The recent Star Trek movie raised a new set of conundrums about time travel and alternative realities. As an astrophysicist, I am clearly most able to tackle these issues.

Basically, time travel theories fall into two classes. C. J. Ander posits 6 Theories of Time Travel, but Anders is more of a trek anthropologist. His work categorizes how time travel affects people and things, not entire universes. From a physics point of view, these can be simplified to two different energy perspectives.

I note that the new movie provides enough evidence to serve as the proof of my theory. However, to avoid spoilers, I'll set up the underlying theory using the case where the crew of the Enterprise (it's always the Enterprise, isn't it?) goes back to 'our' era and gives the formula for making transparent aluminum to an engineer. This creates a paradox-- how does the universe adapt?

Branching Multiple Universes (BMU) suggest that the universe splits whenever it encounters a paradox, with a new universe continuing from where the perturbation occurred. Some theories allow branches to overlap and possibly merge or revert.

Still, there's a tremendous amount of energy contained in 1 universe, and creating an entirely new near-copy would require a mechanism to obtain the energy. Give away one transparent aluminum formula and you need to create a whole new universe? Seems a bit extreme. Some theories allow that:

  1. Only 'major' incidents cause a split

  2. If you create a new universe, you kill the old one

The Heisenberg Uncertainty principle allows for a nearly infinite amount of energy to appear, but only for an infinitesimal time. So presumably you could create a new universe 'spontaneously', but it would not last long enough for even a single line of dialog to be uttered. So even if you allow for re-merges, there's an energy deficit that must be addressed.

Self-Healing Universes (SHU) posit that, in general, the universe simply accommodates paradoxes and plunged onward. You end up with one universe. This has the advantage of not requiring you find enough energy to create an entirely new universe, and can be considered a form of universe conservation law. So hey, it doesn't matter exactly who or when transparent aluminum was made, the universe adapts.

One subset of SHUs, the Internally Consistent Universe (ICU), go further by forcing one single timeline, and any time travel is presumed to be contained within. In such a case, a time traveler is simply 'fulfilling their destiny', their meddling being part of that universe. Thus the engineer they gave the formula to, was indeed the inventor, and they were meant to give it to him. However, from a physics standpoint, this means that information was never created, just looped, so we violate information conservation.

Note that, in all cases, you also often apply a "Didn't See It, Didn't Happen" effect. Not all paradoxes are paradoxes. Even if history says one thing, history books are often wrong, so that presumed 'truth' and what happened has lots of wiggle room. However, when we truly can see things-- like planets existing in the T:NG timeline yet also being gone in TOS, well, we have science trouble.

In fact, in all cases, we run into trouble. While the worthy Phil Plait has covered the basic science of star trek (the new movie), and indeed Carolyn Porco provided both production support and post-movie science analysis, both of them shy from the most controversial issue at hand. But not me.

I wish to propose what is indubitably the most controversial yet only acceptable alternative. I suggest that the Trek universe shows clear evidence of the hand of an intelligent designer.

It is the only solution that can solve for the twin physics necessities of energy conservation and information conservation. I know there are many in the Trek community that refuse to consider, in particular, that the most recent movie has any mark of intelligence behind it, but I stand by my position.

If you do not allow for an intelligent designer, then you either face completely catastrophic violation of energy conservation in branching new universes, or else you require that the universe somehow have a sentience of its own such that it can 'heal' paradoxes.

If you accept the former stance, then there must be a source of energy for that new universe. Is that not an outside framework, and if so, can not that outside framework be presumed sentience, at least in a gnostic unknowable sense?

And if the latter, if you allow the Trek universe sentience, isn't that just a fancy Taoist way of saying the universe _is_ God?

Either way, the conclusion is undeniable. True science requires that ID be viable, else the entire Trek continuum would not exist, would not have existed in the past, and would not be able to exist in the future.

For those who still presume 'skepticism', which I'd argue is the skepticism of denial, not physics, the capstone evidence for this is the Mirror Universe. As it happens, regardless of which time travel theory works, you still always end up with an exact copy, except good is evil and evil is good and the heroes have beards. There is no scientific way that even a self-healing universe could accurately map itself to the 'main' universe in such fashion, without the hand of a designer able to ensure each individual with the same name retains the same social networks yet with a moralistically opposite position..

I submit that the Trek universe and its mirror, which seem to run as clockwork and allow the crew of the Enterprise free destiny, nevertheless categorically requires a 'watchmaker', who not only prunes and adapts his main creation but ensures that its polar opposite remains.

As a final point, some people have taken this theory and suggested there may be multiple 'designers', not just one. But that's silly, so they're wrong.

Alex, the daytime astronomer

The Daytime Astronomer, Tues&Fri here, via RSS feed, and twitter @skyday