Monday, December 17, 2007

I Am Not Alone...

Naomi Dorritt, we hardly knew ye...

When she first arrived on the Island, before regaining consciousness, Naomi muttered to Mikhail that she was "not alone." Like many, I believe she was referring to more than just the crew of Not Penny's Boat. Naomi had at least one partner -- maybe more -- with her on the Island. I further believe that she and her partner(s) were not the first such team to land there. That distinction belonged to Kelvin Inman and Mikhail Bakunin, two soldiers of fortune hired in 1993 by the backers of the Dharma Initiative (i.e., Hanso, Widmore, and Paik -- the "Hanso Group") to secure key infrastructure and discover the state of their investment.

But I'm getting ahead of myself -- our story actually begins in 1988, the year Danielle and her crew were shipwrecked on the Island. Though I once took her tale at face value, I now suspect Danielle knows more about Dharma than she's letting on. Maybe her scientific team was one of the "HG Delegations" mentioned on the Blast Door Map, sent to report on the progress of the Initiative. If so, I'm guessing they were also one of the last. Danielle's crew probably crashed on a part of the Island controlled by the "Hostiles" and were never heard from again. After that, further scientific delegations were deemed too dangerous and costly.

The Hanso Group, however, didn't realize just how dangerous things had gotten until 1992, when they abruptly lost all contact with the Island. This was presumably a result of the Purge, in which the Hostiles took control of nearly all Dharma's facilities, including the Flame. The big exception was the Swan, which the Hostiles didn't know about -- or simply didn't care. I believe the Flame, rather than the radio tower or Looking Glass, was the main line of communication with the outside world. With no one alive to answer the Hanso Group's calls, the only sign that things weren't completely FUBAR was that someone still pushed the Swan button.

Fearing the worst, the Hanso Group began recruiting and training covert operatives for insertion on the Island. The plan was to have them parachute under cover of darkness to the sites of two key mission objectives. One would secure the Swan Station while the other targeted the Flame. When these goals were accomplished, the operatives were to make contact with` the Hanso Group. For security reasons, neither operative knew the identity or objective of his partner. They were, however, given a prearranged question-and-answer so they could recognize each other as friendly: "What does one snowman say to another?"

The operatives chosen were Kelvin and Mikhail, who arrived on the Island in 1993. I've long suspected that Kelvin's name is a reference to the sci-fi classic Solaris, which features a character named Kelvin who's sent to investigate the fate of scientists studying a (possibly) sentient planet capable of manifesting one's subconscious. Our Kelvin's objective was the Swan, where he met Radzynski, the last surviving Dharma loyalist. The two pooled their limited knowledge and explored the remains of the Initiative, adding what they learned to the Blast Door Map begun by Radzynski. After Radz committed suicide, Kelvin continued this work alone, until Desmond washed ashore.

It's unclear whether Kelvin ever actually made contact with Mikhail, but the former apparently had some reason to believe the latter was still alive. When Kelvin asked if Desmond was "him," I'm guessing he was referring to Mikhail. Notice, as well, how Kelvin asks Des the snowman question immediately thereafter -- my suspicion is that the real answer isn't "smells like carrots," as Des was led to believe.* I think that Kelvin pretty quickly realized that Desmond knew nothing and that this ignorance could be exploited to help Kelvin escape. From then on, Kelvin rarely told Desmond the truth about anything, except when drunk. In vino veritas!

So what happened to Mikhail? Like the tailsection survivors, who crashed on the opposite side of the Island from the fuselage, Mikhail had a profoundly different experience. My guess is that he touched down near the Flame, where he may even have restored radio contact with the Hanso Group, but was apprehended shortly thereafter by the Hostiles. Threatened with death, Mikhail begged for' mercy, offering to tell his employers whatever story his captors wished about the purge of the Dharma scientists. Sensing Mikhail was sincere, and that he could be useful, Benjamin Linas spared his life. That's why Mikhail remained so incredibly loyal to Ben until the bitter end.

Mikhail was assigned to the Flame, where he helped create the illusion that Dharma wasn't completely dead. The supply drops promised in the Sri Lanka Orientation continued, but radio contact with the Hanso Group grew ever more infrequent. For the most part, the Initiative's backers were seemingly content just to forget about their failed experiment. The Hostiles, however, remained on the lookout for potential spies and prepared themselves for the possibility of an invasion someday to retake the Island. When a hot-air balloonist named Henry Gale crashed with Widmore markings on his craft, he was immediately killed -- no questions asked.

Now, of course, the Hostiles' nightmare scenario has materialized. The implosion of Swan, followed in quick succession by the explosion of the Flame, served as a summons that the Hanso Group could no longer ignore. Naomi and her partner(s) are advanced scouts for a much larger force sent to reclaim the Island. The moment Mikhail saw the satellite phone and heard Naomi muttering in different languages, he knew who she was and why she was there. So why not kill her on the spot like the Hostiles did Henry Gale? Mikhail realized it was even more important to escape with the sat. phone and relay news of the beginning of the end to Ben...

*The original sentence erroneously stated that we never saw Kelvin ask Des the snowman question. Thanks to 42ndFloor and Desmondisthekey for the correction!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Let's Get Meta...

I usually resist getting "meta" about Lost theorizing. Abstract discussions -- e.g., of which explanations are more faithful to the spirit of the show or what level of complexity the viewing audience will accept -- strike me as pretty pointless. But I've always believed that show would ultimately resemble a Michael Crichton novel (i.e., character driven with a nifty technological premise bordering on science fiction) even before Darlton said as much.

Think of a spectrum of possibilities. On one end is 2001:ASO, the ultimate ambiguous film, explaining almost nothing. On the other is the Matrix trilogy, which explains far too much using long scenes of ponderous explanatory dialogue. Crichton novels are right in the middle, offering complex explanations for the sci-fi elements without allowing them to overshadow the narrative -- just right, as Goldilocks might say. My hope and expectation is that Lost will occupy that same sweet spot...

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

More Black Hole Thoughts...

Lately I've been driving my fellow theorists on the fuselage a little crazy by pushing my micro/mini black hole thesis with an almost missionary zeal. I like to think I'm pretty open-minded, particularly where theories about a fictional TV show are concerned. But the more I learn about micro/mini black holes, the more they strike me as The Explanation for what was going on behind the concrete in Swan -- the science/pseudo-science fits so neatly with clues from the show. To summarize some of the evidence that doesn't appear in my original post:

*Claire described the sky as turning "violet," which could refer to ultra-violet radiation like that released by an evaporating mini black hole.

*The violet/purple sky could also have been an auroral effect (e.g., like Aurora Borealis) caused by such radiation bombarding the atmosphere.

*Such a high-energy radiation burst could also cause an EMP.

