Tuesday, May 29, 2007

When Alternate Realities Collide...

I've long believed that the events of the Lost Experience ("TLE") were meant to parallel what's happening on the show. I suspect, for example, that Ben imprisoned Jacob much like Thomas Mittelwerk did Alvar Hanso. But after the Season 3 finale's intriguing hints of a parallel "looking glass" reality, I think the connections may well run deeper and prove even more direct. Fans will recall that TLE was billed as an "alternate reality game." At the time, I interpreted this description as an attempt to capitalize on the popular ARG phenomenon, as well as a metaphorical comment on the effort to build a new world for Lost on-line. Now, however, I wonder if this characterization of TLE events as constituting an "alternate reality" was meant to be quite literal.

I'm not referring to the Island itself, which is more like a conduit between worlds. I submit that the survivors of Oceanic 815 left our reality when they crashed, then entered the alternative TLE reality when Naomi's freighter rescued them. The major clue for me is Christian being alive in the big flash forward. But even if Jack's references to his dad were the ravings of an addict, Kate's appearance sans disguise, driving a nice car and maybe even married(!) points to some pretty major changes. Then there's the funeral, which I'm assuming was for someone they (and we) knew well. We didn't learn precisely who because the deceased, unlike Jack, apparently adopted an alias upon returning to society. Maybe this person discovered that he/she was already dead or never existed in TLE reality...

Remember Geronimo Jackson, the band whose album we saw in the Swan Station? I'd never heard of them and neither had Charlie, despite being a self-professed expert in all things musical. Yet Rachel Blake (i.e., a TLE character who turned out to be Hanso's granddaughter) casually quoted a Geronimo Jackson song as if we'd be sure to get her reference. I believe this is because Geronimo Jackson (like Blake and Hanso both) actually originated in TLE reality. Admittedly, a few people in our world know of the band -- the writers and Eddie (i.e., the undercover cop who got a Geronimo Jackson t-shirt from his father). But these anomalous appearances are actually exceptions that probe the rule -- they suggest that TLE reality is bleeding into our own, presumably via the Island conduit...

So how does the Island serve as this bridge between alternative realities? Whether by freak of nature or advanced technology, the Island exists out of phase with TLE reality and our own, occupying both and neither simultaneously. As a result, people and things can cross from one world to the next via the Island -- the trick is finding it in the first place. My suspicion is that knowing the right physical location is not enough by itself. Access further requires that the Island be in phase with reality like guitar strings vibrating together in harmony. That's the significance of the Looking Glass code, which was the opening notes to Good Vibrations. It also explains Charlie's reference to the Flash, who traveled to parallel earths in the DC Multiverse by vibrating at different frequencies.

Another important clue along these lines may actually be the Numbers. Most interpretations focus on the symbolism of specific numerals or the mathematical relationships between them. Few, however, consider the significance of six, which is the total number of Numbers. It turns out that six is the minimum number of values required to specify the state of an object at any given moment in three-dimensional space -- three components of position plus three more of momentum or velocity. Sometimes, for statistical purposes, it's useful to imagine the object moving through a six-dimensional "phase space" wherein each point along its trajectory can be expressed as a list of six numbers describing a different state of the object in question. Here's a phase portrait of a simple pendulum:

Phase space is imaginary and can't be experienced like physical space. But the concept may nonetheless be crucial to finding the Island because it describes more than just physical location. Practically speaking, the Island must attain the proper energy state, as expressed by all six of the Numbers, to be in phase with (and thus visible to) both realities. The Swan Station was apparently designed to make the Island inaccessible by preventing it from reaching that energy state. When Desmond was late entering the code, Swan's containment system briefly failed, allowing the Island to reach an energy state that made it visible to Oceanic 815. Now that Swan has imploded, the Island may be permanently in phase, or cycling regularly in and out of phase, with our reality and TLE's.

