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Reality-Breaking Paradox

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Image by Jules Everson, used with permission.

"Think about it really hard. If a Reality Breaking Paradox were to exist, then it would destroy reality. Which would cause it not to exist, and therefore for reality to exist. Or even that if reality were to cease existing, it would cause a paradox in that there has to be a reality in which reality existed (for something to happen to undo everything), and because reality encompasses everything that has been or could ever be, the reality in which reality existed has to be itself. Basically, you are presently in reality, which means that nothing will have or can ever take away this reality. Stop thinking now and take some tylenol."
Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, arguing that because the Universe presently exists, there can't ever be an event which causes it not to.

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, making a logical error in Rewriting Reality, or even defying the almighty Status Quo. Whatever the case, it's The End of the World as We Know It unless something gets fixed quickly.

See also Class Z Apocalypse, Logic Bomb, Temporal Suicide, and Time Crash, which can overlap with this. Often the Logical Extreme of an Epic Fail. Not to be confused with The Singularity. Contrast Beyond the Impossible, which is breaking internal logic. If only one character ceases to exist because their existence is incompatible with reality, that's Puff of Logic. See also Breaking the Fourth Wall, which is when a character violates fictional reality, and Upsetting the Balance, which is when a character destroys the universe by breaking some balance that isn't necessarily tied to reality.

If this happens to the video game you are playing, it's a Game-Breaking Bug. Can follow a Cosmic Flaw.


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  • 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.
  • Dragon Ball Super: implied to be what happens if two Gods of Destruction fight each other. Their respective powers of ultimate destruction begin to unravel reality around them, regardless of whether they actually want to or not, thus they are forbidden by divine law from ever battling. The one exception we've seen is when a few of them fought in the World of Void... where nothing exists anyway, so there's no reality for them to break.
  • 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.
  • In Fate/Zero, Gilgamesh's Enuma Elish is strong enough to cause these every time it's used, provided he goes all out rather than using about five percent of its total capability. Fortunately, Gilgamesh has no desire to ever use Enuma Elish at its full power.
  • The driving plot device in Future Diary is the fact that God is dying. If God dies, the entire universe goes kaput. As such, God holds a survivor game in which twelve people of all ages and backgrounds compete for his spot, equipping their diaries with the power to see future entries. Reality-breaking chaos ensues.
  • The Espers are afraid that Haruhi Suzumiya will do this if she learns the truth about herself.
  • The Arc-En-Ciel in Lyrical Nanoha runs on this principal. It temporally collapses reality within a 100 kilometer radius of the target, completely obliterating everything within range. Naturally, such destructive force means that it is only ever installed on ships during extreme circumstances (like the threat of a world-destroying Artifact of Doom) and requires the authorization of an Admiral to be fired.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi: Jack Rakan manages to destroy a Pocket Dimension he's been trapped in by using a trick he picked up from his Gravity Master buddy Albireo - concentrating gravity magic until it forms a tiny, momentary black hole, which breaks the pocket dimension's simulated physics. Because Jack is a showman who likes to make his strength appear Beyond the Impossible, he hides the casting to make it looks like he broke reality just by flexing.
  • 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 before they are born - 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.
  • 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.
  • Steins;Gate provides multiple examples of this, however the most prominent appears in the movie, where Okabe Rintarou due to his own refusal to invent the D-mail in the timeline, the timeline attempts to remove his existence.
  • 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: When They Cry, 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.
  • 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.

    Audio Play 
  • In the Big Finish Doctor Who "Multi-Master" trilogy, "The Two Masters" reveals that the Cult of the Heretic had attempted to create one by manipulating the Master so that they will transfer the consciousness of the 'Crispy Master' into the body of the 'Bald Master', with the paradox of the younger Master in the body of his future self unmaking reality. The only reason the paradox isn't permanent is because the older Master in his younger body manages to escape before the Cult can kill him to make the switch permanent, but by the time the Seventh Doctor confronts them both and realises what has happened, the damage is too serious to be undone even after the Masters return to their appropriate bodies, forcing the Doctor to use the Cult's equipment to remake existence.

  • 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, 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.
  • Final Crisis had a character gain the power to kill a multiversal evil by solving a Rubix Cube in 17 moves, one less than the minimum amount of moves needed.
  • "Double Neggative," a story of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, tells of a cosmic egg that Grim is assigned to protect. If it is broken, it could cause a global apocalypse. Mandy secretly steals it and lets Billy take the rap for it. As the story closes, Grim and a cyclops minion are searching an egg factory for the cosmic egg which Mandy has kept in her dress pocket. She taps her pocket for assurance the egg is intact—and breaks it.
    Mandy: (eyes wide open in shock) Oops.
  • Similar to Flashpoint above, in Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: Shattered Grid, Lord Drakkon killing Prime!Tommy Oliver leads to the timeline splintering into multiple universes instead.
  • 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. However, his math was flawed, so when he finally solved the equation, it caused his apartment to explode.

