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Lost: The Constant & Non-Local Brain Games

I. By Way of Introduction
in which a few preliminary points are laid out.

In 1996, Daniel Faraday had a very important meeting with Desmond Hume. In that meeting, Desmond gave Faraday the correct settings to make his machine work and flash the consciousness of Eloise into the future and back.

Eight years later, Faraday doesn't remember that meeting?


Whatever the answer is, it may be a number, and that number may be 8 (no, not 42, and not even 23... maybe).

In the third season's eighth episode, "Flashes Before Your Eyes," Desmond experienced a flash unlike anything we had so far seen. This wasn't a flashback for the audience; Desmond was actually back. An explanation for his extended, lucid flashback was left up in the air until now. We always knew there was a causal relationship between his flashing back and being back, and his tripping the failsafe in the Swan Station; we just weren't sure of the why's, how's, and whatsit's. "The Constant" answers this question, and then some.

Here's what we now know:

  • Perception of time is different on the island than it is off the island. Faraday lets Jack in on this secret, and tells him if Lapidus didn't keep the helicopter on the specific trajectory that Faraday gave him, there might be "side effects."
  • Side effects of island entry and exit include the strange flashes across time, confusion, nosebleeds, looking narcoleptic, and eventually brain aneurysm.
  • Exposure to large doses of radiation or electromagnetism unsettle something in a person that make said person more prone to the side effects of island entry and exit.
  • Des tripped the failsafe in "Live Together, Die Alone," and caught a megadose of an electromagnetic pulse
  • Presumably both Eko and Locke caught a dose, since they were also at ground zero. Locke has since tweaked his psychic link with the island, and Eko was whomped by Smokey.
  • Faraday performed an experiment that gave off radiation twenty times a day. He wore a protective apron, but had no protection for his head.
  • On the freighter, Minkowski ran the ship's radio equipment until he became unstuck. Being around that equipment all the time would expose Minkowski to higher levels of radiation than normal. According to the Communication Workers of America website, radio equipment emits low levels of non-ionizing radiation that can possibly lead to what they call "thermal effect." Would the radio equipment alone emit enough radiation to make Minkowski more susceptible to side effects, or is there something more to that equipment?
  • And what was Brandon's story, the man who went out to towards the island with Minkowski and ended up in a body bag?
  • The flashes transport the subject's consciousness to different locations in time. The key here is that it's the consciousness that is shifted, and not the physical subject himself. Which suggests that consciousness is either a part of or is effected by physical forces, kind of like iron filings being dragged around by a magnet.
  • Dr. Ray uses some kind of vaccine on Minkowski; this is either to sedate him — and possibly keep his mind from jumping ship — or its meant to actually counteract the flashes. It doesn't work. (This isn't the first time we've seen a vaccine.)

II. Getting Unstuck
in which the Slaughterhouse-Five references are recouped

This all helps explain why Desmond has flashes to begin with, and why he had such a long-lasting lucid flash; after absorbing the brunt of the pulse, his head was just in a different place for a while. When Faraday zaps the rat Eloise with his light-emitting machine, he tells Des that he's going to "unstick Eloise in time, just like you." That statement probably sounds familiar to many people, because it's how Kurt Vonnegut describes his protagonist in his 1969 novel Slaughterhouse-Five:

Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time.
It ends like this:

Billy, like Desmond, can't control when, where, or how he flashes to different periods of time, and is forced to relive parts of his life again and again, including his time as a soldier in WWII, and his own death. An alien race called Tralfamadorians also figure into this; they transcendentally exist in four dimensions, and experience all time at once: "All moments, past, present, and future, always have existed, always will exist. The Tralfamadorians can look at all the different moments just the way we can look at a stretch of the Rocky Mountains, for instance."

For them, the future is already history, and it gives the Tralfamadorians a deep sense of fatalism — their mantra: So it goes. (This is much like Dr. Manhattan in Alan Moore's Watchmen, another text referenced here and as an influence on Lost). The Tralfamadorians kidnap Billy Pilgrim and put him in a zoo on their planet. Being unstuck in time, Billy finds their fatalism oddly comforting, and he accepts that "Among the things [he] could not change were the past, the present, and the future." When Desmond asks if Faraday uses his machine to change the future, Faraday's reply is in a similar vein: "You can't change the future."

III. Calling Out a Rat
in which the name Eloise gets the rundown

The name of Faraday's rat, Eloise, is also evocative and deserves a sidetrack. Eloise is an Anglicization of the name Heloïse, who was the 12th century abbess of the Oratory of the Paraclete in France. Heloïse was a great scholar and famous for her love affair with the philosopher Peter Abélard. In the film Being John Malkovich, a story all about consciousness becoming unstuck, Craig the puppeteer performs scenes of Heloïse and Abélard with his puppets. Of note, though, is that in 1761 Heloïse and Abélard's story was fictionalized into a philosophical novel by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Julie, or the New Heloïse. It was a popular epistolary novel (a novel comprised of letters), and it sold well. But Rousseau used the novel to couch a philosophical discussion about how social organization structured emotional development, and how people then managed their emotions in the social sphere.

The author's name is already familiar to the Lost audience, and so is the plot: a working class dude, Saint-Preux, falls in love with the daughter of a nobleman, Julie, and they want to get married — but her father won't have it (echoes of Desmond, Penelope and Charles Widmore). Julie decides to get pregnant in order to coerce her father into allowing the marriage, but she miscarries. Many more plot details occur that lead to SP leaving for Paris with an a English friend of Julie's father. The lovers continue to write, and SP eventually learns that Julie entered into an arranged marriage and decides to live as a virtuous wife and mother, which crushes him. He is about to top himself when the Englishman talks him out of it, and SP instead finds work aboard a ship that's traveling around the world (does Desmond's name even need to be mentioned here?). After ten years, SP returns and visits Julie and her husband at their estate, and finds her happy and with a good man. The better Julie's husband is to SP, the less infatuated he is with Julie. He eventually marries Julie's sister Claire, and they settle down at the estate, where he tutors Julie's children. It will be interesting to see if Penelope has any other suitors (like her name would suggest), or has a sister.

IV. Double-Header
in which a discussion about non-localized consciousness and doubling is (sort of) developed, finishing with some geography.

But what we also learn in "The Constant" is that in the flashes, a person's consciousness isn't just transported across time; it seems to be swapping with the self-same subject from a different period of time. So the 1996 Desmond is at times walking around with 2004 Desmond's knowledge, and 2004 Desmond is at times confusedly walking around in 1996 Desmond's head. To an extent, this somewhat addresses the question of parallel universes in Lost; at least in Desmond's case, he — or his consciousness — is to different locations in spacetime, rather than an alternative universe (unless a different location in spacetime is a parallel universe from the perspective of the original location). So consciousness becomes something more fluid and unsettled.

One writer whose who has something to say about this is Robert Anton Wilson, author of Illuminatus! and Cosmic Trigger, among an immense body of other work. His influence on Lost has been consistently lurking in the background, and his take on consciousness may shed some light on what Desmond is going through. One thing that had a profound effect on RAW was when physicist John S. Bell published his theorem on nonlocality in 1964. The match showed that at the quantum level, particles can effect each other, or communicate, even at great distances. The physical particles had location in space and time, but the information communicated seemed to be everywhere and everywhen. "What Bell seemed to prove was that quantum effects are 'non-local' in [physicist David] Bohm's sense; that is, they are not just here or there, but both. What this apparently means is that space and time are only real to our mammalian sense organs; they are not really real."

In a 1993 interview published in the book Mavericks of the Mind, RAW builds on this idea with his hunch that consciousness "is a non-local function of the universe as a whole, and our brains are only local transceivers. As a matter of fact, it's a very strong hunch, but I'm not going to dogmatize about it." RAW later developed this non-local notion of consciousness in his book about Timothy Leary's eight-circuit model of consciousness, Prometheus Rising; he categorizes thoughts/consciousness (software) apart from its physical housing (hardware), and the function of the two is the self. He developed : "YOUR HARDWARE IS LOCALIZED: BRAIN CELLS RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW. YOUR SOFTWARE IS NON-LOCALIZED: POINT-EVENTS EVERYWHERE, EVERYWHEN." What we consider to be the self is the conjunction of these points. More is to be made of this later, but this whole problem of being unstuck gives a new meaning to "double-consciousness," which may not be far from the mark.

The term "double-consciousness" was first made famous by Ralph Waldo Emerson in his 1843 essay "The Transcendentalist." For Emerson, the problem of double-consciousness was that the human intellect and human soul inhabited separate spheres that never coincided (a little like RAW's hardware and software). Emerson worked to transcend that dualistic mode of existence, which is something like what Desmond has to do with his swapped consciousness. Des has to work to understand what is happening to him generally, as well as in his various immediate situations (such as when 1996 Des finds himself on a helicopter, or 2004 Des finds himself on a bathroom floor in Southfields). To do so, he needs to find his constant, and his constant has to do with his soul — Penelope.

Emerson first used the term "double-consciousness," but W.E.B. Du Bois made the term famous in The Souls of Black Folk. In his book W.E.B. Du Bois and American Political Thought, Adolph L. Reed Jr. considers how Du Bois turned Emersonian double-consciousness inside-out to identify the historical problem of African American social exclusion, rather than an issue with the human condition. "Where Du Bois's notion pointed to a specific product of black American experience, Emerson's indicated a generic human condition, prior to and outside history," (100). Du Bois discusses double-consciousness in terms of how black folk had to view themselves through the eyes of others, were members of the American populace but without access to all the rights of citizenship, and were at once both American and African. This isn't so much a problem for Des — although he does see himself somewhat through the disapproving gaze of Charles Widmore. However, we've certainly seen a similar double-consciousness at play with characters like Sayid, Eko, and Jin, who all inhabited worlds in which they didn't fully belong and see themselves partly through the eyes of others (Sayid as a turned torturer and then CIA informant, Eko the warlord as a priest, and Jin the fisherman's son as high-class muscle for a business tycoon).

Another recent figure struck with double-consciousness was Horselover Fat, from last week's nod to Philip K. Dick's Valis. After getting hit with the pinkish light reflecting off a delivery person's vesica piscis pendant, he claims an advanced intelligence invaded his consciousness, but that intelligence was from the early Christian era. His chief preoccupation becomes finding out just what this intelligence was (Zebra, he calls it), and what it means, which takes him into the tomes of ancient philosophy, mysticism, and the Gnostic scrolls of the Nag Hammadi library.

If PKD were alive today, we could ask him if the pink light from Faraday's machine looked similar to the pink light that hit him in the head. PKD searched for that frequency of light afterwards, and couldn't find any match.

At any rate, doubleness and consciousness are problems at play, but double-consciousness isn't the only doubling that occurs in the episode. One of the freighter crew is named Omar; this is the second Omar we've seen, as Sayid's commanding officer during the Iraq War was also named Omar. Another of the freighter crew is the doctor named Ray; Ray was also the name of the one-armed Australian farmer who gave Kate work while she was a fugitive (and eventually turned Kate in for a reward). Maybe the most engaging instance of doubling, though, is of the journals. When Des flashes back to the Southfields auction, Charles Widmore is winning the journal of the Black Rock's first mate, found in 1852 on Île Sainte-Marie, Madagascar. The second journal belongs to Faraday, and is comprised of his time-tripping notes prior to and on the island. It will be interesting to see what Tovard Hanso's first mate wrote in that journal, especially if he made any scientific observations. (Did anyone catch what exactly was on auction just after the journal? It was something once "in the possession of Charles Dickens.")

V. From Geography to Maps to Numbers
in which the geography line is explored using funky shapes that end up being about numbers.

These other instances of doubling lead in two geographical directions. First, freighter Omar notes that the freighter's last port was Fiji. Second, the Black Rock journal was found in Madagascar. This gives us something to work with. In the book Living Lost: Why We're All Stuck on the Island, J. Wood makes mention of 20th century Scottish naturalist Ivan Sanderson and the "vile vortices." In the 1970's, Sanderson was interested in how ancient sailors mapped the world, and in his studies kept coming across Bermuda Triangle-type accounts coming from a number of places around the globe (navigational instruments malfunction, lost time, odd lights, disappearing ships, etc.) Sanderson tracked where these incidents took place, and found they occurred in a regular frequency around the world, primarily in five equally-spaced regions around the Tropic of Capricorn, five around the Tropic of Cancer, and at each of the poles. He called them the vile vortices.

