Doc Jensen On Episode 5.14 – The Variable

Thanks to Charlotte for the heads up.

Rumor has it that next week’s episode, ”The Variable,” represents a bookend to last year’s classic and similarly high science-titled outing, ”The Constant,” which gave us time-travel guru Daniel Faraday counseling time-traveling Desmond on how to do the time warp shuffle without causing his brain to melt out his nose. ”The Constant” was one of the most romantic episodes of Lost ever — but since a variable is the exact opposite of a constant, does that mean we’re about to get served with one of Lost’s bleakest installments? We shall see. Or at least, I will. Some of you have already taken the liberty of informing me of what will happen based on alleged spoiler gosip posted at a certain fansite. I am choosing to regard said gosip as pure gossip until I actually see the episode. Please: I always appreciate hearing from you, but I want to remain totally spoiler free for the rest of the season.

Because we’re dealing with an episode called ”The Variable,” I am trying to prepare for the possibility of an hour loaded with references to heady concepts in physics. I know: Fun! But my research has led to some great discoveries that have spawned several cool and (I promise you) accessible Big Theories of Lost that I’ll be sharing with you in next Wednesday’s column. I can sum up one of these theories in two words: ”quantum entanglement.” See? Accessible!

As part of my research, I’ve come across a science-fiction writer by the name of Greg Egan. Among his books, two seem great sources of Lost resonance: Distress and Quarantine. I’ll tell you more about both books next week — but please, feel free to peek ahead by reading either of them (or scanning their summaries on Wikipedia, if you really don’t have the time). But because I wish to leave you with something this week, I bring you this, an excerpt from an essay written by Egan that I found at his website: ”In quantum mechanics, alternative ways for the same outcome to arise are said to ‘interfere’ with each other: the possibility of something happening can just as easily be diminished as increased by the fact that it can happen in different ways.”

Egan is referring (I think) to an aspect of something called ”quantum supposition,” which deals with probability. This concept would seem to present some intriguing possibilities for Lost. If I’m understanding quantum probability correctly — and please, tell me if I’m not — then the more ways there are to achieve a singular outcome, the less likely that singular outcome will actually happen. If there are two ways to achieve outcome X, then outcome X is probably going to happen. Three ways? A little less likely. 100 ways? Now things are getting really dicey. Wrapping my mind around this, I started wondering: Could this idea be applied to the time-travel/time loop dynamics at play in Lost? According to the Lost Experience, Dharma was trying to save the world from certain, possibly imminent death, as predicted by something called the Valenzetti Equation. What if Dharma was trying to avert that catastrophic outcome by creating a time loop which, over the course of who-knows-how-many cycles that would produce so many different strands and strains of finely altered history (hence the name of Dharma’s time-travel station: the Orchid), would eventually diminish the probability of said awfulness from ever happening?

Like I said: Totally accessible!

Source: EW