SciTechBlog   « Back to Blog Main
April 6, 2010

Geek Out!: 'Lost,' time and quantum mechanics

Posted: 02:43 PM ET

Editor's note: Geek Out! posts feature the latest and most interesting in nerd-culture news. From scifi and fantasy to gadgets and science, if you can geek out over it you can find it on Geek Out! Look for Geek Out! posts on CNN's SciTech blog.

If you're watching "Lost," you're probably wondering how the writers are going to resolve all of the questions about time and parallel existences. Sean Carroll, physicist at California Institute of Technology and "Lost" fan, is wondering the same thing.

But as far-fetched as the show may seem, there are ways in which concepts from modern physics could explain what's happening in terms of time, says Carroll, author of "From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time."

To recap: In the last two seasons of "Lost," characters on the island found themselves jutting through time. Season 5 found the characters transported to different eras on the island again and again thanks to some uncomfortable - even deadly! - white flashes.

At the beginning of Season 6, after Juliet activated the hydrogen bomb at the Dharma Swan site, the characters appeared in a new timeline.

This timeline portrays what happens to the characters on Oceanic Flight 815 had the plane not crashed. But many aspects of their lives are different, suggesting that the detonation of the bomb in the 1970s (after some of them had gone back in time) changed their lives in 2004 in significant ways - Sun and Jin are not married, Benjamin Linus is a schoolteacher, etc. etc.

But we don't know if the bomb actually created this timeline, or if it had always been there.

In real life, physicists think about multiple worlds all the time when it comes to quantum mechanics - the study of matter on atomic and subatomic scales. That's because nature gets freaky when you try to describe the behavior of particles smaller than the eye can see.

In quantum mechanics there is a concept called the the "many-worlds interpretation," Carroll says. The theory goes that the universe splits into multiple "worlds" when we observe a quantum system in which the particles are in multiple places at once.

Let's say we observe a single particle at positions A and B simultaneously. Each place that the particle is in corresponds to a different world - so, there's a world with our particle at A, and a separate world with our particle at B.

"We might imagine that detonating the bomb acted as an especially dramatic quantum event, splitting the universe into two timelines. The show has hinted that there is some sort of connection between the two timelines, so we'll have to see how that plays out," Carroll says.

Also, if time travel were possible, it would have to operate according to a principle that "Lost" characters kept repeating in Season 5: "Whatever happened, happened." That means that if you could go back in time, you wouldn't be able to change anything.

So let's say you go back to 1990 and encounter yourself, saying "Hey, you - I mean, me." That would have always happened, and you would remember now having met yourself then (so it hasn't happened!).

Recall, for instance, that in "Lost," Eloise in present-day Los Angeles clearly remembered that she had met her own time-traveling son Daniel many years earlier, but Eloise on the island in the 1970s did not, because from her perspective it hadn't happened yet.

All this goes to say that the "Lost" creators do have some basis for the sometimes outrageous time travel elements in the show. Still, a lot of underlying ideas haven't been resolved yet. Tune in on Tuesday nights to see if we learn more!

Posted by:
Filed under: Geek Out! • Physics


Share this on:
Mr. Lamen   April 6th, 2010 4:17 pm ET

Um....What?


Evan Keane   April 6th, 2010 4:27 pm ET

I really hope that the show ends well! Curious as to what there plans with this alternate timeline are. I have a feeling the final episodes will be either truly excellent or a total let-down. I am hoping for the former!

Evan ๐Ÿ™‚


Kaydz   April 6th, 2010 4:27 pm ET

I got it!


chrisstevens   April 6th, 2010 6:21 pm ET

The bad news is that there is a new moralistic thread in Lost of good versus evil, God versus the Devil, which might lead to a horrendous Hollywood and apple pie ending of good/God triumphing from an Armageddon event.
Hopefully we will get a more satisfying denouement of particle physics versus quantum entanglement with parallel universes thrown in for good measure.
Maybe like Sliding Doors all the parallel lives will re-merge at the end and carry on as if nothing special ever happened.
How many more episodes are there going to be anyway? Maybe they'll string it out until the LHC proves the Higgs or Susy or string theory.
Could bad Lock be Dark Matter or anti-matter Lock made visible?


Sency   April 6th, 2010 10:26 pm ET

It is sad that lost will be done after this year – greatest TV show ever http://www.sency.com/lost-tv-show.htm


David   April 7th, 2010 12:27 pm ET

"Lost" has the movie "Time Bandits" written all over it (and inside it too). I halfway expect to see Terry Gilliam do a guest appearance in the finale.


