View Full Version : Explaining Temporal Physics to an 8 year old?

Rachel Udin

06-14-2012, 06:10 AM

I'm not a teacher... but I sure do need one right about now.

See according to the storyline, Santa uses temporal physics and a dimension. Mad scientist figure in order to kidnap Santa, needs to locate Santa across a time-space continuum and kinda "pluck" him from that continuum through detection. (Also accounting for paradoxes where he can't be in the same place at once.)

How do you explain that to a 7-8 year old? (i.e. the narrator of the story).

frimble3

06-14-2012, 07:24 AM

See according to the storyline, Santa uses temporal physics and a dimension. Mad scientist figure in order to kidnap Santa, needs to locate Santa across a time-space continuum and kinda "pluck" him from that continuum through detection. (Also accounting for paradoxes where he can't be in the same place at once.)

How do you explain that to a 7-8 year old? (i.e. the narrator of the story).

I'm sure the teachers will be along shortly. In the meantime, you've attracted the attention of a low-level clerk. :) I'd keep it simple.

Does the 7-8 year old need to know temporal physics?

Or is it enough for the child to get that Santa can travel in time, so he can do all his travelling in one night, and in space, so he can be everywhere, at almost the same time.

If it was a little British kid, I'd say "Like Doctor Who", and we'd be done.

Maybe say that after Santa makes a visit, he 're-sets the clock', so it's as though each trip took no time. And, when he leaves one roof, it's like he goes into a different space, that connects to everywhere at once, he just has to choose the next destination, and go out of that space. (Which is also why no-one sees the sleigh and reindeer-they're barely there, then they're 'gone')

The sleigh is a sort of time-machine and keeps Santa and the reindeer are in a bubble, so they move in time and space, while the rest of the world sleeps undisturbed.

I'd try to keep it concrete, even if it may not be technically correct, something that a child could visualise.

Rachel Udin

06-14-2012, 08:25 AM

I'm sure the teachers will be along shortly. In the meantime, you've attracted the attention of a low-level clerk. :) I'd keep it simple.

Does the 7-8 year old need to know temporal physics?

Or is it enough for the child to get that Santa can travel in time, so he can do all his travelling in one night, and in space, so he can be everywhere, at almost the same time.

If it was a little British kid, I'd say "Like Doctor Who", and we'd be done.

Maybe say that after Santa makes a visit, he 're-sets the clock', so it's as though each trip took no time. And, when he leaves one roof, it's like he goes into a different space, that connects to everywhere at once, he just has to choose the next destination, and go out of that space. (Which is also why no-one sees the sleigh and reindeer-they're barely there, then they're 'gone')

The sleigh is a sort of time-machine and keeps Santa and the reindeer are in a bubble, so they move in time and space, while the rest of the world sleeps undisturbed.

I'd try to keep it concrete, even if it may not be technically correct, something that a child could visualise.

Thanks for your reply. I'd love to make the Doctor Who reference, unfortunately the characters live in the US... and I don't think I can slide with that. (especially since Doctor Who in the US is not shown to little kids. I know. We Americans are more uptight than the Brits. It's pathetic and downright sad.)

I ask because I'm a fan of the way that Madeline L'Engle explained science in "A Wrinkle in Time," but I don't write for children (usually) and I kinda suck at simplifying explanations in a visual manner. (Which is what made her explanation so good on first, second, third, fourth, and fifth dimension.)

I'm hoping a teacher would be good at that kind of thing.

areteus

06-14-2012, 11:56 AM

Science teacher here... The starting point for any good explanation of any science concept is to understand that yourself as well as you can. Good subject knowledge is essential so you can then understand which are the best analogies and metaphors to use.

So I would suggest you get hold of a decent pop science book (something like a Brief History of Time, or maybe one of the more recent ones... The Science of Discworld series has a good and easy to grasp coverage of the basics of quantum theory). Once you have read these and think you understand it, try to think about how you would explain it to someone younger. I'd actually also suggest finding some 8 year olds and actually talking to them and seeing what they already know/think they know.

You may not be able to use Dr Who (but, again, check... a lot of US kids watch it now...) but there may be some cartoon or kids show that you could reference...

Rachel Udin

06-14-2012, 08:35 PM

Science teacher here... The starting point for any good explanation of any science concept is to understand that yourself as well as you can. Good subject knowledge is essential so you can then understand which are the best analogies and metaphors to use.

