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Help with unique time travel mechanic?:
I'm taking over a certain project, which is going fine except for one thing: time travel is involved. And it's time travel that as far as I can tell doesn't make any sense at all. It's all a bit convoluted, so I'm going to give as few relevant details as possible: 1) Character A is killed in the course of the story's events. 2) Characters B and C are sad, and want A back, so they team up with Character D to create a time machine. 3) B, C, and D try to test the time machine by sending a mop back in time, but it catches fire, so they know it's wrong and start making tweaks. 4) Later on, B, C, and D, having learned from their mistakes, believe they have completed the time machine properly. So, this time they test it by sending a note back in time to earlier in the evening, that says, "Do not try to send the mop back in time. It will ust catch fire." 5) They send the note back in time, the time machine flashes and emites a "wave", and the mop pops back into existence, leaning on the wall. 6) C notes that this is impossible, because they wouldn't have been able to fix the time machine if they hadn't sent the mop back in time first. 7) D says that the time machine avoids paradoxes by emitting the wave that it does. He says that they are NOT in an alternate universe, and they are NOT in an aternate timeline, because that is impossible. He says, "We're not in an alternate universe. The time machine has emitted a wave that reconfigures 'our' time to reflect the changes made by the time machine in the past. We're not creating a new timeline here. That is impossible. We're attempting to FIX our time, and the realignment wave helps us do that." 8) The characters note that they have memories of burning the mop, but no memories of receiving a note or -not- burning the mop. So their original memories are intact. Unfortunately, no more questions are asked and no more explanations given, and I have to figure out how the hell this thing works. To me, it sounds completely implausible (as implausible as time machines get, anyway), and I can't figure out how it could work. They're selectively changing the past— not burning the mop made it reappear, but not burning it did not make any changes. So they changed event 1, but did not change event 2. And this doesn't help with CHARACTERS going back in time at all. There's no telling how a cognitive person going back in time, actively changing things, and existing, would affect the "present". Could he waltz back up to the time machine "camp" and meet himself? One side of the argument says yes, because they sent a note back and interacted with the world, but the other side says no, because they don't have memories of the event and thus never met him, and all that "could" happen is a copy of the character could pop into existence. BUT, then at what point does time "catch up"? At what point does the machine say, "this is a change" and reflect it in the "present"? I can't wrap my head around it, but I know there are plenty of complicated time travel mechanics out there, so surely someone from around here can think of something. Any ideas?
edited 3rd Jun '12 8:50:57 AM by doomdragon6
The one idea that springs to mind the machine, either as a primary function (meaning that it's not really a time machine) or a secondary function (which seems to be the intent in the description given) alters reality to produce a stable present. Why this apparently doesn't affect human memory is another question (and perhaps even a potential plot point - if a person goes back, they might remember things that are lost to those who did not, for example, or the reason for the lack of alteration to human memory might become either useful or an obstacle). On a smaller scale, perhaps the wave only affects the machine, re-writing reality such that the machine is still present an unchanged. (This appears to fail to explain their unaltered memories, however...) Another thought might be that the machine causes a small "pocket timeline" to be created, splitting off at the destination point of the time machine, which is then "dovetailed" into the "main" timeline; this might explain why they remember nothing of the changes and why the machine still exists, although how it seems to selectively re-integrate the timelines (the mop reappears but their alternate selves do not) I do not know. Perhaps the machine is capable of reading intent, and thus integrates whatever results are desired? (This might also make for a few interesting points: perhaps affecting things too far back results in too many changes for it to handle, so elements intended for integration may be missed, or perhaps a sentient being going back faces non-existence by virtue of not being re-integrated...) Overall... It does seem rather difficult to make sense of this scenario, I fear. ^^; Can you not ask the original author for information?
edited 3rd Jun '12 9:24:58 AM by ArsThaumaturgis
Just so that I can understand it more clearly myself we've got: -Attempted use of time machine sets the mop on fire—it's broken. -They fix it, send a note back to themselves before the attempted use. -Mop appears untouched in their present, they have no memory of the changed timeline. So a few possibilities I can think of: The initial use of the machine created some sort of error, disrupting the timeline and causing strange effects for them surrounding that point in time. The time machine has some sort of internal paradox-aversion mechanism. If a paradox is created, it separates out the multiple paradox states, then merges them together at the end point of the paradox. The paradox would span from receiving the note to sending it, so after they sent it, paradox correction would kick in, and the mop would appear but they would remember the initial failed attempt. The time machine has some kind of area effect that preserves memory of the 'prime timeline' for those who (if we want to go the quantum route) are observing it.
See ALL the stars!I think that you're going to run into problems in terms of viewer understanding unless your time travel mechanics generate consistent timeline(s). Unless you are writing something similar in tone to Meet the Robinsons, Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory and the like will almost certainly cause plot and logic coherency issues.
Da Rules excuse all the inaccuracy in the world. Listen to them, not me.
After considering it for a bit, this is what I think the 'reconfiguration wave' is supposed to work: Since timelines are being 'fixed', it implies that changes are intended to take place to the prime timeline. So it's a way of, basically, avoiding the butterfly effect, I suppose. The primary result of the change to the timeline is preserved, while other changes that would have ensued are dropped when the wave merges the changed timeline back with the prime timeline. This leads to strange questions though, not the least of which being how exactly the timelines are evaluated and the intent of the changes is determined (or maybe it's not, and the time machine interprets 'Russia wins Cold War, becomes head of Communist New World Order' as the intended effect of going back in time to meet your grandfather). Are you sure you can't ask the guy what his intentions were for the weird system? Is it possible to retcon or is that piece of it already set in stone?
The reason it's confusing is because it's inconsistent and arbitrary. If you want time travel to have certain effects and not others, you can simply declare it does and have the story progress that way, but you're not going to be able to scientifically/logically justify it. There's not really a work around for that.
edited 4th Jun '12 10:35:12 AM by Paul3
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