Subject: Your "temporal anomalies" page.
Date: Tuesday, January 12, 1999 12:43 PM
I was led to your page by your writings on AD&D, and I was wondering if you have read the AD&D Chronomancer book? In that book are some thoughts that I felt should be related to you.
Time is not an absolute, with every change occurring affecting everything else. There are multiple universes, as well as multiple dimensions. When a time traveler goes back in time, he does not travel back to a previous time in his own timeline. Rather, the act of traveling to the past, by whatever means, moves the traveler to a different dimension timeline. This new, second dimension would be exactly the same as the previous timeline that the traveler came from. The previous dimension continues on with absolutely no changes, except for the fact that at the moment of the traveler's "trip," the traveler ceases to exist, as far as that dimension is concerned. However, in the new dimension the traveler can affect events and people as much as he wishes. That new dimension now is changed, and will continue in its new timeline. Whatever the traveler doesn't affect his traveling, as that occurred in a different dimension.
However, if the traveler attempted to return to his own timeline, he would return to the future, but not to the future of his own, original timeline. He would return to future of the altered timeline, in the second dimension. He would not return to his own dimension, nor would he move to a third dimension. If the traveler did not change anything (something that would seem virtually impossible, but let us suppose it), when he returned to the future of the second dimension's timeline, nothing to him would be different, as the second dimension contained a man just like him (remember, the dimensions are the exact same), who traveled to a third dimension. The first traveler would then move in and take the second traveler's place, and nobody, including him, would ever be able to detect any sort of difference.
Of course, this would mean that there could either be an infinite amount of dimensions, with travelers ever moving to a new dimension, or there could only be two dimensions involved, and the travelers could have switched places. Whatever the case, it really doesn't matter, as the important fact is, whatever is done in the past, that can't affect the "move" back into the past by a traveler, or group of travelers "moving" together in some way.
This way of looking at the universe is quite different to your way of looking at it. No paradoxes would be created by this, there could be no "loops" created by this, and whatever else happened, time would continue on in a very linear fashion. Traveler(s) could move back and forth with the timestream, but time would continue, and could never be put into infinite loops, or destroyed.
I believe that is also the viewpoint of the writers for StarTrek, as well as AD&D. Many other movies, books, etc., have made use of these ideas as well. Since they use the ideas here expounded, not your time-traveling views, they do not contradict themselves, and have not created "internal contradictions," or "paradoxes."
I did really like your ideas of what the 3rd Terminator could entail, and I also really like your other writings on AD&D related materials. Especially your writing from your radio show on being an "AD&D Addict." That will prove to be an invaluable resource to me.
Thank you for all of your help in providing materials, some topics of conversation, and other materials.
I'll be awaiting your reply.
O.K., let me take your letter in order.
I had taken a brief look at the Chronomancer book; I found it rather ill-conceived and poorly considered, but I can see where it could be a lot of fun. But however the Chronomancer book chooses to handle time is of less concern than your alternative theory. I think you might be the first person to have mentioned interest in both my AD&D writings and my Temporal Anomalies materials; I'd be interested in your reaction to Multiverser, which is the connecting link between the two. Thank you for taking the time to write.
"Time is not an absolute"; but this statement taken alone is very confusing. I had one correspondent suggest that time was related entirely to our perception of it, and had no real existence. There are quite a few senses in which time is absolute--it moves in one direction at a constant rate relative to physical laws. We measure time with a variety of machines based on natural phenomena--from the cycling of pendulums and flywheels to the motion of planets and celestial bodies to the vibrations of crystals to the orbits of electrons around molecules--and we find that by all of these measurements, the measurement of time is always the same. That is to say, we've tracked the movement of the moons of Jupiter and timed the orbits of the electrons in the Cesium atom, and the relationship between the two, the number of Cesium electron orbits per Jovian lunar orbit, remains constant. In some sense, time is constant, and therefore absolute. But we're postulating that one can move through time at an inconstant rate and direction (entirely unproved), and if so, time is a bit less "absolute". But this may not be what you intend.
"When a time traveler goes back in time, he does not travel back to a previous time in his own timeline." A lot of people have suggested this idea, but it doesn't hold up under scrutiny. Consider: if I move back to a point which is not in my own past, in what sense have I gone back in time? Let us suppose that my brother is dying, and I choose to go back in time to try to create a cure for him before it's too late. I move into the past, bringing with me knowledge and technology from the future, and giving a huge boost to research into a cure for his disease. If I am successful, a cure is developed--but my brother dies; and worse, I cannot return to his world to be with him or to take the cure back to him which I have discovered. There might be, like Sliders, innumerable worlds out there, some of them indistinguishable from my own; but by your theory, I can't really travel back in time at all--I can only travel to another universe, and once there I can never return. No, if we're going to have time travel, we need to have time travel, not dimensional hopping; and if I wish to go back in time, it is to the past of my own universe that I wish to return, whatever my reasons--going to another universe has no value to me as time travel.
"[T]he traveler doesn't affect his traveling, as that occurred in a different dimension." Well, I think you're going to undermine that assumption in a moment, so I'll leave it alone until then.
