Science in the Chronoverse: Chronotheory

In the last few posts, we’ve seen the step-by-step progression of science in the Tomorrow News Network universe (a.k.a. the chronoverse). And at each step along the way, we’ve gotten a little closer to the true nature of time, ultimately leading to the discovery that yes, time travel is possible.

Of course we can travel through time. Time is an illusion of our own creation meant to confuse the lesser species.

-Anonymous quote.

In primitive science, time was believed to be absolute, unchanging, and unchangeable. Thanks to general relativity, we know that time can be accelerated, and with hyperspace theory, we’ve learned that time can be reversed (certain restrictions apply).

But to really understand how time works, we must delve into the forbidden science of chronotheory.

The Structure of Time

The chronoverse is composed of filaments called temporal strings. If you like, you could think of these temporal strings as individual atoms or particles stretched out in four-dimensional space (i.e.: the dimension of time).

Temporal strings are known to weave together, sometimes getting tangled into knots. They’re also known to fray apart. The mesh-like structure these strings produce is, quite literally, the tapestry of history.

Technically I could lose my job for meddling with history. But it’s not meddling if I’m trying to fix the timeline.

-Talie Tappler.

But as any good chronotheorist will tell you, temporal strings do not sit still. They sway back and forth. They vibrate, sometimes by only a little bit, sometimes by a lot, with the resulting oscillations propagating forward and backward through time.

The Temporal Uncertainty Principle

The past is constantly changing due to the natural vibrations of temporal strings. This has been known to drive some chronotheorists insane when they realize that as the past changes, so too do their memories of it.

However, certain events in space-time are less susceptible to change than others. A historical event’s stability can be quantified as its chronological resistance, measured in temporal ohms.

Observation is key. The more a historical event is observed, the higher the chronological resistance becomes. By analogy with the uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics, which also depends on observation, this has come to be known as the temporal uncertainty principle.

The Tomorrow News Network

By an edict of the Galactic Inquisitor, chronotheoretical research is severely restricted. Nobody wants rogue time travelers running around meddling with history. This has led chronotheory to be known as the forbidden science.

However, the court of the Galactic Inquisitor recognizes that there is a need to reduce the amount of temporal uncertainty in the universe. Therefore, time travel is permitted for the purposes of observation only.

The most noteworthy time traveling organization is the Tomorrow News Network. T.N.N. employees not only go back in time to observe historical events; they broadcast historical observations in the guise of news reports, which are seen by billions upon billions of viewers throughout the galaxy.

Time travel is an inherently illogical activity—this use of it even more so.

-Mr. Cognis.

Although few outsiders realize or appreciate this, the Tomorrow News Network does more to protect and stabilize the space-time continuum than any other person or organization in the known universe.

Of course, protecting the universe means the Tomorrow News Network has made a few enemies. For now, those enemies shall remain unnamed. Trust me. Everybody’s safer that way.

You’d be surprised how small and simple-looking a functional time machine can be.

You’d be surprised how small and simple-looking a functional time machine can be.

Science in the Chronoverse: Hyperspace Science

I’m currently in the process of re-world-building the Tomorrow News Network series, and a key part of that is getting to know how science works in the T.N.N. universe (a.k.a. the chronoverse). Previously, we’ve looked at so-called primitive science and relativistic science. We now come to:

HYPERSPACE SCIENCE

There are countless stars in the chronoverse, each with its own collection of orbiting planets. On a select few of these planets, life has taken root. And occasionally, that life has evolved into intelligent life.

As the various intelligent species of the chronoverse venture out into space, they eventually learn, either on their own or from their neighbors, that it is possible to travel faster than light.

The science behind FTL travel is known as hyperspace theory, and the technology is called the jump drive.

Jump Drive Technology

When a spaceship engages its jump drive, the ship effectively blinks out of existence. It jumps to a place that is said to be “outside the universe,” a place beyond normal, three-dimensional space.

The ship then drops back into normal space, blinking back into existence at some new location. The greater the distance you want to travel, the more energy is required to make the jump. Other factors can also raise the energy requirements of a hyperspace jump (more on that in a moment).

The E.E.S. Valkyrie approaches Litho mining colony after dropping out of hyperspace.

The E.E.S. Valkyrie approaches Litho mining colony after dropping out of hyperspace.

But if we remember our general relativity, we know that space and time are inextricably linked. So when a spaceship jumps to a different point in space, it also jumps to a different point in time. Typically, a point in time before the time when it left.

Initially, hyperspace theory alarmed physicists on Earth. The mathematics of hyperspace not only allow travel backwards through time but make it a necessary consequence of FTL travel. What does this do to causality? What’s to prevent time travel paradoxes?

Chronomagnetic Forces

When you try to push two magnets together, either positive to positive or negative to negative, the magnets resist. They repel each other. The harder you try to force the magnets together, the harder they push back.

Something similar can happen to spacecraft traveling through hyperspace. A hyperspace jump from point A to point B doesn’t seem to be a problem, but when you try to return from point B to point A—a trip which could allow you to meet your past self—you encounter a strange, resistant force.

The harder you fight against this force, the harder it fights back. You need to put more and more energy into your jump drive, or your exit point from hyperspace will be deflected away from your intended destination. In many cases, you cannot overcome this resistant force no matter how much energy you use.

