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Reality-Breaking Paradox
aka: Divide By Zero
"Snake! You can't do that! The future will be changed! You'll create a time paradox!"
Future Colonel, after you kill Ocelot in Metal Gear Solid 3

The characters did something so incredibly wrong that reality itself couldn't handle it. It could be the result of a Time Paradox, the result of a Yin-Yang Clash, an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object, the summoning of an Omnipotent Eldritch Abomination, the risk behind the Forbidden Chekhov's Gun, or making a logical error in Rewriting Reality. Whatever the case, it's The End of the World as We Know It unless something gets fixed quickly.

See also Class Z Apocalypse, Time Crash, and Logic Bomb, which can overlap with this. Often the Logical Extreme of an Epic Fail. Not to be confused with The Singularity. Contrast Beyond the Impossible (breaking internal logic) and Up to Eleven (breaking a record). See also Breaking the Fourth Wall, which is when a character violates fictional reality.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Advertisements 
  • This Staples Easy Button commercial, where people are concerned what will happen if you use an easy button to find an easy button.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Cat Soup: This is what Nyatta appears to accomplish, by the end of the short film, by saving his sister from Death.
  • The Limit of Questions is a metaphysical concept at play in the world of Eureka Seven that essentially sets a limit on the number of sentient lifeforms that can exist in a given space. If the Limit of Questions is exceeded, the fabric of reality starts to break down. Colonel Dewey's goal with the Ageha Project is to deliberately exceed the Limit of Questions by awakening the scub coral, an enormous mass of a colonial alien life form that covers the planet and, as it turns out, is sentient. At one point in history, the scub by itself exceeded the Limit of Questions, but managed to fix things by going into a state of deep hibernation — but not before a section of the planet was irrevocably screwed up, resulting in a chaotic region known as the Great Wall.
  • The Espers are afraid that Haruhi Suzumiya will do this if she learns the truth about herself.
  • The climax of the first season of Shakugan no Shana had the villains exploiting a loophole with the Clingy MacGuffin inside The Protagonist that fueled his existence; by synchronizing with a character with an (implied) infinite capacity for Existence, the MacGuffin would generate infinite existence. It was implied that reality itself would blow up/collapse (yes, simultaneously) if this had been allowed to continue.
  • Slayers:
    • There was a 50/50 chance that Lina Inverse's "Giga Slave" spell would do this instead of defeating the Big Bad. She only learns of that possibility after doing it, though, and lucked out.
    • The second time she used it, she got a different effect — it summoned the Lord of Nightmares, who decided to just destroy the guy dicking around with the spell instead of destroying the world. Then got really merciful and decided to not kill Lina after all.
  • In Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, this is what the Anti-Spirals feared: with the Spiral beings' endless quest for the will to power, they will transmute so much mass that the universe collapses in a black hole called the Spiral Nemesis. There's also another example from The Movie, Lagann-hen. If collapsing a pocket universe with a drill power struggle isn't a reality-breaking paradox, nothing is.
  • In Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle, to save Sakura's life, Syaoran broke the magical taboo of stopping a moment in time. The unraveling of the fabric of reality ensues. Later this is revealed to be part of a Stable Time Loop responsible for his very existence. And the real cause was Clow's momentary Power Incontinence when he didn't want Yuuko to die, so he essentially told reality to ignore her death and act as if she was still alive, setting off the chain that led to later events.
  • In the third arc of Umineko no Naku Koro ni, Beatrice says she'll use red text to deny the existence of witches. This results in a paradox which appears to destroy the entire Meta-World. It ends up all being just a trick, though.
  • In The End of Evangelion, this is what happens when two all-powerful Eldritch Abominations, Adam and Lilith, are combined with each other. One of the Bridge Bunnies says something along the lines of "Their energy levels are converging on an infinite zero." when the Adam / Lilith merger begins to break the universe. That would make a lot of sense.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica:
    • Something very close to this happens. If you make a wish with indefinite duration (as opposed to instant wishes like "heal someone's crippled hand" or "save someone from the brink of death"), your wish is somehow tied to the passage of time. Homura's wish to save someone already dead turned her life into a "Groundhog Day" Loop, although she could control when she went back.
