Vortex Physics

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Spoiler Alert: If you plan on watching the Vortex, you might want to save this for another day.

“So, how do your characters time travel?”
“They use vortex glasses.”
“Vortex glasses? How do they work?”
“First, you put ’em on.”
“I assumed that part. How does the time travel part work?”
“Well, the characters don’t time travel per se. But they see into the past. And can talk to characters still living in the past.”
“Do the characters living in the past have glasses?”
“How could they? In the past, they have yet to be invented.”
“So the present only projects its image into the past. That seems lopsided. What do they talk about?”
“Well, the character in the future could tell the character in the past to go kill Hitler before Hitler kills them.”
“But what if Hitler was an ancestor?”
“Exactly, Then that character would disappear, and the story would end. But my character in the present timelines is the protagonist. So, we can’t have that, now can we? But, now, suppose the protagonist has a conversation with his first wife from the past to correct some evil like her own murder, but the protagonist husband’s second family disappears as a result. The husband would have to figure out what deviation his dead wife caused in the new past and convince her to undo the action that caused the problem while still correcting the original problem of her murder. But the wife from the new past might not be incented to correct it. In this case because she survives her murder but loses her husband.”
“So, her murderer is the villain, and the wife from the past is the antagonist?”
“Exactly. Every time future husband and past wife talk, some important event in the intervening interval changes for the worse. Fixing one unintended consequence results in another. The husband arrives at work to find a new boss because his old boss is dead. Or his best friend isn’t married to the woman he knew as his wife.”
“So the husband knows the true timeline, but all the other characters in his time only know the altered timeline?”
“And the guy that lived the protagonist’s life up to that point is replaced by the guy in the original timeline in the altered present timeline.”
“You got it.”
“So the person the husband would have been in the new present dies every time the timeline changes?”
“The interval version of the protagonist is of no interest to the story. Other than to note that his past wife’s murderer killed various other people, depending on the timeline.”
“So the protagonist is a body snatcher.”
“It’s his body to snatch, isn’t it?”
“Does the wife remember the other timelines?”
“She has no future memories, and her time advances linearly from when she first meets her hologram husband to when she is murdered in the original timeline.”
“So she is timeline blind and the one on the clock?”
“Yes. The husband has no control over the clock. He can’t jump back at arbitrary points in her timeline to undo his and her mistakes.”
“Why not?”
“Vortex physics.”
“Plot-based physics. I assume the other characters have access to these glasses and are also changing timelines?”
“No. That would have been an interesting plot point if I had wanted to make a comedy. If all the time-messaging characters remembered the true timeline, what happens when they all change to an alternate timeline, and nobody has any memory of the current timeline and they somehow meet? All the confusion could have been good for a few laughs.”
“Couldn’t they reorganize themselves from memory into how the true timeline played out and be done with it?”
“Not if some are incapacitated, in prison, or dead. But I only allow the protagonist to time travel, and at one plot-convenient point, his daughter, so I don’t have that problem.”
“Why can’t anyone else time travel?”
“Because it’s not anyone else’s story.”
“Hmm. So, back to my original question. How do the glasses work?”
“They work by augmented reality. For example, if there is enough time-based evidence, the husband detective can see all the evidence at a crime scene and possibly even a reenactment.”
“Where does the wife come in?”
“As part of the augmented reality, but the past is real. That’s the twist.”
“So, the present and the past have to meet at the same place.”
“No. The present has vortex glasses, so they can be wherever they need to be as the plot dictates. The past doesn’t have the vortex glasses, so they must be at the physical place. The wife just shows up.”
“Actually, if you are not seeing the present reality, then the technology would be virtual reality, not augmented reality.”
“Vortex reality, with holodeck-like technology. Each appears as a hologram in the other’s reality.”
“Sure. So how does it end?”
“In the latest present timeline, the husband dies at the hand of the wife’s murderer.”
“So she doesn’t save herself and gets her husband killed?”
“Brutal ending.”
“But then at the synchronized moment.”
“Synchronized moment? What’s that?”
“When something happens in both the past and the present at the same time.”
“You mean like when they meet in the holodeck?”
“No. I mean at the time when she gets murdered and he gets murdered in their respective timelines, simultaneously.”
“What? How can something in the past and the present happen simultaneously?”
“The vortex of course. It happens at the time of the murder and at the time of the anniversary when the wife was killed in the past.”
“I see. It is a convenient point in both storylines. Physics has nothing to do with it. Was there a story-synchronized moment in all the other alternate-timeline leaps to establish this rule?”
“That’s not important, either. Let me finish. Just before the synchronized moment, the husband gets killed by the wife’s murderer. At the synchronized moment, the wife discovers her true murderer from the past and kills him. The husband undies in the present, quite relieved to discover himself undead.”
“The sci-fi version of deus ex machina. So the protagonist remembers the true timeline and all the other time he spends in altered timelines. And he even realizes that he is undead. But none of the other characters do.”
“Right. The vortex glasses get destroyed, and that breaks the cycle. In the final timeline, the husband meets the wife twenty-seven years after she killed her murderer.”
“How does that work out?”
“The alternate earlier self of the husband in the last timeline threw her in jail for killing her would-be murderer, and his daughter despises him because of it.”
“Because the alternate husband didn’t know about his wife’s murder in that timeline?”
“Yes. The wife is quite happy to meet the timeline-jumping husband who saved her life by telling her about her imminent murder in the first place. She is quite relieved to be rid of his alternate, earlier self.”
“So if someone in the past killed Hitler before they were able to kill anyone, they would get thrown in jail as a murderer and no one else would appreciate their sacrifice.”
“Yes. Until the one person who lived and remembers the original timeline returns.”
“I see. He is the only one that can validate his wife’s actions.”
“She waits 27 years for it.”
“Sounds sad. It’s not good enough to do a great deed. One must be appreciated for it.”
“Now you get it.”
“So who made the vortex?”
“Only the vortex knows.”