So I would suggest you get hold of a decent pop science book (something like a Brief History of Time, or maybe one of the more recent ones... The Science of Discworld series has a good and easy to grasp coverage of the basics of quantum theory). Once you have read these and think you understand it, try to think about how you would explain it to someone younger. I'd actually also suggest finding some 8 year olds and actually talking to them and seeing what they already know/think they know.

You may not be able to use Dr Who (but, again, check... a lot of US kids watch it now...) but there may be some cartoon or kids show that you could reference...

TT I don't have access to 8 years olds in a way that would not seem creepy and against the law. Do you have any developmental hand guides for in general what an 8 year old will and won't understand? ^^;; My 8 year old self wasn't quite normal...

The best analogy I can come up with is something like there is an office building with 12 rooms (each room is a dimension) on each floor... Each floor is then also a time frame and the machine is kind of like a telephone line that finds through a directory which floor Santa is on. When he picks up, he gets transported.

OR should it be... an 12 office buildings with one room stacked on another each room is a dimension, then the machine works like a telephone directory/radar system.

Which works better are or they both sucky? Trying to explain string theory and temporal physics at the same time.

RichardGarfinkle

06-14-2012, 10:01 PM

TT I don't have access to 8 years olds in a way that would not seem creepy and against the law. Do you have any developmental hand guides for in general what an 8 year old will and won't understand? ^^;; My 8 year old self wasn't quite normal...

The best analogy I can come up with is something like there is an office building with 12 rooms (each room is a dimension) on each floor... Each floor is then also a time frame and the machine is kind of like a telephone line that finds through a directory which floor Santa is on. When he picks up, he gets transported.

OR should it be... an 12 office buildings with one room stacked on another each room is a dimension, then the machine works like a telephone directory/radar system.

Which works better are or they both sucky? Trying to explain string theory and temporal physics at the same time.

Neither really works because dimensions are continuous (so not only would there be an 11th floor and a 12th floor, there would be an 11.5th floor, an 11.11123th floor) etc up to The Power of the Continuum (which is the number of real numbers there are).

But in practical terms, why does the child need to know?

What role does the child play in the classic kidnap Santa plot?

Can't the mad scientist just pull something out of his hat as a dubious explanation.

There's a trick Terry Pratchett used in Thief of Time, a character was trying to explain temporal theory and when he got to the end he said,

"Everything I have just said is nonsense. It bears no resemblance to the truth of the matter in any way at all, but it is a lie that you can ... understand, I think."

I think you might need to explain it to me first;)

Seriously, you can get too bogged down by timelines, paradoxes, dimensions, etc. This is a branch of science fiction as much as it is physics. The idea of a time machine is good until somebody asks what happens if you go back and kill yourself. So you invent timelines that can't cross, etc. While time dilation might mean you could travel to the future, going into the past is entirely different. There is also the question that if this were achievable, why hasn't somebody come back and told us.

So if you have time and interdimensional travel, just keep it simple and don't try to provide a scientific explanation. Santa has a machine that can go back and forward in time into worlds just like ours. How your machine find him is another matter. Maybe it can scent his trail.

Rachel Udin

06-15-2012, 07:31 AM

Neither really works because dimensions are continuous (so not only would there be an 11th floor and a 12th floor, there would be an 11.5th floor, an 11.11123th floor) etc up to The Power of the Continuum (which is the number of real numbers there are).

But in practical terms, why does the child need to know?

What role does the child play in the classic kidnap Santa plot?

Can't the mad scientist just pull something out of his hat as a dubious explanation.

There's a trick Terry Pratchett used in Thief of Time, a character was trying to explain temporal theory and when he got to the end he said,

"Everything I have just said is nonsense. It bears no resemblance to the truth of the matter in any way at all, but it is a lie that you can ... understand, I think."

Ah, maybe I misunderstood String Theory, then. It said something like there are a fixed number of dimensions. (Though the universe is ever expanding we are only confining it to Earth). To find Santa, I would think you'd need to fixate on Santa in a given timeframe and a given dimension.

I think you might need to explain it to me first;)

Seriously, you can get too bogged down by timelines, paradoxes, dimensions, etc. This is a branch of science fiction as much as it is physics. The idea of a time machine is good until somebody asks what happens if you go back and kill yourself. So you invent timelines that can't cross, etc. While time dilation might mean you could travel to the future, going into the past is entirely different. There is also the question that if this were achievable, why hasn't somebody come back and told us.