    • In the finale, Madoka pulls an even more audacious one. Backed by the enormous amounts of karma Homura's time-loops have built up, she wishes to personally destroy every Witch, past, present and future - including her own. Cue Ultimate Madoka one-shotting her own evil future self, destroying all of reality and recreating it to fulfill the wish; and then leaving the normal flow of time.
  • Apparently, it was an intentional creation of an effect like this that created Zero Reverse, the disaster that occurred roughly sixteen years (give or take) before the events of Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds. From what we know, Rudger's deliberate sabotage of the Old Momentum Generator caused it to spin in reverse, causing it to create negative energy (a sort of "magical anti-matter") opening a portal to Hell which caused a cataclysm, destroying part of Domino City, killing thousands, and causing it to separate from the mainland. Even worse, this is supposedly what awakened the Earthbound Gods, which would cause trouble for the heroes in the present storyline.

    Comedy 
  • In The Firesign Theatre's album Eat Or Be Eaten, a gamer tries to go to band 100 of a 99 band disk, and is sucked into the game.
    Player: What the FUUUUUUUUU-
  • At the end of George Carlin's special Life Is Worth Losing, he talks about a broken water main in Los Angeles leading to more and more bizarre developments, eventually resulting in a wormhole opening above Earth, and all the dead people flooding out.

    Comic Books 
  • According to Andy Riley's Great Lies to Tell Small Kids, this will happen to reality if you ever Google the word "Google". (It's not true, of course, and you'll actually get more than thirteen billion results if you do, the first one being a link to the search engine itself.)
  • The Flash once broke the laws of time by traveling back in time to stop Professor Zoom from killing his mother. Reality really didn't take it well. The result: Flashpoint.
  • Transmetropolitan at one point featured a man who had found a way to solve all of the world's problems and end all suffering by way of a complex math equation. When he finally solved the equation, it caused his apartment to explode.

    Fan Works 
  • According to Evangelion Re Death, this is what happens if you play 1999 by Prince any time on or after January 1, 2000. It's how Gendou intends to trigger the Third Impact and become the Uber-Pimp.
  • In Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, Harry precommits to a plan the use a Stable Time Loop to prime factor a number in constant time. His plan assumes the number is a product of exactly two primes and doesn't really cope with any other case. He tells the person creating the test number "I'm not sure what's going to happen to me or the universe if you make a multiplication error." The answer is that he ends up getting a message from his future self that says "DO NOT MESS WITH TIME TRAVEL".
  • In Happy Endings, Snape speculates that one possible result of him dying while he is already supposed to be dead would involve the Western Hemisphere getting sucked into a black hole.

    Film 
  • In Dogma the one universal constant is that God is infallible. Proving Him/Her wrong would result in a paradoxical event, essentially unmaking everything God had ever made, i.e., everything. In fact, this is essentially the villains' plan: Bartleby and Loki were kicked out of heaven by God's decree. So they plan to first, become mortal, and second, get their sins metaphorically wiped clean by the Catholic Church by walking through a church door during a special event. The problem is that if they were to succeed in doing this, they'd make it back into heaven and would thus reverse God's decree! That, in turn, is what would unmake everything God had ever made.
  • Being John Malkovich: There's a door into Malkovich's head that allows you to experience being him for fifteen minutes. Malkovich himself finds this door and goes in and enters a world where everybody is him and speaks Pokémon Speak.
  • Back to the Future Part II. Doc Brown says that the paradox of Jennifer meeting her future self could cause a paradox that destroys the universe. "Granted, that's a worst-case scenario. The effects might be limited to our own galaxy."
