Category Archives: Temporal Anomalies/Time Travel

#371: The Twenty-Twenty Twenty/Twenty

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #371, on the subject of The Twenty-Twenty Twenty/Twenty.

I believe the correct greeting is Happy New Year, as we enter 2021.  That means it is time for us to look back at everything that we published in 2020.

The big deal is the book, in paperback and Kindle format, Why I Believe, a compilation of evidence on the basis of which intelligent people believe in God and in Jesus Christ.  I’m told the hardcover version is out, joining the paperback and Kindle versions, but haven’t seen it yet.

The year began, appropriately, on January 1st with a look back at the previous year, web log post #325:  The 2019 Recap, doing then what we are doing now, providing a quick look at everything from the previous dozen months.

On the first of the year I also published a song, the first of a dozen continuing from the seven of the previous year:

  1. web log post #326:  The Song “Mountain Mountain”;
  2. web log post #328:  The Song “Still Small Voice”;
  3. web log post #334:  The Song “Convinced”;
  4. web log post #337:  The Song “Selfish Love”;
  5. web log post #340:  The Song “A Man Like Paul”;
  6. web log post #341:  The Song “Joined Together”;
  7. web log post #346:  The Song “If We Don’t Tell Them”;
  8. web log post #349:  The Song “I Can’t Resist Your Love”;
  9. web log post #353:  The Song “I Use to Think”;
  10. web log post #356:  The Song “God Said It Is Good”;
  11. web log post #362:  The Song “My Life to You”; and
  12. web log post #366:  The Song “Sometimes”.

That series continues with another song later today.

On the subject of series, there are several others, including both the Faith in Play and RPG-ology monthly series at the Christian Gamers Guild.  These are both indexed, along with other excellent material from other contributing authors, at 2020 at the Christian Gamers Guild Reviewed, posted yesterday.  Thanks to the editorial staff of the French edition of Places to Go, People to Be, a large collection of the original Game Ideas Unlimited articles, thought to be lost when Gaming Outpost closed, have been recovered and are now appearing slightly repolished in these series.  (Quite a few of them plus other articles have been translated into French for their site.) We also finished posting the rest of the novel Versers Versus Versers, along with updated character sheets in the Multiverser Novel Support Pages, and started on the seventh, Re Verse All, which will continue well into the new year.  There were quite a few behind-the-writings web log posts connected to those, but they are indexed in the novel table of contents pages so we won’t burden this entry with them.

There was also the continuation of another series, reminiscences on the history of Christian contemporary and rock music from the early 1980s, which picked up with:

  1. web log post #329:  CCM Guys at the Beginning, a conglomerate of artists from Randy Matthews and Randy Stonehill through Michael W. Smith;
  2. web log post #332:  The Wish of Scott Wesley Brown;
  3. web log post #335:  Bob Bennett’s First Matters;
  4. web log post #342:  Fireworks Times Five, one of the best rock bands of the era;
  5. web log post #345:  Be Ye Glad, one of the best vocal bands of the era;
  6. web log post #358:  DeGarmo and Key, Not a Country Band, another excellent early rock ensemble.

I should mention for the time travel fans that there is indeed a book in the works, possibly with a sequel, but it’s still in the early stages so that’s on the list for the coming year.  Meanwhile, temporal anomalies were not ignored, as we had several posts and pages.

Among the miscellaneous posts this year is one about the fact that my work appears under several slightly different names–Mark, Mark J., M. Joseph, M. J., and Mark Joseph–and the story behind that is explained in web log post #331:  What’s With the Names?  A musician asked a question on a Facebook group, which I answered in web log post #352:  Why No One Cares About Your Songs.

Giving extra confusion to the year, in February my second grandchild, my first grandson, was born, roughly a decade or so after his half-sister.  That was the beginning of a saga that still is not completely resolved, but it was several months before he came home, in time for Halloween.

My book reading slowed drastically, due largely to the fact that my Kindle was smashed and I’ve been trying to get it repaired, but there are a few book reviews (one of a book on writing) at Goodreads.  Also appearing are two republished book reviews, as web log posts #351:  In re:  Evil Star and #368:  In re:  Cry of the Icemark, recovered from the lost Gaming Outpost archives.

We were quiet on the political front until June, when events related to Black Lives Matter prompted the writing of web log post #344:  Is It O.K. Not to Make a Statement?  Some argued that it was not.  We later explained the mail-in ballot system adopted by our home state in web log post #360:  Voting in 2020 in New Jersey, with a follow-up a couple weeks later in web log post #363:  The 2020 Election in New Jersey.

The year ahead looks promising.  There should be another song posted today, with Faith in Play and RPG-ology articles already queued for publication later this month and well into the year ahead, chapters of the novel Re Verse All with their accompanying behind-the-writings peeks standing by, more CCM history, some time travel movies awaiting my attention, and–well, we’ll have to see what appears.  Meanwhile, this is your opportunity to catch anything you missed or re-read anything you forgot.

I would be remiss if I did not thank those who have supported me through Patreon and, and to invite and encourage others to do so.  The Patreon web log is the first place where all new pages are announced, and the place to go for glimpses of what is to come, and even as little as a dollar a month helps me immensely and gets you that information delivered several times a week.  Thank you.

#369: Toward a Time Travel Book

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #369, on the subject of Toward a Time Travel Book.

As many of you know, Dimensionfold Publishing, who recently published my long-awaited book Why I Believe, has asked me to compose a book about time travel and temporal anomalies.  It is in the works.

I will not be doing a “behind the writings” series of the sort that I have done for the novels.  However, I will be asking for feedback along the way–indeed, I have already done so, via my Patreon and Facebook accounts.  As of yesterday I have a rough draft–a very rough draft, the sort of draft which includes single sentences in places to remind me that I have to write a section of text on a specific point there.  However, there is enough of it, written from beginning to end, that I am here going to publish the contents page.  It is presently set up very like that previously named book, with an opening page outlining all the major and minor sections, something like a table of contents but without page numbers.  (This is in large part because I submitted the document in a format that was not going to go to print without repagination, and it made no sense to attempt to give page numbers that were going to change.  There’s probably a way to make a Table of Contents that adjusts its page numbers when the page size is changed, but it’s probably beyond me.)

In publishing this I hope that fans of the Temporal Anomalies in Popular Time Travel Movies site and other time travel fans will make constructive comments on changes that need to be made to the broad outline, any important points I didn’t include (which I might have included in the text but not in the contents page), or anything you would have liked to have seen that seems to be absent.  Of course, I am incidentally hoping to whet your appetite for the book, but that’s not going to be shelf-ready for a while yet.

So here is the contents page; you can comment below or on my social media sites.

Temporal Anomalies and the Replacement Theory of Time Travel

M. Joseph Young

Preface:  how this book came to be
List of Movies Cited:  so the reader can avoid spoilers
The Core Theories:  fundamental ways time travel is handled

    Fixed Time Theory:  that the past cannot be changed.
    Multiple Dimension Theory:  parallel and divergent universes.
    Replacement Theory:  the ability to alter history.

Fixed Time Theory Examined:  details and problems of the theory

    The Predestination Paradox:  loops with uncaused causes.
    Becoming Your Own Grandfather:  a particular predestination paradox problem.
    The Grandfather Paradox:  the reverse problem, preventing your existence.
    The Novikov Self-Consistency Principle:  a mathematical argument for fixed time.
    Clarifying Fixed Time:  immutable means immutable.

