Marth on Time Travel


This blog post is carried over from my previous blog. It's one of my favorite posts.

Let me preface this by saying that basically everything here is pure speculation. I simply look for an explanation that has the fewest inconsistencies…it could be totally wrong for all I know. Time travel is a topic that is often rife with paradoxical scenarios, so I just try to address as many of these as possible. Also, this is a purely theoretical interpretation of the concept with no considerations to the practical implications of actually creating a device that can achieve it (I don’t really care about black holes and whatnot for this).

In general, there are two broad interpretations of time travel. First, there’s the idea that time is immutable, so any trip back in time would have already happened. In this scenario (let’s call it the “constant theory” of time), it’s impossible to change history because whatever you do should already have happened. The second case (let’s call it the “variable theory” of time) is simply the opposite, where going back in time creates a new timeline with an altered future. Each case has a subset of cases with minor differences, but for the most part, all theories of time travel will fall into one of these categories.

My idea is a subset of the variable theory of time, so let’s look at the constant theory first. This is a hypothetical scenario that a friend of mine proposed in a random Skype conversation. Say you’ve been offered this choice: you could gain Jedi powers (he’s a huge Star Wars fan, can’t you tell?) or gain access to a Delorean like the one in Back to the Future. My friend asks “why can’t you just pick the Delorean, then travel back to the past to tell yourself to pick the Jedi powers?” Well, according to the constant theory of time, a second “you” would appear as you’re making this brilliant plan to tell you to go for the Jedi powers.

In order for the constant theory to hold, you must somehow be stopped from choosing Jedi powers because doing so will change history. But in this scenario, the choice is a result of your will, so there really isn’t anything stopping you from just changing it. It’s almost as if some personification of time itself has to stop you. Granted, the whole scenario is a bit much, but even in popular media, it seems like there is some unknown force that makes the protagonist repeat the actions from his past (almost like everything is too convenient).

For example, when Kyon goes back in time in Haruhi and when Harry Potter uses the Time Turner, they are both instructed not to do anything that could cause a temporal paradox because of the horrible consequences or whatever. But what exactly is it stopping them from just doing whatever they want? What’s to stop Kyon from taking the younger Haruhi to a police box rather than help her sneak into the school? What’s to stop Harry from just pushing his past self off a cliff? I don’t know about you, but I have trouble accepting something like “time will find a way to maintain everything.”

Now that I’ve successfully rambled for a bit, let’s get on to my own theory (let’s arbitrarily call it “Y theory”). The basis comes mostly from Steins;Gate: the concept of an infinite set of timelines (I say they’re parallel in Y theory whereas Steins;Gate has branching of lines to account for alternate futures). In Y theory, it’s almost like a time traveler is moving across dimensions rather than moving forward or backwards in time. So let’s say you wish to travel back to the year 1934 at some specific date and time. Rather than moving yourself backwards in time, the idea is that you somehow move yourself to a nearby parallel line with a universe that is identical to your origin, but has only reached the year 1934…theoretically possible in an infinite number of lines. That’s the core of the idea. Notice a few things:

  1. Obviously, this idea stems from the many-worlds interpretation by Hugh Everett from quantum physic. Basically, it’s a theory that for every universe, there exists an infinite number of universes for all possible scenarios within that universe, and it’s a theory I’ve always liked.
  2. In Y theory, you can change the future, but only in the destination timeline. It doesn’t change the events that have occurred in your point of origin (the idea being that you can change, but you can’t undo).
  3. You’re going to a timeline where the events up to 1934 have occurred, but that doesn’t mean that the events after 1934 will occur. This idea assumes that there is no encompassing force governing time, so there is no “hard drive” holding “history data” for events after 1934. This may make little sense going backwards, but it makes a lot more sense going forwards. If you travel to a timeline in a future year, then returning to your timeline doesn’t ensure the events that you have seen because you’ve only seen one of the possibilities.
  4. If you wish to believe the idea from Steins;Gate of determinism of certain events, that’s perfectly fine in Y theory (I think they call it an Attractor Field). The thought is that if you travel to a line within a certain divergence factor of your origin, events such as a person’s death will always gravitate to a certain point in time despite a difference in events leading up to the death. Although, Steins;Gate attributes this to a converging point in the world lines, it’s fine to think of the same idea happening in parallel lines.

To finish up, I want to specify something that differs from what Steins;Gate proposes in order to cover some inconsistencies. When Rintarou travels to the past in some parts of the show, he basically overwrites the Rintarou of that past time period and takes his place. While this idea makes for a very entertaining show and it follows the logic of the show (sending messages back), I feel like it runs into some issues. For example, what happens if you travel to a point in the past further back than your birth? There would be no “you” to inhabit.

