Monday, March 26, 2007

More on time travel

Apparently, sometimes I use this blog as my "writing journal"...basically getting my thoughts out there and in a form where I can go back to them. The following is quasi-scientific blather about hyperspace, resonance, and warping the space-time continuum. So I apologize in advance. *g*

Okay. Today I stumbled across a post in DG's folder at Compuserve wherein she refers to the circles (or, more accurately, whatever it is the circles are marking) as "vortices that compress the space-time continuum and allow travel". Which at first glance is pretty darn close to how I'm explaining the time-travel in my book.

And, because this is the Topic That Will Not Die, before anyone thinks I'm ripping off her construct may I point out that I decided on my explanation for the time-travel mechanism (TTM) a year ago, when I started the book, and have elaborated on it since. And, nowhere in any of her works or anything she has written that I have read (up to and including forum posts) has the TTM in her universe been elaborated or described in any way, much less resembling this, until just now. So I did NOT get my idea from her. In fact, my idea arose from a desire to get AWAY from all the previous TTMs in use in time-travel romances (TTR), especially Scottish time-travels (STT, or would that be STTR?...are we having fun with acronyms, or what?).

But it actually makes sense that her (previously unexplained) TTM and mine would be similar. Why? We're both scientists, and both our variations on the concept are based in the same scientific concepts. In a nutshell: the warping of space-time to allow travel from one distant (spatially or temporally) point to another in a short span. She has, apparently, decided that there are "vortices"extant, sensed and marked with stone circles by the ancients, and that these vortices are points of space-time compression. How one is genetically able to withstand travel through these vortices is her purview, and remains a unique aspect of her books. Where the gemstones come into it remains to be seen, though I wouldn't be surprised to see it taking a similar form to my own TTM.

As for my own TTM, I decided early on in this project to make Elspeth a scientist - a physicist like myself - and to approach the time-travel from a scientific angle. I absolutely could/would not use the stone circles, and I didn't want to go the mystical/fairy route. Casting about for an angle, I dimly recalled something from the book The Physics of Star Trek (a longtime favorite of reformed - but not completely - trekkie Yours Truly...let's just say I own an original series uniform that I made the pattern for and sewed myself, but I've never worn it to any conventions. In public, yes, but not to any conventions...) and the explanation of how dilithium functioned in the warp drive. I also pulled from the great book Hyperspace by Michio Kaku.

Okay, I've just skimmed through a large chunk of TPoST and can't find the dilithium explanation. Wikipedia and Memory Alpha (Star Trek wiki - am I a nerd or what?) also not forthcoming. Finally, a Google search "dilithium quartz higher dimensions" - never underestimate the power of my google-fu - returns a message board post. Apparently I read this in some Star Trek novel or somesuch (I could probably narrow the field...first best guess is Federation by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, which I think is also where I picked up the statement "the more complex the mind, the greater the need for the simplicity of play"...great book).

Anyway, dilithium works like this: dilithium is a (currently) undiscovered crystalline form of lithium, mistaken for quartz. The reason for this is parts of the molecule (or crystal lattice? unclear) exist in other dimensions.

So I borrowed from that idea, and a few other sources, and came up with this:

The stone Teresa gives Elspeth is lonsdaleite, a rare allotropic form of carbon (diamond, specifically) found where meteoritic graphite falls to earth. It has a different lattice structure than regular diamond, which I stipulate has higher-dimensional properties.

Why a meteorite? I wanted something other-wordly and exotic. Basically, not a standard gemstone because that would be too cliche and too close to Diana's works. But I wanted a crystal for the lattice. So I looked up the various crystals/materials found in meteorites. Why lonsdaleite? Well, diamond is a highly regular, very strong crystal lattice. So I liked the concept of a strong, highly-ordered lattice being able to resonate in higher dimensions. And there you have that.