Multiple Dimension Theories Examined:  more than one history of everything

    Types of Parallel Dimensions:  what we might expect.
    Types of Divergent Dimensions:  a different way to the same outcome.
    Unparalleled:  how time travel unravels the theory.
    The Two Brothers in Multiple Dimension Theory:  a simple logic problem that complicates things
    The Temporal Duplicate Problem with Divergent Dimensions:  if the traveler repeats the same trip.
    Other Problems with Divergent Dimensions:  including thermodynamics.

Replacement Theory Examined:  real time travel with free will.

    The N-Jump:  the preferred outcome of time travel.
    The Infinity Loop:  the ultimate temporal disaster.
    Sawtooth Snaps and Cycling Causalities:  repeatedly changing timelines.
    Where the People Go:  explaining what happens to everyone when time ends.
    Niven’s Law:  uncreating time travel.
    Temporal Duplicates and Replacement Theory:  objects and people doubled by time travel.
    Rate of Change:  when does the change in the past alter the future.
    The Spreadsheet Illustration:  demonstrating the anomalies mathematically.
    The Butterfly Effect:  small changes can have big impacts.
    The Genetic Problem:  how the entire population of the world can be changed.

Analyzing Examples:  applying temporal theory to time travel stories.
Analyzing Back to the Future:  showing a film that got most of it right.

    The Beginning:  reconstructing the original history.
    Changing History:  how Marty altered his own past.
    Quibbles:  all the little problems.
    Another Change:  the other version of Marty.
    An Alternate Explanation:  applying alternative theories.

Analyzing Terminator:  reconstructing the analysis of the first film studied.

    A Fixed Time Solution:  looking at the story if time is immutable.
    Other Dimensions:  a consideration of whether Multiple Dimension Theory works here.
    Rewind, Replace:  the Replacement Theory solution.
    Ratcheting:  a sawtooth snap.

Analyzing Los Cronocrimines a.k.a. TimeCrimes:  studying a cleverly complicated story.
Analyzing Predestination:  unraveling a challenging paradox by popular demand.
Meeting Yourself:  what happens when the time traveler encounters himself.
Jumping Into Bodies:  a specific trope of some time travel stories.
How to Change the Past:  a workable method of using time travel to alter recent events.
Toward Two-Dimensional Time:  discussion of an undeveloped model for time travel.
The Perpetual Barbecue:  a short story built on Replacement Theory.

So that’s the outline.  It strikes me as I write this that in the editing process I might decide to create more subsections, particularly in the film analyses of Los Cronocrimines and Predestination, but that’s more a matter of dividing the text into manageable portions and would have the undesired effect of pushing the contents to two pages.  I look forward to your feedback.  The present draft is ninety-eight pages and fifty-six-point-five thousand words, but as I say there are sections that still need to be written, so it will be longer.  (For comparison, the similarly formatted text of Why I Believe is one hundred two pages but only forty-three-point-six thousand words.)

I look forward to your feedback.

#350: The Return of Vazor

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #350, on the subject of The Return of Vazor.

What seems a long time ago, someone who posts under the name “Vazor” found Temporal Anomalies in Popular Time Travel Movies, and read extensively the articles on the site, including particularly the theory articles.  He then wrote Analysis of the Replacement Theory of Time Travel, in which he praised the ideas but also raised questions.  If the dates are to be credited, our interaction, including my reply Vazor’s Time Travel Questions First Response, appeared at the end of June of 2008.  Obviously from that title I was anticipating a reply from him, and now he admits that it is long overdue but presents for my consideration A Long Overdue Time Travel Post in which he raises some more questions.  Of course, since 2008 I have added a significant amount to my site, and I’m not certain what he has read from it, but we’ll see what we can cover.

I would say I have a lot of reading to do.  He is responding to something I wrote twelve years ago in response to his comments on articles I wrote before that, and getting a clear notion of what articles he has not seen will be part of the problem.  I have read his recent post, but I think I will have to read both his previous post and my response before I can tackle this.  Also, I am doing the initial draft as a web log post, but if it gets too long I am going to have to reformat it to add to the Temporal Anomalies site in the Conversation section that has been untouched perhaps since our last interaction.

Vazor spends a fair amount of time discussing parallel dimension theory and distinguishing it from what I have called divergent dimension theory.  I have not put dates on my pages, but I made the same distinction between parallel dimension theory and divergent dimension theory in my Theory 101 series originally published at  I don’t see any complications there, other than that I think we both reject both of those theories as not being time travel.

I am then quite surprised when he says

I really only have one big question left.  How does an infinity loop get created?  Why does the fact that the young Traveler will not travel back, destroy the future of the C-D timeline?  Won’t Traveler and younger Traveler just live on in peace following the future of the C-D timeline?  In my original post I asked this question, but it was never answered.

I am surprised because it seems to me that this was the first thing I answered in my original post.  However, I will attempt to respond more briefly.  I discussed the infinity loop in that same theory series, in the section What Is an Infinity Loop?.

The short answer is that the arrival of the time traveler in the past is caused by the departure of the time traveler in the future.  Should the time traveler not depart from the future, he will not arrive in the past.  That part is simple.  The part people don’t get is that having arrived in the past the time traveler has created an entirely new history, and that history replaces the original one (hence the name “replacement theory”), moment by moment erasing the events which had occurred and replacing them with new ones.  Eventually time will reach the moment at which the time traveler departed for the past, and that departure is erased; since that departure is the necessary cause of his arrival in the past, that arrival is also erased–unless in the new history the alternate self, the version of our time traveler for whom this is the only history of the world, makes the same trip to the past for the same reason.  Failure to do this undoes the causal chain that created the history in which the traveler arrives in the past, and so restores the original history.

I feel like this is the hundredth time I’ve attempted to write that explanation for someone, but hopefully those three iterations together will be adequately clear.

Vazor seems almost to grasp this, but then asks

Why does the C-D timeline need to exist?  With the way the rest of the theory treats timelines, the timeline is determined from the moment of the Traveler’s arrival.  So wouldn’t it be at that moment that the cause is no longer found and the adult Traveler must cease to exist?  I suppose this is equivalent to saying that time travel is not possible, unless the traveler jumps with the planning and preparation that will ensure that an N-jump will happen.

But let us assume time travel is possible regardless of where the new timeline will go.  In that case, my question is, why does the C-D timeline need to revert at that particular time?  You might say “because that is the point at which it is now certain that the young Traveler cannot recreate the events of the C-D timeline.”  However I posit that you could be certain of that at different times.  Perhaps the point at which the Traveler changes the younger Traveler’s mind should be the revert point?  No, the young Traveler could change their minds.  Perhaps the young Traveler is delayed a little but would have left from the C-D timeline at a little bit later point in time than D and successfully recreated the events at point C?  I can see that you need to resolve the cause and effect somewhere, but wouldn’t it be simpler if it happened at the moment of the jump back to C?

I am again surprised because Vazor previously mentioned having read The Spreadsheet Illustration of Temporal Anomalies; however, many people who have read that have missed some of its critical points.  Permit me to clarify.

What the spreadsheet illustration attempts to posit is a chain of causes and effects that create either a stable or an unstable loop.  In essence, the value of cell A1 is dependent on the value of cell A5, which is in turn dependent on the values of A4, A3, A2, and A1 in sequence.  If this chain of formulae results in A1 having the same value derived from A5, we have a stable loop, and the rest of the spreadsheet can be derived from the value of A5.  If, on the other hand, the value of A1 keeps changing, then the value of A5 keeps changing, changing the value of A1, and the rest of the spreadsheet cannot be calculated because the value of A5 is not constant.