    Fan Works 
  • According to Evangelion: ReDeath, this is what happens if you play 1999 by Prince any time on or after January 1, 2000. It's how Gendo intends to trigger the Third Impact and become the Uber-Pimp.
  • In Happy Endings (Harry Potter), 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.
  • In Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, Harry pre-commits 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 very shaky handwriting.
  • In another Harry Potter fic, several characters are sucked into an alternate universe after a temporal paradox involving destroyed Time Turners destabilized the fabric of reality.
  • The Red Dwarf fic Holding Patterns features Rimmer (as Ace) encounter a dimension that's days away from collapsing in on itself because of a paradox. He learns that in this dimension Lister was killed by the Polymorph and was thus never able to become his own dad, creating the paradox. It's implied that the other "invalid" dimensions Rimmer isn't able to access are ones that have already been destroyed by Lister's death.
  • The Infinite Loops:
    • Just to start with, every loop has an "Anchor," a single person (usually but not always the main character in canon) who is the first to start looping and is always Awake. A loop requires an Anchor to continue, though it doesn't have to be the native one—Fused loops often involve Anchors crossing over. Regardless, if all Anchors in a loop die, the loop immediately crashes. Loop crashes are bad for the continued stability of The World Tree, so anyone who causes a crash is usually sent to a Punishment Loop.
    • Killing an Anchor isn't the only way for a loop to crash, though. Anything that threatens the stability of the universe typically causes the loop to crash. There are the basics like trying to leash a star and turn it into an Eye of Harmony or messing with a Negative Space Wedgie more than usual, but in especially odd variant loops it's possible to crash the loop just by pointing out all the logical inconsistencies. In one Equestria loop, Angel Bunny, when he gained a voice for the first time in countless eons, promptly crashed the loop by swearing too much.
  • In the backstory of the Harry Potter fanfic King of Kings, Ruling over Rulers, the last rulers of the Atlantean Empire, who were known as the Sacred Triumvirate, "created" a superweapon known as the Tower of Dawn (actually the physical form of a timeless entity known as either the Tower or the Spear). When it was apparently activated with the intent of destroying Ayavan, the Tower malfunctioned, and it shattered reality (only for three days, before reality somehow succeeded in repairing itself).
  • In the Doctor Who fanfic The Last Great Time War, the Time Lords plan to create one on purpose to wipe out all possible enemies while they Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence.
  • Pony POV Series:
    • The G2 ponies attempted an experiment that would supposedly create a perfect world by causing everyone's wishes to come true. This created the G3 timeline. While it seemed to be a utopia and the ones who ran the experiment made sure evil wishes would not be granted, they failed to consider that each individual could have contradictory wishes. After several years, the contradictions caught up and reality started to unravel. The G3 timeline was compared to a branch that started to curl in on itself and turn cancerous. To save reality, the gods were forced to erase the G3 world, turn back time, and kill the ones responsible for the experiment before it could be activated.
    • In the Finale arc, Discord and his ally Nyarlathotrot turn the world into a Villain World by Rewriting Reality so that all rumors come true, especially Creepypastas. Reality starts to unravel, forcing the gods to intervene and aid the heroes. Eventually, Discord's minion Diamond Tiara attempts to end the universe by rewriting things so that Princess Celestia and Luna were really Tirek and Grogar all along (a Shout-Out to the deleted ending of A Mighty Demon Slayer Grooms Some Ponies). The universe cannot take such a contradiction and everything starts falling apart until Applebloom manages to reverse it.
  • Elsimore in That Guy Destroys Psionics destroys psionics by traveling to the Plane of Force (where all psions get their power from) and opening a permanent gate to where the Negative Elemental Plane and the Quasielemental Plane of Void met, causing considerable planar distress.
  • In Little Ironies, the Team Rocket Trio create a device that can hold Ash's Pikachu for longer than half an hour, causing the universe to stop existing.
  • 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.

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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 the end, all that happens is that she simply passes out from the shock, which Doc had also admitted was a possibility.
    • 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 Present that Doc and Marty are forced to prevent.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In Star Trek (2009), the older Spock suggests to Kirk that this will be the result if his younger counterpart ever finds out about him, telling him, "Under no circumstances can he be made aware of my existence." Subverted as it turns out it was just an implication; in reality, Spock was just trying to avoid becoming a barrier to his younger self learning to trust Kirk, but he implied it was a much more dire matter in order to ensure that Kirk would keep the secret.
    Spock: How did you persuade him to keep your secret?
    Spock Prime: He inferred that universe-ending paradoxes would ensue should he break his promise.
    Spock: You lied.
    Spock Prime: Oh, I... I implied.