*In Not in Portland, Aldo is seen reading a chapter on black holes from A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking.

*Courtesy of Mike NY, this source states that the high energy radiation released by black hole evaporation might cause a visible "hadronic fireball," which could also explain the violet/purple sky. It may just be a coincidence, but this depiction of black hole evaporation from the same source seems to be colored violet.

*Also courtesy of Mike NY, the button might have been linked to some degaussing mechanism. Per the original post, an evaporating black hole could theoretically be stabilized by charging it magnetically. The degaussing may have been required periodically to shrink the black hole down to size or otherwise manage its growth.

*In a deleted scene from Season 3, Hurley compared Desmond's precognition to the Fantastic Four, who gained their powers by exposure to cosmic radiation like that released by an evaporating mini black hole.

*In the film Event Horizon, the ship is powered by a mini black hole and features the line "Liberate te ex inferis" (save yourself from hell) which also appears on the Blast Door Map.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Lost Thoughts...

Whew! It's been a busy few weeks for me workwise, which is why I haven't done your excellent comments justice. But first, big thanks again to Doc Jensen of for mentioning Eye M Sick in his column. We're all big fans of Doc J over here and I think he's hit the nail on the head with his speculation that Ben has flashes of the future. That explains one of my all-time favorite scenes on the show -- Ben's creepy conversation with Kate over breakfast where he mentions that "the next two weeks will be very unpleasant."

Speaking of Kate, I had a bit of a brainstorm recently about who Kate's "he" (as in, "he'll be wondering where I am") might be. After the finale aired, my first guess was Tom Brennan (i.e., Kate's childhood friend) who was miraculously alive in the reality to which they'd returned. Others suggested Kevin (i.e., the cop Kate nearly married) which would also be intriguing. Still another possibility that folks have raised is Sawyer, which strikes me as plausible but somehow wrong -- and not because I'm a "Jater".

So who is Kate's "he" if not one of those three? Remember back in DOC when Juliet recorded a message for Ben that she was "still working on getting samples from the other women" and that she "should have Austen's soon"? Those samples presumably were never collected, but I think Kate Austen is pregnant -- perhaps from her sweaty encounter with Sawyer in the bear cages. Flash forward several years into the future. The "he" who will be "wondering where I am" is Kate's child, who is now around two years old...

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Course Correction Conundrum

Remember what Ms. Hawking said to Desmond in Flashes Before Your Eyes?

She told him that the "universe, unfortunately, has a way of course correcting." Many, myself included, routinely refer to course corrections without actually defining what we mean. In the 3rd Anniversary Podcast, however, the writers stressed that the Lost "rules" of time travel were summarized by Ms. Hawking. They also emphasized that the "future is the future" and that there are no "alternate" or "parallel" futures on the show. With those comments in mind, I thought it would be useful to analyze and discuss what precisely Ms. Hawking might have meant. Her first comments on the subject come when Desmond decides to buy the engagement ring for Penny:

MS. HAWKING: Well, I know your name as well as I know that you that don't ask Penny to marry you. In fact, you break her heart. Well, breaking her heart is, of course, what drives you in a few short years from now to enter that sailing race -- to prove her father wrong -- which brings you to the island where you spend the next 3 years of your life entering numbers into the computer until you are forced to turn that failsafe key. And if you don't do those things, Desmond David Hume, every single one of us is dead. So give me that sodding ring.

Careful readers will note an apparent tension between Ms. Hawking's comments and those in the Podcast. She seems to be referring to the implosion of Swan -- if Des isn't there to activate the Fail-Safe, the whole world will be destroyed. Yet, if the future is the future, and the universe inevitably course corrects, why does it matter what Desmond does? As Homer Simpson might say, can't someone else do it? If not, won't the universe just frustrate Des regardless, sending him to the Island whether or not he proposes to Penny? Things get even curiouser when we consider Des and Hawking's conversation following the demise of the man in the red shoes.

DESMOND: Oh, my God. You knew that was going to happen, didn't you? [she nods] Then why didn't you stop it? Why didn't you do anything?

MS. HAWKING: Because it wouldn't matter. Had I warned him about the scaffolding tomorrow he'd be hit by a taxi. If I warned him about the taxi, he'd fall in the shower and break his neck. The universe, unfortunately, has a way of course correcting. That man was supposed to die. That was his path just as it's your path to go to the island. You don't do it because you choose to, Desmond. You do it because you're supposed to.

Here again, Ms. Hawking's comments are puzzling. Taken literally, they seem to suggest an inevitability to Desmond's fate that's at odds with her previous warning that "every single one of us is dead" if he doesn't go to the Island, push the button, and turn the key. They also seem to render moot the entire reason for her intervention. Why even bother if the future is the future and Desmond will do what he's supposed to do regardless? The real purpose of their exchange is, of course, to set the stage for Desmond's dilemma concerning Charlie's inevitable demise. As the former tells the latter at the end of FBYE:

DESMOND: When I saw the lightning hit the roof you were electrocuted. And when you heard Claire was in the water you -- you drowned trying to save her. I dove in myself so you never went in. I've tried, brother. I've tried twice to save you, but the universe has a way of course correcting and -- and I can't stop it forever. I'm sorry. I'm sorry because no matter what I try to do you're going to die, Charlie.

Desmond's dilemma reaches a head in Catch-22, when his flashes suggest he will be reunited with Penny -- but only if he lets Charlie die.

DESMOND: I saw a sequence of events. Things that are gonna happen.

HURLEY: What you see?

DESMOND: It was, it was like a sorta jigsaw puzzle. Only I didn't have the picture in the box so, I dunno how the pieces fit exactly but, but one of the pieces, the first one...

[Desmond sees the image of Hurley picking up the cable in the sand]

DESMOND: ... It was you, pulling the cable out the sand.

HURLEY: So what are the other pieces?

DESMOND: If I tell you that, it'll change the picture in the box.

HURLEY: So what? Isn't that the point? Preventing something bad?

DESMOND: Not this time.

HURLEY: So you're not trying to stop something from happening, you exactly want it to happen.

[Desmond sees himself and Penny posing for their photograph, of him wiping Penny's tear at the stadium, of her kissing him in their flat]

DESMOND: More than anything.

CHARLIE: You think its her don't you?


CHARLIE: Your girl. Penny. You think its actually her who bailed out the helicopter.

DESMOND: Earlier I hoped it. Now I know it.

CHARLIE: Why didn't you tell us?

DESMOND: Would you come if I had?

CHARLIE: Of course. Why wouldn't I?

DESMOND: I didn't wanna tell you because, I didn't want anything to change.

CHARLIE: Fair enough. Look if whatever you're seeing leads to your girl getting us rescued, why would we want to change anything, right?

DESMOND: [Smiles] Right.

