Posted 25 February 2003 - 11:49 PM
I wish I'd been around to chip in earlier, rather than throwing in my random thoughts at the end. I may seem to be repeating stuff others said, but (unless I accidentally overlooked something), I always add a twist that (I felt) had important consequences.
(more thoughts will follow. This post is already too long)
PARALLEL (BRANCHING, DIVERGING) UNIVERSES
I think that the "Many Worlds Hypothesis" [MWH] is the only sensible resolution of the eps to date. Basically MWH interprets Schroedinger Cat to mean that rather than 'reality' being a waveform of "50-50 live or dead cat", we can only generate a hybrid equation with two possible outcomes - two otherwise identical branched universes: one with a live cat, and another with a dead cat. It's impossible to know which one *YOU* are in until you open the box. "Reality lottery: scratch the wax to see if you're a winner" Meanwhile, there is another you in another universe, making the opposite universe.
Such hybrid equations are quite common in advanced sciences. In chemistry or particle physics, for example, we often calculate hybrid states when we can't directly calculate a property we don't fully understand. Most of you have heard of aromatic compounds (like benzene) which are more stable than you'd expect; aromatics are just one example of a larger class of "resonance structures" where there are two or more allowable alternatives (e.g. bond structures) and the actual observed behavior suggests a mixture with some of the benefits (or partial energy contributions, etc.) from each allowed state. In reality, there isn't a mixed state, but a different state that is *approximated* by mixing the states of simpler theories.
This (to many scientists) makes the role of the observer less 'mystical'. The Observer doesn't FORCE the Universe to assume one state or the other by collapsing the Schroedinger wave; s/he simply OBSERVES the wave and LEARNS which branch s/he is in. In another branch, an identical observer is making the opposite observation.
MWH isn't quite as tidy as I make it seem (or it'd be universally accepted). The underlying quantum event wasn't the death of a cat - that was just an amplified effect for the student's benefit. The quantum event is the decay of an atom -- so the MWH would spawn new universes every time any of its atoms decayed (or failed to decay) This leads to all sorts of potentially messy speculations like quantized time, etc.
This is as good a time as any to toss in the idea of "reinforcing branches". The Romans had a maxim that "A difference that makes no difference *is* no difference" (later a basic legal principle: De minimimus non curat lex") In the case of Schroedinger's Cat, the atom could have decayed at any nano-jiffy during the time the box was sealed - the cat would be equally dead. Each nanojiffy when the atom could have decayed should have spawned a universe split, but all othose uncountable nanojiffies would add up to two distinct ourcomes. We can consider them to have merged.
I mention this because under strict MWH, evach atom in the universe has some probability of decaying in every nano-jiffy (even a single proton, H-1, whose half life is longer than the expected life of the universe, still *has* a half-life, and hence, a chance of decay) This means a universe where EVERY SINGLE ATOM simultaneously spawns a parallel unierse every nanojiffy. Our perceptions (and probably our math) would merge all the branches that made no difference, jusI as we merge allowable alternative chemical structures to approximate resonance structures.
A MATTER OF SCALE AND THE SCALE OF MATTER
I believe that Rhade's scar was deliberately intended to PROVE that there were different branches. Rhade I never had the scar (he died without killing -or meeting- tyr). Only a mismatch between Rhade II and Dylan I could result in the opening scene we saw.
Instead of looking at it on a human scale, let's look more closely. Let's say Rhade ate a hot dog just before the UTN Battle Drill. Where are the atoms of that hot dog at the end of the episode? To Rhade I (who was probably tossed out an airlock to avoid confusion), 100% of the hot dog atoms are in his belly, but to Rhade II, some of the atoms became, and probably remain as, part of his tissues. If Rhade I and II were from the same universe (branch) the same atoms would have to be in two places at once. If they are from different branches, there's far less paradox, because the nature of branching reality is that every single particle is 'cloned' at every branch.
[This is one part of the MWH that give some physicists headaches]
If you look at TUM (or ADDB, Ouroboros, etc.) on any level other than a human scale (plotline), you'll find paradoxes in every theory I've read or considered thus far, except MWH.
RHADE II'S MOTIVATION for "SELF-SACRIFICE"
I understand Lil's reservations, but I think I can answer them: Rhade II hasn't been fighting for "his own" universe branch since ADDB. When he "changed the past", he was actually transiting from one branch (events as they would have happened without Trance's time-piloting) to another
If Rhade II hasn't been in his original timeline branch for years, how can he justify his all his struggles? How can he continue? He must decide that whatever branch he is experiencing in the "real" one to him. It's a tricky point, but necessary under MWH. It's also very pragmatic. We ALL live our lives as we experience them, with no regard for any abstract quantum theories that may underly them. The 'real' universe for anyone who jumps branches is the one s/he experiences at a given moment, not the one where they were 'born'.
But if you ask me, there WAS a gigantic plot hole, which some of you have heard me bemoan for weeks: Why would Rhade have to die at all? Why couldn't he remain alive and help guide Dylan through the politics (if not the pitfalls) of the coming years? The reset (changing the identity of a central historic character from Rhade to Dylan) will send Rhade -and Trance- back to Square One as far as RECALLING specific events is concerned (the slightest change has cascading efffects), but Rhade still has very helpful knowledge about the state of the Post-Fall universe.