Timeonics   April 7th, 2010 3:24 pm ET

Were'nt you here before. We all need a little loopback time travel.


Sebas   April 8th, 2010 12:24 pm ET

I was never a big Lost fan. Seems to me that this whole time-travel deal is their "Shark Jumping"


JON   April 8th, 2010 12:49 pm ET

@Sebas your first sentence negates your second sentence. But thanks for trying ๐Ÿ™‚


Ron   April 8th, 2010 12:56 pm ET

I have a theory that everything that is occuring is happening in the mind of Hurley. He's the "psychiatric" patient, and all of this could be occuring in his mind. Remember he loves comic books, which I'm sure some of them cover time travel. ๐Ÿ™‚ Also, Hurley may be having a psychotic break and these are his delusions. Remember how "Dave" was his "imaginary" friend while in the hospital, but "Dave" also showed up on the island. And the connection between "Henry Gale" and the balloon to the great "Wizard of Oz" is something that someone either very childlike, or delusional, would incorporate into their imagination (or delusions).....something to think about.


Bob   April 8th, 2010 2:59 pm ET

Who Cares......


Matt   April 8th, 2010 4:56 pm ET

@Ron,
Good theory. However, I believe the producers already stated that the show is not about someone's psychiatric episode. I think there was a show in the late 80's or 90's that pulled that on the audience...was it Twin Peaks?


Jason   April 9th, 2010 9:19 am ET

@ Matt, no it was not Twin Peaks, it was St. Elsewhere. The final episode we find out that the entire series was from the perspective of an autistic boy looking into a snow globe. To this day it is one of the biggest "gotcha" finales in history.


mitch   April 9th, 2010 2:28 pm ET

"Who cares"... "Never been a fan".... Morons your bus is leaving! If you dont care and have never been a fan, why are you taking the time to comment on an article about it? This world is going down quick and its all the fault of people like you.


Peter   April 17th, 2010 6:11 am ET

I would say the "Many-minds interpretation" Theory from H. Dieter Zeh could be a explanation of what the hell is going on in the Lost-Episodes.

Wondering about the instability of a quantum state and how it is possible that we can live in an apparently stable world (beside the politics, ... I write now about physics) I wrote a article about the problematic of the locality and nonlocality in the quantum world: http://www.hydrogen2oxygen.net/?p=698

The island is a symbol for the collective consciousness, where all people that in some way are able to change the world comes together. Many are not even aware that "normal folk people" can have a drastic impact on the whole world. Besides all the mystery in the episodes, I watch it only because of the symbolism and the metaphorical meaning.


frank jackson   April 17th, 2010 5:06 pm ET

How should lost end? As fast as possible. This idiotic piece of garbage is as smart as a reality show.


Barbara   April 17th, 2010 7:38 pm ET

Lost is the only show that points to the true reality we are all living in this moment. Only problem we are too afraid to admit that truth to ourselves. Life is a profound mystery with alternative universes. The key that holds it all together is LOVE that is the connecting glue
between us that is what we all share in common and gives us the spirit to move into future realities, lives. Lost shows us how to move forward with free will and love side by side. All characters in the show will share this bond in whatever future or past reality they find themselves. The Locke monster is part of the mystery that propels
us to watch and discover how the universe works within dark matter/energy. Cannot wait to see how they wrap up the show do not feel it will have a nice ending watch for a surprise. The writers are having fun with Lost and so should we.


Maureen   April 19th, 2010 2:05 pm ET

I've been thinking about this too. It's too long to post here but after trying to wrap my head around this I wrote a blog post that might interest you as well:
10 comparisons between Quantum Theory and Lost

http://sinema7.net/2010/04/10-comparisons-between-lost-and-quantum-theory/


Dean   April 27th, 2010 10:43 pm ET

I've watched Lost from the beginning and enjoyed it for the most part. The bottom line is: The show is only as good as its writers. Commenters frequently forget this, pretending as though the events of the show are actual events that will all make sense in the end.

I get the impression that after season one, the show got into a rut of trying to keep itself going by introducing complexity and raising lots of new questions, and now it's in a state where it's impossible for everything to wrap up nicely at the end. This forces me to lower expectations for the ending.

It will be funny when a significant number of questions go unanswered during the finale. A lot of folks will duke it out over what *really* happened, when in fact there is no answer other than: the writers never got around to deciding that to begin with.


Maddison Richards   October 6th, 2010 1:16 pm ET

travel deals from our local travel agent are great and they are low cost too~'.


