YTread Logo
YTread Logo

THE TRACER PARADOX! | The SCIENCE!... of Overwatch

THE TRACER PARADOX! | The SCIENCE!... of Overwatch
*clicking noises* Dear Blizzard, Hi, it's me! Austin! Can I level with you for a second? I've been trying not to swear too much. It makes MatPat cry and bleeps just aren't satisfying for me, its like holding in a sneeze, there is no rush of endorphins. There is no satisfying cascade of consonants and syllables, cutting through the air and offending sensitive ears. Just one anticlimactic tone stealing my thunder. It hurts my heart, so I've been trying to do it less, but honestly
the tracer paradox the science of overwatch
Blizzard... WHAT THE #[email protected]! AM I SUPPOSED TO DO WITH YOU! YOU MADE A CHARACTER LIKE TRACER WHYYY?! WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH YOU?! YOU KNOW HOW MANY PEOPLE I HAVE ON MY JOCK DAY IN DAY OUT. DEMANDING THAT I DO AN EPISODE ABOUT HER! Do you think about how your actions affect anyone other than yourself Blizzard? I'm trying coffee instead of alchohol this week, because it is important to switch up your

science

enhancing drugs from time to time. Unique problems call for unique solutions and

Tracer

?

Tracer

isn't the kind of thing you can tackle with depressants. No, this problem This final problem calls for stimulants. Sweet caffeine what would I do without you. I spend most of my time trying to debunk video game SCIENCE! because, as Cari so lovingly pointed out I love ruining things that you love I'm just, like, secretly a terrible person I am AUSTINN THE DESTROYERRR!! But this week I'm gonna do something a little bit different. Instead of "no-goddamn-sensing"
everywhere today I'm going to try my absolute best to explain exactly how

Tracer

and her powers work, because the basic truth of the matter is that sometimes, sometimes

science

confounds logic as we've come to understand it In order to understand how

Tracer

works first we're going to have to look at her lore "

Tracer

" a.k.a Lena Oxton was the youngest person ever recruited for

Overwatch

's flight program and was the first person to pilot a prototype teleporting fighter
known as the "Slipstream". BUT! of course, at the last minute things messed up because of course they did and

Tracer

disappeared along with the Slipstream. Everyone thought she was dead. And then KABLAM! Months later she reappeared out of nowhere This is really, really easy to explain. When we think of teleportation we tend to imagine some sort of quantum entanglement, quantum state copying, more on that later. But this accidental time travel to the future thing is actually
straightforward I'm not going to get into too many details since we don't have time and everything else is more complicated AND I've talked a hell of a lot about Einstein already but the gist is this. Time traveling to the future is super easy to do. In fact, here's a guaranteed way to build a time machine to the future, in your very own home! DON'T DO ANYTHING AT ALL I'm being a little bit cheeky here but it's true! Time is always moving forward even when you're
not doing anything even while watching this video your time traveling to the future! It's a long-lost less epic original ending for Back to the Future Marty just holds up in a hut outside of town and becomes the regional alcoholic hermit. You'll get back to the future eh-ventually but no, I know this isn't typically what we're talking about when we mean time travel And this obviously isn't what happened to

Tracer

in that Slipstream thingy She wasn't just sitting around
for three months a few feet away from where they were expecting her to be, waiting for someone to come pick her up She completely vanished and then reappeared months later. How the heck is this possible? Simple Moving really, really fast When we mentioned space-time so far on the show we've talked a hell of a lot about the SPACE aspect, but not a lot about the TIME one. BUT! They're both linked together. Mass, like a planet, doesn't just bend the curvature of space it also bends time
Gravity affects the passage of time but not just gravity "Relative velocity" or relative speed does too For example, if you're just sitting in a chair next to your friend watching this video one second of time for the both of you is exactly the same. However, if you get up and go to the fridge to get a Mountain Dew and it takes you one second to get to the fridge (taking into account that the average walking speed is 1.4 meters per second) and the fridge is really close one point
zero... 1 0 9 0 4 seconds passes for your friend Although given the sugar and caffeine content of Mountain Dew, I'm not sure that the 100 quadrillionth of a second that you save is going to do much to extend your life. Knowing this it becomes pretty obvious exactly how

Tracer

disappeared for literal months because of one tiny malfunction PLUS! It explains almost exactly how the Slipstream craft she was piloting works. It's not a teleporter that actually dismantles the atoms and
the tracer paradox the science of overwatch
rearranges them elsewhere. Rather, it's a ship capable of accelerating to high fractions of the speed of light Moving this quickly, you could disappear on one end of the earth and reappear elsewhere in the blink of an eye. Faster, actually! And when going these speeds small mistakes can have exponentially terrible consequences. For instance,

Tracer

's hypothetical Slipstream ship could travel from California to New York City in a little over a tenth of a second of our stationary or normal
time, if she moved at ninety-nine, point nine nine... two five six percent of the speed of light for only five 100 millionths of a second of