What people miss is sort of two-fold:

  1. The value of A5 changes instantly when the value of A1 changes, because A5 is dependent on A1; but
  2. Sequentially before the value of A5 changes the values of A2, A3, and A4 all change, and those steps are necessary for A5 to change even though they, too, change instantaneously.

In exactly the same way at the instant the time traveler arrives in the past he changes all of history up through the moment he departs or fails to depart from the future, and in that sense his arrival in the past is instantly either confirmed or undone, but all of the events that lead from his arrival to his departure must happen before that confirmation or undoing can occur.  Further, we experience those intervening events as time, and thus we have a CD timeline because we need the causal chain which determines whether or not the traveler will depart from the future.

Did we make sense this time?

How does replacement theory explain the conservation of matter problem?

Honestly this question has been asked before, but not quite this way.

Conservation of matter is simply that matter and energy cannot be created nor destroyed.  Under the replacement theory, there would appear initially to be a creation of matter at the arrival point, as the time traveler (and whatever he brings with him) are introduced as matter and energy that were not present, and there is an increase in the total mass of the universe.  Since any sane time traveler aims for a space in which the matter currently there is easily displaced–air, typically–I would not expect there to be a problem of matter arriving atop matter.  It is, I suppose, a plausible problem, and one that would also occur if we were talking about matter transmission or replication, but generally speaking the worst ordinary outcome would be an increase in atmospheric pressure of a small amount.

That increase in the total mass of the universe is effectively borrowed from the mass of the universe in the future, and has to be repaid at the moment it was borrowed–that is, if we send two hundred kilograms back from 2020 to 2010, we increase the mass of the universe by two hundred kilograms at 2010, but decrease it by the same amount at 2020, thus preserving the total mass of the universe.  In a sense, we moved the barbells to another room and then moved them back.

As to the four proposed time travel stories, they would need more details to know what is intended and whether it is possible.  The third, though, is something similar to something done (or at least discussed) in a Multiverser game.  Let us suggest that your villain built his robot and his time machine in 2018, and sends his robot in his time machine back from 2020 to 2019.&nbsp Since in 2019 he already has a robot and a time machine built in 2018, he now has two.  In 2020 he sends back both robots and both time machines, which both arrive in 2019, and now he has three of each.  He can continue doing this interminably, but we’ll say he stops at ten, so now in 2019 he has ten robots and ten time machines.

To clarify, the first time through he has one robot, and in 2020 he sends it back to 2019 so that he has two robots, which we can call #1 and #2.  In 2020 he can send #2 back to become #3, but he must also send #1 back to become #2 or #2 will not arrive in 2019 in the third iteration.  Thus by sending two robots back from the end of the second iteration he has in the third iteration three, not four, robots.

The problem is that he must send back nine of them (and technically the right nine) at the right moment in 2020.  After all, number ten is technically number one whose history includes that he has traveled to the past nine times, and if number one now fails to depart for the past, all the others will cease ever to have arrived in the past, and we crash into an infinity loop in which our villain has one robot, one time machine, and a plan to duplicate them by using time travel.  Further, to move beyond the departure point in 2020 our villain must systematically send back eight, seven, six, and so forth until only the last robot, who has been sent back many times, is the only one which remains, and then one robot continues with the villain into the future.

So he has to be aware of this, and make good use of his robots in 2019 before he has to start sending them back.

I don’t think I’ve answered everything, but I think I’ve addressed everything that matters.  I look forward to Vazor’s response perhaps a dozen years in the future or, if he figures out time travel before I do, a dozen years in the past.

#348: Temporal Thoughts on A.R.Q.

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #348, on the subject of Temporal Thoughts on A.R.Q..

This was running on Netflix, and it appeared to have a time travel element, so I put it on my list of movies to watch and possibly analyze.  The blurb, though, suggested it was yet another Groundhog Day clone, people caught in a time loop, and as temporal anomalies go time loops are pretty boring.  However, a time travel fan sent me a Messenger message suggesting that it was worth watching, so I grabbed my pad and pen and started watching.  My notes cover maybe the first half of the movie before I gave up on them.

For what it’s worth, it’s a decent action film with quite a few twists; this is not a full analysis and I have attempted to keep the reveals minimal.  I immediately recognized lead figure Robbie Amell as Renton from his role in When We First Met where he played heartthrob Ethan; he was also Stephen Jameson in The Tomorrow People and Ronnie Raymond in The Flash, so by now he was a familiar face to sci-fi/fantasy fans.  The action begins immediately, as Renton awakens to see that the clock says 6:16, the girl whose name we eventually learn is Hannah is sleeping next to him, and suddenly the door bursts open and masked men come through, grab Renton and drag him out, there is a scuffle in which Renton falls down the stairs and hits his head, and he awakens back in bed at 6:16 with Hannah lying beside him.

Unlike Groundhog Day, more like 12:01, we gradually learn why time is looping.  It has something to do with the Arcing Recursive Quine, A.R.Q., which is usually referenced as the Ark or Arc.  Working for a massive corporation called Torus, Renton, an engineer, invented something he thinks is a perpetual motion machine that produces excess power.  For what it’s worth, I conceived of the same device when I was in junior high, and when my father pointed out that that was what I had described it was obvious that it wouldn’t work.  His doesn’t actually work, either, but he doesn’t know it yet, and neither does Torus, who wants it back.  Torus is engaged in something called the Energy Wars, their chief adversary being The Bloc.  Renton has it up and running in his garage, monitored by a multi-screen computer system.  He booby-trapped it with an electric charge, and at 6:16 in the morning a member of the team that had come to find it touched it, was killed by the electrical charge, and created the front end of the time loop.

The machine has a motor driven by batteries which are recharged by a generator turned by the motor.  It’s probably not as simple as that, but they figure out that the loop resets at 9:25 because for some reason the batteries fail.  They know that the loop resets consistently at 9:25 because for some reason which the movie ignores the computer is recording the activity of the machine as it goes through every loop, showing that it runs from 6:16 to 9:25 and then again runs from 6:16 to 9:25, repeatedly.  Why the computer’s memory is not erased when everyone else’s is (and the computer remembers more iterations than Renton) is not addressed.  Further, it appears that the loop has been happening thousands of times, so it is remarkable that the computer’s memory has not overflowed.  Presumably eventually it will.

The second time we see that it is 6:16, Renton is the only one aware of it.  He goes through the beginning of the day several times, each time learning more including the first big twist, and each time being killed one way or another, usually shot.  Then suddenly, and perhaps not entirely inexplicably, Hannah awakens aware of what had happened in the previous iteration–only the one, but from that point forward she is aware of each repeat of the loop.  That means that the two of them are now working to make it different, as they uncover additional twists.

Renton and Hannah are arguing about what they need to do, as Hannah wants to give the machine to the Bloc so they have a chance to defeat Torus, and Renton wants to take the machine and run, or barring that to destroy it so that no one will have it.  Their options become more limited when someone they have identified as a Torus mercenary infiltrator (plot twist) in the team becomes the third person aware of the loop.  Now three people are trying to change events as the loop unfolds, each aware of what happened in some of the previous loops.

We are ultimately told that the loop is localized to the house, but we don’t learn from that what’s happening in the rest of the world.  In fact, in the early iterations we hear the same television broadcast several times, so we don’t know whether somehow time outside has frozen and the broadcast repeats because it played in the first iteration, or whether the idea that the loop is spatially limited is wrong and the broadcast is repeating, or whether something else has happened out there.  In several of the iterations the villain calls in a strike team from the company, and in at least one, probably more than one, it arrives, so time within and outside the circle must be connected.

