Time stops nearly everywhere, time only continues in a area around creatures of a certain intelligence. The worlds population is suddenly thrown into darkness as time ceases throughout the universe except near them, since light is no longer reaching them from outside their time bubble. They also find all electricity cuts out if the power source is outside their time field. Some people suffocate because they stay in one place to long, exhausting the air in their bubble. People can no longer rely on the sun for agriculture. Starvation is a serious threat, but so is asphyxiation.

It is probably a given that possibly the majority of the worlds population will die. I am wondering whether it is possible for humanity to survive in the long term, and what civilization the remnants of humanity could create. I'm not quite sure what is going to happen with all those animals that are smart enough to create time bubbles in the wild and I don't know how much that affects things. It does occur to me that the intelligent animals might not die off for quite a while as they would migrate to find new food. Although one thing to be considered is that I don't think there are any animals that are well adapted for total darkness that also pass the mirror test, so actually the animals that would generate time bubbles might die off quite quickly.

As for what methods humanity would employ to survive, and I suppose any permanent settlements would probably need CO2 scrubbers. People could move around nomadically since time doesn't pass outside time bubbles so if no-one has been somewhere since time stopped it will be exactly as it was at that second.

The only places time continues are around creatures that have incredibly high intelligence including great apes plus some other primates, cetaceans, many corvidae, elephants, parrots, pigs and a few other mammals and birds. A creature can only make time pass near itself if it individually meets the required intelligence bar, as thus human infants wont make time pass in their presence until they could pass the mirror test, this usually occurs at around 18 months.

The time field around a creature, in which time passes extends from every part of their body a distance equal to twice the distance between the furthest 2 points of that organisms body, this only counts living tissue (so not hair) that is a part of its body. This distance obviously changes: for instance if a person simply held up their arm then the distance between the furthest 2 points of their body increased: from being from their foot to their scalp, to being from their foot to their hand.

As for what happens to object partly on one side of the literal temporal barrier and partly on the other side (assuming the barrier either has no width or is only a planck length thick), I'm assuming through hand-waving that things straddling the temporal line aren't just cut in half and are still sort of attached to the portion on the other side should you pull on it.

EDIT A object can't be passed through a stationary time barrier. Once a object reached the edge and a tiny part of it has crossed the barrier it would be unable to move and would block the rest of the object from getting through. A object part outside the barrier and part inside could not be pulled inside either because the part of the object outside the barrier can't move but is still attached to the part inside the barrier. A object normally wouldn't be able to touch the edge of a stationary time barrier anyway because there will be a layer of air molecules trapped partly on both sides of the barrier. Pulling a object that is partly outside the barrier could be done but you would be breaking the object by pulling it hard enough to rip it apart.

In this scenario everything still has a gravitational pull on everything else but objects outside time bubbles just don't react since that would require time. In addition I'm assuming that since from the perspective of people in time bubbles the earth is no longer moving that people don't just get flung at deadly speed as this would kill everyone in fractions of a second. In this scenario I'm assuming that anything that would kill everyone within a incredibly short time is somehow resolved, so this situation isn't enormously dull.

In terms of intelligence of a certain level being needed to make a time bubble, I am assuming that brain damage or certain mental disorders emerging may cause a creature to stop creating a time bubble but that these need to be reflected by neurological changes to have a effect, thus a creature that is unconscious or drugged will still generate a bubble.

Ok regarding heat buildup. I do definitely think now that heat buildup is one of the biggest problems in this scenario. I think the way the bubbles edge would handle heat is like this: there is a nearly indestructible layer of air straddling the plank-length edge of the bubble however even with a creature holding perfectly still the bubbles edge will move by molecules at a time because no creature could truly hold totally still. Most heat would indeed build up because it had no-where to go, there would only be one way that heat escapes and that would be through light mostly infrared. Light emitted within the bubble will hit the edge unlike solid object that would be held back by the layer of trapped air molecules, even if the edge of the bubble moved the light would just resume its movement away from the bubble hitting the edge again. Thus light would be basically the only way heat would escape the mostly closed system of the bubble.

