Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Something's gotta give...

Thanks Pinocchio, just tear
the space-time continuum
to shreads!
Like all good Doctor Who fans, I do love a paradox.  It always gives me a little thrill to wrap my brain around something that shouldn't make sense, but does.  It's the geek in me I guess.

I think that's why I love that old song "Something's Gotta Give", where an irresistible force meets an immovable object.  Which, of course, is completely impossible.  If a force is irresistible, then it's not possible for an immovable object to even exist.

And there are so many of them, like the Crocodile Paradox, where if a crocodile steals a man's child and promises to return it if the man correctly predicts what the crocodile will do, what does the crocodile do if the man says that the crocodile won't return the child?  Or the Socratic Paradox, which refers to a quote that Plato attributed to Socrates that went "I know one thing, that I know nothing".  Or even the good old which came first, the chicken or the egg ... which we all know the answer to.  Eggs have totally been around longer than chickens!  Dinosaurs laid them for gods sake!

But I think the most mind blowing paradox I've ever heard of though was the one described in Robert Heinlein's short story "All You Zombies".  It's basically a version of the Grandfather Paradox on steroids.  We've all heard the old "If you travel back in time and kill your own grandfather, how can you have been born to travel back in time and kill your own grandfather" schtick, this just takes it several steps beyond that.

A baby girl is mysteriously left at an orphanage in Cleveland in 1945. "Jane" grows up lonely and dejected, not knowing who her parents are, until one day in 1963 she is strangely attracted to a drifter. 
She falls in love with him. But just when things are finally looking up for Jane, a series of disasters strike. First, she becomes pregnant by the drifter, who then disappears. Second, during the complicated delivery, doctors find that Jane has both sets of sex organs, and to save her life, they are forced to surgically convert "her" to a "him." Finally, a mysterious stranger kidnaps her baby from the delivery room. 
Reeling from these disasters, rejected by society, scorned by fate, "he" becomes a drunkard and drifter. Not only has Jane lost her parents and her lover, but he has lost his only child as well. 
Years later, in 1970, he stumbles into a lonely bar, called Pop's Place, and spills out his pathetic story to an elderly bartender. The bartender offers the drifter the chance to avenge the stranger who left her pregnant and abandoned, on the condition that he (Jane) join the "time travelers corps." Both of them enter a time machine, and the bartender drops off the drifter in 1963. 
The drifter is strangely attracted to a young orphan woman, who subsequently becomes pregnant. The bartender then goes forward nine months, kidnaps the baby girl from the hospital, and drops off the baby in an orphanage back in 1945. Then the bartender drops off the thoroughly confused drifter in 1985, to enlist in the time travelers corps. 
The drifter eventually gets his life together, becomes a respected and elderly member of the time travelers corps, and then disguises himself as a bartender and has his most difficult mission: a date with destiny, meeting a certain drifter at Pop's Place in 1970.

Essentially, the girl, the baby, the drifter and the bartender are all the same person.  Is your mind blown?  If not, try doing up a family tree for poor Jane.  That'll definitely send you round the twist!

16 comments:

  1. I like stuff like this. It takes my mind off of stuff like, "Is this legislative analysis due today or tomorrow?" I think I need to become a member of the time travelers corp.

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    1. You should get onto that! Then come and pick me up and we'll go travelling in space and time! We'll be like Doctor Who ... only hopefully with fewer monsters!

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  2. My mind is blown and it's laying to bits on the floor!! Please don't step on it until after I make the family tree ;)

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    1. LOL! I'll just sweep up the bits and leave them in a nice neat pile for you to come get later.

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  3. Are you kidding me? It's almost midnight on a Monday night! Even when my brain is crisp and fresh, this would be a tough one. But I love it, even though it makes me feel dumb :)

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    1. Sometimes I think the best things are the things that make us feel dumb :D

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  4. Is the time machine a DeLorean? :D

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    1. I don't think so, they didn't mention a flux capacitor.

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  5. I've read that story and you're right - I couldn't think straight for a week.

    Also, I've given you an award :)
    http://michaeldagostino.blogspot.com.au/2012/07/my-fourth-oscar.html

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    1. It definitely had my eyes crossed!

      Thanks for the award!

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  6. Most of the time, when people sleep with themselves, they don't become pregnant. I mean, this happens every day, and nothing. I feel cheated.

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    1. I feel your pain, although I don't suppose you'll complain about the lack of temporal paradoxes.

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  7. Pinocchio: He is mistaken that his nose will grow. Being mistaken isn't lying.

    Chicken or egg: Even if you just count chicken eggs the egg came first. Parents pass on their genetics to their off spring, so at one point the creatures that evolved into chickens wern't chickens but were close to being what we call chickens, then they had an eggs and they were slightly different then their parents so when they hatched they were what we call chickens. (keeping in mind that we name speices by looking back at them through history and that evolution is slow change so what would be almost a chicken but not would be just slightly different from what we'd call a chicken!)

    And the last story works out perfectly cause its all explained. But if you were to kill your grandfather you would still exist in the time you killed him, but when returning to the pressent things could be quite different for you.

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    1. LOL! Oh, don't let that Pinocchio fool you. He's just a rotten liar!

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