Principles of Time and Dimensional Travel
by the Chrono Compendium
with direct quotations from
and contributing discussion by many others
The Chrono Series offers a rich cast of characters, settings, and other atmosphere, deftly creating an engaging mythos and deep world. Unlike other games, which often tell a linear story, the universe of Chrono employs an interesting crux on which its machinations hinge -- time travel. As the Chrono title implies, the changing of history and the exploration of new and uncanny areas breathes life into the series, allowing it greater freedom when presenting its themes. Time travel is not handled haphazardly, however; rather, it is apparent that the creators of the games worked avidly to build a basic technical framework. This allows consistency in the story and prevents confusing paradoxes. This standard was maintained in Chrono Cross, which explained more of the world by introducing the concept of dimensions, countless realities that progress on their own and house their respective timelines. Stories revolving around temporal transforms often suffer from inconsistencies and causal quagmires, but upon close observation, the Chrono series displays a standard of excellence in maintaining plot harmony. With this article, the Principles of Time and Dimensional Travel, the Chrono Compendium aims to explore by observation the manifest rules shaping time in the series, and postulate on other theories which may play a role in tidying the effects of changing history.
Please note that the old article has been archived at On The Axioms And Corollaries Governing Temporal Transforms.
Table of Contents
General Background and Terms I. Time A. Observations 1. Time Travel Mechanisms 2. Effects of Changes to the Timeline i. Flow Principle 3. Time Eggs 4. The End of Time 5. Conservation of Time 6. The Darkness Beyond Time 7. The Black Omen 8. The Time Crash B. Theories 1. Discarded Timelines 2. Time Error 3. Relativistic Flow Principle 4. Time Traveler's Immunity i. Dimensional Adjunct ii. Adjunct: Temporal Revision Theory 5. Time Bastard i. A Problem of Duplicates ii. A Review of Time Bastard iii. Case Study: Schala's Pendant iv. Dimensional Adjunct 6. Cause of Trigger's Anomalies 7. Entity Plan and Error 8. Useful Life of Entity Gates 9. The Time Crash Revisited 10. Gate Color Theory C. Issues 1. The Marle Paradox 2. The Guardia Line Paradox 3. The Doan Paradox 4. The Telepod Paradox II. Dimensions A. Observations 1. Alternate Worlds 2. The Dimensional Split i. Time Travel and the Split 3. Angelus Errare and Other Anomalies i. Angelus Errare and the Darkness Beyond Time ii. Other Dimensional Connections 4. Dimensional Travel and Observation B. Theories 1. Origin of Dimensions 2. Unified Dimension Theory C. Issues 1. The Dead Sea / Sea of Eden i. Armageddon-Branch Theory ii. Arbiter-Resonant Theory 2. The DBT: Omnidimensional? 3. The Dimensional Unification and Aftermath i. Theories ii. A Proposed Timeline 4. Dimensional Split Timing and Chronopolis III. Charts A. Timelines B. Dimensions Acknowledgments and Thanks
General Relativity - General Relativity forms the basis of the space-time continuum, or a way of representing three dimensions of space and one dimension of time. By combining the two concepts into a single manifold, physicists are able to deal in a unified way with spacetimes which attempt to explain the workings of the universe at both supergalactic and subatomic levels. There may be an endless number of dimensions, though 4-D spacetime is as far as modern-day scientists know. Treating space and time on the same footing and as two aspects of a unified whole was devised by Hermann Minkowski shortly after the theory of special relativity was developed by Albert Einstein. Space-times are the arenas in which all physical events take place — for example, the motion of planets around the Sun may be described in a particular type of space-time, or the motion of light around a rotating star may be described in another type of space-time. In any given spacetime, an event is a unique position at a unique time.
Light cone - A light cone is a concept in four dimensional spacetime relating the temporal evolution of a flash of light. This can be visualized in 3-space if the two horizontal axes are chosen to be spatial dimensions, while the vertical axis is time. The light cone is constructed as follows. Taking as event p a flash of light (light pulse) at time t0, all events that can be reached by this pulse from p form the future light cone of p, whilst those events that can send a light pulse to p form the past light cone of p. The light cone in Chrono series discussion is used to describe the mere presence of a time traveler in the past. Even if a time traveler want back in time and immediately returned, the light cone of his presence would still change history, even if only on a subatomic level. However, it would only change history as far as a photon of light can travel in a given period of time.