  • $\begingroup$ I tried to make it clear in one of the bolded texts that time really doesn't pass outside time bubbles, this means areas no highly intelligent creatures have been to since time stopped are still perfectly preserved. So air wouldn't run out everywhere. The more pressing issue is that if you were ~6 ft tall the amount of plants needed to feed you (which is also the exact amount needed to produce enough oxygen for you), probably couldn't be grown in in your small time field which only extends ~12 ft from you $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 28, 2015 at 20:34
  • $\begingroup$ I do believe your comment has answered your question. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 28, 2015 at 21:33
  • $\begingroup$ I was just clarifying the things one person didn't seem to understand in the questions sandbox $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 28, 2015 at 22:06
  • $\begingroup$ My question is about what people would do once this event occurred the question and my comment is purely about what this effect does and some of the no-brainer results of the event. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 28, 2015 at 22:08
  • $\begingroup$ With no light/heat reaching you from outside of the bubble, you'd probably freeze to death. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 2:23

6 Answers 6


I had a thought concerning this idea. BTW, congratulations for the originality. It piqued my interest for that reason alone.

The World is a Simulation

Normally, physics is computed/rendered “as needed”, with shortcuts taken where possible. Intelligent minds, in particular, are the driving point and are always rendered in full detail with very fine time steps. Things in the immediate environment need to be driven to sufficiently high resolution, too. But if you look at a pool of water that has been unobserved for some time,

① it jumps ahead without realizing states in between. (See Greg Egan’s short story Dust that became expanded into Permutation City.)
② entropy and information content is used to deliver only what’s needed. There is no need to get every molecule of water in its exact position; an indistinguishable lot and bulk properties is all that’s needed.

Now the simulation has been running out of resources. More people. More detailed observation of the world, from close-up views of astronomical phenomena to atomic resolution microscopes. High-tech devices require constant reliance on high-detail quantum mechanics of small groups of atoms, en masse.

What happens when servers are stressed? Timing issues, swapfile and caching issues, random memory writes more likely to hit something meaningful… however our universe is implemented, it is an information system and will have analogous issues.

Cue the bugs.

Unobserved areas are not computed until needed, and then mechanisms are invoked to decide whether to catch-up in one (or a few coarse) gulps, how to simplify re entropy, etc. (Think of lazy evaluation in Haskel.)

That stops working. The stuff you look at causes crashes/exceptions/corruption, and the state is not caught up. It shows the same state that existed the last time it was observed, unchanged.

This gives you lots of latitude to adjust the effects and naturally give inconsistent results, especially to (somehow) get stuff to work out.

It also allows you to have the effects progress over time. Anomalies become full scale missing time in astronomical observations and quantum system experiments. Wilderness disappears but (remote) servers still work. Then eventually advanced semiconductors only work when being operated directly and in close proximity, and finally the bubbles close in around people individually.

In this scheme, it is natural that the bubbles won’t be black, but you will see the frozen reality beyond. The sun shines on people.

Story plot and Framework

The breakdown of the simulation and discovery of the true nature can be a major thread in the story. It can also give access to a study of “meta physics” and even exploits to hack into it.

The malfunctioning simulation hypothesis natually lets you tune the details how you like even to the point of inconsistent rules or changing phenomena. Just add special cases and glitches: rather than plot holes, they provide insight into the underlying code and clues for crafting intentional exploits!

Personally, I would love to read that novel.

  • $\begingroup$ I like this explanation because a version of this could explain the world I described quite well and it gives it an explanation, I still think if the simulation was actually simulating all the particles on the atomic scale it would work with my description of the bubble as black. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 1, 2015 at 18:56
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    $\begingroup$ Would the downvoter please explain? If it contains inaccuracies, problems, or misses the point, it needs a comment to indicate what. This seems to be a high-quality answer that's endorced as being to-to-pointnby the OP, so I hace to wonder, do you know the purpose of downvoting on SE? Is this some kind od "personal" issue? $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Commented Jul 4, 2015 at 3:39
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    $\begingroup$ The only reason I can think of for the downvoting, is that you proposed a interesting explanation, but the question was more about what society would do, and also indirectly about how to solve many of the engineering problems created by this scenario. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 4, 2015 at 23:43
  • $\begingroup$ I suppose the question was downvoted by (same?) someone because it's not clear what the question is. Outside of the Title line, there is no question, just presentation of a scenario. But I thought "cool, I'll think about that too" rather than flagging it. On a more typical SE it would have been closed (most downvoters/flaggers don't consider the Title as part of the question, it seems in my experience). $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Commented Jul 5, 2015 at 3:32
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    $\begingroup$ Upvoted because this seems to be the only way to make this premise into a story without handwaving everything away. And I like it! $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 3:20