Sectional Garage    October 20th, 2010 2:56 pm ET

my girlfriend is always on the lookout for travel deals both local and abroad.`:


Joanne   December 26th, 2017 3:14 am ET

Vidmate definitely instance that allows you to download vidmate motion pictures and as well,as well as the songs in Youtube, Metacafe, Vimeo, Soundcloud and up from different a favorite multimedia services. this method iphone app enable you to down load many online videos or to songs of numerous elements. of course, one might download and install whichever class from media player or even vidmate downloadrecord that you desire to. that you are receive full high (hd) dvds here much. All genuine and working download and install ties are supplied right here and you simply also donโ€™t worry about that in any way,the whole time. It allows watch the training videos as well songs specifically if you don't have them to be vidmate apk downloadable. save – vidmate instance.

http://vidmateapp.org.in/


Benton Wotton   December 20th, 2020 6:52 pm ET

I do not have a bank account how can I place the order?

http://6dollarmillion.xyz


Hairstyles   February 4th, 2021 12:04 am ET

You made some first rate points there. I looked on the web for the difficulty and found most individuals will go together with with your website.

https://www.hairstylesvip.com/hairstyles


Hairstyles For Girls   February 4th, 2021 6:23 pm ET

When I originally commented I clicked the "Notify me when new comments are added" checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get several emails with the same comment. Is there any way you can remove me from that service? Thanks!

https://www.hairstylesvip.com/hairstyles-for-girls


tadalafil generic   April 12th, 2021 12:06 pm ET

tadalafil generic https://elitadalafill.com/ generic tadalafil united states


ed pills   April 13th, 2021 5:16 pm ET

erectile creams walgreens https://canadaerectiledysfunctionpills.com/ dealing with erectile dysfunction


alprostadil generic prices   April 19th, 2021 9:48 pm ET

aprostadil https://alprostadildrugs.com/ how does alprostadil treat erectile dysfunction


cialis at canadian pharmacy   April 20th, 2021 11:02 am ET

buy cialis online canadian https://canadacialisstore.com/ canadian pharmacy 5 mg daily cialis


where can i get zithromax   April 20th, 2021 5:01 pm ET

zithromax 250 mg tablet https://zithromaxes.com/ zithromax 500mg


how much is sildenafil 25 mg   April 21st, 2021 8:12 pm ET

sildenafil 75 mg https://eunicesildenafilcitrate.com/ sildenafil 100mg purchase


buy vardenafil   April 22nd, 2021 11:38 pm ET

vardenafil vs tadalafil vs viagra which gives better erection? https://vegavardenafil.com/ how do you take vardenafil 20 mg?


avana   April 28th, 2021 5:27 pm ET

buy avana online avana canada


do you need prescription for canadian prescription of cialis in usa   May 1st, 2021 4:38 pm ET

how can i order cialis from a canadian pharmacy https://canadacialisstore.com/ canadian pharmacy for cialis


clonidine hydrochloride   May 5th, 2021 3:24 am ET

choloriquine https://chloroquineorigin.com/ chloroquine amazon


https://topphimhot.net   May 5th, 2021 6:05 am ET

Best view i have ever seen !

https://www.wrasb.gov.tw/opennews/opennews01_detail.aspx?nno=2014062701&return=https://topphimhot.net


dapoxetine   May 6th, 2021 10:06 pm ET

dapoxetine 60mg priligy 90 mg


Kina Deeter   May 10th, 2021 6:15 pm ET

Have you ever heard of second life (sl for short). It is basically a video game where you can do anything you want. SL is literally my second life (pun intended lol). If you would like to see more you can see these sl websites and blogs

http://lostbiro.com/blog/?paged=31


Ambrose Mau   May 12th, 2021 3:00 am ET

This was awesome! I would like you to clean up all this spam though

https://www.linkedin.com/in/yusuf-hanafy-82493b183


brimonidine   May 16th, 2021 9:41 am ET

brimonidine use combigan


Margarita Lanpher   May 16th, 2021 4:20 pm ET

I don't know about you people but I am obsessed with airplanes. I have a friend in highschool that loved airplanes, so here are some airplane related stuff I don't know about you guys but I love airplanes. I had a friend in highschool that loved airplanes, so here are some airplane related stuff https://www.airlinereporter.com/2009/06/happy-fathers-day/

http://urlm.co/g/c/f/163873


Teresita Gerety   May 17th, 2021 7:10 am ET

Have you ever heard of second life (sl for short). It is basically a game where you can do anything you want. SL is literally my second life (pun intended lol). If you would like to see more you can see these second life websites and blogs

http://everydayliteracies.blogspot.com/2007/03/busy-busy-its-not-slowing-down-any.html?showComment=1173244740000