    • The novelization gives a little more detail: it's less them possibly meeting and more the possible consequences of the meeting, like say, if the younger Jennifer panicked and ended up causing her past self an injury that her future self never had. Or say, if she tripped and fell down and cracked her head open, making her alive and dead at the same time. In end, all that happens is she simply passes out from the shock.
    • When there is a meeting of selves (in the past, no less) the consequences are less severe - a Timeline-Altering MacGuffin leads to a Bad Future that Doc and Marty are forced to prevent.

    Literature 
  • This is slowly happening to The Dark Tower multiverse as "thinnies" — rips in the barriers between realities — gobble up space and time because the Big Bad is using psychic energy to destroy the titular tower.
  • Discworld:
  • In one of the dialogues from Gödel, Escher, Bach, Achilles is granted permission by GOD to make one infinite-level Typeless Wish. He says, "I wish my wish would not be granted!" After this a Logic Bomb goes off in a way that "cannot possibly be described, and so no attempt will be made to describe it", Achilles and the Tortoise find themselves in a totally unfamiliar environment. Achilles asks, "Did the earth come to a standstill? Did the universe cave in?" The Tortoise explains that they were Inside a Computer System and the paradoxical wish crashed it: "I'm sorry, Achilles—you blew it. You crashed the System, and you should thank our lucky stars that we're back at all. Things could have come out a lot worse."
  • In Life, the Universe and Everything, Arthur finds out that if anyone ever simultaneously knows both the answer to the Great Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything and what that question is, the entirety of existence would cease to exist and be replaced with something even stranger. It's also stated that this may already have happened. While writing the script for the movie Douglas Adams implied that each adaptation of the story was meant to be the result of this.
  • Sort of the case in Wen Spencer's Endless Blue, where the Blue is reached by setting jump coordinates to zero (as far as everyone in-universe knows, setting jump coordinates to zero just means you vanish and never reappear).
  • The titular Riddle of the Seven Realms is simple: Why does no fire burn in the realm of demons? The answer is just as simple: Fire acts as a passage between other worlds and the demon realm. A fire within the demon realm opens into the void and would suck all of existence into said void.
  • In the BIONICLE novel Time Trap, Vakama keeps Big Bad Makuta at bay and even forms a one-year truce with him by threatening to break the Mask of Time, which would lead to a Time Crash and cause all of reality to happen at once.
  • In the Dragaera series, Adron's Disaster. A logic error in a spell tore a hole in the fabric of reality, turning the imperial capital into a sea of amorphia.

    Live Action TV 
  • Stargate Atlantis: Using an Ancient Project to create a super-energy source, Doctor Rodney Mckay accidentally makes particles that defy the laws of physics. The result? He repeatedly gets called out for destroying an entire solar system!
  • Doctor Who:
    • This would be the result of detonating Davros' "reality bomb". It "destroys reality" by dissolving the bonds that hold molecules together, effecting dissolving all matter into its constituent particles.
    • In series 5 we are seeing "cracks" in time and space in almost every episode which release energy that are un-writing time, erasing things from existence to where they never existed at all. The Doctor implies these cracks are the result of a future event where someone may have caused a reality-breaking paradox, and he's very much right — the Season Finale sees them trying to avert the end of time, as a result of the damage done to the universe by the TARDIS explosion.
    • The Space and Time specials presented a scenario where, in order to make a safe landing, the TARDIS created a paradox and landed in the only safe place available... inside itself. The Doctor is a little concerned about this.
  • MAD Tv parody I Love the 00's has the commentators talk about things in the 00's (like American Idol, Janet Jackson's boob exposure, The Passion of the Christ, etc.). Eventually, the show manages to catch up with itself, showing clips from that exact show piling up on top of each other, leaving the commentators screaming and the world blowing up!
  • It's not exactly the end of the world, but on an episode of Newsradio, photocopying a mirror causes a building-wide blackout.
  • Farscape has the hero do this On purpose. Well, it's one way to get warmongers to realize that they're playing with fire...
