The Legend of Zelda: The Gently Used Headset (Part the Nineteenth)

Another two-parter (because I keep forgetting to post them here… sorry, galleons).

***

(14:24) Sam: *doo doo dee doo*

(14:24) Sam: (Load last save? Y/N)

(14:24) Alissa: Yuuuuuus

(14:25) Sam: Zeldissa crept down the back hallway. She rounded a corner to see…

(14:25) Sam: What appeared to be the largest, most adorable kitchen she’d ever laid eyes on.

(14:25) Sam: The great dragon was wearing a frilly red apron and rumble-humming a little tune while it scooped massive sweet rolls off a baking tray with one dexterous claw.

(14:26) Sam: The room was stacked with sacks of flour and sugar. A large box in the corner could only be a magical ice box, where items like milk and eggs could be stored.

(14:28) Sam: Large quantities of sweets littered the counters around the dragon. Oversized cookies loaded with sweet berries and chunks of chocolate. Tiny cakes topped with sprinkles. Petit fours in a myriad of colors.

(14:29) Sam: The dragon’s tail swished joyfully back and forth as it shook its large, scaly bum to the music playing in its head.

(14:29) Sam: Small boxes on a table nearby were half loaded with confections. Zeldissa edged closer, trying to catch a glimpse of the labels.

(14:30) Sam: “Titanic Treats” she muttered, reading the nearest one. It appeared to be addressed to a woman in the castle town.

(14:30) Sam: ‘WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!’ Sssssam all but shrieked. Zeldissa froze, realizing her muttering had been overheard by the great dragon.

(14:30) Sam: “I… uh…”

(14:34) Sam: ‘I TOLD YOU NEVER TO COME BACK HERE!’ The dragon’s voice had risen two octaves to a high-pitched whine.

(14:34) Sam: “I’m sorry,” Zeldissa said. She didn’t know how else to respond.

(14:49) Sam: ‘IT… IT’S OKAY’ the dragon said, with a slump of its massive shoulders.

(14:49) Sam: ‘SOMEONE WAS GOING TO FIND OUT EVENTUALLY. I JUST… WANTED TO KEEP IT A SECRET.’

(14:50) Sam: “What’s… what’s happening here?” Zeldissa asked.

(14:51) Sam: The dragon sighed. ‘I INHERITED THIS CAVE FROM MY MOTHER. SHE SPENT HER YOUTH TERRORIZING THE COUNTRYSIDE. AMASSED A HUGE HORDE. AND WANTED TO TURN IT OVER TO ME, HER ONLY CHILD. SHE WANTED ME TO BE EVEN MORE FEARED AND TERRIBLE THAN SHE WAS.’

(14:55) Sam: ‘BUT… BUT I DON’T WANT TO EAT PEOPLE AND BURN DOWN VILLAGES. I WANT TO BAKE. I LOVE BAKING.’

(14:55) Sam: The dragon sighed.

(14:55) Sam: Again.

(14:55) Sam: ‘BUT EVERYBODY WOULD LAUGH AT A DRAGON WHO BAKES COOKIES. SO I PRETEND TO BE EVIL… AND I SECRETLY RUN A BAKERY. I SEND SWEETS TO PEOPLE ALL AROUND THE COUNTRY. I LIKE TO MAKE THEM FEEL GOOD.’

(14:56) Sam: The dragon leaned over and blew a jet of flame at the oven.

(14:57) Sam: “Everybody loves sweets” Zeldissa said. “They would love you.”

(14:58) Sam: ‘THEY WOULD LAUGH ME OUT OF TOWN’ Sssssam said sadly. But then it brightened a bit. ‘BUT THAT’S OKAY. I CAN STILL HAVE MY SECRET BAKERY, SO LONG AS NO ONE KNOWS I’M NOT EVIL.’

(14:58) Sam: “I won’t tell” Zeldissa promised.

(14:58) Sam: ‘YOU WON’T? OH, LITTLE HUMAN GIRL, THAT WOULD BE AMAZING. THANK YOU! HERE, HAVE A COOKIE.’

(14:58) Sam: The dragon handed our heroine a cookie the size of her face.

(14:58) Sam: (eat the cookie or save it for later?)

(14:59) Alissa: oh man eat the cookie

(14:59) Sam: The dragon whipped up a cup of hot cocoa and gave it to Zeldissa, who was happily devouring the cookie.

(14:59) Sam: “This… is… soooooo good” she said through a mouthful of baked good.

(15:00) Sam: Zeldissa wasn’t sure, but she could almost see a rosy tinge on the edges of the dragon’s scales.

(15:01) Sam: ‘THANK YOU’ it said. ‘I’M GLAD YOU LIKE IT.’

(15:01) Sam: “I wish I could have cookies like this all the time” Zeldissa said. The dragon looked at her, puzzled.

(15:01) Sam: ‘WELL, YOU CAN. YOU LIVE HERE NOW. I WOULD BE HAPPY TO BAKE FOR YOU.’

(15:01) Sam: “I… actually, I need to talk to you about something,” Zeldissa said, wiping crumbs off her adventurer’s garb.

