A Plot-Motivated Theory of Time Travel

I’ve recently dreamed up a consistent model of time travel specifically designed to allow for good science fiction.

Up until now, I’ve typically used a branching-timeline model for the sake of simplicity, but it leaves much to desire in the way of plot: each time traveler finds themselves in their own, separate timeline, and there is eventually very little point in killing Hitler because he’s still alive in the original. To remedy that, I now introduce… [drumroll….]

The Ripple Model:
The central idea is an old cliche in lousy science fiction: you change the past, and the change propagates through the timeline until it hits the present. In most cases, it leads to absurdities like Back to the Future (“Oh my gawd, I’m fading! I have only hours of vaguely-defined metatime to make sure my parents meet, thereby leading to my conception, which is apparently not already guaranteed because only I have free will in this movie!”)

However, this approach can be made rigorous. Consider the following:

You leave 2010 and appear instantly (meaning that no subjective time passes) in 1930 in Germany. You shoot Hitler and immediately leave for France, 1940. Twenty seconds later, the world changes around you: the war-torn nation is replaced by a happy pastoral scene, but you are unaffected because your own history (starting from 2010 and including the time travel) is intact. You jump to the present, and find that WWII still happened. Seventy seconds later, the encyclopedia entry in front of you disappears, but you hardly notice, because a tiny fraction of a second after that, the ripple swallows your own remaining history and you disappear. Nearby, an alternative version of you that has never heard of Hitler or WWII carries on.
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Short Story: Theoretical

Note: This story borrows the character of Doc Labyrinth from Philip K Dick’s fantastic short stories. For the real thing, check out “The Short Happy Life of the Brown Oxford” or “The Preserving Machine”.

“What is it, Doc?”

Doc Labyrinth furrowed his brow and tapped his desk pensively. “That’s the trouble! I can’t remember.”

Sighing, I pulled out a chair and sat down. My friend was brilliant — no question about it — but more than slightly scatterbrained. I’m still not sure exactly what sort of doctorate he has.

“How do you know there’s a problem if you can’t remember what it is?”

“Well, I know what the problem is, in the general sense. I just don’t have any specifics.” He paused with the momentary hesitation that precedes all of his technical explanations. “You are aware that I have been studying Taoist philosophy?”
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Music, Music, Music

Until this summer, I didn’t really own CDs; mostly, I bought and listened to music online.

In the last couple months I got a few as gifts, bought some used ones online or in record stores, and somehow ended up with over a dozen, as follows:

Rise Against:
Appeal to Reason
Siren Song of the Counter-Culture

Miles Davis:
Kind of Blue
In a Silent Way

Oscar Peterson and Count Basie:
Satch and Josh . . . . Again

McCoy Tyner:
Milestone Profiles [2 discs]

Bruce Springsteen:
The Essential Bruce Springsteen [3 discs]

Bob Marley:
One Love: The Very Best of Bob Marley

The Specials:

The Clash:
London Calling

The Toasters:
New York Fever
Don’t Let The Bastards Grind You Down

And, in no particular order, here are other bands I like:

The Beatles, The English Beat, The Selecter, Westbound Train, The Dropkick Murphys, Flogging Molly, Bob Dylan, The Beach Boys, The Ramones, Catch 22, Gimp, Streetlight Manifesto, Bandits of the Acoustic Revolution, Billy Joel, REM, Cream, Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin, Rancid, Desmond Dekker, The Mad Caddies, The Offspring, Less Than Jake, Reel Big Fish, Toots and the Maytals, The Skatalites, The Pietasters, The Planet Smashers, The Aquabats, The Cat Empire, Ленинград, and Sonny Rhodes (mainly for the Firefly theme). Also, the Rogue Traders because that one episode of Doctor Who was amazing.

Scribbles and Lies

Scribbles and Lies is the Livejournal blog of Dan Curtis Johnson, a comic book writer and programmer.