    Crichton: (commenting on his brand spanking new Wormhole Weapon) Okay boys and girls, here are the rules. Find a penny, pick it up. Double it, you've got two pennies. Double it again: four. Double it 27 more times, and you've got a million dollars and the IRS all over your ass. Round and round and round it goes, where it stops nobody knows, but it all adds up... quick... It eats the whole universe, a monumental black hole, a giant whirling headstone marking the spot where we all used to live and play and slaughter the innocent.
  • Square One TV had the Show Within a Show "Oops!", where a mathematician makes a mistake that causes a certain disaster to happen. For example, incorrectly multiplying 603 by 7 causes the Galloping Gertie (Tacoma Narrows) bridge in Washington to collapse.
  • Babylon 5 has a tactic known as the "Bonehead Maneuver"note , where a ship opens a jump point inside an active jump gate, resulting in a massive explosion. After experimenting with it during the Earth-Minbari War, the Earth Alliance abandoned the idea because no EA ship capable of creating its own jump point was fast enough to clear the blast radius before being destroyed. The White Star, being based on Minbari technology, is fast enough to pull this off, but the tactic is still insanely risky. Even Sheridan was only willing to use it once.
  • In The IT Crowd, Jen is told by Moss and Roy that if you type "google" into Google it will "break the internet" and she is laughed at during a meeting for believing this. Another episode has them try to have her make a fool out of herself again, this time telling her the internet is contained in a black box and that if anything happened to it, it would be The End of the World as We Know It. When Jen relays this information during a speech, everyone believes her and a riot starts when the box is actually destroyed. Moss and Roy still find the results entertaining.
  • In The Adventures of Pete & Pete, little Pete once caused an explosion by putting a humidifier and a dehumidifier next to each other.
  • In the BBC docudrama End Day, the Large Hadron Collider blows up as soon as it's turned on, creating a singularity that proceeds to consume the entire planet.
  • Fringe: Walter Bishop opened a door between two universes and crossed through. That moment marked the slow destruction of the universes, creating nasty, swirling-vortex-of-doom "hot spots" in the alternate universe and milder but still uncanny "soft spots" in ours. Walter's actions linked the two universes together, and their existences and well-being now hinge entirely upon each other. Without help, both would eventually be destroyed. The eventual solution is to create a safe bridge between the two, allowing the universes to feed off of each other to heal.

    Roleplay 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Putting a Bag of Holding into a Portable Hole or vice-versa tends to create a big rift into the Astral Plane, destroying whatever was in those items, and do bad things to the surrounding area.
    • After a bit of rules-lawyering and no shortage of Munchkin-like antics, someone developed a "black hole arrow/bolt." Essentially it's an arrow or crossbow bolt with a bag of holding and portable hole attached. They remain separated until fired, at which point the portable hole opens up. Thanks to Newton's laws of physics, when the arrow and bag of holding stop, the hole keeps going, swallowing both and leading to the horrible, horrible atrocity against nature. No sane DM would allow this. Some, however, would, and then severely punish the players for tampering with reality. Or remember that canonically the result depends on which of these is stuffed into which. It should be noted that these arrows are quite expensive though.
    • A variant of the "black hole arrow/bolt" is described in the Elder Evils sourcebook. Putting a Sphere of Annihilation into a Well of Many Worlds creates a black hole - which proceeds to swallow up the entire Material Plane in a matter of minutes barring divine intervention.
    • A Sphere of Annihilation is literally a hole in the continuity of the multiverse. And considering it is an artifact, that means it was built.
    • Much the same happens with any two "extradimensional interfaces", with specific effect defined by the one undergoing the transformation, i.e. "inner", if appliable — usually destroying both. AD&D's Tome of Magic added 3 more — Flatbox always explodes; Warp Marble always safely deactivates, dumping the stored creature to the Astral Plane (both also do the same when subjected to any form of teleportation); Dimensional Mine does nothing, but spews any extradimensional space it enters into the Astral Plane, which destroys the item creating the pocket, if any, but not the mine ("Hey, guys, I found a cool figurine on the Astral!"). Rulings on non-permanent spells with such effects (Deeppockets, Rope Trick, Extradimensional Pocket) vary.