In the past, cartographers often overlaid polyhedral grids on maps in order to have a clear picture of coordinates and to orient themselves (and maybe they still do). In the Timaeus, Plato even argued that the elements were made up of five regular polyhedral solids: the tetrahedron (pyramid), hexahedron (cube), octahedron (eight-sided diamond), the twelve-sided dodecahedron, and the twenty-sided icosahedron; think of the Bucky Fuller geodesic dome inside the Swan Station. Sanderson noted that when an icosahedron was mapped onto the globe, the points where the icosahedral lines converged pinpointed those twelve vile vortices. icosahedron map gridStranger still, of all of those five Platonic solids, only the octahedron — the eight-sided shape — can be overlain on top of the icosahedron, and have convergence points that line up with the twelve points of the icosahedron. We already know how important the number eight is to the narrative; whether the eight-sided Platonic solid matching with twelve vile vortices mapped out by Ivan Sanderson on an icosahedral grid was intentional or not, its a little intriguing, and we'll be getting back to eight shortly. But how all this relate to Fiji and Madagascar? Omar said the freighter's last port was Fiji, and the Black Rock journal was found in Madagascar; both Fiji and Madagascar are located in two of the vile vortex zones.

vile vortices - highlighted

The octahedron has eight sides, there is an eight-year gap between Desmond's 1996 flash and his being on the island in 2004, and eight is the second number in the Valenzetti Equation (4 8 15 16 23 42). The first time Desmond experienced a flash was in the eighth episode of the third season. The odd spired symbols seen on Juliet's back, the tree, around the portholes in the Looking Glass, and on Mrs. Gardner's wall have eight points. Eight is a magic and sacred number (but really, aren't they all?). With seven days in a week, eight stands just outside of time. It's a Fibonacci number, which is used to express the Golden Spiral found throughout nature, like in sunflowers, nautilus shells, spiral galaxies, DNA, and whirlpools, hurricanes and tornadoes — maelstroms, from which we get Miles Straume. The symbolic representation of eight is the same as the symbolic representation for infinity — timelessness--turned on its side, 8 ∞. For an oxygen molecule to be oxygen, it needs eight protons in its nucleus; one fewer and its nitrogen, one more and its fluorine, and if either were the case, we wouldn't breathe so well. Could there more significance to eight and "The Constant"? Possibly:

VI. Pieces of Eight
in which the previous discussions of consciousness and the number eight are rammed through some of the recurring themes in Lost.

We already know the influence of Buddhism on Lost. The DHARMA Initiative is named after the Buddhist doctrine of essential nature, and each of their stations are labeled with a symbol comprised of an eight-sided bagua. In Buddhism, the way to enlightenment is through the Noble Eightfold Path: right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration (in that order). The path itself is not so much a map to Nirvana as it is qualities found within a person who has reach Nirvana. The eighth path, right concentration, has to do with meditation. There are four stages, or jhānas, on that path, and they lead through different stages of rapture and an evenness of mind until the individual transcends the pleasure and pain of the material world — when the consciousness literally becomes unstuck.

Incidentally, the fourth jhāna is also the access point into psychic abilities; in the Anguttara Nikaya (which is all about numbers), the Buddha makes mention of the abilities one can access if they attain that state of mind, which include appearing, vanishing, moving through solid objects as easily as through space, flying, and walking on water (there's an online translation here). While Desmond's consciousness is becoming unstuck against his will, it seems some people like Walt have already accessed this fourth jhāna.

And the eights keep on coming. The Catholic element in Lost has already been marked out by Mr. Eko. When thinking of eight in the New Testament, the eight beatitudes in Matthew's account of the Sermon on the Mount rank right up there. The eighth beatitude states that those who are persecuted for following the path of righteousness will have the kingdom of heaven (yet another path to some transcendent place). As far as I understand it, righteousness is the key idea here, and it has to do with upholding an ethical justice according to God's will — and God's will is unchanging, constant, as is the kingdom of heaven. This means a righteous person will try to be consistent with the unchanging ethics of God, and the only one to fully achieve that consistency was executed (talk about persecution). Mr. Eko attempted to live according to God's will after he was saved by his brother Yemi, but was still judged harshly by Smokey. No character has a more spiritual stance on the island than Locke, and no character has been more persecuted for trying to do what he believes is the right thing.

But like chocolate and peanut butter, text and image, Cuse and Lindelof, Catholicism is a complement of Judaism. There have been Old Testament references all over Lost, and numbers are important in the OT; eight people made it on to Noah's boat, G_d made eight promises to Abraham in Genesis, a boy is circumcised eight days after he is born, and the eighth sefira on the Tree of Life is Hod. The Tree of Life is still another mystical path to the transcendent, and it has ten sefirot, or numbers. Hod, the eighth, means "splendor," as well as giving thanks (from hodaah). Among other things (and I don't pretend to understand it all), hod is supposed to symbolize observation and steadfastness — constancy — on the Tree of Life. Constants aren't just mathematical.

VII. The Shape of Eight
in which Robert Anton Wilson and physics have more to say about the stuff about eight, consciousness, and dimensions.

Nor are they just psycho-religio-spiritual. Let's bring back Robert Anton Wilson: In Prometheus Rising, RAW breaks down Timothy Leary's Eight-Circuit Model of Consciousness (and remember, Leary got his start with Richard Alpert, the namesake of the ageless Other who brings Ben into the fold). Unlike the eight-fold path, the path to righteousness through the eight beatitudes, and the eighth sefira on the Tree of Life, Leary's model isn't so much a yellow brick road to transcendence or a promised land, but rather a map of what's already there, either experienced or uncharted by the individual. And as RAW points out, the eight circuits are only a convenient way of mapping consciousness — and the map is not the territory.

The eighth circuit in Leary's model is the Non-Local Quantum Circuit, which is imprinted on the consciousness "by Shock, by 'near-death' or 'clinical death' experience, by OOBEs (out-of-body-experiences), by trans-time perceptions ("precognition"), by trans-space visions (ESP), etc. It tunes the brain into the non-local quantum communication system suggested by physicists such as Bohm, Walker, Sarfatti, Bell, etc." Recall that the non-local refers to the software, or consciousness itself. Not to discount the Buddhist, Christian or Jewish models, but of all the eights, this one seems to map onto Lost more accurately than the rest. Just take Desmond as our test rabbit: He had a near-death experience in the Swan Station; his software was shaken loose from its hardware and is free-roaming across time, creating out-of-body-type experiences; he's certainly had precognitive moments (like every time he saved Charlie); and what were his flashes in "Flashes Before Your Eyes" and "The Constant" if not trans-space (and trans-time) visions? But again, as RAW is quick to point out, the model hardly represents the whole system.

The non-local quantum circuit is the least mystical, if no less weird, of the models presented. Are there any more scientific models we can turn to? Maybe in Faraday's work?

When Faraday is paging through his journal at the end of the episode, a few things jump out, like the Lorentz Invariant (a constant in physics), and the picture he drew of large dots connected by lines. This is another one of those screengrab moments, because this looks like he's trying to map out a hypercube, or tesseract.
Faraday's hypercube
A good place to turn here is Harvard physicist Lisa Randall's 2005 book Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe's Hidden Dimensions (Charlie Rose did a good interview with her a while back, and it's available on Google Video and YouTube; she was also recently on Stephen Colbert's show).

Randall's work focuses on the possibility that there may be many more dimensions to our universe, but we are not equipped to experience with our senses. In 1884, Edwin A. Abbott wrote the book Flatland that helps Randall explain the point: Flatland is a place where everyone exists in only two dimensions. A square isn't convinced that there is only their two dimensions, but can't convince anyone of this. Then he is visited by a three-dimensional sphere from Spaceland; the square can't wrap its mind around this object (which in flatland wouldn't look like a ball, but a circle) until the sphere takes the square to Spaceland, and the square can experience three-dimensional space. From that perspective, the square understands what it was missing in Flatland. But when the square suggests to the sphere that there may be more than even three dimensions, the sphere is offended and sends it back to Flatland. The square spends the rest of its days despairing over its inability to convince anyone in the two-dimensional world that another dimension exists. (Strangely, this story maps nicely on to Joseph Campbell's archetypal hero trope from The Hero With a Thousand Faces.)

Randall makes no sweeping claims about the existence of other dimensions, but puts out what the math suggests and poses some hypotheses to be tested. One of these hypotheses is that other dimensions may exist in what parallel universes that we can't experience, called branes (short for membrane). She even suggests that experiencing these other dimensions could be impeded by parallel universes, but these are conceived of in a specific way. Here's a thought experiment: If you have a couple sheets of paper handy, hold one a few inches above the other. Call these sheets of paper branes (short for membranes; if it helps, the other sheet of paper could be a stack of newspaper, or something that physically differentiates it from the first). These different sheets/universes/branes are existing within a larger megaverse. One sheet/brane would be our universe, and our galaxy might be a small pencil dot on that sheet. That brane is capable of expressing certain dimensions, like length, width, and depth; if you're in that brane, those are the dimensions you can experience. The other sheet/brane would be another universe, and it might be capable of expressing different dimensions that we can't experience from our brane, just like in Abbott's Flatland. Physicist Brian Greene produced a three-hour special on these issues for NOVA called The Elegant Universe that dives into this material, and it can be viewed online. The third hour gets into examples of branes. There's also a discussion on why it's so difficult for us to imagine dimensions beyond our typical three (we have enough trouble wrapping our heads around time).

An example Randall uses to explain dimensions and branes is of a water droplet on window or shower curtain; that water droplet is stuck on that two-dimensional surface within a larger three-dimensional room. Likewise, it's possible that we're stuck on a three-dimensional brane, even if other dimensions exist. And if they do exist, we don't even know if we could perceive these other dimensions; they could be very tiny, or warped. One of the problems of physics is trying to figure out why gravity is so weak compared to the other forces in nature (in a tug of war between a magnet and gravity over a paper clip, the magnet always wins). One of Randall's hypotheses is that gravity actually exists on another brane, and is exerting a weak force on our brane. (There's a model in John Gribbin's book Q is for Quantum: An Encyclopedia of Particle Physics that shows how branes might look.) In 2008 CERN's Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland will go into operation, and will conduct particle physics experiments that will hopefully answer some of these questions.

One way Randall and others geometrically model multiple dimensions/universes/branes is with a hypercube. Hypercubes are multi-dimensional projections of three-dimensional cubes, which we probably couldn't perceive anyway since we're stuck with three-dimensional vision, but they work mathematically. A zero-dimensional cube (0-cube) is a dot • ; a 1-cube is a line — ; a 2-cube is a square □ ; a 3-cube is a three-dimensional cube, etc. Each added number represents another dimension that cube exists within. For Lost, the 4-cube, or tesseract, is interesting; it's also called an octachoron because it is bounded by eight cubicle cells (there's that eight again).

And with that we're back to Faraday, because it looks like Faraday is working on a model of a tesseract in his journal.
Faraday's hypercube & tesseract
Some of the planes/dimensions he maps out are imaginary space, imaginary time, real time, and space-time. In Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time (the book Sawyer read in "Deus Ex Machina"), tesseracts figure in heavily. The protagonist, Meg Murry, has two scientist parents, and her astrophysicist father is missing. A mysterious Mrs. Whatsit appears at the Murry household one stormy night, and after a sandwich, proceeds to tell Dr. Kate Murry "There is such a thing as a tesseract." They come to learn from the strange woman that a tesseract is the fifth dimension after time, and it can bend space and time — an unknown dimension, rather like what Randall discusses with the hypercube example. By using a tesseract, a straight line no longer becomes the shortest distance between two points; why follow the line, when you can bend the two points together? It sounds almost like how the island is accessed, especially if that island doesn't exist in this dimension.

VIII. Eight-Dimension Spin Cycle
in which something is done to rein in the sprawl and make it seem like it might all make sense.

That's a lot of material revolving around the number eight, but what's tying it all together? There's one particular structural element to the episode that puts eight right at its core:

Des has eight flashes throughout the episode.

