DocArzt and Friends Logo

LOST: Self-Consistent Time Travel – Part III: The Faradox

By imfromthepast,

  Filed under: Lost News
  Comments: 81


Before I begin, modesty (assuming that I have any) demands that I inform you that I ‘borrowed’ the subtitle of this article from a thread at the Fuselage by Pink Freud.

I originally planned to wait until after the season wrapped to write this article, but after The Variable, the end game for the Season is pretty much laid out, so I figured, what the hey.

The Variable?


The mantra of Season 5 has been “Whatever happened, happened,” meaning the characters were unable to change the past, only take part in it. This concept has been repeated so much, that even casual viewers have come to accept this less popular time travel paradigm. Yet, on the surface The Variable seemed to suggest that the past could be changed after all. Of all people, Daniel Faraday himself introduced the idea when he laid out the groundwork of his plan to prevent the Incident, undoing the chain reaction supporting the entire show.

Is he right? Of course not.

While I was sad to see poor Daniel get killed by his own mother, I found his decent into desperation much sadder. Daniel abandoned the clear cut principles of Self Consistency, namely that you can’t change the past, and embraced instead the emotional gibberish that was his speech about Variables. Daniel was so desperate to save Charlotte by changing the past, that the fool didn’t even realise he was just playing out his part all along. 

Despite everything that Daniel said last night, despite his free will, despite his vaulted status as a Variable, he still warned little Charlotte to stay away from the Island per Self Consistency. His entire life his mother has been haunted by the fact that her itchy trigger finger snuffed out the life of her own son. At the crucial moment, Mr. Variable strolls into the Hostile’s camp waving a gun and gets his stupid butt shot. 

Way to change the past Einstein.

Can the Past Be Changed?



The Incident


If the past can’t be changed, why introduce the concept of a Variable and set up Daniel’s ill-conceived ‘plan’?

Simple: DRAMA. 

The whole of Season 5 has thus far been all about how the characters can’t change the past.  All of their interactions have been in events they knew little to nothing about. None of the Flashers knew anything about the Island in 1955. John never knew Richard visited his birth. None of them had any detail history of the DHARMA Initiative circa 1974 – 77. In the end, they had no way of knowing if what they were witnessing was any different, or the way it always happened.

Since none of them knew the details surrounding the events they were taking part in, they could not purposefully change anything. 

But now, for the first time, we have a different situation. Daniel Faraday is apparently aware of the Incident and the role it plays in the sequence of events leading to their presence in 1977. Further, he got it in his head that he can change something, and he is determined to do so. He laid out his plan to Jack, telling him he is going to prevent the Incident by detonating a hydrogen bomb. Before he can elaborate further, he goes and gets himself shot. So now, Jack and Kate are the only ones who know that the Incident is coming and that somehow detonating a hydrogen bomb will fix it. Now I love Jack and Kate, but I wouldn’t trust them to program my VCR much less  successfully carrying out whatever hair-brained scheme Daniel cooked up in Anne Arbor. 

Therefore my prediction for the rest of the season (all three hours of it) is this, with Faraday out of the picture, Jack and Kate will be left to try to carry out his plan with the help of his magic journal. All they know is this plan involves detonating an H-Bomb. They don’t know how or why. Ellie will be feeling all kinds of bad about shooting her son and all, so she will offer to help by bringing them to Jughead. Of course I doubt the dynamic duo that is Jack and Kate will have the slightest idea what to do with the thermonuclear warhead once they find it. That is where Miles will come in. I always found his powers were a peculiar addition to the show. But what if the real reason he was sent to the Island was because once Daniel is dead, he will be needed to glean the necessary intel from Daniel’s corpse? 

With the figurative countdown timer running, our heroes will do their best to prevent the Incident and bring Daniel’s plan to fruition. If we stick to the Self Consistent view that has been established, we know they will not only fail, but in all likelihood, will play a crucial role in bringing about the very circumstances that they are trying to alter. That is classic Self Consistency. However, in the grand tradition of Lost season finales and their twist endings, I will go so far as to suggest that the finale may end in such a way as to imply that the Losties did indeed change something, or better yet, maybe they will do something catastrophic that must surely diverge from the accepted history of the Island, if for no other reason than to give us something to debate until Season 6. I have suspected for some time that the finale would involve detonating Jughead and that we would be left to wonder how to reconcile the Island being nuked with ‘Whatever happened, Happened’.


Grandfather Faradox


paradox-copyThe fatal flaw in Faraday’s plan is that it boils down to a Grandfather Paradox. A Grandfather Paradox is any time travel scenario wherein the cause is precluded by its effect. In other words, if the Losties prevent the Incident, they negate the very means by which they were able to prevent the Incident in the first place. To put it less clearly, if Faraday succeeded in his plan to prevent the Incident, thereby erasing the chain of events that lead him to being in 1977, how could he have prevented the Incident in the first place?

Damon and Carlton have gone on record as saying that they are using time travel in a way that avoids paradox because they do not want to fall into the trap of invalidating the experiences of the characters. Why should we care about anything that happened to Jack if Season 5 wipes the slate clean and erases everything that has happened since the Pilot? Preventing the Incident is not only a logical quagmire, but it would be worse than having the shole show be a dream. Not to mention, what the hell would Season 6 be about? 




Too Obvious?

I know what some of you are thinking. It’s too obvious. AstroJones and I have been back and forth about this very point. His argument is that the Whatever Happened, Happened mantra has been beaten into our brains precisely because it will be abandoned, in order to create a twist in the end. To have the characters fail to change the past yet again would be a predictable and limp season caper.

To this argument, however well thought out and articulately Astro worded it, I submit that it is not obvious to everyone. Sure we, the upper echelon of Lost fans, might see it coming, but that is not the case with the hoi polloi. They are going to be blown away.

Case in point. Who of us would describe The Variable as ‘full of reveals’ as opposed to ‘full of confirmations of things we figured out 12 episodes ago’?

  • Eloise Hawking is Faraday’s mother? We figured that out in 4.01.
  • Ellie the Other is Eloise Hawking? We knew that as soon as we learned her name in 4.03.
  • Daniel had memory problems as a result of self experimentation? Figured that out after the Constant.
  • Charles Widmore was Daniel’s father? Suspected as much in 4.03.