Regardless of the availability of CO₂ scrubbers (and in the long run I suspect you are greatly overestimating what can be done along those lines, especially with no prior warning), it seems clear that most people will be dead within 24 hours, 48 at most. The problem is not CO₂ , it's heat. Not only is the world outside the bubble perfectly black, the surface of the bubble is a perfect insulator. Thermal vibrations cannot propagate outside the bubble, nor can IR radiation.

Nominal Basal Metabolic Rate for a resting, 100 kg, 25-year-old male is 2,000 kcal/day, or about 8 MJ/day. During an eight-hour sleep cycle that will be 2.7 MJ. Within a personal bubble, all of the heat must be absorbed by the sleeper, for a total thermal load of 27 kJ/kg. Since the specific heat of water is about 4000 J/kg-C, at the end of eight hours your body temperature will be about 110 degrees, which is hardly survivable. Sweating won't help much. At 30°C the density of saturated water vapor is about 30g/cu meter. For a 2-meter radius bubble, that's about .36 kg. Using 2.2 kJ/g as heat of vaporization, evaporation can mitigate about 800 kJ of metabolic energy, so the actual rise will be on the order of 8 degrees, for a waking fever of about 107 °F.

Smaller individuals, of course, will generate less heat, but they have less mass to heat up.

The idea of using generators for farming and running CO₂ scrubbers consequently becomes disastrous. A 10 kW generator will produce 860 MJ of energy per day, and virtually all of this will end up as heat in a bubble. Regardless of bubble size, the specific heat of air is quite small, so most of the heat will go to warming up the generator, animals and people. Not to mention that the air will quickly become saturated with water vapor from the generator exhaust. Water vapor is not usually considered, but it is a major component of hydrocarbon combustion. Dehumdifiers don't actually help much, since they require large amounts of energy to cool the water vapor in the air for condensation. And if, somehow, the people survive long enough to actually start eating the farm's food, all the energy which went into producing food value will be released as heat as the food is metabolized.

Oh yes, and pigs will be particularly hard hit. They don't sweat.

EDIT — Addressing the possibility that heat hits the shell of the bubble and is trapped there. Fine. We can do this two ways.

First, let's take it literally. Then the shell will trap ALL thermal energy impinging on it, and will act like a surface of infinite thermal conductivity with a surface temperature of absolute zero. The inside becomes a super refrigerator, and the person freezes to death, but probably not before the air freezes out and asphyxiates him.

Alternatively, the shell maintains thermal equilibrium with the "nominal" temperature of the environment just outside. This causes it to absorb excess heat and store it in a thin layer which forms the thickness of the bubble's shell. Let's assume that the trapping layer is 10 mm thick. Consider the idea that a person has slept for 8 hours keeping perfectly still, then rolls over. During his sleep, he has emitted 2.7 MJ of energy, all of which has been trapped in the storage layer (this isn't quite true, since some of it will have been absorbed by the ground the sleeper is lying on, but let's ignore that). As the sleeper rolls over, the bubble moves with him, bringing the near side of the external environment, including the storage layer, inside the bubble.

Considering the half of the shell above ground, this will amount to 1/4 of the total storage layer. This will consist of 4π × .01 meters, or .12 cu meters. This weighs about .14 kg. During the night, this accumulated 2.7 MJ / 4, or about 600 kJ. The specific heat of air is just about 1 kJ/kg-C, so this air will be effectively heated to 600 / .14, or 4300 degrees Centigrade. This will instantly raise the internal temperature by 40 degrees C, and the pressure by nearly 2 psi. The sleeper will possibly be woken up when his eardrums rupture.

