One of my characters has the ability to manipulate time, and thus I've found that if used properly, that ability isn't presented with much in the way of obstacles. Once time has stopped, unless they are facing someone with the same abilities or some physical challenge that would be difficult regardless, it's hard for most to stand against them. So I've toyed with the idea of a metal or material that is "time resistant" but I'm not entirely sure of a good way to explain how it resists their abilities, but not all things (like it could still be melted or something). I want a little bit more than "it just does" and so I've run into a wall.

Theoretically I can have armor or devices made with this "time resistant" material, but I don't want to hand wave it away if possible. Are there any ideas for a good justification?

The story takes place in a science-fantasy universe with civilizations up to Type IV, but primarily with Types II and III. So it's reasonable that this stuff could be imported, or manufactured rather than natural. I'm mainly looking for a pseudo-scientific way this might work. But there's magic and stuff so it doesn't need to be that strict.


Note: In case it helps, the character manipulates time in an area around themselves, but it doesn't affect everything in the universe if they stop time. If things enter or leave this area they are affected or go back to normal accordingly. Basically time is treated as a dimension that can be traveled through forwards and backwards and "stopping time" is halting that movement for things in this area. (At least that's how it works in my head right now.)

  • $\begingroup$ how this area is determined? can be bigger or smaller at will or the character has no choice on how big the area is? the reason that limits the ability to a certain area is what can be used against him $\endgroup$ – Erik vanDoren Feb 28 '16 at 0:54
  • $\begingroup$ The area is determined by the person's talent and experience in controlling it. The more they use it the bigger they can project the field. The user has control over the size and shape up to their limit. If someone could measure it, they could certainly avoid the area it's in, but that might be difficult to do on the fly, though it is something to consider. $\endgroup$ – JGaines Feb 28 '16 at 15:50
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    $\begingroup$ Is it any worse than how he sees where he's going, manipulates things while frozen, etc.? $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Feb 29 '16 at 12:48
  • $\begingroup$ As I have it now, the power won't affect photons and atmosphere and the like, unless they are specifically targeted in the field or the user causes something like a "fullstop" of everything inside, but that would be really bad for the user, so it wouldn't happen often. Somethings are automatically ignored durring use, thus conserving energy. This means though that things like poison gas or lasers might be ignored unless the user explicitly halts it. It's one of those, "easy" to do at a basic level, hard to master sort of things. $\endgroup$ – JGaines Feb 29 '16 at 16:30
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    $\begingroup$ What do you mean by "type iv" etc? Those seem high for the Kardashiv scale. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz May 15 '16 at 18:36

When we talk about "manipulating time" from a physics perspective, typically we are referring to things that are well modeled using a model that permits manipulating time. Science is not very good at making statements about the truth of reality, merely statements which appear so astonishingly close to the truth that one can believe they are true and get away with it. One of the easiest ways to weave magic with science like this is to define a mechanic which refutes some fundamental assumption of science, but does so gently enough not to break the world.

A "time resistant" material might simply be a material which is not well modeled using our usual approaches. Because we're working with time manipulation, it would be fun to create a material which has properties which are not time invariant. Time invariance is a very important feature of science: it says that the properties science is studying do not vary with time. The results may change with time, such as an electric stove that gets hot as you turn it on, but the fundamental scientific principles of electricity and heat do not change with time.

You might have a material where most of its properties are time invariant, like any other material science is comfortable with. However, when put near a time manipulation field like your character has, it exhibits non-time-invariant behavior which makes it very difficult to move this field through the material. Think of it like an ooblick, whose properties appear to change when stressed in the right way.

Thanks to Nother's theorem, we know that every symmetry in Lagrangian equations has a corresponding conserved variable. That sentence is a mouthful, but the effects of the theorem are easier to understand. If you have time-invariance (the rules of physics do not change with time), you naturally have conservation of energy as a consequence of the equations. If you have position-invariance (the rules of physics are the same at all positions in the universe), you naturally have conservation of momentum. Let us assume that your time manipulator cannot violate the conservation of energy. Why? Because if you can violate the conservation of energy with your ability, all of science falls on its face*, and you said you want some resemblance of science. This means, as far as the time manipulating character understands, their abilities must be time-invariant. The two go hand in hand, thanks to the mathematics and Nother's theorem. If the time-resistant armor exhibits non-time-invariant behaviors when subjected to time manipulation, the conservation of energy appears to fly out the window. This means the character will have trouble understand what is happening near the armor when they use their time manipulation effects. The fundamental assumptions of the universe that they are making fail.