But wait, you might be wondering, didn't TLE establish that the Numbers refer somehow to humanity's extinction? In fact, they do, and here's where things get really interesting. I mentioned in passing that depicting trajectories through imaginary phase space is sometimes useful for statistical purposes. More specifically, such phase portraits are used in all manner of fields to make probabilistic predictions about the future behavior of dynamical systems. Enzo Valenzetti was, of course, a mathematician and expert in probability. His eponymous equation could presumably be depicted as an abstract phase portrait. That's why the Numbers are the "core factors" of the Valenzetti -- they describe the starting point for the Apocalypse in 6-D phase space.

So why is the Island ground zero for this impending catastrophe? Ironically, it's the fault of the Dharma Initiative, which hailed from TLE reality. Somehow, in the course of studying the Island, the scientists inadvertently created a link with our world (i.e., the first Incident). That allowed people and things to cross over from our reality into TLE's -- and vice versa -- creating countless paradoxes large and small. The Swan Station was basically, as Kelvin suggests, a plug in a giant dam. It was meant to prevent further leakage between our two worlds, which Dharma realized -- too late -- would cause humanity's extinction in both realities. Unfortunately, Swan merely postponed the inevitable catastrophic merging of these twin realities, much like Desmond only delayed Charlie's demise.

The merging process resumed with the crash of Oceanic 815, when the Island briefly reached 4,8,15,16,23,42 due to Desmond's delay in entering the code. Now that Swan has imploded, and the Island occupies this six-Number state on a regular or permanent basis, the process should accelerate. Indeed, as several posters have noted, the purple sky that followed Swan's implosion echoes the "red sky" event in Crisis on Infinite Earths, which presaged the merging of the DC Multiverse into a unified reality, destroying all other parallel earths. The survivors of Oceanic 815 are merely one manifestation of a similar phenomenon. Another is people with special abilities like Desmond and Walt. In a nod to Donnie Darko, they're "living receivers" whose powers are meant to facilitate this merging of "tangent universes" into one.

So is it really inevitable that we all die as a result of this merging? That's where the analogy to Charlie saving Desmond comes back into play. Des wondered if taking Charlie's place might somehow free the latter from his cycle of inevitable death. Along similar lines, I wonder whether one reality might be preserved by somehow sacrificing its twin. In fact, if you really want to follow me down the rabbit hole and through the looking glass, consider the possibility that there's a hidden fight for the future presently taking place on Lost. Perhaps the end game of the show will be all about whether light or dark prevails when alternate realities collide...


Anonymous said...

Hey BM, can you give us a sense of how the fight for the future would unfold? How would those on the Island, like Ben, attempt to influence it?

I have to say that, while your theory is very interesting, I'm not sure I'd want the show to go down that path. My main impression of Donnie Darko was that it was incredibly confusing. Compelling, but mostly befuddling.

Also, the multiple realities theory seems to minimize the Island itself. How do the Four-Toes and Magnus Hanso et al figure into this?

-- Aaron

ME said...

I think I missed out! I never participated in or even saw TLE

Another great Blog.
I posted on the Lage a similar theory
were I called the affect a Time Convergence ( like I have the slightest idea what I am talking about ) LOL
But of course you have done a much better job of describing it than I ever could and have actually helped me to understand it. Fascinating!

By the way I did not like the movie Donnie Darko it was very confusing.
I liked The Butterfly Affect much better.

cool_freeze said...

This is an excellent point. What's your take on Richard Alpert? ? ?

Does he figure into this at all?



Jason said...

Another great read.

James said...

Wow, there's a lot to digest here. I'm still curious about the original islanders/hostiles. Where are they from? Also, do you think that Desmond and Penny come from "our" reality or the TLE reality.

Speaking of which, now I'm thinking about Bad Twin. I always found in interesting that the Widmores of Bad Twin were American, but they seem to be British on the show. Another example of parrallel universes?

Bigmouth said...