CHARLIE: You shouted duck. You knew, even before we set off, you knew all this time didn't you?


CHARLIE: Well then why didn't you say anything.

DESMOND: Because if I'd told you the truth you wouldn't have come.

CHARLIE: Oh and you needed me to come. Cause I was part of your vision. You thought that the only way you could get your girl back was if I took an arrow in the head. You would have sacrificed me!

DESMOND: If the flashes don't happen exactly how I saw them, the picture changes. I was supposed to let you die Charlie.

CHARLIE: What's that supposed to mean?

DESMOND: It means its bloody pointless. I keep saving your life, and what good has it done? Its just gonna keep happening again and again, maybe that's the point eh? Maybe its a test.


DESMOND: Like God, testing Abraham, except I failed, because I changed what I saw.

HURLEY: She's alive!

[Desmond rushes toward them]

DESMOND: Stand back! Get away from her! I'm here, I'm here Penny.

CHARLIE: Jus, be careful.

DESMOND: Just get off, Charlie. Sorry Penny, I'm sorry.

[Desmond pulls off the helmet to reveal not Penny, but a different woman]

WOMAN: Desmon...

Desmond clearly believed that the parachutist was supposed to be Penny. By intervening to save Charlie's life, Des apparently changed "the picture on the box," which resulted in Naomi taking Penny's place. Assuming Desmond was correct, it's hard to square the events of the show with the podcast's unequivocal statement that the "future is the future." The same is true of Desmond's subsequent conviction that Charlie must die in the Looking Glass to effectuate their rescue. Once again, we're left wondering why, if the universe inevitably course corrects, it makes any difference whether Charlie lives or dies.

DESMOND: What I saw, Charlie, was Claire and her baby getting into a helicopter. A helicopter that lifts off, leaves this Island.

CHARLIE: Are you sure?


CHARLIE: A rescue helicopter, on this beach?

[Desmond nods]

CHARLIE: This Island, that's what you saw?

[Desmond nods again]

CHARLIE: We're getting bloody rescued! I thought you were gonna tell me I was gonna die again!

DESMOND: You are, Charlie.

CHARLIE: Wait, what?

DESMOND: If you don't, none of it will happen. There won't be any rescue. I'm sorry, brother, but this time, this time you have to die.

Stated another way, Charlie's sacrifice seems rather pointless unless it's at least possible to change the "picture on the box." That leads me to believe the concept of course correcting is more complex than a literal interpretation of the podcast would suggest. Perhaps the "future is the future" in the sense that the general outline of events can't be changed, but some of the minor details (e.g., specific names and faces) can through manipulation of course correction. That's basically what Desmond did with Charlie, postponing the latter's demise until that occurrence became part of a causal chain of events resulting specifically in the helicopter rescue.

Here's another example of how changing the "picture on the box" might work in actual practice. Let's say it was inevitable that the survivors of Oceanic 815 would be rescued by someone, some time, thanks to Desmond's conversation with Donovan in FBYE. Perhaps Penny was in a race with the Hanso Foundation and/or her father to find the Island first. If Charlie had died in accordance with Desmond's vision in Catch-22, Penny would have won the race and been reunited with her love. But because Des saved Charlie from Rousseau's booby trap, the universe course corrected, changing the picture on the box so that Naomi and Not Penny's Boat are now their rescuers.

All of which has me hoping against hope, improbable as it admittedly now appears, that Christian Shepherd is alive and well due somehow to Desmond's changes to the past. Long live the Christian resurrection!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Fixing a Hole...

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, there lived the Fourtoes, a race of technologically advanced beings capable of great feats of genetic engineering and inter-dimensional wormhole travel. Ordinarily, the Fourtoes observed a kind of prime directive, not interfering with less advanced species. But when one maverick Fourtoe named Demiurge found himself marooned on an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet orbiting a small unregarded yellow sun, far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Milky Way galaxy, he couldn't resist playing god to the amazingly primitive ape-descended life forms he found there.

Demiurge genetically enhanced the humans, leapfrogging millenia of their evolution. He also enslaved his "children," augmenting the Island's natural potential as a kind of psychic transceiver to merge their minds with his own. The result was a highly advanced global civilization centered on the Island, which became the source of myths and legends concerning Atlantis and Mu. Though humanity's service and worship proved satisfying for a time, Demiurge eventually grew homesick. He tried to rebuild his wormhole transport, which harnessed the negative energy of a small black hole generator, but the device malfunctioned catastrophically during one disastrous test run.

The analogy here is to Paris Crater, a massive implosion caused by ill-fated French time travel experiments using black-hole technology in Dan Simmons' books Ilium and Olympos. Demiurge's catastrophe literally wrinkled the fabric of spacetime around the Island, partially removing it from reality. The shock of this calamity triggered massive earthquakes and tsunamis worldwide, as reflected in Sumerian and Jewish myths of the deluge and flood. A massive volcanic eruption rocked the Island, creating Le Crater and burying most of Demiurge's Island civilization under layers of ash and lava like Vesuvius did Herculaneum and Pompeii.

Only a handful of Demiurge's "children" survived the global fallout. The Hansos and DeGroots were both directly descended from the few survivors of this ancient cataclysm. Reproduction with ordinary humans diluted Demiurge's genetic enhancements over time, but vestiges remained in the form of heightened mental talents, including occasional psychic powers. Indeed, many outstanding thinkers throughout history (e.g., John Locke, Jean Jaques Rousseau, Mikhail Bakunin, etc.) were indirect descendants of the cataclysm's survivors. Only a few powerful families, however, knew about the Island, which they kept a closely guarded secret.

Fast forward several centuries to 1962, when Enzo Valenzetti issued his grim mathematical prediction of humanity's extinction. Alarmed by Valenzetti's chillingly plausible results, a Hanso named Alvar approached the DeGroots about teaming up to save the, world. Together, they created the Dharma Initiative, which was devoted to influencing Valenzetti Equation's core factors in hopes of averting humanity's fate. Dharma was located on the Island mainly because its isolation in spacetime allowed scientists to experiment with changing the core factors for a small population sequestered locally without affecting -- or being affected by -- the rest of the planet.

The Dharma scientists were also intrigued by at least two other features of the Island. For one thing, it seemed to be a strong source of "geologically unique" electromagnetism. If this exotic energy could be tapped, it might render fossil fuel and nuclear power obsolete. Minds, moreover, seemed to merge together on the Island, like radio transceivers tuning to the same frequency. If this effect could be controlled, Dharma might be able to broadcast good vibrations globally, pacifying people and ending the cold war. Both phenomena, of course, were actually caused by Demiurge's advanced technology, which remained partially intact under ash and volcanic rock.