There is a problem that in one of the later loops Renton and Hannah discover a recording they sent to themselves that they do not remember having made, which they later do make to send to themselves.  This is inconsistent with the temporal loop scenario unless they made it in an earlier iteration that they don’t remember, and the content of the message really could only have come from their memories of the loop.

Both sides develop the interesting strategy of escaping a losing situation by permitting themselves to be killed so that when the time expires they will get another try at it.  They reach the conclusion that if they turn off the machine time will continue past 9:25, but only Renton knows how to turn off the machine.

The film ends with another unexplained temporal twist, and the loop continues reminiscent of Triangle.

It is indeed a compelling action movie with several excellent plot twists, and despite the fact that the morning is repeating the viewer rarely knows what will happen next.  I wouldn’t recommend it for the time travel elements, but it’s an enjoyable film well done overall.

#336: Time Trap Temporal Thoughts

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #336, on the subject of Time Trap Temporal Thoughts.

I was looking for a good time travel movie to analyze, and Netflix started pushing this one, so I watched it.

From a time travel perspective, this was not it.  That is, it was a good enough movie and it had time travel elements, but it didn’t really have interesting time travel elements.

It also had a few problems.

I suppose it really begins in the stone age, because we learn probably fairly early that some stone age humans inhabit the cave.  Our temporal instability is inside this cave, but we’ll get to that.  The stone age ended sometime between four thousand and eleven thousand years ago, depending on who you ask, but that probably does not make much difference here.

It will readily be apparent to any time travel fan that the flashing light at the cave exit indicates time passing very rapidly on the outside.  I was surprised at how long it took our seemingly intelligent spelunkers to reach that conclusion, but then, the viewer has the advantage of knowing that this is a time travel story.  What was more difficult was someone’s suggestion that the flashes were not days but the passing of the equinox when the sun was directly overhead.

Clever idea, but the caves are supposed to be in Texas.  On the equinox the sun is directly overhead at the equator.  In fact, it is never directly overhead anywhere in the continental United States but for the southernmost tip of Florida; it “moves” between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, and so is only overhead in points within what we call the Tropics, and even there dependent on the day of the year, twice a year but for the end points themselves, once each on the appropriate solstice.

This is not impossible to resolve, however.  We only need to assume that the entrance to the cave is not perpendicular to the ground but set at a southerly angle such that twice or possibly once a year the sun passes in a direct line from it.  The sun is never directly above Stonehenge, but it frequently aligns with various stones such that light and shadows appear in specific places.  The perhaps more difficult point is that for how fast time appears to be moving, the flicker of light that enters the cave would exist for a shorter period than that of a stroboscopic camera flash.  On the other hand, the alignment need not be perfect, so we would have this flicker at least several days in a row, and while we wouldn’t quite get what we see we would get brief periodic flashes of a brighter light disrupting the ordinary day/night flicker that is too fast for the eye, much like the one hundred twenty cycle per second flicker of an incandescent light bulb.

That raises the question of how fast time is moving on the other side of the barrier.  It is not a simple question.  For one thing, even with a stopwatch it would be difficult to determine how many flashes per second we are seeing.  On top of that, as just suggested, we don’t know whether we are seeing one flash per year or two.  However, we can put boundaries on it.

If we are seeing one flash per second and two flashes per year, then time is advancing at one year every two seconds.  At that rate we move thirty years per minute, and in an hour we will have advanced one hundred eighty years.  That actually could be enough time for humanity to have moved to Mars.  It probably could not be enough time for humanity to have completely lost the English language as we know it, grown to eight feet tall, and evolved very different hand structures and respiratory requirements without genetic manipulation.  (Were you to meet someone from the early nineteenth century, they might be a couple inches shorter on average and their accent would have been funny, but you could communicate adequately–and you don’t have the advantage of entertaining recordings of how they spoke.)

The problem is in the other direction:  in order for the cave men to be alive in the cave, at least four thousand years must have passed outside.  If we are seeing five flashes per second and one flash per year, five years per second is three hundred years per minute, eighteen thousand years per hour.  That would easily make it possible for the cavemen to have arrived three and a half hours ago, and we could assume they arrived as long as half a day ago, still getting their bearings and surprised by these people from the future.  However, at that rate the day after the professor vanished would be only a fraction of a second for him, and his parents could not have been in the cave as long as a few minutes.  The cowboy the professor sees just ahead of him would have had very little head start, particularly since he must have entered after the parents despite the appearance of a nineteenth century gunslinger.

We could probably work out a rate that is between these two extremes which allows for this.  The difficult question is how long the cavemen could have survived, in terms of days, without food.  Yet there is a potential answer to that.  Within the cave there is another temporal distortion beyond which can be seen persons from previous centuries as seemingly frozen from the perspective of the outer cave area as the outer cave area is from the outside.  That section does not have the same problem as this section:  one does not need a rope to enter, nor to exit, and so it is possible that some of the cavemen had moved from the outer area to the inner area, stayed a short time, and came back.  In the few hours they were beyond the barrier thousands of years would pass.  That means that others still beyond that inner barrier might at some time in the future be rescued, if the rescuers remain watchful for thousands of years.  Even with futuristic alienistic humanity, that doesn’t seem particularly likely.  Larry Niven was sharp enough to recognize that when his future society sent ram ships to explore distant stars traveling at near-light speeds, their pilots would return to a humanity thousands of years future of their departure time, and so to a completely different society.  Anyone who spends as much as half an hour inside the outer cave would return to a very different world beyond.

Which brings us to The Rescue.

The first odd aspect of the rescue is the ladder.  It is presumably made of some futuristic material that would withstand the anticipated stresses, but there are still some significant points.  Whatever is at the top of the ladder has to be stable, unmoving relative to the interior of the cave.  Yet the air and the dirt and even the continent itself are moving, and those motions are going to impact any object fixed above the cave by any means.  We can minimize such movement, but over the course of a day there would be tiny shifts for which the system would have to compensate, and those shifts would create vibrations in the ladder.  They might be too high to hear, but someone touching the ladder should be able to feel a tingle from it.  We don’t know that they didn’t, of course, but it wasn’t noted.  Further, if the ladder is touching the floor, it’s going to wear a hole in the floor fairly quickly from those vibrations.

It was, however, the suited man himself which bothers me.  He descends the ladder and then does not explore the cave but rather walks directly to the pool of water to bring back a sample.  Further, not only does he know where this water is located, he knows that it has healing properties, because he puts the injured person in it to bring about his recovery.  Where does he get his information?  If someone had previously entered and mapped the cave that accurately and reported the quality of the water, and successfully exited again, it would have to have happened before the parents entered or the parents would have been rescued in the process.  Such an exploration could not have happened in the centuries following the professor’s entrance because between the professor and the students someone would have seen an explorer.  We might plausibly suggest that something like ground radar or sonar was used to plot the caves, which might even have revealed the position of water sources within them, but it would not have told them anything about the water there.  The actions of the suited man do not make sense, in the sense that there is no plausible basis for his apparent knowledge.

Of course, also, his brief visit to the cave involves many years passing on the outside.  He uses up his time, presumably the life support in his suit, and it is unlikely that such a suit would be functional for less than an hour.  As we noted, that would be minimally one hundred eighty years, and probably considerably longer.  It’s quite a project, although if we assume successful life extension technology it might be the equivalent of a quarter century of our lifetimes.  That’s still a very long mission.

