8FOLD/META: About the Author # 1: Tom Russell

martinphipps2 at yahoo.com martinphipps2 at yahoo.com
Fri Apr 22 19:27:21 PDT 2005

Andrew Perron wrote:
> On Fri, 15 Apr 2005 18:01:39 +0000 (UTC), martinphipps2 at yahoo.com
> wrote:
> > See now, this would be the one argument in favour of alternate
> > universes as you referred to above.  The same characters in the
> > universe have a certain "feel" but change the setting and you
> > everything.  How do these characters behave under different
> > circumstances?  Are they even the same characters?  Now you can
> > stories with the same basic characters but appeal to a whole new
> > audience.
> This, I think, leads to the greatest unexplored aspect of alternate
> universes.  What happens in everday life when the public discovers
> that there's a world where you exist... but your life went slightly
> differently?  Everyone has their own personal "What If"s, after all.
> And what if you discovered you went down the *wrong* path?
> I just think that'd be cool. ``v

There are two kinds of alternate universe stories: stories in which the
characters think that there universe is the only one and stories in
which characters meet their counterparts in other universes.  The
former stories are just stories told with familiar characters but the
latter stories have a sense of unreality, even for the characters
involved.  Is the alternate you a copy of you or is it the real you and
you are the copy?  Or are neither of you real?  You could argue that
the different timelines are both equally valid but, even so, the
psychological effect would be that you are no longer unique.

The irony, of course, is that the Many Worlds Hypothesis was given
credibility by those trying to explain quantum mechanics.  The idea was
not that many worlds actually existed but that our world was the
superposition of many worlds and what you see at any given time may be
a matter of random chance (eg. Schrodinger's cat is equally alive or
dead until you open the box).  Einstein dismissed this idea and said
"God does not play dice with the universe".

Nowadays, it seems as though physicists are agreeing more any more with
Einstein: people talk about information theory and chaos theory make
the distinction between a determinant universe and a predictable one.
The idea is that your fate may already be determined but no psychic is
going to tell you what it is, and nor can any physicist.

When Feynman developed his diagrams to describe quantum processes, he
noticed that he could turn these diagrams upside down and they would
still make sense, that the direction of time is irrelevent in quantum
mechanics.  Worse, some quantum processes seem to violate causality,
that causes sometimes happen before effects.  Higher level diagrams
even have causal loops in which the effect of one cause is also its
cause.  Feynman pointed out that a photon doesn't know if it is
travelling forward in time or backward.  Why then do we only see events
that have happened and not events that will happen?

Stephen Hawking explained how this could be in, of all places, his book
_A Brief History of Time_.  He pointed out that the human brain is a
biological machine and is therefore governed by the second law of
thermodynamics.  In a nutshell, this would mean that time is an
illusion, that we only distinguish what has happened and what will
happen based on the fact that we remember the past but not the future.

The time travel paradox might not be science fiction anymore: it may
one day be possible to send messages back in time.  The catch is that
the laws of physics might prevent you from doing anything about it: if
you learn that your mother will die next year in the Alpha Century
system, for example, and still not be able to warn her in time.
Physicists see this sort of thing happen all the time on the quantum
level: indeed, the idea of individual particles going backwards and
forwards in time can explain the concepts of self-interaction and

Anyway, I don't keep up with this stuff as much as I should, but I do
keep it all in mind if I write a story about alternate universes or
time travel.


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