1.) On the helicopter to sleeping in the Camp Millar barracks;

2.) On the freighter yelling that he's not supposed to be there to drilling out in the rain at Camp Millar;

3.) Dr. Ray checking his eyes to walking in the rain and getting in the phone booth;

4.) On the satellite phone getting the settings from Faraday to waking up at the bottom of the phone booth in Camp Millar and going to find Faraday at Oxford;

5.) Talking to Minkowski and finding out he was seeing calls from Penelope to waking up in Faraday's Oxford lab;

6.) Leaving the freighter sick bay to waking up in a stairwell and going to the Southfields auction;

7.) Holding Minkowski when he dies to waking up on the Southfields bathroom floor;

8.) Calling Penelope from the freighter on Christmas Eve, 2004 to leaving Penelope's place in 1996.

In the final flash, something odd happens. Des comes back to the freighter right when he needs to remember the number, and he just got that number from his flash. When he calls from the freighter, we can hear the phone ringing, and we still hear it ringing when the scene flashes back to Desmond leaving Penelope's place in 1996. The scene is very subtle, because before we were back on the freighter, we were just at the point of Desmond leaving. In other episodes a scene will cut to a flashback, but no other scene in "The Constant" cuts back to a flashback like this, and it does so at the point when Desmond establishes his constant. In that moment, London 1996 and freighter 2004 are connected, as if by a tesseract (at least a narrative one), and Desmond transcends his circumstances and keys in to an unchanging element that will keep his head from imploding. The notion of multiple dimensions is raised through the flashes and Faraday's tesseract, and the way consciousness becomes unstuck echoes RAW's notion that the software of consciousness is non-local — and may very well be part of another dimension that we don't quite get. Maybe now that Faraday has discovered his constant, he'll remember that meeting from 1996. The audience has also been on this flash ride with Desmond, and with this episode we learn why and how it happens, giving us a kind of constant as well.

The theme of the number (our constant?) is reflected in the very architecture of the episode, making "The Constant" possibly the most intricately structured episode of Lost to date. This kind of thematic structuring is what classical and Renaissance artists and architects did when they took classical ratios and had them reflected at the macro and micro levels of the work to create intrinsic harmony and resonance. The eight idea resonates throughout the episode in theme, structure, symbolism. This is not to say that the episode was designed as carefully as suggested above, but at this point many of the themes have already been established and are now being recuperated while questions are answered. If all the thematic pieces were designed to fit together, the writers may not need to over-plan an episode, because the structure is implicit.

But this is just a reading; the map is not the territory.

So it goes.

Books mentioned in this post

  1. Slaughterhouse-Five, Or, the...
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  2. Collected Writings of Rousseau #06:... New Trade Paper $40.25

  3. Mavericks of the Mind: Interviews Used Trade Paper $8.50
  4. The Portable Emerson: New Edition... New Trade Paper $20.00

  5. W.E.B. Du Bois and American... New Trade Paper $62.75
  6. VALIS Used Trade Paper $9.50

  7. Prometheus Rising
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  8. Warped Passages: Unraveling the...
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  9. Slaughterhouse-Five
    Used Trade Paper $8.00
  10. Julie, Or New Heloise (97 Edition) Used Trade Paper $27.00
  11. The Illuminatus! Trilogy
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  12. Cosmic Trigger Volume 1 Final Secret...
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  13. Mavericks of the Mind: Interviews Used Trade Paper $6.95
  14. Prometheus Rising
    Used Trade Paper $17.50
  15. The Portable Emerson: New Edition... Used Trade Paper $6.50
  16. The Souls of Black Folk (Penguin... Used Trade Paper $4.95
  17. W.E.B. Du Bois and American... New Trade Paper $62.75
  18. VALIS Used Trade Paper $6.95
  19. Warped Passages: Unraveling the...
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  20. The Hero with a Thousand Faces
    Used Trade Paper $8.50
  21. Q Is for Quantum: An Encyclopedia of...
    Used Trade Paper $9.50

J. Wood is the author of Living Lost: Why We're All Stuck on the Island

83 Responses to "Lost: The Constant & Non-Local Brain Games"

    Jeff Jensen March 2nd, 2008 at 4:18 pm


    As always, love your interface with the show and what you bring out of it. One question for you: how certain are you that 2004 Desmond Consciousness WASN'T totally MIA for the entire episode?

    It seemed to me that what happened was that: 1: 2004 Desmond Consciousness was zapped and displaced from its body, and sidelined until the very end; and

    2. 1996 Desmond Consciousness became unstuck in time and was the mind that toggled between past and present Desmond bodies.

    If Desmond Consciousness 2006 was indeed not present at all during the drama, how does that affect your "double consciousness" angle in your analysis?

    Bill Hrdina March 2nd, 2008 at 5:23 pm

    J- Insightful as always and great to see Robert Anton Wilson getting some coverage- I think he's the most important writer/philosopher of the late 20th century (I like him so much I publish my own books with the company name 'Fnord publishing').
    In addition to the angles you discussed, another parallel between RAW and Lost I find interesting is the idea of ambiguity as to who the "bad guys" are.
    In Illuminatus! the exact identity of the people in the Illuminati (for those who haven't read it- the Illuminati are the "bad guys" and the Discordians are the "good guys" inso far as these terms have meaning in RAW's books) but then this notion is swapped and swapped again several times throughout the narrative so by the end you're not even sure who you're supposed to be rooting for (which is largely the point of the exercise).
    This parallels the whole journey we're on with Jack and Locke and Ben and Alpert and Sayid and Dharma and the Widmore's and Hanso and even the island itself- its hard to know who we're supposed to be rooting for (This is not a criticism). Is Ben a hero because he's protecting the island- did he mean what he said when he claimed to be 'the good guy' and when the show's over- will we agree? And can we really assume the island is good and should be protected? (Or is it- like the gnostic God- evil and insane?) Maybe Widmore knows something the rest of us don't and he'll end up being the good guy?
    Maybe Jack is "right" to not have faith- because faith is blind and the first thing we see in the first episode is an opening eye. I don't know, and in many ways, finding out isn't going to be as good as mulling over the possibilities. But, of course, observation collapeses the waveform! Great stuff. Hail Eris!!

    LennyP March 2nd, 2008 at 6:07 pm

    Have you read William Hope Hodgson's Carnacki stories, about a detective who investigates both the natural and the supernatural, and who lived at 472 Cheyne Walk, a few doors down from Penny's apartment? I've not read the stories for a while, but they might be worth further exploration; given the care Lost's writers put into the show (thank you!), the street address surely has some significance. Thanks for the excellent blog.

    KWeed March 2nd, 2008 at 6:39 pm

    J - Thank you, thank you, thank you for this amazing post! I've been dying to read your analysis of this episode.

    After reading your post, the book I turned to was "Dante's Divine Comedy". Your talk of paths to transcendent places immediately made me think of Dante's journey through the Inferno, Purgatorio, and eventual trascendence into Paradise.

    Much like Desmond had to reconnect with Penny before his consciousness could transcend, Dante had to reconnect with Beatrice before he could trascend into Heaven.

    When I revisited this book, I was hoping that the number 8 would be more important to Dante's journey, as I remembered an obsession with numbers in the "Divine Comedy" almost as manic as that in Lost. However, Dante's emphasis was on the number 3 (because of the Holy Trinity) or multiples of 3 - i.e. 3 canticas each composed of 33 cantos, 9 circles of Hell, 9 spheres of Heaven, etc.

    Interestingly enough, Dante's 8th circle of Hell was Fraud, and the Freighties are certainly operating under false pretenses. In the 8th sphere of Heaven, Dante is tested on Faith, Hope and Love, and Desmond's 8 flashes certainly test his Faith, Hope and Love...

    ...and, just for fun, Dante's Inferno was shaped like a funnel circling down into the center of the earth.

    That's all I've got, all be it weak in comparison. I guess we can't all trascend our comprehension... ;)

    Charlotte March 2nd, 2008 at 7:06 pm

    I see two different instances of time play in this episode. Desmond's consciousness is time-tripping from the past to the present (how did his consciousness get unstuck in 1996? In "Flashes Before Our Eyes" his consciousness traveled back in time from the moment of the Swan implosion), while the Island seems to be experienceing its own dilation or fluctuation (12/24 off-Island, 12/26 Island time).

    As spacetime is warped by gravity and electromagnetism is stronger than gravity, can the electro-magnetic properties of the Island be causing both phenomena? Did the Purple Sky event cause a time dilation (a fraction of a section dilation on day one can grow exponentially to a day and a half from the time of the PS event to the 'present' time)?

    I've been appreciating how the show is moving from dichotomies to dualities (good/evil; us/them; science/faith; wilderness/civilization; implosion/esplosion) and the way that things and people that seemed contradictory or at inherent odds with each other are becoming parts of the same. And now past and future have become mixed together.

    Counterpoint is an important element in the show, with its conflicting or opposite characters: Jack/Locke; Jack/Sawyer; Hurley/Sayid; Locke/Eko; Kate/Shannon. The Desmond and Penny relationship is echoed and counterpointed by the Sun and Jin relationship, where the poor boy marries the rich girl but with not completely happy results. Jin took the job with Sun's father while Desmond turned down the job with Penny's father. Paik ordered Jin to kill Jae Lee to restore his honor, while Widmore repeated questioned Desmond's courage and honor. Widmore apparently approved of Penny's fiance in opposition to his daughter's love for Desmond, while Paik allowed Sun to marry the poor Jin while arranging for the murder of Jae Lee, who would have made a more acceptable husband for Sun.

    Anyway, that's enough from me.

    Four Leaf Clover March 2nd, 2008 at 7:12 pm

    Great stuff as always J. You continue to weave together heavy material quite well.

    I'm wondering if Widmore bought the journal because he thought it might contain valuable information about the island's whereabouts, or was it just a front to potentially divert attention from another hidden agenda of his concerning the island. Could he be one of the alpha males moving the chess pieces?

    Also, did anyone catch the name of the boat?

    ruggerport March 2nd, 2008 at 7:33 pm

    what an amazing tour de force of perhaps the most powerful episode yet.

    Viewing Lost would not be nearly as interesting witout your analysis.

    For those who came from Doc Jensen's: Suggest you read some of the earlier posts, which are not as scientifically oriented as this.

    J: WE are not worthy. Please continue the great work.

    allison March 2nd, 2008 at 7:41 pm

    The constant was my favorite LOST episode so far. Amazingly written, acted, and filmed. I was very much looking forward to your post J, and, as always, you did not disappoint! Very impressive anaysis. Thank you!

    Sara March 2nd, 2008 at 7:47 pm

    Sometimes I feel like I need to get a secondary degree in physics to truly appreciate your reviews, but I still love reading them. Thank you for putting so much work into helping us expand our minds and appreciate "Lost" on so many different and fascinating levels.

    Miss Scarlett March 2nd, 2008 at 8:43 pm

    Honestly - have you had this information lurking in your mind over the years? or are you discovering some of this via Lost research?

    Either way, your review is insightful and intimidating, expansive and exciting.

    I am starting to look forward to your posts as much as a new episode of Lost.

    mechteld March 2nd, 2008 at 9:09 pm

    You would enjoy a story called "The Night Face Up" by Argentine author Julio Cortazar, about a guy who thinks he's having a dream, but he's in two times. It is great fun anticipating ypur column, a terrific weekly ritual. Thanks

    J. Wood (Post Author) March 2nd, 2008 at 9:53 pm

    Hi Doc,

    That's a great question. I was looking for tells in the episode to try to track where he's at. You may be right -- I'm not certain that the Desmond from past episodes (2004 Desmond) is there at all; we only see 1996 Desmond carrying out orders he got from Faraday when Faraday talked to the 2004 Desmond with the 1996 head.

    But as far as a doubled consciousness goes, the information that 1996 Desmond uses comes from 2004, and 1996 Desmond is effectively shaken from his foundations and exposed to what 2004 Desmond was experiencing. So I think my answer would be that even if that's 1996 Desmond throughout the majority of the episode, he's forced to incorporate information that is part of 2004 Desmond's experience and just move on (the island, the helicopter, the freighter, Penny, and all that). He's essentially forced to inhabit a role, like an actor or the way a writer develops a character, and assume this alternative future persona on top of his own in order to solve his problem.

    Does that make any sense?

    LennyP, I've not read Hodgson. From what I just looked up, he sounds like he fits right in with the panorama of influential 19th century authors (Verne, Doyle, Wells, Lovecraft). If you know of any particular book that seems to be playing into the narrative, let us know about it.

