Monday, January 26, 2009

Lost Season 5: The Rules of Time Travel

"Raffiniert ist der Herrgott, aber boshaft ist er nicht."
"Subtle is the Lord, but malicious He is not."

Albert Einstein

"There are rules – rules that can't be broken."
Daniel to Sawyer

"You're special...the rules don't apply to you..."
Daniel to Desmond

First of all, let me say, I really enjoy "LOST". We started watching it at the end of the first season...bought the DVD boxed set, and watched it straight through over a couple of days. We got hooked. It's uneven...not always up to its own standards...but a very good ride.

From the very start, I've been intrigued with the way the story delves into time travel...a theoretical branch of physics/quantum mechanics. Time travel is a Pandora's box...the paradoxes that spring from it lead to far more questions than answers...and takes you through names like: Einstein...Werner Heisenberg...Niels Henrik David Bohr... Erwin Rudolf Josef Alexander Schrödinger...and Stephen Hawking, among a multitude of others.(pun intended)

It presents you with theories and thought problems like: The uncertainty principle... Schrödinger's cat... The Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics...wave–particle duality...Quantum superposition... the anthropic principle... The Novikov self-consistency principle...and the many-worlds interpretation...to name just a few.

Confused yet? I'll put some links at the end for anyone who wants to read up on some of these people and theories...but first...

Let me tell you a story.

I was a weird kid. Even more weird than I am now(hard to believe, but true). My mom went back to college when I was four or five. She had no place to put me, so she took me with her. I still remember her Algebra class. The professor wrote an equation on the board. Asked if anyone could solve it. I waited. No one raised their hand, so I did. He laughed as he motioned me to come forward, then handed me the chalk. He wasn't laughing when I wrote the correct answer. Asked me how I knew...told him I just saw it. He figured it was a trick my mom was pulling on him. So...he wrote a few more problems for me...harder problems. I wrote down the answers. That's when he decided it was no parlor trick.

My mom told my dad about it when we got home. Now...my dad was pretty damn good at math. He was the head stillman at an oil refinery. He could work out calc-trig problems and extract cube root on a slide rule faster than I have ever seen anyone do it on a calculator...the man was good. He gave me a few problems...then a few more. Finally, he asked me the same question...how? I told him the truth...I just saw the answer. That was good enough for my dad. From that point on, I loved math.

Math is a language. When used properly, it is the only pure, universal language. I liked that. No mistranslations. It simply is.

They put me in college when I was twelve.(we're talking really, really weird kid...the only things I lacked were coke bottle thick glasses, a plastic pocket protector full of pens and pencils, a bow tie and suspenders...and a flashing neon sign on my forehead reading "GEEK"). I planned on staying with math from that point on...until...

Second year. Quantum mechanics. Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. Basically, you can't know a particle's position and velocity simultaneously. You can know one or the other, but...the act of measuring impacts the particle...so you either impact its speed, or its position. The bulk of modern quantum mechanics is based on a rule that says we can't know...not that we aren't capable of knowing, because of our ignorance or inadequacies at this time...no...the rule was it could NEVER be known.

My response at 14...BULLSHIT! One of my Professors tried to patiently explain it to me using the Schrödinger's cat thought experiment. This is it, in a nutshell...

You put a cat in a box. With it, you put a flask of poison, a Geiger counter, and a flask breaker. The box is sealed to keep out external phenomena. If the Geiger counter detects any radioactivity, the flask breaks and...the cat dies. There's just enough isotope in the box for the probability of it happening. According to quantum mechanics, the cat becomes both alive and dead...simultaneously. It is neither alive, nor dead, until...someone opens the box to observe its state. It is the act of observation that causes the cat to die.

I'm not making this shit up.

My dad had taught me from a young age that there was a world of difference between theory and practical app. When my professor was done, I proposed a counter experiment. I suggested he put his daughter, who was then my age, in the box with all of that equipment...not in theory, mind you...in a real box...with real poison. Then all he had to do was stand guard over the box...as long as he could keep anyone from opening the box, his daughter would never die.

