The wrong ‘brand’ of science
There’s been a bit of discussion on the site about the mechanics of the island, what science is behind its weird physical properties. A lot of the theories of late have been talking about quantum physics as a framework for the island’s science and I’ve never really been happy with that and after watching “The Variable” in particular, I’m convinced that it’s not the right one. I’m going to outline why I don’t think quantum physics has much to do with Lost, then talk about what I think is going on. (So please don’t get halfway through and go ‘she’s just being negative 😉 ).
1. Faraday Daniel is a physicist, so it would make sense that whatever branch of science he is working on his doctorate would be directly related to what is happening on the island (his consciousness experiments directly relate to Desmond’s experiences). Dan clearly describes what he is as a relativisitc physicist. That deals with the theories of relativity NOT quantum physics, they are quite different, possibly connected but as of yet no theory has been able to do this.
2. Dan’s Journal When you look at the contents of Dan’s journal through screen captures, most of the terminology is about relativity NOT quantum physics.
3. Damon and Carlton are writers not physicists. Yes they are really, really good at what they do, but for them to be able to understand a branch of science that even many scientists admit to being confused about, then synthesize that knowledge down to be able to base a whole sci-fi show around this unbelievably complex and primarily theoretical and unproven science seems a bit far-fetched.
4. The viewers, the people watching Lost range from everyday people just watching it because they enjoy it, to sci-fi fans, to people like us who are really active in researching and talking about the show. The basic science behind the island needs to be somewhat understandable by ALL viewers. A recent example of why I don’t think quantum physics can do that is a discussion around Achalli’s last theory. I don’t think he gets it, he and Dabs don’t think I get it and we’ve all researched and read up about quantum physics, quantum suicide and Schrodinger’s Cat. Yet we have really different understandings of just the basics. Only a quantum physicist could tell us who has it right or not. So how could this be put in a way that the average viewer could comprehend?
So now, what do I think is being used as the base physics behind the island? Daniel said it — relativity. Einstein’s theory talked about space and time being connected, not separate, he looked at the curvature of space time and how it is affected by bodies with large mass or gravity, how this also affects light. He also allows for parallel universes and wormholes. A big thing is the current application of the general theory of relativity in GPS. The curvature of space time needs to be taken into account when the satellites send back coordinates or the system isn’t accurate enough. If the island is a point of more mass, higher or fluctuating gravity (possibly caused by the electromagnetic energy), most of the things we’ve seen can be explained. If the gravitational pull of the island change,s that explains the time differences between Faraday’s rocket test and the doctor washing up, more or less gravity curves space time differently. It can also be used to explain Faraday’s comment about the light scattering differently. It also makes sense with Dan telling his Mum why he can’t go on the freighter, Widmore wants him to do complex calculations with trajectory and coordinates, sounds like the stuff they do to keep GPS accurate.
Einstein’s theory has lead to the idea that there are gravitational waves created by heavy bodies moving at light speed. The island is usually drifting slowly in space time, the turning of the FDW is a dramatic and fast movement (faster than light speed which is why is seemed to disappear). This was explained by Damon and Carlton in the podcast before ‘The Incident’. The island is usually at impulse speed, The FDW sent it into warp speed. Does the Lamp Post use the gravitational waves to track the movement of the island?
The big thing though is that everyday people can ‘get’ this. Most people know of Einstein’s theory of relativity, people have a general idea on what it is about and it’s often described as a physics theory that lay people can discuss. “Gravity, space time, parallel universes, ok, I can see how that fits.” For those of us who want to explore further, it all makes sense. We’ve been given all the science we need, the pieces of the puzzle are there, we have some idea on what the picture is beginning to look like, season 6 will finish it off. It won’t introduce new science, that just doesn’t make sense from a narrative perspective, on top of the fact that they killed off the physicist who would explain anything new. Dan’s journal didn’t mention many worlds, quantum suicide or Schrodinger’s cat, it mentions space time and the Lorentz Invarient. Look up Minkowski, not just a dude on the freighter. The science behind the island is based on the theory of relativity not quantum physics.