    Charlotte, to map out all those webs of thematic and character connections, paragraphs just don't serve, I know. You'd need a wall-size white board to get just the characters down, and then move to the next wall to start mapping out the themes -- let alone how the themes are related back to the character interactions. It's one of the reasons I'm glad they set an end date, so they can spin all those plates without adding too much more.

    J. Wood (Post Author) March 2nd, 2008 at 10:00 pm

    Sara, I studied the sciences for a couple years in college, but physics is really nothing more than an interest. I'm a dilettante, and I've been spanked for unknowingly misrepresenting some ideas in physics in the past. In fact I'm taking some of the stuff I'm working on now to some physicists and philosophers before I put it out, just to make sure the layman's account is not too embarrassing.

    Both Brian Greene and Lisa Randall have great ways of presenting complex mathematical physics information in an understandable form, and are good people to turn to. (Turns out they were in the same high school class at Stuyvesant, too.)

    Thomas March 2nd, 2008 at 10:37 pm

    Knew I should have studied Physics in college..sigh. I'm not convinced that the island is a different dimension, from the main world. The fact that it was Christmas eve 2004 on the boat and at Penny's location, and the date fits with the time period since the plane went down seems important to me, particularly considering the stress placed on the dates during the show. I'll admit that this episode was one where I think we got answers but don't necessarily know the right questions to ask yet, like the number 42 in "Hitchhiker's guide to the Galaxy".

    Jeffrey March 2nd, 2008 at 11:38 pm

    Channeling back to my 1976 self and looking at Dynamite magazine with my 3D glasses I am coming to the end of "Black Dossier" (with its 3D section)which does name check Carnacki as one of the Murray group and deals with the third dimension as it relates to the two dimensional characters of the written page - with a strange island to boot.
    Again at the risk of sounding Kubrick obsessed (8 films in the DVD Kubrick Collection) "The Constant" is the most Kubrickian episode so far from the "Full Metal Jacket" barracks complete with Pvt. Pyle screw-ups to the "Dr. Srangelove" Bat Guano phone booth scene with loose change to "The Shining" with its model maze, open-door pantry (sick bay), and vandalized radio room. Also, with "Strangelove" there is an emphasis on numbers and the triangle form of the War Room.
    Speaking of 8, how does this infinite number fit in with the Oceanic Six plus the Two who didn't make it?

    Dan March 3rd, 2008 at 1:19 am

    J Wood, first thanks for putting the time into such a detailed and interesting analysis. Here is a rough synopsis of my reaction to your review over at Dark UFO:

    I loved the episode, but Lost treads on some fragile ground if it pushes a dualistic system of consciousness and matter. Darwin would seem to forcefully suggest mind evolves and emerges in the world of matter. Now, Whitehead does explain that every actual occasion is constituted by its relationships with other occasions and other occasions are all partially constituted by their relationship to this occasion so in a sense everything is present everywhere. However, Whitehead's recognition (or Teilhard's for that matter) that every event/all matter has a mental pole to it does not equate to any sort of gnostic/dualistic mind jumping that could result if Lost goes down that road. Mind body dualism is incoherent if one takes evolution seriously. Perhaps, they will go down a road akin to Monads (not really into Leibniz, but throwing out another possibility) or occasions all simultaneously constituting each other so that this is not a dualistic system being set up by the Lost writers, but the above explanation borders dangerously close to dualism in my book. I would still find a dualistic Lost universe entertaining but far less satisfying.

    J Wood please tell me we are not headed toward mind/body or soul/body dualism. I could live with neo-platonism or even Bergson's dualism (I once had a theory that the Island was an/the entry point for the Elan Vital into Earth therefore people got healed, lots of useful plants could be found by Sun and Artz finding all sorts of species due to the sheer overflowing of vitality at that point but it seems any Bergsonian interpretation no longer fits with what the show is giving us). However, mind-body dualism just seems beneath this writing team at some level.

    Provan March 3rd, 2008 at 1:34 am

    In reference to 'Divine Comedy' it's good to note that Hell has 9 circles (a land of 2-dimensions), while Heaven is 9 spheres (3-dimensions) and the Terraces of Purgatory are like the droplet on a glass (3-dimensional, but constrained to 2).

    Also, the suggestion of anything higher than Heaven (or greater than God) is sometimes taken as offense and might result in the all-mighty sphere sending your questioning-circle-self back down from where you came.

    Great post again! I look forward to them each week about as much as I do for the episodes themselves.

    Michal Kamp March 3rd, 2008 at 1:44 am

    There is only one connection between Desmond and Charles Dickens. In my opinion on auction was something about book "Our Mutual Friend", maybe the original text or Dickens's notes or something similar.

    URy March 3rd, 2008 at 3:54 am

    Hello from Spain...
    there are some points I could'nt understand about the Constant...

    Des tells Penny he woun't call since 24-December-04, but between this conversation and the call, they have been dating till the crash, I'm I right? So why is he so suprised she still cares? When was the photo made?

    Second and moore important...

    Penny tells Des that she has been looking for him for the past three years. Does that mean that it has passed 3 years since the crash out the island and 100 days in it?

    Maybe Penny isn't answering in 24-december 2004 but some other day 2007 or 2008.

    Juno Walker March 3rd, 2008 at 4:31 am

    J -

    "When he calls from the freighter, we can hear the phone ringing, and we still hear it ringing when the scene flashes back to Desmond leaving Penelope's place in 1996."

    Are you saying that 1996 Desmond heard the phone ringing from 2004, or that he heard Penny's phone ringing at the apartment as he was walking away? I'm not so sure that's what happened. I'll have to rewatch the epi, but what I remember is that as Desmond walks away from Penny's apartment, we see him smiling and we see Penny in the background closing her drapes. I don't remember hearing the phone ring at that point. Or maybe I'm misunderstanding you...

    Regarding the Casimir effect from the Orchid video: I googled the Casimir effect and found that a story was circulating in 2007 about how researchers from St. Andrew's in Scotland "have worked out a way of reversing this phenomenon, known as the Casimir force, so that it repels instead of attracts."

    I'm thinking (and hoping) that the speculative science Darlton et al., have in mind is this type of thing. The researchers said that the reversal allows an opening on the nano-scale of things (not visible to the naked eye).

    Since people like physicist Kip Thorne thought wormholes were possible if they could be kept open long enough, and since physicist Roger Penrose believes consciousness is a result of quantum fluctuations in the microtubules of neurons, perhaps DHARMA found a way (using massive electromagnetism) to reverse the Casimir effect to make the "hole" large enough for a person's consciousness to travel through time -and maybe even bunny rabbits!!

    That was a quick and dirty description of what I've found, but I didn't want to write a tome on the subject in the comments section :)


    Tom Von Doom March 3rd, 2008 at 4:50 am

    Well, here we are again. I thought that Penny's 2004 christmas setting was very elaborate for a single girl. A huge decorated tree, etc. I wonder if Penny's not married with a family like in the Rousseau book.
    I also wonder if the reason babies and moms die on the island has something to do with them becoming unstuck in time, not a viral cause as I thought earlier.
    I recently started watching the series from the beginning again, and I was struck by Locke in episode 2, describing backgammon to Walt: "There are 2 sides , one light and one dark...." That really is our whole show, isn't it?

    23skidoo March 3rd, 2008 at 8:17 am

    Non-locality and the idea that there is no past, present and future time -- that all things are happening now -- solve (maybe) what I originally thought was a paradox, with Dan giving Desmond information in the present to help Dan solve his experiment in the past. If consciousness is trans-temporal, then Desmond always knew, and forever will know, the information, which avoids the paradox.

    I'm feeling sorta Zen right now.

    Messenger88 March 3rd, 2008 at 8:25 am

    The Constant is without doubt one of the best and definitive episodes of the series.
    The line from Faraday about side effects has me wondering if this is how the writers will explain "tall ghost Walt" and what Michael is going to look like when we see him again...will he be aged in conjunction with Walt because they took the same "path" away from the island? And wasn't that a knowing smile from Desmond v.1994 as he walked away from Penny's apartment at the end of the episode? Won't the eight years between Desmond 2.1 and Desmond 2.2 be affected by the circumstances of this experience? How can he not be affected by what he just experienced, and how can it not influence his behavior?

    Nathalie March 3rd, 2008 at 9:58 am

    The Flatland story also makes me think of "A Wrinkle in Time," because they briefly stop on a two-dimensional planet on their travels. But they are forced to leave quickly, because the children are not able to adjust their three-dimensional bodies to a flat world and can't breath. I always liked that part of the story, because it shows them trying to move "backwards" in scal down to two dimensions, rather than trying to move "forwards" toward tessering like the rest of the book.

    Nathalie March 3rd, 2008 at 10:12 am

    Did it seem to anyone else that Desmond jumped after touching metallic objects?

    nigel March 3rd, 2008 at 10:37 am

    The William Hope Hodgson connection will be confirmed in two weeks' time when the freighter's captain is introduced.

    Perelandra March 3rd, 2008 at 11:00 am

    Does anyone else think that the prominence of water in this episode meant anything? Not to mention water in Desmond and Charlie's interactions last season as well as Charlie's hallucinations that led to the baptism of Claire and Aaron in Season 2.

    Baptism represents both death (going down into the Waters of Death) and rebirth into new life. Baptistries and baptismal fonts are traditionally eight-sided because they belong to the New Creation begun on Easter Sunday, the "eighth" day of the week. (Jewish circumcision, which parallels Christian baptism, happens on the eighth day of life.)

    Eight is the symbol of Paradise, imagined as a place richly watered by Christians and Muslims. Eight is also an auspicious number across the Far East.

    Finally, if the Black Rock vanished in the 1840s, why is there dynamite aboard the wreck on the Island? Nobel didn't invent that until 1866.

    Your comments, Mr. Wood, are a wonderful enhancement of the show.

    Paul March 3rd, 2008 at 11:09 am


    Regarding why 2004 Daniel didn't remember the 1996 meeting with Des, my conjecture is the he does remember it after Desmond's consciousness returns to the freighter in 04 and he successfully contacts Penny. At that point, Des has altered the past, has been in contact with 1996 Daniel, and so, the present (and future) are updated to reflect this. Its akin to Des altering the time line when he saves Charlie - Charlie doesn't die when he's supposed to, the past is changed, and suddenly he's a great swimmer. This is why Daniel is flipping through his journal so frantically at the end - b/c there is now something there for him to remember.

    Also, recall that Desmond and Daniel did not know each other when Juliette retrieved Des from the beach at in the Economist. Desmond went up to Daniel and asked why Naomi had a picture of his beloved Penny - there was no recognition by either Daniel or Desmond then b/c Desmond had not yet altered the past. That was still a couple of days away.

    One thing that strikes me as odd - the plane crashed somewhere in the south Pacific not too far from Fiji. If so, why did they find the wreckage from Oceanic 815 northwest of Australia near Bali? And why has there been no comment on this in the show when the flight was initially reported on tv in episode 2 or among the new characters?

    Keep up the great work!

    Donna March 3rd, 2008 at 11:53 am

    First, J, thank you so much for putting in so much time to add to our enjoyment of the various dimensions (no pun intended) of LOST.

    Regarding the phone ringing and the smile....
    My interpretation of 1996 Des smiling after 2004 Des calls Penny is that it is just a reflection of 1996 Des recognizing that he is finally "grounded" with 1996 mind in 1996 body and 2004 mind, etc....... I saw it as a smile of relief, and recognition that all would be well.

    Thomas March 3rd, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    Thoughts. Don't be surprised if the Oceanic 6 are "rescued" from a different region of the area as a way to protect the people still on the island.
    Why are some people unstuck in time like Desmond versus others like Sayid. Sayid was on the plane when the burst from the generator hit and brought the plane down, so his exposure should have left him vulnerable to the same effect as Desmond. Wonder why it didn't?

    Cobalt March 3rd, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    Brilliant commentary on a brilliant episode. I only recently found your blog via DarkUFO and another Lost-blog called Hatch 23, and I've gone back to read many of your previous posts. I enjoy how you pull so many different sources and concepts together. Whether all the references are intentional or not, the Lost producers and writers are incredibly well-read.

