Sunday, 30 July 2017

"All Possible Dimensions"

HG Wells' Time Traveller argues that:

bodies extend through four dimensions (an instantaneous cube is impossible);

time is the fourth dimension;

only our dimensionless, immaterial minds move along that dimension;

but his Time Machine can accelerate along that dimension (here he contradicts himself).

I have argued against the Time Traveller's account here.

An instructor at the Time Patrol Academy informs recruits that:

travel into the past "'...requires infinitely discontinuous functions for its mathematical description...[and]...involves infinite-valued relationships in a continuum of 4N dimensions, where N is the total number of particles in the universe.'"
-Poul Anderson, "Time Patrol" IN Anderson, Time Patrol (Riverdale, NY, 2006), pp. 1-53 AT p. 9.

Anderson updates the sf rationale for time travel! And there is a big difference between four and 4N dimensions!

Despite his limitation to only four dimensions, the Time Traveller worries that, if his vehicle occupies the same space as another object, then the resultant explosion will:

"...blow myself and my apparatus out of all possible dimensions - into the Unknown."
-HG Wells, The Time Machine (London, 1973), Chapter 4, p. 26.

Surely an explosion would merely destroy the Machine? But I am interested in his references to "all possible dimensions" and to an "Unknown" beyond them. These imply other story possibilities. When the Doctor's vehicle occupied the same space as another time machine, both exploded but then reappeared on a blank TV screen where the time travellers met Chronos, the god of time. The Doctor, like several of Poul Anderson's characters, is a successor of Wells' Time Traveller.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

The contradiction being that if only our MINDS can move thru time, and not physical objects like our BODIES, then it should logically follow that a physical object like Wells Time Machine should not be able to move thru time. I wondered how Wells missed that? The contradiction destroys his story!


Paul Shackley said...

The story is salvageable if its rationale is revised but engaging with the rationale is part of how we appreciate the story.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

True, speculative revisals of Wells rationale for THE TIME MACHINE in efforts to salvage the story are perfectly legitimate ways of appreciating such a story. All the same, I wondered if Wells himself ever noticed this contradiction in THE TIME MACHINE.