Tracer

's time We'll just casually ignore how it would take one point seven yottagrams of energy or approximately one-fifth of the energy the Sun hits the Earth with every year, to accelerate to the speed. In any case, This same ship, if it were to have some sort of calculation error and say, fire for 30 seconds instead of five 100 millionths of a
second? 30 seconds of

Tracer

's time would solidly land her over three months in the future. Of course, you'd also be moving quickly enough to reach the Sun and return to the Earth over 15,000 times, but, who's counting? This is the danger of traveling near light speeds. Tiny mistakes and computer glitches can cause irreversible problems And these kind of casual computer errors happen ALL the time. I mean in 1998, NASA, some of the smartest freaking people on our planet incinerated
the Mars Climate Orbiter by accidentally sending instructions in pounds instead of Newton's. And as a result, the orbiter dipped too far into the atmosphere of Mars and was burned up by entry friction. It's important to go over this accident of

Tracer

's even though it's just backstory for the main

Overwatch

page. Because it gives you a taste of how time relates to space and trust me. For this next part is going to take all of your training to understand because traveling to the
future doesn't hold a candle to the mind-bending everyday superpowers

Tracer

uses in every single

Overwatch

game. The reason I've been so loathed to do an episode on

Tracer

is because well... her powers are frankly absurd They defy logic and trying to figure them out gave me a splitting headache but I'm channeling my inner Tyson Neil deGrasse not Mike and together we can crack this!

Tracer

has two key powers which she controls through her "Chrono Fabulous Oscillator" or
whatever the hell of a thing on her chest is called. One, is straight forward. She zips forward about seven and a half meters in a blink of an eye SUPER! But, it's "Recall" that bends the mind. "Recall" is

Tracer

's signature power that lets her zip back through time in the middle of a fight. HOW THE HECK IS THIS POSSIBLE?! You see,

Tracer

's recall power is weird... SUPER WEIRD! It's not just time travel, like in Back to the Future, where she goes back and
might accidentally run into her past self. NO! IT'S SO, SO MUCH WEIRDER! Over the course of one second,

Tracer

moves back to the exact place and physical condition she was in three seconds from when she first activated her powers. That is, by the time she arrives wherever she was, she has effectively traveled back in time 4 seconds. But it gets weirder. You see, time around her doesn't stop. Everything she did in those three seconds actually happen They don't get reversed along with
her. Even more mind-bogglingly,

Tracer

herself retains all knowledge of the events that transpired. Classically, if we're talking Einstein you travel to the future faster as you approach the speed of light. If, however it were possible to exceed the speed of light, you'd actually be able to travel into the past. Of course, this is impossible. In order to understand how

Tracer

does this we're gonna have to leave Einstein at the door. Actually, we're gonna have to partner with one
of his greatest enemies... You see, Einstein like things to be pretty cut and dry and he was famously a skeptic of quantum mechanics Thankfully, in his mind special and general relativity or as clear-cut as things could get No wacky stuff, like wave particle duality here and then, on his 70th birthday, his buddy Kurt Gödel presented to Einstein a solution to his formulas that was messy, and even more irritatingly would allow traveling to the past without exceeding the speed of light.
the tracer paradox the science of overwatch
"Closed Timelike Curves" Kurt Gödel was kind of a weirdo He saw conspiracy theories and loopholes everywhere he went. He was like Neo, but instead of seeing the code of the matrix he saw exploits in every system. Other than ruining the birthdays of mathematical geniuses, Gödel claimed he found a loophole in the American Constitution that would secretly allow for it to become a dictatorship without anybody realizing it. no further comment from me on that (ಠ_ಠ) If videogames
existed in 1948 He would have been an amazing speed runner Traveling faster than the speed of light for any object that has mass, and presumably, also massless objects is impossible. The energy requirements to reach the speed of light is infinite for reasons we won't get into today. Don't argue, just trust me. I'm a scientist. So, even though if you could theoretically go faster than the speed of light to travel into the past This isn't possible but Gödel discovered a way to do
this that avoided having the travel faster than the speed of light at all. With "closed timelike curves" Gödel realized that you can actually take advantage of the fluid nature of space-time itself to travel back in time without having to reach ludicrous speed This works because it's not just speed that deforms time but also gravity For instance, if you were saying near a strong gravity source like, oh I don't know, a black hole for instance And that gravity source were
spinning at a significant speed the fabric of space-time around it would be so distorted that it could actually swirl back on itself Creating what is essentially a worm hole in space-time that loops back in time i.e. "a closed timelike curve " But unfortunately none of this explains how

Tracer

herself travels back in time three seconds into the past without space itself around her also reversing into the past. After all, time and space are inextricably linked . If you go back in time,
you're not just like rewinding yourself you're traveling to a previous point in space-time. Where the stuff that happened in what was once the present hasn't happened yet. *sigh* haha... Not sure coffee was the right substance for this episode. But here I am! Sunk into my life choices... You see, the big problem I have with

tracer

travelling back into the past that well this violates causality and it would mean that there should in theory be two

Tracer

s capable of interacting with
one another I also thought that maybe it was possible that what was actually happening was the past

