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October 12, 2008

Back To The Future 3 Ending Explained...yup, the train!

Hullo buoys and gales, long time no post. Been busy with stuff and working on another solvengineer.com application, a game this time!

Anyways, this year for Halloween I am going as Marty McFly, with most of the costume looking like Part 1, while the sneakers have a BTTF2 look. No, they're not the new Nike Hyperdunk, but the Nike Air Flight which has a slightly similar look.


Spoilers follow!

As a good nerd, I watched all three movies last week for 'research'. And the same question that has popped into everyone's mind when they finished watching the trilogy resurfaced: how the heck does the doc manage to build a time-traveling train with 19th century technology?Quite a logic, not even time, paradox!

A google did bring a few discussions on the topic, but the explanations were quite weak. I went to bed and slept on this issue (yeah, my life is THAT exciting)

Is there a way that Doc Brown could have built his train in the wild wild west? (a low tech West that doesn't host Will Smith's steampunk crapepic)

  As soon as I woke up I realize that I had been guilty of the same sin that the Doc always admonished Marty about: I did not think in four dimensions.

That is to say, the Doc does have a time machine in the 19th century. Bear with me.

Here's how the story continues after Marty and the DeLorean vanish over Eastwood ravine.


Doc Brown and Clara get married in Hill Valley. The Doc shoes horses during the day, and in the evening stargazes with his beloved. In 1885, light pollution was of course non-existent, and together they see a wonderful skies. Emmet teaches Clara about astrophysics and space travel, and  she teaches him about something else...and soon a boy to be named Jules is on the way.

But not all is rosy for Doc Brown.  Although he is enjoying the frontier lifestyle, he realizes that this is also a time of unchecked violence and rampaging diseases. He feels guilty for not providing his family with a better, safer lifestyle. After all, he has all this knowledge...possibly more than any man in history. Yet, he lacks even basic machine tools and a reliable power source.

One  a slow day in his shop. he is fiddling with the hoverboard Marty left behind, the same device that saved his and Clara's life. He has removed the cover over the device's control panel, and starts playing with the knobs and buttons.He realizes that he has in front of him a general purpose, programmable computer.

The hoverboard's gravitonic field is highly unstable, and a micro-controller is needed to keep the device upright when subjected to a rider's unbalanced weight. However, the controller needs to be recalibrated once in a while, and that's where the computer and the interface come into play.

Wheels start spinning. Doc Brown realizes that he can use the hoverboard's computer to take the place of the broken time circuit in the DeLorean.

However, the DeLorean needs to stay in the cave until 1955, so Marty can come back for him. Otherwise causality is violated, and who knows what might happen? Oh yeah, we know what might happen: the universe might implode. Woohoo!

However, the DeLorean only needs to be in the cave in 1955, sans tires and time circuit, at the time when Marty and Doc Brown from 1955 are supposed to uncover it. The Doc has all the time in the world to figure this out...well, at least 70 years. 

But, he has already sworn off time traveling . He can't be taking any more chances. After all, he and Marty almost caused America to become Biffland. Emmet decides to stay in 1885 and see to his family's well being with the means available in this century. But, as a purely intellecual exercise, he starts to reprogram the hoverboard's computer to work as a time circuit. Having taken the device apart, he also experiments with focusing the field in a narrow, powerful beam, that can accelerate a large mass to high speeds when aimed against a stationary object. Again, this is a purely intellectual pursuit....

In 1890 two year old Jules contracts a powerful strain of polio.  Doc recognizes the symptoms and knows that his son will, at best, remain paralyzed, and at worst, die. Suddenly, there's a fear more immediate than time paradox implosions. He sees little Jules fading away, and Clara crying and spending her nights by the boy's bed, hardly ever sleeping.

The Doc takes the DeLorean out of the cave, installs the Hoverboard's computer on the hood and the gravity field generator at the back.He puts the car on that well known straight rail that ends in the ravine, and and blasts off  into the future to get a cure for Jules. And, while he's there, also tools and components to build an improved version of the flux capacitor.

After saving Jules, Doc Brown takes the DeLorean back to the cave, sans the Hoverboard's components, and starts working on a new time machine, housed in something big enough to carry the entire family, and less conspicuous in 1885....


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