So if you have time and interdimensional travel, just keep it simple and don't try to provide a scientific explanation. Santa has a machine that can go back and forward in time into worlds just like ours. How your machine find him is another matter. Maybe it can scent his trail.

I understand it as such: Santa can't travel in our world through regular space travel because his sleigh would need to travel faster than lightspeed and he'd burn up. That's no good for a Sci-fi story. That would make it fantasy.

Thus the easiest way to do this is kind of like the Star Trek Chess set up. Where you have floors and can jump from one floor to another and then survey the floor above/below you and jump there. This gets around the problems of having to have a sleigh travel at impossible speeds if you just add in spring theory. (I'm borrowing/hacking this from another work of mine.) Also gets around "But Mommy there is no chimney in our apartment." Bit too.

BUT Santa also needs to be able to travel in time if you get the number of children of the world and divide them by the number of hours he needs to get all of the presents delivered (there are calculations online I found in a Yahoo Answer). I'm using Western framing for theory of time travel because it's less headaches than the Eastern version (which doesn't have paradoxes) for this particular story.

So if you take string theory, which is basically cheat jumping distances by not using a FLT drive, add time travel, you're golden. As for the whole time travel thing, you need an anti paradox calculation which means Santa has to be able to deliver to a certain given area without running into himself.

So I need something that works out string theory WITH given time lines and probably an anchor to keep him from running into other alternate versions of himself. The machine would then have to select the *right* Santa from the *correct* dimension and also time frame in such a way that it won't create a paradox--i.e. the machine has to outsmart Santa's set up. (I can hand wave the calculations and how the machine out smarts Santa, though)

If you want it in geek terms, it's Sliders with the ticket home meets String Theory meets Doctor Who.

(It does work to my advantage that Saint Nicholas probably was Turkish... Turkish or Greek. For the sake of humor and poking fun at racism, I'm going with Turkish) Who will suspect a Turkish Santa? Easier to sneak in gifts.

I properly worked it out, but doesn't quite work with an eight year old... and it sounds more like fantasy without the explanation. (I'm aiming for a particular market with this story).

areteus

06-15-2012, 12:41 PM

The office block analogy actually reminds me of the 'hotel' analogy for describing infinity.

There is a hotel with infinite rooms. Every room is full. A new person wants to book in so the manager asks every guest to move up one room - the person in room one moves to room two and so on - allowing the new person to move into room one.

The analogy goes on (up to infinite buses of tourists arriving each containing infinite guests).

You may want to look this analogy up and see if it can be applied.... it is not quantum physics but it describes a concept related to it.

As for dimensions, bear in mind that the dimensions on a superstring are not dimensions in the same way as you seem to describe them here. They are dimensions in the sense that length, breadth, height and time are - ways of describing the string. Each point in the universe, according to this theory, may appear to us to only have the four classic dimensions (and therefore look like a single point in spacetime) but actually has many other dimensions (I think it was at least 14 the last thing I read on the issue but it keeps changing) coiled up inside it (hence the string analogy).

I get the impression that the quantum theory you are considering is the alternate universes idea - each dimension being a seperate universe possibly derived from alternate choices made. In that case there are an infinite number of potential alternate universes (including, as one book says, one filled entirely with chairs and nothing else). Though the fact that these could potentially exist in phase space does not mean that they actually do exist...

RichardGarfinkle

06-15-2012, 02:54 PM

Pardon me while I slip on my math geek and science writer hat.

I apologize this is going to be a bit long winded and lecturelike.

But I will be covering dimensions and infinity in a two dimensional and finite format, so please bear with me.

1. Dimensions. The term dimension has several different meanings, two in physics and a third in SF which is inaccurate to the physical ones.

The first meaning of dimension is any measurable quantity often called a unit. In this definition length is a dimension, mass is a dimension, time is a dimension Fruitbats per acre of orchard is a dimension etc.

There is a technique in physics called dimensional analysis which sounds really fancy but actually refers to making sure that when you compare two quantities they have the same dimensions. You can't compare apples to oranges unless you are using the dimension of fruit.

On a more serious example. Energy was originally defined as work which was force exerted over distance. The units of force are mass times distance / time2. Multiplying this by distance again gives the units of energy as mass times distance2 / time2.