Aaron and Me: Donnie Darko is indeed confusing unless you're familiar with the Philosophy of Time Travel by Grandma Death. Here's a link to the wiki, which summarizes well what you need to know:


Basically, the premise of the film is that an alternate "tangent" reality is created by the anomalous appearance of the jet engine. Because this tangent reality is inherently unstable, it must inevitably collapse -- that's why you see a countdown throughout the film. Collapse of the tangent can destroy our reality, too, if not carefully managed. Accordingly, certain people (e.g., Donnie) receive special powers (e.g., telekinesis, super strength, and precognition) to assist in that process. These special people are aided in their mission by ghosts like Frank, the guy in the rabbit suit. The big difference is that the twin realities on Lost are much older and probably the result of Fourtoe experiments millenia ago.

Aaron: LOL! Isn't it enough that the Island is ground zero for the Apocalypse? Don't worry -- Magnus and the Fourtoes figure prominently in ways I'll expand upon in the revised Mind of Magnus. I think that a long time ago, before the Biblical flood, a Fourtoe crashed to earth and set up shop on the Island. It genetically engineered a few humans and enslaved the rest, basically playing the role of God. At some point, it began experimenting with inter-dimensional travel in an effort to return home. Something went terribly wrong and reality was literally split in two. This catastrophe wiped out much of humanity, and triggered a massive volcanic eruption on the Island, burying the Fourtoe's Island civilization like Vesuvius did Herculaneum and Pompeii. Only a few of the genetically-enhanced humans survived the cataclysm. They agreed amongst themselves to keep their heritage and the Island a secret. Magnus and Alvar Hanso are descendants of these original enhanced humans. Without realizing it, they are part of nature's long course correction for the Fourtoe's original mistake.

Me: I haven't seen Butterfly Effect, but chaos theory is definitely linked to this discussion. Chaotic trajectories often get modeled in 6N-dimensional phase space in an effort to predict the future (e.g., of weather).

CF: Not sure about Richard...right now I'm leaning towards him being one of the original Black Rock survivors or someone subsequently attracted by Magnus/Jacob to the Island.

Jason: Thanks!

James: The original Island "hostiles" are Magnus/Jacob and either his descendants or the various special people like him who have managed to find the Island. Like Donnie, they will serve as agents of Fate's massive course correction, though they probably don't realize it. Alvar may have suspected that these special people would engineer the catastrophic merging of realities, or he may have hoped they would humanity's salvation. That's why he engineered this close encounter between humanity and the natives.

As for bad twins, I love your suggestion that the American Widmores are from a different dimension! One word of caution -- the writers have expressed great annoyance with elements of the Bad Twin novel. Unfortunately, they weren't specific, so it's hard to know what annoyed them. Still, I wouldn't treat anything from the novel as gospel. I should also emphasize that many (if not most) people and things from our reality have counterparts in TLE reality -- most of the differences aren't profound. We should be watching for circumstances where one person remembers or knows of something that someone else doesn't.

cool_freeze said...

Hey Big,

You may be interested in my latest blog with information from Carl Sagan on the "Grandfather Paradox"

Richard may be a Black Rock survivor? ? ? Good thought. I do feel that the Black Rock will play a HUGE part in the over all mythology of the show.



Merrylegs said...

Check out Donnie Darko with the director's commentary on. Yes, it is weird, and takes more than one viewing to get it. I love that movie though!

SorryGoFish said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SorryGoFish said...

Are you saying that there are two realities and that in both realities Flight 815 crashed? In one it crashed in the water somewhere, in the other it crashed on the island, and via the island they move from the island crash to the water-crash versions of reality?

From which reality does Naomi and company come? In which does Penelope live? From the meeting of Jack and Desmond before Desmond embarks on his sailing trip, I would conclude that Jack and Desmond come from the same reality, and by association, so does Penelope. Since Naomi has the same picture as Desmond did, does she comes from the same reality also? I'm having a hard time understanding exactly when time split, and who's and what are part of which version of reality.

From which reality do the food drops come? Should there now be two drops, if time split only after the purple-sky explosion? Will the two versions of time's Dharma food drops collied in mid air at the conduit? What about the migrating birds? Walt and Michael?