(15:03) Sam: The dragon settled down into a half-slump that Zeldissa assumed was a comfortable sitting position for it. Ssssam began sipping a large vat of hot chocolate.

(15:03) Sam: ‘GO ON.’

(15:05) Sam: And so, Zeldissa told Sssssam about her quest and adventures. She told the dragon of how she needed the Holy Pigtail to save the land of Hyrule.

(15:05) Sam: “Please, Ssssam, if you have it, may I take it so that I can battle Cervar and save New Ophis?”

(15:06) Sam: (Yes, the narrator realizes she said Hyrule instead of New Ophis. Please forgive her)

(15:06) Sam: ‘BUT OF COURSE, LITTLE ADVENTURER!’ Ssssam said. The dragon ambled back into the treasure room and came back a moment later with a dusty wooden box.

(15:07) Sam: ‘I BELIEVE THESE ARE WHAT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR’ it said, giving the box to Zeldissa.

(15:07) Sam: Our heroine opened it up to see the Holy Pigtail sitting inside, glowing faintly and smelling of disinfectant.

(15:07) Sam: “Thank you,” Zeldissa sighed. “I didn’t know it would be this easy to get the last piece.”

(15:08) Sam: ‘I TOLD YOU, I’M NOT EVIL,’ Sssssam said. ‘PLUS, IF NEW OPHIS WAS DESTROYED, I WOULD HAVE NO ONE TO SHARE MY COOKIES WITH!’

(15:09) Sam: After a few more cookies, another cup of hot chocolate, and much friendly chatter, Sssssam offered Zeldissa a place to sleep for the night.

(15:09) Sam: She woke well rested. Ssssam handed her her traveling bag (stuffed with sweets) and bid her farewell.

(15:10) Sam: ‘COME BACK TO VISIT SOON!’ the dragon cried. ‘YOU REALLY DID SORT THOSE SOCKS WONDERFULLY!’

(15:11) Sam: *Well, that’s it* Yuniss said as Zeldissa walked out Ssssam’s secret tunnel to the base of the mountain. *You have all three pieces of the Gently Used Headset. I guess…*

(15:11) Sam: “I guess it’s time for the boss battle” Zeldissa said with a gulp.

(15:12) Sam: *Do you think you’re ready?*

(15:12) Sam: “Oh god no”

(15:12) Sam: *Maybe a quick trip to town for supplies?*

(15:12) Sam: “That’s a great idea” Zeldissa said with an audible sigh of relief. She wasn’t COWARDLY or anything, but if she could put off facing the dread Cervar… well, she was going to. It was that simple.

(15:16) Sam: (fast travel to castle town? Y/N)

(15:16) Alissa: Yes!

(15:17) Sam: (swoosh. flarf. sprickle)

(15:17) Sam: Zeldissa stood in the middle of the castle town. People didn’t even look her way- folks fast travel here a lot.

(15:18) Sam: Of course, now that she was here, she wasn’t really sure what to do…

(15:18) Sam: Her inventory was full, after all

(15:18) Sam: (Remember, you can bring up your inventory if you need to view it)

(15:19) Alissa: Hmmm, I do want to view it

(15:19) Sam: (Inventory: -3 Energizing Health Potions -1 very shiny gem -1 roll of super strong cable -a huge bottle of industrial grade white out  -1 pony sculpture)

(15:20) Sam: Zeldissa wasn’t sure if she needed everything she’d picked up. Then again, she didn’t know what awaited her in the marshes.

(15:21) Sam: (What do you want to do? Try to trade some of these goods for other items? Just shrug and wander into the marsh? Something else?)

(15:29) Alissa: Hmmm, see what I can trade for

(15:41) Sam: (Narrator is unable to focus now. We will pick this back up later. Save game? Y/N)

(15:41) Alissa: Yes!

 

[And now, part the second]

 

(12:42) Sam: *doodle dee doo dun doo dooooooooooooo*

(12:43) Sam: (Load last save? Y/N)

(12:43) Alissa: YES

(12:44) Sam: (When last we saw our intrepid heroine, she had just left the dragon Ssssssam’s lair with the last piece of the Gently Used Headset in hand. She had fast traveled to the castle town…)

(12:44) Sam: ((15:18) Sam: Of course, now that she was here, she wasn’t really sure what to do…

(15:18) Sam: Her inventory was full, after all

(15:18) Sam: (Remember, you can bring up your inventory if you need to view it)

(15:19) Alissa: Hmmm, I do want to view it

(15:19) Sam: (Inventory: -3 Energizing Health Potions -1 very shiny gem -1 roll of super strong cable -a huge bottle of industrial grade white out  -1 pony sculpture)

(15:20) Sam: Zeldissa wasn’t sure if she needed everything she’d picked up. Then again, she didn’t know what awaited her in the marshes.

(15:21) Sam: (What do you want to do? Try to trade some of these goods for other items? Just shrug and wander into the marsh? Something else?)

(15:29) Alissa: Hmmm, see what I can trade for

)

(12:45) Sam: Zeldissa wandered the streets of the castle town. There were so many shops. Stuff ‘n Thingz. Foodmart. Potions R Us. Ye Olde Banque. Slappy Joe’s Adventuring Supplies.