Paradox - A paradox is a situation in which true statements or observations apparently contradict each other. In mathematics in logic, the term paradox is often given to a troublesome problem of this nature that nonetheless can be solved through research and intuitive thinking. Many paradoxes arise concerning time travel, often dealing with causal relationships. The most famous problem is called the Grandfather Paradox; it asks whether one would cease to exist if one traveled back in time and killed one's grandfather before the parents were born. Another type of common paradox is the causal loop, or predestination paradox. For example, consider a time traveler who reads of a great fire in Chicago. He goes back in time to discern the fire's cause; while poking around, he knocks over a candle and starts the great fire himself. This event later influences him in the future to go back in time and discover the cause. Causality is trumped, with the cause and effects becoming disjointed. The Chrono series, in nearly all cases of time travel, attempts to skirt these paradoxes by maintaining logical cause and effect relationships and invoking a postulated principle called Time Traveler's Immunity, shown later in the article.
Timeline - A timeline is a chronology of events displaying the entire history of a topic. In the Chrono series, timeline is used to describe the history of the world, frozen at a particular point. For example, consider the world before Crono went to the Millennial Fair. It consisted, notably, of Lavos's landing in prehistory, the extinction of the Reptites, the rise and fall of Zeal, and establishment of civlization, and the eventual destruction of the world in 1999 A.D. This static state of history can be likened to one timeline. To contrast the difference, consider now the world after Crono has completed his quest in Chrono Trigger. At this point, the world's history now includes the defeat of Lavos in 1999 A.D., the revival of Fiona's Forest, and a new future. This slice of history is also a timeline. We make the distinction for ease of discussion; when comparing events by time travelers, we can say that their changing history resulted in the "discarding" of an old timeline (for instance, they went to the past to depose a king), and the introduction of a new timeline (now with the king deposed in history). In summary, a timeline is a state of the world's history before or after time traveling is done. The Chrono series is host to many distinct timelines which have been organized into a graph that will appear later in this article.
Worldline - A worldline is an entity's path through four dimensional spacetime. Imagine Crono; he was born in the 980's and lived in Truce for most of his life. In 1000 A.D., he traveled throughout time, eventually returning home. His worldline is basically a record of his existence in the space-time continuum. The concept of worldlines is often brought up with the Grandfather Paradox to specify disruption of a particular being's personal history.
Wormhole - A wormhole is a hypothetical shortcut through spacetime, connecting two otherwise-distant regions or times in the universe. Imagine a worm traveling around an apple's skin; if he instead burrows directly through the apple to the other side, he saves time and has utilized a "wormhole." Wormholes are theorized to possibly allow time travel; a time traveler may pass through an end accelerated faster than when he entered, causing a time dilation and resulting in the traveler's exiting earlier than he entered. Wormholes are often used in fiction to allow time travel or fast passage throughout the universe; Chrono Trigger utilizes them in the form of Gates, though only Chrono Cross clarified them as types of wormholes (though never referencing the term specifically). More concerning Gates are available in this article.
Time Travel Mechanisms
Several methods of time travel exist, including the use of Gates, the Epoch, the Neo-Epoch, and temporal distortion anomalies. The primary method of travel utilized by time travelers in the Chronos series is passage through Gates. Allowing movement from one period of time to another in the past or future, Gates are types of wormholes whose interior radiates with blue light distortional patterns. The primary Gates were created by the Entity to allow Crono the ability to travel through time and defeat Lavos; in their natural state, they existed as observable punctures in spacetime, not large enough to allow entrance. Lucca's Gate Key demonstrated that the circumference of Gates can be widened to allow human travel; after the travelers enter, the Gate Key's effect fades and the size of the opening returns to its small stature. Their precise composition and mechanisms are more complex; a researcher in Chronopolis once described the process while ruminating on the 11th century scientist Lucca's achivements.
In the 11th Century, a scientist by the name of Lucca indicated the possibility of time travel through the use of a '"Time Egg,"' which utilizes miniature black holes. Whether this could actually be possible or not is still the subject of intense debate and no conclusions have been made.
According to her theory, by rotating a single point of supergravity, space-time continua can be drawn in... thus making it possible to transform that singular point which pulls in everything else, into a ring formation. Using this ring as a Gate between dimensions, it should be possible to travel back and forth between various space-time.
Altogether, nine Gates were created by the Entity. Eight of these Gates had connections to two eras, while the ninth is a mystery. Altogether, the connected Gates included passages from Guardia Forest (1000 A.D.) to the Bangor Dome (2300 A.D.), Tyrano Lair (65000000 B.C.) to a cave in 12000 B.C., Leene Square (1000 A.D.) to Truce Canyon (600 A.D.), and Mystic Mountain (65000000 B.C.) to Medina Village (1000 A.D., whose Gate was interestingly in the cupboard of a house). The final Gate existed at the Proto Dome; its destination was never discerned, as when Crono used it, the presence of four entities resulted in his displacement at the End of Time (see Conservation of Time Theorem later on). Since there is no space at the End of Time's platform for a tenth Gate, the Proto Dome may have been linked to the End of Time anyway. There is a possibility that it connected to a Gate in 1999 A.D., as a tenth wormhole did exist at the End of Time -- the connection to the Day of Lavos in 1999 A.D.