  • Animorphs: The Ellimist Chronicles imply that the Ellimist became a Sufficiently Advanced Alien because he was composed of a swarm of small starships connected by Subspace Ansible when Crayak tricked him into emerging from Z-space close to a black hole. He was thus able to experience falling into a black hole from the perspective of both subject and observer, the impossibility of which caused him to Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence. Crayak later figured out the trick after Ellimist used his new powers to keep Crayak from destroying dinosaur-era Earth.
  • In Beyond the Veil of Stars by Robert Reed, any civilization that points too many optical telescopes out towards the greater universe causes a localized breakdown in reality, causing it to essentially censor the glitch by causing the sky of the planet to project a mirror itself, showing the opposite hemisphere. However, the phenomena is largely harmless bar a minor reduction in the efficiency of solar panels and laser transmissions, as the mirroring effect absorbs and reflects some visual radiation. The protagonist was a child looking up into the central American sky when it happened on Earth, and went into a wild panic when the clear blue sky suddenly became a view 100 kilometers above Asia.
  • In the BIONICLE novel Time Trap, Vakama keeps Big Bad Makuta at bay and 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.
  • 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:
    • This is the effect of the first Glass Clock in Thief of Time, which shattered the whole of recorded history. The History Monks managed to patch it back together again, leaving behind only a couple of plot holes.
    • In Mort when Mort says Screw Destiny and prevents the Princess Kelli's destined death, he fears he has invoked this trope upon Reality itself. He's wrong. It turns out Reality can handle things like that. The trick is getting it to handle it in a way other than just superimposing the correct history on top.
    • In Going Postal, the Sorting Engine is this due to having been built by Bloody Stupid Johnson with a wheel where Pi is exactly three, not 3.141..., which has the effect that it occasionally spits out letters from the past, the future and from alternate realities.
  • 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.note 
  • 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).
  • In the short story Experiment by Fredric Brown, a group of professors - having built a time machine - discover the hard way what happens if they cause a Temporal Paradox (For Science!).
  • In the dialogue "Little Harmonic Labyrinth" from Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, 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 an 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 Isaac Asimov's short story "The Imaginary", a creature is discovered, whose behavior, when analyzed mathematically, requires the use of imaginary numbers which cancel out at the end. A couple of curious coeds affect it with a combination of fields that should, according to calculations, cause the imaginary numbers to not be cancelled out at the end. Turns out curiosity kills more than just cats.
  • 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.
  • The Neverending Story: It happens to humans in Fantastica who crown themselves emperor, or try to. Through wishing upon AURYN, they try to use the Childlike Empress's power to take her power away from her which results in their minds utterly breaking from the paradox. AURYN disappears from them and they suffer a complete loss of memory of the human world. This renders them mindless gibbering fools who can never return home. After all, the Empress is called "The Golden-Eyed Commander of Wishes" for a damn good reason.
  • 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 Wheel of Time, Balefire burns things out of existence in the past as well as the present, undoing everything they did in the seconds or minutes before their destruction. Its widespread use in the War of Power almost unraveled reality from the strain of paradox, and Mazrim Taim spams it so much in the Last Battle that space-time breaks around him, leaving a yawning void of annihilation that takes a Heroic Sacrifice and a vast amount of the One Power to seal.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In 12 Monkeys, such paradoxes tend to occur frequently as a result of bringing two versions of the same object from different time periods into contact. These paradoxes tend to emit bright glows of light and have varying effects. The second season reveals that the Army of the Twelve Monkeys are trying to collapse time using this method, by killing "primaries" (people who serve as living Cosmic Keystones) with pieces of themselves. Then in Season 4, the final threat faced by the heroes is the Twelve Monkeys converting their headquarters (the city-sized time machine called Titan) into a Wave-Motion Gun capable of destroying the world across every day of existence, creating a paradox so big that time shatters.
  • In The Adventures of Pete & Pete, little Pete once caused an explosion by putting a humidifier and a dehumidifier next to each other.
  • 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. Plus, there was the potential high expense of destroying the various jumpgates; in the case where it was used, Sheridan specifically went after one that he saw as expendable—the jumpgate to the Markab system, as the Markab were more or less a dead race due to a massive plague barely a few months ago, and Sheridan wanted to make things harder for grave robbers.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "The End of Time": The Ultimate Sanction, which the Time Lords led by Rassilon wanted to use at the end of the Last Great Time War.
    • In Series 5, "cracks" in time and space appear in almost every episode; these release energy that un-writes time, erasing things from existence so that 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.
      • His companions refer to those events in the next season:
        River: He's interacting with his own past — it could rip a hole in the Universe.
        Amy: Yes, but he's done it before!
        Rory: And, in fairness, the Universe did blow up.
    • "Space"/"Time" presents a scenario where, in order to make a safe landing, the TARDIS creates a paradox and landed in the only safe place available... inside itself. The Doctor is a little concerned about this.
    • "Hell Bent" has this stated as a consequence of cheating Clara's death by extracting her from the moment before her it and then never returning her. Having already demonstrated a willingness to Face Death with Dignity, Clara is quite prepared to return to her death to keep time from "fracturing"; however, because the process used to extract her has left her functionally immortal, she also recognizes that she need not be in any big hurry to get back to it.
    • "It Takes You Away": The Solitract was exiled from the universe because its very existence runs counter to the natural order of the universe. The Solitract can be whatever it wants, in defiance of any and all natural laws, so the universe couldn't exist until the Solitract ceased to be a part of it. Likewise, having people from the main universe inside it causes the Solitract to break down.
    • "The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos": The universe can't handle the five shrunken worlds stolen by the Ux on the orders of Tim Shaw being in close proximity to each other, as they still possess the same mass.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In the first season finale of The Flash, it turns out that creating a Temporal Paradox in close proximity to a wormhole is a very bad idea.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • On Legends of Tomorrow, this is Vandal Savage's master plan in the first Season Finale using time travel to work in conjuncture with two younger versions of himself, he intends to detonate an Nth Metal meteor, causing an Earth-Shattering Kaboom, in three different time periods. The paradox resulting from the world being destroyed three times will cause time to collapse in on itself and rewind to Ancient Egypt (when the meteors first fell and Savage was made immortal), allowing him to start over and conquer the world from the start.
  • MADtv (1995) 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.
  • 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.
  • Stargate Atlantis: Using an Ancient project to create a super-energy source, Dr. Rodney McKay accidentally makes particles that defy the laws of physics, break through the shields because of it and then annihilates the entire solar system!
    McKay: Five sixths!
  • It's revealed in Supernatural Season 11 that God can be killed. It's just that because He is very important to reality, the latter would tear apart should it happen. However, this rule also applies to the Darkness, His twin sister, who would die with him or vice versa.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): In the story "I of Newton", mathematician Sam is told by an omnipotent demon that he can save his soul by asking him a question he can't answer or telling him to perform a task he can't do. After the demon brags he can go to anyplace in any alternate dimension in any time period and return, Sam defeats him with two words: "Get lost."
  • One sketch from The Whitest Kids U' Know, "Kid Beer", begins with some corporate executives creating a new brand of beer targeted at children. This is followed by the introduction of Baby Beer, and then Embryonic Beer, the last of which turns out to be such an amazingly brilliant idea that it breaks the universe.