Any explanation for why the book "Catch 22" was in a different language from Desmond's vision and Naomi's bag? Where do the visions come from? None of Desmond's actions after seeing the vision could possibly have had any effect on the language of the book. The book was already on the ground, for example, when he decided to save Charlie from Rousseau's trap.

Bigmouth said...

CF: Cool stuff! Richard being a Black Rock survivor is possible, but my money is on him being one of Jacob's first recruits.

Merry: Strongly second that suggestion and would echo it for any number of ambiguous films (e.g., Memento, Solaris, etc.).

Sorry Go Fish: There are definitely two realities and most likely two crashes, though I suspect the crash site that Naomi mentioned was staged after Dharma realized something was wrong on the Island. Of course, if you really want to follow me down the rabbit hole, consider the possibility that the fuselage and tail section were from two alternate realities. Might explain the daylight discrepancy mentioned by some...

Naomi is from TLE reality. She may have a counterpart in our own reality, but her employers (i.e, Dharma and the Hanso Foundation) do not. I agree that Jack and Desmond are from our reality, though they may have counterparts in TLE -- same with Penny. In fact, Des may have time traveled into TLE reality during Flashes Before Your Eyes. The timelines/realities split millenia ago, as a result of disastrous Fourtoe experiments in inter-dimensional travel. Most people and things have counterparts in the mirror reality. The principle difference is everything associated with the Valenzetti, Hanso, and Dharma -- that stuff (including the food drops) hails from TLE reality. Walt and Michael are from our reality but returned to TLE. Not sure about the migrating birds -- ya got me there!

You ask a very interesting question about Desmond's visions. Under this theory, they're a necessary byproduct of the merging process, much like Donnie Darko develops a kind of limited precognition to help merge the "tangent" universe. But that isn't to say that someone psychic (e.g., Jacob?) couldn't be tampering with his visions a bit. I'm curious, though, if you could explain your intriguing observation about Catch-22 a bit further. Are we sure the book was a different language in Desmond's original flash?

SorryGoFish said...

Regarding the book changing languages. See the 4th note at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catch-22_%28Lost%29

I tried to find the frame with the English version of the book, but got frustrated and gave up. What I did find is that the researchers from Season 2's finale were also Portuguese, loosely linking the Penelope from Season 2 with

Why do you think Naomi's ship is with Dharma / Hanso? Just because Ben calls them bad? They might only be "bad" insofar as they are going to bring new technology / interest to the fragile, powerful island.

Are you sure Jack and Desmond are from the same reality? I don't remember from the beginning of Season 2 if Desmond confirms that they met before. Jack says he remembers him, but I don't remember Desmond saying "yeah, I remember you, brother."

One thing I've been super curious about is why Penelope paid the researchers to look for a magnetic anomoly. Who pays for that without good reason? Was Desmond able to convince her that in the future there will be a magnetic explosion in his cut-short trip to the past?

Perhaps the ship is sent by one Penelope, while the other Penelope is sitting on her laptop looking for Desmond in another way.

SorryGoFish said...

"the fuselage and tail section were from two alternate realities"

Not buying that. We see the plane crash pretty clearly in the opening of Season 3 and watch both pieces fall.

I think the plane was "supposed to" crash, as it did in the water of Naomi's reality.

Bigmouth said...

SorryGoFish: I think Naomi is from THF/Dharma for a few reasons. First, a number of posters have speculated that her freighter might be the Helgus Antonius, which was mentioned in the Lost Experience. Second, Michael Emerson has stressed in various interviews that we should believe Ben when he says Naomi's people are bad. You could be right about "bad" relating to technology, but Ben's problem struck me as more his weakness for the same. Finally, a lot of the Others' procedures seemed (to me, at least) calculated to create the impression that the Island was mostly abandoned except for a few scattered Initiative survivors in the Swan and Flame Stations -- and, of course, the hostiles. My sense is that destruction of the Swan, followed closely by the Flame, shattered this illusion, signaling to THF that the last Dharma holdouts were dead. Maybe THF even connected these events to the crash of an Oceanic 815 in our reality, TLE's, or both.