"If the traveler did not change anything (something that would seem virtually impossible, but let us suppose it), when he returned to the future of the second dimension's timeline, nothing to him would be different, as the second dimension contained a man just like him (remember, the dimensions are the exact same), who traveled to a third dimension. The first traveler would then move in and take the second traveler's place, and nobody, including him, would ever be able to detect any sort of difference." I'm afraid you just lost any advantage you might have had. You postulate that the two universes are exactly the same. We must distinguish Traveler 1, Traveler 2, Traveler 3...Traveler N. By your theory, the changes made by Traveler 1 are in universe 2, while Traveler 2 changes universe 3; Traveler N changes universe 1. But what if Traveler 1 changes the universe such that Traveler 2 dies before he can leave? Logically, Traveler 2 must do the same thing in universe 3, and Traveler N must do so in universe 1--shifting the travelers one universe, no matter how many universes there are, doesn't prevent the loop; it merely complicates it. No, the only way your theory works is if the universes are different; and if they are different, my movement into the past of a different universe means that I'm working in a world with a different history, and I can't help my friends whom I have forever left behind in a universe to which I can never return. It makes a nice story, but it certainly is not time travel.
"No paradoxes would be created by this, there could be no 'loops' created by this, and whatever else happened, time would continue in a linear fashion. Traveler(s) could move back and forth with the timestream, but time would continue, and could never be put into infinite loops, or destroyed." Sorry--If it's 2010 in both universes, and the two travelers both return to 1990, and take actions which prevent their counterparts from making the trip, it doesn't matter that they didn't prevent their own trips: in preventing each other's trips, they have created the infinity loops in both universes, and so destroyed time.
"I believe that is also the viewpoint of the writers for StarTrek," but you must be mistaken. It is clear that the StarTrek episodes and movies which deal with time travel hold the view that they are in their own past, and return to their own present in their own universe. If we go back to the episode written by Harlan Ellison, City on the Edge of Forever, in which McCoy goes back to mid-twentieth century earth and changes history, the result is that the Federation ceases to exist, and the Enterprise vanishes from the skies--clearly, it is their own past which has been changed. Also, another first series episode involved the launching and destruction of a nuclear missile; after it was destroyed, Captain Kirk confirmed that the event happened exactly as it was recorded in the historic databanks of his computer--that is, it was his own past in which he was involved. On DS9, when then Commander Sisko was thrown back in time to the Bell Riots and replaced Mr. Bell, subsequent time investigators wanted to know why Mr. Bell's picture looked so much like him. In StarTrek IV: The Voyage Home, when earth was faced with destruction, Kirk's plan was to return to the past to retrieve the whales, and bring them back to the future, from which they could communicate with the probe to let it know it could leave. That entire notion makes little sense if they were not going to their own past, and no sense at all were they not returning to their own present (and not the present of some parallel universe which might or might not be the same).
"Since they use the ideas here expounded, not your time-traveling views, they do not contradict themselves," yet we have seen that they do, "and have not created 'internal contradictions,' or 'paradoxes.'" But indeed they don't escape--not only do they not escape the possibilities of anomalies, they make such anomalies far more complex, and further suffer from the fact that what they suggest is not at all what we mean by time travel.
I should add this: if you think that I should evaluate the events in time travel movies by their own theories and self-interpretations, you've missed the entire point of this web site. I'm not after what Harlan Ellison or Gene Roddenberry or Rick Berman or James Cameron thinks would happen to time, or even what I think would happen; I'm not trying to determine how the 12 Monkeys understands time, or how the Back to the Future series handles it. The objective is to explore how time works on a metaphysical level, to make predictions regarding what the effect of time travel would really be, using these movies as examples. In that quest, I have proposed a theory, and with each movie I apply the theory to the movie, unraveling the timelines within them to show the result predicted by my theory. It is in that sense immaterial what the authors, directors, or characters in these movies believe about time, except that it provides the storyline which is either confirmed or altered by my reconstruction.
Many times those who hold your view are inconsistent. In Time Trax, for example, Darien Lambert pursued criminals who had fled to the past. Eventually, they propounded the notion that these criminals had returned to the past of another universe. Yet from the beginning, Darien Lambert communicated with his support in the future by placing ads in the Washington Post--ads they could never read unless those ads were in the history of those who had sent him back. (You can argue that they sent a different him back to a different universe, but as we've seen it doesn't get you out of the problem. In this case, if he requests that they send him materials or information and they do, it will not come to him, but to the universe to which his counterpart went; he will only receive what he requests if some other him has made the identical request to those who sent him--and if all of their actions are so completely identical, it no longer matters which one is in which universe, because if any one of them creates the anomaly, they all do.) In addition, in one episode the criminals were removing hazardous waste by transporting it to another point in time and space, and Darien had his support group in the future dig it up and dispose of it properly--which they could not have done if he, they, and the hazardous waste were not all in the same timeline. Thus it's clear that, whatever the show said about itself, Time Trax was written as if Darien Lambert had traveled to the past of his own universe.
"I did really like your ideas of what the 3rd Terminator could entail," and I'm glad you did. I hear talk of another installment; I'm afraid that they'll probably massacre time in ways I've not yet imagined, but it will do well if they can get Schwartzenegger to sign on, and probably even if not.
"I also really like your other writings on AD&D related materials. Especially your writing from your radio show on being an 'AD&D Addict.' That will prove to be an invaluable resource to me." I'm glad to have helped.
Thanks again for your note. I hope I've dispelled the illusion that traveling to another dimension gets you anything in the time travel field--and that you will learn as much as I have from considering the problems posed.
--M. J. Young