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Chrono-synclastic Infundibulum

In Kurt Vonnegut’s 1959 novel The Sirens of Titan, one of the primary characters, Winston Niles Rumfoord, falls victim to a phenomenon known as a chrono-synclastic infundibulum. This made up word is described as “being everywhere at once” without being able to know everything at once. I thought of this book because it takes place in multiple settings in our Solar System, including Titan, the largest moon of Saturn.

When someone enters a chrono-synclastic infundibulum, which is not a real phenomena (or at least has yet to be discovered!), they no longer experience space-time in a linear fashion. Vonnegut tries to further explain the concept, “for example, such a person could exist at all points in time in one place and also appear at another point for five minutes.” A similar concept of space-time manipulation was explored in Interstellar. In my Jesuit high school theology course I was taught that God experiences time in a similar, non-linear way. Clearly humans are very interested in this idea.

An image showing a 3-dimensional sphere. The cross-section represents the object in 2 dimensions from one point of view. This is analogous to our view of time in cross-section.

So, is it possible to experience time this way, as a fourth dimension? Well one way to think of it is that if we, humans, were 2-dimensional beings we would see a 3-dimensional sphere in front of us as a circle, a 2-dimensional cross-section of the sphere. We could move and see a new 2-dimensional cross-section. This is a similar way that we experience time. We can move to see a new instantaneous slice of time, but we cannot see all of the cross-sections at once, but that does not mean that they do not exist in that form and cannot be accessed. I just have to figure out how to become a 4-dimensional being first…


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