Dang, I really should stop writing about Madoka Magica… NOT: Of time travel, quantum physics, the fourth dimension and Magical Girls

Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica continues to deliver excellence with every episode with the tenth bringing us more material to discuss.

SPOILERS APLENTY!

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 (sorry guys…).

Edit: (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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  1. The fact that some nay sayers or those blinded by facts cannot understand this simple concept exist solely to rant and complain. We shouldn’t worry about their lack of understanding, all that matters is that Homura is using her gift/curse to save Madoka so they can make babies together in the future (my comment, my fantasy, deal with it).
    Kids today cannot comprehend greatness. I suppose bad fansubbers are also to blame.

    By now super villain fans and Madoka fans alike know that Kyubey’s a bastard so we must do our best to boo Kyubey as much as possible and applaud the writers for creating such a great antagonist. I wonder how this revelation will affect Homura in the coming two weeks? (Unless the disaster has forced broadcasting to suffer through some necessary delays?)

    • Kyuubee never fails to amaze me, to be honest. He’s something that is “not evil”, and makes us think deeper into how we humans enforce our values on all living beings, in and out of this planet. And he also makes us think about how much we value human life because of our emotions and value systems. At the same time, we feel hate and anger towards the little bastard, just because he intends to use 14 year old girls to generate more potential energy for the universe, which is certainly NOT COOL. I think we won’t be feeling this inclined to feel for the characters is they were 30 year old men.

  2. While I seriously fail at comprehending the specifics involving math, chemistry, or physics, the concepts which you explained made sense and considering that Kyubey is from some alien race that is capable of granting wishes (through their technology I assume), the involvement of science makes sense despite this being a Mahou Shoujo anime.

    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.”

    Whoah there Gen… But I do hope he doesn’t make this fact appear later on the show since during episode 9 where Homura showed off her Soul Gem, it was shining with a brilliant purple. Then again, she killed Kyubey on that same episode so unless she finds a Grief Seed, she may be in a pinch… 😦

    Urobuchi: Of course, Kyuubee will never tell them the truth.

    It’s just like how call center agents operate… orz

    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.

    I guess Kyubey doesn’t want the MIB to find out he’s doing business under their noses 😀

    • This is more of an aimless reply to all those people who don’t even try to understand how well the science is integrated into this series. It just needs a bit of research to have an understanding of how the Magical Girl system works. Well, maybe I just love MSMM so much that I’m willing to defend all of its misunderstood concepts and facts. I’ve never felt this way about anime ever since I have started watching back in October 2007. Maybe, it just goes to show that in this decade, MSMM has already made its mark in my mind, as well as in history. It’s a story of love that transcend the dimensions and a science fiction story that is well thought of and researched.

    • “Whoah there Gen… But I do hope he doesn’t make this fact appear later on the show since during episode 9 where Homura showed off her Soul Gem, it was shining with a brilliant purple. Then again, she killed Kyubey on that same episode so unless she finds a Grief Seed, she may be in a pinch…”

      I think Homura has a stock of grief seeds for this purpose, or at least, I hope so.

      “It’s just like how call center agents operate… orz”

      As do big businessmen and contract encoders.

      “I guess Kyubey doesn’t want the MIB to find out he’s doing business under their noses”

      Now I just got the urge to blast him with J’s small, but powerful gun… *headdesk*

      • You know, Baka’s reply makes me think about Kyubey being a great replacement for Alpha in the MIB universe, if K were to have been trained by Kyubey anyway.

      • @EmperorG: Haha, I guess so. Kyuubee training MIB agents would be so twisted indeed!

    • foxtrot
    • March 17th, 2011

    i’d be tempted to add that homura is less vulnerable to soul-gem-taintage purely /because/ she can travel through time (or very rapidly through space, causing the time-stretching effect). she can travel to another era where witches are numerous at little expense, obtain many grief seeds and basically be set for a while !

    and.. though this reasoning is a little more shakey.. if ‘kyuubey’s punishment’ is dealt out by kyuubey himself to the girls he’s made contracts with, since he seems to have no recollection of making the contract with homura (referring to her as an ‘irregular’), it’s only natural that she would avoid being punished.

    homura, you little troll, you ❤

    • “…she can travel to another era where witches are numerous at little expense, obtain many grief seeds and basically be set for a while !”

      Hmmm… quite an interesting point you have there, but I think that Homura doesn’t trigger the time reverse by her own will, but rather, the specifics of her wish indicate that everytime she fails to protect Madoka(aka making a contract), her buckler will activate on it’s own and Homura is to go back to the time before she met Madoka. The specific wish phrased 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!” If you make it a statement in a business contract, the specifics must be accomplished, meaning that there is indeed hope for her(and a rather guaranteed success).

    • Yi
    • March 19th, 2011

    “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!”

    I just realized that Homura’s miracle might doom her to an eternal cycle of protecting Madoka, dying, re-living, and protecting her again. I really hope that’s not the ending.