My point is Lost has trained us to expect twists around every turn. So much so that we see them when they aren’t even there. The worst example I can think of was way back in Season 2. There was a theory floating around that it wasn’t Ana Lucia that shot Shannon, but what we saw at the end of Abandoned was in fact two different scenes edited together in such a way to imply that she did. That went over well. 

Your average viewer doesn’t try to anticipate the twists, he just enjoys them as they come, and as a result will think The Variable has changed the rules and will fully expect Jack and Co to prevent the Incident, thus changing the past as per Daniel’s new take on time travel. And why not, it’s easier to swallow than the Whatever Happened, Happened paradigm anyway. 




It is my feeling that LOST is, at its core, a Self Consistent time travel show, and by definition must continue to be so. The next two episodes could prove me wrong. We will see, but as long as character’s actions continue to fail to diverge from what we know to be the established history of the Island, I will continue to stand by the Self Consistency model of time travel for Lost. This stand is not solely due to my feelings on time travel, but to my understanding of the story of Lost. 

One of the major themes of the show has always been Destiny vs Free Will. Until Season 5 this debate has been dressed up in mystical garb, but since the introduction of Self Consistent time travel, it has entered the realm of empirical science. Allow me to borrow from Parts I & II of this series of articles to explain.

In Part I, I told a story of Jack and Dr Chang and a time travel experiment. The story illustrated that destiny and free will are a matter of perspective, and are not mutually exclusive. From Jack’s perspective he choose the number 2,342 randomly, but from Chang’s perspective, Jack was destined to choose that number. Because his choice was a matter of record.

If we look at Lost’s theme of Destiny vs Free Will from the perspective of Self Consistent time travel, we see it in a new light. Locke would say that Oceanic 815 crashed on the Island for a reason, and he’s right, but when asked what the reason is, he would give you some mumbo jumbo about the Island wanted them there. Sorry, John, that’s not quite it.

You see, there was an Incident in 1977. This Incident happened a certain way due to the actions of a select group of people. Those people were from the future, brought to 1977 as a result of a specific sequence of events. Because their actions in 1977 are a part of an unalterable timeline, those actions must occur, and therefore, it is inevitable that the sequence of events that result in them being in 1977 will play out. Part of that sequence is the crash of Oceanic 815 and the survival of those specific people. 

Daniel had it partly right. In 1977, DHARMA digs a tunnel toward the exotic matter under the Orchid. This digging upsets something, leading to the release of tremendous energies at the future site of the Swan station. Some or all of the time travelers play a part in this Incident. The Incident causes the button to be pushed. One day Desmond doesn’t push the button and as a result Oceanic 815 crashes. Eventually, survivors of Oceanic 815 find their way back to 1977 and play a part in the Incident.

Much like the story in Part I with Jack and Chang, the time traveler’s involvement in the Incident in 1977 is a matter of record, it happened. That means that later they will end up on the Island, and they will be sent to 1977. In a way they were ‘brought to the Island for a reason’ as Locke suspects. But the reason is grounded in causality, not Island voodoo (assuming those are not one in the same).

If all the above sounds like circular logic, I refer you to the story I told in Part II of this series. That story involved a group of aliens obliterating all life on earth in order to prevent humans from becoming the cruel masters of the universe. They fail because they were unaware of a small group of humans on the moon at the time whose descendants, as a result, become the cruel masters of the universe. This story has two plot lines, each, when viewed separately are linear and coherent. It is only when considering them together do things get slightly screwy. 

Yes, the Incident is dependant on its results to cause it, but when time travel is involved, this is an acceptable wrinkle. Much more acceptable than the paradox that would result if Oceanic 815 didn’t crash for some reason, thus depriving the Incident of the crucial players in it’s formation. From this perspective, 815 had to crash, it was inevitable. In the end, by choosing to go with the seemingly circular logical explanation above, we are left with the lesser of two evils.

Whatever happens is ultimately up to the writers, it is after all their show. But given the framework they have painstakingly built up over the last five years, it would be a shame to see it all torn down through the introduction of a plot twist for the sake of plot twist, especially a plot twist best left in Heroes.

The End.








In case you didn’t know, I am producing an online graphic time travel serial called TRICKSHOT. It is my attempt to tell a Self-Consistent time travel epic the way I think it should be told. If you have enjoyed my articles on the subject, please give it a try. It is now in Chapter 4, so to start from the beginning go here.


  • horselover

    I’m not sure if this has been brought up before (my memory is only slightly better than Daniel’s sometimes), but I think the anthropic principle could help explain the existence of this self-consistent timeline..

    It seems intuitive that going back in time would almost inevitably cause some sort of paradox. Since literally every single action is pre-ordained and must happen correctly, it seems very likely that at least one thing would go wrong, especially whenever some time traveller had any information on the future. If he knew a bomb went off he could prevent it; if he knew someone lived until 2007 he could kill him in 1977; if he knew the number 4 had been chosen for some purpose he could choose 8 instead; etc. Any change at all would prevent self-consistency. The likelihood that one perfectly consistent timeline would occur would be, estimating conservatively (and arbitrarily), 1 in a million.

    But the other 999,999,999 timelines all contain paradoxes, or contradictions, meaning that those timelines are all impossible. The reason we’re seeing a very implausible self-consistent timeline is because any other type is more than implausible, it’s impossible and incoherent. The idea of an altered timeline still exists, but we (or the Losties) could only exist within a timeline that is consistent.

    • There is a way of looking at this that I find most people use. The timeline can’t be changed, we’ll just take that as a given.
      So you have this timeline that tells you what happened throughout history. But why does it look the way it does? Why did Jack decide to pull on the chains in the aquarium? Why did Hurley decide to wear the shirt he wore when he got off the Island? Why is the timeline the way it is?
      It is that way because of the free will of the individuals in it. Jack decided to pull those chains because he thought it would look cool. Hurley picked that shirt because it was closest to him when he woke up that morning.
      But now you introduce time travel, introduce another perspective, and suddenly someone from the future that knows Hurley gets rescued that morning in that shirt, from his perspective it is fate that Hurley picks that shirt.
      However, there is not neccessarily some grand scheme of things, some preferred shape that the timeline takes, it is completely dependent on the decisions made by the inhabitants. However, since a timeline itself does not age, does not exist within some other meta-timeline, there is no frame of reference by which to judge whether something has ‘happened already’, and thus both the time traveler and Hurley find their points of view to be on equal footing.
      When you speak of actions being ‘pre-ordained’ you fall into the trap of unconsciously assuming a guiding hand, be it God, fate or a prefered state of the timeline. But there is no such thing. The timeline is the way it is due to the very actions that we take, regardless of our foreknowledge or our access to a time machine.
      I submit that all events throughout time random or otherwise comprise the shape of the timeline. By its very nature as an immutable object, any actions you take in the past, present or future are and always have been simultaneously the result of your free will and an eternal aspect of the timeline.