The aforementioned black hole generator was responsible for the Island's "unique electromagnetic fluctuations." The device generated a micro black hole that released Hawking radiation as it evaporated, creating a "kind of Casimir effect." Quantum theory tells us that the vacuum is actually teeming with "virtual particle antiparticle pairs" that wink into existence then annihilate each other. The Casimir effect occurs when parallel metal plates are sufficiently close that the density of virtual particle antiparticle pairs is lower between the plates than around them. The resulting Casimir force pulls the plates together, as depicted in this diagram by Stephen Hawking:

Like the space between parallel metal plates, the event horizon of an evaporating black hole is also a region of negative energy density. As virtual particle antiparticle pairs pop into being, the enormous gravitational forces pull them apart, imparting tremendous energy to particle and antiparticle alike. One gets sucked into the black hole, gaining negative mass that causes the black hole to shrink. The other becomes a real particle that escapes as Hawking radiation. Still with me? Good, because here's where this all pays off. The negative energy generated by the Casimir effect and evaporating black holes makes them capable, in theory, of wormhole stabilization!

The Dharma scientists had presumably realized as much by the time they made the Orchid Orientation. I believe the film depicts an attempt to send Bunny 15 forward through a wormhole into the near future. What the scientists mistakenly did instead was pull a second Bunny 15 backward into the past. The chaos caused by the twin bunnies ("Don't let them touch!") reminds me of the movie Timecop, in which time travelers are admonished never to make physical contact with past versions of themselves. My guess is that the Incident involved Dharma participants opening a wormhole and pulling their twins from elsewhere in time with literally explosive results.

Limbs were lost and histories rewritten, as suggested by the apparent transformations of Mark Wickmund, first into Edgar Halowax, then the one-armed Marvin Candle. Such a scenario could also explain the Others' creation -- they're time twins who survived the Incident -- which is why one of the voices on the Orchid Orientation sounds suspiciously like Richard Alpert. Jacob's ghostly state could be due to the historical rewrites, like how Marty McFly fades partially away near the end of Back to the Future as a result of changes to the past. Or maybe Jacob was blasted out of time by physical contact with his twin (e.g., Alvar or even Magnus Hanso).

When the dust settled, and Dharma realized what had happened, the Initiative's plans evolved. The Orchid Station was reconfigured and renamed the Swan, which may itself be a black hole reference. The constellation Cygnus (i.e., Latin for "Swan") contains an x-ray source that's widely believed to be a leading black hole candidate. Cygnus was also the name of a (lost) spaceship discovered just outside the event horizon of a black hole in Disney's science fiction classic The Black Hole. I believe these are clues that, behind the Swan's concrete barrier, stabilized by an electromagnet, was a micro black hole courtesy of Demiurge's technology.

Sayid compared the Swan barrier to the concrete dome over Chernobyl. That's because the Hawking radiation released by black hole evaporation is thought to be very high energy, capable of frying those directly exposed. Swan's electromagnet prevented the black hole from evaporating completely -- a black hole can, in theory, "be stabilized by endowing it with a sufficiently large magnetic charge." The electromagnet may also have fed vibrational energy into the black hole, generating gravity waves like the alien communicator in Larry Niven's short story The Hole Man. The system was reset every 108 minutes to keep the black hole from growing too big.

So why even bother with the button protocol -- why not just automate the system? I believe that, by the time of the Incident, Dharma had concluded their best chance of changing the Valenzetti's core factors was to change history itself. The goal of the Initiative became cultivating people worthy and capable of this delicate task. The various stations served principally as a psychological experiment, but they were also a kind of test, set up to get someone, some day, to stop pushing the Swan button. Whoever had the guts and selflessness to turn the Fail-Safe key would then be blasted back in time to save the world. But no even one took (let alone passed) this test, until Mr. Desmond David Hume.

When Locke prevented Des from entering the code, the black hole in Swan began to grow. The electromagnet increased power to compensate, which is why metallic objects flew toward the wall. Had Desmond not turned the key, the black hole quickly would have overcome its confines, sinking into the Earth and eventually consuming the planet. By activating the Fail-Safe, Des shut down the electromagnet before the black hole reached critical mass, causing it to evaporate in a blast of negative energy and Hawking radiation. That radiation is what turned the sky purple and caused the EMP that crippled the Flame. The negative energy opened a wormhole into Desmond's past.

When the wormhole opened, Desmond used another of Demiurge's technologies, the psychic transceiver, to broadcast his consciousness back in time. Like the father and son who talk via shortwave radio through a wormhole in the film Frequency, Desmond made contact with himself in the past because both share the same mental frequency. It's no coincidence that only Desmond's consciousness made the trip -- Dharma may even have designed things that way to prevent physical contact with past selves. The key, regardless, is the Island's capacity to serve as a psychic transceiver. That's why radio transmission and reception have been recurring metaphors from the beginning of the show.

Arthur C. Clarke once noted that any sufficiently advanced technology will look to us like magic, a comment that's become the informal credo of "hard" science fiction. Clarke helped Stanley Kubrick write 2001: A Space Odyssey, which is the rare hard science fiction film and a personal favorite. Aliens intervene in human evolution and leave behind technology in the form of mysterious monoliths -- the original black rocks. Dig below the Island's literal and figurative surface and I suspect you'll find the magic is similarly explained by Demiurge's alien technology. Which, in turn, makes me wonder if that's the real reason the people who sent Not Penny's Boat are looking for the Island...

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Lost Time...

When Naomi Dorrit revealed that the wreckage of Oceanic 815 had been found with no survivors, my first thought was that 2 planes + 2 pictures of Penny = the Multiverse. I still think that would make a great line for fictional super-nerd Dwight Schrute, who has mentioned both the Others and the Dharma Initiative previously on the Office. But I've come to believe that the second Oceanic 815 was actually staged as part of a cover-up meant to cheat no less a force than fate itself. Oceanic 815 was supposed to crash in the Pacific, killing everyone on board. Against all odds, it crashed instead on the Island with numerous survivors. The second crash was thus faked to prevent the universe from course correcting -- perhaps even catastrophically -- for this significant change in events.

Naomi said two things in particular that really got me thinking. One was that the entire plane had been found with all of the bodies, as confirmed by robotic cameras. Leaving aside the question of how searchers even found the crash site when the plane was underwater and a thousand miles off course, it strikes me as improbably convenient that they accounted for every single body. Naomi's other intriguing comment was that discovery of the wreckage prompted a huge memorial for Charlie and the release of a popular greatest hits album by Driveshaft. Finding those bodies apparently affected a lot of people. Charlie's death was felt worldwide, but the same was undoubtedly true on a smaller scale for everyone else aboard. Funerals were held and folks moved on -- all thanks to the closure those bodies provided.