    Myths & Religion 
  • The Bible has this when in a vague sense, while we know (not just by religion either) that God knows everything and yet still acts according to His creations, which results in this trope when the Antichrist is about to kill off the remaining Jews and Christians and has the world in an awful state, then Jesus Christ comes down and has reality break apart, with the mountains and islands ''vanishing'', the stars falling out of the sky, with some at least landing on Earth (possibly asteroids), and this trope later appears when the Judgment of all humanity comes to pass a thousand years after the Second Coming when Satan is thrown into the lake of fire and this heaven and earth is burned with supernatural fire.
  • Greek Mythology has Laelaps, a hunting dog who always caught what she was chasing, set after the giant Teumessian fox, which could never be caught. Due to the paradox, Zeus turned them both to stone then into constellations.

  • The Ballad of Edgardo features a variant. At the climax of the story, Edgardo is about to throw an infinite-damage Unblockable Attack that will break through Militant Xero's invincible shield and flatten him. Xero flatly refuses to accept his defeat (even though it was perfectly legitimate by the game's rules) and throws such a colossal hissy-fit in the OOC boards that the mods shut down the entire forum rather than resolve Edgard's punch.
  • Destroy the Godmodder features the Glitch, a quasi-Eldritch Abomination that is summoned by breaking the Hexahedron, a Void Artifact that contains the Source Code of the universe where the game takes place. It's so dangerous that it can attack the player's posts if they don't use safe colors and/or fonts.

    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.
    • 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 Material Plane in a matter of minutes barring divine intervention.
    • A Sphere of Annihilation is a hole in the continuity of the multiverse.
    • 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. That's right, Pale Night's true form is so hideous and evil that Reality itself might Go Mad from the Revelation of seeing it. If any living creature happens to see what she truly looks like, one of two things happens: either they make their (very high) Will save and don't understand what they're looking at, or they die screaming on the spot.
    • 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.
    • Over in Forgotten Realms, Cyric, Chaotic Evil god of madmen and murderers, created a holy book called the Cyrinishad that brainwashes anyone who reads it into becoming a devout follower of Cyric. Cyric mistakenly read it himself and was driven insane as a consequence.
  • 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 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.
  • 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, you can sacrifice a copy of The Immovable Object (a shield) to destroy all copies in play of The Unstoppable Force (a 2-handed mace), and vice versa.
  • Scion: Fate decrees that everything in the World has some significance. Awareness (introduced in Masks of the Mythos) is about the discovery of how insignificant humanity is in the grand scheme of the cosmos. Whenever these two things mix, reality suffers the equivalent of a Logic Bomb and Mythos Scions deal with...strange effects.

