I believe what makes Eloise Hawking and Desmond special is that they can see in “imaginary time”.
Imaginary time is a concept created by Stephen Hawking. It is a measurement system, and is not “imaginary” in the sense of the world of Alice in Wonderland is imaginary; it is imaginary in the sense of imaginary numbers, such as the square root of -4 is 2i.
In this way, it is actually a mathematical model used to represent the universe. From Stephen Hawking’s book “A Brief History in Time”:
“That is to say, for the purposes of the calculation one must measure time using imaginary numbers, rather than real ones. This has an interesting effect on space-time: the distinction between time and space disappears completely.”
Let’s take a look at the Big Bang in Imaginary Time:
According to Stephen Hawking's theory, the Big Bang singularity - like all singularities - is only a singularity in ordinary time. In imaginary time, it is simply a point analogous to the north pole on the Earth. Although ordinary time begins with the Big Bang, it cannot be truly said that the north pole "begins" the Earth's surface, so imaginary time has no beginning or end. Therefore, when rephrased in imaginary time, the beginning and end of ordinary time are no more special, unique, or problematic than any other point in time. The dual-time theory clears up the singularity of the Big Bang by restating it in higher dimensions, now of time instead of space. See the Figure of the Globe below. The top of the globe could be considered the “Big Bang” in imaginary time.
Minkowski Space Time also utilized imaginary time (recall Minkowski was the limo driver for Desmond, and was also on Widmore’s boat that came to the island with the soldiers). See the Figure below:
I’ve overlaid an “Event light cone” to try to clarify my thoughts on this diagram as best I can. The event is an occurrence or an observer at the specific moment in the present.
The ‘Light Cone Past’ is all of the subsequent events that had to occur for the present event to occur. The ‘Light Cone Future’ is all of the possible events that could occur from the current event. What WILL/DOES occur would look like a sort of wiggly line running up along the time cone. This is called a WORLD LINE.
Another figure representing light cones is below.
So what does this mean for Eloise Hawking and Desmond?
Unlike normal people, I believe they can travel in their minds through imaginary time. That means, if you look at the Figures above, that they can move through time as if it were space. In other words, they can travel to the past and into the potential futures in their mind.
Remember, imaginary time is analogous to space, so one with the ability to do so can move forward, backward, etc. through time just as we can through 2-dimensional space.
I think this ability is how Eloise gets her information and seems to know so much. She can see the potential futures because of her ability (the futures in the future time cone), and tries to guide events in the direction that will lead to the WORLD LINE future (the actual future) that she hopes to accomplish.
I believe the same thing has happened recently with Desmond. He has “seen” the potential futures, and is trying to guide events to lead to the future he desires (saving humanity?).
Much like Desmond was woken up to this ability by turning the key in the hatch, Eloise must have been woken up to it as well. Perhaps it was when she touched Daniel Faraday, who she had just shot, and who was a time traveler. Like we are seeing with the Losties in the alternate reality, coming in contact with individuals is waking them up to their lives in the current reality. Perhaps for Ms Hawking, when she shot Daniel, and then touched him, she had the ‘flashes’ in her mind that ‘turned on’ her power to travel in imaginary time.
But what about the alternate reality? How does this fit in?
According to Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History in Time”, there are two possible resolutions to the paradox of time travel:
- The consistent histories approach
- The alternative histories hypothesis
The consistent histories approach basically states that you could not go back in time unless history showed that you had already arrived in the past and not committed any acts that would conflict with your current situation in the present.
This is exactly what has occurred to the Losties in the current reality. They went back in time to the Dharma Initiative, they exploded the bomb, all of that happened – and there is evidence that is all happened when they first arrived on the island. For example, if the Jack et al had got onto the island and gone straight to the Other’s houses (which were once Dharma houses) and found the picture of them in the 1970s dressed up in Dharma suits, that would have verified the consistent histories approach. They were going to go back in time, and the present they were in proved that. “What Happened, Happened.”
Now, throw in the event of the H-bomb. Aside from the current reality “What Happened, Happened”, the alternate reality exists. This is in line with #2, “the alternative histories hypothesis”, but not in total agreement.
The alternative histories hypothesis states that when time travelers go back into the past, they enter alternative histories which differ from recorded history. This DOES NOT HAPPEN in Lost, because as we know, the history they entered was consistent with the present from which they came.
However, when they set of the H-bomb, they “opened the door” to a new reality – a reality that contained both a different past light cone and different future light cone from the standpoint of the present. What I mean is that if you look at Jack’s life in the current reality, including his past and future light cones, it is different from that in the alternate reality. The two Jack’s share a similar past light cone, but they are not the same. Ben is another example of this. He leaves the island with his father in the alternate reality, which would be considered his “past” from our present point of view. So his past and future time cones are different from the “present” vantage point.
This leads into the “many worlds” theory, which is basically that there are countless alternate universe in existence, each based on all the possibilities that exist throughout time.
I do not think this is what is going on in Lost, though. I think instead that there are “potential” realities, meaning that the “probability” of their existence exists, but when the rubber meets the road, in the eye of the observer only one existence truly exists.
Take Schrödinger's cat for example, which is a thought experiment that tries to cast doubt on quantum superposition.
From Wikipedia: Broadly stated, a quantum superposition is the combination of all the possible states of a system (for example, the possible positions of a subatomic particle). The
interpretation implies that the superposition undergoes collapse into a
definite state only at the exact moment of quantum measurement. Copenhagen
In other words, a definite state will only exist once an observer is cognizant of it.
With Schrödinger's cat:
From Wikipedia: A cat, along with a flask containing a poison and a radioactive source, is placed in a sealed box shielded against environmentally induced quantum decoherence. If an internal Geiger counter detects radiation, the flask is shattered, releasing the poison that kills the cat. The
interpretation of quantum
mechanics implies that after a while, the cat is simultaneously alive and
dead. Yet, when we look in the box, we see the cat either alive or
dead, not both alive and dead. Copenhagen
I wonder if the alternate reality is something to this effect – something that supports quantum superposition but also experimentally validates Schrödinger's cat?
What I mean is – what if both realities exist in a sort of flux, and as soon as an outside observation is made, only one will actually exist?
This may fit into Widmore’s concern that “we will cease to exist”.
Obviously, based on the fact that the alternate reality people can see their lives in the current reality, the two realities are tied together and not independent. Therefore, they are not multiple universes, but one universe split (temporarily) into two which will have to revert back to one.
If I was to try to tie religion into all of this, perhaps the “observer” in Schrodinger’s cat is, in the case of the two realities, God, or a higher being? Nemesis or Jacob? Someone whose actions cause one of the realities to cease to exist?
I’m really not sure how that ties in. There is also wave collapse theory, which Achalli has spelled out very well. But in the end, I do believe only one reality can exist, and that both science and religion will somehow play into it.
On the science side, Eloise Hawking has been guiding people along in the background, just as Desmond is doing now.