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Let R = { x | x ∉ x }, then R ∈ R ⟺ R ∉ R... or is it?

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Ideas I will not be writing #4: Destroying Equestria in three easy steps · 8:22pm Aug 11th, 2016

Well, not necessarily, but the third scenario I’m about to present can result in some very interesting shenanigans, some of which can include that.

Remember Star Swirl’s spell in It’s About Time? Let me remind you of the restrictions it comes with:

  1. It only lets you go back “once.” There are multiple ways to interpret this, but generally, everyone has been taking it to mean that a given caster can only use it on themselves once in their life.
  2. It only lasts a few seconds, upon which the caster snaps forward in time like a rubber band.

When it comes up in fanfic, a third restriction comes in often: it only lets you go back a week. The original text of the episode does not list this limitation, and while, presumably, one probably exists, we don’t know what it really is. There is also, notably, no clear limitation on where the caster will appear upon traveling to the past.

There are some clever ways you can use it anyway, and I’ll arrange them here in order of number of levities you need to take to make this usage work:

Variation 1: The Steins;Gate Quantum Leap

Requirements: It must be possible to adapt the spell to work on inanimate objects. The restriction of “once” must then apply per “life” of the object.

It must be possible to create a spell that permits the caster to store a full copy of their memory in an inanimate object, transferrable back on touch. At least certain variations of this are present in canon – namely, Twilight’s spellwork in The Return of Harmony and the spells cited by Sunburst in The Crystalling that restore forgotten friendship also probably qualify as specific application of the general principle.

Usage: Given these requirements, Twilight can produce a groundhog day time loop as she pleases:

  1. Twilight is in her library and casts a spell to store a copy of her memories in a book.
  2. Twilight sends the book to Past Twilight. The Past Twilight, seeing a book appear in a flash, immediately touches it, as it is an instinctive reaction. Upon touch, the memories of Future Twilight are transferred to Past Twilight, who now has the memory of the time that hasn’t happened yet.
  3. Repeat until whatever unlikely course of events Twilight desires to come out right is achieved.

Alternatively, get the Past Twilight to repeat this immediately, sending the book further into the past, bypassing more or less any time limits imposed by the spell, and give Filly Twilight the memory of Princess Twilight.

One notable difference from the traditional and commonly seen groundhog day loop setup is that Twilight has to initiate the loopback in all cases. She decides when it stops, and if she dies along the way, the loop doesn’t happen. This can cut down on angst a lot, which I see as a plus.

Variation 2: The Steins;Gate Backwards SMS

Requirements: It must be possible to adapt the spell to work on inanimate objects, like in Variation 1. That’s enough.

Usage: Given these requirements, Twilight can readily send messages into the past and set up Retroactive Preparation.

  1. Twilight writes a message to Princess Celestia requesting her to arrange whatever unlikely thing she needs to have happened yesterday.
  2. Twilight sends the scroll back in time, to end up somewhere next to Spike, with instructions to immediately send it by dragonfire.
  3. At the moment of firing, the scroll becomes dispersed ashes or outright energy, since it seems not to care where Spike sends it from or whether Celestia even has her window open, so it is likely that the time spell can’t pull it back. But even if it can, it’s more likely than not that it will arrive both into the future and into Celestia’s hooves.

The range of possible usages greatly increases depending on whom Spike can send messages to. As long as it’s something Celestia can do for Twilight and as long as it’s something she thinks is not a bad idea – which is a very wide range already – Twilight can retroactively produce a lot of useful effects and mess up the timeline to the Moon and back.

But what if you think that the core idea here, adapting the spell to work on inanimate objects, isn’t possible in unicorn magic?

Well, you still can…

Variation 3: Destroy Equestria in three easy steps

Requirements: You must accept Equestria Girls as canon. Which most people do, these days.

Usage: Given these requirements, Starlight Glimmer can produce a result which has to be a magical equivalent of division by zero.

  1. Twilight teaches Star Swirl’s original spell to Starlight Glimmer. There is no doubt whatsoever that Starlight can cast it, and it’s more likely than not that the “once” limitation does not apply to her, since her variation of the time spell with the Cutie Map can’t possibly count.
  2. Starlight Glimmer goes back to the past a reasonable, short time, and immediately steps through the mirror to Equestria Girls world.
  3. Whatever happens next remains entirely undefined.

I’m not even sure it’s going to be bad for Starlight Glimmer, but I’m pretty sure that if there is a way to cause a clear cut, outright paradox with this spell, this is it.


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Comments ( 27 )

C'mon FoME, You should have something to say.

Honestly, I'm not seeing the paradox at the end. Go back in time, go to parallel universe... then what?


But do you get pulled forward? The spell only keeps you in the past for a few seconds. Do you detransform on the way back? You didn't go through the mirror when going back, did you.

