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Inside lives a goblin that feeds on indecision.

Uncounted Worlds, part 2.1 (Consequences of Time Travel)

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Time travel, as described, moves a traveler back and forth along timelines. From the perspective of a naive time traveler, there's only one timeline that changes every time the traveler changes the "past".

Some other consequences of this model:

  • Travel to the absolute past is impossible. Every trip backwards forks a new timeline; the original past still exists.
  • The traveler enters a world that started identically to a particular moment, but will drift based on travelers' actions. Depending on a chain of events resulting from their actions, this timeline will be lost in the "fuzz", form a hysteresis, or fork off into a brand new timeline.
  • The "fuzz" demonstrates a tendency for timelines to drift back toward their parent. Stepping on a butterfly will go unnoticed. In most cases a human being, even with advanced technology, must expend considerable effort to convert their parallel into a major timeline ... although accidents do happen.
  • If travelers want to "fix" an altered timeline, they must do so right then. Travelling forward and then back will put them in yet another copy of that timeline; even if they convert this copy into a hysteresis the branch they created on their last trip will still exist.
  • A second trip backward will put would-be rescuers in yet another parallel timeline.
  • Some travelers attempt to aid their fellows by traveling to an earlier time. Even if travelers make no changes to the timeline that aren't lost in the "fuzz", their aid has at best a 50% of reaching the intended target. Odds approach 1 out of 2 to the Nth power, where N is the number of branches forking off the timeline between the time the aid arrives and the time the original travelers receive it. ("Interesting" time periods might have thousands of branches.) An intervening hysteresis has a 50% chance of delaying help until its two loops meet.
  • Travelers can reliably receive support from their home time through a continuous gateway between two times. Advanced time travel technology can "lock" onto a particular timeline without maintaining a continuous connection, as long as no further branches emerge from that timeline.

P.S. The observant might note that the "fuzz" consists of hystereses which are too brief or too similar to the major timeline for most travelers to notice.

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Updated 04-29-2012 at 09:16 PM by fmitchell

Abstract Musings