Those Pesky Inter-dimensional Portals

Michio Kaku, my favorite theoretical physicist (besides Tuesday our cat, or course), has interesting ideas about parallel universes, and ways we might possibly escape from one to the other. I can’t help but wonder if he gleaned the inspiration for this theory from the behavior of a portal-guarding cat.

Inter-dimensional portal, or dull, ordinary sunbeam? Only Loki knows for sure.

Cats may be the keepers of inter-dimensional portals that riddle our planet. Retired physicist Robert White recorded his own observations of the feline portal guardians who visited a dimensional gateway via a broken fence. The portal was destroyed by an improvident fence repair, but I know of at least one portal still in operation.

Our family has lived in the same home for almost 14 years now, and three different cats have shared it with us. Observing their behavior has led us to the conclusion that we have an inter-dimensional portal to two parallel universes in our basement.

The first cat guardian of this portal was our dear kitty Corky. Blessed with a giving heart and a strong sense of responsibility, he took over the maintenance and guardianship of the portal the first day we moved in.


Hard at work,  guarding the portal


He spent an inordinate amount of time sitting at the top of the staircase and staring down into the dark basement; on occasion, he would dash down the stairs and run in mad circles, yowling. I don’t pretend to understand all he was doing–if I did, I’d be a cat–but it was obvious it was vitally important, because when he would begin to yowl, his brother Spot would sprint down the stairs to help him. Sometimes my children and I followed as well, but with our limited perceptions, we were more hindrance than help, and the cats would usually stare at us as if wondering how creatures with such big brains could be so stupid.

Over time, we came to recognize the parallel-universe versions of Corky. Sometimes, to keep the portal in good working order, it was apparently necessary for the Corkys to shift position.

A rare photo of Murky from Universe -1

There was the double we called Murky; obviously from a universe with a a higher chaos quotient and a lower organizational structure, he was a wild-eyed creature with fur in disarray, given to uncontrolled spurts of of energy.

Sys-Admin (from Universe +1) taking time out of his busy schedule to point out a grammatical error.

We also met a double we called Sys-Admin; his universe appeared to have a lower chaos quotient and a higher level of organization than ours.

His behavior was formal, controlled and patient; we believe he may have been a secondary teacher or an accountant in his universe.

Neither of these two doubles, of course, paid much attention to us, or seemed to recognize us when we spoke to them. (Of course, we weren’t really “their” humans.)

Their disappearances were always preceded by a mad dash down the stairs and, presumably, through the portal. With the impeccable timing of cats, they changed positions with Corky at exactly the same velocity, position and time, so we never were able to observe the actual transference. To us, it seemed our cat was merely running in circles, and then behaving like himself again.

Corky’s litter-mate, Spot, never sat at the top of the stairs and guarded the portal–not until Corky passed away. Then suddenly there he was, having taken over the job, and it was his yowling voice we heard in the basement, and him sprinting in circles.

When our daughter moved and took her cat Spot with her, Tuesday came to live with us from the shelter. She took over the stair-top post, and she spends a reasonable amount of time watching the portal. Tuesday, however, as a theoretical physicist, is better able to ration her time and interactions depending on the mathematical variables of portal flux.

Corky was a gifted amateur; Tuesday is a professional. She is much more careful to avoid suspicion, and can fix problems rapidly, so we have never had a chance to meet her doubles. She very, very seldom yowls for help; when she does, if we meet her in the basement, she turns her back on us and flips her tail about, as if saying, “Oh dear, you poor clueless things, I didn’t mean YOU.”


Lost in Space: The Unconsidered Hazards of Time Travel


Little Loki is fascinated with the theory of time travel.


Hulu and Netflix make it way too easy for me to feed my time travel addiction.  Dr. Who, Time After Time, Quantum Leap, D.C.’s Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash, Continuum, Primeval–SF binge-watching has never been more fun.

The different time travel theories proposed by each show and the screenwriters’ various answers to the insidious paradox problem fascinate (and sometimes infuriate) me. My favorite theory so far was advanced by the character Fitz in Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.; he insists that if a psychic truly saw the future, then of course that future can’t be changed. If anyone could change the future by their action or inaction, then the psychic wouldn’t have the ability to see the actual future, now would she, because what she saw was only a potential future. If she can view the future, then it will be as fixed and unchangeable as the past. Viewing the future collapses the waveform! I love it!

One thing everyone seems to ignore, though, is the critical “moving through space” part of time travel. If I went back in time an hour or so, my main problem wouldn’t be avoiding myself so as not to create a paradox; my problem would be my inability to breathe or maintain internal temperature and pressure in the vacuum of space.

Earth is rotating at 1000 miles an hour; it is rocketing around the Sun at a speed of 66,000 miles an hour; the sun is moving at a pretty fair turn of speed around the galaxy at 483,000 miles an hour, and the galaxy is streaking through space at 1.3  million miles an hour! (1)

Celestial motion won’t stop in deference to my little time-travel jaunt.

What makes my time-travel journey so exciting (and lethal) is the fact that we don’t have absolute reference points to quantify all this motion. We don’t know the precise location of the Big Bang, or the exact distance traveled so far, and we don’t know our precise speed, either.  Mathematicians are amazing people, and if they had absolute reference points I’ve no doubt they could calculate exactly where we are now and exactly where we were an hour ago. They could make my trip nonlethal–if we weren’t lost out here in space. We don’t know where we started and we don’t know where we are and we don’t know where we are going, either.

One popular way Hollywood ignores the whole “lost in space” problem: semi-sentient, gigantic wormholes are eager to assist time travelers. These wormholes magically know when and where they are going and how to expand to an improbable size and safely convey travelers to their destinations in one piece. Characters use mystical phrases like “quantum entanglement,” “negative longitude” and “Einstein-Rosen Bridge” in haphazard ways, but nobody does any math, and the mystical wormholes are in charge of celestial navigation.

Math is the antithesis of magic. Math requires a lot of hard work, and relies on facts, theories and formulas. It only looks magical from the outside.

Mastery of movement in time is only half the problem; quantifying travel in space is equally challenging. Still, I guess it’s just as well screenwriters cheat and pretend wormholes (or the machines traveling through them) can solve complex math problems and calculate the precise location of our tiny ball of rock as it hurtles through the universe. If they didn’t, those shows I love to watch would be awfully short.

(1) ASP: How Fast Are You Moving When You’re Sitting Still?