Any physical quantity with these units can be seen as a form of energy.

The second meaning of dimension refers to how much information is needed to specify a position in the universe. If you imagine a line, you need only one number to specify what point on the line you are tallking about. Thus a line is considered to be one dimensional. You also need only one number to specify a position on a circle, so it too is one dimensional.

You need two numbers to specify a point in a plane, so it is two dimensional. Similarly, you need two numbers (say longitude and latitude) to specify a point on a sphere, so it is two dimensional.

You need three numbers for a point in space, so it is three dimensional.

Four numbers are necessary to specify a point in space at a moment in time, so spacetime is four dimensional.

String theory (annoyed rant available from my brother the physicist on request) posits a number of other dimensions to specify various aspects of quantum mechanics and to allow for many worlds.

Rather than deal with string theory, let's simply say you wish to have a multiverse where what world you are in is specified by another dimension (a la Sliders ( rant about the last season available on request)).

For ease of imagination suppose we had a world with one spatial, one temporal and one multiversal dimension. Each space time would be a plane, and the worlds together would form a space. One would move from world to world by going up and down the multiversal dimension. But just as distance and time can have any value, so can multiversality. It's not a building it's a line. Hence just as you can have an object 2.3 meters away, or a moment 2.3 seconds away, you can have a universe 2.3 (units of universe distance) away.

Each plane in this model is what in SF is sometimes called an alternate dimension. Alternate plane or alternate world or alternate spacetime would be a better term.

I hope that helps.

Now, To Infinty and (restraining order from Disney).

There are at least three different kinds of infinity in mathematics which amount to infinite quantity, infinite number of objects and infinite counting. I'm not going to cover infinite counting because it's esoteric and not of general use.

Infinite quantity is what the standard double knot symbol for infinity represents. It represents having a measurable value (like distance) be larger or farther than any measurable amount. So, as noted any point on a line can be represented by a single number which tells you how far from origin (the 0 point) that point is. Each point is a finite distance away but you can always find a farther point, so the line itself is not of finite extent, so we say it has infinite length.

Infinite number of objects gets us back to the most basic mathematical action, counting things. We count the number of objects in a set by picking up one thing at a time and counting off numbers. When we run out of objects we know we've counted them all and the last number we said is the number of objects in the set.

This process only works for finite sets, but points toward a mathematical concept called one to one correspondence. If you can create a pairing between the elements of one set and that of another that uses each element from each set exactly once we can say the sets have the same number of elements.

A mathematician named Cantor used this to create infinite numbers considering sets he knew had infinite numbers of elements. In particular he looked at the set of whole numbers, the set of rational numbers (fractions) and the set of real numbers (all the numbers we measure with).

The number of whole numbers is called aleph-naught (Hebrew aleph with a 0 subscript). Cantor proved that there were the same number of rational numbers as whole numbers, but that there were more real numbers. He showed in other words that there are infinities beyond the first one. Actually, it's possible to prove that there are an infinite number of infinite numbers each with sets that have that infinity of elements.

The number of real numbers is written as a small gothic c and is called The Power Of The Cotinuum!

So if one actually had a dimension of alternate universes the number of such universes would be The Power Of The Continuum!

Which is literally more than can be counted, even with all the counting numbers.

Chazevelt

06-15-2012, 07:06 PM

Not sure how it would tie in with the concept you're trying to explain to an 8 year old, but reading through all these brilliant and amazing theories (by people way smarter than I ever hope to be) one image kept leaping into my mind: Any chance you could work in the visual of holding two mirrors next to each other and using the image inside an image inside an image inside an image as a prop to help explain whatever theory you've come up with?

Rachel Udin

06-16-2012, 06:36 AM

The office block analogy actually reminds me of the 'hotel' analogy for describing infinity.

There is a hotel with infinite rooms. Every room is full. A new person wants to book in so the manager asks every guest to move up one room - the person in room one moves to room two and so on - allowing the new person to move into room one.

The analogy goes on (up to infinite buses of tourists arriving each containing infinite guests).

You may want to look this analogy up and see if it can be applied.... it is not quantum physics but it describes a concept related to it.