    Video Games 
  • In Baba Is You, mishandling of the "Word" keyword (which makes objects act like text) can result in situations that are impossible for the game to resolve. If you do, the entire level will vanish and be replaced with a giant infinity sign and the phrase "Infinite Loop" — you can undo this as normal, but there's no moving forward. (Or, in older versions, it'll just crash.) This is mostly a problem for Game Mods, and this special failure state was created with them in mind, but just one level in the vanilla game (Chasm-Extra 3, "Broken") can be brought into this impossible state if you're willing to ignore the puzzle and go well out of your way to assemble a paradox just because you can.
  • The Binding of Isaac: This can be invoked by the player starting in Afterbirth by attempting to use the ? Card (A card that activates the effect your current active item) and the Blank Card (an active item that activates the effect of your currently held card) in tandem. This results in the player being teleported into the I AM ERROR room, and erasing both the Blank Card and ? Card due to the infinite loop they would cause.
  • BlazBlue: Of all the many (many) events that could cause this throughout the series, apparently the one in Bang's Contiuum Shift bad ending is the one that pushes it over the limit. He beats Jin Kisaragi almost to death, and if the universe (and indeed, the setting) loses someone so important, it just can't keep going anymore.
  • In Dota 2, Nerif the Oracle's backstory involves one of these. A king used Nerif's powers of prediction to come up with military strategies. However, one day, rather than assure him of victory as usual, Nerif told the king that an upcoming battle "could go either way". The king interpreted that as meaning that he could win through his superior might, but in reality it meant that the battle would go both ways: reality bifurcated, causing the soldiers to simultaneously experience being alive and dead, victorious and defeated. As a result, everyone in the battlefield was driven to insanity by the incomprehensible paradox that was happening before their eyes, a paradox which started to rapidly spread throughout the universe. Nerif was quickly kicked out of his dimension and banished to our world, although by that time it was already too late to stop the crumbling of reality that was occurring in that dimension.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • The series has a version crossed with a Time Crash known as a "Dragon Break". These happen at a few major events in the backstory when the draconic God of Time, known by many names but most prominently as Akatosh, is "tampered with" so to speak, resulting in him "forgetting" the true course of events during a period of time. This means that everything that possibly could have happened during said period of time, does happen, even mutually exclusive events, although not always to the same degree, as the events also channel each other out a bit. They typically involve mortals attempting to use something of divine substance and cross over with Reality Is Out to Lunch. A few prominent examples:
      • In the 1st Era, the Maruhkati Selectives, an extremist sect of the already extremist anti-elf Alessian Order, carried out a ritual in attempt to purge Akatosh of the elven aspects of the mythological basis that Akatosh was based on, the Aldmeri golden eagle god, Auri-El. This proceeded to break time and reality for a period of 1008 years, which came to be known as the Middle Dawn. Bizarre and impossible events occurred during this time; people gave birth to their own parents, some sources mention wars and major events which never happened according to other sources, the sun changed color depending on the witness, and the gods either walked among the mortals or they didn't. How could they measure that period of time? They used the phases of Nirn's moons, said to be Lorkhan's decaying "flesh divinity", to measure time as they were not affected by the event. Even the Elder Scrolls themselves cannot rationalize the conflicting events of the Middle Dawn. When the Scrolls are attuned to that time period, their glyphs are said to simply disappear.
      • The Numidium, a giant brass golem built by the Dwemer and powered by the Heart of Lorkhan, the "dead" creator god, was essentially their refutation of the gods made material. Because of this, it frequently caused these when activated, such as the temporal toxic waste dump in Elsweyr where Tiber Septim's mages tried to figure it out after the Dunmeri Tribunal gave it to him as a tribute, or the Warp In The West, where all the endings in Daggerfall essentially happened at once (though none to the same extent they would have individually).
    • The eponymous Elder 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 (something that looks a bit like a star chart with odd glyphs around it). Someone with slight training is struck blind immediately, and while they may gain some knowledge from it, it will likely be useless. People with great training (e.g. members of the Cult of the Ancestor Moth) gradually go blind as they read more of the scrolls, but can extract enough information to reliably predict future events (or, at least, what might happen). Then we have the Dragonborn in Skyrim. Dragonborn are mortals with the soul of an immortal Aedric dragon, whose souls exist partially outside of time, not unlike the Scrolls themselves. Reading the Scroll you obtain as part of Skyrim's main quest results in being momentarily blinded, then recovering, and then immediately gaining access to precise information related to their current quest (either defeating Alduin or recovering Auri-El's Bow). It is also revealed that the aforementioned Dwemer were able to create a machine which allowed them to read the Elder Scrolls without all of the nasty side effects.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 game.
  • 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.
  • In Half-Life: Opposing Force, if you hop into the Xen portal right after Freeman, the game ends stating you created a time paradox.
  • The Henry Stickmin Series has one of its many fail endings cause one of these. The Center for Chaos Containment uses a little calculator with a robotic arm as a weapon. It proceeds to divide a number by zero, causing huge chunks of the world to collapse on itself.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In LEGO Dimensions, playing the game with two Twelfth Doctors initiates a special comment from the Doctor where he complains that you've probably caused a paradox that could threaten space/time, but if you're having fun, go ahead.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.)
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Metal Gear
    • Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater 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.
    • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain also gives you a "Time Paradox" ending if you let Ishmael die during the prologue. Given that Ishmael is the real Big Boss, this is kind of important.
  • This is the premise of the eroge Monster Girl Quest: Paradox. To give a simplified (and possibly not 100% accurate) explanation, the repeated rewinding of time and the death of Ilias in the previous Monster Girl Quest trilogy damaged the space-time continuum, giving rise to many parallel worlds. Additionally, Black Alice was summoned into the Paradox world, one of these parallel worlds, where she had the opportunity to gain control over light and darkness and become the Goddess of Chaos. This led to the Great Disaster, in which massive holes in space-time opened up between the Paradox world and other worlds. In response to this, the Apoptosis appear to limit the damage, but this is a case of the cure being just as bad as the disease, since the Apoptosis attack anyone who tries to travel between worlds and (in the long run) destroy the worlds themselves.
  • In Outer Wilds, this can happen if one tampers too much with one of the Nomai's smaller experiments: In the High Energy Lab, you'll find a time travel experiment making use of an artificial black hole and a corresponding white hole next to it. If you divert power from the lab to the experiment, launching your scout drone will make it come out of the white hole an instant before it falls into the black hole. At that moment, the exact same drone exists in two separate places, which is all fine and dandy as long as the drone enters the black hole, satisfying its time travel through the white hole as a result. However, if you're feeling particularly bold (or foolish), you can pull out either capsule generating the holes at the moment the two drones are together, before your launched drone enters the black hole. Doing this causes reality to start growing negative-colored cracks on the "white hole" drone, since it shouldn't be able to exist if it never went through the black hole. It ends with all of reality shattering like glass and fading into nothing. Congratulations, you just ended the universe on your own volition by screwing with cause and effect.
    • An update added another method by which you can destroy reality: hang around the warp core at the center of the Ash Twin Project when the current cycle ends, and it’ll open up and suck you into another artificial black hole. You’ll start the next cycle as normal, but now, hanging out inside the Ash Twin Project, is the you from the previous cycle, sent backwards in time by the concurrent white hole. Fail to satisfy the time loop you’ve just complicated by entering the Ash Twin Project black hole at the end of the cycle, and reality will break the exact same way, only this time the cracks radiate out from your past self.
  • Portal 2: While in the old Aperture testing labs, one of the Cave Johnson pre-recorded messages warns that the next experiment may involve "trace amounts of time travel". He specifically warns against interacting with your past or future self, stating that it may break time "backwards and forwards".
  • In Puyo Puyo, it’s described in Puyo Puyo Fever, when they perform a Puyo popping battle, that there’s a chance to create a warp hole as a result of both time and space being distorted from popping 4 same-colored puyos frequently. This battle probably would have been the cause of Puyo Puyo Tetris's main plot... or did it?
    • Bonus points, the Puyo-popping spell is called “Owanimo”; according to the Nazo Puyo series, this spell was made by The Sage. How the spell works? You pop 4 same-colored Puyos by enchanting certain words you want to say, then they vanish as a sacrifice for the Time Goddess, granting a magical power for both magic and non-magic users to summon Nuisance Puyos.
  • In The Sims 3, if a sim is dared to divide by 0, upon attempting the calculation the dared sim will spontaneously burst into flame.
  • In the mythology of Suikoden, Sword (a being that could destroy anything) and Shield (an indestructible being) fought each other. Sword striking Shield caused both to shatter into 27 pieces, the 27 True Runes, and the Big Bang to occur.
  • Superliminal: The protagonist must intentionally cause one to escape, by throwing a replica of the institute's strip mall storefront out its front door from inside of itself.
  • 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 and some of the fans) agrees it didn't count, but apparently reality thought it was close enough and it was enough to start everything come crashing down.
  • In Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana, the party causes one of these at the end of the game by destroying the Theos de Endogram, the avatar of the Tree of Origins, in order to prevent the Lacrimosa. Since it’s the origin of all life and the Lacrimosa is divinely ordained as part of the natural order, doing this makes the whole system break down and destroys the universe. The earth goddess Maia has to step in to fix it.