      • horselover

        I think I largely agree with you. I don’t think there is a preferred timeline or guiding hand that people’s actions must fit into, only that all those action, causes, and effects must be consistent. Perhaps “pre-ordained” was bad wording, but what I meant was that at least some of the outcomes are already known to those who have traveled back. Most of the details, such as which shirt Hurley wore or exactly how Ben got to be the person he is in 2007, may not be known to a time-traveler, but other general things, such as the Incident or the Empire Striking Back, are known future events.

        My point is that any travel to the past almost inevitably means transfer of at least some information that could effect decision making in that time. If you told Hurley he would wear a certain shirt no matter what, he could resist your prediction and pick a different shirt. He could also choose to act like Ms. Hawking and try to fulfill that prediction. Clearly foreknowledge gained from a time machine affects actions and decisions, it’s just that for a consistent timeline the affect always has to be toward the known outcome rather than away. A universe where causes line up to Hurley choosing a different shirt is an impossible universe.

        So far, everyone who has attempted to change something in the past has either failed or actually caused the event they meant to avoid. Sayid shot Ben and inadvertently made him into the Ben we know. Faraday tried to prevent the Incident and failed, or possible may have even set in motion events that cause it. But when people like Ms. Hawking attempt to fulfill what they think is supposed to happen, they have been successful. Still all acts of their own will, but this has to work, with the right people failing and the right people succeeding, every single time for the timeline to be consistent.

        I agree that free will and determinism are fully compatible, but when travel to the past occurs there is an *apparent* potential for paradox. My point is only that any conceivable universe in which actions of free will do not line up with an consistent eternal timeline, could not exist. The timeline as an immutable object must form a coherent picture of events.

  • I totally agree with you–right down to the use of Miles’ abilities which is an awesome call! However, there is another way they can go within self-consistent time travel that allows them to prevent the incident. What they can do is to have Jack and company initially prevent the incident, then there is a ripple in time and they are back in 2004 in LA as the plane lands. But then, things begin to get screwy. Weird things begin to happen in their lives. Since they never show up in 1977, the incident happens after all and there is another ripple an they are back on the island given the opportunity to try again. If they prevent it again, the same thing happens–they are stuck in a loop until they allow the incident to occur! It could be interesting, especially if Jack and company do not remember each time they return to the variable moment, but are getting deja vu about it. There was actually a Star Trek TNG episode just like this, and in the end Data, realizes that the particular cards he’s getting during poker are a message–kinda like the Swan numbers perhaps? Maybe that’s why the numbers were repeating! Maybe the plane WASN’T supposed to crash and the losties are in the wrong timeline explaining all the weird stuff that’s happened. For now, I agree with your points, but time will tell.

    • I loved that episode. That was the one with the ship they find in the rift and everyone makes suggestions on how to get the ship out, but it doesn’t work and they get blown up and it starts again. That episode is notable for having Frasier Crane as the captain of the other ship.

      • Yes. Glad you remember b/c describing that episode in detail would’ve taken up a lot of space.

    • RandomZombie

      This is the kind of event that might have happened midway through the series, but it’s a little late in the game for the 815ers to essentially start back at square one.

      I believe that negating the events that we have seen so far would do much more harm than good. Viewers have become invested in these people, their struggles, and the tragedies that they’ve had to endure. To then say that they themselves don’t remember their experiences (because they’ve never happened to them) could anger many viewers – myself included.

      • I agree. But what could end up happening by the scenario I described is that after a few ripples and deja vu’s, Jack eventually figures out that they CAN’T prevent the incident after all. The benefit of doing this is we get to see what could’ve happen if they did prevent it, but only for one episode. I do agree with this post though and think that the bomb will likely be the CAUSE of the incident and everything will happen as it happened.

  • Desi’s Brother

    I think this is a good article and I liked the theory of why Miles is there! That would be a great explanation. Now if only we had a reason for Charlotte, Lapidus and Naomi.

    I don’t think that things will come to pass quite the way you are describing. The catch I think is that people are aware of the outcome. Hawking and Widmore ACTIVELY ensured that the events they witnessed took place. Why? I don’t understand this. Why do they need to take an active role? Why not just let things happen.

    I think the conflict between fate and free will is key and there has to be some free will. I think Daniel was right, they can change things, but he was struck down by the active role that Widmore and Hawking have played in ensuring that he didn’t. Perhaps they do not want to contimplate the result if he had suceeded—thus they dedicate their lives to ensuring he does not succeed.

    But he COULD have.

    • RandomZombie

      Concerning Hawking and Widmore’s intervention: I don’t believe that it’s a case of the events not happening if they didn’t intervene, but they they were to have intervened all along. After Daniel was shot he said to his mother that she knew all along – she knew that she would kill her son. This would be enough of a tipoff for Eloise to know that she had a hand in the events that transpired. She’ll also likely become aware that Jack and Kate are on the island in 1977 – and who knows what she might learn from them. At this point Charles is still in charge of the others, so he would probably learn just as much about what occurred as Eloise.

      So, from the outset they knew that they had a role to play. They became slaves to their fate. Eloise knew that she would kill her son, but was powerless to do anything but ensure that it happened. She couldn’t deny her role, because she’s the one who fired the gun.

      • horselover

        But I think the question is not, “why didn’t she try to stop it?” since she did know it would happen. The question is why she actively worked to cause it. She knew here role, but why go out of your way (telling him to accept Widmore’s offer, telling him to stop playing music) to ensure it?

        I kind of suspect that Ms. Hawking doesn’t really understand it better than anyone else. She just read Dan’s notes after she killed him, but still doesn’t really get that her actions won’t change anything already known to have happened.

