Monday, September 1, 2014

How to Understand Primer - Step 1

Here's a good way to 'get' Primer fast.

I think a lot of fans are starting to see how, in the end, there are three Aarons and two Abes. But, Abe only knows of two Aarons. Abe is confident that by messing with the experiment and/or the box, he will prevent time travel. However, he is not aware of what the other two Aarons are capable of. First, Aaron can call Abe. letting him know it is possible because it already happened. The other Aaron that Abe doesn't know exists can help Abe in any number of ways, repairing the box, fixing the slide on the feed on the experiment, suggesting they build a bigger box, perhaps planting the fungus rather than telling Abe that it might be a time machine. (I know this sounds impossible, but it isn't if, and only if, Abe builds the bigger box before Aaron calls him. What happens in one timeline does not need to be repeated in other timelines.) It may seem to be a huge paradox that the future is the past already. But, that is what the Granger event proves. The future of them getting into trouble has already happened and Granger came to prevent it, or overwrite it. We haven't seen the first time through before Granger traveled back and neither have we seen the absolute truth of the first timeline. We have only seen what two of the Aarons saw, and we are missing some big chunks of that as well. Read on and enjoy.

Thank you for over 300,000 views--Nov 2014
                                 400,000 views--Dec 2015

Thursday, November 22, 2012


Some of you may know that Shane Carruth was one of the first to read the book 'The Primer Universe'. (Actually his brother John read it first when it came in the mail.) Recently Shane spoke about The Primer Universe.

"I'm grateful that anybody who cares enough would take the time to do that. But I'm also a little bit discouraged that that seems to be the main thing that's taken away from the film – the mechanics of it."

Sorry, Shane. But the mechanics of Primer was the main discussion as it is the only thing that needs explanation. The aspects of their emotions and the effects on their relationship is important. Most people can grasp those points without my dissecting it. Others have already explored that part.

Perhaps, as it is now obvious, this is why Shane took down his forum where the following points in this book were first discussed. Answers were scrutinized and had to be firmly backed by the film itself. Shane chose not to continue to provide the answers on his site. They are all still here.

This 'blog' is the full version of the book, The Primer Universe. It is no longer available in print. The oldest page posted here is the last page of the book. I have added a few pages since this was first published.

'The Granger Incident' is located here: (one of the most popular pages)

Here is a link to some other thoughts on Primer. Mainly, a review of other information about Primer and the often asked question about a timeline picture floating around the internet.

Thanks everyone for your links and comments.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


A lot of people want to read an overview of this book first. It is long, I know. Sorry. Maybe this page will help you to decide if you want to read the whole thing.

I was asked if I could sum everything up in one page. Here goes...

Let's say that Abe invents time travel on March 1, 2001. What we would perceive as his last action in the film, is actually his first. It is backwards because this action is what Abe does in his last revisions. Abe and Aaron go back as far as they each can. It won't go back far enough for Abe because Aaron is still in control. Aaron exits the fail-safe and turns it off temporarily.

So Abe invents the box. Abe2 exits and breaks the box. He is a silent observer. He keeps a safety box in a storage unit and plans to keep Abe1 from having a working box.Abe will learn, as in the end of the film, that Aaron3 is already there.(A fail-safe that is coffin-sized is only useful for a few days at a time) Why? When Abe2 steps out of the box and breaks it, Aaron from the future (from 6 hours to four days) has already exited before him and insured that he has the upper hand. So, Abe builds the box, Aaron3 exits, Aaron2 moves to France, building a box the size of a house. Even though Aaron2 says he will never be found, there is always the opportunity for him to return(but not of course to this week as he is still building it during the events we see.). Aaron 2 returns and wrestles with himself. Thus he enters and exits, depending on your point of view. Truly brilliant of Carruth here.

He is actually, as the book brought out, Aaron2. He tells the Aaron2  that he is Aaron3 or Aaron2's future. How much Aaron3 tells Aaron2 about time travel is not stated. Hopefully, you can see why there are so many people when Abe 'first' discovers time travel in March.

