I remember almost checking out Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time from the library when I was about ten but changing my mind after I got scared of the astrophysics graphs. That was a mistake – Hawking’s book tackles extremely complex cosmological questions in a manner accessible to dolts like me. Unfortunately, it is already a summary of a topic that is largely over my head, so my review will be fairly short.
The book itself appears in season three of Lost. In the episode Not in Portland, Aldo, a member of the Others tasked with keeping guard over Karl, is reading from the book while on duty. A few episodes later, we see another copy of the book in Ben’s living quarters in The Man From Tallahassee.
Basically, the book breaks down the history of scientists’ theories on space-time, from Copernicus all the way to modern scientists looking for a Grand Unified Theory of physics. The most important part of the book for Lost purposes is the growth of Einstein’s theory of space-time from the early 1900s on to today.
Einstein’s Theory of Relativity proves that time is not static. Time is a dimension, just like space – depending on other factors (namely speed), time will appear different to different people.
I’m not sure how many lessons we can take from A Brief History of Time. Its placement in season three seems to be more of a foreshadowing than anything else. At the time of its appearance in Not in Portland, the Lost creators had not really explored time travel.
Of course, in the very next episode, we get our first (of many) time travelling experiences in Flashes Before Your Eyes. This episode shows Desmond’s experiences after he turned the fail-safe key in the Hatch. He was forced to relive his entire life all the way through his years in the Hatch without changing a thing.
By season four, we learn that time is somewhat different on the Island, thanks to the unique electromagnetic properties. In the Orchid orientation film, Pierre Chang (as Edgar Halliwax) explains that the purpose of the Orchid is to conduct unique experiments in space and time. The theories behind all that are brilliantly outlined in this book.
Then all hell breaks loose in season five and the castaways time travel all over the place. Amusing that one hint in season three expanded to the Lost survivors landing in 1974 two seasons later.