This is a game with pretend time portals. But what should a time portal look like? What do the greats of science fiction think they should look like? In The Time Machine, published in 1895, H.G. Wells wrote:

“...the little machine suddenly swung round, became indistinct, was seen as a ghost for a second perhaps, as an eddy of faintly glittering brass and ivory; and it was gone--vanished!”

The idea of fictitious time travel appearing like an eddy or vortex continued in later works on film and television in the 20th century, such as Dr. Who. This might reflect the idea that some scientists have suggested ‘wormholes’ (warping of space-time) as possible time portals consistent with the Einstein field equations. Some more recent work on their possible appearance can be found here. An internet search for images of time portal shows that the idea of time portals glittering and having filament-like appearance of plasma also seems common, perhaps in reference to the high amounts of electromagnetic energy which may be associated with a wormhole, ionising the gases around it.

So to fit with some of the best science fiction tradition our time portal should appear:

  • to contain plasma-like filaments
  • like a vortex
  • ghostly and glittering

Images show that plasma filaments occuring on earth in nature, such as in the aurora, may appear light blue in colour wth a purple-ish halo. This is also in keeping with artificially created filaments in a plasma lamp.

The light is caused by moving electric charge, so should be seen to move along each filament. We wrote software to show a depiction of this using 5 phases of development. We make no excuse that these are intended to look pretty rather than corresponding precisely to any scientifically valid model of plasma! The phases are:

  • Genesis: a localised light-emitting region becomes visible.
  • Activation: the region grows at roughly constant speed in a given direction, increasing in light intensity as it does so.
  • Propagation: once a critical strength is reached, the growth accelerates, as does the strength of emitted light.
  • Decay: after a certain length the filament becomes subject to deceleration. Growth slows and intensity decreases until only a faint halo remains.
  • Extinction: all light from the filament disappears.

To give something of a glittering effect, the growth is then subject to random deviations, which one might think of as turbulence in the medium. The images below show depictions of a linear filament as it evolves. In this example a deviation in the vertical direction appears due to simulated turbulence during the propagation phase.

Propagation (with vertical deviation)

We assume that in a time portal filaments appear randomly at a set average rate of creation, and use our software to simulate these. Finally, we deflect the growth of filaments into a spiral vortex prior to display. An example screenshot of a portal produced in this way is shown below.

Portal filaments under the influence of spiral vortex.

When activated, the vortex and filament creation of a time portal will intensify, and eventually it will transform into a scene from the past, which will be the topic of future posts.