The tentacles have a similar but more complicated problem to the ladder.  They have to have their control circuits in the tips so they can function on the temporally slowed side.  Further, it is difficult to imagine a mechanism that would permit them to function on both sides of the time barrier without stressing themselves at the point of crossing.  Of course, they don’t have to work for long on the slowed side, but the minute or so that they are snatching the people is again several years that they are extended.  When the second group reaches the ship, the first girl rescued should look considerably older.

These are really all minor quibbles, and perhaps there are aspects we don’t know.  If the ship is equipped with a system that lets it do what the cave does, and so matches its time flow to that below, it resolves some of these problems.  If the life extension technology can be applied to a girl around twenty effectively, she might well have stopped aging in the years before the others were rescued minutes later.  I will always be bothered by the acts of the future explorer, because I don’t see any way to reconcile his knowledge to the events prior to his arrival.

I tried to watch it a second time and could not persuade myself to do so, so it is possible I missed something significant, but hopefully this is adequate for the purpose.

#330: Temporal Notes on an Episode of “The Orville”

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #330, on the subject of Temporal Notes on an Episode of “The Orville”.

A long-time early fan of Temporal Anomalies in Time Travel Movies (and contributor of Temporal Anomalies in Time Travel Movies Unravels The Final Countdown) contacted me via Facebook Messenger to ask a question about a particular two-episode time travel story arc of a television show.  I have made it clear that I don’t do analyses of television series, but given that this was one question about one episode of one series, and I was probably going to have to answer him in a post that would have been too long for that medium, and I have been neglecting my time travel audience to some degree, I decided to bring it over here.

We will begin with his post, with minimal edits marked:

Have you watched the tv show The Orville?  It’s sort of a self-aware knock off of Star Trek.  They’ve had at least a dozen Star Trek actors in cameo roles in the first two seasons.  Anyway, there’s a time travel story.  I’m going to try to present it to you with as few spoilers as possible, in case you’ve not seen the show.

So, in one episode, the ship hits a temporal anomaly in space which causes the seven-years younger version of the ship’s first officer to be sent forward in time to land on The Orville.  Episode proceeds, she’s eventually given an unsuccessful memory wipe and sent back in time.  They attempted to wipe her memory so that she could not affect the future.  But it didn’t take.  So she changes history such that The Borg have conquered The Federation.  (Not exactly, that’s the spoiler-free version of the story[.])

Next episode, seven years later.  The Borg have conquered The Federation.  She remembers that time trip and realizes that it was her tampering that caused it.  So she rounds up everyone from The Orville.  This time, they send back the doctor (A Star Trek DS9 Alum) to do the memory wipe correctly.  Timeline restored.

Under your theory, once she travels into the future, the future self no longer exists, correct?  It would be as if they went to New Jersey for seven years, only they didn’t age.  So there can’t be two of them in the future.  (That’s not a spoiler, You’d have seen it coming[.])

What about her knowledge?  There’s no reason to think the younger version wouldn’t always be sent into the future.  And there’s no reason to think the memory wipe wouldn’t take.  So the last problem is the doctor going back to redo it.  Anomalies you can see?

But the lady was questioning that.  “If she’s younger me, then why don’t I remember any of this?”  And eventually concludes that she doesn’t remember it because the memory wipe must have been successful.  No reason to think she wouldn’t still think that.

Based on what I’ve said, what are your thoughts?  I think it resolves, except for the first officer being there.  What difference does that make?  I’m not 100% I agree with your theory there.  If she eventually will go back in time, why wouldn’t two of them be there?  But anyway.


So that is the question.

First, my wife and I enjoyed the first season of The Orville when FoxNOW was a free service on our Roku television.  When they went to a subscription service, well, it didn’t seem worth the money to subscribe for the sake of only one show we were at all likely to watch, and a good but not great one in our assessment, so it was forgotten.  The time travel arc was not included in what we watched.

The statement that the older version of the first officer would not be in the future is partly correct, but it’s more complicated than that.

One of the problems we have is a problem with the fact that this is a television series.  I am assuming that the event which moved the first officer to the future occurred prior to season one episode one.  That would mean that she never boarded The Orville, and thus all of the episodes we have watched are wrong.  The older version of herself is not there because she never was there; someone else is first officer, and all the espisodes to date have to be re-imagined to include this other officer.  Our time traveler will not, in this original history, meet herself, but will find that she has no history for seven years.

There would be no problem if they simply found a place in their time for this traveler from the past, as Starfleet did for Dr. Gillian in Star Trek IV:  The Voyage Home.  The trouble begins because they decide to send her back, and once you send anything into the past, you alter the past and create an anomaly.  Remember, no one even imagines that this time traveler might have been their first officer, because she never was.

We also hit our first real complication here.  The writers want us to believe that returning the first officer to the past restores the original timeline which we saw in the previous episodes, but that because she remembers the future the timeline is altered.  In fact, she never was the first officer on The Orville, and so the history created in which the Borg conquer the Federation is the first history in which she is present, and it is her presence (rather than absence) which causes the change.

The obvious solution would seem to be not to send her back–but it’s too late, because that would create an infinity loop (see Temporal Theory 101 and 102 for explanations of the anomalies and terminology):  if she does not go back, the Borg do not rise to power, and the crew of Orville have no reason not to send her back, so she will go back, causing the rise of the Borg, leading them not to send her back, in a repeating cycle.

We will have to assume that their analysis is correct, that the Borg rise to power because of something she remembered about the future that was not eliminated by the mind wipe.  It is a very improbable analysis for them to have made:  no one in the future remembers any history other than the one in which the Borg rise to power, and so it should not occur to anyone that sending the first officer back caused this, and even less likely that they would believe it was because of a failed mind wipe.  However, we have another set of complications here, tied to an unanswerable question:  why did she land on Orville when she traveled to the future?

I suspect that what the writers thought was she went to the coordinates of her older self.  That does not work, though, because she had no older self in the original history and so could not go there.  Our questioner has suggested that the older self would be there because the younger self is going to travel to the past, and that would work in a fixed time theory universe–but this is not fixed time theory, because they change history more than once.  Before the younger self departs for the past it is possible that something would prevent that, and therefore we have to finish the history which terminates with that departure before we can begin any history in which there is an arrival in the past.  The older self was not there in the original history.

It might be argued that she went to The Orville because she, her younger self, was on The Orville when she was transported to the future, and so using a frame of reference theory that’s where she went–but it does not appear that she was ever on that ship prior to the first episode of the series, so that theory won’t hold.  Note that if this trip to the future happened during the time covered by the series, we would have seen it happen in a previous episode and had to deal with her disappearance then, even if we also had her reappearance which altered history.

I am out of potential rational explanations, and am forced to suggest that of all of the vastness of space she managed to appear not floating somewhere in the empty vacuum but on a ship to which she had no known connection somewhere in that vast vacuum.  She rolled a googol-sided die and got a perfect result.

That gives us our complication, because the entire history of the universe has drastically changed following her return to the past, and there is no reason to suppose that The Orville even exists in this new world, or that it has the same crew or the same mission or is within a thousand light years of the same location.  Yet when our time traveler leaps forward presumably from before those changes have been made, she must land on the same ship in the same location.  If she doesn’t, of course, we have an infinity loop; but even if somehow she does whoever is on that ship has to make the same decision to send her back at the same moment.  Further, they must fail to wipe her memory in exactly the same way, despite the fact that everything else in this universe is different.

So we assume that against incredible odds our time traveler who has not yet caused the rise of the borg lands on the same ship in the same place and is sent back at the same time to the same time.  Yet even with all this, we’ve got a disaster.