  • $\begingroup$ Aren't there generators which take away heat to provide another form of energy? Maybe if people spread out to cover as much area with time-bubbles as they can we can get enough generators working, along with other necessary things. But the coordination that would require is probably unrealistic. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 17:09
  • $\begingroup$ Actually, now that I think about it, isn't the heat still lost? It would attempt to travel outside your bubble, but then just stops moving - its not like it is reflected and held inside the bubble. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 17:11
  • $\begingroup$ "Aren't there generators which take away heat to provide another form of energy?" No. Heat is the end result of any other forms of energy interacting with the universe. One version of the First Law of Thermodynamics: "Work is heat and heat is work." And "if people spread out ... we can get enough generators working" suggests that you have entirely missed the point. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 17:14
  • $\begingroup$ My reasoning with "if people spread out" is that it introduces more and more objects to absorb the heat - which may slow the heat death down somewhat, until a solution is found - if possible. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 17:18
  • $\begingroup$ "its not like it is reflected and held inside the bubble" - Oh yes it is. Or, let's put it this way - if heat did somehow "collect" on the inside of the bubble, the edge of the bubble would become a thin zone of extremely high temperature, and would fry anybody who tried to enter the bubble, or would be released the instant the occupant moves. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 17:20

OK. After some brief consideration I've come up with a couple of scenarios:

1: Everybody dies.
2: Everybody dies.

It's basically a matter of degrees between the various deaths.

Let's address the basic problem here. In your answer you've expressly said that gravity still works. Sadly, without time, the same can't really be said of the other forces. That's not an issue for anything outside of the time bubble though, as they're outside time. Not is it a problem inside the bubble, where things are still normal. The problem arises at the boundary.

You've addressed some boundary conditions in your question, notably that an object (which I'm going to assume means some form of logical unit that's utterly handwaved) can still be pulled through the boundary. It's good you defined this, otherwise the lack of nuclear forces would mean that the floor would fall into itself, becoming degenerate at the bubble wall. When the person causing the bubble also started to fall the degenerate matter would either undergo nuclear fusion or just run flat into some good old chemical processes. Either way: The floor is made of lava. Everybody dies.

But you sidestepped that issue. The floor is safe!


OK. Assuming that the boundary is perfectly sticky and that object can't get through the boundary, any living but unintelligent creatures on the boundary die. If you enter a new area with a colony of gerbils in it, they're all going to die from massive cellular trauma as they pass the boundary, due to the chemical reactions that let life work literally being cut in half (not to mention bloodflow, nervous and digestive issues caused by the boundary).

Secondly, there are all manner of problems with airflow. I'm not going to delve into heat retention as it's been covered in excruciatingly warm detail since my original answer, but air is still an issue.

As the OP noted, the atmosphere will rapidly stick to the walls of the bubble and become a solid 'shell' of sorts, preventing anything inside the bubble from running into the wall and causing itself trouble. I'm going to have to assume that 'stuck' here means that the probability distribution of a particle's position is centred on a point on the shell of the bubble. From the point of view of the air, this means that more and more air particles are going to be able to 'stick' to the boundary every second, and as these particles are stuck they aren't going to be able to bounce back like normal.

If the shell is completely immobile then eventually this forms a completely solid shell of particles. If not then two interesting scenarios arise:

1: A person moves steadily in a direction.

Here the problem becomes one of sheer numbers. The number of new air particles entering the shell will be lower than the number of particles sticking to the opposite side of the shell. The air pressure will decrease. The faster you move, the less this will affect you, but the effect will still be there. Sooner or later the ambient pressure is going to be low enough that you can't breathe, at which point you die. Strangely the same issue doesn't apply to sea creatures or amphibians, as water is incompressible the amount of particles stuck at the boundary is going to equal the number of particles entering.

2: The person stays as still as they can.

If you stay still then you'll only lose a little air. As you shift about, shiver in the darkness or breathe the bubble is going to move back and forth, allowing the previously stuck air to recycle into the bubble. The 'shell' of stuck particles will move outwards a little further in this case, and become a little thicker as you shift backwards and forwards, but unless you're pacing back and forth by the radius of the sphere you won't be able to exhaust all of your atmosphere. Instead you simply succumb to atmospheric degradation and die.


OK. Sociological solutions without everybody dying!

As previously mentioned: large animals that can pass the mirror test are going to be immensely valuable. An elephant, though expensive in terms of food, will provide a large bubble capable of supporting multiple people.

