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Inside lives a goblin that feeds on indecision.

Uncounted Worlds, part 2 (Conventional Time Travel)

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The preceding hypothesis solves some classic time travel paradoxes, if we assume the following rules.

  • When a person travels backward in time, he removes himself from the time stream.
  • A traveler is not "cloned" when a major event creates a branch. Rather, he follows the branch that results from his presence.
  • When a person travels forward in time, he follows the timestream he's currently in.
  • A traveler retains all his memories and physical possessions, even if they no longer line up with current history.

The Grandfather Paradox

Shooting one's grandfather creates a decision point. In one branch, the traveler disappears -- or is retroactively erased -- from the point of view of observers within the time stream and time proceeds as it always did. In another branch, where the traveler ends up, the grandfather is dead, history changes (perhaps dramatically), and the traveler is now an anomaly, a person without a past.

Ontological Paradoxes, a.k.a. the Bootstrap Paradox

Information or objects "bootstrap" from a parent universe to a new branch. For example, a time traveler jumps backward to give something to his past self. This creates a branching point: along one timeline, the past self never received the object, and in the other he did. The traveler will remember the original timeline in which his past self never got the object.

This gets trickier with information. For example, someone travels backward in time to dictate Hamlet to Shakespeare. Who, then, wrote Hamlet? The time traveler may say the Shakespeare of the original timeline who never received the book. However, this presumes Shakespeare (or someone using his name) would have written Hamlet without interference.

The Predestination Paradox, a.k.a. Causality Loops

Since all possibilities happen simultaneously, a traveler creates a new decision point and a new timeline when and where he travels into the past. In one timeline, he disappeared into a time machine and history proceeds as if he ceased to exist; in the other, he arrives to begin the causal loop.

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Updated 04-29-2012 at 09:23 PM by fmitchell

Abstract Musings