That reminds me of John Varley's science fiction novel Millenium, which was also made into a B-movie starring Kris Kristofferson and Cheryl Ladd. Two planes collide in mid-air, falling to Earth in a fiery crash that kills everyone aboard. When FAA investigators recover one of the cockpit voice recorders, they discover something strange. Even though the fire didn't begin until after the planes had crashed, a crew member is heard screaming that all of the passengers are already dead and burned. It turns out that time travelers from the future have been abducting people from doomed airliners and replacing them with dead duplicates. The cryptic comment on the voice recorder was because the passengers had been abducted and replaced with burnt corpses in anticipation of the crash.

The reason for taking people who are about to die is that the dead have no future. Changes to the past create temporal paradoxes that ripple through spacetime, causing future "timequakes" as the timeline shifts to compensate. Millenium's timequakes strike me as an interesting metaphor for course corrections, though I doubt the latter are similarly physical. My guess is that course correcting more closely resembles the effects of the temporal "Change War" in Frtiz Leiber's sci-fi classic The Big Time. The premise is that two time-traveling factions (the "Snakes" vs. the "Spiders" -- the rest of us are "Zombies") are locked in combat with all of history as their battlefield. They strike at each other by intervening to change the outcome of key events along the timeline. Here's how one character describes the Change War:
Have you ever worried about your memory, because because it doesn't seem to be bringing you exactly the same picture of the past from one day to the next? Have you ever been afraid that your personality was changing because of forces beyond your knowledge or control? Have you ever felt sure that sudden death was about to jump you from nowhere? Have you ever been afraid of Ghosts -- not the storybook kind, but the billions of beings who were once so real and strong it's hard to believe they'll just sleep harmlessly forever? Have you ever wondered about those things you may call devils or Demons -- spirits able to rage through all time and space, through the hot hearts of stars and the cold skeleton of space between the galaxies? Have you ever thought that the whole universe might be a crazy, mixed-up dream? If you have, you've had hints of the Change War.

The part about the "Ghosts" of people from timelines that no longer exist makes me think of Jacob and the Whispers, both of which have a ghostly quality. I could easily see them being the remains of people who were "erased" from history, perhaps by the original Incident. I'm also struck by the reference of "spirits able to rage through all time and space" -- many, myself included, have speculated that Desmond's electromagnetic "soul" time traveled into the past during Flashes Before Your Eyes. This jibes with the Others' brainwashing video, which states that "only fools are enslaved by time and space." It also fits with Ms. Klugh's question about whether Walt had ever appeared someplace he wasn't supposed to be. Unbeknownst to Michael, Walt had done so on at least two occasions, haunting Shannon with his apparition.

I think the fabricators of that second plane were afraid of becoming ghostly victims of "lost time" themselves. The failure of Oceanic 815 to crash -- and, more importantly, to be found -- threatened to send ripples through the timeline, profoundly unsettling the future. Yes, the universe would ultimately course correct, as it did in the case of Charlie. But the overall picture might still be fundamentally different, as Desmond's changing flashes of the future tend to suggest. So they staged a plane wreck off the coast of Bali and stocked it with duplicates like the ones in Millenium -- perhaps even cloned from those missing hairbrushes that Claire mentioned back in S1. Family members of our Losties gained closure and fans of Driveshaft got their greatest hits album. The rest, as they say, is history...

Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Orchid

As you've probably heard or read by now, the writers dropped a bomb on us at Comic-Con in the form of a new orientation film, purportedly for Station 6, the Orchid. I say "purportedly" not because I doubt the film's veracity -- it has an outtake's air of authenticity. Rather, my speculation is that the Orchid was actually the precursor for the Swan, and what we saw in the film presages the Incident that Dr. Candle mentions in the Swan Orientation. Take a gander at the video on Lostpedia if you haven't already or your recollection requires refreshment. Then consider some of my whackadoo theories about the thing:

Whackadoo Theory 4: When Swan was in operation, the Island existed a 108 minutes out of phase with our timeline.

Whackadoo Theory 8: Oceanic 815 did indeed crash killing everyone on board. But System Failure opened a wormhole that plucked the plane out of our timeline 108 minutes before it crashed, changing the future so that the plane now crashes on the Island where some survive. The second Oceanic 815 crash was staged ala Capricorn One to prevent a massive course correction.

Whackadoo Theory 15: A poster named Founder speculates that Dr. Candle lost his arm shaking hands with one of his twins. Let's say Wickmund meets Allowax after a wormhole experiment gone awry. They shake hands, resulting in KABOOM! When the dust settles, there is only one person with a whole new name, Dr. Marvin Candle.

Whackadoo Theory 16: Jacob is someone who was erased from the timeline by the Incident.

Whackadoo Theory 23: The Others are timeline twins of certain people who were present during the Incident. Let's say Richard Alpert was originally a member of Dharma. An experiment plucked some version of himself from another point in the timeline like the bunnies in the film. To avoid a temporal rift, they tried to return this twin Richard back to his proper point in the timeline. Unfortunately, they ended up blasting him waaaaaaaaay back in time. Like several centuries. Doesn't explain how Richard has survived this long. But it would explain why such an old soul speaks perfect modern English, even lecturing Ben on the meaning of the word "hostile."

Whackadoo Theory 42: The Island's Casimir Effect creates a kind of static warp bubble modeled on the Alcubierre Drive.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Cause and Effect (Revised)

The first iteration of this theory (available here) got bogged down by some controversial science. So, I thought it might be worthwhile to revise and refocus the discussion on some of the other topics I'd hoped to discuss.

Okay, science and philosophy fans, this one's for you. For some time, we've puzzled over the appearance of various Island elements (e.g., the Numbers, Kate's horse, the Dharma octagon, etc.) in the flashbacks of our Losties. One plausible explanation is that they're the victims of an elaborate conspiracy that brought them to the Island. I agree there's a conspiracy afoot but don't believe it explains the foregoing things. My paradoxical speculation is that the survivors of Oceanic 815 brought themselves to the Island, which is why it looms so large in their respective pasts. To understand how, let's begin with Desmond's namesake, Mr. David Hume.

Hume was an empiricist and believed that we can only know what experience tells us. One of his great philosophical contributions was the notion that causation is really nothing more than our observation of the conjunction of two events. We see A followed by B enough times and infer that there must be a necessary connection between them -- i.e., A causes B. Hume argued that this inference was faulty no matter how often A is followed by B. Constant conjunction is not synonymous with necessary connection. Hume's claim is pretty wild when you think about it. He basically argued that there's no reason beyond our own experience to think the sun will rise tomorrow.

Fast forward several centuries to Albert Einstein, whose general theory of relativity threw a further wrench in the causation works. Einstein established that mass literally warps the geometry of spacetime, giving rise to gravity. It turns out that some valid mathematical solutions of general relativity involve "closed timelike curves," allowing for at least the theoretical possibility of travel into the past. To see why, imagine yourself at the intersection of two vast cones of light. The cone behind you represents all of the past events that could have had some causal effect upon you. Ahead of you is a cone of all possible events that you could affect in the future.