Our assumption is that having leapt to the future, the officer learns perhaps many things about the future.  Somehow at least one of those things remained in her memory when her mind was wiped, and that one memory caused a drastic change in history when she acted upon it in the past.  However, her duplicate self arriving in the future is in an entirely different future.  The odds that she would learn the same single thing that changes history are, once again, drastically against.  It isn’t just that she is unlikely to land on the same ship, or that the ship is unlikely to have the same crew.  Even were we to grant those improbable outcomes, we cannot escape the fact that this ship and this crew are the result of the seven years in which the Borg rose to power and conquered the Federation.  There is almost nothing significant our time traveler could have learned about the original history that would be true in this altered history.  Apply mind wipe, and send her back to her own time, and how is it even possible that the one thing she remembers is the same thing that created this Borg-dominated history?  Yet it must be so for the story we are given to be true, and if it’s not so then the Borg will not rise to power in this new version (in which the time traveler came from the Borg-dominated future) and we have, again, an infinity loop.

So somehow against such incredible odds our time traveler is returned to her own time with exactly the same retained memory and so causes the exact same history–the N-jump we need to save time.  That gives us a future; it is the future in which the Borg dominate the universe.

Somehow the crew of The Orville decide that this is wrong, and that it must be this way because the memory erasure didn’t work properly.  They decide this despite the fact that not a one of them has any notion that history every has been or could have been different than it was, that the Borg defeated the Federation in the only version of history any of them has ever known or experienced.  Maybe they have an alien aboard who, like Guinan in Star Trek:  The Next Generation, can simply sense that this timeline is somehow “wrong”–but in that case it will never sense that it is “right”, because it can’t be corrected, and the “right” timeline, the original history, is the one in which the young first officer never returned to the past.  Still, somehow they decide that the rise of the Borg to power is not the original history, and then they add to that that it was caused by the young officer’s trip to the past, and then that the reason she altered history was not because she hadn’t been there and now was, but because she remembered something she should have forgotten and acted upon it changing the past.  They have absolutely no evidence to support any of these conclusions, but that’s what they conclude.

Having concluded it, they decide to do the most foolish thing anyone could possibly attempt to do in time travel.  They decide to fix history.

The problem is, either you will succeed or you will fail.  If you succeed, you eliminate the problem that caused you to try in the first place, so you won’t try, so history will revert to the version in which you do not make the trip to the past to fix it.  Thus the best hope is that you will fail, and that therefore history will continue as it was.

In this case, apparently they succeeded.  Not long after they sent the officer back with the faulty memory wipe, they sent a doctor back to do it right.  He succeeds, with the result that the Borg never rise to power.  We can assume that all of history moves much as it did, but when we reach the moment when the doctor has to depart to fix the problem, that problem does not exist, because it was already fixed.  That means that they don’t know the first memory wipe failed, or that the Borg ever rose to power, and they don’t send the doctor back to fix it, so it doesn’t get fixed, and we have an infinity loop.

There is one more minor issue in all this.  In the version we are shown the older first officer says, “If she’s younger me, then why don’t I remember any of this?”  We don’t know in which history she is supposed to have said this.  In the original history, she doesn’t exist.  In the second history, in which the Borg rise to power, she should remember whatever it was she remembered seven years before, and the consequential rise of the Borg, and possibly even recognize her fault in this.  In the history created by the doctor, she would not remember it because that second mind erasure worked.

So in conclusion, the time travel foray by The Orville was a temporal disaster several times over.  Of course, we can sort of forgive this because the show is something of a parody.  I’m just glad I was not subjected to having to watch the disaster unfold on the screen.

#325: The 2019 Recap

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #325, on the subject of The 2019 Recap.

Happy New Year to you.  A year ago I continued the tradition of recapitulating in the most sketchy of fashions everything I had published over the previous year, in mark Joseph “young” web log post #278:  The 2018 Recap.  I am back to continue that tradition, as briefly as reasonable, so that if you missed something you can find it, or if you vaguely remember something you want to read again you can hunt it down.  Some of that brevity will be achieved by referencing index pages, other collections of links to articles and installments.

For example, that day also saw the publication of the first Faith in Play article of the year, but all twelve of those plus the dozen RPG-ology series articles are listed, described, and linked in 2019 at the Christian Gamers Guild Reviewed, published yesterday.  There’s some good game stuff there in addition to some good Bible stuff, including links to some articles by other talented gaming writers, and a couple contributions involving me one way or another that were not parts of either series.  Also CGG-related, I finished the Bible study on Revelation and began John in January; we’re still working through John, but thanks to a late-in-the-year problem with Yahoo!Groups that had been hosting us we had to move everything to Groups.IO, and I haven’t managed to fix all the important links yet.

At that point we were also about a quarter of the way through the novel Garden of Versers as we posted a Robert Slade chapter that same day, but that entire novel is indexed there, along with links to the web log posts giving background on the writing process.  In October we launched the sixth novel, Versers Versus Versers, which is heating up in three chapters a week, again indexed along with behind-the-writings posts there, and it will continue in the new year.  There are also links to the support pages, character sheets for the major protagonists and a few antagonists in the stories.  Also related to the novels, in October I invited reader input on which characters should be the focus of the seventh, in #318:  Toward a Seventh Multiverser Novel.

I wrote a few book reviews at Goodreads, which you can find there if you’re interested.  More of my earlier articles were translated for publication at the Places to Go, People to Be French edition.

So let’s turn to the web log posts.

The first one after the recap of the previous year was an answer to a personal question asked impersonally on a public forum:  how did I know I was called to writing and composing?  The answer is found in web log post #279:  My Journey to Becoming a Writer.

I had already begun a miniseries on the Christian contemporary and rock music of the seventies and early eighties–the time when I was working at the radio station and what I remembered from before that.  That series continued (and hopefully will continue this year) with:

Although I didn’t realize it at the time, it is evident that the music dominated the web log this year.  In May I was invited to a sort of conference/convention in Nashville, which I attended and from which I benefited significantly.  I wrote about that in web log post #297:  An Objective Look at The Extreme Tour Objective Session.  While there I talked to several persons in the Christian music industry, and one of them advised me to found my own publishing company and publish my songs.  After considerable consideration I recognized that I have no skills for business, but I could put the songs out there, and so I began with a sort of song-of-the-month miniseries, the first seven songs posted this year:

  1. #301:  The Song “Holocaust”
  2. #307:  The Song “Time Bomb”
  3. #311:  The Song “Passing Through the Portal”
  4. #314:  The Song “Walkin’ In the Woods”
  5. #317:  The Song “That’s When I’ll Believe”
  6. #320:  The Song “Free”
  7. #322:  The Song “Voices”

I admit that I have to some degree soured on law and politics.  Polarization has gotten so bad that moderates are regarded enemies by the extremists on both sides.  However, I tackled a few Supreme Court cases, some issues in taxes including tariffs, a couple election articles, and a couple of recurring issues:

I was hospitalized more than once this year, but the big one was right near the beginning when the emergency room informed me that that pain was a myocardial infarction–in the vernacular, a heart attack.  Many of you supported me in many ways, and so I offered web log post #285:  An Expression of Gratitude.

Most of the game-related material went to the RPG-ology series mentioned at the beginning of this article, and you should visit that index for those.  I did include one role playing game article here as web log post #303:  A Nightmare Game World, a very strange scenario from a dream.