In terms of humans: the first priority will be actually working out what's going on. Remember: Everyone has just been plunged into blackness. The walls of the bubble are going to have an albedo of 0 unless you're moving forwards, when they might glow a little. People who get hit by the change in the middle of the day are likely going to die very quickly, as they'll have no handy light sources. Those at night, already in the dark or blind will have a little more success (though still a lot of everybody dying). Finding another human being in the dark when you have no way to find them (no visual LOS, no auditory clues, no vibrations ets) is going to be hard.

For small groups of people with some form of light I think that the first few days will be survivable. As long as they keep moving they'll have air and will be able to scavenge new resources, but they'll have to watch out for other, similarly minded groups and make sure they don't get split up. Tribal nomads with high resource contention and no way to know when another tribe is nearby sounds like a recipe for some pretty unexpected and brutal fighting.

In the end though, everyone still dies. Handwaving away temperature issues leaves us with a total lack of renewable resources. Batteries will run out. Trees and plants will not regrow. It's hard to pump diesel when time's stopped in the middle of the tank, not to mention the pollution inside the bubbles. Groups of mobile raiders will last the longest, potentially biker gangs or long distance drivers, but eventually even they are going to die in the dark.

All in all: If they don't die fast, they die brutally. Everyone dies.

  • $\begingroup$ Ok While a lot of the points you originally brought up are valid, I have addressed most of these issues since then. The mostly immovable barrier of air on the edge of the barrier solves a lot of problems. You don't need a elephant to make a time bubble the common Eurasian magpie and even pigs both have the necessary intelligence bar as explained in my question (though the size of the bubble is related to the size of the creature), pigs seem to be able to act upon information in mirrors, also since ants can pass the mirror test I somewhat question exactly how useful the mirror test is. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 23:45
  • $\begingroup$ All the other points you brought up have also been addressed, and many of the questions about the viability of survival long-term in this scenario actually hinge on how feasible it is to do large dangling skin grafts, (see my answer to my question). $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 23:49
  • $\begingroup$ The elephant was more for a large, mobile time bubble. The volume enclosed by the elephant's time bubble is is going to be considerable without the need for any crazy skin grafts. $\endgroup$
    – Joe Bloggs
    Commented Jul 1, 2015 at 8:51
  • $\begingroup$ Also: your edit disallowing objects moving through the boundary means that a lot of air is going to get stuck at the boundary and left behind when a person moves. More air, in fact, than the person would gain from walking into the new space (air is sparse, the boundary is sticky). Now you have a choice between standing still and dying or moving forwards and dying... $\endgroup$
    – Joe Bloggs
    Commented Jul 1, 2015 at 9:01
  • $\begingroup$ Once a layer of air is stuck on the boundary more air can't get stuck because the air already on the planck length boundary is in the way. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 1, 2015 at 18:51

While nearly everyone would die I have upon thinking about it resolved how I suspect most people would die and how some might live:

How most people die: While I originally suspected people would die of asphyxiation, I don't think that's how most people outside crowded cities would die. Instead I think that people would move to avoid having their bubble run out of oxygen. However most of the easily accessible food is likely stored in areas like super markets that would run out of oxygen incredibly quickly. Once places a lot of people would go to like supermarkets run out of air, then going there would require a oxygen tank or carbon scrubber.

Larger bubbles: One implication of the rules I established regarding the time fields may make survival possible for a small number, skin grafts. While the procedure would require medical expertise grafting skin from say your abdomen into living strips connected to your blood supply could enlarge your bubble substantially if the strip trailed off your body.

Large permanent time fields: Due to the fact people wouldn't want to stand next to a generator they need to run, or stand in the middle of a super-efficient algae farm, and of course stand at intervals along the power-line from the generator to indoor farm. People would get time fields another way, animals: By taking animals intelligent enough to generate time field and grafting long strips of their own living skin onto the front and back of the animal, you can get large time field that are necessary to run well anything.

Long term: While there may be many things I'm failing to take into account, I think it may be possible for groups of people to survive. Utilizing power plants and indoor farms with pigs with a long strip of their own living skin trailing as far as possible (maybe 20-100 ft?) in both direction generating the necessary time fields. In the long term large problems might be genetic diversity (though you might be able to easily make your way to perfectly preserved sperm banks), and obtaining resources, since any large scale operation would require nearby power plants to run co2 scrubbers (and lot of animals with skin grafts to generate time fields).