As for dimensions, bear in mind that the dimensions on a superstring are not dimensions in the same way as you seem to describe them here. They are dimensions in the sense that length, breadth, height and time are - ways of describing the string. Each point in the universe, according to this theory, may appear to us to only have the four classic dimensions (and therefore look like a single point in spacetime) but actually has many other dimensions (I think it was at least 14 the last thing I read on the issue but it keeps changing) coiled up inside it (hence the string analogy).

I get the impression that the quantum theory you are considering is the alternate universes idea - each dimension being a seperate universe possibly derived from alternate choices made. In that case there are an infinite number of potential alternate universes (including, as one book says, one filled entirely with chairs and nothing else). Though the fact that these could potentially exist in phase space does not mean that they actually do exist...

I just need Santa to jump to another place--it can be an alt- dimension (Which was the idea in super string theory program posited), a dimension (i.e. pocket reality), but just has to be clear enough so that jumping from one physical space to another would be possible. Along the whole Star Trek Chess thing, so that the constraints of space physics in this world/reality aren't being bent in such a way that's it is fantasy.

Pardon me while I slip on my math geek and science writer hat.

I apologize this is going to be a bit long winded and lecturelike.

But I will be covering dimensions and infinity in a two dimensional and finite format, so please bear with me.

1. Dimensions. The term dimension has several different meanings, two in physics and a third in SF which is inaccurate to the physical ones.

The first meaning of dimension is any measurable quantity often called a unit. In this definition length is a dimension, mass is a dimension, time is a dimension Fruitbats per acre of orchard is a dimension etc.

There is a technique in physics called dimensional analysis which sounds really fancy but actually refers to making sure that when you compare two quantities they have the same dimensions. You can't compare apples to oranges unless you are using the dimension of fruit.

On a more serious example. Energy was originally defined as work which was force exerted over distance. The units of force are mass times distance / time2. Multiplying this by distance again gives the units of energy as mass times distance2 / time2.

Any physical quantity with these units can be seen as a form of energy.

The second meaning of dimension refers to how much information is needed to specify a position in the universe. If you imagine a line, you need only one number to specify what point on the line you are tallking about. Thus a line is considered to be one dimensional. You also need only one number to specify a position on a circle, so it too is one dimensional.

You need two numbers to specify a point in a plane, so it is two dimensional. Similarly, you need two numbers (say longitude and latitude) to specify a point on a sphere, so it is two dimensional.

You need three numbers for a point in space, so it is three dimensional.

Four numbers are necessary to specify a point in space at a moment in time, so spacetime is four dimensional.

String theory (annoyed rant available from my brother the physicist on request) posits a number of other dimensions to specify various aspects of quantum mechanics and to allow for many worlds.

Rather than deal with string theory, let's simply say you wish to have a multiverse where what world you are in is specified by another dimension (a la Sliders ( rant about the last season available on request)).

For ease of imagination suppose we had a world with one spatial, one temporal and one multiversal dimension. Each space time would be a plane, and the worlds together would form a space. One would move from world to world by going up and down the multiversal dimension. But just as distance and time can have any value, so can multiversality. It's not a building it's a line. Hence just as you can have an object 2.3 meters away, or a moment 2.3 seconds away, you can have a universe 2.3 (units of universe distance) away.

Each plane in this model is what in SF is sometimes called an alternate dimension. Alternate plane or alternate world or alternate spacetime would be a better term.

I hope that helps.

Sliders last seasons sucked. Actually jumped the shark when they added the Neaderthals. (though seasons 1 and two were the strongest). Dimensions are merely there so I can bend spatial quality to get a teleport. The show on string theory said something about alt dimensions... but that was a while ago and most physicists hate string theory and want to call it a hypothesis/thinktank. I got that memo.

Using the dimension is a way to escape the physics of physical space. I need a way to get teleportation in a way that's not too science fictiony. I could go quantum mechanics for the teleportation, but that makes the trying to find Santa a little fuzzy. And recombining atoms-- don't know how safe that is yet.

Even so, this doesn't help an 8 year old understand how it works.

Now, To Infinty and (restraining order from Disney).

There are at least three different kinds of infinity in mathematics which amount to infinite quantity, infinite number of objects and infinite counting. I'm not going to cover infinite counting because it's esoteric and not of general use.

Infinite quantity is what the standard double knot symbol for infinity represents. It represents having a measurable value (like distance) be larger or farther than any measurable amount. So, as noted any point on a line can be represented by a single number which tells you how far from origin (the 0 point) that point is. Each point is a finite distance away but you can always find a farther point, so the line itself is not of finite extent, so we say it has infinite length.