What happens is that Abe2 will try to prevent Abe1's efforts but despite Abe2's relentless efforts, Abe1 builds a successful box. From his perspective, it is the first time. From Abe2's perspective, it is the second time. Abe2 is angry when he finds out that the reason Abe1 didn't give up, the reason Aaron slyly says 'You can't watch them forever', is that Aaron knew what Abe says is correct. They would give up, unless Aaron2 gives Abe1 a phone call before leaving for France. From his perspective, I think he is insuring his survival.( It seems possible that if Abe does not invent time travel again, then Aaron2may cease to exist. I wouldn't want to find out, if I was Aaron. Better safe then sorry.) If Aaron2 was calling Aaron1(instead of Abe1) then he should just say, "Here's the box and how to use it." It is much safer to create this relentless Abe1. He won't give up because he knows he can do it. And since he hasn't experienced it personally, he will not give up.

Sadly for this Abe, when he does invent time travel (now for the second time from our perspective) Aaron will still get the upper hand by taking a box and exiting and knocking himself out. Later, when Aaron3 arrives at this same point, he confronts Aaron2 and convinces him to leave, taking his place.Obviously, Aaron3 has lived these events, recorded them and gone back a day or two, so that he has the recordings, or he is lying and will record them once he replaces Aaron(2). This Aaron2 leaves or exits, leaving Aaron3 in charge to make the final revision that everyone else will remember. Thus, (thinking backwards) the airport scene of Abe and Aaron arguing, can take place as early as Monday, while our brains from watching the film, makes us think that this event is later in the week.

So which box did Aaron2 find? He found not Abe1's box, but Abe2's box. This is why Abe1 is confounded when shown the storage manifest. He didn't build that box or even know that it existed. Abe2 knows how important a fail-safe is. He just didn't realize how much it would complicate matters, especially from our viewpoint.

But, this is the end. How did they arrive at the conclusion of the film? "How?", you would ask. Let me start from the top.

Original book follows:

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


Here’s what’s going to happen. I’m going to type this and you’re going to read it. You’re not going to interrupt. You’re not going to speak for any reason.

Our only glimpse of the original time line is from Aaron. He tells us, as we see in a flashback, that he discovered the fact that Abe had built a fail-safe.Was that, in fact, the original time line? There is no guarantee as this is only the original time line from Aaron’s perspective.

It is possible for a large number of recurrences prior to this point. Aaron could have already been in a repeat of the original time line without knowing it at all since Abe’s use of the box would erase Aaron’s knowledge of the previous time-line. If Abe tells Aaron about his time travel and later regrets having told him, he can reset events and tell Granger about the box rather than Aaron.Abe could opt to tell no one about the box. This time line could turn out even worse than the one before it. Granger could try to steal or sell the device causing Abe to fail-safe. Again, Abe repeats the time line of telling Aaron. This time he will try to control Aaron better, preventing Aaron’s mistakes, guiding him. From Aaron’s perspective, it is the first time line. Abe would know it as the third time line.

There is a basic cause and effect cycle. Abe can tell Aaron about the time machine or he can try to keep Aaron in the dark. If keeping Aaron in the dark leads to suspicion and thus may actually cause Aaron to find the fail-safe, then Abe must start by telling Aaron. Neither Abe nor Aaron can see the entire loop bringing them back to this point because they only can ‘see’ their own time lines. If you were Abe and had the two boxes, you might even travel back in time and pretend that you still only had the Weeble-sized machine, pretend you don’t even know what the box is doing, imitate the original time line.

Did you catch the reference that things were already occurring unbeknownst to Abe and thus, to us?? The birds in the attic are no birds or rats. But something is afoul up there. The sudden shock that time travel has already unraveled and caused mayhem, hidden from even his wife. What about the interest that Abe has with Aaron's wife? Is this some dormant desire, natural protection, or growing paranoia? Then there is the seemingly insignificant ice-maker, a wonderfully crafted foreshadow.. "We have to throw the first couple of batches out." That statement should tell you that the time machine will not turn out well either. There is so much missed in the first viewing. How many times must someone watch ‘Primer’ to appreciate is simplicity and underlying complexity? How addictive a film this has proven to be.


Breathe deep and try to relax. Everyone misses the fact that Abe built the boxes but pretended to still be developing the experimental machine with Aaron. This does not mean that Abe has traveled yet. He may not have used it yet, he may not even realize completely what it does. It only matters that it is in working order and that it is turned on. If your best friend is impulsive and not fully trustworthy, wait. Don't tell him everything. First learn as well as establish the ground rules and safety policies. Insure your survival as well as the invention itself.