    Visual Novels 
  • One character makes causing these their overall goal in Fate/stay night, but explaining it is a major spoiler. Archer wants to kill his younger self, Shirou, hoping the resulting stress on the timeline will cause the world to erase them both from continuity in self-defense. He admits this might not work, as there's no guarantee this is even his own timeline and the world is a conscious entity that could have another solution, but he considers the opportunity worth taking. In fact, other materials' explanation of how time travel and multiverses work in the franchise make it clear Archer's plan had absolutely zero chance of success.

    Web Animation 
  • This Four-Player Podcast video had Brad watch his own stream, resulting in a Droste Image feedback loop. The video title is "Brad, Dividing By Zero."
  • The DEATH BATTLE! between Chuck Norris and Segata Sanshiro. On one side, we have a man who Death fears and has a long list of impossible facts. On the other side, we have a man whose commercials and cameos show him flat out ignoring the laws of physics and mortality to do impossible feats. What happens when you take these two forces and make them fight to the death? The Universe they're in will break down without a winner being decided.
  • hololive: During Kronii's debut stream, the Warden of Time becomes jealous that she debuted after the personifications of Space and Nature, so she uses her powers to rewind time so that she would debut first. This results in a Time Crash where's she's stuck in a white void, and ends the stream trying to figure out how to undo everything. The concept of Time can't exist without something for it to affect to exist first.
  • 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.
  • Little Runmo: Runmo accidentally fractures time and space while looking for extra lives, by way of finding the corpse of a predecessor and tearing his head off to use as a 1-up, causing a massive glitch in his Extra Life count. The God of the Concept of Life has to show up to (mildly) chastise him and take him for a ride across the collapsing cosmos... only to impale himself on the exact same obstacle that killed Runmo at the very start. This event messes things up even more, restarting time for the very first chunk of the level (complete with rewinding lost lives for Runmo) yet leaving it isolated in a void where everyone else's corpses are adrift.
    Grobletombus Marble Eyes: Oh me, oh my. It appears a crime has been committed. A crime against the very essence of life itself. And blunders such as this... have consequences.
  • In Red vs. Blue Season 16, the Reds and Blues get their hands on Time Travel guns and proceed to run amok across history. Luckily, You Already Changed the Past and Stable Time Loop are prevalent. Near the end, they get the idea of preventing Agent Washington's Game-Breaking Injury, but said injury is crucial to how the Reds and Blues got their Time Guns. The paradox traps the Reds and Blues in an endless loop of "soft time" where they are forced to relive their memories over and over again. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the summary of Season 17's first episode is "The Reds and Blues break the universe."

