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Old January 17 2008, 12:44 AM   #9
Christopher
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Re: Q & A Query (SPOILERS)

Well, despite the tendency to use the terms interchangeably, alternate timelines are not separate universes. They're different quantum states of our universe. Our universe was born and then began diverging into different timelines, different histories. But all those histories are part of the same universe, descended from the same origin. Destroy that universe and you destroy all its timelines, all its histories, all its Jean-Luc Picards and Datas and Messrs. Mot. But it's just one universe. Or multiverse, if you prefer. (Which is an etymologically questionable word; "universe" means "one from many," so "multiverse" actually means "many many.")

A different universe would be a completely different place. It wouldn't be a place where the same planets and people exist but they're evil instead of good or they all wear cowboy hats. It would have different galaxies, different planets, different species -- maybe even different laws of physics that don't allow those things to exist in the first place. (In Trek, a good example of a different universe would be Species 8472's fluidic space.)
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