(12:45) Sam: She didn’t know where to begin.

(12:46) Sam: (What are you shopping for?)

(12:46) Alissa: either adventuring supplies or stuff n thingz lol

(12:46) Sam: Zeldissa was an adventurer at heart (and sometimes in practice). She decided to head to Slappy Joe’s.

(12:49) Sam: Standing behind the counter was someone who looked nothing like someone named “Slappy Joe.”

(12:49) Sam: In fact, the man looked… familiar.

(12:50) Sam: “Well, hi there,” he said in a hard-to-place accent. Southerly?

(12:50) Sam: “Wait a second,” Zeldissa said. “Aren’t you the shopkeeper from the Royal Emporium?”

(12:51) Sam: “Oh, I remember you,” he said excitedly. “You were the girl with the lizard from the Natgrid. Oh, you made me ever so happy with that.”

(12:51) Sam: “And you still haven’t answered my question…”

(12:52) Sam: “Oh sweetie, that was YEARS ago,” the man said. “Slappy Joe took over the Emporium. This is the same shop, don’t you recall?”

(12:52) Sam: “I… I don’t…” Zeldissa paused, confused. “What?”

(12:55) Sam: “Oh yeah, Slappy Joe took over the shop a long time ago. He let me keep my job, and then he went wandering out to fight in the Great War of the Natgrid. I haven’t seen him since.”

(13:00) Sam: “The Great War?” Zeldissa whispered. Her eyes widened. And started watering. But she wasn’t crying- she just has messed up eyes.

(13:01) Sam: *Maybe we need to find Terr* Yuniss suggested. *I think something’s gone horribly wrong*

(13:06) Sam: Zeldissa scuttled out the door and ran down the street. Now that she was paying attention, she could see that everything looked… different. Shop faces were different. Fashion had changed (what were with those weird denim leggings, anyway?).

(13:09) Sam: She ran down the street to the Break Room. They had redecorated.

(13:10) Sam: She didn’t like it.

(13:10) Sam: Terr was nowhere to be seen inside, so she asked the lady behind the bar.

(13:11) Sam: “Oh, Terr doesn’t come around here much anymore,” she said, wiping down glasses in that way that denotes a bartender pretending to do something so they aren’t just standing there, being useless. Some things never change. “But he lives just down on Marsean Way. You could probably catch him there.”

(13:27) Sam: And so, Zeldissa headed down to Marsean way and found Terr standing outside a quaint little home, smoking.

(13:28) Sam: “Oh lord,” he said. “You came back. I thought you’d been killed in the war for sure.”

(13:28) Sam: “Terr, I think there’s been a horrible mistake,” Zeldissa said. “I need to talk to you.”

(14:20) Sam: Terr looked at her strangely. Zeldissa noticed that he looked… older. And tired.

(14:20) Sam: “It’s weird,” he said finally. “I haven’t seen you in years but… you haven’t aged a day.”

(14:22) Sam: “Yeah, well, that’s kind of what I need to talk about,” Zeldissa said.

(14:22) Sam: Terr gestured for her to come inside. The inside of his home was cluttered, full of things he must have accumulated over the years.

(14:23) Sam: “Do you ever clean?” Zeldissa asked. Rudely. Nobody ever said she was the nicest heroine.

(14:58) Sam: “I need to hire someone to tidy this up,” he whined. He turned to her, a glint in his eye. “You need a job?”

(15:07) Sam: “Uh… no. I’m busy trying to save the kingdom,” Zeldissa said. “Or, at least, I think I am. What year is it?”

(15:08) Sam: Terr told her and she blanched even paler than she already was (which is pretty pale). “So… it’s been… 5 years…”

(15:08) Sam: “Five years since what?”

(15:08) Sam: “Terr, after I saw you last, I went up north to face Sssssam,” Zeldissa said. “I was only up there for a few days, max. And now you’re telling me FIVE YEARS have passed.”

(15:09) Sam: “Oh, Sssssam. That dragon makes some good cookies,” Terr said with a smile.

(15:09) Sam: “Oh, she opened a bakery?” Zeldissa asked.

(15:09) Sam: “Yeah, a few years back. Said a friend of hers gave her the courage to do it. Real nice, that dragon.”

(15:19) Sam: “Okay, so… what happened since the last time you saw me?” Zeldissa pressed. “What is this war everyone keeps mentioning? What has happened?!”

(15:21) Sam: “Oh lord,” Terr said. “Okay. After the last time I saw you, the Natgrid started growing again. The village of Ekovah decided to fight back. And they were successful for a few months, because a lot of people came to fight for them.” He gave her a look. “People who had met you. You were the girl from Ekovah who helped a lot of people, and everyone wanted to help you. Even though you were nowhere to be found.”

(15:22) Sam: “Most people said you were deep in the heart of the Natgrid, fighting with Potter himself,” he continued. “However, the Safeguards around the village finally failed, and the Natgrid took over. But then we all learned the truth.”

(15:23) Sam: “The Natgrid wasn’t the bad guy here. The Natgrid was the only thing that could stand up against the Bearers of the Source of Alty, a powerful magic that was destroying the land. The Bearers marched up out of the marshes of Pore Cignel and decimated everything in their path.”

