Portals exist all across fiction. From sci-fi to fantasy, from books to television series to games. They’re pretty much everywhere. But they’re not all that unique. Once you’ve seen one portal, you’ve pretty much seen them all. Needless to say, this is disturbing to me. So let’s try and fix that, by coming up with different ways of making portals. I’m thinking of one in particular, with a few variations.
Portals are usually not that big of a plot device, in terms of history, exploits, etc. Either they’re common place, moving something from point A to B via some vaguely techno-babbled method, or they’re a newly discovered thing so that little is known about them, or they’re just the result of some random magic spell. I personally think this is strange: instantaneous travel should be a huge, huge thing. If you link all cables using portals, if you build portals on the surface of mass energy output sources and redirect the energy to the planet, if you design technology using portal syncing hard/software to move information instantly from computer to flash drive from anywhere in the world, if you designed portal networks within the human brain to have signals travel instantly, if you used portals to combine computer systems and make one fully integrated supercomputer… Basically, what’s been done with portals makes me feel like authors have, for the most part, added portals to that list of ‘this has been used everywhere else, it’s established enough and it works fine – there’s not really a point to changing it.’ But I could keep expanding that list until it’s half this blog post, I’m sure. Let’s move onto the actual portals, though.
My idea starts with establishing the connection between space and time. This is relatively science fiction basic, except for one little detail: the concept that all reality is held together by portals, and portals are held together by the time between two points. We could say that space without time is a meaningless collection of infinite points, and then time was stretched across them like extracellular material to bring them all together. I’m sure it’s easy to see where this is going. (or is it?)
So a portal is the derailing of that material, to circumvent the point it links to, and have it connect to somewhere else. Even if portals weren’t instant travel, if you just existed in transit between these two points and traveling that interspatial time thread caused the universe to generate errors about unspecified-space-point-cloud-relationship()), they’d still be useful. You’d get somewhere without needing to move.
Using this idea the portal wouldn’t be anything flashy. There would be no differentiation between the end of the portal and the continuation of regularly linked space. In fact if we could say that we could see through portals, because distance is determined by the arrangement of all these portals, then we may or may not be able to see what’s on the other side of that portal, depending on how far away it is.
I like linking fiction to reality in one way or another, so this even makes sense with actual facts of science, like mass, volume, and the idea that space distorts time. It’s been shown that with large objects, time moves slower around them. But using this portal idea, it makes more sense to say that we move through time, not the other way around. And that large and heavy chunk of stuff does so, too. So it would probably make sense to say that it would move slower because it’s denser space that’s moving through it, similar to how a boulder would move slower when pushed than a paperclip. You could argue that gravity accelerates things. that’s assuming time moves downwards. Perhaps we could use this too, though. Time moves against a higher dimensional form of gravity, but if you reversed time, it would move with it, so it would be the other way around.
A bit of a derailment of the consciousness thread, but I was thinking about this while considering this portal concept. Our brain can’t really encompass infinity, because we don’t have limitless computational power. It’s a struggle to imagine each individual cube in a logically arranged pile of four-hundred cubes, and infinite just won’t happen.
I think my best definition of infinity would be something like this: find a really long plane wall, with no turns or pillars, just a wall that moves in a straight line. Make sure there aren’t any stairs on the root you’d take to follow it – uneven ground doesn’t really matter, but stairs probably would. Put your hand against the wall and close your eyes. The hardest part is forgetting where the exact end of the wall is, but I really didn’t have problems with that when I did this some years ago. I wasn’t really thinking about this random portal stuff when I was walking, it was more like “I’m bored, I wonder where this wall goes.” Walk forwards at a steady pace – not too slow that your hand stops while moving across the wall, but not too fast that you’ll have to slow down eventually. Do that for a little while, and think about something else. After a while, your mind will expect there to be more and more wall, and even if the ground isn’t the same, it feels like you’re walking in place. That’s my best definition of infinity, and it’s a lot like my definition of zero.
Anyways, back to portals. With this system, it’s easy to disassociate anything and have it still working. Your body is just a meaningless blob of points, given structure by billions of little portals that put each atom where it should be. Yet even as you stand there you’re moving through portals, moving from one frame of the universe to the next. And that’s the whole point of this post. To describe how important portals can end up being in a story. The entire universe could just be one giant system of portals, holding everything together; the glue of the universe. The only real problem with this is infinity, but infinity tends to put a wrench in everything. I could argue that that’s a feature, not a bug, though.