    • There is also the incredibly old demon lord Pale Night who appears as a female humanoid wrapped in a shroud. The shroud is however not part of herself, but Reality's desperate attempt to hide her true form from the rest of the multiverse. She has the ability to shed the shroud for a short moment and having a very strong Weirdness Censor is the only thing that prevents everyone from being annihilated by trying to make sense of what they saw.
    • The multi-setting crossover AD&D module Die Vecna Die! justified the changes between 2nd and 3rd Edition in-universe, as a result of Vecna the lich-god Dividing Reality By Zero when he escaped from Ravenloft to Planescape.
  • This is the premise behind the Time Spiral block/story arc of Magic The Gathering. Essentially, all the near-apocalyptic scenarios that Dominaria (the core plane of the multiverse) has been through in the previous arcs have caused the fabric of reality to become unstable, causing rifts between timelines and universes that threaten to destroy all that exists.
  • In the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game, hitting The Immovable Object (a shield) with The Unstoppable Force (a 2-handed mace) will destroy both objects.
  • The very existence of an afterlife in Exalted is one of these. When the Primordials made Creation, they made the cycle of Lethe, wherein mortal souls would pass on once they died and enter the stream of reincarnation, stripped of pretty much all the memories of their past life. This process wasn't meant for the Primordials, though, as they honestly believed they couldn't die. The Exalted proved differently during the Primordial War, creating some of the Neverborn, from which the wastes of the Underworld and the metaphysical existence of ghosts were born.
    • While it hasn't happened yet, one thing that terrifies the gods of Yu-Shan is that Saturn, the goddess who governs death and endings, routinely challenges the Unconquered Sun, the god of perfection and invincibility in all things, to various contests of aptitude. The nature of the universe states that the Unconquered Sun must overcome every challenge, and also that Saturn must bring an end to all things. The gods don't have the foggiest idea what will happen when Saturn finally ends the Unconquered Sun's win streak.

    Video Games 
  • In Half-Life: Opposing Force, if you hop into the Xen portal right after Freeman, the game ends stating you created a time paradox.
  • Sorceress Ultimecia from Final Fantasy VIII deliberately attempts this via the Mental Time Travel power of Ellone. By flinging her own consciousness far enough back in time and taking for herself the powers of all the Sorceresses preceding her (a Sorceress must bequeath her power to someone else before dying), all the way back to the very first Sorceress, she gives linear causality such a wedgie that all time is compressed, past and present and future all muddled together in such a way that no one but Ultimecia herself can exist. Since Ultimecia lives generations into their future, the only means the heroes figure out to prevent this is to let her begin the process and exploit the disruption of linear time to show up at Ultimecia's front door.
  • In Iji, there is a secret device called the Null Driver, and when used, It causes the game to glitch out, and also destroys all enemies on screen. It disappears once you exit the game, as do the glitches.
  • In the Legacy of Kain timeline, because the past is essentially immutable and everything moves in a linear timeline, the only way to subvert that timeline is to introduce two instances of the same entity from different points in history to one-another — generally this role is fulfilled by the Soul Reaver blade, either as Kain's physical sword or as Raziel's ethereal wraith blade. Since the soul-eating aspect of the blade is in fact Raziel's spirit, Raziel, once he acquires the blade as a weapon, is a walking paradox, able to Screw Destiny with every action he takes - which is why everyone in the world wants him as a pawn.
  • Metal Gear Solid 3 is a prequel to the series. If you kill a character who is still alive in the future, you'll be yelled at by your (future!) commander because you created a Time Paradox. If you choose the "No" option on the Game Over screen, it will also read "TIME PARADOX", because the Snake you are playing as in this one is Big Boss.
