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Temporal Anomalies

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

Quick Jumps

The Letter
The Reply

Conversation
Not Letters

Conversation
Chuck Buckley's Time Travel Problem:
  First Response

Chuck Buckley's Time Travel Problem:
  Second Response

Chuck Buckley's Time Travel Problem:
  Third Response

Chuck Buckley's Time Travel Problem:
  Fourth Response

Vazor's Time Travel Questions:
  First Response


Conversation
Letters

Doctor TOC, 12 Monkeys Fixed Timeline
Doctor TOC, Woman on Plane
JKrapf007, Evil Dead 2 Not a Remake
Nathro, Evil Dead 2 a Sequel
JKrapf007, Travel Before Your Birth
Nathro, More About Evil Dead
Sauce96, Terminator and Star Trek
Sauce96, Presenting an Original Story
Sauce96, Defending Paradox
Muhammed, A Line from 12 Monkeys
Holger Thiemann, 12 Monkeys Fixed Time
Chad Hadsell, Local Infinity Loops
Chad Hadsell, Time an Abstraction
Holger Thiemann, Testing the Theory
Chad Hadsell, Travel to the Future
Chad Hadsell, Erasing Future Self
Holger Thiemann, Temporal Duplicates
Gecko, 12 Monkeys Analysis Incorrect
Jason Seiler, 12 Monkeys Static Time
Jason Seiler, Metaphysics Class Links
Etienne Rouette, Woman on Plane
Matthew Potts, Woman on Plane
Bart, Parallel Universe Theory
Bart, Clarification

Movies Analyzed
in order examined

Terminator
    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
Millennium
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
Frequency
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
    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
Premonition
Los Cronocrimines a.k.a. TimeCrimes
Timeline
A Sound of Thundrer
Next
Frequently Asked Questions
    About Time Travel

Source Code
Warlock
Blackadder Back & Forth
Watchmen
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III
11 Minutes Ago
Men in Black III
La Jetée
Triangle
Midnight in Paris
Meet the Robinsons
Looper
H. G. Wells' The Time Machine
The Jacket
Safety Not Guaranteed
The Philadelphia Experiment
  The Philadelphia Experiment II
Time After Time
TimeCop
About Time
Free Birds
X-Men:  Days of Future Past
Edge of Tomorrow
Mr. Peabody & Sherman
Predestination
Project Almanac
41
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
unravels
A Letter from Matthew Potts:
The Woman on the Plane

This letter is the second sent by this contributor.  In his first note, he presented his position that the "insurance" woman/scientist on the plane at the end of 12 Monkeys had come back from the future to collect the virus.  I wrote back, pointing him to a few of the letters which had dealt with this already, and he immediately responded, quoting my letter back to me.

The Letter

Subject:  Re: My 12 Monkeys Thoughts
Date:  Sunday, December 20, 1998 6:28 PM
From:  Matthew Potts

"Although I admit it's unclear, it seems to me that everything has been done to make the 'scientist' look as old as possible in the future scenes, and as young as possible on the airplane.  Had they used a younger actress for the airplane scene, it would have been far more difficult to make us understand who she was.  However, it could be Gilliam's fault that in trying to make her appear clinical in the future and natural in the past he has inadvertently made her look much younger.  But I admit that your proposed scenario is interesting and logical, from a certain point of view.  Check out the letters for more of this discussion."

I find it very hard to imagine that she has obtained the education required to be a scientist while living underground, I'd imagine that in a situation like that education would be basic at best due to limited resources and people. There of course is the possibly she had been trained before the the outbreak of the virus, but then again would you take up a job as an insurance salesperson if you had a PHD in phyics? If the women is truly in the insurance business why would we care? What does that prove? If you take what she says litterally then the scene in the plane is dull and of no use. It only proves that he got on the plane. Remember it's a movie - the writer has to be relatively economically with the words he or she uses, if a line does not work to a good effect then it shouldn't be there. Taken literally what effect does "I'm in insurance" have? It'd make me go "Gee she was boring all her life" - not a very profound effect. Taken non-literally - "I'm in insurance" (ie I was sent here to carry on from where Cole left) it gives the conclusion of the plot uncertainity - "Does she get a sample?" "Will they be able to make a vaccine?".