    Anyway, great post on time! It’s fun to think about how Homura can possibly do her things!

    Also, those three quotations in the end might have some serious implications.

    • So far, we have only seen wishes come true, literally, that’s why they become messed up. But as for Homura, she has a relatively more specific wish which I think can save her from all this. I’m really hoping for the best ending for Madoka and Homura.

  3. 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.”

    OUCH! That one is cheating, Kyuubee . 😐
    Btw I am not sure why, but even after watching until episodes 10 I’m still not really understanding all of those extreme hate on Kyuubee.
    With the exception every time he is shown hides the full truth about those contract things, I find he is quite alright.

    Btw… I really hope the ending of Madoka won’t be giving similar after taste like Saya no Uta normal ending.

    • Well, while I do dislike Kyuubee with a passion, I really like him as an antagonist. He’s one of the most villainous villains out there, but he works for a great cause. It’s just that he picked a wrong place for his business…

      “Btw… I really hope the ending of Madoka won’t be giving similar after taste like Saya no Uta normal ending.”

      I kind of disliked Saya no Uta’s normal ending… It doesn’t feel as tragic as it should have been. I liked the developments, though. And I REALLY HATED the ero scenes, ugh… they could have just made the game free of guro sex (well, I do admit that it adds to the atmosphere). Skipping through the ero scenes doesn’t help too much, too.

      • Actually, is there any good place for his working field?
        I don’t think so.
        Most creature that have emotions most likely won’t be really happy to be used to reduce the entropy… I think.

        Personally Saya no Uta normal ending give me a bad after taste.
        I really dislike the outcome on that ending.

        Btw… I wonder if Madoka and Homura go forward with “Together we’ll become monsters. Destroy… Destroy… Destroy everything.”, the scene will be something like Saya no Uta best ending.
        Although most likely Kyubee won’t be affected even if that truly happen.

      • “Most creature that have emotions most likely won’t be really happy to be used to reduce the entropy… I think.”

        Maybe that’s why he withholds information… if you think about it, it’s not really that bad. It’s just that there is this big difference between doing it to young girls and doing it to 30-year old men. At least, that’s what I think.

      • “Maybe that’s why he withholds information…”
        That’s exactly my opinion about him.
        And yeah, the offer isn’t really that bad.
        …As long as you know and understand all of those small hidden sentence in contract page.

        After all if you know about all those information and still making contract with Kyubeey, you are expected to not regret that decision and your wish I believe.
        So Madoka better not make any contract during those 2 last episodes or if she do, she better make an awesome wish that she won’t regret.

      • I can’t think of any wish that Madoka may make given what we have right now. Maybe episode 11 will finally provide some answers.

      • I personally think Madoka wish/decision to not make a wish will only shown during last episodes.
        After all, any wish made during episodes 11 will guarantee bad ending I think.
        Madoka turn into Witches = Bad ending = Time-loop

    • Abscissa
    • March 24th, 2011

    Thanks for the fun read. I like how you cleverly used the fourth dimension.

    And just to stretch your thoughts–I hope you don’t mind, Minkowski’s spacetime states that “space by itself and time by itself are doomed to fade away into mere shadows, and only a kind of union of the two will preserve an independent reality”. ^^

    “How then, can Homura store weapons in her buckler? Or make MG42′s and grenades appear out of nowhere?”

    Borrowing Minkowski’s notion of time-like interval, there’s a spatial location where Homura stores her weapon that appears in the two events, however we can also see that one Homura only exists in one time frame–past-Homura = future Homura. (I hope I’m making sense.)

    “…I’m not an expert at physics, my major is chemistry, after all. And I’m only 17 (sorry guys…).”
    Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge”. 🙂

    • “And just to stretch your thoughts–I hope you don’t mind, Minkowski’s spacetime states that “space by itself and time by itself are doomed to fade away into mere shadows, and only a kind of union of the two will preserve an independent reality”. ^^”

      I don’t mind at all! ^^ It’s always good to add to our knowledge by citing different works related to the subject and it’s never bad to criticize other’s ideas with a sound argument. I really appreciate those useful bits of information, they have widened my view on space-time relationships.

      “Borrowing Minkowski’s notion of time-like interval, there’s a spatial location where Homura stores her weapon that appears in the two events, however we can also see that one Homura only exists in one time frame–past-Homura = future Homura. (I hope I’m making sense.)”

      Maybe she stores them somewhere that even she couldn’t comprehend… haha, we’re really overthinking this. 😀

        • Abscissa
        • March 24th, 2011

        Madoka is one of those animes that can make you think. After seeing your pictures of Madoka and Homura, and with all these physics thing going on, it reminded me of that theory.

      • Madoka is making me think almost too hard.

    • “Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge”. ”

      True, true. Einstein himself proved this to be true. 😀

  1. March 14th, 2011

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