He didn't think that was very funny. I wasn't laughing either. I told him he didn't really believe what he told me. I told him he was only involved with that theory...not committed. He didn't understand the difference.

My grandad had passed away recently. I used to ride my bike out to my Granny's trailer and mow her small patch of grass. Then she would make me something to eat, and we'd smoke and talk when I was done. One day I came over complaining about something. My Granny told me the problem was that I was involved in the circumstance, not committed. I told her I didn't understand.

She went over to her stove and started frying up some bacon. She laid it aside when it was done, and scrambled some eggs in the pan. She served them to me when she was done, then sat smoking while I ate...not saying a word...until I was finished.

"You like that boy? Good...no here's the answer to your question...the chicken that laid those eggs was involved in your meal...the pig was God damn committed..."

I've never forgotten that...I doubt that professor has either. He still had no desire to try out his experiment...and to the best of my knowledge...no one else ever has either...

That was the end of math for me...the higher up you went, the more it became like philosophy...or religion...instead of pure math...again, the hubris of human ego raises its ugly head...

Now, I'm much more like the following quote:

The human mind is not capable of grasping the Universe. We are like a little child entering a huge library. The walls are covered to the ceilings with books in many different tongues. The child knows that someone must have written these books. It does not know who or how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. But the child notes a definite plan in the arrangement of the books---a mysterious order which it does not comprehend, but only dimly suspects.

Albert Einstein

That Einstein guy was pretty sharp...spent the last thirty-plus years of his life trying to disprove what everyone believed his own theories had proven. Thirty-plus years...that's the kind of stubbornness I can relate too...and I'd be lucky now to be able to add two plus two(it's five, right? please tell me it's five...or three)

Now, I know what your asking yourself..."OK Chris...what the fuck does any of this have to do with LOST?"

Good question. Here are Daniel's comments again...

"There are rules...rules that can't be broken."

"You're special...the rules don't apply to you."

He's talking about Time Travel. The Novikov self-consistency principle is a perfect example. It states: That if an event exists that would give rise to a paradox, or to any "change" to the past whatsoever, then the probability of that event is zero. Such as auto infanticide...you couldn't go back and kill yourself, your parents(before you were born), etc...because then you wouldn't have been alive to go back and...see the paradox? According to most physicists, if there is Time Travel, there has to be rules. You could affect the past...but not change it.

Then you have the MWI or many-worlds interpretation...simply: it means that there is a very large, perhaps infinite, number of universes and that everything that could possibly happen in our universe (but doesn't) does happen in some other universe(s).

Clear as mud?

Two schools of thought...both depending on observation...on an observer. Both presuppose that we are the observer. There is, in my opinion, a third option...What if...

Think of life...of time and our physical universe...as a film. Written before it was shot...already shot, and in the can...the beginning, middle, and end established...done. Now it's time for the test screening...your the writer/director/producer(God)...you like the film...it works...but you decide you want to make some changes without impacting the key points, especially the ending...what do you do? You re-write and shoot pick-ups to the scenes you want changed...carefully edit and splice them in...watch again...

How many times could you do that before you showed the "finished film"? An infinite number of times...

What is it that makes film visible to us? Light...when light passes through the moving frames of film, it comes alive...

Now, for the sake of argument, let's call that light "consciousness"...and let's say, that besides our individual consciousnesses, there is an ultimate consciousness. There would always be light on all frames of the film at all times...but we would only "see" the parts that we light up...

Have you ever had deja vu? Premonitions? Dreams of a past event that you know are different than the way you remeber it happening? Not remember an incident that others around you remember vividly? Are you skipping backward and forward through time?

Why is Desmond special? What, or who, does he represent?(Messiah-like sacrifices...first for Penny, then for the world...twice) Who is Ms. Hawking? Who, or what, does she represent?

Are the storylines in LOST set in stone...or just the beginning, middle, and ending?

Are our entire lives set in stone? Or, just the beginning...middle...and the end...or can even the ending be changed? Do we...like the characters in LOST, skip backwards and forwards in the film of time? Is it true, what Shakespear said, that "All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players:They have their exits and their entrances;And one man in his time plays many parts..." Is there a playwrite for us?