Would you inhabit someone else to make up for it? If so, what are the parameters for who it must be? There would likely be plenty of ancestors available. What if the only two ancestors available are both comatose and will awaken later and fall in love? In my theory, a time traveler is moving to another dimension, and is thus “an outsider,” an extra person in that dimension. So if Rintarou traveled in the way I have outlined, he would go back and be a second instance of himself (which he does later in the show).

And that’s basically it. Marth’s theory of time travel. If you were able to follow all of that, then great! Let me know what you think. If something isn’t explained well enough, let me know in the comments below and I’ll see what I can do to help clear things up. I have a lot of fun thinking about these sorts of things. Sure hope it was entertaining…



  • asdfghjkl

    July 13, 2012, 1:13 a.m.

    instead of going back in time you move to another universe which you choose different action in that time eh?

    Reply

    marthaurion

    July 13, 2012, 1:56 a.m.

    pretty much...I've always wondered why time and space have to be separate things

    Reply

  • asdfghjkl

    July 13, 2012, 2:59 a.m.

    well time and space are from different dimension.

    Reply

  • feal87

    July 13, 2012, 5:24 p.m.

    Your theory is quite valid and is at the same time, the one I prefer because time being "unchangeable" seems too unrealistic compared to a multiverse interpretation of time. Steins Gate, while having many fallacies in terms of technical info, nailed it pretty nicely as well, but I still prefer your approach.

    Reply

    marthaurion

    July 13, 2012, 5:35 p.m.

    I think that infinite and "random" is easier to swallow than "convenient"...that's really why I dislike the "set in stone" idea of history...

    Reply

    feal87

    July 13, 2012, 5:38 p.m.

    Yep, and it actually makes sense. "if it's possible, it exists a timeline with it"...:P

    Reply

    marthaurion

    July 13, 2012, 5:42 p.m.

    I think that most people would be comfortable with thinking of time as a constant force that is always moving forward without any obstruction, but I personally think "why not? why is time so special?"

    Reply

    feal87

    July 13, 2012, 5:46 p.m.

    It generates security in their minds. It's some sort of self-protection from things too hard to accept...:(

    Reply

    marthaurion

    July 13, 2012, 5:51 p.m.

    I suppose...but it won't cut it for me

    Reply

    asdfghjkl

    July 13, 2012, 7:57 p.m.

    time is actually an object which is going forward in the 4 dimension so yes it is a constant force that is always moving forward.

    Reply

    marthaurion

    July 13, 2012, 8 p.m.

    While that is true, relativity posits an interpretation of time that isn't absolute, but rather relative to an observer. Basically, the idea that while time may always move forward, it can be distorted by this idea of the observer. My thoughts on time aren't really founded on any solid evidence...they're just intuitive conjectures I have floating around in my head.

    Reply

    asdfghjkl

    July 13, 2012, 8:11 p.m.

    do you think we can actually find a solid evidence?i mean what are the chance we are able to perceive a higher dimension?

    Reply

    marthaurion

    July 13, 2012, 8:17 p.m.

    I personally like to think it's possible...not as a broad optimism or any sort of denial. I believe that if we believe it's possible, it doesn't hurt us, but believing it's impossible limits our scope.

    Reply

    asdfghjkl

    July 13, 2012, 8:50 p.m.

    marth shall pierce the heaven and kick logic in the face. on serious note if alternate universe exist is all the same as ours or there is one that is completely different for example the one that stay on earth is not human?

    Reply

    marthaurion

    July 13, 2012, 8:56 p.m.

    I would certainly think so. I would never be so arrogant to think that humans are the paragon of evolution or something...I'm sure that the set of universes that even suggest the existence of humans is dwarfed by the entirety of all other universes.

    Reply

  • Yumeka

    July 13, 2012, 5:51 p.m.

    Thanks for the mention, glad I inspired you to get this post out ^_^ I'm tending to agree with your Y theory too. Like I said in my post, I haven't done any particular research into time-travel theories, but from what I've gathered from anime examples and reading your post, it sounds like the theory with the least amount of flaws =)

    Reply

    marthaurion

    July 13, 2012, 5:55 p.m.

    Well, reading your post helped me clear out a few things in my head, so I couldn't have done it all myself! No need to give me too much credit...you'd be surprised how much of this is based on my own personal musings rather than solid research.

    Reply

  • Ecchi Catgirl

    July 14, 2012, 12:40 a.m.

    Time travel is simple enough, it's either multiverse or universe. Though multiverse is technically sliding as you just go to a parallel universe.

    Steins Gate especially was sliding, only the messages went back in time. Not until the headset did we actually see time leaping then after that actual time travel with Suzuha.

    Reply

    marthaurion

    July 14, 2012, 12:54 a.m.

    Yeah, they never really went into how the messages work...I guess they transported him to a different line or something.

    Reply

  • John Sato

    July 25, 2012, 8:44 p.m.

