Life’s Great Mysteries: Marth on Time Travel

After reading a recent post from Yumeka, I wanted to write about my own theory of time travel, in a sense rewrite the comment I made. Let me preface this by saying that basically everything here is pure speculation. I simply look for an explanation that has the fewest inconsistencies…it could be totally wrong for all I know. Time travel is a topic that is often rife with paradoxical scenarios, so I just try to address as many of these as possible. Also, this is a purely theoretical interpretation of the concept with no considerations to the practical implications of actually creating a device that can achieve it (I don’t really care about black holes and whatnot for this).

In general, there are two broad interpretations of time travel. First, there’s the idea that time is immutable, so any trip back in time would have already happened. In this scenario (let’s call it the “constant theory” of time), it’s impossible to change history because whatever you do should already have happened. The second case (let’s call it the “variable theory” of time) is simply the opposite, where going back in time creates a new timeline with an altered future. Each case has a subset of cases with minor differences, but for the most part, all theories of time travel will fall into one of these categories.

My idea is a subset of the variable theory of time, so let’s look at the constant theory first. This is a hypothetical scenario that a friend of mine proposed in a random Skype conversation. Say you’ve been offered this choice: you could gain Jedi powers (he’s a huge Star Wars fan, can’t you tell?) or gain access to a Delorean like the one in Back to the Future. My friend asks “why can’t you just pick the Delorean, then travel back to the past to tell yourself to pick the Jedi powers?” Well, according to the constant theory of time, a second “you” would appear as you’re making this brilliant plan to tell you to go for the Jedi powers.

In order for the constant theory to hold, you must somehow be stopped from choosing Jedi powers because doing so will change history. But in this scenario, the choice is a result of your will, so there really isn’t anything stopping you from just changing it. It’s almost as if some personification of time itself has to stop you. Granted, the whole scenario is a bit much, but even in popular media, it seems like there is some unknown force that makes the protagonist repeat the actions from his past (almost like everything is too convenient).

For example, when Kyon goes back in time in Haruhi and when Harry Potter uses the Time Turner, they are both instructed not to do anything that could cause a temporal paradox because of the horrible consequences or whatever. But what exactly is it stopping them from just doing whatever they want? What’s to stop Kyon from taking the younger Haruhi to a police box rather than help her sneak into the school? What’s to stop Harry from just pushing his past self off a cliff? I don’t know about you, but I have trouble accepting something like “time will find a way to maintain everything.”

This counts as time travel, right?
Now that I’ve successfully rambled for a bit, let’s get on to my own theory (let’s arbitrarily call it “Y theory”). The basis comes mostly from Steins;Gate: the concept of an infinite set of timelines (I say they’re parallel in Y theory whereas Steins;Gate has branching of lines to account for alternate futures). In Y theory, it’s almost like a time traveler is moving across dimensions rather than moving forward or backwards in time. So let’s say you wish to travel back to the year 1934 at some specific date and time. Rather than moving yourself backwards in time, the idea is that you somehow move yourself to a nearby parallel line with a universe that is identical to your origin, but has only reached the year 1934…theoretically possible in an infinite number of lines.

That’s the core of the idea. Notice a few things:

  1. Obviously, this idea stems from the many-worlds interpretation by Hugh Everett from quantum physic. Basically, it’s a theory that for every universe, there exists an infinite number of universes for all possible scenarios within that universe, and it’s a theory I’ve always liked.
  2. In Y theory, you can change the future, but only in the destination timeline. It doesn’t change the events that have occurred in your point of origin (the idea being that you can change, but you can’t undo).
  3. You’re going to a timeline where the events up to 1934 have occurred, but that doesn’t mean that the events after 1934 will occur. This idea assumes that there is no encompassing force governing time, so there is no “hard drive” holding “history data” for events after 1934. This may make little sense going backwards, but it makes a lot more sense going forwards. If you travel to a timeline in a future year, then returning to your timeline doesn’t ensure the events that you have seen because you’ve only seen one of the possibilities.
  4. If you wish to believe the idea from Steins;Gate of determinism of certain events, that’s perfectly fine in Y theory (I think they call it an Attractor Field). The thought is that if you travel to a line within a certain divergence factor of your origin, events such as a person’s death will always gravitate to a certain point in time despite a difference in events leading up to the death. Although, Steins;Gate attributes this to a converging point in the world lines, it’s fine to think of the same idea happening in parallel lines.

To finish up, I want to specify something that differs from what Steins;Gate proposes in order to cover some inconsistencies. When Rintarou travels to the past in some parts of the show, he basically overwrites the Rintarou of that past time period and takes his place. While this idea makes for a very entertaining show and it follows the logic of the show (sending messages back), I feel like it runs into some issues. For example, what happens if you travel to a point in the past further back than your birth? There would be no “you” to inhabit.

Would you inhabit someone else to make up for it? If so, what are the parameters for who it must be? There would likely be plenty of ancestors available. What if the only two ancestors available are both comatose and will awaken later and fall in love? In my theory, a time traveler is moving to another dimension, and is thus “an outsider,” an extra person in that dimension. So if Rintarou traveled in the way I have outlined, he would go back and be a second instance of himself (which he does later in the show).

And that’s basically it. Marth’s theory of time travel. If you were able to follow all of that, then great! Let me know what you think. If something isn’t explained well enough, let me know in the comments below and I’ll see what I can do to help clear things up. I have a lot of fun thinking about these sorts of things. Sure hope it was entertaining…

Anime Review: Steins;Gate


I was so so late to watch this show. Basically, the show centers around Okabe Rintarou, a mad scientist who actually creates a microwave that can send text messages into the past with his friends. Basically, it’s a story about time travel, with conspiracy theories thrown around too. The age-old time travel story of how even little changes have such huge effects on history.

If we include the OVA that came out recently, which actually wraps up the story nicely, I’d say that the ending of the show was incredibly well done. Still, stories about time travel can be dangerous and I think this show becomes a little too easy to predict at some points. However, the series makes up for it with zany twists pretty much everywhere that keep every episode exciting (no…there’s no Endless Eight, so relax).

Story: Score 91/100

The characters in this show are pretty much the best part. Okabe Rintarou is probably the most unpredictable character I’ve ever seen. He can make any scene goofy, but he can also make it completely serious. Alongside him, we have Makise Kurisu, who is a fairly classic tsundere, but still amusing. Shiina Mayuri, the cheery airhead, and Hashida Itaru, the computer-savvy otaku, finish off the core characters of the show, and a few supporting characters that pop up a bit later round off the cast. I don’t really think there was a character that I hated (not even the bad guys).

Characters: Score 97/100

The animation in this show was pretty good…nothing so bad that I would notice. No complaints here. The music was pretty good when it showed up. There were a lot of points where the music just wasn’t there, but I felt like it fit the situations. The idea was to make everything pretty mysterious, and the effect was there. Hacking to the Gate is a pretty good song, but I’d have to say it’s a bit overrated. I think I enjoyed the ending theme more just because it has a bit more of a chill tune to it, with the mysterious (almost adventurous) theme that fits the show.

Animation: Score 90/100

Music: Score 92/100

They didn’t lie when they said this show rocked. I definitely enjoyed it. I might even look into the visual novel if I ever have the time. What I thought was incredibly interesting is how they approached time travel. In my eyes, there are two possibilities for the mechanism of time travel. The first is that history is absolute, so if you go back in time, you won’t change history because history would be such that you were meant to go back. The second is that history is flexible, so going back in time either changes the future or creates a separate future (like Trunks in DBZ). The cool part is that this show managed to make both of those true. They never really explain how it makes sense, but I thought it was pretty interesting.

It’s tough to create a confident main character, but I like how this show chooses to pull it off by making him crazy. He doesn’t have to be a genius to be super confident like Lelouch or Light…he’s just nuts. There was a lot of hype for this show before I watched it, and admittedly it made the time travel parts a little bit too predictable. Still, I’d say the hype is very well placed…I liked the show anyway. I can definitely see why it’s so well-rated. Look forward to the movie when it comes out.

Final Score: 93/100