Temporal Paradox

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“History abhors a paradox.”

A contradiction of causality within the timeline brought about by Time Travel. Theorized to be dangerous to the fabric of reality, and known to be dangerous to the brains of anyone who tries to get their head around them. So don’t. It’s usually what The Professor worries about during a Time Travel story. Punishments for creating a paradox vary. You might instantly vanish from history or cause your time-travelling self to be erased; you might be immune but find the world around you different; you might destroy reality itself; heck, you might even accidentally unleash killer flying time monkeys. This is all fictional, of course. In reality, a confirmed paradox would disallow time travel to work at all. You see, a logical paradox is not a thing. It is a sign in a human-created model that either you have attempted something impossible or that you have incomplete understanding of how something works. Here’s the thing: all our notions of causality are based on the fact that time only moves in the one direction and a paradox exploits this cause and effect relationship. Once you throw Time Travel into the equation and have time move in a different way, it’s really anyone’s guess what will happen. Not that this prevents authors from abusing the concept as a sort of universe-wide Logic Bomb. There are many kinds of paradoxes that can be created by poorly thought-out time travel, but it usually fits one of these two major categories:

Grandfather Paradox

This paradox gets its name for a very simple question: “what would happen to you if you went back in time and killed your grandfather before he had offspring?” (Parodied by Futurama; see example in Stable Time Loop) More generally, this means doing something that makes your time travel impossible or unnecessary. For instance, if success in the time travel endeavor means that the condition you set out to change never happens, then you won’t ever have had any reason to come back and try to change it. Thus, without your intervention, it will happen after all, meaning you then must go back to change it, meaning you don’t have to, meaning you have to, and so on, ad infinitum. Most cases of Mental Time Travel sidestep or ignore the grandfather paradox.

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