    I'm surprised that what I've seen so far, nobody's mentioned Kurt Vonnegut's other book regarding time travel, called 'Timequake'. Not only does one character get 'unstuck in time' in the plot, but the entire planet is shot back from 2001 to 1991. Granted, the premise is more an excuse for Vonnegut to reminesce and ramble, but it's also a study on the apparent lack of free will, something that comes up in Lost as well.

    Courtney March 3rd, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    As always, an enlightening post, J.

    I'm intrigued by the vile vortices - in addition to Fiji and Madagascar , the north pole, south pole, and what appears to be Tunisia are also vortex locations.

    We have two instances where the object/occurences on the Island mysteriously turned up elsewhere: the polar bear in Tunisia and Penny's Portuguese lookouts in the Arctic sensing the burst of electomagnetism when the Swan hatch imploded.

    Could the vortices serve as portals, of a sort, from the Island?

    I've been waiting for Slaughterhouse Five to make an appearance -- the Tralfamadorian's notion of time/space correlates well with the vibe on Lost.

    Paul March 3rd, 2008 at 1:54 pm


    >Why are some people unstuck in time >like Desmond versus others like Sayid.

    I think Desmond is unstuck in time b/c he was at ground zero when the hatch imploded and thus caught the full blast of electromagnetism. (Remember that Daniel asked if Des had been exposed to a lot of radiation or electromagnetism.) At the implosion time, Sayid was sailing around the coast with Sun and Jin and didn't take a direct hit.

    One curious thing about the hatch implosion is that Eko, Locke, and Charlie, all of whom were at ground zero, did not have any of the same after effects. None of them could get glimpses into the future, nor did any of them have their consciousness travel back in time. Perhaps you had to be as close as Des was or perhaps the "island" has bigger plans for Des that require him to become unstuck in time.

    One other thing about Des that I've been thinking about. His last glimpse of the future saw Charlie drowning and Clarie an Aaron getting on a helicopter. Since we now know Kate has Aaron in the future, I'm guessing Des saw a woman and Aaron getting on the copter in his vision and simply assumed it was Claire. Remember that he also though the parachutist coming to the island would be Penny, but turned out to be Naomi.

    Bicycle March 3rd, 2008 at 2:09 pm

    I wish someone would start a blog that analyzes J. Wood's analysis -- my head just exploded.

    Phutatorius March 3rd, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    Once again I'm amazed at your ability, J, to draw some sense out of one of the most perplexing episodes so far. One observation I might offer is that, outwardly at least, the symptoms Eloise, Minkowski, and Des display to an external observer, ie nosebleeds signifying an internal brain-bleed, are similar to those that Horace and Roger displayed back at the time of the purge. I expect to see those gas-masks dropped by the helicopter coming in handy soon.

    ruggerport March 3rd, 2008 at 6:23 pm

    I don't think we can discount parallel universes yet, and chalk it all up to one consciousness spanning past and future.

    remember Des clearly saw the arrow hit Charlie in the throat, killing him. But then it didn't happen. So it couldn't have been part of his future cosniousness in that universe/dimension, could it?

    And didn't Cuselof say there would be no time travel paradoxes?

    Also: Dan I did not comprehend a thing you wrote. Can you expand. Am I the only one who didn't get this comment?

    ruggerport March 3rd, 2008 at 6:25 pm



    Jeffrey March 3rd, 2008 at 10:37 pm

    Thomas...Perhaps something did happen to Sayid as he was the one who noticed that it was close to Xmas - strange thing to say for a Sunni Muslim. Just kidding...but it did kind of throw me.
    All this business with tesseracts reminds me of the film "Cube" with its prime numbers and the reordering of space/time or to put it in LA punk terms (X to be precise) "This is the game that moves as you play."
    Also, I can't get the word "freighter" out of my head as it seems to channel the "Black Freighter" from "Watchmen" and "The Threepenny Opera". I can't make a connection to Pirate Jenny (who sings about the freighter) but Mack the Knife was based on a real chap by the name of Jack Sheppard.

    StaggerLee March 3rd, 2008 at 11:16 pm

    Having read the last three of your blogs, guilt has now overcome me, I shall buy your book tomorrow...

    J Wood (Post Author) March 4th, 2008 at 2:20 am

    Jeffrey, something else to think about with Kubrick was his contentious relationship with the notion of god. There's a story -- not sure if it's apocryphal or not -- about Kubrick calling up Stephen King when shooting The Shining, and demanding to know if King believed in god. When King said yes, Kubrick said "Thought so" and hung up.

    Dan: (I believe Dan's talking about Alfred Whitehead, Pierre Teilhard and Henri Bergson, and I wouldn't be surprised if Dan's studied either philosophy or theology.) The first step here is to acknowledge that there's no real single version of "gnosticism" as such. That's a relatively new term, really brought out in the 19th c. to classify esoteric sects that broke from orthodox interpretations of scripture (theosophists like Blavatsky and Yeats were big figures in this). As such, some versions were dualistic, and some like the Valentinians moved towards trying to overcome seeming mind-body dualism to achieve a kind of transcendence, kind of like Buddhists (or Emerson). The Gospel of Truth is important to Valis, and is a Valentinian text.

    But I don't think we'll be getting any pat dualistic answers in Lost. For one thing, they've already gone out of their way to muddy up any dualism; just look at how the Lostaways are taking on the role of the Others. Hell, some of them are even sleeping in their beds. What does seem to be happening is the collapse of dualist models. Whether that collapse is into monism or not, I'm not certain; it seems to me to reject mind-body dualism in favor of monism is a fairly dualistic choice. But just some examples of the way that's been collapsed: Locke was physically impaired until he got to the island, but along with getting his legs back, he's developed a deep psychic connection with the island -- the mind and body are working together, not against each other. Sawyer is generally seen not just as physical but downright carnal, yet he's the cerebral reader. Eko was the brute who quoted scripture. Juliette is the brilliant researcher who has learned to assert and fend for herself on the island. Those sorts of examples suggest to me that an underlying theme to the entire narrative is that people tend to start from a dualistic position, but that dualism can be overcome.

    Provan -- I love those references, thanks for that. It's been a long time since I've been back to Dante.

    URy: Don't forget that Des wasn't on the plane, and had already been on the island for three years at the time of the crash. We may have more to see, but in Catch-22 Des asks Charles Widmore, Penelope's dad, for permission to marry Penelope. Charles tells him not a chance. Des got the photo taken with Penelope shortly after that, but he leaves Penelope because even though he loves her, he doesn't think he can take care of her (which was what Charles said). That's all in 1996. Since he was on the island for three years before the crash, that means he started his sailing race in 2001. He was preparing for some time for that race, maybe a year or so, so we can say he was training in 2000. But we also know he was in prison before that, for what we don't yet know, but we know Charles has something to do with it. So between 1996, when he reluctantly broke up with Penny and then told her he'd call her in 8 years, and 2000, Desmond was doing time. He wrote Penny during that time, but Charles Widmore intercepted all the letters, which drove Des to win Widmore's own sailing race.

    Juno, I had to watch the scene a few times, because I didn't catch it the first two. What I meant about the final scene was that it was for us: We hear the phone line ringing in London from the phone on the freighter, and when the scene shifts to 1996, we still hear the phone ringing. It's kind of appropriate that the link is made through a symbol of communication, too. So we're meant to tie those to points together, and it's at that point when Des basically grounds himself and unifies his past and present. What I likes so much about it is that we're just as lost as Des is in those jumps, and we get re-established right along with Des with that subtle connection. Film/television can be great for those sorts of moves, because they're meant to act on our experience of the story, but not necessarily to be registered consciously.

    I remember reading about those experiments in Scotland with the Casimir Effect -- weren't they suggesting that it'd make levitation possible or something wacky like that?

    Dr. Doom, that's exactly what I was thinking. I mentioned that to a friend today. If Penny does have another man, it'll bear out the Rousseau novel.

    Messenger88: Yeah, one question is does the 2004 Des now remember the stuff from 1996, or is 2004 Des now gone. The smile Des gives when he walks away from Penny's place is a bit ambiguous; if it's like Doc was suggesting, then we had 1996 Des up until the end, but at that end point, Doc suggested 2004 Des found his way back once he established his constant. If it's all consistent, then, maybe in the final shots, that was 2004 Des both on the phone in the freighter and walking away from Penny's place. Paul may have it right in his comment. I don't know; I know Darlton have been very vocal about the dangers of playing with spacetime in narratives, and that they've very carefully planned this to make sure there's no paradox, so I'm curious to see how this turns out.

    Perelandra, nice catch. It's actually not all that clear that the ship did actually disappear in 1845, because in the Lost Experience, Rachel Blake has records of it disappearing in 1881 in the South Indian Ocean. What's more, it was leaving with gold, but rather than heading west to Africa to exchange it, the ship headed east. There's as much mystery around that ship as around Flight 815. I'm willing to bet the 1845 disappearance was a fraud, like the wreckage in the Sunda Trench may be.

    Paul, as for finding the wreckage off Bali, we still don't know if that was the real wreckage or not. From what Lapidus said when he saw the news report, the pilot wasn't the right pilot, and that wreckage could be a scam.

    Thomas, as for why Sayid's not having the same jumps as Des, Paul's got that covered. But Locke has certainly had his share of weirdness since the implosion, and Desmond more so. So I think it was that dose that got them (and Minkowski mentions that high doses of radiation or electromagnetism can start the side effects).

    Courtney: That one in Africa is right on the Algerian/Mali/Mauritania border. That made me think of Yemi/Eko's plane; when they took off from Nigeria, if they went over that space, they may have gone through a vortex that jetted them to the island.

    Phutatorius, that's interesting about the bleeding. I wonder if they are indeed connected. The purge resonated with some strong Holocaust imagery, and my sense watching that was this was a lot like zyklon-b (hydrogen cyanide). That attacks hemoglobin, basically choking off the oxygen in the blood and is highly corrosive to mucous membranes inside eyes and noses. But the flashes Des and Minkowski go through seem to be doing something similar -- at least drawing out similar effects. (It also reminded me of ebola.)

    AAAND ruggerport: I don't think we can discount parallel universes either. What Robert Anton Wilson might suggest is that consciousness itself is in some other realm like a parallel universe, and in that way is non-local; the way it interacts with our hardware in this 3D universe is local, but it does so in a similar way as Lisa Randall describes gravity working on this universe (that gravity should be much stronger, but is relatively weak, possibly because gravity is located in another brane/universe and is just sort of radiating out to us). With Des seeing Charlie getting skewered in the throat, I think that's where something like David Lewis's possible worlds stuff comes into play, where things differ only in kind, not in content.

    But I'm not sure that consciousness spanning past/present/future and Des' future visions are incompatible. When Des flashed forward and saw Charlie as shish kabob, that was according to a given set of circumstances, and if those circumstances don't alter, that's what happens. Des just chooses to alter the circumstances, which spins off another set of circumstances where the world conspires to off Charlie. I was going to try to explain a model I use to kind of wrap my head around this stuff, but as I started writing it, it sort of collapsed on me and seemed to make it more complicated than necessary. Let's just say it had to do with gears and clockwork.

    viking March 4th, 2008 at 7:34 am

    URy wrote:
    "Des tells Penny he won't call since 24-December-04, but between this conversation and the call, they have been dating till the crash, I'm I right? So why is he so surprised she still cares? When was the photo made?

    Second and more important...

    Penny tells Des that she has been looking for him for the past three years. Does that mean that it has passed 3 years since the crash out the island and 100 days in it?"

    No, as we learned at the beginning of Season 2, and in the "Flashes before your eyes" episode in Season 3, Desmond came to the Island 3 years before the crash of 815, so he arrived in 2001. He was not on the plane -- he was taking part in a round-the-world sailboat race and crashed/landed on the Island in a storm. He was in the Swan station for those 3 years, and most likely caused the crash of 815 when he didn't enter the numbers in time and the station discharged.

    As established here, he and Penny broke up before (or in) 1996, when he was in the military (and "Flashes..." showed him looking at a poster for the Scottish Guard as he was walking around 199? London). The photo was made sometime before or in early 1996, just before Des broke up with Penny.

    Juno Walker wrote:
    "Are you saying that 1996 Desmond heard the phone ringing from 2004, or that he heard Penny's phone ringing at the apartment as he was walking away?"