Maynard Manche   May 17th, 2021 10:34 pm ET

I don't know about you people but I am obsessed with airplanes. I have a friend in highschool that loves airplanes, so here are some airplane related stuff I don't know about you guys but I love airplanes. I had a friend in highschool that loved airplanes, so here are some airplane related stuff https://www.airlinereporter.com/2009/12/second-boeing-787-dreamliner-takes-flight/

http://www.tulalipnews.com/wp/page/581/


Joy Stiverson   May 19th, 2021 3:58 am ET

I don't know about you guys but I love airplanes. I have a friend in highschool that loved airplanes, so here are some airplane related stuff I don't know about you guys but I love airplanes. I had a friend in highschool that loved airplanes, so here are some airplane related stuff https://www.airlinereporter.com/2010/08/airline-livery-of-the-week-1time-airline-zebra-livery/

http://www.washingtonbids.us/washington-contractors/naics-71-Arts-Entertainment.14.htm


Laree Gutermuth   May 20th, 2021 2:56 am ET

Have you ever heard of second life (sl for short). It is basically a game where you can do anything you want. Second life is literally my second life (pun intended lol). If you would like to see more you can see these Second Life articles and blogs

http://everydayliteracies.blogspot.com/2016_09_01_archive.html


Casey Flaten   May 20th, 2021 7:46 pm ET

Have you ever heard of second life (sl for short). It is essentially a online game where you can do anything you want. SL is literally my second life (pun intended lol). If you want to see more you can see these second life articles and blogs

http://everydayliteracies.blogspot.com/2006/03/new-breed-of-readers-beta-readers.html?m=0


Ina Kitching   May 21st, 2021 4:44 pm ET

I don't know about you all but I infatuated with airplanes. I have a friend in highschool that loved airplanes, so here are some airplane related stuff I don't know about you guys but I love airplanes. I had a friend in highschool that loved airplanes, so here are some airplane related stuff https://www.airlinereporter.com/2010/08/boeing-announces-additional-boeing-787-dreamliner-delay/

http://www.pseconline.org/pipermail/reps_pseconline.org/2012-November/000869.html


Concepcion Perlson   May 23rd, 2021 3:49 am ET

Have you ever heard of second life (sl for short). It is basically a online game where you can do anything you want. Second life is literally my second life (pun intended lol). If you would like to see more you can see these Second Life websites and blogs

http://prlog.ru/analysis/angelaathomas.com


trouctWonfurn   May 23rd, 2021 3:34 pm ET

side effects of tadalafil https://apcalisetadalafil.com/ tadalafil daily online tadalafil generic where to buy tadalafil liquid


cyclomune   May 23rd, 2021 11:07 pm ET

buy cyclosporine uk cyclomune 0.1% eye drops cost


NattFesSsally   May 24th, 2021 5:48 am ET

https://apcalisetadalafil.com/ tadalafil order online no prescription tadalafil blood pressure buy cialis cheap generic cialis for sale


https://www.songmanhits.com   May 24th, 2021 9:05 pm ET

Best view i have ever seen !

https://images.google.com.tj/url?q=https://www.songmanhits.com


Fuernitidatrith   May 25th, 2021 7:59 am ET

cialis cost tadalafil generic where to buy what is tadalafil lowest price cialis https://cttadalafil.com/


brimonidine   May 25th, 2021 8:45 am ET

brimonidine how it works combigan side effects


trouctWonfurn   May 25th, 2021 5:49 pm ET

https://tadalafilol.com/ cialis at canadian pharmacy https://tadalafilww.com/ – generic tadalafil from uk tadalafil generic where to buy


Fuernitidatrith   May 26th, 2021 10:52 am ET

tadalafil cost in canada side effects of tadalafil generic cialis tadalafil https://tadacipetadalafil.com/


NattFesSsally   May 27th, 2021 9:22 am ET

generic cialis tadalafil tadalafil without a doctor prescription tadalafil cost in canada https://apcalisetadalafil.com/