        • RandomZombie

          If Daniel believed that 1977 Eloise could get them back to where they were “supposed” to be, then it could be that she has some knowledge of the workings of time.
          If she believes that there is only one timeline, and that all events that she witnessed have indeed happened, and nothing can change that, she might have played her part in Daniel’s fate through a sense of duty. She has to play a part in Daniel’s death, whether she likes it or not, and feels that there is no choice in the matter.

          I still believe that there is more to Eloise Hawking than meets the eye. She has a lot of knowledge, and I don’t think that all of it came from reading her son’s journal. She knew some pretty intimate details when she met Desmond in “Flashes Before Your Eyes.” I doubt that the date and location of where Desmond bought the ring was in the journal, or the fate of the man in the red shoes.

        • dookieB

          This is what I was aiming for in another article. I understand the rules of time travel, but crying-Eloise telling Daniel not to play piano wasn’t apparently something she had already experienced before, so why act mean to him out of a need to have him be ENTIRELY devoted to science?

          If freewill and all that only affects minor things in the timeline (like a shirt), then Daniel doesn’t have to be scolded and forced out of having a normal childhood. He’s still going to learn science and he’s still going to write in a journal about everything. Why would Eloise be so demanding of Daniel if the outcome is already decided? If she chose to disobey it, it wouldn’t matter because the universe would course-correct to ensure that Daniel does wind up doing all of the same things.

          It’s possible younger Eloise just didn’t know as much, but it doesn’t seem so from how she was talking to Daniel. I’m more interested in why she was so upset walking out though. Did she JUST read the notebook for the first time then? Did Jacob or Richard appear to her and pretty much mentally smack her in the head?

          I think the self-consistent timeline is the only one that exists because any others end in something terrible happening or “don’t compute.” I think there’s something at work to ensure that the end of the world doesn’t come, and he/she/it is guiding or forcing people into doing things to keep the universe from dividing by zero.

      • dolce

        Charles IS in charge! And I, for one, want Charles in charge of me. In charge of my days, and my nights, my wrongs and my rights!

        RZ, I could’nt resist. Sorry.

        • RandomZombie

          Are you saying that Scott Baio is Jacob?

          • dolce

            Could be….

          • DarthBubba

            Scott Baio gave me pink-eye!

  • cap10tripps

    I like the ripple in time idea. It harkens to Donnie Darko. For those who haven’t seen it it’s basically based on the idea of a creation of a tangent universe and the acceptance of one’s fate to destroy that tangent universe. If the tangent universe was not destroyed, the other tangent universe would have ended. Donnie learns that the universe that he survives in turns out to have a greater adverse affect on things than the world in which he perishes. There was a specific moment (ironically… or maybe not ironically having also to do with a plane) that Donnie had to sacrifice himself in order to destroy the tangent universe and in a sense course correct. If the incident is prevented, then I contend there will be a specific instance (Ben turning the wheel instead of John perhaps) that will have to be changed in order for the end of this world to be prevented. It would have been this moment that actually creates the tangent universe. This is where the variable/s (Jack? Desmond?) comes in. Perhaps it is this that the war will be fought over.

    There will be one group who will want to prevent the end from happening for one tangent universe. There will be another group who wants the end to come to that universe thus saving the tangent universe they favor. You have two opposing sides (essentially from the same ilk) who have two opposing ideas of how things should turn out.

    Marc, love the ripple idea. Of course this could be just as wrong as most other theories but interesting nonetheless…

  • Baalzak

    Your prediction of what’s going to happen in the finale is exactly what I expect to happen as well… and I’ve expected the time-travelers to cause the Incident ever since we found out they were in the Dharma time period.

    Great write-up. Of course, now that I’m on record agreeing with you, I’ll look really stupid if the finale turns out to be completely different. 😛

    Good news is, you will too – so at least I’ll have company.

    • Baalzak

      And in an unrelated side-note, loved that you used my explanation of the paradox of “timeline aging” in Part II. I’m happy to have helped, and I hope it made sense to a few people.

      • Thank you for an excellent means of explaining that which I was constantly failing to get across.

  • BenLinus

    hoi polloi yourself, twitchy…

    great article though, loved it..

  • drgerke

    Surely the following will happen, for the sake of drama: Jack, Kate ect all somehow get back to the present to reunite with leader locke, complete with all the memories of everything that has happened up to now, including dharma time. The laws of t.v., far and above the laws of time-travel, mean this must happen. So the question becomes, how do they get back? Perhaps they are only in the past at all, to cause the incident, and once that has been accomplished they’ll be flashed back into the present? Or maybe there’s another donkey wheel turning to come. I’m not sure why, but I’m envisaging the lofty pile of awesome that would be jack on one side of the wheel in 77 and locke on the other in 2007, helping each other set this temporal parade back on track. I’ve got a hunch that the wheel exists outside of the timeline as we know it.

  • XxIJuicyIxX

    My theory on Faraday and Hawkings different view points

    In the Variable it seemed clear that Faraday and Hawking had very different views on how events should take place for pretty much every event. Back to when Dan was a kid: Faraday believed he could study and play music, thus choosing his own path; Hawking believed his path was chosen and that was to focus on his studies… Desmond: Faraday thought Desmond could miraculously go against the Laws of the Universe and choose to change events; Hawking held to the belief that Desmond’s path had been chosen, and so he had to go to the Island and press the button ect… Jack: Faraday believed he didn’t have to go back he could pick his Destiny, Hawking was sure he had to go back because he always goes back…. In regards to Faraday himself well he didn’t feel he had to die, but Hawking believed otherwise.

    On a grander scale, I believe this once again comes down to Destiny vs. Fate. Micheal Faraday believed in God and that by doing experimental science we may be able to find the Purpose behind God’s actions. Whereas Stephen Hawking shared the seemingly Atheist views as Einstein, who believed God is Nature. Hawking is known for his work with String theory which gives us the Time Loop. Interestingly, Nature would conspire against changing causality, something Stephen Hawking has called the “chronology protection conjecture”: For example, if you tried to shoot your father before you were born, somehow the gun would fail to go off. In opposition is the side our Daniel Faraday agrees with being, Causality can be changed, sending the universe down different forks in the road. You could go back and shoot your father, creating a universe where you were never born. But it wouldn’t be the same universe you came from. You’d just be an alien visitor from a different reality, living out a scenario that’s called the “many-worlds interpretation.” So which do you side with?

