So I’ve been giving this time travel/parallel worlds issue some more think – if you recall, I went on at length a while ago about how traveling back in time and changing something will not result in creating a new and different future, but an alternate one?
Well – here’s the thing. . . It bothers me that an issue is often overlooked. That issue being – the time machine itself.
Oh, and past vs present. So okay, two issues are often overlooked and bother me. And here’s the deal with them, one at a time.
If we assume Time is linear.
First off, let’s say Fred Flintstone built that time machine. It’s fancy and new and he’s all set to try it out. Barney, Wilma and Betty are there in the basement enjoying cheese and crackers, all set to watch Fred jump into that snazzy machine and do his thing.
Which he does. Fred steps inside, flips the switch, and after some impressive noises and a puff or two of smoke, he’s gone back in time a few thousand years.
Are you with me? Okay, stay with me and see if you follow. Fred is now in the year 100BC (just to pick a number). Right now – if we’re standing with Fred – nothing he’s ever known (ie; Wilma, Barney, Betty, exists. Right now, it’s the year 100BC and everyone we know has yet to be born. Right now, they don’t exist at all. Got it?
So theoretically, one could change the future and create an entirely new future with entirely new people and entirely new situations, because Right Now, they don’t even exist.
Which would mean, if Fred steps on a butterfly and Wilma is never born, when Fred goes back to his basement he’s not going back to his basement. He’s moving forward in time, to a fixed position (where he left) and it’s the luck of fate that will determine who and what he finds there. Right now, Fred isn’t going back to where he started. Fred is traveling forward in time, in his time machine, from the year 100BC. Reality was reset when he moved backwards. Now he’s moving forward, into a future that hasn’t happened yet.
Another thing that bugs me, and I finally had to just accept the possibility, is that the time machine isn’t moving. Remember the book? Or the movie, if you prefer. The time machine stayed in that room, and the world around it changed. So instead of Fred entering that machine and going anywhere, what he’s done is entered that machine and caused the world to go backwards.
The impact here isn’t just Fred moving back in time. The impact is with Barney, Wilma and Betty. When I realized Fred was creating alternate time lines, it was because I wasn’t traveling with Fred, I wanted to see what happened to Wilma, Barney and Betty if Fred went back in time and made it so Wilma is never born. I couldn’t accept that Wilma would be holding a wine glass one instant, then not there the next – because Betty and Barney are standing there talking to her. They’re gonna wonder when suddenly someone isn’t there. They’re not going to watch her go poof, then instantly not know who she was.
So if we stay in the basement and watch Fred step into his time machine, what we’re really going to see, along with Barney, Wilma and Betty, is Fred stepping into a time machine one second, and the next – we no longer exist.
When Fred hits that switch, all of reality is shoved into reverse. In an instant, we go from standing there double-dipping a cracker, to nothing. So if that’s the case, and Fred goes back in time, checks the place out, and wants to go back home, he’s actually – from this point in time (100BC) moving into the future.
Now if he’s stepped on a butterfly, and Wilma’s parents never meet, the future he’s going to land in is one that never knew a Wilma Flintstone. The Barney Rubble there never knew one, neither did his wife. In fact, it’ll be luck alone that keeps this spot Fred’s basement. It could be an outhouse in this future.
But what if he didn’t step on the butterfly? What if he got to the past, glanced around, but was such a good boy that he didn’t affect anything? He didn’t mash a bug, or snap a twig. Now he wants to go home so he hits that Future switch and goes back.
Is it still his basement? Is Wilma still there? What about Barney and Betty?
Chaos would tell us no. That the sheer act of Fred having gone and reset reality, forcing it to repeat, would change everything. Even if he didn’t do a thing, the odds of several thousand years passing with not one single, minute change taking place, are ridiculous. Somewhere along the line, over thousands of years, something’s going to be different, and that would unleash an avalanche of changes. So Fred can be as good a boy as he likes, not even step foot outside his machine, and he’s going to come back to a new reality – and a new basement.
If Time is not linear, but is – as Doctor Who put it, a mish-mash of wobbly sort of goo – then the past and future exist right now. That puts us back to my issue of alternate universes, where Fred makes a change and instantly duplicates reality, going back to one where Wilma isn’t alive, while his Wilma, Barney and Betty see Fred vanish, never to return again.
Let’s do the time warp again!