    No, the sound of the phone ringing was a kind-of 'sound-over' to the scene of Des walking away from Penny's house in 1996. Right about when she picked up, we see the 1996 Des turn and look at her closing the drapes, and a smile comes on his face, like he knows (consciously or not) that the circle is complete, and he was successful.

    Valis March 4th, 2008 at 9:24 am

    When I get home from work I'm gonna have to dig out a short story I read last year where a man wakes up in the body of a woman who is in a nursing home. You learn that this woman is in a completely vegetative state but when the man's consciousness enters her he takes over her body. The man has to kind of fool the doctors that this woman is making a remarkable recovery so he can leave the home.

    The man (as the woman) eventually meets himself. The next day the man wakes up in his own body and relives meeting the woman. Then the next day his consciousness moves forward in time and lives the day as the woman. Its pretty interesting because his consciousness is traveling between bodies and also through time. The man learns that he needs to avoid his other self when he is in the future, otherwise it will be necessary to perform those actions when he goes back to his own body.

    Anyways, I'm not sure that made sense, but as presented in the story the future is open as long as he avoids his other self. Its in this sense that Daniel Faraday means that you cannot change the future. The moment that Desmond visits Faraday in the past is the moment that they are required to perform certain actions in the future and vise versa.

    kool March 4th, 2008 at 9:50 am

    To "URy"

    Desmond asked Charles Widmore for his blessing to marry Penny in 1996. Charles said Desmond wasn't good enough. Desmond started to believe this, so he left Penny and joined the army. This is the time that Des is flashing to in this episode.

    He was later discharged and put in a military prison for some reason. When he was released, we wanted to go after Penny again, but Charles was there once again to tell Desmond that he wasn't good enough for his daughter. He had intercepted all of Des's letters to Penny that he wrote while in prison. So, Desmond decides to enter the sailing race to prove himself. He goes to America for the start of the race and meets Libby, who gives him her dead husband's boat. This is also when he was training at the stadium and met Jack. Penny also came to the stadium and said she had tracked him down. She said he was joining the race to run away. He said he was running to get his honor back. This was in 2001. After 3 years on the island, it's now 2004.

    Four Leaf Clover March 4th, 2008 at 11:07 am

    Someone please refresh my memory:

    When Desmond and Jack met in the stadium, what was Jack doing there in the first place, and how did he hurt his ankle?
    So many Jack flashbacks, I can't remember them all.....

    Adam March 4th, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    Four Leaf Clover : Jack was running stairs at the stadium and hurt his ankle. This took place when he first met his wife who was awaiting surgery. If you recall, Jack was trying to find his 'bedside manner' at the time and then proceeded to tell his (future) wife, just before he operated on her "I'm going to fix you." or something like that. Desmond approached Jack at the Stadium when he saw him injure his foot and the two had a brief conversation that I believe ended with Desmond challenging Jack on whether or not he believed in miracles. This referenced the idea that Jacks' (future) wife might not walk again after her accident.

    Challabuck March 4th, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    J - Moladyets, as Patchy might say.

    Help me out here, tho'. Darlton have said that their Prime Directive with regards to the show's time travel is to avoid PARADOX at all costs. Sees to me that the task is ridiculous. I'll give the biggest example, which I've yet seen raised (forgive me if it has been). In brief, how is it possible that Desmond could inform 96-Farraday of the correct frequency when by the very nature of the "timeline" 04-Farraday only had that information through Desmond's travelling back in time? Let me rephrase. By the circular nature of events, it seems like the one missing event is the actual FIRST discovery of the frquency by Farraday himself. Clearly Farraday did not discover the frequency through trial and error since Desmond gave it to him. In effect, Desmond gave the correct frequency to 9-Farraday who took it 8 years into the future the good ol' fashioned way and then gave it back to Desmond. But where did the frequency originate from? No one actually discovered it, or did they? Is this not a bald paradox?

    Keep up the fabulous explication, chief.

    viking March 4th, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    FLC & Adam: And that was also the first time Des uttered the now-prophetic "See you in another life, brother" phrase.

    Courtney March 4th, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    Oops - I had my geog. a little off. Either way, if the vortices are portals of some kind, your analysis brought the concepts together very nicely.

    Phutatorius March 4th, 2008 at 3:22 pm

    Challabuck questioned whether or not there was a bald paradox involved in the question of where the settings for Farraday’s machine came from. In David K Lewis’ paper called “The Paradoxes of Time Travel” (refer to p. 74 of Lewis’ Philosophical Papers, Vol. II) Lewis specifically addresses this and says there is no paradox: “ … where did the information come from in the first place? Why did the whole affair happen? There is simply no answer. The parts of the loop are explicable, the whole of it is not. Strange! But not impossible …” Then Lewis compares this strangeness to God, the Big Bang, the entire past of the universe, and the uncaused, inexplicable decay of a tritium atom. I have been thumbing through Lewis’ Philosophical Papers and his “On the Plurality of Worlds,” thanks to J’s mention of Lewis a blog or two back, and I agree that there is much there which pertains to LOST.

    Also, I might mention that Marcel Proust in the opening pages of his “In Search of Lost Time” muses interestingly about the problem of the continuity of our mental existence: “When a man is asleep, he has in a circle round him the chain of the hours, the sequence of the years, the order of the heavenly bodies. Instinctively he consults them when he awakes, and in an instant reads off his own position on the earth’s surface …” and so on. It’s some very nice writing.

    John Moustache March 4th, 2008 at 4:48 pm

    Quick though as I'm reading through posts:

    This commentary of yours, J, is like the next dimension of the LOST experience itself. LOST exists in whatever narrative "dimensions" it inhabits, but the projection of that content into this dimension of review and analysis is the difference in appreciating a circle and a sphere.

    The show comes to life in these posts, J. And I'm wondering how much the creators and writers, before the show hit the air, were counting on such a literary-style review and research of the show to enrich the experience.

    Is LOST not literary Hip-hop?

    Juno Walker March 4th, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    Guys -

    Thanks for clearing up the 1996 Desmond/phone ringing thing. I thought that's what it might be. One of the few insightful essays from "The Matrix & Philosophy" was about musical scores in movies - and I suppose we could apply this to TV as well. The essayist said there were two types of music: music that both the characters and the audience can hear, and music that only the audience can hear.

    The former has meaning for the characters and us; and the latter has meaning for the audience alone. So the ringing we hear overlapping from 2004 to 1996 is obviously meant for us, but it also mirrors Desmond's recognition as well.

    Regarding the Scotland researchers and the Casmir Effect - you're right, it did involve levitation, but on a nanometer scale. But the Casimir Effect in relation to time travel was suggested by physicist Kip Thorne:

    "Exotic matter with negative energy density is required to stabilize a wormhole. Morris, Thorne and Yurtsever pointed out that the quantum mechanics of the Casimir effect can be used to produce a locally mass-negative region of space-time, and suggested that negative effect could be used to stabilize a wormhole to allow faster than light travel."

    I thought that might be relevant in light of the Orchid orientation video....


    Bridget March 4th, 2008 at 6:32 pm

    J. Wood on Desmond's 1996 consciousness in the 2004 Desmond body: "He's essentially forced to inhabit a role, like an actor or the way a writer develops a character, and assume this alternative future persona on top of his own in order to solve his problem." More than once, one of the Losties or one of the Others has said to another: "You are not supposed to do that." Locke said that to Jack when he was pointing a gun at him and telling him not to call the freighter. I remember thinking it was as though Locke thought Jack was not following their script. Maybe more characters than Desmond are being forced to inhabit a role.

    LennyP March 4th, 2008 at 7:13 pm

    I'm sure others have already asked about an update edition of your superb book on Lost; might one be out before Season Five?

    Paul March 4th, 2008 at 9:38 pm

    Challabuck asked "how is it possible that Desmond could inform 96-Farraday of the correct frequency when by the very nature of the "timeline" 04-Farraday only had that information through Desmond's travelling back in time?"

    Perhaps 04-Farraday figured this out sometime in 1997-2003, and thus, knew what coordinates to give 04-Des to tell 96-Farraday. Des does that in 1996, thus changing the past and the present. I think this is why 04-Farraday is shown frantically searching through his journal at the end of the episode, for he suspects or knows that things have been changed by Desmond.

    J - I have one more comment about the Oceanic wreckage. It surely looks like a fake to the audience, but in the Lost world, it seems odd that the remains would be found off the coast of Bali. Look at a map and you'll see that the wreckage location is northwest of Australia, a very out of the way place for a plane to have crashed considering that it was flying northeast out of Sydney, which is on the east coast of Australia. To use an analogy, it would be as if a plane on a Miami to London route disappeared, and the remains were found in the Pacific Ocean west of Washington. What is odd is that this has not garnered any attention on the show. There was no mention of it on the news broadcasts when the flight was discovered, and no one seems too surprised that the remains are where they're not supposed to be. Also, if someone was going to fake a plane crash, why do it so far out of the way.

    One final comment about the last scene. In season 2 we saw Desmond alone in the dank, dark hatch, without hope, until Locke is banging on the hatch door, which leads Desmond to carry on. In the end of the Constant, he is once again locked away in a dark, unfriendly place, but this time he has a friend (Sayid) to help him, and he has a better lifeline, contact with his beloved Pen. I dare say that is progress!

    John Holmes March 5th, 2008 at 12:15 am

    Dude you just blew my f'n mind

    Lauren Elkin March 5th, 2008 at 12:26 am

    This is brilliant, brilliant stuff. I linked to it but my link did it no justice. (

    Daniel F. March 5th, 2008 at 12:33 am

    Not sure if the Lost writers planned it, but there are similarities with Gilliam's 12 Monkeys in this episode. When they send James Cole back in time they're trying to get him to 1996. But he ends up in 1990 and when the psychiatrist asks, "What year do you think it is?" he has the same answer as Des to Faraday: 1996. In the next few scenes in 12 Monkeys James Cole keeps saying he needs to make an important phone call. While they're locked up Brad Pitt's character says to Cole: "Telephone call? That's communication with the outside world. Doctor's discretion."

    Daniel F. March 5th, 2008 at 12:48 am

    There's actually a ton of similarities to 12 Monkeys. Later when James Cole is back underground he tells the scientists: ""I don't think the human mind is meant to exist in two's just too's very don't know what's real and what's not."

    Challabuck March 5th, 2008 at 6:48 am

    Phutatorius: Thanks for the neat tie in to Lewis. Given that I haven't read it, I'm walking on thin ice by responding. I will grant that many such paradoxes (or whatever you wnat to call them) are likely, even in the "real universe," the Big Bang being chief among them. It still seems too much a cop-out to finger the Deus ex Machina explanation: "...The parts of the loop are explicable, the whole of it is not. Strange! But not impossible …” Without a beginning, there's a major variable missing in my mind....

    Thomas March 5th, 2008 at 7:57 am

    On Desmond's 1st trip to the past after the hatch explosion, it was a single trip where he was aware he'd gone back in time and remembered what had happened originally. On the 2nd trip, he was unstuck in time and barely survived bouncing between time periods. Why the difference? He had a constant on the first trip, namely Charlie Pace. He saw and recognized Charlie from the island when he first arrived, giving him the link he needed to stay sane, even though he didn't realize it. It would also explain his visions of Charlie in the future as being due to their link. I'll be interested to see if he has visions of Penny in the future now that she is is his constant.

    Greg Tramel March 5th, 2008 at 8:03 am

    the dharma wheel, mayan calendar, chaos symbol AND CERN Large Hadron Collider all have 8 spokes


    kool March 5th, 2008 at 8:51 am

    Challabuck, I agree with Paul in regards to the Desmond/Daniel paradox. I assumed Daniel had found the correct setting for his experiment sometime after 1996 in the original timeline. When 96-Desmond told 04-Daniel he was in 1996, 04-Daniel knew that 96-Desmond could use that piece of information to prove to 96-Daniel that he was from the future.

    viking March 5th, 2008 at 9:11 am

    Paul said:
    "J - I have one more comment about the Oceanic wreckage. It surely looks like a fake to the audience, but in the Lost world, it seems odd that the remains would be found off the coast of Bali. Look at a map and you'll see that the wreckage location is northwest of Australia, a very out of the way place for a plane to have crashed considering that it was flying northeast out of Sydney, which is on the east coast of Australia. To use an analogy, it would be as if a plane on a Miami to London route disappeared, and the remains were found in the Pacific Ocean west of Washington. What is odd is that this has not garnered any attention on the show. There was no mention of it on the news broadcasts when the flight was discovered, and no one seems too surprised that the remains are where they're not supposed to be. Also, if someone was going to fake a plane crash, why do it so far out of the way."