Are we on our own version of LOST?

Boshaft ist der Christofer Blake...aber raffiniert ist er nicht...

Malicious is Christopher Blake...but subtle he is not...

Let the comments begin...

Links...


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wave-particle_duality
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schr%C3%B6dinger_equation
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Werner_Heisenberg
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bohr-Einstein_debates
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schr%C3%B6dinger%27s_cat
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_superposition
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Many-worlds_interpretation_of_quantum_mechanics
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Novikov_self-consistency_principle
http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Albert_Einstein
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthropic_principle
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double-slit_experiment
http://www.quantumtea.com/blog/?m=200502












7 comments:

Andrew Hill said...

your idea of life as a film is pretty interesting, there's only one part of it that i don't understand. if consciousness is the light that brings the movie that is our life to life, then each person (who has a different consciousness) would have a different life, which would mean that there isn't one movie...there's a bunch of them. it seems like just a smaller scale multi-universe-type idea.

if i'm misunderstanding anything please let me know. fantastic post, really.

Christopher Blake said...

As a christian, my perspective is different than most involved in quantum mechanics...

Now, for the sake of argument, let's call that light "consciousness"...and let's say, that besides our individual consciousnesses, there is an ultimate consciousness. There would always be light on all frames of the film at all times...but we would only "see" the parts that we light up...

With God as not only writer/director/producer...but as the Ultimate light source, He/the Light, would unify the fields(or spectrums of light...and properties of light, both wave and particle)into One...

According to Scripture, what sets us apart is having the Pnuemas, or Breath(Spirit) of God breathed into us...it is that Spirit, or breath, that makes us eternal...infinite...individules, and yet part of a collective whole...but not in the Eastern Religious construct...on a personal level...

When we think of infinity, we normally go to the Cosmos...or <-> the symbol for a line...but in math, .-., or a segment, is also infinite...between any two given points, you can always place at least one more point...

God then being the Line...and we as segments within that line...allowing for infinite possibilties within each segment...without impacting the direction or properties of the line...

Great question...

Anonymous said...

This does make some sense to me. Which says a lot! :)
I am a fan of Lost from the start, I just hope they have a good plan on how to explain this to dummies like me!

Singer416 said...

Neil and I are big Lost fans and always talk about what could really be going on. Thank you so much for giving examples of most of the theories you were talking about...word pictures are easier for me to grasp when talking about quantum mechanics and the like. Of course, Neil was able to understand everything right away. :) I was actually throwing around the idea with him that perhaps the island is one spot able to exist in many worlds at once or exists in something like a wormhole, explaining why it seemed to "pop" out of existence. I'm sure that you have a lot of theories that are better thought out and I look forward to reading about them. Great post!!

Christopher Blake said...

Sarah...
You are far too kind...and far too humble...as to "Popping"...
I believe that the island may "pop" not only in time, but in space...it is quite possible that, rather than different people coming to, or crashing on, the island...the island has suddenly appeared under them...

It would certainly explain the location of The Black Rock on the island, as well as a number of other anomalies...

abaddon911 said...

I was prepared this time! In one regard anyway... What I mean is, I was not surprised when reading how you were discovered as a child to be a math prodigy. (this in reference to my being surprised at how quickly you picked up on the nature of my screen name)
I have studied (on my own - no formal education) many of the theories and principles you mentioned. I understood very well your post but only because I have read several books and read them over and over and over again until my tiny brain could peer over the edges of obscurity and snatch a glimpse of understanding.
I have much to say on this topic aside from "Lost" but it would take too much time and space (punn intended) at this point.
I thoroughly enjoyed this post and look forward to getting into this more.

Christopher Blake said...

Einstein's quote shows that even the most brilliant are still only lost children...and I'm not brilliant...haven't even found that library he was talking about...

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Christopher Blake is a loving husband...devoted father...minister...crippled ex-cop...screenwriter...novelist...actor...and more than a little rough around the edges...