TRANCE AND THE EXPERIENCE OF TIME
A lot of what I've said about the experience and pragmatic approach to time doesn't apply to Trance, who clearly experiences both time and alternate branched universes differently than we do.
We've seen that Trance can forsee (to a limited degree) alternate branches. Her limitations are what make her (and her plight) interesting. I think this could have been handled a bit better over the course of the series. I'll concede that it was handled quite well sometimes, but... 'nuff said.
I just wanted to throw this fact into the mix. I won't speculate further on the exact nature of her abilities or limitations, because the bonsai in TDB was a metaphor for something we can't directly experience (certainly not on a 2-D TV in a mere 42 min) Therefore, one must be cautious in interpreting it.
THE RIGHT HORSE -er- TOOL
No, not the episode, the concept. As far back as ADDB, I speculated that Trance (or the group she represents) could tweak events to bring together the 'right' Tyr, the 'right' Beka, and the 'right' Harper for maximum utility, drawing from similar but not ientical universes. For example, I used to make a minikit -a mix of metric/inch sockets, and other random parts that happened to be most useful for a given car (at one time, cars sold in the US were not 100% metric, but used many metric parts)
In ADDB, each character seemed to have a slightly different recollection of the Battle of Witchhead nebula. This is completely understandable, given their differing backgrounds, and the general collapse of civilization. However the same 'excuse' could cover a wealth of mismatches. The crew might be collected from different branches, and never realize it. There are so many little moments that could tie into this. Sid's message to Beka (TPTWHE) was lost in the mail for three years, yet Beka still showed up at a pivotal moment -- this is just one of many coincidences that might make more sense if Trance (or someone) re-ran the timelines, trading in a mix-and-match piece, if the existing crew seemed to be a bad match, or tweaking things slightly, so that genuine coincidences served a purpose in the Grand Plan.
Let me say right now that I think Trance was Forecasting in
In TUM, I think Trance decided that Rhade was just the wrong tool. Sometimes you can get a nut off with pliers (hey! no comments on my sex life). Pliers are more useful in general situations, too, but a wise temporal mechanic will abandon the pliers for a less versatile wrench before he strips his nuts.
I'd forgive A LOT if Dylan's praeternatural knack for doing the right thing (however far-fetched) actually came from being dragged back and forth through time a few thousands times, exploring different alternatives. Maybe Dylan was less "The Chosen One" than the most convenient possibly suitable candidate who happened to be on the ship which happened to get time-dilated at Hepaistos. Then Andromeda truly is the star of the show on a pandimensional scale.
Then Captain Terrific can be a joe - in many ways an impressive joe, but nonetheless, just a guy instead of a superhero. Many of the traits that we criticize would make perfect sense. Remember Crazy Dylan? I actually started to make sense - more sense than any ultra sane Captain Terrific would have been. Wisecracking and glib Dylan might make perfect sense if he's -not quite a puppet, but a player- who's been dragged back and forth though successive iterations of critical junctures of time until all the coincidences lined up and an acceptable answer 'just fell out'.
HOW "GLIB DYLAN" COULD BE A STROKE OF LITERARY GENIUS
Think about it: if the time-looping is perfect, Dylan's experience would be: jeez, ever since Hepaistos, things just work out, no matter how off-beat my ideas seem even to me. Heck, sometimes I do things on whim that are clearly against all my training and judgement, and they turn out to be strokes of genius. What gives? (He wouldn't know he'd gone by the book 1000 times and failed.)
Generally, SF always posits some trace after-effects from successive iterations of a time loop. While you might argue some sort of Heisenberg effect, it's really just a literary necessity: "Groundhog day" would be boring if no one noticed the loop. In a formal sense, Trance performs the role of 'the observer' (even if we rarely see how event look from her perspective), but an incidental effect (a once-earnest Dylan becoming glib and finding it almost impossible to take hos won predicaments seriously) would not only make sense, it would be almost inevitable, if Dylan's only surviving memories were of the times he did something rather silly -- and it worked anyway.
At any given critical juncture, Dylan would have a handful of sensible by-the-book responses. In many cases those would be dead-ends, repeated thousands of times, and ending in failure (His most dangerous enemies would typically be able to foresee the sensible reactions and plan for them) Therefore, a disproportionate number of his "great plans" would be random slap-happy moments of not caring -- and to him, this would seem to work (whether he liked it or not!)
In "normal life" slap-happy actions tend to fail or get you killed, and sensible decisions tend to work. But this isn't normal life, 'getting killed' isn't the end of the game, and only successes are remembered no matter how silly the action that produced them. It'd drive anyone nuts. Ladies and gentlemen, Logic has left the building
I happen to believe that Trance was projecting (predicting) in TDB, rather than genuinely rewinding time, but if you add in ADDB and the other shows, then re-iterating a critical patch of time isn't out of the question.
I mention this because I think it's a unique, but quite inevitable psychological effect on a character in this kind of "Repeat until it works" scenario. I don't seriously think this is Dylan's situation