    Dalton said in one of the new podcasts, or maybe an interview, that this will in fact become an issue in the show in future episodes. Without spoiling anything, it does have something to do with the O6.

    Jeffrey March 5th, 2008 at 9:21 am

    J... Jack Nicholson also relates a conversation with Kubrick who told him that "The Shining" is an optimistic tale. When Nicholson questioned this considering all the mayhem, Kubrick said that since there's ghosts in the hotel that proves the existence of an afterlife.
    I agree with Paul that 04-Farraday came up with the frequency since 1996 and it was at that 96-moment when Des confirmed what Farraday would later find out BUT now its origin has been changed and with the presence of Des to originating from Des who acts as a kind of 2001 monolith of information or put another way by Delbert Grady "You'm always been the caretaker." This is (fore/aft)told by asking about Eloise - I think other colleagues would've known the name so the big reveal is that Farraday already knew the end result of the hapless bunny. A Helpful Hint from Eloise!

    J Wood (Post Author) March 5th, 2008 at 10:20 am

    Challabuck: Phutatorius had part of the answer I'd give (the David Lewis part), and I think there's a bit more. We don't have the full story yet of what happened to Faraday between 1996 and 2004, but we know he forgot or otherwise had no memory of 96 Des. Lewis insists on there being no paradoxes in the possible worlds theory. To my mind, it seems that whatever made Faraday forget may have been the paradox safety valve. To broaden that a bit, if you take time and space as one whole big megilla (which the real Minkowskis and Lewis's did and is generally accepted by the eggheads because the math bears it out), then I don't think you have as much of a problem.

    The short version is that in spacetime, past/present/future are just concepts our mammalian brains need to get along (that's how Robert Anton Wilson puts it), but they don't really exist. All time is occurring at once like all space is occurring at once. Change an element, and you change the coordinates of the whole system, not one part that upsets the rest of the system.

    I think the best example of this is Charlie claiming he couldn't swim in season one, but after being saved by Des a few times, all the sudden he's the Northern England swim champion in season three. What's more, we see his flashback of the lessons, and he seems to have no memory of not being able to swim in season one (which is also supported by Des having a flash of seeing Charlie drown trying to get Claire).

    I'd like to see if Faraday does end up remembering the 1996 meeting, because that would be an example of anamnesis (remembering lost memories) -- a key concept to Valis.

    John Moustache: Thanks for the fine words. I'm pretty awful with compliments, so I'll leave it at that. But the writers have mentioned on occasion that they'd love it if/hoping for the audience to do some of this sort of interrogation, and it's partly the reason for the Lost Experience -- to forge that kind of critical audience. But they've also made it clear that they don't want to make knowing the references necessary to following the show; it's another layer of the narrative.

    But literary Hip Hop! I don't think I've mentioned this on the blog, but in my PhD work, I've been working out an idea of references as sampling. I'm basing the way Lost uses references on the way hip hop uses sampling -- where the inclusion of some outside text isn't just pointing out towards some other text, but is using something from that text (a theme, a beat, a riff) to create some of the substructure of the immediate narrative at hand. So I'd say you're damn right.

    Juno, something else I haven't really mentioned here yet is I'm working on another book about Lost references (Literary Lost), and spent a good chunk of time with Thorne's "Black Holes and Time Warps" a couple months ago.

    Also, the film sound concept you're talking about is useful -- diegetic and non-diegetic sound. Diegetic sound is any sound that occurs in the world of the characters, and they do or can hear (street music, background noise, etc.). Non-diegetic sound would be something like the score, is part of the narrator's storytelling toolbox, and is meant for the audience. A Media Studies and English professor I was lucky to work with, Robert Kolker, has a book called "Film, Form, & Culture"; it has a dvd with examples that shows a fantastic example of non-diegetic sound from Eisenstein's "Alexander Nevsky." It's the battle on the ice scene, if anyone wants to see it. Eisenstein had the score on the sheet music visually match the landscape of the shots. It creates this incredible sense of submersion in the scene when you're paying attention to the score.

    Paul, what you're saying about the location of the plane also lines up with the Black Rock from The Lost Experience -- it went east when it should have went west when it disappeared in the 19th C. But before Oceanic 815 went down, they lost radio contact for 2 hours; the pilot turned around and headed towards Fiji for over a thousand miles before it hit the turbulence and went down.

    Christian Shephard’s Third Glass of Bourbon March 5th, 2008 at 3:07 pm

    "Only fools are enslaved by time and space."

    I'm sure someone has mentioned this already, but I imagine it's possible Faraday's memory problems are tied to his not wearing protective gear on his head during his many experiments. He seemed to me distinctly less "crazy" in 1996 (and with a respectable academic job), perhaps since that was 8 fewer years of blasting his noggin with concentrated electromagnetism. In 2004, he is weeping at TV reports of Oceanic 815 without understanding why and is generally viewed as a wack job by his new co-workers, the Freighties.

    What are the ramifications for Faraday with Desmond as his constant?

    Also, knowing the writers' penchant for multiple referents to a single concept (e.g., Eggtown), did anyone else think of other kinds of constants when they saw this episode's title, e.g., the cosmological constant, etc.?

    Leah March 5th, 2008 at 6:57 pm

    Okay, I'm trying to work through these vile vortices concepts in relation to things happening on our island (and i'm no physicist). So, if we say that these vortices have wormhole/teleportation properties and that somehow our island is a center of this activity on the globe, then maybe we could posit that the island is actually anywhere along the tropical/equatorial zone, not necessarily where it seems to be (somewhere near fiji). These vortices around the world, when hit in the right spot (and presumably with a good dose of electromagnetism--most often from lightning, because there always seems to be a lightning storm when the freighties pass through the portal), can send an object to the island, or to another vortex (polar bear in tunisia?). That could explain Yemi's plane, as someone said, and maybe the Black Rock. If it passed through a vortex in a storm, maybe it got dropped into the middle of the island. Same with Des and his boat. Possibly the same with Ben's submarine... they seem to know how to work it, so they pass through the correct vortex under the right conditions and end up on the shore of our island. The only thing is, I don't remember... when ben came as a little boy, did he come on a regular boat with the dharma folks?

    Okay, now for a crackpot theory: What if, passing through one of these vortices under certain conditions, a *copy* is made of the object, and one is sent to the island, while the other is destroyed/sunk? It could explain the copycat Oceanic 815 and Black Rock. (But if the sunk Oceanic flight had the wrong pilot...). Plus I don't think the Oceanic flight went through a vortex or a storm, it just happened to be passing near the island when the electromagnetic event happened with Des.

    Leah March 5th, 2008 at 11:51 pm

    J: you have mentioned this several times as a basis of a theory, so I've got to ask: when Charlie said in season 3 that he was the N. England swim champ, I got the impression he was lying so that Jack and all would allow him to go to the looking glass and martyr himself. I remember it as a sort of tongue-in-cheek statement that Jack didn't really catch. Are there any other examples of the Des-changing-past-present-future-all-together theory? To me it doesn't really make sense that Des tweaking minor events that seem to only effect something about to happen would change Charlie's whole past.

    hjortron flicka March 6th, 2008 at 1:13 am

    This provides such EXCITEMENT for the mind--what a rich, rich discussion!

    Amazingly, it feels like this blog truly tops watching LOST itself, though that's silly to say, since it wouldn't be possible without the show; indeed, as J. Wood said at the end of this episode's post: "the map is not the territory," but don't say, "this is just a reading," J. Wood--it's one DOOZY of a reading, and I'd argue that the maps you (and we together) are co-creating with the LOST writers are useful, valuable, fascinating, intellectually challenging and aesthetically pleasing and allowing us to explore LOST in a far more meaningful way than if we were simply to watch LOST individually.

    Well drawn maps allow us to know a place in a way that differs from being in a particular locale that can be seen on a map. What a person gets looking at a map provides a real and valid way to know a place that the experience of being in a geography physically doesn't...maps untether us from the limits of the particular space we occupy--we can only experience the place we are in as far as our senses allow us to, but maps allow us perspective; we can see relationships among the physical characteristics of a landscape, and they can provide us with a view of the "big picture," in a way we can't when we are on the ground in a defined place...ok, I hope I made my point about maps.

    Also, so glad you were able to disabuse us of the idea of limited dualism in the LOST narrative--with great examples, J. Wood.

    I wholeheartedly agree with John Moustache's excellent insights about this blog--J Wood's entries and dialogue with and among the other posters are now a critical dimension of the LOST experience for all who participate in it, and yes, LOST is literary hip-hop--you really hit the nail on the head with that one, brother Moustache. Great to hear that this literary hip-hop relates to what you are doing in your Ph.D dissertation, J. Wood!

    I was feeling quite at a loss during the first few episodes of this season, as I read all the brilliant, yet esoteric/physics/math-centric entries of our intrepid guide and chief illuminator, J. Wood, (along with the other extraordinary mapmakers among the rest of you), and there have been such an abundance of fascinating and complex ideas and analyses, but with this episode, and this post, I am less lost and feeling more a sense of wonder and belonging. The Constant episode is spectacular!

    Favorites: the reference to Abelard & Heloise, W.E.B. Du Bois' double-consciousness, the vile vortices as portals, constants/constancy/The Tree of Life, A Wrinkle in Time...and finding Whitehead and Teilhard de Chardin, examining paradoxes in the light of LOST, the quote from In Search of Lost Time by Proust (lovely & cool...)

    So, thanks for what you are all sharing. Looking forward to the next episode tonight, and the posts to follow...thanks for your constancy, J. Wood.

    Messenger88 March 6th, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    After reading all of the passionate and well-thought-out conjecture here, I have an even greater appreciation for the intellectual stimulation that this "mere" television program has created amongst it's fans.
    Lost challenges me to reach for a deeper meaning than what is immediately apparent. And in that reaching, my human curiosity and my imagination are sparked. In that way, I think Lost is a metaphor for Life and how the things we love are the things which fill us with wonder. As for the drunk monk Desmond mind keeps returning to Albert Einstein (Godfather of all the science being discussed in regard to Lost): his Theories of Relativity; his unresolved, yet ambitious and inspired Unified Field Theory; but most importantly here, his view on how to figure things out...for instance: if 42 is the answer to Life, the Universe, Everything, then it stands to reason (as I believe Douglas Adams was trying to imply) that any computer we build, any of our own technology which we create and then use to define and give us THE ANSWER to life, the Universe, and Everything will ultimately fail us in giving us that answer. Because we inherently have built our flaws into our "Answer Giver", and our flaws are our failings. As Einstein said, "We cannot solve a problem using the same level of thinking at which the problem was created."

    Messenger88 March 6th, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    And J, I may have simply missed it, but I have yet to see any mention of Oceanic mythology and am wondering if you feel that there is any link to Lost (beyond the name and geographic location of the peoples of Oceania)? I seem to recall a myth about a mystical being who was fooled into cutting off his or her toes (freaky statue, anyone?) and I am certain there are instances of shape-shifters and mystical smoke found in Oceanic mythology...perhaps just some food for thought?

    Deedee March 6th, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    Wonderful post, J, thank you. Definitely sphere-making material, or maybe tesseract-making.

    Thanks also to Nathalie for the observation about Desmond touching metal. I thought there was a trigger but couldn't figure out what it was. Maybe there are more than one. In the bathroom flash, it seemed that Charles Widmore left the water running on purpose, and I assumed he knew Desmond was time tripping and wanted to send him back to the future. At the time, I thought the key was the water going down the drain, imitating a maelstrom or vortex, but touching the faucet is more likely.

    hf, your map comments make me think of the Nazca lines in Peru - long lines of stones from the ground but spiders, monkeys, flowers from the air.

    Deedee March 6th, 2008 at 2:41 pm

    Forgot to say that this Desmond/Scotland-centric episode brings to mind Brigadoon, which has lots of parallels to the island. I don't know if this has been mentioned before, but if anyone leaves Brigadoon, the spell is broken. Maybe that's why Ben won't let anyone leave the island except in a certain way, by submarine or by staying on the 305 heading.