Finally, I did eventually post some time travel analyses, two movies available on Netflix.  The first was a kind of offbeat not quite a love story, Temporal Anomalies in Popular Time Travel Movies unravels When We First Met; the second a Spike Lee film focused on trying to fix the past, Temporal Anomalies in Time Travel Movies unravels See You Yesterday.  For those wondering, I have not yet figured out how I can get access to the new Marvel movie Endgame, as it appears it will not be airing on Netflix and I do not expect to spring for a Disney subscription despite its appeal, at least, not unless the Patreon account grows significantly.

So that’s pretty much what I wrote this year, not counting the fact that I’m working on the second edition of Multiverser, looking for a publisher for a book entitled Why I Believe, and continuing to produce the material to continue the ongoing series into the new year.  We’ll do this again in a dozen months.

#285: An Expression of Gratitude

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #285, on the subject of An Expression of Gratitude.

I need to thank a lot of people.

The complications include that I do not know who you all are, and I’m not sure of the propriety either of naming those whose names I have or contacting you personally.

Thus I am thanking you all, however many of you there are, through this web log post.

This arises from the fact that I recently had a myocardial infarction–a heart attack–which put me in the hospital.  I posted that in this Facebook post, and somewhere about twenty responses down I posted again with news of the Friday and Monday procedures, and my Tuesday discharge and such.

Many of you sent what I guess would be called “good wishes”, that is, comments, messages, whatever, hoping that I would get better.  Thank you.  I have done so to a significant degree, although I am still a bit weak and officially convalescing (and my wife has already scolded me for overworking once she knew how much I did yesterday, the day after my discharge, but someone had to get the boys to work and someone had to pick up my prescriptions, and more often than not I find that someone is me, particularly when she is working a string of night shifts, driving herself for the first time since her broken hip, and needing to sleep during the day).  So I am not fully recovered, but I am back at work.

Many of you prayed, and for this I am particularly grateful.  You have, of course, obligated me to let you know about the answers to your prayers so that many of you can give thanks to God for the grace extended through the prayers of many of you (cf. II Corinthians 1:11).  I have largely done that in the Facebook post.  I am not out of the woods entirely–I have a bag of new medications (and of all things the pharmacy couldn’t fill the “aspirin” prescription (chewable baby aspirin–how could they not have that?), so someone has to go back for it today), and I have two appointments for a cardiac stress test and a followup to decide what the test results mean.  Those are in the second week of March.

At least two of you made a point of spreading the word of my debilitation, and of encouraging people who at least know who I am to support me financially during this time.  That has resulted in a few gifts of significant amounts through my account–the first real activity there since it opened, and enough to pay for this bag of prescriptions and a bit more.  I have not seen any new Patreon patrons yet, but Patreon’s notification system is sometimes wonky so I’m going to include mention of that–because I am grateful to those of you who have made an effort to keep me going, and thankful to God that you are there, to those who contributed and to those who encouraged others to do so.

I’ll extend these thanks to those who have been meaning to send a bit of help my direction and simply haven’t yet done so; I know what that’s like, as there are often times when I have something I need to do soon that goes for days or weeks or even months before I manage it.  So thank you for the prayers and support you are going to send in the future.  You really do make a difference.

As the picture says, thank you.

#278: The 2018 Recap

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #278, on the subject of The 2018 Recap.

A year ago I continued a tradition of recapitulating in the most sketchy of fashions everything I had published over the previous year, in mark Joseph “young” web log post #219:  A 2017 Retrospective.  I am back to continue that tradition, as briefly as reasonable.  Some of that brevity will be achieved by referencing index pages, other collections of links to articles and installments.

For example, on the second of January, the same day I published that retrospective here, I also posted another chapter in the series of Multiverser novels, at which point we were at the twenty-third chapter of the fourth book, Spy Verses (which contains one hundred forty-seven short chapters).  We had just published the first of seven behind-the-writings web log posts looking at the writing process, but all of that is indexed at that link.  Also on that same day the Christian Gamers Guild released the second installment of the new series Faith in Play, but all of those articles along with all the articles in the RPG-ology series are listed, briefly described, and linked (along with other excellent articles from other members of the guild) in the just-published Thirteen Months in Review on their site.  That saves recapping here two dozen more titles in the realms of Bible/theology and gaming, many of them excellent.  It should also be mentioned that six days a week I post to the Chaplain’s Bible study list, finishing Revelation probably early next week, and posting “Musings” on Fridays.

Spy Verses wrapped up in October, and was followed by the release of an expansion of Multiverser Novel Support Pages, updated character sheets through the end of that book, and by the end of that month we had begun publishing, several chapters per week, Garden of Versers, which is still going as I write this.

Now would probably be a good time to mention that all of that writing is free to read, supported by reader contributions–that means you–through Patreon or PayPal Me.  If you’ve been following and enjoying any of those series, your encouragement and support through those means goes a long way to keeping them going, along with much else that has been written–and although that may be the bulk of what was written, there is still much else.

Since on January 10th the first of the year’s web log posts on law and politics appeared, we’ll cover those next.

#220:  The Right to Repair presents the new New Jersey law requiring manufacturers of consumer electronics to provide schematics, parts, and tools to owners at reasonable prices, so that those with some knowledge in the field can troubleshoot and repair their own cell phones and other electronics, and none of us need be at the mercy of price-gouging company stores.

#221:  Silence on the Lesbian Front addressed the ramifications of a Supreme Court decision not to hear a case against a Mississippi law permitting merchants to decline wedding services to homosexual weddings.

#222:  The Range War Explodes:  Interstate Water Rights arose at the Supreme Court level when Florida claimed Georgia was using too much of the water that should flow downstream to it.

#225:  Give Me Your Poor talks about our immigrant history, the illusion that it was entirely altruistic, and the question of what we do going forward.

#229:  A Challenge to Winner-Take-All in the Electoral College looks at a federal lawsuit claiming that the standard electoral college election system violates the one-person-one-vote rule.

#230:  No Womb No Say? challenges the notion that men should not have a say in abortion law.

#231:  Benefits of Free-Range Parenting discusses the recent idea that parents who do not closely monitor their kids are not being negligent.

#241:  Deportation of Dangerous Felons considers the Supreme Court case which decided that the law permitting deportation of immigrants for “aggravated felonies” is too vague.

#247:  The Homosexual Wedding Cake Case examines in some detail the decision that protected a baker from legal action against him for refusing service to a homosexual couple, based primarily on the prejudicial language of the lower court decision.

#251:  Voter Unregistration Law examined a somewhat complicated case upholding a law that permits removal of non-responsive voters from the registration lists.

#253:  Political Messages at Polling Places presented the decision that non-specific political clothing and such cannot be banned from polling places.

#255:  On Sveen:  Divorcees, Check Your Beneficiaries examined a convoluted probate case in which a law passed subsequent to a divorce dictated how life insurance policy assets should be distributed.

#259:  Saying No to Public Employee Union Agency Fees is the case the unions feared, in which they were stripped of their ability to charge non-members fees for representation.

#261:  A Small Victory for Pro-Life Advocates hinged on free speech and a California law compelling crisis pregnancy centers to post notices that the state provides free and low-cost abortions.

#270:  New Jersey’s 2018 Election Ballot was the first of two parts on the election in our state, #271:  New Jersey’s 2018 Election Results providing the second part.

#274:  Close Races and Third Parties arose in part from the fact that one of our congressional districts was undecided for several days, and in part from the fact that Maine has enacted a new experimental system which benefits third parties by having voters rank all candidates in order of preference.

One post that not only bridges the space between religion and politics but explains why the two cannot really be separated should be mentioned, #224:  Religious Politics.

My practice of late has been to put my book reviews on Goodreads, and you’ll find quite a few there, but for several reasons I included #223:  In re:  Full Moon Rising, by T. M. Becker as a web log post.  I also copied information from a series of Facebook posts about books I recommended into #263:  The Ten Book Cover Challenge.