(15:24) Sam: “Potter and his 6 knights-”

(15:24) Sam: “Six?” Zeldissa said. “Weren’t there only 3 before?”

(15:26) Sam: “I think a few folks got promoted,” Terr said. “I don’t know. All I know is there were six knights- Sir Eaton the Noisy, Sir Tagg of the Eyebrows, Sir Silva the Staid…puft, Sir Jameson the Probably-a-Robot, Sir Hillyard the Laid-back, and Sir Head… er Man the Usually Forgotten.”

(15:26) Sam: “The Head… er Man used to run my village!” Zeldissa cried.

(15:27) Sam: “Yes, well, now he’s one of Potter’s knights,” Terr said. “You know how it goes. So, the six knights, led by Potter, pushed the Bearers of the Source of Alty back into the marshes.”

(15:29) Sam: “But there were many losses. One of Potter’s knights fell long before the final battle, as did the witch of the Natgrid. Many civilians and great creatures of the forest were lost. The Natgrid and its powers have kept the Bearers at bay, but we all know it’s only a matter of time until they come back.”

(15:31) Sam: “But… but I found the Headset,” Zeldissa said. “I was going to stop this.”

(15:31) Sam: “Like I said, we all thought you had died,” Terr said. “We never saw you. I just know what happened.”

(15:32) Sam: “Wow” Zeldissa said. “So… I failed.”

(15:33) Sam: “Uh…” Terr said. “I don’t know…”

(15:33) Sam: “I have to go,” Zeldissa said suddenly, her eyes watering again (this time, it really was tears). “Thanks, Terr.”

(15:33) Sam: “Anytime,” Terr said, puzzled. “Come see me again, if you have time.”

(15:34) Sam: *Whoa* Yuniss said. *That is crazy. How have five years passed?*

(15:34) Sam: “I don’t know,” Zeldissa said. “I was kind of hoping you would.”

(15:37) Sam: *Well, I mean, there were always rumors that fast traveling could glitch and send you through time. But I kind of thought that was just a bunch of conspiracy nuts. Like the ones who believe in Old Mike, the Addy Monster of Kolecksion Lake…*

(15:37) Sam: “WHAT?! You KNEW this could happen and you never warned me?!”

(15:38) Sam: *Uh, if you were listening, I said I just said I thought it was a myth. Why would I warn you about a myth? Should I tell you to watch out for grimbles next?*

(15:38) Sam: “What’s a grimble?” Zeldissa asked.

(15:39) Sam: *You had a weird childhood* Yuniss said, exasperated. *They’re little monsters in a bunch of fairy tales. And they AREN’T REAL.*

(15:39) Sam: “Well, somehow, we traveled through time,” Zeldissa snapped. “So maybe you need to revisit your grimble theory.”

(15:40) Sam: *Jerk*

(15:40) Sam: “Anyway,” Zeldissa said, rolling her eyes. “Somehow, fast traveling MAY have sent us five freaking years into the future. Great. And now all that work was for nothing.”

(15:41) Sam: *Well, not really,* Yuniss said. *I mean, Terr said that Bearers were pushed back into the marsh…*

(15:42) Sam: “Yeah, the marsh of Pore Cignel. Where Cervar was. I don’t think that was a coincidence. THIS is what we were supposed to prevent. And we failed.”

(15:42) Sam: *Okay, well, first off, YOU failed,* Yuniss said. *I wasn’t charged with any heroic mission. This is on you.*

(15:42) Sam: “Thanks.”

(15:43) Sam: *Second, Terr just said the Bearers were pushed back. He never said they were beaten. Maybe we can still help.*

(15:43) Sam: “Oh sure, NOW it’s ‘we’,” Zeldissa grumbled. “Still, that’s not a bad idea. I guess we should go see Potter then.”

(15:43) Sam: (It is getting late. Save game? Y/N)

God is a Chrononaut

Okay, galleons, I know it’s been a bit since I posted anything of even moderate significance, so I’ll rectify that now. And, in an effort to straight-up avoid boring you with my emotional/philosophical musings of the last few days (those are better suited for poetry, anyway, so that’s where I’ll hide them), we’re going to talk about something science-y and fun.

TIME TRAVEL!

***

The future you have tomorrow won’t be the same future you had yesterday. ~from Rant by Chuck Palahniuk

Time travel is one of the core vertabra in the spine of science fiction (along with teleportation, artificial intelligence, and genetic engineering). We spend many moments in our life thinking about what we would do if we could go back and change the past. Ethical issues aside, science tells us that time travel is nothing more than a figment of our imaginations- an impossibility.

But is it impossible… or just very improbable?

***

Before we leap into the midst of modern scientific discourse on the subject of time travel, we need to have a quick primer on the nature of spacetime itself. I’m sure you are highly intelligent individuals, galleons, but time is a tricky beastie:

Yes, you best get used to a bit of the good Doctor infusing this post- it’s only fitting, after all.

So, time. What is time, anyway? Where does it come from? Can there be multiple time dimensions if there are multiple space dimensions? Is there a smallest unit of time? Is time a fundamental part of the universe or merely a useful construct to aid in our perception of it? Can time end? Can there be a universe without time?