I suppose it depends on whether the transformation is a function of the mirror or of the transit between worlds. Still, while there's definitely an uncertainty here, I don't see any logical contradictions. Certainly none of a magnitude great enough to destroy a universe. If anything, I want to see what happens! :pinkiehappy:


Canonically, it's uncertain what causes the transformation. The second mirror in Reflections causes no transformations at all. It's entirely uncertain whether the snap-back behavior is a function of the spell itself or the method by which it achieves backwards time travel or of some universal law, but if Starlight manages to avoid getting snapped back, she can get two Starlights in the world for as long as she likes. If the snapback will happen but will not cause her to breach the world boundary, it becomes a question of how far Starlight gets snapped back, because time flows at different rates in the two worlds.

Like division by zero, the result is undefined. :)


I don't see any reason to suppose that the spell couldn't yank one right back through the mirror and back to the present. I would say the likely bad outcomes are either 1) no detransformation when pulled back, so one gets stuck as a human, or 2) one gets yanked back to the present, except still on the far side of the mirror.


1 could be in itself interesting. Dramatically, it could be the effect they are aiming to get, while getting any of the other possibilities instead.

In case of 2, though, different time rates in both worlds can still cause a situation when Starlight has enough time to go back to Equestria and prevent herself from casting the spell to go back in time. :)


And another thought: No-detransformation-on-snapback might be the effect a crazy-about-hands Lyra is aiming to get...

Or you could just give Pinkie Pie a double-double camel espresso....


That's destroying everything in Equestria, not destroying Equestria. :pinkiehappy:

Requirements: You must accept Equestria Girls as canon. Which most people do, these days.

That's your confirmation bias at work.

Personally, I'd wager that most of those who find the Equestria Girls movies to be eye-searingly terrible either don't care much anymore or have just stopped complaining about it to not upset those who do like the movies. Point is, people just don't talk about that much anymore, so if anyone's opinion's changed one way or another you just wouldn't even know nowadays. I know I still consider making Princess Cadence an Alicorn to be a mistake, and that was ages ago.

As for time travel in general, well, no matter how many rules you put on it it does tend to have the ability to completely destroy basically anything. Time travel is the fulcrum that can put a lever anywhere. Not that many stories every go there, but the possibility of using time travel to completely break a setting isn't far off from allowing time travel to be possible in the first place.

4144298 I am reminded of my snippet with the Changeling Queen and her chastisement of a changeling with just such a bright idea:

A small group of changeling survivors gathered on a nearby hill to watch the erupting volcano that had once been their home. Giant plumes of pink lava shot skywards, raining flaming chunks of molten rock around the ground as the earth trembled beneath their hooves.

“Just for one day, you said.” The changeling queen turned to the suffocating changeling she held by the neck and shook him. “What harm could it do, you said.”

4144229 Was just thinking this could be a clever hack to get around the mirror transformation and get humans in Equestria and vice versa.

I love these stories.
Dont think I really have the head for all the ways time loops can work.

I love the first variation idea, she could use it to make whatever week or major event come out to her advantage. The further back she goes with it the less useful that knowledge becomes. She would have some advantage over major events that might not be influenced by all the minor changes she makes. Imagine the Chrysalis being apprehended just before she replaces Cadance.

The second one could be interesting. But I cant help but think of all the pranks Celestia could/would pull on Twilight instead of helping her.

In the reflections arc they where going to parallel pony worlds. I think EQG if it counts as a parallel then its way on the fringe. So in the past they where hitting worlds close to there own. The variations prolly didnt stray to far from pony in a physical sense. As far as Glimmer goes. How much of a time difference is there between the two. Are you talking tech wise or time flows faster in one world vs the other. The tech differences could be ignored due to the nature of the extreme difference between parallel worlds. I would say Glimmer jumps back into, hops through the portal and would get snapped back to where... Just has a thought. The time travel spell destination is not location locked. Twilight went from Canterlot to the ponyville library then back to where she cast it. So I would say where she cast the spell from is where she would end up but in the EQG verse equivalent location.

I dont recall the reflections arc very well. There was something about the two worlds coming together or fracturing because of how long they where there? What if the snap back forced the two worlds to merge, or if not the world the location within a given radius. I havent seen Friendship Games so this may be wildly off. However Nightmare Sparkle basically opened rifts to Equestria without causing those that passed through them to shift forms. What if something similar happened when Glimmer got pulled back. Glimmer would either get returned to her original form or if in causing the rift stayed human.

Ima going to stop with this now.


That's your confirmation bias at work.

No, that's my eyeball assessment based on the number of fanfics featuring EG world and upvotes thereof. Enough people like them that they are no longer an outrage, even if they are terrible. But if you insist I can actually count.


What if the snap back forced the two worlds to merge, or if not the world the location within a given radius.

In Reflections, the effect was caused by repeated visits over time, but well, with a time spell involved, who knows. :)

However Nightmare Sparkle basically opened rifts to Equestria without causing those that passed through them to shift forms.

Yes, I forgot about that. I.e. the mirror is handling the transformation, so if the snap back happens at all, whoever causes it is going to stay human in Equestria. :)


Yes, I forgot about that. I.e. the mirror is handling the transformation, so if the snap back happens at all, whoever causes it is going to stay human in Equestria. :)

The transformation could also be not a transformation at all but rather a difference in how the world interprets their existence into physical form, in which case they would not stay human.