We can now arrive at the first major time line where Abe builds the fail-safe box, sets the timer, and unbeknown to Abe,Aaron(2) pops out. That leaves Aaron(1) with four days to find the fail-safe and disappear. However, for this wound in the fabric of time to heal and for Aaron(1) to disappear as in the first play of the time line, all events must continue as before. If there is a serious deviation, if Aaron is interfered with or if Abe moves, locks, or turns off the box; then that time line will be forever altered. It doesn’t matter if Aaron brings the other box on this trip or not. He only needs to gain the upper hand, to gain control, to arrive first. He can always reemerge later with the folded-up box as long as he does so before Abe figures out that Aaron(2) is around. If Abe figures that out, he could fail-safe and move the box to a secret location, which would leave Aaron(1) stranded with no foreseeable exit window.

Once Aaron gets to the point where he exits the fail-safe and turns it off, he will gain control of the Primer universe. At most, Abe can only travel back in time 15 minutes later than Aaron (because of the 15 minute delay switch). A few hours window would even be better. You could fail-safe, turn the box off, take a long nap, and then activate the delay timer. Thus, you arrive several hours before your friend or foe returns. It would appear that Aaron may have left the box on the first time. But quickly, he plots to have his own box and recognizes that turning the box off is a much better means of control. We can explore this idea and its consequences later.

Aaron thus creates a new time line, one that is untethered from the original. The original time line has been lost forever, that is, the box cannot be used to enter into a time line where time travel does not exist (as was the case in the original time line). Abe will later regret this when he sees what a mess the time line becomes, thanks to Aaron's impulsive decisions. Abe wants to go back in time, exit, and disable the box. However, this serves no purpose if Aaron(2) is there with his own box hidden somewhere.

Aaron(2) must behave as Aaron(1) would anytime he is around Abe. He also must  insure that Aaron(1) finds the fail-safe and gets in to avoid a paradox that could erase his existence.(This is obviously what Aaron acknowledges although this does not necessarily mean that he could not survive a paradox) Aaron will have to try to speed things up with helpful assistance since Abe is stalling on his progress on the experiment so he has more time to work on his box at the U-Haul. Abe and Aaron both need each other in these early stages. The power of time travel though, has already unraveled their trust in one another. Both of them have become selfish, secretive, sly.(In fact, from some perspective Aaron(2) and Abe(2) may both have influenced, unseen to us, the events we see, be it Aaron(2) speeding things up or Abe(2) attempting to thwart Aaron's efforts, even those of Abe(1).


"The Weebles are stupid." Yes, two Weebles, symbolically representing Abe and Aaron. They convince themselves of their own intelligence.. It is during the Granger Incident that their foolishness and over-confidence is unmasked. Their personalities are, like all of us, flawed. Abe is very cautious and methodical. Still, he makes several errors, some of which Aaron later points out. "There are not one use only." Aaron acts imprudently with the thought that any errors can be detected and merely need to be over-written.

What about the fungus that grows on the Weeble? It is essential for the discovery of time travel.Without it, time travel will remain out of their grasp. The audience has Abe's perspective. 100,000 fans could not figure out the secrets of the fungus. Here are some obvious points. The fungus can only grow in a dark and damp environment. The process takes several months. Even this rate of growth is only due to a cool environment and being "stirred" and "sweetened" by adding pure Oxygen. The garage is not cold nor damp. The box is flooded with Argon. Argon greatly inhibits the growth of molds and fungus. There isn't enough Oxygen for a living creature to survive. Why does the fungus grow on the Weeble? The box is not covered in fungus. The watch was not covered in fungus.It obviously is not really growing.

Abe's concludes that the device is essentially time travel. Abe, using the watches, discerns a ratio of time inside the box to be 1:1300. While not exact, he can predict the outcome as odd or even. He feels that the time of the Weeble in the box, 1300 minutes, is generating the fungus. 1300 minutes is 21 hours and 40 minutes. "Wow, you got that fast". Twenty two hours is definitely not enough to incubate fungus. Now, if this was accurate, then to travel backwards in time 21 hours and 40 minutes would require only one minute in the box, not 21 hours and 40 minutes. Traveling for 3 days and 14 hours would be a four minute trip, hardly long enough to require lots of Oxygen, food, water, and an empty bottle. The real ratio is 1:1. When Abe travels 6 hours backwards, he stays in the box for exactly 6 hours. So how does fungus grow in a hostile environment in such a short period of time?