  • In Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon, King Boo tries to do this in the "Paranormal Chaos" layer, the final non-Boss level, by opening a portal that threatens to tear apart the fabric of the universe. In this Timed Mission, Luigi must run through every room of the Treacherous Mansion, fight a horde of ghosts, then run to the foyer where the portal itself is and fight a bigger horde before time runs out to prevent a Non Standard Game Over. (Succeeding prevents the paradox from happening.)
  • What created the Chaos Heart black hole that threatens to consume the entire Multiverse in Super Paper Mario? Bowser and Princess Peach getting "married". Granted, Peach was being mind controlled and everyone (other than Bowser) agrees it didn't count, but apparently reality thought it was close enough and it was enough to start everything come crashing down.
  • In the mythology of Suikoden, Sword (a being that could destroy anything) and Shield (an indestructible being) got into a fight. When Sword struck Shield, both shattered into 27 pieces, the True Runes. And the Big Bang.
  • The Elder Scrolls calls such events "Dragon Breaks", where the god of time, known by many names and guises, but most prominently as a dragon god "Akatosh", is tampered with.
    • In the first era, a remnant of a once-powerful organization of anti-elf inquisitors carried out a ritual in attempt to purge Akatosh of the elven aspects of the mythological basis that Akatosh was based on, the elven golden eagle god Auri-El. The effort proceeded to break Time for a period of a bit over 1000 years. How could they measure how long that period was? The Khajiit, a cat-like race on Tamriel whose mythology was heavily steeped in the two moons, used those as a basis for time.
    • The giant brass golem Numidium was built by the Dwemer, an extinct race of elves commonly mislabeled as "dwarves" who were essentially atheists in a world where gods were very real. Numidium was essentially their refutation of the gods made material. Numidium had a nasty habit of causing Dragon Breaks because of this, such as the temporal toxic waste dump in Eleswyr where Tiber Septim's mages tried to figure it out after the Dunmer Tribunal gave it to him as a tribute, or the Warp In The West, where all the endings in Daggerfall essentially simultaneously happened and the temporal paradox was so straining on reality that a nuclear-like explosion occurred. Oh, and, during one part of the process, the Dwemer did... something that apparently pissed off reality, ending with every single one of them completely wiped from existence while keeping everything else intact. Weird things happen when you make a robot powered by the heart of a dead god.
    • The Scrolls themselves can cause a mild version of this depending on who reads them. Someone who is completely untrained in the history and nature of the Scrolls just sees the page picture for the main Elder Scrolls page. Someone with slight training is struck blind immediately. People with great training (e.g. members of the Cult of the Ancestor Moth in Oblivion) gradually go blind as they read more of the scrolls. Then we have the Dovahkiin in Skyrim. Dragonborn are mortals with the soul of a dragon, and dragons exist outside of time. Reading the Scroll you obtain as part of Skyrim's main quest results in being momentarily blinded, then recovering. It's like the universe needed to reboot or something...
  • The Marathon games sometimes had zero-length lines in their maps (especially in third-party maps) which would cause a 680x0 processor to attempt to divide by zero and crash.
  • In the Back Story of Lusternia, a conflict between the cities of Hallifax and Gaudiguch had the fierce enemies breaking out their resident superweapons to decimate the other. Unfortunately, the two opposing elements did not react well together. The resultant cataclysm psychically devastated every living entity on the planet, and sealed both cities in a different dimension for over five hundred years.
  • In Gran Turismo 3, if you pop a wheelie with a properly-tuned Escudo, you can reach the speed of 2,147,483,647 mph (that's FTL Travel there), which crashes the game.
  • The interactive fiction game Lost gave the player a box which contained a pocket dimension, eliminating problems of inventory size and weight. It did come with a caution to not put any container inside said box; doing so results in this trope.