Ordinarily, these past and future light cones point away from each other in spacetime, thus preserving the illusion of history. In theory, however, some strange warp or wrinkle in spacetime could cause your future cone to tip such that it loops around and intersects with the past, creating the aforementioned closed timelike curve. Princeton astrophysicist J. Richard Gott (who also claims to have calculated the time left before humanity's extinction) analogizes such loops in spacetime to Magellan's circumnavigation of the globe or an MC Escher painting. The result is that one can -- again, in theory -- have a causal effect on events in the past.

When Desmond activated the Fail-Safe he created such a closed timelike curve by briefly projecting his consciousness through time. His past and future perspectives merged momentarily, leaving him with a kind of temporal "double vision" that permits him paradoxically to remember the future. Desmond's brief flashes of future events are the product of his mind making sense of these dual perspectives a bit like how your brain processes two different images to create a 3D stereogram. The result is an enhanced perception of time that Crimson Rabbit analogizes to Dr. Manhattan's 4D perspective in Watchmen and that Zombie Soiree terms the "4D Eye."

What's more, I think everyone on the Island during activation of the Fail-Safe was affected to varying degrees by their proximity to that event. Eko and Locke were closest to ground zero and probably experienced similarly strong reverse causality. Unlike Desmond, of course, Eko and Locke didn't travel consciously through time. As Doctor Hanso notes, however, Locke experienced prophetic dream visions immediately following activation of the Fail-Safe and may have affected the past to make Anthony Cooper come out of the Box. I also wonder if the drug plane's presence can similarly be explained as Eko somehow influencing past events to effectuate the present.

All of which brings me back to my core premise that the survivors of Oceanic 815 brought themselves to the Island. Unlike Desmond, Eko, and Locke, these folks were further away from ground zero, lessening the affect of the Fail Safe upon them. None of our other Losties traveled consciously through time, and my guess is their impact on history was more limited. The principal manifestation is a subconscious attraction to each other and certain Island symbols. That's why their flashbacks contain so many improbable inter-personal connections and coincidences involving the Numbers -- future events are paradoxically causing subconscious effects in the past.

The analogy is to one of my favorite episodes of Star Trek: TNG, also titled "Cause and Effect." The Enterprise gets caught in a temporal causality loop where events repeat themselves, culminating each time in a catastrophic collision that resets the loop and erases any conscious memory of what's happened. Crew members realize something is wrong when they have apparent flashes of the future (e.g., what cards will be dealt in a poker game) and hear whispers that turn out to be echoes of past iterations. In an effort to break free, they send a subconscious clue to themselves in the past using Mr. Data whose positronic brain can detect "dekyon" transmissions. Data isn't consciously aware of the message -- it's more like post-hypnotic suggestion. For example, as the dealer in the aforementioned card game, he stacks the deck without even realizing it, dealing all 3s instead of the cards the characters expect. Ultimately, this provides the clue that allows them to break out of the loop.

I'm not convinced our Losties are/were caught in such a temporal causality loop, though Danielle's automated distress would work well as a metaphor for that effect. I do, however, think that time on Lost is circular -- i.e., past, present, and future exist simultaneously ala Aboriginal Dreamtime. As a result, it's possible for characters to contact (and perhaps even meet) versions of themselves from other points along the timeline. The Fail-Safe basically blasted our characters thoughts and experiences into the past like the Dekyon transmission in Cause and Effect. As a result, they were left with a kind of post-hypnotic suggestion that draws them unconsciously to each other, various Island symbols, and ultimately the Island itself. That's why these elements recur with such frequency in their flashbacks.

At this point, you may be wondering whether the very paradoxical character of such a reverse-causation scenario renders it impossible by definition. Thanks to Hume, however, we can't rule out causal paradox on metaphysical grounds. Accordingly, most scientists believe that the physical universe operates somehow to prevent or otherwise correct for paradoxes in the timeline. One famous speculation in this regard is Stephen Hawking's Chronology Protection Conjecture, which holds that the laws of physics prevent backwards time travel at all but microscopic scales, thereby foreclosing any possibility of temporal paradox.

Hawking uses the metaphor of a Chronology Protection Agency, "which prevents the appearance of closed timelike curves and so makes the universe safe for historians." An alternative approach is the Novikov Self Consistency Principle, which permits backwards time travel at the macroscopic level, but posits that the universe self-corrects against any alterations to the past that would yield causal paradoxes. A third solution relies upon the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, positing that any changes to the past occur in alternate or parallel histories, thus resolving any apparent paradoxes.

Then there's the view on Lost, articulated by a character aptly named Ms. Hawking, who preaches a variation of the Self-Consistency Principle like a Chronology Protection Agent come to life. According to her, "the universe, unfortunately, has a way of course correcting." I take this to mean that Des is now part of a closed timelike curve caused by his activation of the Fail Safe. If he chooses not to go to the Island, press the button, and turn the key, the result will be major causal paradox, triggering a catastrophic course correction in which "every single one of us is dead." At least, that's what Ms. Hawking wants Desmond to think -- I'm not convinced she's being entirely truthful.

That's where the conspiracy I mentioned previously comes into play. I think the fallout from activation the Fail-Safe mirrors that from the Incident years before. Like Desmond, the Swan scientists traveled consciously through time. Unlike activation of the Fail-Safe, however, the Incident radically altered history -- apparently for the worse. Casual Mark Wickmund in a turtleneck became authoritarian Marvin Candle in a lab coat. These changes sent ripples throughout the timeline, resulting in a whole new future. Chronology Protection Agents like Ms. Hawking, who may well hail from this new future, are fighting to preserve it from disruption by the Fail-Safe.

It may even be that the Fail-Safe was supposed to be a kind of course correction for the Incident. Perhaps the Chronology Protection Agents intervened, preventing major alterations by somehow cheating fate. I wonder, for example, if the second wreck of Oceanic 815 was staged as part of the effort to incorporate the crash into history while minimizing any ripple effects on the future. Even so, the Fail-Safe remains a dangerous point of instability in the timeline that can't be erased without having further deep chronological impacts. Thus, the Agents now have strong incentive to ensure that nothing upsets this particular aspect of history, as well.

That's why, while I maintain our Losties brought themselves to the Island, I think the Chronology Protection Agents were probably watching most of the way, poised to intervene if anyone pulled a Desmond. In fact, I believe we've met at least two other Agents besides Ms. Hawking. One was Brother Campbell, who had a picture of Ms. Hawking on his desk. And the other? That would be the guy in the Hawaiian shirt who accosted Jin in the airport restroom just as the latter was considering running off with Sun instead of boarding Oceanic 815. Dude spoke creepily perfect Korean and claimed to work for Mr. Paik, but my guess is that Hawaiian-shirt guy was a Chronology Protection Agent.

