TRY-CATCH, Research

What if a person could set up error handling before trying something risky in real life the way a programmer uses try-catch statements?
That was the origin of TRY-CATCH. 
I work hard to ground my stories. It's important that there's as much reality in them as possible, as if you're building a bridge from mainland reality, to the little island of strangeness that you want to share with a reader. 
Quantum Physics
I knew nearly nothing about quantum physics when I began researching. After reading and redlining ten books and a number of articles on the subject, what I have learned has me even more intrigued by the subject. 
I thought you might like some of the excerpts of the books that I relied on for the bridgework, and for the strangeness as well. One thing that quantum physics has in abundance, is strangeness.
If you haven't read the book, this is a good place to stop. You've read enough on this page that I can ask you to trust that the book is grounded enough that you can walk out on the bridge. You can come back here afterward, and have details for desert.

There are two technological achievements in TRY-CATCH. The scientists in the future that Niven calls the "Molochs" are brought together to develop a past-time phone. I didn't believe it was crucial to the story to explain how this was accomplished, but I found several references that suggest it is not impossible.

"In standard QM in the Many Worlds scenario in which the wave function does not collapse, a measurement performed in one MW universe can have no effect on a measurement made in another. Polchinski demonstrates that in non-linear QM such measurements "talk" and can be used for transmission of information from one MW branch universe to another. With Polchinski's non-linear quantum telephones you could talk to yourself at an earlier time or to your alter ego in an alternate universe." (Footnote 1)


"Do the results imply that nonlinear quantum mechanics is inconsistent, and thus 'explain' the linearity of the theory? Communication between branches of the wave function seems even more bizarre than faster-than-light communication and consequent loss of Lorentz invariance, but it is not clear that it represents and actual inconsistency. It means that the reduction of the wave function never occurs, so that the standard Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics no longer applies. The many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics becomes the natural one, with communication between the worlds now possible." (Footnote 2)

Gribbon's excellent book, "In Search of Schrodinger's Cat", also footnotes that past time communication could be achieved if physicist Richard Feynmann's interpretation of a reality where particles are traveling backward in time is true. (Footnote 3)

Quantum Computing

The second technological innovation that the book asks readers to accept is already widely accepted. David Deutsch's book, "The Fabric of Reality" has a nice chapter on quantum computers.

"A quantum computer is a machine that uses uniquely quantum-mechanical effects, especially interference, to perform wholly new types of computation that would be impossible, even in principle, on any Turing machine and hence on any classical computer." (Footnote 4)


"A quantum computer would be capable of distributing components of a complex task among vast numbers of parallel universes, and then sharing the results."(Footnote 5)

"You may be wondering how we can persuade our counterparts in 10         odd universes to start working on our factorization task. Will they not have their own agendas for the use of their computers? No - and no persuasion is necessary. Shor's algorithm operates initially only on a set of universes that are identical to one another, and it causes them to become differentiated only within the confines of the factorization engine. So we, who specified the number to be factorized, and who wait while the answer is computed, are identical in all the interfering universes." (Footnote 6)



This is the biggest reach of the book. In "Many Worlds" theory, each quantum event splits, or branches, the universe. "Wave functions branch, but don't unbranch." (Footnote 7)

"The second law of thermodynamics posits that entropy - roughly, the disorderliness or randomness of a configuration, as you know - never decreases in closed systems. Ludwig Boltzmann explained this back in the 1870s. Entropy counts the number of ways that atoms can be arranged so that the system looks the same from a macroscopic perspective. The reason why it increases is simply that there are many more ways to be high-entropy than to be low-entropy, so it's improbable that entropy would ever go down." (Footnote 8)

The aspect of Sean Carroll's description from "Something Deeply Hidden" that caught my attention was the word "improbable". David Lewis' article describes the level of past orderliness as "overdetermination".

"Counterfactual Dependence and Time's Arrow", by David Lewis

"An asymmetry noted by Popper is a special case of the asymmetry of overdetermination. There are processes in which a spherical wave expands outward from a point source to infinity. The opposite processes, in which a spherical wave contracts inward from infinity and is absorbed, would obey the laws of nature equally well. But they never occur. A process of either sort exhibits extreme overdetermination in one direction. Countless tiny samples of the wave each determine what happens at the space-time point where the wave is either emitted or absorbed. The processes that occur are the ones in which this extreme overdetermination goes toward the past, not those in which it goes toward the future."


In TRY-CATCH, Simon drives the waves back toward the point of origin. In the process, billions of universes are forced into a reconvergence. In doing this, Simon draws massive energies from the universes that are removed from existence, to force the remaining universes into a prior lower-entropy, unified state. It would be the equivalent of forcing waves backward toward their origin, as Lewis describes.


Carroll's fictional characters discuss the "nonzero probability that entropy will spontaneously go down". When asked if it is possible for decoherence (branching) to reverse, Carroll's character, Alice, says "It's extremely unlikely that two macroscopically distinct configurations have recohered even once in the lifetime of our universe." (Footnote: 9)


As I noted, this is the greatest leap of the book. Readers have been asked to believe much more incredible assertions in some of the stories we all enjoy. Light sabers, faster-than-light travel, humans flying without wings. If the most challenging part of TRY-CATCH is merely highly unlikely, I think we can work with that.


  1. "Quantum Telephones to Other Universes, to Times Past", by John G. Cramer. Source.

  2. Weinberg's Nonlinear Quantum Mechanics and the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen Paradox", by Joseph Polchinski.

  3. "In Search of Schrodinger's Cat", by John Gribbon. (p. 250)

  4. "The Fabric of Reality", by David Deutsch. (p. 195)

  5. "The Fabric of Reality", by David Deutsch. (p. 195)

  6. "The Fabric of Reality", by David Deutsch. (p. 216)

  7. "Something Deeply Hidden", by Sean Carroll. (p. 158)

  8. "Something Deeply Hidden", by Sean Carroll. (p. 158)

  9. "Something Deeply Hidden", by Sean Carroll. (p. 158)