I am fairly sure Jack and Des are from the same reality since, during their confrontation in the jungle, Des asks Jack if he saved Sarah. As for Penny, I like your thinking but have a slightly different take. I think the Penny in our reality may not even be looking for Des. As I've said, my guess is that Des time traveled into TLE reality, which caused TLE Penny to look for Des. My question is which Penny did Charlie contact in the Looking Glass Station? She seemed to be looking for Des, which would suggest TLE Penny, but you never know...

I think you're 100% right about my crackpot tail section theory, but explain a bit more what you mean by crashing in the water of Naomi's reality, if you don't mind. I'm most intrigued, though I note that the cockpit and fuselage both landed on the Island. Are you suggesting the whole thing was supposed to crash in the water? As for Catch-22, your guess is as good as mine, which would be continuity error. My sense is that if it were important, Darlton would have drawn our attention to it in the podcast...

Merrylegs said...

More confirmation that Desmond and Jack are from the same reality. In the episode "Catch 22," Desmond asks Jack for a first aid kit. When Jack asks why, Desmond says he has sprained his ankle. I don't remember the exact dialogue, but Jack asks Des if he needs any help and Des says he has experience in the matter. This refers to their first meeting in LA back in the beginning of season 2 in which Jack hurts his ankle running stadium stairs and Des helps him with it. Back to "Catch 22," after Des makes his statement, Jack smiles and says something like "I guess you do" or something to that effect.

SorryGoFish said...

Do you think Naomi knows she's not searching for Desmond for legitimate reasons? Is Naomi's copy of the Polaroid picture of Desmond and Penny a photocopy, or a 2nd reality original? (Would've been awesome if it had a different background image. Remember when it was taken? The guy had multiple background to choose from.) At any rate, it's a very interesting picture to have. You'd think some other photo, a digital one perhaps, would've been easier for THF / DHARMA to get.

Why do you think she said in Portuguese "I am not alone" to Mikhail? That sure sounded like a warning.

About "Catch-22," I'm going to edit that Wikipedia article. I've had that in mind for so long and I think it's actually false. Jerks.


By the way, is your name a Smurfs reference?

Bigmouth said...

A few thoughts and questions to consider:

Were the Candle/Wickmund twins from alternate realities? If so, does that suggest Dharma was originally a cooperative endeavor across realities? Did it devolve into a conflict between timelines? Was that what the Incident was about? I wonder...

Did Naomi's people let Jack and Kate survive because those two somehow weren't on Oceanic 815 in TLE reality? Remember, if Christian and Wayne never died, Jack and Kate would have no reason to travel to Australia. The question is, what happened to their TLE twins? I confess I don't have a good answer to that one...yet.

Merry: Yep, the scene you cite is further confirmation -- good catch!

SorryGoFish: You know, I hadn't even considered the possibility that Naomi was a dupe -- good call! You make another excellent point regarding the choice of picture. My suspicion, however, is that this was done as much for our benefit (i.e., the audience's) as Desmond's. Ultimately, I think the picture will connect back to Ms. Hawking, who represents one faction in the time war for the future. As for the former, I think the answer may connect back to your question about Naomi's comment that she's not alone. As I said in my prior reply, I wonder if Mikhail and Kelvin were part of a two-person team sent to find out what happened to Dharma. My working theory is that Naomi was sent by the same people, who are somehow getting information from future factions. At a minimum, I would expect Naomi and her partner to be briefed on the history and layout of Dharma. Since she volunteered none of that and never mentioned her partner again, I'm forced to doubt Naomi's bona fides...

LOL! No, my nickname was actually given to me by a former boss. It was mostly affectionate, but he would occasionally blast "that big mouth" of mine in frustration. I wear it as a badge of pride and humility...

MikeNY said...

BM - Congrats on another wonderful read. You're consistency can only be attributed to genuine writing skill and true insight.

The Geronimo Jackson tidbit was a great find. I've got to think about that one and the general coalescence idea.



MikeNY said...

whereas my elementary spelling mistake can only be attributed to low blood sugar.. see you on the other side