    Hawking is right that there is a Time Loop. Yet instead of trying to change it she continues to preserve the Time-line. Why? Like she said to Desmond, “Or else everyone of us dies..” She believes the Universe will not allow the Time-line to be altered, everything that happens must happen or they cease to exist. In the Time Loop Theory, there is a small chance that something or someone can Change the Loop, opening it up for a new course, or purpose. Faraday is right that they are the Variables, but they can’t change everything. The Universe will not allow it. I think they have to get to a certain point in the Time-line, a specific year after particular events have occurred that must occur. A year that everyone from the future can be in on the Island without there being a paradox. Then, once they have reached that time they can End/Open the Loop.

  • Art Vandelay

    Regarding the Grandfather Paradox:

    This perfectly explains the reason I thought/knew that the end of the film Terminator 2, was not the end. Because….if John Connor really destroyed every piece of the machine so as to eliminate the development of the cyborgs, wouldn’t he disappear? In my thinking, Kyle Reese would never have had to come back to protect Sarah, therefpre never getting her pregnant with John. He would disappear ala Back to the Future.

  • stweedle

    Alright Imfromthepast been waiting for you to write another article to ask a question. Not sure of your background, but you seem to know what you’re talking about and let me say right now that I agree with you, whatever happened, happened. They are thinking they are preventing things, but in fact are causing them, I get it. There is one issue though that I can’t wrap my head around and am looking for some help on. I’ll use Jack as an example, He is in 1977, his present , his right now, is 1977, hence the ability to die as Faraday stated. Now somewhere in 1977 little Jack is alive and well, being beat down by his father, being told he doesn’t have what it takes. THAT little Jack will end up on flight 815 and crashing on an island somewhere, and a whole bunch of weird stuff is going to start happening to him. Now my problem lies in that it seems our exisitence is a big loop, Jack will always, forever be stuck in that loop of doing what he’s doing. How can time progress if this is constantly happening? Another issue sticking with the whatever happened happened position is, to quote your article, “But now, for the first time, we have a different situation. Daniel Faraday is apparently aware of the Incident and the role it plays in the sequence of events leading to their presence in 1977.” He ALWAYS knew of this, there could not be a “first time”, no “different situation.” It had to always happen like this. There could never be a change to the events, so could Hawking be wrong, there is no course correction? That specific course correction would’ve had to happen all along, hence no course correction, it happened that way, so there is no correction to make.

    • I will address this tomorrow as I am using a Wii at the moment, and typing long winded comments on a virtual keyboard is exhausting.

      In the meantime, $1 to whomever can tell me the first name of Jesus Tosting’s paternal grandfather.

      • stweedle


      • Dolce


        • Ding ding ding!
          We have a winner!

          I will email your $1 post haste.

    • Your ‘issue’ seems to be semantic. When you say ‘time loop’ I think you are picturing a rubber band, an endless repeating of a sequence of events, which is of course ridiculous. The proper way to describe what is happening here is more like time ‘segue’.
      For instance, Jack is born and grows into a little boy and is beat up in the school yard. For the sake of argument we will arbitrarily assign this event to 1977. Simultaneously an older Jack is doing his Jack thing in DHARMA on the Island. We sill further assume that after his stint in 1977 older Jack will return to 2007. If this is the case then after he returns, little Jack will be back to being the one and only instance of Jack Shepard in 1977. He will then live his life blissfully ignorant of the existance of the older Jack on the Island for a few days in 1977. Eventually he will crash on and escape the Island in 2004-05. He will then spend a miserable 3 years in the real world and eventually get on Ajira 316 and be zapped back to 1977. Upon his return to 2007 he will live the remainder of his life and eventually die.
      Following the above outline, while yes, Jack’s personal timeline does ‘loop’ back on itself and runs concurrently for a few days in 1977, it does indeed have a beginning, middle and end. It is not a ‘loop’ in the sense of a rubber band that has no beginning and end, it is a ‘loop’ in the sense that there is a momentary period where two parts of the finite segment that is Jack’s timeline run concurrently.
      This is a difficult concept to explain verbally, so I give you this graphic to illustrate:

      1970           1977                                    2007                             2020
      b____________________________x y_______________d

      Jack is born at point ‘b’ in 1970, he lives his life and then at point ‘x’ he travels to 1977, point ‘X’ on the small line. Then after a couple of days in 1977 at point ‘Y’ he flashes back to 2007 after at point ‘y’ and then he continues his life until his death at point ‘d’.

      Now if you print the above diagram as placed a blank piece of paper with a vertical slit over it allowing you to only see one part of the diagram under it through the slit, that would represent the present. Now move the paper to the right. as you do, you will percieve the flow of time as any non-time-traveling person would. everything would be fine until you reaced point ‘X’. sudenly there would be two Jacks. But then at point ‘Y’ you would be left with one Jack again. then eventually you would reach ‘x’ to ‘y’ with no Jack, and then Jack would come back and eventually you would reach ‘d’ and Jack dies.
      And that’s it. No infinite loop, cycling over the same sequence of events, endlessly repeating itself. As long as that is what you mean by ‘loop’ then you’re fine. To answer your question, time progresses independently of the experience of time travelers, just as the details of the diagram had no effect on how you moved the paper with the slit.

      I hope that clarifies that first point.

      • Heidi

        you are assuming adult Jack returns to 2007. There could be longer periods of overlap if adult Jack cannot leave 1977 and lives the rest of his life from that time onward, no? There was some speculation as to whether Grandpa Ray was actually Jack from 1977 living in 2007 no?

        • Of course I am assuming adult Jack returns to 2007, I said as much in the comment. The explanation would have been uselessly vague had I not. I was forced to make assumptions due to lack of information concerning future episodes, not due to any fault of the concept itself.