Burning questions all. Physics has found answers to some of these questions, but not all. We’ll just cover the important bits here, but note that answering all the questions of time is a major goal in the land of science.

Let’s start with the trickiest part of time- its lack of universality. We tend to think of time as a definite. As something we all share, and that we all experience the same way. When it is 8:34 for me, it is 8:34 for you (supposing you are in the same time zone, of course).

Thing is… that’s not actually the case. In June 1905, Albert Einstein submitted an article to the German Annals of Physics that effectively shattered our concept of the universality of time. Welcome to Einstein’s theory of special relativity, ladies and gentlemen. The rules of the game now are dependent on how the world appears to individuals moving relative to one another (subsequently, I always like to cite special relativity as proof there is no such thing as objective truth, but that’s a philosophical diatribe for another day). “Time for you need not be the same as time for me.” (The Fabric of the Cosmos, Brian Greene)

The differences in time between observers in normal situations is so tiny as to be unmeasurable. But, if we look at something a bit less normal, such as relative movement near the event horizon of a black hole, the differences become much greater. But that is a complicated and long-winded bit of explaining I’d have to do to help you understand that. If you already understand, fantastic! If you don’t, just know that we each carry our own clock, our own way of measuring the world around us.

Each of us moves through spacetime differently based on motion relative to one another for a simple reason. We are always moving. Each and every one of us is in constant motion. But how? What if you are sitting completely still? Well, if you are sitting still, it’s true that you aren’t moving in space- but you are moving through time. In fact, all of your motion is currently through time. However, if you were to stand up and start running, you’d now be moving through both time and space. Ergo, some of your movement through time is shifted to movement through space. Like if you are in a car, and you are traveling north. If you are suddenly to start going north and west, you won’t move as far north, even if you travel the same distance as before. It’s a bit of simple math there, right? A little basic geometry. Spacetime works the same way. That is how time changes based on relative motion- motion through space impacts motion through time.

Now here’s where things get even trickier. Absolute time doesn’t exist, right? Take it on faith here that absolute space also doesn’t exist. However, absolute spacetime does exist.

Buh-wha?

Imagine spacetime as a loaf of bread (I adore this analogy). According to the rules of special relativity, you and I will observe time differently. We’ll say that’s the same as slicing the loaf of bread. So, you will be slicing the spacetime loaf perpendicularly. I’ll slice it along a 45º angle. Our slices won’t be the same, will they? We’ll have different events on each one (half of each of my slices will be on later slices of your corresponding loaf- in your “past,” if you will). However, if we reconstitute all your slices into one loaf or all mine into one loaf, we’d create the exact same loaf of bread. The loaf of spacetime that is absolute.

If you are confused, I apologize. I’m trying to condense the hell out of this information, so things might be getting lost.

Here’s what you need to know: Time is relative. Spacetime is absolute.

Time doesn’t flow in the way we envision it. The past is not lost. The past is. As is the present. As is what we think of as the future. It all exists in this spacetime loaf we were talking about earlier. Our consciousness creates the idea of flow, but time doesn’t actually flow with and around us. But even though it doesn’t flow, time does have an arrow- a direction to the way things unfold. Cause-and-effect. An egg doesn’t break and then fall off the table. That’s not how the laws of causality work. So time does have an arrow, even if it doesn’t flow.

As I said, time is a confusing concept (and I didn’t even touch on entropy). The science goes against what we perceive. Welcome to theoretical physics.

Now that I’ve scrambled your brains, let’s move on to the good stuff!

***

When it comes to time travel, there are actually a lot of ideas on the concept that have come and gone through the ages. Let’s examine them:

Wormholes/Parallel Universes

Here’s the big one. Probably the most popular idea regarding time travel involves the use of wormholes (such as those theorized to lurk in quantum foam or at the heart of black holes- by the by, did you know it was Oppenheimer who proved that black holes could indeed form? Before him, they were nothing but speculation). But it’s not as simple as science fiction would lead you to believe:

See, when it comes to wormholes, the prevailing scientific idea is that a wormhole in our universe could lead, not to another time in our own universe, but to a point in another universe. A parallel universe.

This is the multiverse, galleons. The concept that hundreds, thousands, millions of universes all exist side-by-side, differing slightly (or greatly) from our own. A wormhole would connect our universe to one of these other universes.

Theoretically, we could enter a wormhole in our universe and travel through it to a point in an alternate universe that is temporally “earlier” than what we deem the present in our universe. This would feel like time travel to us, though we’d actually have moved to a completely different universe.

However, a wormhole could also connect two slices on our universe’s spacetime loaf. Just as an Einstein-Rosen bridge (as the “tunnel” connecting two wormholes is called) could connect us to a point in another universe, so too could it connect us to a point earlier or later in the timeline of our universe.

Of course, we could never traverse such a path. The tidal forces at the heart of a black hole, where the supposed wormholes would reside, become infinite, and anyone unlucky enough to fall into it would be ripped apart (much as you would be stretched and killed by falling into the singularity of a wormhole-less black hole).

