Title: 2223

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

May 2009


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This post could be construed as a spoiler to the movie isolationists…

May 13, 2009
3:35 AM

Okay, this is a post I wrote in response to someone in my forums that had a bit of contention with one of the plot points (well, a major plot point, but still) of the new Star Trek movie. I won’t say what it is, but I will say this – it’s something just about every reviewer has covered in one fashion or another, so it’s EXTREMELY unlikely to be a plot point that would ruin your enjoyment of the movie, if you haven’t already seen it. And you should. NOW. In fact, if you have time, just get up from your desk, walk out the door, and go see the movie. I’ll wait.

Back? Good. Because it goes without saying that the rest of this post IS MAYBE KINDA SORTA A SPOILER IF YOU LOOK AT THINGS THAT WAY.

Don’t say you weren’t warned. You’re here of your own volition now. So when I say that this post concerns people who don’t understand the whole “time travel/alternate dimension” thing, or think that the characters are now going to have to go through some sort of weird plothole gymnastics to ensure the events of the previous films come to pass, you won’t be surprised and angry with me. :) Commencing with the copying and the pasting.

As someone who has spent a lot (I mean a LOT) of time thinking about the working mechanics of time travel, and will generally give any time travel story/book/movie a fair shake, I will say this about how Abrams handled it: 1) Time travel via black hole is silly, but I’ll let it be seeing as how the original Kirk managed to take a Klingon Bird of Prey for a ride around the sun to go back in time… and 2) If you forget about the method, the actual WAY it was handled makes complete, utter, and total sense.

You have to alter how you think about time. Back to the Future treated time as a linear thing…. you would go back and forth on this line, and any changes you make would then propagate forward, irrevocably changing your future. You go back and give a sports almanac to a psycho, for instance, and when you return to the future, events have taken place in a vastly different fashion, meaning your original time no longer exists…unless, of course, you just went even FURTHER back and stopped it all from happening… etc, etc, etc. Worked well enough for the movies, but the flaw here is thinking of time as a line you travel back and forth on. It doesn’t work that way… not according to Einsteinian physics, anyway. Going forward in time is easy – get on a ship and haul ass away from the planet at as close to light speed as you can, then turn around and come on back – presto, you’re in the future. Time has sped up, due to the time dilation effect of traveling at near-light speed. Doesn’t exactly work in reverse.

Quantum theory, on the other hand, gives us a slightly different way of looking at time travel… it’s not actually moving back and forth on some imaginary line, but going to an alternate universe. Another dimension, really. The theory works like this: there are innumerable universes existing in innumerable dimensions, where every possible outcome of every possible action has in fact taken place. In some cases, these dimensions can be wildly different – universes where Hitler won WWII, or where the Soviet Union took over the United States. (Yeah, I watched a lot of Sliders.) The interesting thing is, that because of these infinite permutations, universes exist that are in the EXACT state of the past of your OWN universe. So somewhere out there, there would be a universe that is CURRENTLY an exact copy of any moment in history. This concept was played around with in Timeline, which despite being a terrible movie, was actually a pretty good book. (It’s Crichton – that’s usually how it works.)

The long and the short of it is this – under quantum physics, traveling in time is an action that is more like SPACE travel than time travel. You’re going to another universe, one that is IDENTICAL to a previous time in history. The upshot of this is that it’s nondestructive… assuming you could control the movement to and from the destination universe (instead of being sucked into a black hole), you could in fact travel back to your own “time” and nothing would have changed. This is the model used by Star Trek, and frankly, I’m ecstatic that this is how they did it.

The reason? Nothing is predictable. “Spock Prime” is not in his own past, but is actually in another universe… one that began to differ from his original timeline the second Nero’s vessel came out the other side. Every event that took place from then on served to alter the future irrevocably. Cause and effect don’t apply here… young Spock and “Spock Prime” are two different individuals, and nothing “Spock Prime” does is in any danger of causing paradoxes, or altering timelines… in short, you CANNOT know what to expect from this series of movies. In this universe, nothing that happened in any existing Star Trek show or film can be counted on as “future canon”. It will not happen the way it did originally.

Now, my dad was a little upset about this, because he thought that this essentially meant that “everything we knew was erased and essentially never happened.” Not so… not only did it happen, but the original, “Prime” Star Trek universe continues to exist – it’s just now short one Ambassador Spock. :) These things happen.