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Introduction to Temporal Mechanics: Key Terms

Written by Dan Carlson

General Phenomena

Temporal Mechanics
The study of time, its processes, and consequences of its change. It is an enormously complex subject because of the infinite interrelationships between each object in a temporal continuum. (From The Star Trek Encyclopedia)
Chronition Particles
Also referred to as chronometric particles. These particles exist primarily in the fourth dimension, time, and thus are the most common means of time travel.
Temporal Distortion
A general term for any change in the “normal” fabric of space-time.
Wormhole
A wormhole is a connection between two points in the space-time continuum. Theoretically, a wormhole could connect any two points in any two times, although most documented wormholes only connect two points in space. Throretically, the transit time and distance between those points is zero, as though two points were folded until they were touching. However, this requires an infinite amount of energy, so there is always some distance between the points, though this value varies between phenomena.
Diagram of a Wormhole
Temporal Rift
A spatial formation similar to, but not identical to, a wormhole. Like a wormhole, it connects two points in space-time. However, these two points are in constant flux, while wormholes maintain their positions for definite periods of time. Because of this, rifts have no clear event horizon.
Temporal Psychosis
Also referred to as Temporal Narcosis. A condition physically similar to nitrogen narcosis. When one has been exposed to a temporal distortion or anomaly, the individual’s cerebral cortex may be affected by the drastic changes in space-time. (Or they may just be going insane from trying to figure out what’s going on!) [View Image]

Concepts

Temporal Prime Directive
Starfleet General Order T.01. Forbids Starfleet officers from purposefully making contact with the past or future. Officers are also to prevent or minimize damage to the timeline if such contact does occur. (Refer to Starfleet General Orders and Regulations, page 275, for the complete text)
Grandfather Paradox
One of the most well-known temporal paradoxes, it occurs when one travels into the past and kills their own ancestor. Effectively, the individual committing the murder eliminated himself before he even existed. Once his grandfather died, the murderer was not born, and therefore could not committ the murder in the first place.
Predestination Paradox
Simply stated, this is the theory of “Effect before Cause.” It is the inverse of the Grandfether Paradox. It suggests that an individual could travel into the past and cause an event which would eventually cause that person to travel back in time. (See “Causality Loop”) This theory can get confusing when one considers that if one does not perform the cause, they create an entirely different timeline.
The Predestination Paradox
The Oscillation Theory
In this extension of the grandfather paradox, time somehow “loops” between two inherently different realities. Reality “reverts” from a possibly unstable timeline, for instance: the fact that the grandfather was killed by a person who does not exist. This instability causes an “oscillation” between the two (or more) timelines.
Protection Theory
Numerous incidents have suggested that a person who travels through time is somehow protected from the effects of any changes in the timeline. Federation scientists have yet to provide conclusive proof that some protection exists, but many officers who have traveled through time claim that they would notice any differences as soon as they returned to their own time.
Causality Loop
A state in which an individual continually repeats the same series of actions into infinity. Most causality loops are caused by the Predestination Paradox, where the Event 2 causes Event 1 in the past, which in turn causes Event 2.
The Doubling Theory
Based on Dr. Richard Feynman’s “sum over histories” theory, it states that for each event, every possible effect that can occur, does occur. Therefore, any “change” in the timeline is merely a shift between alternate realities.
Feynman’s Theory of the Sum of Histories
The Butterfly Effect
The idea that a small change at one point can have a great effect on a distant point. This concept is especially important for a person who is in the past, where he could, in theory, alter the timeline through his very presence in that time. A hypothetical example: an officer in the past briefly stops a man to ask for directions. This brief stop prevents that man from bumping into the woman he would eventually marry. Therefore, their child, who would have grown up to become James Kirk, one of the most important figures of Starfleet history, was never born. (oops!)
The Lightspeed Breakaway Factor
Also known as the “slingshot effect.” A vessel can travel backwards or forwards through time by using the intense gravity of a stellar mass to accelerate into a time-warp.

Advanced Concepts

Anti-Time
Similar in theory to the concept of antimatter, anti-time “travels” in a direction opposite to normal time. In essence, as viewed from our timeline, an object existing in an anti-time continuum would be “growing younger.” When time and anti-time collide, for example inside certain types of subspace distortions, they annihilate each other and can have significant effects on the fabric of space as well.
The Dali Paradox
Also referred to as the Melting Clock Effect. An effect in which a temporal anomaly causes distortions in the local space-time continuum which cause time to slow to a gradual halt.
The Poga Paradox
A situation that occurs when an attempt to prevent a certain event in the past ends up causing that same event. This theory is an extension of the Predestination Paradox.

This page was last modified on Saturday, July 21, 2012.