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The Significance of number '88' in the movie Donnie Darko (2001)
Fact: The significance of the number of 88 is prevalent everywhere within the movie Donnie Darko. Its major significance deals with superstring theory E8xE8, which discusses theoretical concepts like multiverses and time travel.
Donnie Darko is a mystery drama that deals with the science fiction. It is about a troubled teenager that is plagued by visions of a large bunny rabbit who manipulates him to commit a series of crimes.
For the most part, the movies message delves into the notion of a good angel and bad angel. The moral of both stories is that life is predetermined. Choosing one’s own path can cause different endings only to lead to the same conclusion. This is the key message Donnie takes away from the book The Philosophy of Time Travel.
Throughout the films storyline the audience is presented with numerous examples of the numerical value 8. More so, the number 88. Some of these examples are hidden and require more in depth analysis of the viewer to conclude its significance. Here we present not only many examples but the brief theoretical significance it holds in physics.
Where The Number 88 Presents Itself
Many physicists that have watched the movie make the link that the numerical value represents time travel and multiverses. There are several instances in which the numerical value 88 presents itself. The movie takes place in 1988, where Donnie is told that the world will end in 28 days, 06 hours, 42 minutes, and 12 seconds (88). Additionally, when Samantha asks when she can have kids, Donnie says the 8th grade. Donnie mentions that his dog dies when he is 8. Donnie jokes about Back to the Future (1985) Delorean which had a speed of 88 mph. The climax of the movie occurs one week before the 1988 US Presidential election, when George Bush won on November 8, 1988 [11/08/88].
What We Did Not Know!
In the Director's Cut, the movie came out with an 'in-universe' fictional book The Philosophy of Time Travel. This book expands on the scientific concepts presented in the movie but is never clearly defined. The book explains that the film takes place within an unstable “Tangent Universe” that is connected to what is called a “Primary Universe” and is a duplicate of it, except for what is called a metal artifact. If the chosen Living Receiver (Donnie) does not bring the artifact into the Primary Universe within 28 days, the Primary Universe will be destroyed upon collapse of the Tangent Universe. And this is what Donnie is caught reading within the movie. The scientific concepts stem from what is called string theory, more so, one of five distinct superstring theories.
Superstring Theory (String Theory) is an attempt to explain all particles and fundamental forces presented in nature using a single theory by modelling them as vibrations of supersymmetric strings that are one-dimensional (Think of a string in space, one dimension allows you move up or down or side to side on the string; not left or right) in space-time (Greene, Elegant 15).
To help you better understand string theory, think of these strings as music strings. As most musicians and music enthusiasts know, each string usually provides different sound due to the tension that has been applied to it. They call these excitation modes. Like musical strings, string theory states that very small particles and fundamental forces are strings (very small, a millionth of a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a centimeter; Planck's Constant - 10-35). In order to excite each string, strings must be placed under tension. The problem is, instead of strings being tied down to an object, they float in what is called "space-time." But why is it called "supersymmetrical strings." Physicists believe that for every particle that applies a force, there is a corresponding particle that makes up physical matter. So each force is physically represented . E8xE8 = 88 is only one of five distinct (maybe 6) superstring theories, and talks about specific strings and the corresponding particles that arise (Schwarz, SuperStringTheory.com).
- Sidenote: The theory is also called a theory of gravity. What does this actually mean? It means that there are strings that give rise to what are called gravitons that comprises the gravitational force (Gravity stems from large objects in space bending the fabric of space time. E.g. Place an object on actual fabric, its mass pulls on the fabric. That is why we rotate aroung the sun. The curve the sun makes in the fabric of space-time keeps us close to it; Schwarz, SuperStringTheory.com).
So where does string theory deal with time travel? There are said to be left over strings from the big bang. They are topographical defects in the fabric of spacetime. Theorists have suggested that if two cosmic strings came in close proximity to one another (or one string and a black hole singularity; which is one-dimenional), they could create "closed time-like curves". Theorists state that if you fire two strings at high speed closely together and move around them in a figure eight, you could achieve time-travel (Anderson, Anderson Institute).