Infinite number of objects gets us back to the most basic mathematical action, counting things. We count the number of objects in a set by picking up one thing at a time and counting off numbers. When we run out of objects we know we've counted them all and the last number we said is the number of objects in the set.

This process only works for finite sets, but points toward a mathematical concept called one to one correspondence. If you can create a pairing between the elements of one set and that of another that uses each element from each set exactly once we can say the sets have the same number of elements.

A mathematician named Cantor used this to create infinite numbers considering sets he knew had infinite numbers of elements. In particular he looked at the set of whole numbers, the set of rational numbers (fractions) and the set of real numbers (all the numbers we measure with).

The number of whole numbers is called aleph-naught (Hebrew aleph with a 0 subscript). Cantor proved that there were the same number of rational numbers as whole numbers, but that there were more real numbers. He showed in other words that there are infinities beyond the first one. Actually, it's possible to prove that there are an infinite number of infinite numbers each with sets that have that infinity of elements.

The number of real numbers is written as a small gothic c and is called The Power Of The Cotinuum!

So if one actually had a dimension of alternate universes the number of such universes would be The Power Of The Continuum!

Which is literally more than can be counted, even with all the counting numbers.

String theory posited there were limited. *shrugs* Told you physicists hate string theory...

Still, the poor 8 year old is scratching his head. We already lost one person... and I don't think they are 8. So ideas on how to make it so it's understandable to an 8 year old? I need a solid way so it's not an info dump.

RichardGarfinkle

06-16-2012, 11:46 AM

I just need Santa to jump to another place--it can be an alt- dimension (Which was the idea in super string theory program posited), a dimension (i.e. pocket reality), but just has to be clear enough so that jumping from one physical space to another would be possible. Along the whole Star Trek Chess thing, so that the constraints of space physics in this world/reality aren't being bent in such a way that's it is fantasy.

Sliders last seasons sucked. Actually jumped the shark when they added the Neaderthals. (though seasons 1 and two were the strongest). Dimensions are merely there so I can bend spatial quality to get a teleport. The show on string theory said something about alt dimensions... but that was a while ago and most physicists hate string theory and want to call it a hypothesis/thinktank. I got that memo.

Using the dimension is a way to escape the physics of physical space. I need a way to get teleportation in a way that's not too science fictiony. I could go quantum mechanics for the teleportation, but that makes the trying to find Santa a little fuzzy. And recombining atoms-- don't know how safe that is yet.

Even so, this doesn't help an 8 year old understand how it works.

String theory posited there were limited. *shrugs* Told you physicists hate string theory...

Still, the poor 8 year old is scratching his head. We already lost one person... and I don't think they are 8. So ideas on how to make it so it's understandable to an 8 year old? I need a solid way so it's not an info dump.

Again the question is what does the 8 year old need to know?

Your mad scientist can say that there's another place most people can't see or get to, but Santa can and using this technobabble device we can get there too.

You can call it something like Coiled Dimension Accessor if you like.

It doesn't sound like either the 8 year old or your readers need an accurate discussion of dimensions or of string theory so you don't need to be any more accurate than your average ranting mad scientist.

By the way, if you want to see an arbitrary amount of mad science with no explanations at all but well presented, I'd recommend the web comic Girl Genius.

http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/comic.php

I'm confused where the string theory bit comes into it. String theory is a subatomic theory that describes the the relationship between hitherto unrelated elements (e.g. gravity and electromagnetism). The multi-dimensional part is introduced because it is a solution to a series of complex mathematical equations. There is no unique answer and the number of dimensions is introduced to provide a better fit. It has nothing to do with time travel, unless you are talking about cosmic strings. These are hypothetical strands that run through the universe. I think the theory goes that they are so dense they could distort gravity and, thus, time.

I have never seen Sliders, so can't comment on the scientific robustness of the explanations it provides. I'm afraid a Western Framework means nothing to me either.

I think if you want suggestions on how to explain it to an 8-year-old, then you need to explain it to us first (I am a physicist, by the way). As for teleportation, is that any more unfeasible than an inter-dimensional time machine?

skylark

06-16-2012, 08:59 PM

Thing is, you're not going to be able to explain any of it to an eight year old. It's just too complicated and requires horrific maths. Plus, of course, an awful lot of it isn't real science anyway. Temporal physics is, AFAIK, only a branch of physics in science fiction.