Moving on: How is the time-travel actually achieved? TPoST has a great section on wormholes, how they could work, why we can't (currently) utilize them, and how "If wormholes
exist, they can and will be time machines!" by connecting two (temporally) separated points - which in my case are the same spatial location. The points that are connected are only considered "close" when they are connected. So think of it as Alec's time being effectively right next to Elspeth's time, through some impossibly thin curtain, but completely inaccessible until
and only if a wormhole is opened between them.

Not all points are this "close" to other points in space-time, and so nothing untoward is likey to happen in most places. The odds of getting the right material (lonsdaleite) to open and stabilize a wormhole in the exact vicinity of one of these...oh, let's call them "points of confluence" (POC) are astronomical (if you consider the scarcity of these POC and the rarity of lonsdaleite) and so...well, nothing really happens. Kilchurn just happens to be one of those points. And Elspeth just happens to be in the vicinity with a chunk of lonsdaleite. And Jenny just happens to have an "inciting incident." *g*

So, in the region of this anomaly/POC, the higher dimensional properties of the lonsdaleite lattice begin to resonate. Now, at this POC, wormholes are constantly spontaneously forming, and then instantaneously collapsing again, on a time scale so short not even an air molecule from one time can travel to the other. Much like the spontaneous generation and subsequent annihilation of "virtual particles" in space. Anyway...the resonance of the lonsdaleite somehow (energetically?) stabilizes the wormhole, allowing it to remain open long enough for something, say a traveller, to pass through.

An interesting aspect: because the wormhole is not stable nor constant, there is no guarantee of it connecting in the same place each time (no pun intended). You can hope, but Elspeth (and later Alec) are really risking quite a bit by traveling back through.

Now, if I really wanted my universe to be able to coexist with Diana's (and it's fun to think about, for all that in my book that is not the case...thus my story cannot be *ahem* fan fiction as some have suggested, because it doesn't take place in the same universe...) I guess the stone circles could be marking these POC. Perhaps something in the local geography was stabilizing them (who knows - a meteorite could be buried underground there) or maybe the natives could somehow "sense" the other time and thus marked the spot, and it is the circle itself that establishes the resonance. How I'm not sure, but then again I'm not sure exactly how the lonsdaleite resonates. There are different ways to create resonance...for example, singing a note and running your finger around the rim can both produce resonance in a wineglass. In this context of similarity, her gemstones could also serve to stabilize it further. But this is a post facto comparison/analysis, and hopefully I've elaborated on the details of my TTM enough for it to be seen as different from hers.

Anyway, geez, it's 1 am and I've been working on this post for 2 hours. No new words tonight (and I did actually have a scene start to form in my head this morning...oh, well - back burner for now) but I certainly have been thinking about and clarifying supporting structure for the story. Now, to bed.

Oidhche mhath.


Shaylin said...

Actually that quote ("the more complex the mind...") comes from the Original Series episode "Shore Leave." Sulu expresses surprise that an extremely advanced race would feel the need to play. The quote is Kirk's response.

Jenny said...

Yeah, but I distinctly remember having seen it in print, so it must be re-quoted in that (or some other) book.

Now tell the truth...did you know that offhand, or did you look it up?

Shaylin said...

I knew it offhand, thank you very much.

One Saturday last summer the munchkin and I were home alone, and I was aimlessly wandering from channel to channel, and happened to stumble across a string of Star Trek episodes, of which "Shore Leave" was one.

You doubted me? ;)

Jenny said...

Well, it's just that I have a much stronger background in the Original Series than you do, and that's a pretty arcane thing to know offhand. But I forgot about your daytime Star Trek binges last summer. ;-)

Cindy said...

The mind boggles.

Well, at least MINE does. (G)

word verification - esiqneuy

{{Bless you! Tissue?}}

Jenny said...

Cindy -

*g* It's a fairly rambling post. That's what happens when I stay up late and "journal" on the blog.

Oh, well. I can still make some sense out of it. Not that a lot of it will make it into the book, but it's good to know how my world works.

word ver: hkjiiwaf - "huh-kih-jee-waff" that's just incredibly fun :-)