SEven – A Science Fiction Event Graph Generator

Marty McFly's Timeline

Create relativistic and non-linear timelines of Science Fiction stories. The web editor supports time travels, time dilation and alternate realities.

Science fiction narrations often incorporate non-linear and relativistic timelines that occur because of phenomena such as

  • Time Travel
  • Time Dilation
  • Alternate realities/parallel universes
  • Opposite direction of time flux relative to a reference system (Anti-Time)

Such actions and phenomena are enabled via different fictive technologies like time machines, engine systems and (fictive or real) astronomical anomalies such as wormholes, black holes and parallel universes.

To meaningfully visualize time spans and events of such non-linear fashion, one needs at least two temporal reference frames which can be visualized as axes on a two-dimensional plane (let’s call this a “Zimmer Diagram”).  The X axis of a Zimmer Diagram then represents a non-linear timeline as experienced by a subject of interest. The Y axis represents a timeline of an intertial frame of reference observing this. For example, if the first timeline features the events perceived by a person travelling through time, then the second timeline features the events as perceived by an inert observer with a conventional, linear and continuous world line.

Zimmer diagram

In addition, a third dimension can be used to represent several alternate realities (e. g. parallel universes or alternative timelines). Since events in different universes can be completely independent from each other, and a person entering a universe can enter it at any time, this could be visualized by another plane with the same X axis scale as the first plane, but with its own Y axis scale.

A sequence of events within a continuous or non-continuous reference frame (such as a time travelling person), that is observed as non-linear from the second reference frame, can be defined by assigning the sequence a start date and end date on the scale of the second reference frame, as well as a time dilation factor (in special relativity called the Lorentz factor) that defines the travel speed of reference frame A through the time of reference frame B. The duration of the sequence in reference frame A (TA) then can be calculated by dividing the duration of the path in reference frame B (TB) through the time dilation factor γ:

TA = TB / γ

The X-axes of all universes have the same scale to emphasize that there is only a single timeline of reference frame A, even when switching the universe. The Y-axis of a particular universe goes from the earliest entry point to the latest exit point of reference frame A in B.

Marty McFly's TimelineMarty McFly’s time travelling in the Back to the Future trilogy (with the simplification that everything takes place in one timeline/universe)

Examples of Science Fiction works that feature non-linear timelines

Interstellar (USA, UK 2014)

The protagonist Cooper lands with his spaceship on a planet with high proximity to a super-massive black hole. Time on that planet is severely dilated, one hour on the planet equals approximately seven years of time on Earth.

Back To The Future Trilogy (USA 1985-1990)

Starting out in the year 1985, the protagonist Marty McFly commits several time travels to past and future.

Star Trek Voyager: Blink of an Eye (USA 2000)

The “tachyon core” of a planet has created a “differential in space-time”, meaning that time passes much more quickly on the planet than in the rest of space. For an observer from outer space, one day on the planet is 1.03 seconds long.

Star Trek (USA 2009)

Spock travels 100 years into the past of a parallel universe.

Star Trek – The Next Generation: All Good Things (USA 1994)

This work features a „multiphasic temporal convergence in the space-time continuum, an eruption of anti-time“. Its time flows into the opposite direction than the rest of spacetime.

SEven – A webapp to create non-linear timelines

The author has created a web-based editor that allows creating non-linear timelines being able to cross several universes.

seven app screenshot

Screenshot of “SEven”

Things to improve

  • Not everyone measures time like we do. The start-time/end-time input forms could provide a more general approach than HTML’s “datetime-local” input type
  • Time dilation is not constant but does increase/decrease with more/less speed/gravity. Paths should allow to create time dilation curves.

Things to know

  • A lot of times, you can argue if you enter an alternate reality every you commit a time travel. A lot of fictional works also don’t provide exact points in time or exact time dilation factors. So there is some editorial freedom/arbitrariness on how to model the time travelling. Here’s a good rundown by MinutePhysics on how time travel in science fiction usually works:
  • A spatial dimension is deliberately omitted to not make things more complicated

Take me to the SEven app

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