|Elementary Science #1: Quantum Realities
If a woman go left, or right, does Time’s flow divide? Does the Wheel then weave two Patterns? A thousand, for each of her turnings? As many as the stars? Is one real, the others merely shadows and reflections?
From Stone to Stone run the lines of ‘if,’ between the worlds that might be.
Interesting, this quotation - because whether Jordan knows it or not, his description of the Portal Stone worlds parallels some of the latest theories in quantum mechanics.
One hypothesis is that the universe splits every time an event happens one way rather than another. There are an infinite number of realities, ranging from the very unlikely to the most likely, which are the closest to our own. Sound familiar?
There are still more ‘alternate realities’ in the Wheel of Time beside those reached by the Portal Stones. One is Tel’aran’rhiod, known as the Unseen World or the World of Dreams, which is a reflection of the others. While there are an infinite number of worlds, there is only one Tel’aran’rhiod. It reflects each world in proportion to its likelihood of existing.
Thus, the changeability of the Dream - while mostly reflecting this world, it sometimes reflects the more likely of the alternate worlds, and occasionally the unlikelier ones. The things that appear in more realities, such as buildings and mountains, are less likely to alter, while ephemeral objects - for example, the papers on Elaida’s desk - may change every few seconds.
And the light in Tel'aran'rhiod is dim and sourceless, as somebody recently pointed out to me, because the major light sources - the sun and moon - are constantly in motion.
This also explains why objects in Tel’aran’rhiod cannot be changed for long, and are liable to revert once you lose concentration. It’s like trying to move a huge weight - it resists. Why? Because you’re trying to alter an infinite number of realities. As Elayne and Nynaeve found out, the difficulty of creating something in the Dream increases as the probability of it existing decreases. If something absolutely could not exist, under any circumstances, it would be impossible to create it - rather like the effect of a ta’veren.
While on the subject, ta’veren are supposedly the Pattern’s mechanism for maintaining itself. How does this mechanism work? By, apparently, steering events into the less likely, but beneficial realities that probably wouldn’t happen otherwise. Around a ta’veren, Terry Pratchett’s rule applies: “One in a million chances crop up nine times out of ten.”
Probability plays a very great role in the Wheel of Time. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, just about anything could happen.
Stay tuned. In the next class of Elementary Science we’ll go on to the observer effect, Schrœdinger’s cat and how quantum mechanics apply to Skimming-space.