So, despite their overwhelming popularity in time travel fiction, I’m afraid wormholes aren’t a terribly good method of time travel. I mean, beyond the fact that you wouldn’t even survive the trip, you have no way of knowing where the wormhole leads until you traverse it. Isn’t there a better way?

Van Stockum’s Time Machine

In 1937, a man by the name of W. J. Van Stockum found a solution for time travel in Einstein’s equations. If we could build an infinite, spinning cylinder that spun at or near the speed of light, it would effectively drag the fabric of spacetime around with it.

By traveling around this cylinder, you could attain phenomenal speeds. In fact (though Van Stockum didn’t realize this at the time), by making a complete trip around the cylinder, you could actually arrive back at the start before you left.

Hello, time travel.

The faster the cylinder spun, the further back in time you would travel (though you couldn’t travel further back than the cylinder’s creation).

Sadly, this is in no way physically possible. We cannot make infinite objects.

Also, even if we somehow managed to create this infinite cylinder, the centrifugal forces would be so enormous that they’d rip the cylinder apart.

Gödel’s Rotating Universe

And then there was Kurt Gödel. He also found a solution to Einstein’s equations, but in Gödel’s version, it was the universe that was rotating. So, instead of traveling around a cylinder, you’d just have to take a rocket around the universe and end up at an earlier point in time.

So, in principle, you could travel between any two points in space and time. Now, Gödel’s universe has to be spinning above a certain speed, otherwise gravity will override the centrifugal forces and the universe will collapse in on itself… Our universe, for example, would have to rotate once every 70 billion years.

Good news, though! You’d only have to travel at just under the speed of light. Which makes it theoretically possible (discounting the fact that you’d die if you traveled at that speed…).

Oh, but here’s the bad news:

Our universe doesn’t spin.

Balls.

Thorne Time Machine

Well, some time went by before another scientist stepped up to bat on the issue of time travel. When Carl Sagan was writing Contact, he needed a way for his heroine to make a two-way trip to a distant star. So, he asked Kip Thorne for advice.

And Thorne showed that it actually was possible to build a time machine. Well, so long as you could acquire some pretty bizarre types of matter and energy, such as “exotic negative matter” and “negative energy.”

Okay, that’s problematic.

See, negative matter is weird. It’s not antimatter, in case you were wondering. Negative matter possesses antigravity and would float up in Earth’s atmosphere. It is repelled by ordinary matter and other negative matter.

So you aren’t going to find negative matter in your backyard. If it even exists, it would be drifting about in deep space.

And as for negative energy? Actually, even though it’s extremely rare, that can happen. Ever heard of Casimir plates? Henry Casimir proved that there is a very small attractive force between two uncharged metal plates held in parallel. They are held so close to one another that virtual particles (particles that appear and annihilate according to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle) can’t easily get between them- with more virtual particles outside the plates than between them, a small force is exerted on the plates, pushing them toward one another. Voilà. Negative energy.

So, theoretically, we could make these parallel plates and shape them into a sphere. Then we’d make another one. Then we’d string a wormhole between them. And one sphere (containing the mouth of a wormhole) would stay behind while the other was loaded onto a ship and traversed space. And so you’d be able to travel back and forth between two distant points in space with ease.

Of course, due to the relative nature of time, the mouth of the wormhole on the spaceship would be at a different point in time than the one left behind… so you’d not only travel through space, but through time as well.

This one’s possible… supposing negative matter even exists. And that we could manage to dig a wormhole out of quantum foam or something, expand it, and attach it to these spheres we’ve managed to construct.

This one’s not happening anytime soon.

Hawking and Misner Space

It’s Stephen Hawking’s turn to take a crack at this time travel thing. To do so, he started with an example of Misner space. Misner space is an idealized space that becomes the entire universe. So, take the room you are in now. Let’s make it Misner space- your room is now the entire universe. If you were to walk into the left-hand wall, you wouldn’t hit it. Instead, you’d pass through it… and would re-enter the room/universe through the right-hand wall.

Remember old video games where you’d try to run off the left side of the screen but would just run back onto the screen via the right side? That is Misner space.

So, back to your universe/room. Imagine the walls start closing in. Now, if you walked through the wall, you’re going to get a boost of speed from the speed of the wall. Keep walking through the wall again and again and you’ll keep gaining speed, eventually approaching the speed of light (and, like before, you’d eventually travel so fast you’d go back in time).

According to Hawking, the walls of this Misner space are mathematically the same as the mouths of a wormhole. So, we’re back to semi-familiar ground. Problem is, this Misner space is really unstable. Eventually, quantum radiation effects would build up until they became infinite. At that point, if you tried to enter the wormhole/walk through the wall, it would collapse and you’d die.

Hawking figured that was it for time travel- it was impossible. However, other physicists have since proven him wrong. In some wormhole solutions, collapse didn’t occur. Like Sergei Krasnikov said, “there is not a grain of evidence to suggest that the time machine must be unstable.”

Hawking has since had to go back on his original declaration that time travel was impossible, but he maintains that it is still highly unlikely and impractical.

This method, however? Pretty freakin’ impractical. All it does is show that time travel isn’t completely impossible according to the laws of physics.