Tracer

was traveling into the future. Well, that creates a whole series of problems like HOW THE HELL DOES SHE KNOW TO DO THAT? and HOW DOES SHE HAVE MEMORIES OF WHAT HAPPENED IN THE FUTURE? I mean this isn't just a problem postulated by in-game mechanics If you watch the

Overwatch

Trailer "Alive" where

Tracer

is fighting Black Widow (The Widowmaker you dingus) you see that this is
exactly how

Tracer

's power works in the narrative canon as well. It's not just a limitation of the gameplay. But what if... What if

Tracer

isn't technically traveling into the past but rather information is. You see if you watch my portal episode you already know that things like wormholes and "closed timelike curves" require exponentially increasing amounts of energy depending upon how long they exist and how large they are. However, information, if sent quickly enough
requires only very small openings for very short periods of time to travel. And it's here where quantum mechanics, Kurt Gödel and Einstein's migraine finally harmonize to explain exactly how

Tracer

's powers work And boy, oh boy... It's a doozy... The instant

Tracer

activates her "Recall" power you see a quick distortion of space around her lensing of light. This presumably is the consequence of the creation of a tiny black hole that exists just long enough to spin
really fast and connect to the past before it evaporates into nothingness due to Hawking radiation, although I hesitate to mention Hawking because he like Einstein absolutely loathes closed timelike curves BUT! I'm getting off track... During this brief instant several things happen almost simultaneously. 1.

Tracer

of the Present's particles become entangled with

Tracer

of the Past. Particle for particle "

Tracer

of the Past" & "

Tracer

of the Present" are bound in
what's called a BELL STATE 2.

Tracer

of the Present's molecules, and therefore her biology, run in reverse until her quantum state matches the quantum state of the past perfectly as a result she ends up in the same location and physical state she was three seconds from when she enacted the Recall. Effectively, this is teleportation but instead of teleporting from place to place Past

Tracer

is teleporting to the Present by copying her quantum state onto

Tracer

of the Present through the
closed timelike curve This is actually more or less how quantum teleportation actually works. The Niels Bohr Institute was even able to do this with a hundred percent reliability! Of course this means that somehow

Tracer

's brain and nervous system is omitted from this quantum teleportation, but somehow also moves back in the past and and... (wait a minute... wait a minute...) Aw, crap... THE NO CLONING THEOREM!!! CRAP! MOTHER #[email protected]%*! The No Cloning Theorem of Quantum Mechanics The bane of my
existence and the killer of Pokemon, states that while quantum information can be transferred from one particle to another exact copies cannot exist. Say you have atom of

Tracer

A and there's atom of

Tracer

B You can make it so atom of

Tracer

B perfectly matches atom of

Tracer

A but as a result, atom of

Tracer

A ends up being... I don't know atom of

Tracer

C instead. It totally messes up everything which means even though we can ignore matter requirements since there are two

Tracer

s, If

Tracer

of the Present copies the quantum state of

Tracer

of the Past she would irreversibly change

Tracer

of the Past's quantum state. Best-case scenario, she ends up with some sort of mega-cancer or has all of her memories erased. But what's just as likely is that her atoms blast off as she explodes because the particles are no longer working in harmony like they're supposed to. This also means the Past

Tracer

is irreversibly changed which means that Present

Tracer

is irreversibly
changed and when she goes to use Recall she'll be making a crappy copy of a copy which means that Past

Tracer

's quantum state will be messed up again which means that Present

Tracer

's quantum state is messed up again which means that went she uses Recall she'll be making an even CRAPPIER COPY OF A CRAPPY COPPY, AND AUGGHH!!! I JUST CAN'T! JUST CAN'T, BLIZZARD! I TRIED! BUT I CAN'T I CAN'T DO THIS! I CAN'T! YOU MADE A FREAKIN' CHARACTER THAT PLAYS JUMP
ROPE WITH THE RULES OF QUANTUM MECHANICS AND THE SPACE-TIME CONTINUUM AND JUST LEFT ME OUT TO DRY WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?! Best-case scenario for

Tracer

is... HEY, GUESS WHAT? SHE'S DEAD. Why is this the BEST-CASE SCENARIO? Because the WORST-CASE SCENARIO is that you get stuck in an INFINITE TIME LOOP where she gets progressively less recognizable as human every three seconds until she's just a BLOB OF GOO on the floor! IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT BLIZZARD!?! DO YOU WANT ANTS!?!
BECAUSE THAT IS HOW WE GET ANTS!!! *Austin blows a raspberry* I'm sorry... I just... no matter how hard I try. I just can't justify or explain

Tracer

, she defies logic she defies reason she defies everything we know about SCIENCE! I'm sorry to say it, but from the bottom of my heart, Blizzard. I do mean it.

Tracer

makes no god damn sense. Sincerely, Austin Thank you everyone for watching my video on

Tracer

! I really did try to make her make sense but she doesn't. at all... But
that's okay! Not everything has to make sense. also I'm tired of doing so much space timey-wimey stuff And I'm sure you are tired of me doing the same so next time I have something a little special for you So, if you're interested be sure to subscribe. :) It's gonna be awesome.