Of course, there's no reason to say this actually has to violate the conservation of energy, it just needs to appear so from the perspective of the time manipulator. Perhaps they feel the armor sucking them dry when they use the field near it, when in reality all it's doing is taking advantage of the fact that their understanding of time manipulation is not actually the real ontological rules of time manipulation. This would lead them to feel like it takes work to use the field near this armor.

You could pull a wave/particle duality stunt with this as well. If, for instance, the way the characters manipulate time is described using wave behavior, the armor may be manipulated in a way that is far better modeled using particle physics. This would be the same as wave/particle duality for photons or electrons: its not that an electron is a wave or is a particle, its that in some circumstances you can model it best as a wave, and some circumstances you can model it best as a particle. If the armor can exhibit behaviors which are best modeled as particles, anyone who assumes time manipulation effects work as waves will be sorely displeased with how things work. The results may be as counter intuitive for your characters as the Delayed Choice Quantum Eraser experiments, whose results are completely and utterly baffling if you assume photons are either waves or particles.

Interestingly, this also suggests a way for the time manipulators to overcome the armor. If the wearer of the armor starts to assume the armor always causes time-manipulation effects to behave as though marshaled by particles, there may be regions where they get confused as well. Perhaps there is a way to manipulate time such that the manipulation is poorly modeled by both waves and particles. In this case, one who understands the time-manipulation analogue to quantum physics would be able to do things that the armor wearer could never expect. Thus, the armor wearer might leave openings in their defenses, assuming the armor can do more than it really can. For an example of where things like this can go crazy, take a look at Bell's Inequalities. If you are assuming all of the funny behavior of quantum mechanics is merely us not knowing enough about the particles we are observing, you believe in a "local variable hypothesis," which has been proven to be an inadequate model of quantum behaviors.

Now none of what I have suggested here for the armor is actual physics. There's no QM involved . The links are all valid QM, but the applications with respect to time manipulation are all made up. However, these suggestions do take up the flavor of the problems tackled by QM researchers, so that flavor may lend credibility to your pseudoscience.

* Most of modern scientific theories are modeled using Lagrangian equations. Even in General Relativity, there is a conserved value we can call energy, though admittedly it is more complicated than our typical formulations of it.

  • $\begingroup$ You'll have to forgive the extremely long walk to come to ideas about time manipulation. As written, the question is "idea generation," which isn't permitted on WorldBuilding because its too easy to come up with solutions which only benefit the asker, rather than everyone else who comes by. However, in this case, I felt there was value in exploring a whole host of options which can be useful for weaving magic and science together, in general. It's just a lot less direct way of getting there! $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Feb 28 '16 at 17:09
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the really detailed response. Even if my question did bend the rules a bit, I do think that others with similar characters can benefit, even if they just get something out of the thought process demonstrated. I don't think I have an exact answer quite yet, but all of these answers and especially yours have given me a really good idea of how to form it. Thanks! $\endgroup$ – JGaines Mar 1 '16 at 0:59
  • $\begingroup$ Funny, your mention of ooblik reminded me of ubik from Philip K. Dick. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz May 15 '16 at 18:38
  • $\begingroup$ I think you've already lost any semblance of real science with an ability to freeze time. Compared to that, violation of the conservation of energy seems trivial to me. Energy is not even conserved in General Relativity except in special cases: preposterousuniverse.com/blog/2010/02/22/… Furthermore, as that post explains, apparent "violations" of energy conservation can in fact be explained away by treating the energy as being stored in a field. $\endgroup$ – sumelic May 15 '16 at 20:16
  • $\begingroup$ @sumelic I never mention freezing time, only manipulating time and what time manipulation patterns might be reasonably integratable into science if someone discovered them. Lagrangian systems, are a very very popular approach to physics, so it seems reasonable that some yet-undiscovered way to manipulate time might have similar patterns. All that being said, I think that my last paragraph should sum up the intent of my post, especially the last word. Given your focus on hard-science, I think that word may be useful for you. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon May 15 '16 at 20:23

You could take a relatively simple approach to this and say that materials that are themselves increasingly invariant with time are increasingly resistant to temporal manipulation.

