Pushing the button/Theories

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Main Article Theories about
Pushing the button
Main Discussion
 Theories may be removed if ... 
  1. Stated as questions or possibilities (avoid question marks, "Maybe", "I think", etc).
  2. More appropriate for another article.
  3. Illogical or previously disproven.
  4. Proven by canon source, and moved to main article.
  5. Speculative and lacking any evidence to support arguments.
  6. Responding to another theory (use discussion page instead).
  • This does not include responses that can stand alone as its own theory.
  • Usage of an indented bullet does not imply the statement is a response.

See the Lostpedia theory policy for more details.


  • Each time someone pushes the button he acquires a little resistance to the light. This is how Desmond slowly became immune to the light.

    Explanation :
    The drilling accident at the swan site caused the beginning of an accumulation of electromagnetic energy. You can think of it like charging of an electric capacitor. An electromagnetic attraction is created by this accumulation, and the more energy is accumulated, the stronger the force is.

    When the bomb exploded, the accumulation discharged and definitely stopped, like when you short circuit the capacitor, otherwise the swan could not have been built.

    Then, the Dharma and Radzinsky created a device to reopen the circuit, so that the accumulation restarted, and they created a failsafe so that they could close the circuit again and stop once and for all this accumulation. If the failsafe is turned when the accumulation is too high, the discharge can emit dangerous light, but letting an uncontroled over-accumulation is dangerous as well.

    They also created a button so that each time it's pushed, the circuit is briefly closed to restart the accumulation. The duration between two periodic pushes is calculated to make the discharge happening before the electromagnetic field gets dangerous.

    The button should be near the electromagnetic pocket so that the guinea-pig is exposed to the field radiation.
    The button should not be automated, for an exposure to a strong field radiation.
    And the button should be pushed for years for a prolonged exposure to the field radiation.
  • Pushing the button resets a field of some kind that hides the island from the rest of the world.
    • The field is actually activated by pusing the button, in order to hide the Island from a satellite that passes over every 108 minutes. The damage to the station prevents the activation from being automated. At some point the satellite decays its orbit and burns up and is no longer a concern. This is why Ben tells Locke that pushing the button is unimportant.
  • The button procedure was used because the people responsible for the Swan were unsure what the result of initiating the failsafe procedure would be. Keeping two active agents on duty, as well as observing them from the Pearl, helped ensure that immediate action could be taken if something unexpected happened.
  • The electromagnetic discharge alerts the Monster to kill any threat on the island (i.e. someone with the knowledge or strength). After the incident, the monster became slightly changed which makes it unsure who is a threat.
  • Longevity, as in Richard Alpert's case, so that they may continue doing their studies.
    • If Richard was aware of the Swan station and relied on it for his survival, it seems strange that he and the other Others would leave it unused and unguarded for so long, and that Ben would tempt Locke into destroying the station.
    • Furthermore, in the March 20, 2007 Official Lost Podcast, it was revealed that the Others had little knowledge of the Swan station.
  • The Island's unique electromagnetic properties cause it to be naturally "unstuck in time" aka time on the island passes at a different rate than time in the rest of the world. The button, which needed to be pressed every 108 minutes, somehow synchronized island time and world time, effectively anchoring the island to the rest of the world. If the button was not pressed in time, the space-time continuum would be permanently damaged (pushing the button supposedly saves the world), but the fail-safe key remedied the situation by simply letting the to different time rates drift apart. Thus the island used to be in sync with the rest of the world, but now time is moving at a different rate.
    • This would explain why the newspaper Ben showed Juliet before the plane crashed had the correct date relative to the rest of the world, but later, Faraday's time experiments showed the island to be existing at a different "time rate".
    • This also would explain why the failsafe key was not immediately used: There are negative consequences to using it, but it is necessary if the button is not pressed.
  • Pushing the button somehow helps keep the Island in sync.
    • There was a flash after the button wasn't pushed, and now there are flashes as the Island moves in time.
      • Or it's purpose could be exactly the opposite of the above. The button could actually be a mechanism to keep the Island on a time loop, different than the world time, not letting the time pass on the Island, so it could provide ageless effect on it's inhabitants for example.

Dead Man's Switch

  • Pushing the button vents the electromagnetic energy to prevent a massive magnetic discharge that could damage/destroy the whole island. As Mikhail Bakunin mentions in "Enter 77", the members of the Dharma Initiative attacked "the hostiles" in the past. Perhaps this event, possibly The Incident, would have led to the implementation of this "dead-man's switch". In case of the invasion of the Swan by the hostiles, they would not know the code to input, and would consequently be killed, or at least forced to leave the station.
    • The numbers are on the outside of the hatch, and they recur frequently. They are also written on the mural inside the hatch itself; the Others aren't stupid, they could easily figure out the numbers. The code is probably for mere posterity, not so that the Swan inhabitants alone and nobody else can push the button.
  • Pushing the button is a dead-man's switch. The threat of a runaway magnetic discharge deters the monster from killing the Swan crew. Once the scientists are done with their work (or have left the island or are dead), the discharge is supposed to happen.
    • Though, 108 minutes does not seem like it would be enough time for any researcher to 'get clear' of the electromagnetic discharge.