Gott Time Machine

Are you totally discouraged yet? Let’s talk about a completely different approach to the question of time travel, then. J. Richard Gott proposed an idea for time travel centered around the idea of cosmic strings.

And just what is a cosmic string? Good question. They’re a remnant of the big bang predicted by multiple theories- they are thinner than an atomic nucleus, but with an enormous mass and they could possibly be millions of light-years long.

Well, Gott discovered that if you hurl two cosmic strings at one another, you can use the time just before they collide as a time machine. See, the space around the strings actually shrinks as the two strings approach one another, so if you travel around one, you travel less than 360º by the time you return to your starting place. So, you travel rapidly around this shrinking space, and you’ll eventually exceed the speed of light (according to a distant observer- because you don’t exceed light-speed according to your observations, special relativity is preserved). And, as we’ve already learned, this will lead you to travel into the past.

By now, I’m sure you know what’s coming.

Cosmic strings are super rare, if they even exist at all. Finding two to collide? That’s almost laughable. And even if you shaped one string into a large loop and used it to double-back on itself to create the same effect as the two colliding strings, Gott admits that, “a collapsing loop of string large enough to allow you to circle it once and go back in time one year would have to be more than half the mass-energy of an entire galaxy.”

Again, not happening.

***

There were no DeLoreans. No spinning machines like the one Wells described. No TARDIS.

Seems time travel is a total bust thus far. While physics doesn’t deem it completely impossible, the methods scientists have come up with are absolutely ridiculous.

Damn.

***

But what if we did manage time travel? See, there’s another set of rules floating around that seem to be an obstacle on our way to traveling through time: paradoxes.

Grandfather Paradox: “The chief argument against the possibility of time travel is what theorists refer to as the ‘Grandfather Paradox’; this is the idea that if one could travel backward in time one could kill one’s own ancestor, eliminating the possibility said time traveler would ever be born–and thus could never have lived to travel back and commit the murder. In a world where billions believe their deity conceived a mortal child with a virgin human, it’s stunning how little imagination most people display.” ~from Rant by Chuck Palahniuk

According to the laws of physics, the problems brought up by the Grandfather Paradox aren’t possible. Time is. It can’t be ripped. It cannot simply stop. So, even if you went back and killed your parents before you were born, you wouldn’t simply wink out of existence. It’s just not possible.

Why? There are two theories. First, there’s the idea that you would be forced to act in a manner so that no paradoxes occur. This tampers with the idea of free will (which is pretty much bullshit, anyway), but it prevents time paradoxes. Of course, according to this camp, inanimate objects sent back in time could still change history, so… I don’t know if I can fully back this camp.

The second theory ties in with the idea of the multiverse. If you go back in time and alter history, what’s happened is that the river of time has forked and the universe has split. There are now two parallel universes where there was only one before. One universe maintains the original timeline, and one changes based on the the alteration you just made. This is the camp I tend to prefer, even though it means there’s an infinite amount of universes.

Information Paradox: You know this one as well. You travel into the future and read a book. You love it, so you bring it back to the present with you. While in the present, you meet the author of the book and give the book to them. They publish it under their name… but who wrote the original book? In this paradox, information has no origin.

Bilker’s Paradox: In this paradox, you know what the future will be. So you decide to prevent it by doing something that makes the future impossible. You know, like all the time traveling pre-apocalypse films. The hero has to do something to prevent the apocalypse that has already occurred in their time.

The Sexual Paradox: This one is a big plot point in Rant. This is the paradox wherein you father yourself- you travel back in time and impregnate your mother… with you. A biological impossibility.

***

So, physics has some ideas about how to negate time paradoxes, but that really doesn’t matter, seeing as time travel is still so goddamn impossible.

Guess we’ll just have to stick with science fiction for our time travel fix.

*sigh*

***

If you actually read all the way through this long-ass post, you just gained +25 to your geek cred. Congrats!

No, but really… sorry this is so long. I tried really hard to keep the length in check. I failed, obviously. I just get overly talkative when it comes to physics.

On Time Travel, Traditions, and Overcoming Trepidation

Song of the moment: Karma Slave Splashdown

I think it’s interesting that most people would not hesitate, if given the opportunity, to travel back in time and change things in their past. Now, it’s a perfectly logical response to the rigors of time on our choices. We look at where we are now, and we wonder, “Where would I be today if I had only…” What if you had attended a different university? What if you had asked that boy out? What if you had never moved to New York? What if you had had a turkey on rye instead of a slice of pizza for lunch on November 12, 1998?

I do not find regret interesting. Everyone has their regrets. Everyone wishes they’d done something differently. What I do find interesting is how quickly people seem to be willing to throw away the person they’ve become in favor of something… else. Hopefully better, but mostly just different.

In a sense, this is a form of intellectual suicide. By changing decisions in the past, you would effectively change the person you currently are. Right now. You would be destroying this you and building someone new. You, as you are, would cease to be. How is that not utterly terrifying?