If I was doing this, I'd start with "string theory postulates that...", have him notice the kid looking shifty / bored / confused, and instead say "never mind any of that. Santa can go to places we can't get to and jump about in time."

Rachel Udin

06-16-2012, 09:05 PM

Thing is, you're not going to be able to explain any of it to an eight year old. It's just too complicated and requires horrific maths. Plus, of course, an awful lot of it isn't real science anyway. Temporal physics is, AFAIK, only a branch of physics in science fiction.

If I was doing this, I'd start with "string theory postulates that...", have him notice the kid looking shifty / bored / confused, and instead say "never mind any of that. Santa can go to places we can't get to and jump about in time."

Madeline L'Engle managed it pretty well with a Wrinkle in Time. (Managed to describe the fifth dimension) which seemed a whole lot more complex than what I'm trying to accomplish. I figure it can be done.... just needs to be broken down.

I'm confused where the string theory bit comes into it. String theory is a subatomic theory that describes the the relationship between hitherto unrelated elements (e.g. gravity and electromagnetism). The multi-dimensional part is introduced because it is a solution to a series of complex mathematical equations. There is no unique answer and the number of dimensions is introduced to provide a better fit. It has nothing to do with time travel, unless you are talking about cosmic strings. These are hypothetical strands that run through the universe. I think the theory goes that they are so dense they could distort gravity and, thus, time.

I have never seen Sliders, so can't comment on the scientific robustness of the explanations it provides. I'm afraid a Western Framework means nothing to me either.

I think if you want suggestions on how to explain it to an 8-year-old, then you need to explain it to us first (I am a physicist, by the way). As for teleportation, is that any more unfeasible than an inter-dimensional time machine?

Quantum mechanics has been playing with teleportation and has gotten a little success (preliminary). But the downside of it is that you have to pretty much recombine atoms at the new location. So that means tracing Santa would be a pain in the butt if I went with that. (He'd literally be in two places at one time.)

String theory postulated a multiverse AND a means to travel through the multiverse, where each "verse" is a dimension of sorts. (or so the program says.)

If you've ever seen Star Trek chess, the pieces can jump up a level on the chess board and down a level as well (but at a different spot, if IIRC). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three-dimensional_chess

If the atoms of Santa are by definition in one space, i.e. say, we are verse 2, and he jumps to verse 3, then he could by string theory also end up in another physical space when he jumps from verse 3 back to 2, without having to use any real time. The problem I'm trying to get around is time--time is a BIG HUGE factor of why Santa can't exist. If he removed himself from physical space of our verse, it makes it a bit easier on him.

Add to that a time machine, and it makes it easier on poor Santa, so while Jane in England is getting presents so if Suzuki Hiroshi in Kanto.

Maybe I should just link up the string theory program I watched...

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/physics/elegant-universe.html

As for the Western theory of time travel v. the Eastern. I've geeked out on theories of time travel. (though more like hypotheses).

Western version postulates a singular timeline. You cannot break or bend this timeline--it's fixed. In fact if you try to break this timeline, you'll create a paradox and cease to exist. (Such as killing your own grandfather.) The other more fatalistic version of this Western version of the timeline is that no matter what you cannot break it which eliminates the butterfly effect from the picture. Major events are set and you can't change it. (See Diana Gabaldon).

The Eastern version, which you can view in Japanese anime, Japanese dramas, Korean dramas, and some Chinese Mainland dramas has a different view of the timeline. They postulate a more tree version of the timeline.

Say you are traveling the tree trunk of a tree. You have the main trunk and you are following, when you get to a branch, that branch represents a choice. but you opt for the trunk. At every juncture you make a decision, an alt-dimension opens up. So you may only see the tree trunk, but every decision you make makes another alternate dimension.

This is why movies like Il Mare work (Korean movie). Because the theory of time travel works along this timeline. In effect also, you can't create paradoxes. You just keep creating branches. So you could go back in time and kill your grandfather as many times as you want, but that's simply another branch of the tree where your grandfather was killed. So when you get back, you still are alive because you exist in the timeline choice where your grandfather met your grandmother and you eventually were born. Also doesn't eliminate the butterfly effect. (Tarot cards, for the record, also use this timeline theory too.)