    • Your second point is also a victim of semantics and illustrative of the difficulties in using temporal prepositions when discussing time travel.
      When I said, “But now, for the first time, we have a different situation. Daniel Faraday is apparently aware of the Incident and the role it plays in the sequence of events leading to their presence in 1977.” I meant “first time” in respects to the other times they traveled too. Each instance of them traveling to a certain time period, such as to 1955 or to the future when they got shot at by the Ajira folk, these were the other times I meant. All those other times they jumped to a time period, they were unaware of the details of the circumstances they were involved with. They didn’t know about Jughead, they didn’t know about Amy’s attempted kidnapping and her subsequent mothering of Ethan. But now, with the Incident looming, here ‘for the first time’ they are involved in a situation they are partly familiar with. This situation, namely being faced with an historic sequence of events, is ‘different’ because they are aware of the event. They are aware that an Incident occurred, unlike the other situations.
      That is all I meant. I wasn’t implying that they were on a temporal merry-go-round and that this time through they had information that they lacked last time, I was merely differentiating among the various time travel adventures that they had in season 5 up to this point.

      I hope that clarifies that second point.

    • oh, and as for my background, I could tell you, but it wouldn’t add any more weight to my arguments than do the arguments themselves.
      However, if you must know:

      • stweedle

        Much clearer now. Thanks.

        So would you agree then that Hawking is not changing anything with her course correction nonsense? She didn’t have to have the talk with him about him going to the island. She had to know he would do it, she was there, shot him for herself.

        • yes, he would have ended up on the Island regardless. However, he ended up on the Island because of the events in his life, so it wouldn’t hurt to help things along.

          In other words, if you were in a sealed room with a loaded gun, and you had foreknowledge that you sere going to die of a gunshot to the head, you would have to end up shooting yourself. Its not as if the gun was going to just go off for no reason, just to make sure the timeline stays intact.
          That being said if you decided to tempt fate and threw the gun across the room to avoid dying, chances are the gun could go off and shoot you.

  • INawe

    It seems that they are indeed stuck in a time loop…

    I would really hate to be jack now.. First he becomes a man of faith after so many seasons.. Then that faith is kind of betrayed…
    First, He was not supposed to live the island…Now He was not either supposed to go
    I mean his punch line should always be ” What the hell am i supposed to do??? ”
    (with that “where’s my pills look”) lol

    I believe Daniel mixed up things more than clearing it up…

    Maybe the “Variable” is meant to be the way to get out of the time loop..

    • RE: Time Loop, please see my above comment.

      • DarthBubba

        Just to clarify: They (the losties) tripped back to 1977 from 2008. Once they return to their present, they will continue forward along the timeline. Therefore, no true “loop”. A loop would be that they return to their present only to travel back to 1977 again to relive these events then go back to their present only to once again travel back to 1977 . . . etc.

  • 4XLOST

    Live by the theory, die by the theory. Self consistentency doesn’t allow Daniel to act on his plan because it is the reason he went back to the Island and time. Self consistency is required if the time traveler plans to return to his own undistrupted time. Daniel’s own time is horrible. If one does not plan to return his own time, self consistency is not all that important.

    Information is probably more important. I’m thinking Chang will have concrete ready to pour on the new hatch just in case. Jack will try to carry out Faraday’s plan, but it turns out it is added to the hatch as the “failsafe’ mechanism, to counter the negative energy release of not punching in the numbers. So Faraday’s plan does not happen until Desmond turns the key. Jack learns one more lesson, he was brought to the Island for a reason, but not to change the timeline.

    Season 6 will be about information and faith, not about changing the time line, which by now everyone realizes can’t be done except by a miracle, and John Locke realizes the Island is a place where miracles happen.

  • jon

    When Eloise is talking to Penny, she specifically says that it’s her sons ‘fault’ that Desmond was shot. Which implies that some sort of choice is at hand, if Desmond’s shooting was fated, you would hardly lay fault on someone.

    • cap10tripps

      I was thinking about this exact point. That statement seems to imply that something is going to happen that directly involves Faraday. Not sure exactly what, but I’m starting to think it has something to do with the failsafe. If this is never turned (by Desmond), then the island continues to go undiscovered. If the island continues undiscovere, Desmond never leaves. If Des never leaves, he never gets shot. Idk, just a thought. Would love to hear other thoughts on this point…

      • horselover

        I think she was just referring to the fact that Desmond was in LA because of what Faraday said to him in “Because You Left”. If Desmond had not been there to deliver Daniel’s message, he would not have been shot by Ben, and he told Eloise that this was the reason he was there.

  • INawe


    So if one is not planning on returning on his original time and Self Consistency does not apply…then what happens to that person?

    Does he start his own multiple time-line? Or just disapear ?

    Im waiting for answers about the time traveling on this Island.
    And im looking up to Chang and Hawkins…and Miles as well..

    By -cap10tripps-: “…You have two opposing sides (essentially from the same ilk) who have two opposing ideas of how things should turn out…”

    Yeap…thats exactly on my mind too…great point..

  • brent

    We are headed towards a major cliffhanger this season. Not like a season 3 cliffhanger. A season 1 type cliffhanger.

    imfromthepast, you theory is good and I applaud you for sticking to it. But if my casual viewing wife said the same thing, then I just don’t trust it. 🙂 To understand the time travel situation our characters are now in and what can or can’t happen, we have to know WHAT the incident is. Is the release of 30,000 times the EM energy as at the Orchid at the Swan site? Is it the detonation of Jughead? Is it someone pushing the Donkey Wheel? What if it’s all those things?

    I noticed that the next date on the blast door map is “Home of HG Delegation Inspection 12/07/81” I wonder if no one was on Island (besides the Others and Richard) from 1977-1981. Dharma returned to make sure it was safe four year later and finished the Swan construction then?

  • neoloki

    I am going to have to take astrojones side on things. The information in your article just fits together a little too easy, just too predictable. For one you make the assumption that Faraday was telling the truth when he explains his Variable theory to Jack. I believe Daniel’s Variable theory was a ruse. I think he was manipulating Jack to get him to do certain things that Faraday needs for his Plan to work. Similar to his approach earlier in the episode to Chang. Faraday’s time line of events leading up to the incident was very specific calculating things down to specific times. This all presupposes that Faraday knew he would be killed by his mother and wouldn’t be able to finish his plan himself. He needs Jack to by it all hook line and sinker and he knows Jack has come back to the Island because of an ideological change in his life: Destiny. This is where Faraday uses the idea that if Jughead gets set off and the Incident avoided flight 815 will land in LAX, but Dan doesn’t care about that. He just wants to make sure Charlotte never comes back to the Island as an adult.

    I, ultimately, don’t know how it will all end up, but I am fairly certain that something will change in the time line. The WHH has been beaten into our heads to many times for everything to just play out as such. That would be way to predictable and boring and so un-Lost.