    Jason March 6th, 2008 at 3:02 pm

    I don't think Desmond touched metal every time he flashed, but maybe doing so can trigger it. Also notice that Widmore used a towel when he touched the faucet.

    By the way, Faraday only says that you can't change the future, but he didn't apply that rule to the past, or explain exactly how it is the future cannot be changed (i.e. Desmond was able to change how Charlie died, but couldn't keep him from his eventual fate). Maybe the past can be changed as long as it doesn't affect the future. So, as long as Faraday writes the 2.342 and 11 Hz numbers in his notebook, they'll be there when he needs them in 2004 to tell Desmond in 1996 to tell himself in 1996.

    J Wood (Post Author) March 6th, 2008 at 6:34 pm

    Some quick comments before tonight's episode:

    First, in Darlton's podcast for The Constant, they cleared up a few things:

    1.) That was 1996 Des' consciousness flashing around. However, it was Minkowski's 2004 consciousness flashing back.

    2.) They re-iterated that they are very paradox-averse. In response to possible/multiple futures dependent on altered pasts, he says that's not their intention. Lindelof followed up by noting that Mrs. Hawking laid out the rules in "Flashes Before Your Eyes," and built on the idea. More on that in a bit.

    3.) Time travel and the Orchid Station is going to factor in.

    4.) Lindelof also noted that "There are certain special places on the earth that relate to our show, and this specific spot in Tunisia is one of them. Another, perhaps, is Ayers Rock in Australia." These might be locations with strong magnetic activity or something else; there's all kinds of esoteric lines marking the earth, like ley lines, but in trying to keep it as scientific as possible, it may have to do with something like telluric currents or Schumann resonance.

    Daniel F: I think there might be something there with the 12 Monkeys; it's certainly one of the most achieved time travel narratives to date. The movie came out right at the end of 1995, so it was being seen in 1996 and the narrative revolves around that year. Plus 12 Monkeys also had a way of dealing with paradoxes in time (Cole still dies despite knowing what's coming).

    Leah: With the vortices, those sorts of places tend to come with their own weird magnetic anomalies. People report experiencing all kinds of magnetic weirdness effecting ship/plane instruments in the Bermuda Triangle and Devil's Triangle in Japan (all places where vortices are mapped). There's also a theory floating around that the island may be located at one of the poles (I believe Lostcasts reported that, I think if the podcast for "Confirmed Dead"). Which all could mean something like the plane hit a vortex in the Pacific and ended up at someplace like the North Pole, where polar bears are more readily found. But there's also a theory that the island isn't exactly geographically stable, so who's to say...

    As far as the Charlie changing thing, there's some stuff on it in the post for season three's finale, in the preview post before the beginning of this season, and a few other posts before the finale from season three. It's a bit of a puzzler, but:

    A.) Des saves Charlie at least 4 times, and I believe he warns him once. That's changing Charlie's future up to 5 times, which added up could possibly lead to greater changes in his past.

    B.) In "Flashes Before Your Eyes," Mrs. Hawking tells Des that the universe has a way of course-correction. So even if you alter someone's past/present/future by changing what that person is destined to experience, the universe will come back and spank it back into order.

    C.) In the podcast for "The Constant," Lindelof said: "Even if you did something in the past that you didn't do before, somehow the sort of 'fabric of time' like swoops in around you and fixes everything so things don't go off the rails." Lindelof's a decent writer and chooses his words carefully: Even if you did something in the past that you didn't do before seems pretty significant. So if Charlie didn't swim in the past but becomes able to swim because his past has been altered, the universe sets everything back into order again by making sure Charlie drops in the Looking Glass station.

    D.) Sawyer stopped calling Kate freckles in "Catch-22" until about two episodes ago. In the flashforward from "Through the Looking Glass," Kate's face is pretty smooth. The word just never comes up, as if Sawyer had never called her freckles. And although I'm told this is just because I don't have HDTV, but Kate's freckles were a lot harder to see up until Sawyer started calling her freckles again. Since Charlie died and that course-correction has taken place, Sawyer starts calling her freckles again. I'm a bit skeptical that the freckles, so prominent in season one and two would only be available to those with HDTV's at the end of season three and the beginning of season four, so I'm somewhat persuaded by the idea that with the course-correction came her freckles and Sawyer's memory of her freckles.

    E.) We saw Christian Shephard laying on a cooling table pretty much dead in Sydney. Yet "Through the Looking Glass" suggests Christian is wandering around a hospital in L.A. It could be Jack's whole reason for being on the island got a bit twisted (again, until the course-correction).

    Those are three of the main ones. I'd be curious if anyone else saw examples.

    Messenger88: I'm just not as familiar with Oceania mythology, but I do know they had an Atlantis-like myth of a place called Mu. I can't say if that's what they actually called it, or if that was a Blavatsky invention, but two nice coincidences:

    1.) There's a trick you can do with Microsoft Word where (I think) you hold down the alt key and type in a series of numbers to get a letter or symbol. If you start typing in the 4 8 15 16 23 42 sequence, you get the Greek symbol for mu.

    2.) A mu is also short for muon, a subatomic particle with a negative electric charge and a particular spin. It's also the subject of an experiment at the Brookhaven National Lab, where they were firing muons through a vacuum (using a big superconductor that used a big electromagnet). There should have been nothing else in the vacuum but the muons, but something was blinking in and out and knocking the little muons off their spin. The whole experiment raised the question of what was blinking in and out of this space, was it "exotic material," and could it be coming from some other dimension.

    Here's a thought: We still don't know who the oceanic six are. Could it have anything to do with the six numbers? I'm not sure yet; it doesn't map with the episodes or the days on the island.

    J Wood (Post Author) March 6th, 2008 at 7:15 pm

    p.s.: I'm aiming for a much shorter piece for "The Other Woman."

    J Wood (Post Author) March 6th, 2008 at 7:28 pm


    - Sawyer stops calling Kate "freckles" in "Catch-22."

    - Sawyer starts calling Kate "freckles" again in "The Economist."

    - Between "Catch-22" and "The Economist," Kate's freckles are a lot harder to see, and I've posted screencaps here in the past. They're clearly washed out in the flashforward in "Through the Looking Glass."

    - HDTV is notorious for showing more than intended. It's actually a problem for the porn industry (Leo LaPorte talked about it, it's not something I'd have been on top of *ahem*)

    - "The Economist" is the 8th episode after "Catch-22"

    - Charlie dies on day 93.

    - The course-correction is Charlie's death.

    - "The Economist" is set on day 94.


    - Sawyer starts calling Kate "freckles," and Kate's freckles are more clearly visible again, immediately after the course-correction.

    Just an observation.

    Dan March 7th, 2008 at 1:01 am

    JWood thanks for your response and yes I have studied my share of Theology which requires knowing some Philosophy as well. I share your sense that we are not headed for a totally dualistic Lost universe. I guess my biggest hope is that if something transcends the physical that it does so by sublating (Hegel's term I think) the physical or bringing that which has been transcended along to the next level. I.e. Multicelled organisms have cells that look and function a lot like single celled organisms, but some higher level of unity and order is achieved without undoing the functions of a single cell. Similarly, an orchestra builds harmonies not present in a solo, but the solo performance of instruments is not jettisoned. Rather the soloist is sublated into the orchestra. Maybe this is part of what Dharma was aiming for some sort of transhuman future who knows? By invoking gnosticism I was simply arguing against the idea that mind is good and pure and that it needs to escape matter rather than thought being an emergent property that sublates the physical rather than fleeing from it.

    23skidoo March 7th, 2008 at 7:14 am

    After watching the enhanced version last night, another question did come to mind. Did Faraday actually teach Eloise the maze after she ran through it and before she died? It could have been done off-camera while Desmond was out on the chair, but no mention was made of it. I can, sort of, accept time-traveling consciousness, but I don't think it could be used for spontaneously generating information, such as learning the maze in the future and then not having to learn it in the present.

    Messenger88 March 7th, 2008 at 6:41 pm

    J, Thanks for your response to my question about Oceanic mythology--the two coincidences you cited are very interesting...based on those two points I may read further into Oceanic mythology...So far the only "mu" I've seen is Frank Lapidus' phantom red cow (which we know in the Lostverse may have some significance), but now I'll definitely keep an eye out for "more mu". It doesn't seem any more abusrd than the mystery of the "H-O, H-O, H-O" we saw a few episodes ago, so...

    Kalia March 19th, 2008 at 12:41 pm

    I had just assumed that Faraday could not remember meeting with Desmond because of all his exposure to radiation during his experiments. We know from watching the Contstant that Desmond remarks that he isn't wearing anything to protect his head, we also know that Faraday has a hard time remembering things. We see this when he and Charlotte are sitting together with the cards and he can only remember 1 of 3 of them. Also, he seems to rely on his notebook as a sort of crutch. I think that Desmond has a hard time remembering because of all the time travel his mind had undergone. When he was traveling backwards after the blast he came back full circle to what we consider the present on the island, but would have flashes of the future (Charlie's deaths) but not at will and he wasn't walking around the present remembering all of the future. So I just attributed that factor in to the whole mind getting muddled and confused without it having a constant.

    I do like the Odyssey mirrors between Lost with the Penelopes. Both are women who had their men leave them for an adventure on the sea and both are shown to be loyal (so far) waiting women. I'm sure it is just a coincidence but Penelope does have 8 letters in her name.

    I was however also confused with the timeline of Desmond prior to the island. I know he and Penelope meet, fall inlove, move in together, he asks Mr. Widemore if he can marry Penelope and is rejected. About then he is sent backward mentally from the blast and realizes that he is back with Penelope again and asks her father for her hand and is rejected again, it rains, and he runs into Charlie. Then he decides to propose anyways and buys a ring, but the old lady (creepy old lady) tells him not to bother because he can't change the past so he throws the ring in the water the same day the photo is taken. I guess then he breaks up with her and joins the army, so why in the army is he so surprised to be back on the island? I guess do to the fact that his 2004 concious has left his 1990's body and what is surprised that his 2004 self dumped Penelope and joined the army? He knows it is a mistake he left her in the army and then we get the story from The Constant as to all that. I guess after the army is jail and intercepted letters to eventually the boat race that his 1996 self should then know he has to do to get to the island so he can call her in 2004 to save himself. Is that right?

    AND ok when Desmond first flashes back after the blast and all those crazy events happen didn't he convice Penelope that something was going on with him-he did prove to her he know the future...I had always thought this was the event that set her looking for him when he disappeared. He tells her he was on an island and that his boat crashed there and that now he was back and knew the future because he already lived it. She thinks at first he is crazy but them starts to believe him. Of course then he flashes back to the island, his 1990's self prob looks at her like she is crazy...but then she has a strange encounter with again in 1990 so maybe she thinks...hmm..maybe something is up and I should go look for him on this island. I'm sure she has had some dialogue at some point about all this with her father...maybe that is why he lets Desmond enter the race, maybe that is how he knows about the island?

    martha April 2nd, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    Last night I was reading the most recent book from Alejandro Jodorowsky (great artist, director, tarotist, psychomagician, misticist, etc) and I encountered this short story about a man who was walking in the desert. It is in Spanish but I´ll try my best on translating it: “The man was walking in the desert, he looked to his right and a tree appeared at his left. He looked at his left and the tree was now at his right. He looked forward and the tree was behind him, when he looked behind him the tree disappeared. So he closed his eyes to see if the tree was inside him. He became the tree.”
    It immediately remind me of Jacob´s cabin and it brought to my attention the symbology around the number 8 that has being going around in the last posts. In the works of Jodorowsky the 8 is a powerful number, full of meaning and I think this will be an interesting insight, if you know more about his work, J, can you illuminate us??
    I’ve been studying his work for a couple of years, and I really look forward to know if you are familiar and would be your insight on it around Lost.
    Thanks for all these, it makes LOST the most enjoyable show I´ve ever watched.

    Daz May 5th, 2008 at 4:05 pm

    The wave equation behind Faraday on the blackboard is missing the Hamiltonian operator. Some have listed this as a "goof", but I think it might be a deliberate error: removing the Hamiltonian removes the time-dependence (though it makes an equation that is not quite right dimensionally.)

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