Government: While individual governments would vary I can predict with some confidence what they would find valuable:

Unlike many other post-apocalyptic scenarios canned food would be no more useful than normal food since shelf life isn't very meaningful though any food or water is useful. Gas and other fuels are useful for generators. Medical expertise is incredibly valuable for normal reasons but mostly because skin grafts are incredibly necessary. Co2 scrubbers are valuable for obvious reasons but any oxygen tanks are also quite valuable so you can scavenge for food in de-oxenagated areas.

Helium and other buoyant gasses might also be valuable for several reasons: One when outside you can attach your long skin graft to a balloon to extend your bubble size. You could also attach a light weight animal able to generate a time field (with skin grafts to maximize bubble size) to a balloon which you hold onto with a rope and move up and down to mix fresh air from just above where any bubbles have been with your time field. While air on the ground in many places would be depleted there is a huge amount of air above where most people can reach that will still be fresh.

EDIT, Nomads: While some people might try to survive in permanent settlements, probably more people would survive as nomads. Nomadic people would probably become very good at navigating while being limited to not seeing outside their bubble nomads would probably also use torches to see inside their bubble since plant material would be easiest to get. Nomads would use any form of ranged weapon since any wildlife you encounter unable to make its own time field can't escape you. Temporary settlements: nomads might use trained magpies attached to ropes letting them fly up vertically then come back down mingling the air of the birds fresh bubble with the old stale air. Nomads would also stick together for fear of getting separated.

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    $\begingroup$ You're going to make a 20'-100' skin graft, in the dark, by cutting strips of your own skin off? How do you intend to pump blood through the skin? You won't be able to keep it alive and you'll be back to square one with a good chunk of your abdomen skin missing. $\endgroup$
    – Samuel
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 1:23
  • $\begingroup$ That's why I said you would need medical expertise but I certainly don't think this kind of skin graft is impossible, and you would obviously have a flashlight or some other contained light source. You would need medical equipment and 1 or more doctors doing the procedure which is why most people would die. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 1:28
  • $\begingroup$ You'd need a new heart to pump through that distance too, especially if you're using a balloon to lift it in the air. You couldn't do this in a regular world, let alone one where time has stopped and most people are dead or unable to find each other. $\endgroup$
    – Samuel
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 1:32
  • $\begingroup$ the strip of skin doesn't have to be very thick it only needs to be able to be kept alive connected to your body $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 2:24
  • $\begingroup$ If it's thick enough to pump blood through it, then it's thick enough to wound you significantly by removing it. $\endgroup$
    – Samuel
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 2:53

Everyone would die, probably via asphyxiation, while floating in the dark.

It seems the only hand-waving thing you've done (aside from the obvious) is negate the conservation of momentum for the spinning Earth. That should keep everyone from getting killed immediately, though the future is bleak for the survivors.


The sunlight reaching an area would last as long as it takes for the light at the edge of a time bubble to cross its diameter. So, a few nanoseconds. Light requires time to propagate, it won't come streaming through the edge of the bubble because there is no time passing on the other side. As soon as the photons in the volume of the bubble is absorbed by one bit of matter or another, there aren't any more coming in to replace them. You can't see outside of your time bubble, the edges would be perfectly dark.


You'll have the same issue with gravity. Gravity propagates at the speed of light, if the mass disappears, so does the field. Like the photons, once your time bubble essentially makes the rest of the universe not exist, you'll no longer have gravity. Your mass can't see the mass of the Earth anymore, so you'll just float away from it. If you want to somehow handwave this away then feel free to ignore following sections which mention it, the overall outcome will be the same.


Ok, so, in the first few nanoseconds everyone is floating in the dark, but they don't immediately die. Hopefully they were not outside when this occurred, because they might end up getting to freeze to death or asphyxiate if they can't stop themselves from floating upward. Those people will get a little light though, as they move up more photons will be released from stasis in a column above them.

Lack of oxygen is not going to be the killer here, it will be CO₂ buildup. You probably know this since you mention C0₂ scrubbers. Without scrubbers your bubble air will kill you in less than half a day. Even with scrubbers though, a time bubble will only have enough oxygen for a little less than a day. For this reason alone, sharing a space with someone is only going to kill you faster.

