On Quantum Physics, The Fourth Dimension and Magical Girls… Wait, What?

Spoilers for those who haven’t watched episode 10 yet, although everyone who follows Madoka probably watched it already.

WARNING: This is certified TL;DR material.

Original article came from my former anime blog turned translation blog from ages ago.

This is an attempt to explain the physics behind Homura’s time traveling abilities using basic knowledge of quantum physics and the fourth dimension as well as to try to explain some of the ambiguities caused by the language barrier. Note that this is purely in theory and does not say the events of the story will necessarily be explained by the following post. This is a repost of the same article from my old blog in an attempt to open more discussions; as well as to break the monotony brought by Madoka’s hiatus.

The latest in our list is Homura’s ability to control time. Her fans should probably be head over heels in love with Homura’s character by now. However, some people don’t seem to understand Homura’s time manipulation ability very well, leading to many questions about the said ability.

First, let’s go about the details of Homura’s wish. If you watch the raw or get your subs from a decent sub group (meaning not gg subs, Nutbladder or especially Chihiro) like yesy, the wish would go something like this: “I want to relive my days with Kaname-san! Not as someone who will be protected by her, but as someone who will protect her!” Some people are already criticizing the show for their misunderstanding of Homura’s wish. It is very sad that that this awesome show is being ruined for many JUST BECAUSE OF BAD SUBS AND/OR BAD UNDERSTANDING. Ranting aside, it has now become logical that Homura would go back in time as many times as necessary just so that she can get her full wish granted, given that contracts with Kyuubee are always fulfilled. A positive light is seen in this. Kyuubee, as we know him now, seems to be unable to grant impossible wishes. Does this mean that Madoka can really be saved? I guess we’ll just have to wait and find out!

Now let’s move on to the Physics involved!

WARNING: This part can be a bit technical. Please stay away from it if you’re not interested in basic Quantum Physics or the fourth dimension and enjoy the show as it is. It’s very good even without me explaining everything there. You can scroll down to the bottom of this post. There will still be some interesting material there. I promise!

[Physics]

Let’s look at Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. To get a basic understanding on how Quantum Physics views time, let’s take an example. An observer(Homura), will perceive the rest of the world being incredibly slow (a.k.a stopped time) given that her speed is very high (nearing the speed of light [300,000 kilometers per second]) though she herself feels normal. Point being that time is not absolute (meaning that time depends on the observer).

A possibility is that Homura can achieve near light speed without the potential consequences of space, mass and vectors such as velocity and force (it is also said in the theory that a particle with mass cannot reach the speed of light but can only go near it) that can harm her physically, and thus, can “stop” time.

Another topic of concern is how Homura can return to the past in the same body. Classic time travel Sci-Fi like the Back to the Future series(one of my favorite Sci-Fi trilogies) show that time travel can affect the linear nature of time. Homura’s ability presents us with a different case. Let’s go back again to the theory, if magically, Homura can, in fact, go faster than light itself, it would practically grant her the ability to go back in time or go forward. But even with this explanation, we can run into some problems. How then, can Homura store weapons in her buckler? Or make MG42’s and grenades appear out of nowhere?

A possible answer may lie in a more complicated but more plausible theory on the fourth dimension. One of the explanations on the existence of the fourth dimension is that it is another axis (x,y,z, and t) with t being the fourth dimension. We cannot physically percieve the fourth dimension as we are being that exist in the third and can only perceive a limited view of the third dimension, and full view of the second and first. To give a rather simple example, let’s say that beings live only on the second dimension, or a dot in a piece of paper with a picture in it, if you will. They would only be able to experience a limited view of the picture and absolutely no perception of the higher dimension. The same goes for us. We can only see so much of space, but not all. We can percieve the whole of the second dimension. How?  Given a plane, if we get very far from it (traveling through the z axis) we can get a very large view of it (practically increasing as we move farther away). Now the question is, what is with the fourth dimension then?

As I’ve just discussed, beings in their respective dimensions can move freely in their own dimension and cannot perceive the higher dimensions. This is where Homura’s ability kicks in. If Homura somehow has access to the fourth dimension, t, she now has a new imperceptible storage for all her things. She can also have abilities related to time. Why? Look at the letter used to represent the fourth dimension. What other word starts with t? That’s right, it is time. We cannot perceive time with our five senses because it is in a higher dimension. If Homura can somehow navigate through the t axis, we can conclude that her time manipulation abilities are not just random BS, but rather, it is based on a somewhat stable principle.