You say she looks younger in the past, I disagree, she looks healthier. Imagine being underground away from sun and clean for 40 years? You'd be pale and sickly. Then one day you get to have a day on the surface, you can breath better, you skin begins to look better as it begins to interact with sunlight. If they wanted her to look younger in the past and older in the future they could of made it REALLY obvious. Grey hair in the future, long black thick hair in the past, many wrinkles in the future, still fairly young skin in the past. It would be impossible for anyone to age as well as she has in 40 years in that sort of enviroment (underground). There would lack of enough vitamens and nutriants to keep people fully healthly, and this would accelarte the aging process. the lack of sunlight of course could account for the lack of some obvious aging features, but this still does balance the equation. Also bare in mind that in the future we see the scientist through the eyes of Cole many times, during this time Cole's mind is warping reality so anything he sees is bound to be sightly warped by his brain. When he looks at the scientist she comes across as unhuman, omniously - even somewhat god like (she sits above the dirty society looks down and choses people to be the savours of the society ie Cole ). This kind of impression can subconiously give us the impression she is old, she is one of the "elders" of society. Remember as a kid other kids would say "I can boss you around because I'm older than you". We I think that that idea subconiously stays with us "You boss me around hence your older". This is probably a bit over analysation but I feel it explains how she seems younger in the past.

The limited amount of resources and people also brings up another question - how did they invent a time machine? The manpower, research and energy required would suceed that of a society living on the bare essentials as the underground society would. Although it is true that mankind can invent things that are a leap in technology if they try hard enough (the computer in world war 2, the rapid development of the rocket in the space race) but believing that a society that retreated into the underground very quickly would have the neccessary resources. The only way I could imagine that time travel would be possbile in that type of situation would be if time travel (a) did not take nearly as much energy as it theorized to take (b) it does not take immense amount of computer power (computer development would of pretty much stalled compared to how it grows today as it is very muchmarket driven) (c) the underground has it's own stephen hawking :-)

Just my thoughts

Matt

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The Reply

Matt--

Ah, now we have something to discuss.  Although the question keeps coming back like a bad penny, including as recently as the last letter, you've kept it fresh and interesting.

You "find it very hard to imagine that she has obtained the education required to be a scientist while living underground."  I would certainly agree that "in a situation like that education would be basic at best due to limited resources and people."  You raise the possibility that "she had been trained before the the outbreak of the virus".  But I believe we've agreed that quite a bit of time has passed--you've suggested that it's been 40 years, which is fairly close to my estimates.  Since it would be incredibly difficult to achieve a Ph.D. in physics before the age of 25, we must therefore assume that in the future she must be at least 65.  But the woman on the airplane doesn't look much older than her late thirties.

Let me clarify the time problem here.  Normally, a student who focuses on school will achieve his undergraduate degree four years after completing high school; if you haven't failed any grades, you finish high school at 18, college at 22.  Incredibly smart kids may be able to shave a few years off this, possibly graduating at 19.  It will take at least another 2 years, and more commonly 3, to complete a master's degree, and in a highly fact-based field like physics no school will admit you to a Ph.D. program without the masters degree.  You then must attend another two to three years of classes and complete a thesis.  If you're brilliant, you reach that point possibly at 23; neither Hawking nor Einstein did so.  Typically, you are between 26 and 28 years old by the time you've achieved a doctor of philosophy in so technical a field.  In any case, you ask me to believe that the woman on the plane is in her 60's, and she looks far too young for that.  Remember, if we assume that she is only a junior in college at the time of the plague, she is still at least 12 years older than Cole.  Does the woman on the plane look so old as that?

You continue, "but then again would you take up a job as an insurance salesperson if you had a PHD in phyics?"  You make a mistake here, perhaps.  Let us suppose that she does not have a Ph.D.  Many who complete undergraduate degrees in the arts or sciences take unrelated jobs in business fields.  If you took a survey of college graduates in the sciences, you would find a fair number of them selling insurance, processing claims, compiling actuarial statistics.  Remember, nearly all of the world's population was destroyed by the plague.  If among the survivors we had a woman with a Bachelor of Science in physics--or even in Biology; indeed, even if she had an Associates of Applied Science in Nursing--with so many dead, could not such an individual qualify as one of our "scientists" in the desperate new world?  I imagine that Jones had a college degree of some sort, and took whatever job was available, working her way up in the company; but that when the world was destroyed, she sold herself to those in charge as a "scientist" based on her education, enjoying the somewhat better life shared by the older more educated leadership of the underground society.

"If the women is truly in the insurance business why would we care? What does that prove? If you take what she says litterally then the scene in the plane is dull and of no use. It only proves that he got on the plane."  Au contraire, mon ami!  The scene is deliciously ironic on several levels.  Consider first all of the trouble the scientists have undergone in an effort to identify the source of the virus, only to learn that one of their number shook hands with the man who released it moments after he began.  Second, I find the notion that the "scientists" behind this entire program may all be mere petty bureaucrats with little understanding of what they are doing; if she is in insurance literally, who are the other scientists, and what were they doing before the disaster?  Third, if the Jones on the plane is the a contemporary of the assistant, then she herself is one of the primary carriers of the virus, having helped spread it around the world.  Although the figurative interpretation of "insurance" makes for a clean ending somewhere in the future, the literal interpretation is far more ironic.