  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • In El Goonish Shive, Justin comes across a comic that claims that it "doesn't have a social agenda" while "bringing back good, old fashioned heroes versus villains". George notes that that sounds like a social agenda which causes a paradox and the comic disappears in a flash of light.
  • In Goblins, a powerful psion Evil Counterpart to Minmax attempts to annihilate a Pocket Dimension and everything in it by twisting its internal laws to accept that one equals zero. Downplayed when he acknowledges that it's only possible because the pocket dimension is small and simple enough to be mathematically modeled, and it would be impossible in the real world.
    • It was far more extensive than that, the Psion's intent was to cause the entirety of existence (i.e. the Multiverse) to have never existed reasoning he'd end all the pain and suffering of life by changing things so that 1=0, which was only possible due to the mutable nature of the pocket dimension which existed in all universes (or at least its gateways did).
  • Homestuck: This is said to be the only way to kill Lord English, who is explicitly described as "immortal" and "invincible" with "the power to destroy absolutely anything". The paradox occurs when Alt-Calliope turns herself into a black hole that sucks up the Green Sun, removing a large portion of Lord English's raw power and causing the section of the Furthest Ring he'd been putting cracks in to finally break apart into oblivion. At that point, Vriska uses the weapon she stole from Lord English, a weapon that can instantly defeat anyone, effectively turning Lord English's "destroy everything" power against himself. It's not quite clear what the aftermath of all that was, but the heroes seem content that Lord English is truly, finally dead.
    • The Homestuck Epilogues spells out exactly what happened more clearly: when Vriska uses the weapon, it releases the John, Rose, Dave, and Jade that had been trapped within it ever since Caliborn's claymation sequence. This version of Dave happens to possess a sword alchemized from the cue ball said to be Lord English's only weakness (the sword was created in Homestuck proper but never actually used against English), and deals him a mortal blow with it. Afterward, Davepetasprite^2 grabs English and throws both themself and English into the reality-devouring black hole, within which he is consumed whole by Alt-Calliope.
  • In Irregular Webcomic! the Temporal Paradoxes eventually destroyed the universe. It got better.
    • There are many Death characters. Each is assigned to a different method of death, and each collects the souls of people who died by their assigned method. The Deaths can also die, at which point they are also collected by the Death assigned to the method they died by. This became a problem at one point when one Death got killed by his own assigned method.
  • The final page of Chapter 4 of morphE features a magical paradox which breaks the comic and glitches everything out. Speech bubbles are out of alignment, text flickers and distorts and the text box drops off the screen. This is what happens when magic interacts with unmagic.
  • Oglaf:
    • Happens in this strip, where a monk prays to God to answer this prayer by not answering this prayer.
    • In the strip "Collider", someone tests what happens when a bat and a bird run into each other in a tube resembling a particle collider, since they're opposites. This destroys the universe.
  • In Real Life Comics, Mae 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.
  • In the middle of the Shortpacked! arc in which Ethan imprisons Galasso in the store cupboard, they run one of the standalone "Ethan argues with a customer who is being ridiculous" strips, except that the customer points out Ethan doesn't have the moral ground to criticise anyone about anything, and the strip "crashes", with the last panel being a 404 message. In the next strip Willis apologises for accidentally making Ethan somebody who couldn't fulfill Ethan's role in the strip, but assures us things are back on track, and the next strip has Ethan decide he has to fix things. He then says he wouldn't find Batman funny right now, and the last panel is the blue screen of death. Taking this even further, the next strip (on April Fools' Day) is a fake reboot of Roomies (which may have been testing the waters for Dumbing of Age the following year), which redesigns the entire webpage to fit (sadly no longer visible), as though the whole Walkyverse has reset to factory settings.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Magic in Unsounded has minor examples, thanks to reality being governed by the Background Magic Field of the Khert. If material has been fiddled with so that its existence doesn't make sense, like matter without mass, the Khert annihilates it; if a spell would create a logic error, it tends to end poorly for the caster. One of Duane's classmates accidentally cast a liquefying spell on something that already registered as liquid, so the spell glitched and affected his hand instead.
  • One of the "Scraps" strips for The Whiteboard has Roger putting LocTite and AntiSeize on the same bolt. Predictably, it exploded.
  • Reality explodes in Zero Percent Discount when two characters wish for the other character's wish to come true.

    Web Original 
  • 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. This Very Wiki even had it as the former Trope Namer for the paradox.
  • 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.
    • It's also how Oul is defeated in the end — Ching gives the weapon no choice but to do something to incur the wrath of the Imprisoning God, and it smashes Oul back — at which point the Imprisoning God opens a now empty prison and negates itself out of existence.
  • SCP Foundation:
    • "Roget's" Proposal for SCP-001 is a facility which houses hundreds of anomalies that self-contain each other. Two anomalies are paired up within rooms, and each one’s anomalous effects cancel out the other — if they stop interacting with each other and breach, it causes a reality-warping paradox which redefines physics to accommodate for it, creating a new reality in the process and potentially overwriting this one. SCP-055 (all information about which can’t be remembered) and -579 (all information about which has been expunged) are said to cancel each other out, with the only description being "can't fit round pegs in square holes", and the Foundation has had to use them as a Reset Button at least twice.
    • SCP-033 is essentially a literal Logic Bomb, as it's a number that wasn't supposed to exist (or rather, one that did and we failed to take it into account). The closest the article comes to explaining what it is is by using the example of humanity not ever coming up with 5, instead skipping straight from 4 to 6 simply because the quantity of 5 was never conceived of. To make matters worse, the range of numbers this integer is supposedly located in has been expunged from the record, and the number itself is so chaotic it cannot fit into ANY known mathematical system; absolutely all calculations, no matter how large or strange, are done without it or knowledge of it, and trying to make use of it causes logic itself to break down, manifested as objects on which the number has been written degenerating into mush. The Mathematical universe hypothesis proposes that the universe itself is a mathematical structure, ergo a missing number would be akin to a missing part of reality.
    • 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.
      • The author of that article revealed in the leak thread that SCP-225 is actually a natural phenomenon. They don't reveal what happens when SCP-225 collides, although it would be very bad, but it would not destroy the universe. Other SCP-225 instances already have collided elsewhere in the universe.
    • SCP-3088 was a town where every law the mayor made became objective law of reality for the town (for example, a law banning litter deleted all litter within the town's borders and no one was able to even try to litter). One of the first laws made upon realizing his power is that no one could leave the town. However, tired of the Mobile Task Force Unit, the mayor made a law said that all military personnel must leave immediately, conflicting with the prior law saying no one could leave. So the entire town vanished from existence.
  • Telling Siri to divide by zero. It leads to her sassing you over how it doesn't make sense, Cookie Monster is sad that there aren't any cookies, and that you have no friends.
  • In this "Wario Dies" video, Wario plays one of his own games and when the Wario in the game dies, a paradox ensues that causes the universe to (very loudly) fall apart.
  • In the Ed stories, Ed briefly accessing the Root Layer causes a Class X-3 Apocalypse How on the Andromeda galaxy.

