4A Whole Bunch of DHARMA Initiatives
When you're looking for real-world versions of the Dharma Institute, you can't stop with just one. It's kind of like eating peanuts... if peanuts were shadowy organizations with vaguely creepy goals. But here are a few of the top contenders:
Originally conceived by a bunch of Stanford University trustees during a visit to The Bohemian Grove, Stanford Research Institute was founded in 1946 with the benign mission of "the application of science and technology for knowledge, commerce, prosperity, and peace." But as the years went by, the SRI got bigger and bigger until it employed 1,700 people around the world. And in the 1970s, it started doing research on the military application of "remote viewing" (that's psychic powers to you and me).
In other words, they're a massive, worldwide research institution that claims to be working to save the world, but they've gotten involved in paranormal investigations of questionable moral status. The only thing that separates SRI from DHARMA is that DHARMA has its own brand of soap. Oh, wait a minute: SRI helped invent Tide detergent...The Esalen Institute:
The Esalen Institute's website says they're "a non-profit institution that's been devoted to the exploration of human potential since the 1960's." And any time the phrase "human potential" and "1960s" appear in the same sentence, you know there's some drug-induced freakiness going on. Indeed, with lecturers like LSD-advocate Timothy Leary, Esalen was about as 1960ish as you could get. Nowadays, it's a little tamer, but it's still a bunch of buildings in a beautiful and remote location where for the exploration of things traditional science rejects. Oh, and one of the most famous thinkers to pass through Esalen? An early LSD advocate named "Richard Alpert." And what is the name of the mysteriously un-aging leader of the Others? Richard Alpert. I'm telling you, man, it all fits together. Here, smoke this and you'll understand...The Aspen Institute:
It's kind of like the Esalen Institute, only instead of drug-taking long-hairs, they have talks by Hillary Clinton. So it's just a bit less hippy-dippy. Which is to say, it's like the Dharma Initiative, after the Others killed all the peaceniks and took it over.
3Ronald Mallett is Inventing Time Travel
When Ronald Mallett was 10-years old, his father died of a heart attack. That was tragic.
Then Mallett became obsessed with a fantasy where he traveled back in time and warned his dad to exercise more and cut out the cigarette smoking. In a geeky boy who had just lost his hero, that was understandable.
Then Mallett got a PhD in physics and a National Science Foundation Grant, and set to work making his fantasy into reality. That was freaking awesome.
The good news is, Professor Mallett has put together a bunch of equations that seem to show time travel is actually possible. He says that if you arrange high-intensity laser beams in exactly the right way, you can stir space-time "like a spoon stirring milk into coffee." The bad news is any time machine could only send you back to the date the machine was first switched on, which means Papa Mallett is out of luck. On the other hand, who's to say that when Mallett finally switches on his machine, a time traveler won't step through it with the plans for a machine that can send him back to save his father?
Professor Mallett is a genius with an obsessive personal interest in making time travel a reality. As far as we know, Ronald Mallett has never put a girlfriend into a coma while her consciousness travels through the decades, but that doesn't stop him from being our timeline's Daniel Faraday. Of course, that means that if he finally succeeds in going back to the 1950s and meeting his mom and dad, they're going to accidentally shoot him dead. Oops, sorry, we should have warned you: SPOILERS for Ronald Mallett's life.
By the way, Mallett only needs about $11 million to build a prototype of his machine, and he's set up a web page to solicit donations. So if you've got 10 bucks burning a hole in your pocket, you can use it to buy a large Pizza Hut Super Supreme pizza or you can invest it in a project that, one day, will allow your pizza to be delivered before you even order it. (CAUTION: Pizza Hut Chrononaut Supreme Pizzas are delivered by high-intensity laser beams and may be hot.)