Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

The Lost Book Club: A Brief History of Time

Last week’s episode of Lost added another book to my list of Lost books. Fortunately, Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time is one I’ve read several times. In the episode “Not in Portland,” the book was being read by the Other who fell for “the old-wookie-in-handcuffs gag” while guarding the prison where Carl was getting a malenky bit of the old Clockwork Orange treatment.

Putting aside the verbal reference to Star Wars and the visual reference to A Clockwork Orange, we’re left with A Brief History of Time, yet another book suggesting that the island may exist outside the normal time stream of the rest of the world. The other books that suggest this are (links go to my posts on these books): A Wrinkle in Time, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” The Wizard of Oz, The Third Policeman, and Alice in Wonderland. When the Chronicles of Narnia appears I think the deal will be sealed.

A Brief History of Time is a wonderful and highly readable explanation of quantum mechanics, black holes, the big bang, relativity and the nature of time itself, which makes me wonder if we Lost fans should be wondering about the nature of time on a certain island in the Pacific. In the chapter, “The Arrow of Time,” Hawking writes:

The discovery that the speed light appeared the same to every observer, no matter how he was moving, led to the theory of relativity – and in that one had to abandon the idea that there was a unique absolute time. Instead, each observer would have his own measure of time as recorded by a clock that he carried: clocks carried by different observers would not necessarily agree.

Now, Hawking isn’t arguing that that there are different time streams here on Earth, but then Lost is fiction, probably science fiction, which often begins with the question, “What if?” The fact that the Others seem to know so much about everyone suggests to me that somehow they are able to connect with a future in which everything about the Oceanic 815 survivors has become history.

What if there was a wormhole or timewarp or some kind of flux in the space-time continuum in the south Pacific? What if it could be manipulated? What if people from the future were trying to change humanity in order to save their world?

How might they do this? I bet it has something to do with the hatch. They lost contact with the outside when “the sky went purple.” Does this mean they lost their wormhole or timewarp or whatever they were using to communicate with the future? The ability to connect with the future would explain how they are able to know so much, as well as do things like send that bus down the road at the exact moment that Juliet’s husband was stepping into the street.

According to Lostpedia, the Other is shown reading a page from the chapter “Black Holes Ain’t So Black” (h/t to Joshmeister, who offers some other interesting details about this).� In that chapter, Hawking describes the nature of event horizons surrounding black holes and argues that despite black holes having the reputation of being places from which nothing can escape, they do appear to emit particles, and over time, eventually shrink away.

Perhaps, whatever the hatch was doing was preventing some kind of black hole like time warp on the island from evaporating. Could it be that the Others have lost, not their contact with the outer world, but with the future? In that case, they would also be truly lost, just like the survivors of Oceanic 815.

Perhaps, when the hatch imploded, Desmond got a glimpse of (or spent quite a bit of time wandering through) the future. Is that why he knows things will happen before they happen?

I’ve wondered about this parallel universe/alternate time stream idea since I began reading the Lost books and really thinking about the show. Brian at Lost…and Gone Forever adds some fuel to that fire in his analysis of “Not in Portland”:

The company that was courting Juliet wasn’t Hanso or Dharma – it was “Mittelos Bioscience”.


As many astute readers have already put together, “Mittelos” is an anagram for “Lost Time”.


Of all the scenes that they could have shown during the one hour recap before this week’s episode, which basically summed up two and a half years worth of Lost – they included the scene of Sayid and Hurley on the beach, listening to the radio, with Sayid saying “It could be coming from anywhere”, followed by Hurley saying “…or any time.”

That one really struck me as well. The first time I saw it, I noted it, and placing such a minor scene in recap seems like a pretty big hint.

Brian concludes:

If the series ended with us finding out that either a) only days had passed since Flight 815 crashed – with the rescue crew showing up or b) many years had passed and grown-up Walt and Grandpa Michael showing up to rescue everyone – I would not be in the least bit surprised, and we would all look back and think “Hey, they were hinting at it all along.”

There’s something else, too. A commenter on my blog mentioned a scene in which the big dipper is shown backwards in the sky. That’s a phenomenon that is not supposed to happen for 50,000 years. I don’t know which episode shows that, and I don’t have time to run it down, but if anyone has more info on that, I’d love to know. Perhaps the island exists in a different time altogether or maybe it hovers between planes on the spacetime continuum (or exists in a gap between branes – see my post on Universe in a Nutshell, also by Hawking).

“Not in Portland” really brings up many of the time continuum ideas that the show has been toying with since season 1, but with Lost, it sometimes seems that when we can see the big picture, the details get fuzzy. As we zero in on characters, plot elements and theories, however, it suddenly becomes impossible to see the whole thing.

I think of it as Lost’s own little version of the uncertainty principle (also explained in A Brief History of Time). The fascinating thing is that this is exactly what happens at the beginning of each show. We see the word LOST on screen, but it’s out of focus. As it flies toward the viewer, it comes into sharp focus, but all we can see are parts of the O and S, the big picture having left the frame.

Click here for all of my posts on the Lost books.


  1. I will need to start watching the show. I love your literary criticism but haven’t seen one episode of Lost so I am, well, a bit lost.

  2. Alice, get yourself found! It’s a great show and lost of fun to try to figure out the clues be they literary or otherwise.

  3. Maybe I need to give the show another shot, I was under the impression it was about people being stalked by bears which sounded kind of dumb to me!

  4. Prince, Put that way, it does sound silly, but they explanations for the polar bears (and other odd things) is quite fascinating. Definitely worth giving it another go. Thanks for visiting!

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