Avril Schunk   May 28th, 2021 4:33 am ET

Have you ever heard of second life (sl for short). It is basically a video game where you can do anything you want. Second life is literally my second life (pun intended lol). If you would like to see more you can see these sl websites and blogs

http://myvedana.blogspot.com/2011/01/thinking-of-stuff.html


Duane Darjean   May 29th, 2021 5:01 am ET

Have you ever heard of second life (sl for short). It is basically a video game where you can do anything you want. Second life is literally my second life (pun intended lol). If you would like to see more you can see these second life authors and blogs

http://myvedana.blogspot.com/2006/04/summation.html


Mercedez Lemm   May 30th, 2021 5:48 am ET

Have you ever heard of second life (sl for short). It is essentially a online game where you can do anything you want. SL is literally my second life (pun intended lol). If you want to see more you can see these second life websites and blogs

http://everydayliteracies.blogspot.com/2010/03/murdoch-publishing-accuracy-goes-from.html?showComment=1269889268683


Elijah Cosden   May 31st, 2021 4:31 am ET

Have you ever heard of second life (sl for short). It is essentially a online game where you can do anything you want. Second life is literally my second life (pun intended lol). If you want to see more you can see these sl articles and blogs

http://lostbiro.com/blog/?cat=3&paged=6


Herlinda Mednick   June 1st, 2021 5:18 am ET

This was awesome! I would like you to clean up all this spam though

https://www.linkedin.com/in/yusufhanafy


SEO   June 1st, 2021 3:19 pm ET

The information shared is of top quality which has to get appreciated at all levels. Well doneโ€ฆ

https://www.pointvisible.com/


Lynn Barken   June 2nd, 2021 11:10 pm ET

Have you ever heard of second life (sl for short). It is essentially a game where you can do anything you want. Second life is literally my second life (pun intended lol). If you would like to see more you can see these sl websites and blogs

http://myvedana.blogspot.com/2013/07/itinerant-academic.html?m=0


Ayako Apple   June 4th, 2021 6:32 am ET

This was great! I would like you to clean up all this spam though

https://www.linkedin.com/in/yusufhanafy


azathioprine   June 4th, 2021 8:36 am ET

chloroquine tab tendances du coronavirus – france premature babies wikipedia


tadalafil warnings   June 4th, 2021 7:56 pm ET

tadalafil goodrx tadalafil pah tadalafil evolution peptides


Sadie Hennegan   June 5th, 2021 1:07 am ET

This was awesome! I would like you to clean up all this spam though

https://www.linkedin.com/in/yusufhanafy


cialis 20mg   June 5th, 2021 2:28 am ET

generic tadalafil from uk cialis generic best research tadalafil


tadalafil generic   June 6th, 2021 3:57 am ET

tadalafil 20 tadalafil what is tadalafil 20 mg


Stephen Hadcock   June 8th, 2021 6:01 am ET

This was awesome! I would like you to clean up all this spam though

https://www.linkedin.com/in/yusufhanafy


chloroquine over the counter uk   June 8th, 2021 10:41 am ET

chloroquine plaquenil chloroquin hydroxychloroquine 200 mg tab


Milford Homrich   June 11th, 2021 9:25 am ET

Sorry but I had to share this.. I found this very high quality site for watching ANY popular tv episodes! Check it out: https://watchseries247.blogspot.com/

https://watchseries247.blogspot.com/


Jewell Casarrubias   June 11th, 2021 9:36 am ET

This might be off topic but I discovered this amazing website for streaming ANY popular tv shows! Here's the link: https://watchseries247.blogspot.com/

https://watchseries247.blogspot.com/


Merlin Wahlgren   June 11th, 2021 11:24 am ET

This might be off topic but I discovered this awesome site for watching ANY popular tv shows! Check it out: https://watchseries247.blogspot.com/

https://watchseries247.blogspot.com/


Noriko Gomoran   June 12th, 2021 9:09 pm ET

Have you ever heard of second life (sl for short). It is essentially a online game where you can do anything you want. SL is literally my second life (pun intended lol). If you want to see more you can see these second life websites and blogs

http://myvedana.blogspot.com/2006/10/shrinking.html


YouTube Music @allen b   June 16th, 2021 11:24 am ET

Nice i really enjoyed reading your blogs. Keep on posting. Thanks

https://unitedmasters.com/m/allenbmusic


pharmaceptica.com   June 25th, 2021 3:24 am ET

chloroquine vs chloroquine phosphate https://pharmaceptica.com/


pharmaceptica.com   June 26th, 2021 2:25 pm ET

hydroxychloroquine side effects heart https://pharmaceptica.com/


Leave Your Comment


 

CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.


subscribe RSS Icon
About this blog

Are you a gadgethead? Do you spend hours a day online? Or are you just curious about how technology impacts your life? In this digital age, it's increasingly important to be fluent, or at least familiar, with the big tech trends. From gadgets to Google, smartphones to social media, this blog will help keep you informed.

subscribe RSS Icon
twitter
Powered by WordPress.com VIP