  • The button must be pressed by hand because the bad luck associated with the numbers causes any automated system that enters them to fail. Fuses blow, computers explode...etc. Whenever an automated system is turned on, the equipment fails for no good reason.
  • The numbers must be entered by hand because they act as constants that help anchor consciousness in time against the islands effect that tends to set it adrift. They must be reaffirmed so frequently because of the presence of high levels of electromagnetic radiation. The numbers usefulness as an anchor is related to their prevalence through different time periods.

Walt's Warning

  • This was a manifestation of the monster, the electromagnetic build up was detrimental to MIBs overall plan somehow.
    • Not possible. Walt was alive throughout the series; the MIB can only assume the forms of dead people, unless, like Dave, Hurley's imaginary friend, they don't actually exist, or aren't human (the MIB assumed the form of a Medusa Spider to trick the Losties into killing Nikki and Paulo.) Assuming that this is irrelevant and it was the MIB in the form of Walt, despite Walt not being dead, what would the build-up of electromagnetism achieve anyway? Had the failsafe key not been turned, the Island would presumably have been destroyed, and the MIB presumably would've gone down with it - he revealed in Season 6 that he can't travel over water.
  • Maybe Walt was something to do with the Whispers (after all, his voice was hardly loud.)


  • The approx. time given for the movie The Terminator is 108 min.(The time on the countdown.) Lost may reference the terminator here due to both their time travel.
  • Ben encouraged Locke to stop pressing the Button because he realized that the fail safe key would be used to create the permanent cork in the hole. He wanted this to happen to eliminate one of the sources of technology on the Island, to get back on Jacob/'the Island's good side (since Jacob/the island wanted him to get cancer and likely because he was continuing to use other Dharma technology). Ben did push the button before the lockdown was over, despite denying it, because he was uncertain of what would become of anyone at the epicenter.
    • Given how easily the losties got into the hatch, I doubt it was beyond Ben, he could have stopped the button being pushed at any time. I would suggest that he just doesn't care about it or has a reason for wanting one of the losties to do it.
  • Ben encouraged Locke to stop pressing the button because he was afraid of being transported away from the island. In other words, Ben suspected that the Swan was a time machine or teleportation device.
    • This theory fails on three counts. First, if Ben wanted to use the Swan as a teleporter, he presumably could have done so by not pushing the button himself during "Lockdown". Second, there is no apparent reason why Ben, or anyone else, would think that the Swan was any sort of transporter. Third, Ben consistently does everything in his power to prevent people from coming to or leaving the island; it makes no sense, then, that he would encourage the use of something he thought was a transporter, rather than discouraging its use by trying to get Locke to keep pushing the button.
  • A possibility could be that if this magnetic field builds up too much, it could neutralise Earth's magnetic field and let cosmic radiations pass the atmosphere, and as a result the death of all living beings would occur.
  • Ben encouraged Locke to stop pushing the button because he knew the electromagnetic discharge that comes about from not entering the numbers in time would destroy all communications on the island, therefore ensuring that no one (especially his own people) could leave the island.
    • This seems plausible, except that Ben already had a station that was preventing all communication with the outside world: the Looking Glass.
  • Ben definitely knew about the Pearl Station and had been there before the purge so it's likely he knew what it did. If he had watched the orientation video there he would believe that the Swan Station was just a psychological experiment and the button did nothing. Therefore he might assume that it was safe to try to stop Locke pushing the button - the Others would know he was invested in it from the Pearl video feeds, and if he made Locke angry enough he might make a mistake, giving him a chance to escape.
    • This wouldn't explain why Ben evidently did push the button himself: if he believed that the Swan was just a psychological experiment, he might have pretended to Locke that he had pushed the button, but it's unlikely that he would have bothered to push it himself.
    • Alternatively Ben could have been trying to prevent Locke being a slave to something he believed to be useless - he believes Locke is special and one of the 'good ones'.
  • Ben told Locke to stop pushing the button to test his faith in the island and the purpose. This would prove to Ben, and possibly Jacob, that Locke wasn't "special". Ben wanted to continue being Jacob's right-hand man.
  • The station is a communication station through time, working on the same principle as the booth video using the powers of the Island. Typing the code confirms to receivers in the past that their efforts have not succeeded in changing the future, and in particular the Valenzetti Equation. If the right numbers are not typed in, these people will erroneously believe that they have succeed in saving the world, thus dooming it. If it took too long, the excess buildup of time travel juice will destroy the mechanism, again making the past people think that they have succeeded since the transmission stopped. The failsafe communicates that the system has failed without succeeding, and then allows the implosion to occur. (This would also be why users are told not to use the computer to communicate other messages.)
    • Um, time travel juice? No offense intended to the theories above, but I believe Ben told Locke to stop simply so that he could anger Locke and cause consternation and tension amongst the survivors. He may have even been able to predict that Locke would see the blast door, find the Pearl, and see the video, furthering his doubt. However, I think it was just to plant seeds of insecurity, as the above would assume that Ben knew of the blast door, which it is unlikely he did.--Master Tej (talk) 17:25, November 8, 2013 (UTC)

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