It’s as though your present self and past self magnetically repel each other. This is called the chronomagentic effect or the chronomagnetic force. It’s something hyperspace theory failed to predict and could not account for once it was discovered. It would seem hyperspace theory is (or was, or will be, depending on your perspective) an incomplete theory.

In the final post for this science in the chronoverse series, we’ll find out more about chronomagnetic forces, as well as chronological resistance and temporal strings. And we’ll find out how time can be manipulated, how history can be changed, using the forbidden science of chronotheory.

Science in the Chronoverse: Relativistic Science

I’m currently in the process of re-world-building the Tomorrow News Network series, and a key part of that is getting to know how science works in the T.N.N. universe (a.k.a. the chronoverse). Moving on from so-called primitive science, we now come to:

RELATIVISTIC SCIENCE

The term “light-speed engine” is something of a misnomer. Nothing with mass can travel at the speed of light, but it is possible for a spaceship to reach a significant fraction of that speed.

By the 25th Century, a trip from Earth to Mars would only take an hour or two. A trip to Neptune would take a few days, and a voyage to the nearest star (Proxima Centauri) could be done in about a decade. However, such journeys come with a cost.

The Price of General Relativity

In relativistic physics, acceleration through space is directly linked to acceleration through time. This effect, known as time dilation, was predicted by Einstein’s theory of general relativity all the way back in 1915.

Time dilation has its advantages. During long journeys, time flys by—literally! That decade-long journey to Proxima might seem like only a year or two for the crew of a time-dilated spaceship.

But the hard truth about space travel is that you can never truly come home. Brave, young travelers who venture out into deep space will likely return home, still young, to find that everyone they once knew has grown old or passed away due to old age.

For civilizations just starting to spread their wings, time dilation is a nuisance and a curse. It leads to a lot of painful goodbyes as people accelerate into the future, and it creates enormous challenges for maintaining a cohesive social order across star systems.

The Pauper’s Time Machine

However, relativistic time dilation allows for what’s sometimes called a pauper’s time machine. By pushing a light-speed drive system to its limits, wannabe time travelers can travel hundreds or thousands or even millions of years into the future.

Fleeing religious persecution, the Community of Cygni used “pauper’s time machines” to escape into the far distant future.

Fleeing religious persecution, the Community of Cygni used “pauper’s time machines” to escape into the far distant future.

Of course this method of time travel only allows you to travel into the future; it will not take you into the past. In that sense, the pauper’s time machine is not a true time machine.

To travel backward in time, you’d have to find a way to travel faster than light. And that’s impossible. Or is it?

In the next Science in the Chronoverse post, we’ll see how jump drives work, and we’ll find out why jump drive technology doesn’t cause time travel paradoxes.

P.S.: If this interpretation of general relativity interests you, may I suggest The Forever War by Joe Haldeman. Among other things, it’s a great story of time dilation and difficult homecomings.

Science in the Chronoverse: Primitive Science

When I originally wrote the Tomorrow News Network series back in 2012/2013, I sort of made stuff up as I went along. Which is fine. I had a lot of stories I wanted to tell, and sometimes a writer’s gotta do what a writer’s gotta do.

But now that I’m revising all the T.N.N. stories in preparation for a 2017 relaunch of the series, I find that I’m left with a bunch of continuity problems between stories. So I’m now trying to do the kind of consistent world-building that I should have been doing all along.

In that spirit, today’s post is the first in a series of posts about science in the T.N.N. universe (a.k.a. the chronoverse). Today we begin with what citizens of the chronoverse would call…

PRIMITIVE SCIENCE

Primitive science is what we modern humans think of as classical physics. It’s all about falling apples and the orbits of planets and moons. It’s about objects in motion, and electric currents, and waves of light (not particle-wave duality). Primitive science can give you combustion engines and airplanes, and maybe even computers and rocket ships.

But the most important aspect of primitive science, the one thing that defines it in the context of the chronoverse as a whole, is the illusion of absolute time.

Absolute Time

One second of time equals any other second of time. Every day, every hour, every minute… they’re all the same, progressing at a constant rate. Time never goes faster, never goes slower, and it certainly never turns around to go in reverse. At least, that’s how it seems from a primitive scientist’s perspective.

In the chronoverse, modern Earth looks like a fairly primitive planet, but do not be fooled by appearances.

When the Hykonians visited Earth in 1947, they were surprised to find a civilization already transitioning from primitive science to something more advanced.

When the Hykonians visited Earth in 1947, they were surprised to find a civilization already transitioning from primitive science to something more advanced.

First with Albert Einstein, and then with many others, humanity began to realize that our perception of time is relative, and that time can be affected by forces like gravity or acceleration.

Relativistic Time

By the end of the 22nd Century, humanity would develop its first so-called light-speed drive system. The name is misleading. Spacecraft still couldn’t travel at the speed of light, but they could come very close to it. As a result, relativistic time dilation (as predicted by general relativity) would no longer be a matter of abstract physics but an everyday reality for travelers all over the Solar System and beyond.

At this point, Earth and its growing number of colonies would have fully transitioned from an era of primitive science to a new age of scientific understanding. And with the illusion of absolute time brushed aside, humanity would have taken its first steps toward uncovering the secret knowledge of time travel.