    Cool theory. I can't find any contradictions or paradoxes in it, and that's rather impressive for a time travel theory.

    I find something quite interesting with this. You're not just time traveling, but you're also space (dimension) traveling. Your body is going with you. But it does raise a question. Say you travel to another dimension, then go back to the same one you came from (which I assume is possible?), but before you traveled in time. What happens you convince your past self not to travel through time, resulting in two of the same person? Is the "you" from the past like a replica of the "real" you? If that's true, then this theory could, in essence creates clones (or rather, past versions) of people. The gamer in me keeps trying to figure out how this could work as a "save file." :D

    Reply

    marthaurion

    July 25, 2012, 8:51 p.m.

    Thanks...I thought pretty hard on this.

    As for this question, this is probably the shakiest question I have to address. This is my theory: so if you were to truly return to your world, then you would have to arrive right after the point where you travel back in time. Any time before that and you're technically travelling to a third world that has the time right before you go back. In this situation, it would work exactly like going to the past. If you travel back a short distance, there would be two of you, but they wouldn't be the same person. You would have experiences that the other doesn't and you would once again technically be an "outsider" to the world. So it wouldn't be true cloning. The two of you would be similar, but make decisions differently based on your experiences.

    Reply

  • Matonster

    June 8, 2013, 10:03 a.m.

    i have 2 theories on time travel:

    1: time travel to the past is impossible (mind that going to the future makes that time your present), going to the past would change your version in the present until it never happened. going to the future would be unable to reverse.

    2: the time-line is set. any successful attempt to travel in time is supposed to happen.

    Reply

    marthaurion

    June 8, 2013, 12:25 p.m.

    1 does seem to be the simplest. Probably the most likely...I just don't know if I want to believe that time is only moving forward. #2 is an interesting one...not sure what you mean by "supposed to happen"

    Reply

    Matonster

    June 9, 2013, 2:05 p.m.

    well, however unlikely, fate might exist. so if you were going to the past without being "destroyed", it means that you were actually able to meet yourself. so if you met yourself, it means you have to go to the past in the future to complete the circle (also if you don't you would disrupt the time-line, with probably catastrophic consequences). however i would vote against this theory, and if i find out that it is actually true i would rather kill myself than acknowledge it.

    Reply

    marthaurion

    June 9, 2013, 2:07 p.m.

    Yeah, but what stops you from just doing that? If you choose not to go back to that exact time, then does the fabric of the universe just unravel? I find that hard to believe. Or do you just instantly die? I find that one hard to believe as well. It makes it sound like some higher being is keeping track of everything, which is not something I would easily acknowledge either.

    Reply

    Matonster

    June 9, 2013, 2:57 p.m.

    well i suspect the same thing happens as my 1st theory, the process repeats itself until you do what you are supposed to do. and we have no way of knowing, because that version of us is gone.

    Reply

    Matonster

    June 9, 2013, 3:02 p.m.

    you should also keep in mind that time is a concept created by mankind to explain how anything is able to do anything. most probable is that the past is gone (destroyed) and the future does not exist. when was the last time that the present was the future or the past, never. the present will always be the only time you can live in. the only time travel that is probable to exist is cryogenic stasis (a rather unpleasant concept if you ask me)

    Reply

    marthaurion

    June 9, 2013, 3:13 p.m.

    it would be interesting to think if time was just on a higher dimension than our perception. We only see time as moving forward because we can only perceive in three dimensions. But if we looked from a fifth dimension, we'd see that the timeline we live on weaves around and goes every which way. Since we've collectively evolved to perceive three dimensions, it would explain why we've never had a recorded incident of the present being the future or the past...none of us would be able to notice.

    Reply

    Matonster

    June 9, 2013, 3:28 p.m.

    this is not only a problem about perception, we are literally unable to imagine and grasp such a dimension. imagine ripping a hole in the fabric of space and time just to make your coffee better than the crap that came out of the machine (randomness :P)

    Reply

    marthaurion

    June 9, 2013, 3:32 p.m.

    well, it's not proof of any sort. But what I was saying about the higher dimensions is the reason I would be more inclined to believe in the possibility of time manipulation rather than ruling it out as infeasible.

    Reply

    Matonster

    June 9, 2013, 3:41 p.m.

    well actually there is one more theory i have about time manipulation: entering the correct alternate universe (Multiverse theory). if you want to go 5 years in the past to go see yourself and change something you did, without actually changing your own version (note that the multiverse theory states an INFINITE amount of possibilities, so that would mean that there are an infinite amount of the same universe)

    Reply

    Matonster

    June 9, 2013, 3:59 p.m.

    however it would be limited, and only used for exploration purposes, the funny thing is that it would make space travel easy. because in some universe, the planet you want to visit is right where you are.

    Reply

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