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time:
    • "The Real You" has a newly super-intelligent 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!
  • The Amazing World of Gumball:
    • The episode "The Job" reveals that the universe warps and eventually unravels if Richard gets a job. Naturally, the cast has to get him fired or else the universe would cease to exist.
    • Happens differently in the episode "The Best" where Darwin gave a voice command to Tobias's phone to divide zero by zero, causing a wormhole to appear and suck Tobias inside.
  • In the Challenge of the Superfriends episode "The History of Doom", Lex Luthor turns the sun against Superman by changing it to red energy, and the Superfriends turn on the Hall of Justice's force field, which only amplifies the fire and destroys the Superfriends, Legion of Doom, and Earth in the process. Subverted when some visiting aliens, in a Deus ex Machina moment, decide to turn back time and move the moon in front of the solar flare in an unscheduled eclipse, saving Earth from Lex Luthor's mistake.
  • Earthworm Jim: In "Hyper Psy-Crow", Jim tries to negate Psy-Crow's new powers by giving himself "super-relaxation" powers with an aromatherapy kit. Unfortunately, Jim's super-mellowness and Psy-Crow's super-hyperness cause a universe-destroying explosion when they collide. The two end up stuck in a void with the Creator of the Universe (who manifests as a caricature of Doug TenNapel), who helps them out of this mess.
  • Family Guy had an episode where Brian and Stewie are catapulted outside time and space due to a mishap with Stewie's time machine, and return to reality by detonating the return pad. Arriving home, Stewie discovers that the detonation that sent them back home was actually the Big Bang, and he and Brian created the universe through a Stable Time Loop. However, this is the exact moment when Stewie's evil brother Bertram enacts a plan to prevent Stewie's birth by travelling back in time and killing his ancestor. This results in reality beginning to break apart as the paradox wipes out existence. Stewie and Brian manage to escape into the past and avoid getting erased. They ultimately fail to save the ancestor (Leonardo Da Vinci) but Stewie saves the universe by remaining behind in the past to pass on his DNA via genetic splicing, then returns to the present via The Slow Path by freezing himself in a cryogenic pod buried where the Griffins' house will one day be built.
  • 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, as the amount of Benders end up causing a gigantic rip in the fabric of the universe and leading to the events of the second movie.
      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 and the very reason Fry was sent to the future was to prevent the universe's demise.
  • The The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy episode "My Fair Mandy" reveals 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 becoming the Powerpuff Girls. And Irwin becomes Mojo Jojo.
  • 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.
  • ReBoot: In "Racing the Clock", a bomb going off in the middle of a Game creates a void that starts sucking things in.
    Bob: It's an infinite data if/else loopnote .
    Dot: What's that mean?
    Bob: It means run like you've never run before!!
  • Rick and Morty: In "Forgetting Sarick Mortshall", Morty winds up with a portal stuck to his hand after spilling portal fluid on it. Through it, he meets Nick, a man who has a portal on his leg which is now linked to the one on Morty's hand. They team up for a while until Nick turns out to be a murderous psychopath. Morty cuts off his hand and drops it and the portal on it into the portal on Nick's leg, creating a paradox that collapses the portal into itself, taking Nick with it.
  • Strange Hill High: In "The 101% Solution" Mitchell cheats to get 101% on a test and ends up breaking mathematics.
  • In one of the DC Nation Teen Titans (2003) 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: You did!
  • What If…? (2021) has an episode where Doctor Strange loses his girlfriend Christine in a car accident, and given that repeated attempts only using his magic isn't enough to prevent that from happening, he goes through a very dark path trying to become powerful enough to be able to save her life. And the end result of undoing something that was meant to be (the accident has what made him become Sorcerer Supreme - Christine's death here, Strange injuring his hands in the original story, where she was only his Amicable Ex), as he realizes much too late, is the dissolution of all of reality.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Divide By Zero, Dividing By Zero


Yu-Gi-Oh in Sub-Space

The space-time continuum has avoided disruption... until Jaden tells Yugi what happens at the end of his series, sending them all to Sub-Space.

How well does it match the trope?

4.97 (35 votes)

Example of:

Main / RealityBreakingParadox

Media sources: