What's Happening

This is discussion archived from a time before the current discussion method was installed.

Um... just exactly how is it "implied" in Doctor Who that "Ricky" is gay? Just because he doesn't immediately jump on Rose's bones doesn't mean he bats for the other team. There's an intensely irritating assumption right across new Who, and especially its spinoff Torchwood, that basically everyone is bisexual, if not entirely homo. Obviously this is due to the gay guy in charge of the whole thing, but this entry seems to be seeing "implications" where I can't. Or is it just me? I am just an ignorant, blind, heterosexual?

{Ununnilium}}: Taking out:

  • Ray Bradbury's 1952 short story "A Sound of Thunder", in which a time traveller visiting the distant past makes a small change, and when he returns to the future, people spell things funny and the results of the latest election were different and... everything else is pretty much the same.

...because the whole point was that it was only a small change in the first place.

Paul A: It's not so much the size of the difference that I'm picking on here, as the kind. How could any change result in these differences and only these differences?

But, since you mention it: It may have been a small change, but it was a long time ago. After millions of years of accumulation, it ought to add up to a large divergence. (Or else have damped out and made no difference at all in the end. One or the other.)

Ununnilium: Paul A: Why one or the other? The whole point is that the system is unpredictable and chaotic. A butterfly flapping its wings in Toronto may cause a tornado in Beijing... or it may cause twice as much rain in Buffalo, or it may cause a slight, cooling zephyr in Moscow, or it may not change anything at all. All levels of change are possible; you can't tell which it will be, because of the billions of variables in the system.

Let's say that the butterfly was going to pollinate a single flower on an apple tree which otherwise wouldn't have been. (No, they didn't have flowering plants back then, but they didn't actually have butterflies either.) The flower becomes an apple and falls to the ground, nourishing a tiny mammal, which now has the energy to copulate with another tiny mammal. Their offspring lives a full life but eventually gets buried in a mudslide for the next 65 million years. Said offspring's fossilized skeleton is found by a paleontologist, who uses it to prove his theory about mammilian evolution a year earlier than he otherwise would have, which means he gets a scientific grant a year earlier, which means that he donates a portion of it to charity in time for it to trickle down to John Smith's college fund, which means that John Smith gets a better job and becomes upper-class instead of middle-class, which means he can donate to the "good" political candidate's campaign fund, which means they hire a better campaign manager, which means that he wins instead of the other guy.

So why couldn't that happen?

Scifantasy: The story puts it differently. That butterfly feeds a frog. The frog has ten or a hundred children, which feed a fox, which has kids, which feed...and so on up to some pre-human. Over thousands of generations, that's a not-insignificant fraction of the human race.

Ununnilium: That works too.

Scifantasy: Fact is, both the Time Travel "small change x long time = big divergence" and the chaos theory "cause and effect do not need to be similar in scale" are described in terms of butterflies. It's not surprising, because they are related...but it's important to be clear. The problem is, Bradbury was working the first theory, and spelled it out in the book. So why is it that the only changes cetera.

I'll put that part back in the entry...

Ununnilium: Ah. Okay, so if he specifically said that a small change would become a big change, I see what you mean. Sorry, it's been a while since I read the story.
Egak: I'm working on a story where the phenomenon described by this trope is a known (by some) part of how the universe works. One of the villains (leader of one of the two Well-Intentioned Extremist groups) has manipulated this force to stave of death for nearly a millennium (though you can only tell he's a day over 25 by his hair).

Can you count how in The Terminator 3, even though they blew up all the research, the company making it, and the future technology needed to make it, Sky Net was still built and did everything exactly the same that lead to a nuclear Holocaust, Robot War, and defeat just delayed by a few years (to try an scare people by moving Sky Net's activation day from what was then the past (1997) to what was a year after it came out (2004) and now also in the past)

Fast Eddie: Oh, this is what was meant by the Asspull reference in the Terminator entry. I can wank it pretty easily: A scientist from the company in Two survived and knew about the capabilities of the bits under research. That's a big leg up on development. If you know it can be done, you just have to find out how, and you won't take "doesn't work" for an answer, you keep trying. Explains the delay of a few years.

Scifantasy: Except that in 2, the key to the whole kit and kaboodle was a neural-net chip, a physical object. Now, it's self-aware, networked, distributed, strong AI software. Right.

Fast Eddie: Man, I love these fannish discussions. Let's posit that the key to producing self-aware strong AI is a peek at a neural-net chip, or alternatively, a peek at some of the code running on one. I like the second one, actually. I'd like to have a peek at some code written by a self-aware strong AI. Even if I didn't thoroughly understand it, there's bound to be an idea or two to gank.

Scifantasy: Well, I have to imagine that code written by a strong AI isn't going to bother with high-level languages, so if you'd care to dissect machine code in this day and age...And that's assuming you'll be lucky enough to be able to read it as machine code at all. This is strong AI we're talking about, the Herald of the Singularity. *grin*

(Too much Vinge?)

Fast Eddie: No such thing as too much Vinge. Can't happen. Anyway, I'll stand by the idea that, given a peek at the back of the how-to-book, a researcher would be highly motivated to build some part of AI. Which might easily be enough to bootstrap the rest.

Scifantasy: I dunno, I heard Rainbows End was pretty meh. Plus, if you shoot for Vinge and miss, you end up in Stross territory. Don't get me wrong, Stross has talent—the Atrocity Archive books, Lovecraftian fantasy horror meets IT with a sense of humor, are great—but his Singularity-style SF didn't really work for me.

Anyway. Stand by it if you want, but it's pretty flimsy, you realize. Even if the motivation was there, without knowing how to start—and remember that Dyson, in Terminator 2 (who I want to call "Henry," for his role now on Eureka), hadn't cracked the chip yet—and without the example, I doubt they could have pulled it off at all.

(Oh, and I yanked the Terminator entry out of Ass Pull and fixed up the one in Dis Continuity.)

Maarvarq: I put up an example from Primeval, and it's just vanished. Any reason?

Adam850: Server puked up it data from mid-October till now. It may get restored, It may not.

Maarvarq: OK, thanks. I'd made a few other additions and they'd all vanished too. Now I know.
Looney Toons: Natter nukage:

  • This world's Ray Bradbury is still alive. What happened to yours?

from the "Sound of Thunder" example.
Sikon: Okay, a spoiler where everything is spoilered but the word "LOST" is plain ridiculous.

Taking out:
  • Subverted in the RPG Unhallowed Metropolis. After the dead rise from their graves in Victorian times, nobody famous who wasn't already alive seems to exist - no Hitler of any sort, no Winston Churchill, etc.
    • Which is pretty much how an alternate timeline should go down, really. Such a huge event would disrupt the actions of pretty much everyone in the world as they reacted to it; after that point, practically no couple wouldn have intercourse at the exact same moment they did in "our" timeline, so different eggs would be fertilized with different spermatozoa, leading to a completely different global population after the then-current generation is gone.

As described, this is an aversion, not a subversion.

  • Another Star Trek: The Next Generation episode had Worf visiting a whole bunch of universes where one little thing had been different in the past. Picard had been killed by the Borg in a couple of them, he was married to Troi in some others and there was one Crapsack World where Riker was captain of a battered Enterprise in a Federation that had been nearly destroyed by the Borg.

There's no indication of how long ago these universes split, so no reason to believe their level of divergence is in any way weird.

  • Or maybe he's just doing his good deeds somewhere else at the time. Universes are damn big, you know.
  • That's never stopped him before. Besides, he's a time traveler - what does "at the time" even mean for him?
  • The clocks always run in San Dimas, you know.
  • Maybe the alternate Doctor never made it to Earth. That or he's a jerk.
    • Or he's not a pro-human bigot.;)

Sikon: The Lost spoiler is useless given that everything but the series name is hidden.

Daibhid C: Does The Bartimaeus Trilogy count. I've only read the first book, but one thing that struck me was how "Magicians ruling the British Empire" didn't mean Gladstone and Disraeli weren't Prime Ministers, it just meant they were magicians.

Old_Ropes: from the TV examples: "Mud, a BBC live action children's series from the 1990s, ended with the characters returning from a trip back in time and accidentally bringing Christopher Columbus home with them. They go home and everything seems normal, until they try to watch Baywatch which their mother has never heard of, because America has never been discovered."

I remember this specific episode - I knew how stupid it was at the time, too.

However, what I'm failing to see is how this is an example of In Spite of a Nail. Surely it's For Want of a Nail instead?