However, the Eastern version of the timeline theory doesn't work very neatly with Santa hopping around. His machine would have to figure out in addition to the dimensions which one is the real timeline he's supposed to be in. It's just easier if I go with the fatalistic one line with paradoxes and clean up the paradoxes by never having them.

skylark

06-16-2012, 11:49 PM

But none of this is physics at anything beyond a "there's a term of this equation which doesn't quite make sense in the real world and which appears to describe something we've never seen" level. Any physical effects (like extra dimensions) which you base on it are pseudoscience.

(and I say this as a physicist who loves writing pseudoscience).

I guess I'm not entirely sure what it is you're wanting to do here. Do you want for your eight year old to have existing string theory, quantum mechanics and so on explained to him at an eight year old level, or do you want something which sounds as if it might be based in current scientific theory and which in your story is a real scientific explanation for what's happening, but which you've in fact made up?

Rachel, I understand what you are trying to do, but not what you're trying to explain. Without wading through the three hours of programme (which I haven't seen), I suspect what Greene is saying is that String Theory predicts multiple universes in several dimensions. The predictions of going from one to the other exist only at a subatomic level and with extremely high energies. They have been trying to demonstrate this at the Large Hadron Collider without any success (and there has been no other physical evidence found for String Theory either). Greene also (I think) would be the first to admit that String Theory is just that - a theory - and there are other posible candidates.

So if you want a Santa to skip from one dimension to the next, then that is fine. If you want to provide a scientific explanation for it, then you're probably just as well making something up.

As far as the time goes, dimensional hopping only saves Santa his travelling time. If he still has to unload the presents, then he must need to coexist and multiple points in one dimension. This means his atoms cannot all be in one space (a paradox?).

Debbie V

06-18-2012, 08:02 PM

Mother of a seven year old who asks questions about why he can't feel the earth spin even though he's on it: You use an analogy that is very visual.

However, I don't think you need to. Eight year olds watch the super hero TV shows and movies. They buy Ben Ten's device and Iron Man's suit. If it's PG, most of them have seen it. Just tell them that the sleigh is a time and space machine that allows Santa to get everywhere he needs to without running out of time. They won't be daunted by the words time travel and physics.

Your bigger problems are that many eight year olds no longer believe in Santa and holiday books are a hard sell because your competition is classics, well known authors and popular properties. All series have holiday books.

blacbird

06-19-2012, 07:35 AM

When my precociously smart and verbally adept daughter was about seven or eight, we were preparing for a summer camping trip. We had purchased a couple of long two-pronged forks with wooden handles specifically for roasting hot dogs and marshmallows, and I was putting them into the camper, when she saw them and asked, "What are those?"

I said, "Zargots."

She walked away, satisfied with that explanation. Eight-year-olds will believe anything you tell them, provided you haven't flarked it up in some stupid way earlier.

To this day (she's now 27, and a writer), in our family, those devices are zargots.

caw

Mac H.

06-19-2012, 01:04 PM

I don't see why you need to have time travel & paradox avoidance for your method.

It seems that in your world, Santa can just slow down time and teleport.

That's all he has to do. He just speeds up his own time reference (so his 1 week takes about a minute of outside time) and then goes through the mind-numbingly boring task of teleporting to each house in turn to leave presents.

Santa doesn't need to travel a different direction in time. Santa doesn't need extra dimensions. Santa doesn't need to avoid paradoxes.

Speeding up & slowing time is a classic story technique for that age group (eg: Clockstoppers) Teleporting is pretty easy to visualise too.

I think you are making it more complicated than it needs to be.

Mac

Goldenleaves

06-19-2012, 01:17 PM

Children are way cleverer than older people in some areas, one is the 'not quick to believe the seemingly impossible' area.

The old Santa story has so many logical holes that some thinking kids find it hard to believe from the word go, the dimension theory has nuggets of possible truth.

I think you could just present the happening as a given fact. A thinking child will try to work it out anyway, and, who knows, you could inspire a future scientific breakthrough.

Why is explanation necessary?

Goldenleaves

06-19-2012, 01:19 PM

I believe very few of the stories I enjoy.

jaksen

06-19-2012, 02:44 PM

I don't think you have to 'explain' anything. Just have your bad guys do what you described in your op.

I think you are way overthinking this at the level (or age) you're writing for.

Former science teacher here.

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