    • LOST is occasionally predictable you know.

      • Baalzak

        I’d like to go even further and point out that not only is LOST occasionally predictable, it’s quite OFTEN so.

        Granted, there are some pretty huge “WTF just happened!?!?” moments in this show’s history. In what is still quite possibly my favorite scene of the whole series, we find out that the man whose morning routine we’ve been following is actually living INSIDE THE HATCH, and that we’re watching the very moments that lead up to the explosion that opens the hatch for the first time. Likewise, in the original “flash-forward” scene, there were very, VERY few clues that the person about to get out of that car to speak to Jack could possibly be Kate, immediately revealing to us that they both somehow got off the island.

        However, a large number of LOST’s major events and plot twists haven’t been a question of what’s going to happen, but of HOW and WHY are they going to happen. Just one year ago, in season 4’s finale for example, as big as it was when Ben first “moved the island,” we already knew from the previous episode that that’s exactly what he was going to do. Of course, that didn’t make it any less crazy or mind-blowing. I start with that because it was one of the biggest, but on a smaller scale was anyone really stunned to find out in “This Place Is Death” that Eloise Hawking was Faraday’s mother? In “The Variable,” were you shocked that Widmore was his father? Was anyone surprised to find out that Kate and Sawyer eventually escaped from Hydra island?

        Rather than reducing the entire series to bullet points, I’ll just go ahead and get on with my point. When the show first started, we knew nothing. The characters were all strangers, the island was apparently deserted (although still quite creepy), and we didn’t know anything about any of the major players yet – DHARMA, Widmore, Richard Alpert, even Benjamin Linus were all unknown to us. Now, after nearly 5 years of reveals and plot development, we know a hell of a lot about what might be going on. Where in the first season even the simplest of plot twists was a complete shocker (there are OTHER PEOPLE on the island!?!?), we now have enough evidence to start to put together some of the pieces of this 6 season puzzle. That’s why so many of the major “reveals” of this season have really just been for the characters’ benefit (i.e. Pierre Chang is Miles’ dad) – because we as the viewers already have enough information that, with some critical thinking and the collective deductive ability of millions of rabid fans, we’ve been able to figure all of that stuff out on our own.

        For basically the entire run of the show, they’ve been laying down clues for us to follow – remember, they planted time travel in your head LONG before anyone turned any subterranean wheels. The fact of the matter is, by this point we’re either going to start figuring out some stuff before it happens based on those clues… or the writers will have to force out-of-the-blue plot twists upon us just to keep us surprised… and anyone who’s watched recent seasons of 24 can see how well that turns out.

        • Baalzak

          Ok, I felt like I’d be leaving something out if I didn’t at least mention – after the finale I have NO CLUE what might possibly happen other than to say that the “Shadow of the Statue” people are clearly a part of it.

          All of the clues imfromthepast has been putting together in his posts are grounded in the very nature of self-consistent time travel, or “What ever happened, happened,” so none of these predictions can possibly take us beyond our favorite time travelers’ trip Back to the Future. Even if everything above plays out and we watch Jack and the others CAUSE the incident just like we expected, the season will probably still have to end with a very big “WTF just happened” moment once again.

          I, for one, am looking forward to it. 🙂

          • Once again you’ve read my mind. I am only predicting what I can based on the evidence, surely there will be new information in future episodes that will shed more light on the subject. Heck, last week was the first we heard that the drilling at the Orchid is what triggered the Incident at the Swan, who could have guessed that?

            I still think the nature of this season’s WTH moment will be something catastrophic that seems to contradict WHH. Jack nuking the Island seems to fit the bill.

          • Baalzak

            (Replying to me since I can’t reply to you)

            How ironic would it be if it turns out Daniel just assumed the Orchid drilling is what caused the Swan Incident, due to the close timing of the two events… but that if everyone didn’t end up running around trying to “stop” the Incident from happening with nuclear bombs and other exceedingly well thought out ideas, it never actually would have happened at all.

            Not saying I expect it… but I’d enjoy it. 🙂

          • (Doing the same)
            That would be awesome, and funny. funny in a sad way.

  • doyousmellcarrots

    It’s like the song Iron man. a man made of Iron comes from the future and goes berserk killing lots of people. then a man invents a time machine to go back and stop the Iron man and when he does the effects of time travel turn him to Iron and make him go berserk killing lots of people.

  • Dharma Adept

    thanks for this, marc… well, if nothing else, it’s interesting to speculate on course-correction, etc. my personal belief is that the Rules of the Universe are never absolute—there are always variables. WHH and free will can coexist, because WHH doesnt apply until something has actually happened. where this gets tricky is preknowledge of a past event before it happens, and whether a past event can be changed in the future, or a future event can be changed in the past, without creating a paradox, or a “ripple” in time. But let’s remember that time itself is a ripple. it is never static in our present and doesnt yet exist in our future. time actually onlky exists in the past, as that’s the only way it can be measured. light and sound can affect it, as can electromagnetic vibrations. and time literally bends on itself in space. the closest we’ve come to a unified field theory is the theory of relativity, but since we dont know all the variables, we cannot conclusively prove that theory, and even if we could, there would be exceptions to that “rule” because time itself is a paradox. think about it: it has to have a beginning and an end, yet it is infinite at the same time. how can that be? well, how can that not be? see what i mean?

    • brent

      To play the WHH card in the finale would be cheap IMO. It’s not just the super LOST fans such as ourselves – casual fans shouldn’t be able to predict the endgame. The season has been setup such that rules are meant to be broken. In fact, if they don’t break the rules in the finale, I don’t see a season 6 worth discussing (I could be wrong of course). Obviously I’m not privy to the knowledge of the writers.. For the season 5 twist to be that we will continue to follow SCTT.. there is no season 6. Because as I said, my wife agrees it’s too obvious. She’s a very average viewer and she EXPECTS twists. There haven’t been any for a while. Unless you’re watching every other episode, this is what you think.

      This is being set up as SCTT which means that there is actually a higher probability that something chaotic will happen ( based on LOST as a television show and the surprises they give us). Chaos theory dictates that even small perturbations can cause very divergent results. I’m just saying… there’s a twist coming. And if the twist coming is that there is no twist? Yikes. That’s not good.