As examples, paper is particularly fleeting in its existence and would pose no resistance at all. Things like bricks, recently made and soon to decay would also be barely a shadow, But gold or granite, materials that stand invariable through the ages would be largely impenetrable to him. (It also gives you a reason for golden armour, but that's by the by.)

By your question you're looking for a particular unobtanium grade of time resistance that I'm going to call eternium. Gold tarnishes, granite erodes but eternium is unchanging, unreactive and incredibly hard to work with.

  • $\begingroup$ I agree this would be a really difficult material to work with, but I think you are correct in saying that this would be something that would have to stand the wear and tear of epochs without ill effects. $\endgroup$ – JGaines Mar 1 '16 at 1:01

If you want to be completely scientific about it, then stopping time is extremely overpowered: every single physical law whose equation has time in it deals pretty poorly with having it reduced to zero (for example any force becomes infinite). Not to discourage you, of course; story-breaker powers are often the most interesting to write and read about. Although given that you are writing about a guy with time powers, I assume that you will be OK with some shaky physics, so here goes nothing. First, you could have a material that exists in multiple or every dimension at once, à la Ice Nine or hyperfiber, which would work by spreading the energy to the past, future, or other universes. Alternatively, you could have large covalent lattice structures, such as diamond, resist the effects of time stoppage by again spreading the force across every atom. Or, if you want the material to be even more sciencey, just say something about quantum entangling to a place outside the time-stop


the character manipulates time in an area around themselves

Apparently, things with mass cause a dip in the fabric of space-time that affects the area around them. If you want to (mis-?)use the latest science in your fiction, look into some of the new results about gravitational waves (from LIGO) as well as the new results about the Higgs field (from CERN). Your story might be able to use the concepts of (magically?) rapidly changing mass and/or having materials and particles of types that do or do not interact with the field as appropriate for your story.

  • $\begingroup$ Changing mass wouldn't work for armour as how would the wearer manage to keep the armour on when it was really heavy or light. $\endgroup$ – Bellerophon Feb 27 '16 at 15:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Sam I thought it was the character who changed mass, and the armor that might block the effects. $\endgroup$ – WBT Feb 27 '16 at 16:03
  • $\begingroup$ So how does the armour work? $\endgroup$ – Bellerophon Feb 27 '16 at 16:10
  • $\begingroup$ Imagine a uniform force field of wind blowing across a flat grassy area. Imagine putting up a big shield of something and standing behind it, where you won't be as affected. Alternatively, imagine ocean waves coming in and getting blocked by breaker barriers set up to protect a harbor. Now imagine analogizing that to a Higgs field, or gravitational waves, and start using that imagination, because nobody yet understands all the implications or applications associated with either discovery. (This is not intended to be a hard-science question/answer; the question requests "psudeo-scientific"). $\endgroup$ – WBT Feb 27 '16 at 16:16
  • $\begingroup$ You can also try experimenting with a pan half full of water and a piece of a plastic milk/juice container to block handmade waves. $\endgroup$ – WBT Feb 27 '16 at 16:21

The problem with using "relativity" approaches is that in most cases, time slows down for the experimentee rather than speeding up. This probably has the opposite effect than what you want

i.e. to "Stop" time, you probably want to be able to move freely while the rest of the world stops, but with relativity, it is you who will stop (so you will appear paused to everyone else - great for travelling into the future, not as good for stopping the flow of time).

According to General Relativity, for super heavy materials, like black holes, time for objects close to it would slow down or stop. As I said, you want the opposite effect, so you want a sort of "Reverse Time Dilation" using a large amount of exotic matter with negative mass or anti-gravity or something.

(Either that or your physicists have cracked how exactly time dilation works and have found a way to replicate and manipulate it)

This would mean time would speed up for the user rather than slowing down, in other words, everything else would appear to slow down. You probably couldn't halt the world to a stop, but make it reaaaaalllllyyyy slow...


many time manipulation theories I have heard of involve massive sums of energy....that being said as metals can be used to deflect and ground energies as in faraday cages your answer may be found there....say the person evolve in a way that their mitochondria evolved in such a way it was able to generate the necessary energy you could even tie this to the magickal powers....but the metals could deflect the enegries and maybe even store them and or reuse them to the wearers ends....


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