  • Escape from Monkey Island has the Mysts O' Tyme, a marsh where time doesn't work properly. At one point, Guybrush needs to get through a gate, but he doesn't have the key. Another Guybrush on an identical raft rows up to the gate, and declares he's Guybrush from the future. He says a few things, then hands Guybrush a bunch of items, including the gate key. After going through and rowing around for a while, Guybrush meets his past self from the other side of the gate. If he doesn't say the exact same lines his other self said, or he doesn't hand past Guybrush the items in the right order, he triggers a paradox, summoning a scary vortex (which thankfully only deposits him a few minutes into the past, letting him try again). Also counts as a Stable Time Loop, since it's never explained where those items came from in the first place.
  • Placing the correct constraints on a prop in Garry's Mod can cause the Havok physics engine to decide that an object has infinite angles in a single physics tick, which will either make the game instantaneously delete the offending object, or simply implode on itself and crash.
    • In the earliest versions of the Wiremod Game Mod, creating a Division gate that divided by zero (from a Constant Value chip) would instantly crash the entire game.
  • Kingdom of Loathing has an appearance by the Tome of Tropes, all but explicitly This Very Wiki in Great Big Book of Everything form. Unfortunately, opening it to the Great Big Book of Everything page in that book causes reality to break from recursion, causing a critical hit of damage.
  • Loom: In this game, drafts (sequences of musical notes) function as magic spells when played on the main character's Distaff. When an enemy steals the Distaff and plays the draft of Opening with a graveyard as the target, the fabric of reality is torn and and the entity Chaos emerges from the rift, summoning an army of undead to destroy the Earth.

    Web Comics 
  • In the And Shine Heaven Now arc crossing over with Read or Die, abuse of Time Travel by the heroes and villains ends up creating a literal Plot Hole which nearly destroys the Universe. The linchpin? Integra's Indian grandfather accidentally dies in an attack, causing Integra to become an airheaded WASP.
  • 8-Bit Theater: The possibility of one of the variety of paradoxes and impossibilities that the characters create ending their universe is brought up multiple times in the story, but never actually happens.
    • One amusing example is when Red Mage argues that the Eldritch Abomination Chaos can't succeed in destroying the universe, because he was brought into existence by a time traveler from the future, so destroying the universe right now would mean the time traveler could never travel in the past to spawn Chaos.
    Chaos: Oh, boo-hoo, I'd better not create a temporal paradox. That'd be terrible. I would hate it if everything was destroyed exactly the way I want to destroy everything.
  • In Real Life Comics, Greg Dean parodies the possibilities of rune combinations in Diablo II in this strip by making a sword with a 10% chance of annihilating the space-time continuum.
  • One Subnormality strip features a scientist who creates an "anti-Gandhi" who is dressed in a fancy business suit, has thick red hair and a beard, and practices "violent nonresistance." The idea is so stupid that the Earth blows up.
  • In this Goblins strip Psimax appears to be deliberately attempting this trope. He wants to mathematically "prove that one equals zero," thereby unmaking the pocket universe where he and a number of other alternate realities are fighting.
  • In The Dragon Doctors, this caused the most recent collapse of civilization. We're not clear on the mechanics, but someone went back in time, killed herself, and left a ghost, causing something that didn't quite exist and mauled reality.
  • Square Root of Minus Garfield has a couple of examples. Garfield/0 shows an infinite number of Garfields, and in Reverse Change, the site explodes because they're making pudding pops again.

    Web Original 
  • SCP-225 is an illustration of the classic "unstoppable force vs. immovable object" paradox. The SCP Foundation is concerned about the possible consequences of the two objects colliding. They believe that if the objects annihilate each other, they would release at minimum power equivalent to a gigatons strong nuclear explosion. The possible result if they don't destroy each other on impact is apparently even worseplanetary evacuation wouldn't be enough to save the human race.
  • In Fine Structure this is sometimes done intentionally to attract the attention of the Imprisoning God, which stamps down hard on such violations. However, one particular event — dropping the immortal Anne Poole into a black hole — breaks physics so badly that even the Imprisoning God goes into failure mode.