[/Physics]

If you’re interested, I also tried to explain the whole entropy problem using simple dynamics.

My heart feels heavy just seeing this picture. Truly, one of the greatest forms of love are ultimate sacrifices.

Now, for those who didn’t read the explanation, don’t worry. That was just some supplemental knowledge that adds fun to the Madoka Magica experience. There is no need to learn quantum physics to get your dose of awesome week after week. So for those following the series, I hope that this post will be useful to you. If you still haven’t started yet but is interested in this wonderful series, then by all means watch it, and I deeply apologize if I spoiled anything. It would surely be worth your time. If you are a fan of yuri like I am, then this is a must for you. Rarely are shoujo-ai stories done this well.

If there are any mistakes within my explanations, please let me know and I’ll look into the matter. As you can see, I’m not an expert at physics, my major is chemistry, after all. And I’m only 17. Whew!

This is also a reply to Yi’s project on overthinking anime. If you have stories of such, please link back to her blog too.

(Un)related notes:

Quotes from Mr. Gen Urobuchi in an unknown interview. (translated by the Puella Magi Wiki and edited by yours truly for corrections in translation and grammar [if any])

Urobuchi: “If Kyuubee suffers severe damage, a new body will be automatically produced. And then, the magical girl responsible will be seriously punished by having her soul gem tainted.” (OH MY GOODNESS, HOMURA!)

Urobuchi: Of course, Kyuubee will never tell them the truth. (Does not necessarily mean that he will lie to them)

Urobuchi: By the way, the reason why Kyuubee consumes his corpses is because he wants to destroy any evidence of something that is supposed to be nonexistent in this world. (WHAT!?)

Images courtesy of baka~.

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About Lucas Magnus

Trying to change for the better.
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19 Responses to On Quantum Physics, The Fourth Dimension and Magical Girls… Wait, What?

  1. hikikomori1969 says:

    I know gg subs translated Homura’s wish properly, since it’s the one I watched though I don’t see how someone could translate that wish wrong. My Japanese is pretty bad and I understood that.

    • afkeroge says:

      I see. I don’t watch gg’s fansubs but I heard some bad rumors about them. I sort of jumped the gun there.

      Maybe it all boils down to understanding, no?

  2. Anima says:

    I had to explain this to a friend earlier, that the wish’s subtle wording really changes how you should be perceiving what Kyuubey did. As with any wish that is granted in a story, the wording is extremely important to what actually occurs. Often the wisher intends one thing and gets a strange result because of the language limitations, or rushed circumstances.

    Very interesting break down of the 4th dimension and light speed in relation to time travel. 🙂

    • afkeroge says:

      Exactly my point. The conversations they had were very tricky and a bit hard to understand when you just heard/saw them the first time. That’s why Madoka is an anime to be fully appreciated in retrospect.

  3. Tronulax says:

    So you’re saying that people can only perceive “time” in 3 dimensional cross sections? Whereas Homura can percieve time/hyper volume? Interesting.

    I also find it intriguing how Kyubey doesn’t seem to be able to perceive the 4th dimension, he’s a 3rd dimension being just like everyone else (????). Kyubey about to get played??

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  5. Nopy says:

    When I saw quantum physics in the title, I thought you were going to talk about quarks, gluons, bosons, and the different spins 😦

    I’m of the belief that time can only travel in one direction, forward. With that belief, the simplext explanation for Homura’s time travelling is that Kyubey is simply inputting new experiences into her mind to make it seem like she’s going back in time. With the powers he showed in Kyouko’s past, this is known to be entirely plausible and doesn’t break our understanding of the universe.

    • afkeroge says:

      Nah, I’m a chemistry major. I can’t discuss advanced quantum physics here like I know everything about it.

      Your theory can work too… ah, I don’t know anymore… there’s too much stuff going on in my head right now.

  6. ~xxx says:

    Man, Kyubey is wracking up my nerves again…

    If it’s true that Kyubey was a figure present in the 3rd and 4th dimension…
    It Means that he knows that Homura shot Him…

    • afkeroge says:

      So far, Kyubey hasn’t lied yet (not that I know of). So we can assume for now that Kyubey doesn’t know of Homura’s actions in the future, err, past… oh, damn.

  7. Yi says:

    Oh gosh… More physics. ^ ^
    I’m on Madoka overload for now! But yea, great analysis!!

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