Nomadic Survival

People should travel alone, floating around, probably indoors. Growing plants is not really an option. The best option for light would be with batteries, which won't provide enough power (or more rightly, contain enough energy) to grow any plants. Someone might think to use a generator, but they're just going to add that deadly CO₂ to their bubble faster. People would add more CO₂ to their bubble than the plants could remove, it's easier to just use up this (suddenly non-renewable) resource, because otherwise you die.

To survive the longest you have to keep moving. To see anything inside your bubble you need light. Light will only be useful inside your bubble, so hopefully you can navigate by only seeing a meter in all directions. I suspect the most resourceful person would be able to survive for a few months. The mental toll of being stuck inside a two meter wide black sphere and being short of breath every time you wake up would certainly dampen the will to survive.

  • $\begingroup$ According to OP, "everything still has a gravitational pull on everything else". So he's handwaving gravitational issues away. $\endgroup$
    – Rob Watts
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 17:38
  • $\begingroup$ @RobWatts You downvote for that? You should read the whole answer, clearly I know he wrote that, it's why I said "If you want to somehow handwave this away then feel free to ignore following sections which mention it, the overall outcome will be the same." $\endgroup$
    – Samuel
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 17:57
  • $\begingroup$ Actually, as far as I understand things, gravity does not propagate at the speed of light, only changes in gravity do. (Gravity is just there already, being a local curvature of spacetime.) $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 18:14
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    $\begingroup$ @JDługosz The event horizon doesn't have infinite gravity, so how can you say that there is no passage of time at the event horizon? Infinitesimally small is not the same as zero. So, time slows as gravity increases, how do you then infer that gravity will remain the same when time is fully stopped? I'm not seeing the logic there. It's a good thing to point to if you want to claim gravity will be infinitely strong, but not for gravity simply being unaffected. $\endgroup$
    – Samuel
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 22:39
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    $\begingroup$ @VakusDrake If you're floating up through to the upper atmosphere you will either freeze to death or asphyxiate. This is not a common misconception. $\endgroup$
    – Samuel
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 0:22

A very intriguing thought experiment. Star and points for that.

JDLugosz has already made some fine points about this, his main pont the world is a simulation makes a very good premise. Physics and events would match up to a (bad) computer game. In fact games use a LOT of these shortcuts:

  • Occlusion culling: What the user cannot see, is not rendered by the game engine
  • NPCs: Non-player characters are spawned into existence when and wherever they are needed. They may have some tasks running "in the background" (eg. Skyrim and newer Fallout games...) all NPCs have daily tasks, but when the user looks/walks away, their bodily "form" or "shell" is unloaded.

In this case, any animal outside the time bubble will stand (nearly) still... Intelligent or not, the given animal will be none the wiser, as it will experience the altered timeframe as you all would experience time right now.

The point is, that time is relative... Time also slows down for a pilot of a near-lightspeed space ship, but he still experiences that timeframe as being unaltered.

As for the humans:


Why? Because the low-to-none amount of light (depending on time dilation factor) will make humanity unable to grow crops.

Of course, you could plant a field of wheat and walk away, but depending on the time dilation factor, it may take hundreds or thousands of years in relation to the farmer to grow the crops.

You can also go kill an animal (easy, you just extend your time field around their heart... imagine your heart beating a million beats per minute), but the animals also take hundreds or thousands of years to grow and reproduce compared to the human timeframe. Any animal that comes into contact with or cross a time field like this, is very probably going to die immediately and painfully...

The remaining humans will not be able to eat meat (apart from very rare occasions), and they will only be limited to crops that can grow under low-light conditions (good example being mushrooms, which thrive in darkenss). New jobs would include literally watching plants grow and paint dry, to make sure it happens this century...

Where you have to be careful, and where many go wrong, is that time outside cannot stand perfectly still! Space and time are two very intermingled forces, and one cannot exist without the other. This rule applies in reality, but not for a simulation (as things are dynamically loaded and unloaded as needed)

Essentially: Time needs space so that something can happen. (without time at all, there cannot be a "big bang" or a growing universe)

on the other hand..

Space needs time to grow and change. (without space, how would you move about or do something?)


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