There were a few entries in time travel, mostly posted to the Temporal Anomalies section of the site, including Temporal Anomalies in Synchronicity, which is pretty good once you understand what it really is; Temporal Anomalies in Paradox, which is a remarkably convoluted action-packed time travel story; Temporal Anomalies in O Homen Do Futuro a.k.a. The Man From the Future, a wonderfully clever Brazilian film in which the time traveler has to fix what he tried to fix, interacting with himself in the past; and Temporal Anomalies in Abby Sen, an Indian film that is ultimately pretty dull but not without some interesting ideas.

In the miscellaneous realm, we had #227:  Toward Better Subtitles suggesting how to improve the closed captioning on television shows; #228:  Applying the Rules of Grammar encourages writers to understand the rules and the reasons for them before breaking them; and #273:  Maintaining Fictional Character Records gives some details of my way of keeping character information consistent from book to book.

This year we also began a subseries on the roots of Christian Contemporary and Rock Music, starting with #232:  Larry Norman, Visitor in March, and continuing with

  1. #234:  Flip Sides of Ralph Carmichael
  2. #236:  Reign of The Imperials
  3. #238:  Love Song by Love Song
  4. #240:  Should Have Been a Friend of Paul Clark
  5. #242:  Disciple Andraé Crouch
  6. #244:  Missed the Archers
  7. #246:  The Secular Radio Hits
  8. #248:  The Hawkins Family
  9. #250:  Original Worship Leader Ted Sandquist
  10. #252:  Petra Means Rock
  11. #254:  Miscellaneous Early Christian Bands
  12. #256:  Harry Thomas’ Creations Come Alive
  13. #258:  British Invaders Malcolm and Alwyn
  14. #260:  Lamb and Jews for Jesus
  15. #262:  First Lady Honeytree of Christian Music
  16. #264:  How About Danny Taylor?
  17. #266:  Minstrel Barry McGuire
  18. #268:  Voice of the Second Chapter of Acts
  19. #272:  To the Bride Live
  20. #276:  Best Guitarist Phil Keaggy.

Looking at our Bible and Theology posts, the first of the year landed in the end of March, as #233:  Does Hell Exist? attempts to explore how the modern conception of hell compares with the Biblical one; #245:  Unspoken Prayer Requests finds theological problems with asking people to pray without telling them what to pray; and #267:  A Mass Revival Meeting explains what is really necessary to bring about a revival.

There were also a couple of entries related to gaming, including the republication of a lost article as #237:  Morality and Consequences:  Overlooked Roleplay Essentials–the first article I ever wrote to be published on someone else’s web site.  There was also a response to some comments made by #239:  A Departing Member of the Christian Gamers Guild, and a sort of review of a convention appearance, #249:  A 2018 AnimeNEXT Adventure.

A couple previously published pieces appeared in translation in the French edition of Places to Go, People to Be, which you can find indexed under my name there.

So that is a look at what was published online under my name this past year–a couple hundred articles, when you count all the chapters of the books (and more if you count all the Bible study posts).  In the future, well, I have a lot more to write about Christian music, I’m only getting started with Garden of Versers and have another novel, Versers Versus Versers, set up and ready to run, several Faith in Play and RPG-ology articles are in the queue (one publishes today), and there’s a study of the Gospel According to John ready to post and the Gospel According to Mark being prepared to follow it, plus some preliminary notes on Supreme Court cases, an analysis of a time travel movie that’s taking too long to finish, and more.

Again, your support through Patreon or helps make all of it possible.  Thank you for your support and encouragement.

#227: Toward Better Subtitles

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #227, on the subject of Toward Better Subtitles.

Decades ago I saw a joke birthday card.  On the face it raved about how it was the first perfect birthday card, designed and printed entirely by a computer so nothing could possibly go wrong.  Inside, it said in Courier Block lettering, MERRY CHRISTMAS.

It came to mind recently because I have come to watch television with the subtitles activated so that if somehow I miss what someone says I can read it and keep up, and sometimes they can be rather silly.  In a recent time travel movie I analyzed, Paradox, one of the characters at one point asks what it is they are seeing, and another reasonably clearly says, “Quark gluon,” but the person writing the subtitles apparently had insufficient education in advanced particle physics to recognize those as words, and so subtitled it “[Speaks Indistinct]”.  My wife recently reported watching a British mystery series and seeing the name “Wetherington Perish Church” as the local parish church.

Image captured by Gwydion M. Williams

The reason I thought of the birthday card is upon reading some of these I began to wonder whether someone was experimenting with speech-to-text software, feeding the soundtrack into a computer and getting it to figure out what everyone is saying.  I somehow doubt it–speech-to-text software has its limitations, but some of the mistakes I’ve seen could only be made by a human.  The kind of mistakes I see strongly suggest that someone is sitting at a keyboard listening to the soundtrack and typing what they hear, and that no one is proofreading the finished product.  Yet it strikes me that the people who do these subtitles are missing an obvious aid in their efforts.

I once watched an excellent Spanish-language time travel move, Los Cronocrimines a.k.a. TimeCrimes, which was both subtitled and dubbed in English, and it was intriguing to me to notice that the subtitles did not always match the dubbing.  My conclusion was that the subtitles were probably the more accurate rendering of the original Spanish.  My reasoning was that the dubbed text had to be adjusted so that the words we heard in the audience credibly matched the movement of the lips of the speakers, but the subtitles would be a direct English translation of the original Spanish dialogue.  Therein lies my solution:  use the script.

It wouldn’t work for a lot of programs–news, reality shows, talk shows–but the majority of the television I watch is scripted.  The people on the screen aren’t making up their lines; they’ve memorized them (or sometimes are reading them from a teleprompter).  The script is available, and given the ubiquity of computers it’s almost certainly available in an electronic file format.  So the obvious fix is for those who write the subtitles to start with the script, copy/paste the text into the subtitle program, and then simply adjust it whenever the actor got the line wrong–or not.  I often see subtitles in which the actor actually said about twice as many words as the subtitle, but didn’t really change the sense.

This solution seems so obvious to me that I find myself swithering between two conclusions.  It may be that the people responsible for the subtitling just aren’t bright enough to realize that they have an available resource for any text of which they are not certain, or to recognize that what they typed can’t possibly be right.  On the other hand, maybe the attitude is based on that corollary to the familiar law, Anything not worth doing is not worth doing well.  After all, how many of us out here really rely on subtitles?  Why spend a bit more time, a bit more money, a bit more effort on getting them right?  I’m constantly reading and reviewing books which are poorly edited; should I expect better of television and movies?  Does the subtitle audience really matter?

Maybe we don’t–but we aren’t all hard of hearing.  Some of us use subtitles because we watch late at night and don’t want the television to be so loud that it disturbs the sleep of others in the house.  Some use subtitles because we’re watching at work, such as night security, and we don’t want the noise of the television.  Some use subtitles to get past character accents that are sometimes challenging to understand (oh, that’s what she said!).  They’re a convenience–but an annoying one when they make stupid mistakes.

I don’t have much influence in the film industry.  I write a few articles about time travel in movies, and I’m aware that a few independent film producers have read them, but in the main I’ll probably be ignored.  However, it would be nice to have the subtitles match the dialogue, or at least accurately represent it, especially if the people typing them can’t understand what the actors are saying–that, after all, is when many of us most need to have the written form.  So here’s hoping that those who provide the subtitles can do a bit better for those of us who use them.