Every day, he posts something, and it’s always weird and usually vaguely science-fictiony. I can’t really be more specific than that, but the first post on his site gives an explanation of a sort.

That’s all I have to say, except that this is one of my favorite sites; if you see any unusual ultrashort stories on my blog, you know who to blame. Enjoy!

Pretty Fractalicious Wallpaper!

Here’s some pretty wallpaper I made using the random walk I showed off earlier!

Click to download your preferred resolution: (if I missed yours, let me know and I’ll make it!)


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Giant Flaming Chunks of Rock…

…hurtling through the air at unbelievable speeds.

I saw some Perseids tonight.

They were pretty.

Blog Review: Strange Maps

Strange Maps is one of those amazing blogs that does exactly what it says on the tin, and does it brilliantly.

Today, it features a map of the world as it would be if the Earth did not spin; without the corresponding centrifugal force (sorry, centripetal; hold the angry letters), a belt around the equator would be elevated above sea level with the rest of the planet submerged. Check it out.

Other posts include everything from cultural maps and old-school cartographic myths to the iconic Gerrymander and Jesusland maps (the latter being the third post, from Strange Maps’ infancy).

Almost every post is a unique find; I highly recommend the site, even for my less cartophilic readers.

Geoheliocentric Conspiracy Theory

(If you haven’t read my first post about Tycho, you may want to do so now.)

I have a theory. But let’s start with some background information:

–Tycho Brahe died on 24 October 1601, after contracting what appeared to be a kidney stone or uremia. Eleven days earlier, he had been present at a banquet in Paris — that was when the trouble began.

–Tycho and Johannes Kepler were extremely close colleagues, but they got off to a rocky start; Kepler had worked with Tycho’s mortal enemy, Reimarsus Ursus, and Tycho’s first interaction with Kepler was a series of highly-critical letters regarding his data sources and geocentric ideas.

–Kepler met Tycho in Prague in early 1600, where he worked for a time. The collaboration went well, with a few hitches: in particular, Tycho guarded his data very, very closely.

–After a fight with Tycho, Kepler left Prague for Graz, only to be banished in August. He returned to Prague towards the end of the 1600, now reconciled with Tycho.

–For much of 1601, Kepler worked for Tycho. His work involved writing scathing criticisms of Tycho’s already-dead rival Ursus.

–The month before Tycho’s death, he secured for Kepler a position on a new project for the emperor: a set of astronomical tables. Kepler still had very limited access to Tycho’s raw data.

–Soon after Tycho’s death, Kepler was appointed his successor as imperial astronomer. During the next decade, with Tycho’s data, he was able to derive his three famous Laws and became one of the most important scientists in history.


–Recent research on Tycho’s body has shown strong signs of mercury poisoning.

–Kepler’s father was a mercenary, and his mother was an herbalist and accused witch.

–Since childhood, Kepler had weak vision, limiting his ability to produce reliable observations of his own.

In November, scientists will be examining Tycho’s body in more detail, in order to test the mercury hypothesis. I eagerly await the results.

Note: all information for this post came from the Wikipedia articles on Tycho and Kepler.

Update: This just in: Some historians and bloggers have seriously suggested this theory. A couple actually wrote a book about it.
For the record, I was kidding. Honest.

007: A Recipe to Die For

This morning, I read a riveting tale of English muffins, computer systems, and recipe espionage in the NYT.

I immediately realized what this implied — not for muffins, or even for the New York Times, but for the James Bond movie franchise.

I fully expect “007: A Recipe to Die For” to break box-office records. Just imagine Q explaining how the world-famous nooks and crannies of a Thomas’ English muffin can hide a variety of tiny electronic tracers, explosives, or automated poison darts. Imagine Bond crashing into a dough truck and emerging, unharmed, from the flaming wreckage, nonchalantly brushing some burnt crumbs off the shoulder of his expensive suit.

This is gonna be huge.

RandomWalk Version 1

Ooh, trippy.

Check out my latest Processing work right HERE
[WARNING: CPU hog. Requires Java.]