Friday, May 30, 2008

I swear I thought I was making this up.

I recently stumbled across a YouTube video at, featuring physicist Michio Kaku talking about time travel:

His solution to the risk of creating paradoxes by 'going back in time and changing something that would keep you from going back and making the change' is that traveling back in time creates a new "branch" on the timeline. So the grandfather you kill is never your own grandfather; he's the grandfather of your identical twin on a separate timeline.

This is pretty much how I eliminated time travel paradoxes in V&V, and still do in Living Legends (though I express it in terms of those parallel timelines already existing as parallel universes, rather than being created when you travel there).

Now, I'm no physicist, but I try to keep myself informed, and I have to say that Michio Kaku sounds awfully certain that this is the "official" current view in physics. As far as I've ever seen, theoretical physicists are almost never in that much agreement. Still, it was cool to hear the bullshit I thought I was making up get kind of supported by a real physicist.

-Jeff Dee


At 9:32 PM, Blogger Mark Hughes said...

Hey, welcome back to blogging, Jeff!

Dresden Codak ( has been doing a story based on this, with time travel through wormholes creating parallel universes.

It starts right after the RPG session: (

At 8:56 AM, Blogger Kazim said...


There's a page that I enjoy which tries to treat a theory of time travel pretty seriously as he uses it to discuss time travel movies. It is:

I like his writing, although I think he's a little bit too anal in demanding that movies conform to HIS OWN time travel theory. He doesn't allow parallel universes, he prefers that the new universe overwrite the old one and eventually stabilizes on a final version.

At 8:51 AM, Blogger mikkyD said...

Followed this from AE site. The 'many worlds' interpretation of quantum mechanics has been around since 1928 (Dirac and Shrodinger). It forms the basis of QED (Feynman, Swinger, Tomanga) since 1948. It is based on the multiple paths of particles between two points of travel where the probability of the path taken is (loosely) a function of the interpretation. It all revolves around the quantum uncertainty of Heisenberg. Maybe you had heard of it in the past but subconsiously forgot.

At 6:25 PM, Blogger Jeff Dee said...

Thanks, mikkyd. I wasn't claiming to have invented the many worlds interpretation of quantum physics, only surprised to hear a physicist describing it in a way that matches how I've dealt with time paradoxes *in stories*. And on another forum, I've been informed that I probably got *that* from a 70's issue of The Fantastic Four ;-)

At 10:45 AM, Blogger Ant said...

The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe (SGU) has a terrific interview in episode 182 with Michio Kaku. Check it out.

He explains Einstein (the death of) as the reason he got into physics. He explains string theory and m theory (membrane theory). He explains that if you compress m theory, which is in 11 dimensions, into 10 dimensions (apparently there's only 5 ways you can do this), you can see string theory (in particular, the 5 equations of it, in it). He tells us that we "fell over" string theory way too early 50 odd years ago, and that because we discovered it earlier than we should have, it's not a final theory.

Importantly, he discusses the differences between the general belief of physicists and his slightly different take on the implications of m theory (ie splat theory vs his own theory).

NOTE: The above is expressed in way too condensed format. I'm sure you'll enjoy listening to it JDee. The link to the podcast is:

At 5:50 PM, Blogger Jeff Dee said...

I am a regular listener of The Skeptics Guide to the Universe, and so I heard that episode (and loved it). The SGU crew are great!

At 4:34 AM, Blogger Gumba said...

I guess reality's more fucked up than we've been used to expect.

At 11:45 AM, Blogger Sparrowhawk said...

Just thought I'd mention a book I read that had this "branching" theory. It's a scifi book by a guy named Neal Asher called "Cowl". That is all.

At 4:30 PM, Blogger Ing said...

Cool, this is what we were taught in physics class. It was actually on the final as a thought experiment for violating the law of conservation of mass and energy. The answer was to set up a worm hole that opens at an angle away from itself 3 seconds earlier. Then roll a ball at a set speed (we had to actually do the math). At the right speed the ball will "roll" out of the hole before it enters, hit itself and knock itself off path...creating a new ball and thus new mater for "our" time line. I have no idea if it's actually feasible, but it's fun to think about.

At 10:37 PM, Blogger SkeleTony said...

On a personal note, I have never liked the 'Parallel dimensions' rationalization for time travel. While I don't believe it is possible to travel time (backwards at the very least), it bothers me when an otherwise interesting story device is rendered inert because the time traveler never actually traveled time. He just went dimension hopping. He did not assassinate Hitler leading to a strange revision of history wherein Hitler's secret son has taken over a small Germanic country and plots revenge for his dad by finishing his work. No...he just went to some irrelevant dimension that only the 'traveler' has to worry about.
Just does not feel right.


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