One question concerning the Gates often arises in discussion. Until the party reaches the End of Time, Gates simply lead from one era to another. Afterwards, they mostly lead to the End of Time, though in one instance the Gates function as they did previously, taking Crono from 65000000 B.C. after the Tyrano Lair ruin to 12000 B.C. uninterrupted. Who controls how the Gates function? All time Gates naturally connect two points in time and space, but at times each travel destination may connect to the End of Time. Other than Spekkio, Gaspar is the only person who resides there. Since Gaspar is the Guru of Time, he is responsible for Gates connecting to the End of Time, Conservation of Time theorem nonwithstanding. He decides if and when Gates will connect to the pillars at the End of Time. He may also have to witness a Gate used in order to acknowledge it and link it at the End of Time. The only requirement is that Crono and his crew have to find and use a Gate for it to link to the End of Time. As Gaspar put it: "Once you've been through a Gate, you can always use it to come here."
Before moving on, keep in mind that the Skygates and spatial Gates used by Zeal for transportation and Dalton for his Golem warriors appear to only teleport users, not send them to a different time.
The Epoch and its later model, the Neo Epoch, allow greater freedom and control when traveling through time. Constructed by Belthasar, the Guru of Reason in Zeal, the Epoch enabled to Crono to visit each era otherwise accessible through Entity Gates. It was mostly built and designed in Zeal and was completed in 2300 A.D. with available technology. The exact nature of its time traveling mechanism is unknown; the Epoch seems confined to only the Entity-defined eras, though this may simply be a constraint of Chrono Trigger as a game (exploring countless years would have been impossible). When engaged, the Epoch seemed to slip out of the physical world and into a strange aura of raging orange colors and bursts. Once time traveling was complete, it would phase back in to the physical realm (appearing as many shadows merging into one vehicle). The Neo Epoch elaborated on the mechanism's components; it was built by Belthasar after he arrived at the restored future and founded Chronopolis. It is unknown whether it was capable of traveling anywhere through time, but this is very likely as Belthasar used it to check on different stages of Project Kid. Specifically, the Neo Epoch utilized an antiproton drive to realize time travel.
The third method of time travel is the use of a Time Egg, a sort of self-contained Gate. A mystical device made magically by the Gurus of Zeal, it allows presumably one use before shattering. Due to its mysterious nature, more concerning the Time Egg will be revealed in its own section later in this article. The other methods time travel are anomalistic in nature, Gates or shifting effects created by major events or entities in time. Six instances of distortional time travel are known in the Chrono series, four of them occurring in Chrono Trigger. Firstly, in the Ocean Palace Incident, strange Gates materialized and gated the Gurus and Janus to various eras across time (and in the new timeline with the Prophet, one would gate Schala to the Darkness Beyond Time). Secondly, Marle's pendant reacted with the Telepod to take her to 600 A.D. (in actuality, she merely fell into the activated Entity Gate). Thirdly, Magus's summoning Lavos in 600 A.D. caused a raging temporal distortion that sent Magus to 12000 B.C. and Crono's group to 65000000 B.C. These events were probably effected by the Entity, as each played an integral role in the Entity's plan to defeat Lavos; a coincidence seems unreasonable. Fourth to occur is the new Melchior and Janus's disappearance from 12000 B.C. (see Time Bastard in Theories). Coming fifth with Chrono Cross is an event explained to have happened during Chrono Trigger; in the new Ocean Palace Incident, Schala fell into a dimensional distortion and went to the Darkness Beyond Time, where she bound with Lavos to become the Time Devourer. Lastly, the most anomalistic time distortion occurred in 2400 A.D. at Chronopolis; the Counter-Time Experiment there caused the Time Crash, resulting in Chronopolis slipping ten thousand years into the past. More concerning the mechanisms involved and the effects of the Time Crash are discussed later in the article.
Effects of Changes to the Timeline
When a time traveler steps back through time and alters the past, the results of his or her actions are immediately manifested in the future. How does this all work, though? How are changes to the timeline handled in the world of the Chrono series? Let's start at the very beginning, with Flow Principle.