Monday, July 09, 2007

The Wolves of Calla...

A comment by a fellow blogger Annie in response to my post Thoughts on the Brig recently prompted me to revisit the Wolves of Calla, which is probably my favorite installment of his Dark Tower series. I'd frankly forgotten the number of striking similarities between that book and Lost, especially Seasons 2 and 3. In my estimation, Wolves is right up there with Watchmen as a major influence on the show. Off the top of my head, both works feature:

* Characters in wheelchairs.

* Characters with drug addiction.

* Characters with multiple personalities.

* Kidnapped children.

* References to the Red Sox never winning the World Series.

* References to Fate and loops in time.

* References to music and vibration.

* Strange products (e.g., Apollo Bars) that resemble familiar items but are different.

* Mysterious manufacturers (e.g., Dharma Brand foods) with no discernible place of origin.

* Characters developing psychic powers.

* Large banks of television screens connected to cameras that the bad guys use to surveil the main characters.

* Characters encountering each other a second time in "another life."

I could go on...the parallels are really eerie.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

One Timeline or Two?

Okay, fellow Lost theorists, I'm stuck in a speculative loop and am turning to the collective consciousness for help. Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that the flash forward in S3E22 depicted an alternate timeline where Christian is now alive. Is that timeline "alternate" in the sense that somewhere else in the spacetime continuum there's a separate reality where Christian is still dead? Or is it simply "alternate" insofar as a single common timeline has been altered (e.g., by Desmond's trip into the past) resulting in a very different future? In this post, I'd like to expand a bit on both of these scenarios and get your feedback concerning each.

Let's begin with the former possibility that there are two (or more) mirror timelines. That's the premise of my theory When Alternate Realities Collide, in which I suggest that the Island is basically a conduit between two realities, light and dark. Under this theory, the first Incident could have involved scientists making mental contact with their "twins" in the mirror reality. The analogy here is to Desmond, who may have crossed minds with his twin in an alternate time-line during S3E8, much like the son in the film Frequency makes radio contact with his father in an alternate timeline. In the case of the Incident, the Swan scientists made psychic contact with their mirror reality twins, drawing them to the Island.

One of the first may have been Dr. Mark Wickmund's counterpart, Marvin Candle, who landed on the Island and lost his arm in a confrontation with the Cerberus security system. After some confusion, the scientists realized that the two timelines were beginning to merge via the Island conduit. In an effort to preserve both realities, Dharma became an experiment in whether people drawn literally from different worlds could co-exist harmoniously. The Linuses were among the first of these test subjects, though it's possible that some of the people who arrived with them had twins who were already present. This could explain why, as a poster named Dark UFO notes, some of the same people seen exiting from the submarine are glimpsed shortly thereafter in the Barracks Orientation Video.

To prevent further incidents, the Island was quarantined out of phase with both realities. Swan Station was redesigned to plug the leak from the electromagnetic anomaly, thus preventing the Island from reaching the critical energy level of "42." To deter one timeline from exploiting the anomaly to alter or destroy its counterpart, Swan was staffed by representatives of each reality. The containment device itself was sealed behind a thick concrete barrier to discourage tampering. The Numbers protocol was the ultimate insurance policy, offering both sides powerful incentive to continue staffing the Swan. Every 108 minutes, someone had to manually enter the code or the resulting implosion would destroy both worlds simultaneously. Think of the Doomsday Device in Dr. Strangelove...

So what about the possibility of a single timeline? Under this theory, the first Incident may have hurtled the Swan scientists temporarily back through time like Desmond following activation of the Fail Safe. Though the scientists made only slight changes, their cumulative effect on the timeline was still profound. The analogy here is to the Ray Bradbury short story A Sound of Thunder, wherein the destruction of a single prehistoric butterfly alters the future dramatically for the worse. The story is meant to represent the so-called Butterfly Effect -- i.e., the notion that some systems are so sensitive that even minor variations in initial conditions can yield major differences in outcomes over the long term. As a poster named Lostmommy notes, the butterflies displayed on Ben's desk during S3E13 may well be a reference to the Butterfly Effect.

My guess is that the Island is somehow insulated from such alterations to the timeline. As with Desmond and the survivors of Oceanic 815, the Swan scientists may not have realized that the the outside world had changed until visitors showed up on the Island. My guess is that a delegation from the Hanso Group landed led by none other than Dr. Marvin Candle, who was previously known as Mark Wickmund before the Incident changed history. Tragically, the Cerberus security system failed to recognize Dr. Candle and attacked his delegation. This could explain why, as a poster named Mike NY notes, the Blast Door Map refers to "5 fatalities" near the Swan. Once everyone realized what had happened, the nature and purpose of Dharma shifted.

To prevent further alterations to the timeline (e.g., for personal reasons) Swan became a containment device that limited the Island's effect on past, present, and future. Dharma devoted itself to creating the kind of human being who could manipulate history responsibly. The hope was that some day, someone worthy would turn the Fail-Safe key, sacrificing himself to save everyone -- i.e., the Dr. Manhattan Project. I like this particular angle because it resonates with the themes of heroism that the writers have taken pains to emphasize of late. It also explains the elements of a psychological experiment that permeate so many of the Stations. It's entirely possible the whole purpose of the Pearl and Swan was to trigger another Incident, giving a true hero the power to save the world.

So that's my dilemma, fellow Lost theorists, and I'm eager to eat, er, pick your brains. If the choice is between mirror Spock or A Sound of Thunder, which do you favor, one timeline or two?

Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Christian Resurrection...

The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that Christian Shepherd absolutely, positively has to be alive. Okay, maybe not "absolutely, positively," but I'm pretty sure and here's why. We know from the newspaper that the events of the flash forward take place in 2007. If this were the same reality they left, that would make three years since Jack accused his father of malpractice, prompting the latter to flee to Australia, where he died. At a minimum, therefore, the "new chief of surgery" couldn't be replacing Christian in that position, which would have been filled shortly after the latter vacated his post in 2004.

Some skeptics argue that Jack's reference to his father being "upstairs" was the ranting of an addict. As messed up as Jack seemed to be, he didn't strike me as so out of his mind that he'd forget his father was dead. Others apparently felt the same way -- Jack hadn't been stripped of his access to the hospital or his medical license so far as we're aware. Indeed, the new chief of surgery felt compelled to use exhaustion from the accident as an excuse to deny Jack's demand to operate. If Jack had been stripped of his operating privileges, the chief would have said so, end of story.