  • Thank you so much for writing these articles! They were so interesting, and I’ve always liked self consistent time travel, even if I haven’t seen many examples of it (in shows etc).

    • glad you enjoyed it. I agree, there is a depressing lack of SC TT out there, in the mainstream. The only examples I can come up with are 12 Monkeys and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

      Oh, and Trickshot of course. 😉

      • Benny

        The Terminator series is a big one too!

        • The first Terminator was entirely Self Consistent. T2, not so much. Then they tried to bring it back together with RotM, but it smacked more of Course Correction than true SC.
          Terminator Salvation? Remains to be seen.

          • Benny

            True enough, T2 is just a movie in and of itself with the franchise tag. RotM brings the SCTT into perspective with the tech research (also in T2 I think) and the machine issues with Skynet (is this right?).

            It seems that Salvation will just tie it all together in that we’ll actually see John sending his friend Kyle back in 198???.

            I can’t say that I follow the TV show but I recon having seen Kyle as John’s friend and John obviously knowing that he will be his father. So he realizes that he must send him in the past to assure his own existence.

  • I haven’t read all the comments, so excuse me if I am being redundant, but i haven’t heard anyone talking much about course-correction recently. It seems to me that this is the writer’s way of ensuring a paradox free timeline. Say Daniel is correct, and it is possible to change something, well, the writer’s invented (well, i am not sure if the idea has been used before, seems unlikely that it has never been thought of) this neat idea called course correction. Even if Daniel changes something, then something else will also change, which in turn will cause the same outcome that Daniel tried to change. Obviously I am obviously not sure if this is the case, but it seems like a nice little tool to use to make sure that whatever happened, happened, even if not in the original way it was supposed to. Would love to hear some thoughts guys!

    • I addressed course correction in the controversial first part of this series, but I will summarize.

      Course Correction is a euphamisim for the seemingly convenient things that happen from the perspective of a person that has knowledge of the future.

      For instance, if you were from the future, or even if you just had knowledge of the future, in the form of knowing the outcome of a race. If you knew the winner of a race, and if the winner tripped right out the gate, it would seem like an amazing feat if he somehow got up, and managed to win. This could be seen to you as some form of outside force ensuring that the winner of the race was the one you knew would win. But that’s not neccesarily the case. You only knew that person would win because that was the outcome. It wasn’t pre-ordained, you simply had access to information from the future. That information was the result of the sequence of events that you are witnessing. If the person tripped and still one, that is a testament to his will to succeed against all odds than to some concept of the universe editing itself to fit in with some preferred state.

  • Davo

    Does anyone have any thoughts as to what Locke, Sun and Ben are up to?

    Also, this is for imfromthepast…where do they fit into the self-consistency theory since they are not currently in the past and are interacting with an entirely new group of survivors? Basically, they seem to be outside of the loop and I wonder what the significance of that might be.

    • I don’t understand the question. The activities of the Losties in 1977 are in the past and have no direct influence on the Losties in 2007, other than the common effects that actions have on events 30 years later. It is not as if these events are occurring concurrently. They are separated by thirty years. This is why when Sayid shot Little Ben, Older Ben did not suddenly acquire a bullet wound. He would have had that bullet wound in the Hatch when he first met Sayid.
      So, I don’t know what you mean by asking what time travel has to say about a group of people that are not time traveling. Its like asking what effect the speed limit of the Interstate has on me as I sit in my living room.

  • mcc300

    Simply a theory, but am I the only one who thinks that the Hydrogen bomb detonation IS the incident? It’s theoretically possible with exception to the fallout.

    Therefore, whatever happened, happened.

  • Lego

    The only question I have in regards to “whatever happened, happened” is – Isn’t there an original time line that we are not privy to? I understand the idea that we are viewing a time line in which things cannot be changed, because the future we have seen was already effected by the losties going back in time and meddling with it. But wouldn’t there have been a different timeline the first time someone went back in time? There had to be an orginal timeline in which everyone first went back in time and shaped the current timeline so that what we are viewing is “predetermined”.

    • if there is only one timeline, then by definition there can not be a ‘first’ timeline. That’s like talking about the second time you lost your virginity. Meaningless.

      • Lego

        Let me break down my thinking a bit. In the current time line we have:

        A) Losties crash on the island
        B) Losties go back in time
        C) Losties shape events in the past that causes A)

        According to our theory C cannot happen if A does not. However, we know A must happen because C has already happened.


        It seems to me that there must be an original timeline where C did not happen, but instead something else happened that caused A and then got us into our ABC timeline.

        I don’t think it is meaningless because if there was a timeline that we are not privy to it indicates the past can be changed by time travel. Just because the losties are part of a timeline that takes into account what they have already done in the past does not mean it can’t be changed.

        I could see a situation in which our ABC timeline is always changing just slightly and some of the small changes could end up making big ones…

        Maybe I’m way off base, but it seems like an interesting possibility even if it will not happen.

        • Lego

          The ABC timeline changing slightly each time is a bit of a reach.

          I still think that the timelines can be changed by time travel, except that we are only being shown one specific timeline which has already been affected by the losties previous time travel so it doesn’t seem possible.

    • Benny

      in WHH, you can’t think of past and future, it’s just existence. It’s like a puzzle. Perception of time is only one way of putting the pieces together.

      • have you read Fabric of the Cosmos by Brian Greene?

        • Benny

          not yet, but it’s on my bookshelf!

          • you should. It is very good. and it has lots of math.

  • Benny

    The document is a mathematical brief presenting a model that allows for changing the past and also has a contingency to prevent the formation of paradoxes.

    If elaborates that any changes and alteration must be self-sustained. That is, the changes must create a series of events that lead to a similar future event as the original.

    (Sorry, the link was broken)

  • eric

    Any further thoughts on this, now that Season 6 is almost upon us?

  • My brother-in-law is originally from Mexico and still struggles to speak clear English. His ESL teacher suggested that he watch American television exhibits to pick up on idioms that are commonly utilized. He loves to Watch Frasier Online. so, every chance he gets, he borrows our laptop to accomplish just that. My husband and I would like to see him succeed in this goal so we are considering purchasing him a laptop for his birthday. He would require to buy Web access, but I feel they can afford that on their monthly budget. I haven’t addressed this with my sister yet, but hope to this weekend.