"You say she looks younger in the past, I disagree, she looks healthier. Imagine being underground away from sun and clean for 40 years? You'd be pale and sickly. Then one day you get to have a day on the surface, you can breath better, you skin begins to look better as it begins to interact with sunlight."  I think you've overestimated the potential effects of a few days of sunlight; but if you're right, why do we not see so dramatic an effect on Cole, whose life underground was far more restricted and who clearly spent far more time in the freedom, sunlight, and fresh air of the past?  If you are correct, Gilliam has foolishly overstated those effects on the minor character while overlooking them for the major player.  If anything, the woman should look older than her years for the hardships she's endured; yet you wish for me to believe that an hour, a day--even a month--in the sunlight and fresh air will make her look years younger than someone of the same age who has spent their entire life under those better conditions.

"If they wanted her to look younger in the past and older in the future they could of made it REALLY obvious. Grey hair in the future, long black thick hair in the past, many wrinkles in the future, still fairly young skin in the past."  This is undoubtedly your best point--they could have made an age distinction much clearer; on the other hand, they could as easily have made it clear that the Jones in the past is as aged as she of the future. The problem with the film which creates this disagreement is precisely that it is unclear as to whether Gilliam was trying to make her look younger in the past and older in the future, or whether that is an illusion of the change of dress and hair necessary to distinguish the clinical scientist of the future from the businesswoman of the past.

"It would be impossible for anyone to age as well as she has in 40 years in that sort of enviroment (underground). There would lack of enough vitamens and nutriants to keep people fully healthly, and this would accelarte the aging process. the lack of sunlight of course could account for the lack of some obvious aging features, but this still does balance the equation."  This actually is a point for me.  If following the disaster, Cole was unable to continue his very basic education, we must accept that it was unlikely anyone else did either.  Our scientist is not younger than 19 or 20 at the time of the plague in order to have any credibility as a scientist in the future (and that's pressing the issue greatly).  If she is now 60, and has lived those 40 years under these conditions, how could she look so young on the airplane?  No, if she cannot age so well, then she cannot look so young on the plane unless it is the Jones who was alive then.

"Also bare in mind that in the future we see the scientist through the eyes of Cole many times, during this time Cole's mind is warping reality so anything he sees is bound to be sightly warped by his brain."  I'm not sure that's clearly the case.  Even if it is, I think we see her in the future from a third-person perspective at least at times.  Either way, her appearance in the future does not alter the fact that she must be 60 years old, whether in the future or in the past, on your theory.  I return to the same point:  does she look old enough on the plane?

"This kind of impression can subconiously give us the impression she is old, she is one of the 'elders' of society...that idea subconiously stays with us 'You boss me around hence your older'."  Except, of course, that she is older, she must be older.

You raise "another question - how did they invent a time machine? The manpower, research and energy required would suceed that of a society living on the bare essentials as the underground society would. Although it is true that mankind can invent things that are a leap in technology if they try hard enough (the computer in world war 2, the rapid development of the rocket in the space race) but believing that a society that retreated into the underground very quickly would have the neccessary resources. The only way I could imagine that time travel would be possbile in that type of situation would be if time travel (a) did not take nearly as much energy as it theorized to take (b) it does not take immense amount of computer power (computer development would of pretty much stalled compared to how it grows today as it is very muchmarket driven) (c) the underground has it's own stephen hawking :-)"  Well, they don't really address that question.  However, let us consider that since we don't at present have any evidence that time travel is possible at all, nor any viable thesis on how it may be accomplished, we cannot do more than guess at what the power requirements might be.  Meanwhile, although the population has been greatly reduced, there will have been no damage to the physical plant; therefore it is possible that a significant number of our present power generating stations continue to function, especially hydroelectric, nuclear, and alternative energy systems which require far less maintenance and supervision.  Thus there might be a per capita increase in available electricity.  As to available computer power, there's quite a bit of it currently out there; it is also a not too difficult technological procedure to cross-link a moderate number of PC's into a multi-processing system with near the power and speed of a supercomputer; a few hours in the abandoned cities would easily provide massive computer hardware and software.  As to the Stephen Hawking of the underground, I agree that the movie requires a major breakthrough in theoretical physics, and that such a breakthrough seems unlikely in the extreme; but it's the sort of point we must concede.  We could have had a movie about the more probable scenario in which there is no time machine and the world is destroyed by a released virus, but the basic idea of this film requires that time travel becomes possible after (or possibly just before) the destruction of the world by plague.

Thanks for your thoughts.

--Mark

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