What cements it for me, however, is Jack's encounter at the pharmacy. Let's recall what happens, keeping in mind that Christian would have been dead for three years at this point. Jack has a dispute with the pharmacist, who refuses to fill his prescription after checking it on the computer against some kind of electronic database. Jack then presents her with Christian's scrip, which she says she'll have to verify by phone with Christian's office. But even if she hadn't telephoned -- and this is key -- she still would have checked the prescription against the same electronic database that she did with the first. And that database almost certainly would show if Christian were three years dead. Ergo, the Christian resurrection!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

When Alternate Realities Collide...

I've long believed that the events of the Lost Experience ("TLE") were meant to parallel what's happening on the show. I suspect, for example, that Ben imprisoned Jacob much like Thomas Mittelwerk did Alvar Hanso. But after the Season 3 finale's intriguing hints of a parallel "looking glass" reality, I think the connections may well run deeper and prove even more direct. Fans will recall that TLE was billed as an "alternate reality game." At the time, I interpreted this description as an attempt to capitalize on the popular ARG phenomenon, as well as a metaphorical comment on the effort to build a new world for Lost on-line. Now, however, I wonder if this characterization of TLE events as constituting an "alternate reality" was meant to be quite literal.

I'm not referring to the Island itself, which is more like a conduit between worlds. I submit that the survivors of Oceanic 815 left our reality when they crashed, then entered the alternative TLE reality when Naomi's freighter rescued them. The major clue for me is Christian being alive in the big flash forward. But even if Jack's references to his dad were the ravings of an addict, Kate's appearance sans disguise, driving a nice car and maybe even married(!) points to some pretty major changes. Then there's the funeral, which I'm assuming was for someone they (and we) knew well. We didn't learn precisely who because the deceased, unlike Jack, apparently adopted an alias upon returning to society. Maybe this person discovered that he/she was already dead or never existed in TLE reality...

Remember Geronimo Jackson, the band whose album we saw in the Swan Station? I'd never heard of them and neither had Charlie, despite being a self-professed expert in all things musical. Yet Rachel Blake (i.e., a TLE character who turned out to be Hanso's granddaughter) casually quoted a Geronimo Jackson song as if we'd be sure to get her reference. I believe this is because Geronimo Jackson (like Blake and Hanso both) actually originated in TLE reality. Admittedly, a few people in our world know of the band -- the writers and Eddie (i.e., the undercover cop who got a Geronimo Jackson t-shirt from his father). But these anomalous appearances are actually exceptions that probe the rule -- they suggest that TLE reality is bleeding into our own, presumably via the Island conduit...

So how does the Island serve as this bridge between alternative realities? Whether by freak of nature or advanced technology, the Island exists out of phase with TLE reality and our own, occupying both and neither simultaneously. As a result, people and things can cross from one world to the next via the Island -- the trick is finding it in the first place. My suspicion is that knowing the right physical location is not enough by itself. Access further requires that the Island be in phase with reality like guitar strings vibrating together in harmony. That's the significance of the Looking Glass code, which was the opening notes to Good Vibrations. It also explains Charlie's reference to the Flash, who traveled to parallel earths in the DC Multiverse by vibrating at different frequencies.

Another important clue along these lines may actually be the Numbers. Most interpretations focus on the symbolism of specific numerals or the mathematical relationships between them. Few, however, consider the significance of six, which is the total number of Numbers. It turns out that six is the minimum number of values required to specify the state of an object at any given moment in three-dimensional space -- three components of position plus three more of momentum or velocity. Sometimes, for statistical purposes, it's useful to imagine the object moving through a six-dimensional "phase space" wherein each point along its trajectory can be expressed as a list of six numbers describing a different state of the object in question. Here's a phase portrait of a simple pendulum:

Phase space is imaginary and can't be experienced like physical space. But the concept may nonetheless be crucial to finding the Island because it describes more than just physical location. Practically speaking, the Island must attain the proper energy state, as expressed by all six of the Numbers, to be in phase with (and thus visible to) both realities. The Swan Station was apparently designed to make the Island inaccessible by preventing it from reaching that energy state. When Desmond was late entering the code, Swan's containment system briefly failed, allowing the Island to reach an energy state that made it visible to Oceanic 815. Now that Swan has imploded, the Island may be permanently in phase, or cycling regularly in and out of phase, with our reality and TLE's.

But wait, you might be wondering, didn't TLE establish that the Numbers refer somehow to humanity's extinction? In fact, they do, and here's where things get really interesting. I mentioned in passing that depicting trajectories through imaginary phase space is sometimes useful for statistical purposes. More specifically, such phase portraits are used in all manner of fields to make probabilistic predictions about the future behavior of dynamical systems. Enzo Valenzetti was, of course, a mathematician and expert in probability. His eponymous equation could presumably be depicted as an abstract phase portrait. That's why the Numbers are the "core factors" of the Valenzetti -- they describe the starting point for the Apocalypse in 6-D phase space.

So why is the Island ground zero for this impending catastrophe? Ironically, it's the fault of the Dharma Initiative, which hailed from TLE reality. Somehow, in the course of studying the Island, the scientists inadvertently created a link with our world (i.e., the first Incident). That allowed people and things to cross over from our reality into TLE's -- and vice versa -- creating countless paradoxes large and small. The Swan Station was basically, as Kelvin suggests, a plug in a giant dam. It was meant to prevent further leakage between our two worlds, which Dharma realized -- too late -- would cause humanity's extinction in both realities. Unfortunately, Swan merely postponed the inevitable catastrophic merging of these twin realities, much like Desmond only delayed Charlie's demise.

The merging process resumed with the crash of Oceanic 815, when the Island briefly reached 4,8,15,16,23,42 due to Desmond's delay in entering the code. Now that Swan has imploded, and the Island occupies this six-Number state on a regular or permanent basis, the process should accelerate. Indeed, as several posters have noted, the purple sky that followed Swan's implosion echoes the "red sky" event in Crisis on Infinite Earths, which presaged the merging of the DC Multiverse into a unified reality, destroying all other parallel earths. The survivors of Oceanic 815 are merely one manifestation of a similar phenomenon. Another is people with special abilities like Desmond and Walt. In a nod to Donnie Darko, they're "living receivers" whose powers are meant to facilitate this merging of "tangent universes" into one.

So is it really inevitable that we all die as a result of this merging? That's where the analogy to Charlie saving Desmond comes back into play. Des wondered if taking Charlie's place might somehow free the latter from his cycle of inevitable death. Along similar lines, I wonder whether one reality might be preserved by somehow sacrificing its twin. In fact, if you really want to follow me down the rabbit hole and through the looking glass, consider the possibility that there's a hidden fight for the future presently taking place on Lost. Perhaps the end game of the show will be all about whether light or dark prevails when alternate realities collide...