If we somehow had the power to tamper with our personal timelines, would we also have the power to integrate knowledge gained from other timelines into the person we are creating? If we couldn’t, what was the point of changing things? We’d never know life had been any other way. The grass would still seem greener somewhere else. But if we could incorporate bits of who we now are into this new person… doesn’t this create an information paradox? Where did we learn these lessons? The timeline we learned them on is no longer our timeline.

I suppose, if you subscribe to the concept of the multiverse, our current timeline would still exist. You would, effectively, be attempting to jump between one universe and another with your so-called “time travel.” But, in order to do that, you’d have to destroy the you of the other timeline, wouldn’t you? There couldn’t be two of you wandering about. And is killing yourself (even if it’s you in name and blood only, not in soul [whatever the fuck the soul may be]) still suicide? No matter what, by changing the past or jumping universes or whatever, aren’t you killing some form of yourself? How is this okay?

I have no idea why I’ve been pondering this today. I like to imagine myself, though, sitting outside the flow of time, shaping my past so that my future was ideal. Sitting there with two conflicting sets of memories, holding them in my hands, finding a way to stitch them together into some strange amalgamation of me and me, of who I was and who I want to be. There’s something fucked up and yet strangely peaceful in the idea of physically, tangibly making myself.

But hell, that’s so selfish. Because, whether I like it or not, I have impacted the lives of people around me. By changing who I am, I change my interactions with these people. As a result, I change who they are. What if I am changing them for the worse? Not that I really think my influence has changed anyone for the better (often, I think the opposite true), but what if my presence somewhere was a lynch pin in their life? A friend of mine recently told me that, had I not been present at a specific summer program my freshman year of HS, she would have committed suicide. What if fixing me killed her? Could I live with that? And if I could somehow wipe my memory of that knowledge, while sitting there outside of time, at that moment could I make the decision to callously ignore the fact that I’m killing this girl?

There is no real purpose to this mental exercise, beyond to wonder about how much I value myself as a person right now. And to search my soul a little, to discover whether or not I am as flawed at my core as I sometimes think I am.

On to something less heavy (and pointless). I told myself this year that I would break myself of some of my more irritating habits. Like hanging out in Stauff’s room. And this past week, I have spent way too much time there. For reasons both good and bad. And I realized I’m letting myself slide back into this habit because it’s easy. Because it’s what we did for so long. But life is different now. I’m different. And I don’t want a constant reminder of last year, of times past. So, I am going to make a concerted effort to seriously cut down the amount of time I spend there. It’s time I took my life back into my own hands.

In regards to my post a few days previous detailing my feelings about a certain boy currently (we’re going to start calling him Three, which if you read the previous post and know his physical type, you should understand the reasoning behind)… the more I think about it, the more I like the idea of being with him. Of giving it a try. So I’ve slowly been talking with Three, trying to establish a small base. Set myself up to make a move and push for a different type of connection with him. I’m nervous and excited about this prospect.

It’s hard for me to overcome that nervousness. To overcome my fear of rejection. I am not so immature and naïve that I think I am alone in this. I know this is one of the most common feelings when you realize your intentions with another person are more than friendship. When you have to bite the bullet and just go for it, if you want anything to come of it. We’ve seen me back away in the past, letting opportunity after chance after situation roll past me with frightening speed. We’ve seen my regret plastered across this blog, in posts, in poetry.

So, I guess, here’s hoping. Here’s hoping I don’t default to my usual, scared, unwilling to act self. Here’s hoping I grow some balls and try for what I want. Because, quite frankly, I’m tired of standing on the sidelines while my life rolls past me. And I’m certain you are all tired of hearing about it.

Also, I’d like it to be known I did not play WoW or drink today. Go me.

ADDENDUM: Oh christ, I just bolted awake after the single most terrifying Left4Dead-inspired dream I’ve ever had. At first, it was just one-dimensionally scary. I was playing a campaign (Part 1 of Death Toll, with the railroad, to be precise) with friends (Chrissy and Sean and Stauff, to be more precise). Most of us got incapped by a Special. We were going to lose. It wasn’t a big deal.

Except that, suddenly, I’m in the game. More than in the game. I’m in the game, injured, and immediately terrified. I have no weapons. My vision is fading and going fuzzy. I know I’m seriously hurt. I also know (in that prescient manner of dreams) that, if I survive this wave, I’ll be out of the game and fine. Chrissy is the only person still alive and functioning. I hear her moaning and crying from outside the game that she’s going to have to face all of the Specials on this wave.

I slowly drag my body behind this flatcar and into a corner. I’m shaking and half-sobbing as I hear the telltale sounds of a Boomer, a Hunter, and a Smoker. Gunfire erupts from the car in front of me, where Chrissy’s avatar is. Suddenly, I see movement out of the corner of my eye. I kick weakly at the thing and it growls. I start to sob raucously. It’s a fucking Hunter. It screams, leaps on me, then proceeds to tear into my stomach. There’s blood and pain and oh god, it was fucking awful. I woke up strangling a scream, tears in my eyes and the image of the Hunter’s face half-buried in my stomach with my intestines squeezing out around his face burned into my brain.

I need a drink. I need a hug. I need to never, ever play Left4Dead again. Worst part? I didn’t even fucking play that game today!

Bonus link of the day: I’d like to think this is how our continued existence actually works.