  • In the Ed stories, Ed briefly accessing the Root Layer causes a Class X-3 Apocalypse How on the Andromeda galaxy.
  • The time paradox version happens at the end of the Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series version of the crossover movie - Jaden tells Yugi what happens at the end of his series, causing an explosion, and when it clears they're all in an endless white void.
  • The "Divide by Zero" Image Macro meme that cropped up on various Image Boards sometime in the mid-2000s (the earliest reference Know Your Meme has for it is in 2005). The idea was that dividing by zero, a mathematically weird operation, would break reality and cause bad (and funny) things to happen.
  • In the Homestar Runner cartoon "Fish-Eye Lens", Strong Bad and Coach Z do a rap about how the Fish Eye Lens makes things look cooler. Then Homestar Runner wonders what would happen if you pointed a fish-eye lens at an actual fish eye: it ends up sucking the three of them into a vortex, and the rap video abruptly ends as Strong Bad, Coach Z, and Homestar are turned into a Dixieland jazz ensemble.

    Western Animation 
  • One episode of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy revealed that this is essentially what happens if Mandy ever smiles in a joyful (rather than sinister) manner. The ultimate outcome? Billy, Mandy, and the Grim Reaper wind up literally becoming the Powerpuff Girls.
  • The Real Ghostbusters:
    • Egon manages to overload his calculator with an offensive football play that, if executed, would not only completely collapse the defense but perhaps all known space as well.
    • There was also the episode "The Hole in the Wall Gang". In a haunted house, ghosts were spawned out of holes in the wall, and how big and powerful the ghost was depended on the size of the hole. (Small hole, weak ghost, big hole, strong ghost.) This created a problem when fighting them blew a huge hole in the wall, with the potential to spawn the worst monster they had ever fought. Egon quickly determined that placing a smaller hole inside the big hole could dispell the effect, but he aborted the plan upon realizing it might also cause a reality breaking paradox situation and cause the entire universe to implode. But it only got worse when the creature destroyed the whole house, making the hole much bigger, and giving them no choice but to risk the first plan. Fortunately, the risk paid off.
  • Futurama:
    • In the first movie, Bender causes this by gathering a whole bunch of time-duplicates of himself from his many trips back in time and convincing them not to come out when they were supposed to. Nibbler proceeds to FREAK OUT.
      Nibbler: Everyone out of the universe, quick! (disappears into own mouth)
    • A What If? episode deals with what would happen if Fry never came to the future-the result is the universe collapsing on itself, with Fry, Stephen Hawking, Al Gore, Gary Gygax, Nichelle Nichols and Deep Blue getting sucked into untime. Which is pretty damn good Fridge Brilliance: Fry's existence is a Stable Time Loop that requires the Planet Express ship.
      • Also because the very reason Fry was sent to the future was to prevent the universe's demise.
  • One episode of Adventure Time has Finn blowing a fourth dimensional bubble which caused a black hole to form due to its sheer impossibility.
    Finn: A fourth-dimensional bubble casts a three-dimensional shadow. It is beyond COMPREHENSION! Beyond space! BEYOND TIME!
    Princess Bubblegum: Finn, that would mean you've created—
    Finn: Yes... A BLACK HOLE!
  • In one of the DC Nation Teen Titans shorts, Cyborg and Robin get into an escalating war of This Is My Side, which ends when they start a fight over the tape they were dividing things with, which blows up the whole planet.
    Cyborg: You can't divide tape with tape! You created a paradox!
    Robin: No, you did!
  • One episode of The Amazing World of Gumball reveals that this is the ultimate result of Gumball's father getting a job. Naturally, the cast has to get him fired or else the universe would cease to exist.
  • A Looney Tunes short featuring the Tasmanian Devil displays a kangaroo retreating from Taz by leaping into her own pouch.
  • Strange Hill High: In "The 101% Solution" Mitchell cheats to get 101% on a test and ends up breaking mathematics.


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alternative title(s): Division By Zero; Divide By Zero
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