Destiny and fate do not exist in the Chrono series; that is, no events are predetermined, and anything can be changed through time traveling. In the scope of the timeline, time flows normally until rewritten by time travelers. To make a somewhat mathematical example -- in timeline X, if event Y shall rewrite certain events to form new timeline X', even if event Y surely shall occur, time must flow until reaching Z, the time of Y's occurrence, until X can be rewritten to X'. This may seem overly simple, but it is important to establish free will in the Chrono series, as the ability to alter the events of history to make a better world from the central theme of the games.
Support for Flow Principle
Lavos is not defeated until Crono consciously decides to exercise his free will and thwart him, and the Time Devourer is not defeated until Serge makes the final journey to the Darkness Beyond Time. To invoke predetermination or destiny would fundamentally undermine this right. The question of whether events by time travelers have already occurred or have yet to occur is answered by the stablization of the observer's viewpoint. To Crono in 2300 A.D., Lavos still exists, but to Serge, Lavos was defeated. This is merely because Serge was born after Lavos was defeated. Please consult Time Error for more on this subject, and how time traveling events transcendetally line up as a whole.
We can make an analogy here:
Timeline X = 1000 A.D. X' = 1000 A.D. w/Black Omen Event Y = Ocean Palace disaster, raising of Black Omen Z = Time of Ocean Palace disaster (12000 B.C.)
So, to rephrase:
Due to the Ocean Palace disaster, the 1000 A.D. timeline is rewritten to include the hovering Black Omen. The rising of the Omen is unpreventable in the "correct" version of the plot (the one that nets New Game+ and the normal ending), but until the Ocean Palace disaster actually occurs in 12000 B.C., the Omen does not appear in the other time periods.
We can make another example out of Ending #1:
Timeline X = Ruined 2300 A.D. X' = Bright and Happy 2300 A.D. Event Y = Defeat of Lavos Z = Time of Lavos' fall - 1999 A.D. (You could argue 12,000 B.C., or say that Lavos exists in some kind of pocket dimension, or that it's a temporal anamoly... but as long as it's before 2300 A.D. we're good.)
Crono and co. defeat Lavos in 1999 A.D., averting the apocalypse and making the future bright and happy. While its defeat is predestined in CT's course of events, until Lavos has actually been vanquished, the ruined 2300 A.D. future still exists. Free will is a fact.
But what happens if the time travelers go back and murder their ancestors? Does the fact that Lavos's defeat would cause the travelers not to see a Day of Lavos video in 2300 A.D. and as a result not go on their quest? These questions will be addressed in the Theories section of the Time principles. First, let's cover other observations in the series on the nature of time travel.
So far, we have established that Gates and antiproton drives allow time travel, and that there exists no fate in the series; time travelers can change history as they like. Let us now expound upon a unique form of time travel -- the use of a Time Egg. These devices are self-contained Gates, packaged in a solid form. Only two, possibly three individuals have been able to create them in the world's history, including Lucca, Belthasar, and Gaspar. Most likely, it can be only be created with arcane magic and special materials; the resulting forms differ. Belthasar's Time Egg was a black, emanating orb surrounded by a purple, egg-like frame, while Gaspar's Time Egg seemed to be a normal egg, albeit spotted with brown marks over the shell. The first time egg was utilized by Crono's friends to travel to the Ocean Palace to save Crono. Gaspar cryptically noted that the person being saved must be important to the space-time continuum, and that a clone would be needed to take Crono's place. The reason for these stipulations is unknown. Lastly, the Time Egg would have to be used at Death Peak.
Crono's friends met these requirements, unleashing the Time Egg atop the mountain; it shattered and gated them to the Ocean Palace. There, time was frozen, though they were still able to move and interact with objects. After a certain length of time, they were apparently automatically pulled back to 2300 A.D. The strange use of the Time Egg raises several questions; specifically, why did these special stipulations exist? Was the Time Egg truly an interactive object, or did the Gurus of Zeal merely provide special instructions for the party to follow in order to enrich their quest? Lastly, how was the time freeze accomplished, and what pulled the travelers back to the future? These questions are addressed in the Theory portion of this article for Time. After the use of this Time Egg, it was shattered and its pieces presumably scattered among Death Peak, rendered useless. The next complete Time Egg was created by Belthasar for Project Kid; it was given to Serge as a way to enter the Darkness Beyond Time. On Opassa Beach, it interfaced with an apparent purple Gate, allowing the boy and his party to venture to the Darkness Beyond Time and battle the Time Devourer.
Again, its exact function here is obscured; apparently, the route to the Darkness Beyond Time already existed on Opassa Beach (perhaps placed there by Belthasar), though it required a Time Egg to function. This suggests the devices are perhaps stores of temporal energy, akin to "Chroniton particles