themselves to such organisms, in fictional works and in the minds of the majority of people there is a belief that the tightest security possible is maintained around such potentially devastating weapons, including that there is one and only one person who has access, who must be made aware any time anything is removed from containment, by whom, and for what purpose.  Thus the natural interpretation for the ordinary viewer would be that Dr. Goines' decision to change the protocols meant that Dr. Peters was given unrestricted access, and so able to take the samples.

The only difference it makes here is whether or not 12 Monkeys contains this flaw; the flaw is still quite common in such stories, and this illustrates it well.

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The Billiard Ball

Scientists don't use complicated stories from popular movies to illustrate their ideas.  They use simplified examples.  To illustrate this one, they propose a simple problem of a billiard ball and a wormhole.

Before I address it, let me say a couple of things about scientists and their theories about the metaphysics of time.  I don't want anyone to think that I am denigrating science or scientists.  The scientific method generally, and especially in the realm of physics, involves the study of observable evidence from replicable experiments.  That is, we do this, that happens, we watch what happens, and we draw conclusions.  There can thus be no current scientific theory about the effects of time travel, because there has been no successful time travel event to study.  Before we have one, let's be certain we know what all the possible outcomes are.  This theory is one of those possible outcomes, as are the Fixed Time theory and the Parallel Dimensions theory.  Those are all interesting theories with intelligent proponents; the fact that I think them completely wrong does not diminish the efforts involved in considering them.  Those, however, are not scientific efforts; they are philosophic efforts.  Asking scientists to answer philosophic questions is certainly not entirely unreasonable; they've as much right to express an opinion as any other amateur in the field.  They cannot claim to have scientific knowledge until they have scientific evidence, and they cannot have that until they have a successful time travel event, which we do not have.  You may ask the physicist for his political opinion, or his view of the economy, or his preferences in pastry recipes; but you're asking an amateur, and should not give his opinion more weight in metaphysics than you would in culinary arts.  I'm sure some physicists are quite well studied in culinary arts; the fact that they are physicists does not guarantee this.

In this regard, it should be noted that scientists are divided between theories.  The fact that some scientists are quite certain that the Fixed Time Theory must be correct and others are arguing for the Parallel Dimensions Theory should be evidence that they don't know any better than you.  So as we examine the billiard ball illustration presented by some scientists, let us remember that it is not Holy Writ.  It's not an expert treatise in metaphysics.  It's not even really science.  It's an illustration of a speculation, and nothing more.

The billiard ball example starts with the idea that a billiard ball is seen to enter a wormhole whose exit point is displaced both spatially and temporally, such that it will come out the other end before (in a strict temporal sense) it entered this end.  Then we are told that the billiard ball collides with itself, knocking itself off course.  Would the billiard ball prevent itself from entering the wormhole?  If it does, it will prevent itself from exiting the wormhole, and so not collide with itself, and not prevent its entrance.  This would be a paradox, say the theorists.  A paradox is impossible, and thus cannot happen.

The fact that they have no solution for the paradox begs the question.  There is an inherent assumption in the argument that because the speaker can't solve it it must be insoluble.  This is arrogant, at least; it would be like the third grader telling his teacher that multiplication doesn't work, because he doesn't understand it.  The entire theory is at this point founded on the fact that those who propose it have no alternative.  Thus they make a completely unjustified leap in logic, and get themselves into trouble.

It is possible, they observe, that the collision between the ball and itself could conceivably knock it on course for the entrance to the wormhole.  Since it is possible that it would do this, and since we can't imagine or explain what would happen to time if the ball did not enter the wormhole, that must be what happens.  The ball coming out of the wormhole which collides with itself will always knock itself into the wormhole.

Of course, if it knocks itself into the wormhole, that inherently means that it would not have entered the wormhole had it not collided with itself.  Certainly you could argue that it might have done so; but it would have entered it at a different angle, and thus it would have exited at a different angle, and so the collision would occur at a different spot.  The assumption of the fixed time theory to this solution is thus:

Or, as we saw above, or The answer to that is that the ball will never go into the wormhole.

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In Conclusion

An event whose occurrence is dependent upon its own occurrence cannot occur.  That's just simple.  If taken as a Fixed Time Theory story, 12 Monkeys must be taken as saying that the Fixed Time Theory is wrong, because this is absurd.  That's all it tells us--that, or that if the Fixed Time Theory is true, time travel must be impossible, because otherwise anomalies like this could occur.

The theory expounded on this site resolves this sort of anomaly; the Fixed Time Theory does not.  If we have an original cause that has been erased, lost to reality as something that happened and then "unhappened", which does not now exist in any real sense, the replacement cause can maintain the loop without a problem.  However, the loop must have had an original cause, or it could never have come into existence.

That's the problem with most fixed time stories.  They don't work under the Fixed Time Theory.  The only story that works under that theory is this one:  time travel proves to be impossible.

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