That implies some notions which I think are incompatible with the idea of quantum physics, which ponies do mention on occasion.

Aww, that's too sad. I like informatics-based universes.


Well, they could conceivably be wrong about quantum physics entirely... :pinkiehappy:


But if you insist I can actually count.

Alright, here's a quick grab of the number of stories on Fimfiction by category:

1. Slice of Life: 32,677
2. Adventure: 32,488
3. Romance: 31,682
4. Comedy: 30,025
5. Dark: 27,461
6. Alternate Universe: 25,435
7. Human: 21,684
8. Sad: 19,531
9. Random: 17,575
10. Crossover: 15,600
11. Tragedy: 12,005
12. Anthro: 3,912
13. Drama: 3,846
>14. Equestria Girls: 2,271<
15. Sci-Fi: 1,355
16. Mystery: 1,283
17. Horror: 850
18. Thriller: 867
19. 2nd Person: 715

Current total of stories on Fimfiction is 100,768. Also, a bunch of these tags were added only last year, including the Equestria Girls tag. So that's a problem. Still, I think I can use Sunset Shimmer as a useful yardstick. Stories tagged Sunset Shimmer: 2,796. Stories with Sunset and Equestria Girls: 1,314. Stories with Sunset and Human but not Equestria Girls: 822. So as a rough ballpark estimate, there might be around 4,000 stories that use the movies. Or there might be less. Many stories use the character Sunset Shimmer but without incorporating the events or setting of the movies.

So what does all that mean? Well, really, it's all in how you interpret it. There's anywhere from ~1/44 to ~1/25 of all Fimfiction stories involving the EG directly. Maybe it's a growing trend, or maybe it's always going to be a small subset. Or maybe it doesn't really matter at all?

You believe that most people accept EG as canon, and your reason for that is the number of EG stories and that "Enough people like them that they are no longer an outrage, even if they are terrible." By that measure, you're right. There hasn't been outrage and gnashing of teeth over people writing EG stories in years. But to me, when you say 'canon' I think about how (in my opinion) the EG story and setting sticks out of FiM like a sore thumb. I sometimes read EG stories on the site and I can enjoy them as their own thing, but beyond whatever I feel about the movies themselves I just can't reconcile the rest of FiM with EG. It doesn't fit to me and therefore I don't consider it canon. That's my opinion, and it has nothing to do with how many EG stories I'll read. This is also the only time I've mentioned anything negative about EG all year, too.

Regardless of all that, I don't think there's a way to measure and prove the point either way. (Unless someone can get a poll going and get lots of people to participate.) It's your gut feeling against mine.


If we’re up to counting, let’s do it right.

Here I have a dump of Fimfiction Archive, current up to May 2016, which I have previously normalized (that is, reduced words to tokens) which permits me to do brute force full text searches on it. Methodology follows:

1. Stories published before the air date of the first movie are not eligible for this calculation, for a very obvious reason.
2. Stories that are explicitly marked “Equestria Girls” count towards the total with no further investigation. The archive does not list character tags, though, which is why…
3. Stories that contain the following strings: “sunset shimmer”, “principal celestia”, “vice-principal luna”, “flash sentry”, “adagio dazzle”, “sonata dusk”, “aria blaze”, i.e. EG-specific character names – count towards the total of stories referencing Equestria Girls.

The final tally is:

135345 stories are in the corpus.
93150 of them are first published after the movie release date and are thus eligible for this calculation.
11108 contain references to Equestria Girls characters, which is 11.92%

That’s considerably more than 1/44 (2.27%) or 1/25 (4.0%) that you cited. And while they obviously don’t constitute the majority, I would never claim that “the majority of stories reference Equestria Girls,” and due to the compartmentalized nature of the setting, they don’t have to. I doubt a poll would give us more useful results, because they would be highly moderated by exposure and neither of us is sufficiently famous. But 11% is a considerable number nonetheless. It is also interesting that the number of stories that references Equestria Girls entities without actually making them the focus of the story is much higher than the number of stories set in Equestria Girls world.

I’ll try to do a time-based graph now…


You have out statistician-ed me. I am defeated! :derpyderp2:

Never heard of the Fimfiction Archive, so that's cool to know, but jeez 11.92% is unexpectedly large. Now I'm certain that a not so small portion of those stories use those characters without using the setting, (Flash Sentry in particular can refer to the Equestria-side guard pony,) but more than one in every ten stories containing elements from Equestria Girls is quite a big chunk.

Good luck with that graph (if you still want to make it). See if you can find the exact date the EG tag was added; I think it was September or November but I didn't find the news post last time I looked.


After some refining of the methodology, adding more EG-unique strings to search and ensuring less false positives by searching for whole words only, I'm getting a smaller number (9.23%) and a very linear graph. ("canterlot high" seems a tempting string but "canterlot high society" is a common false positive. But I caught this one before I got 11.92% Not sure which false positives the other names stumbled into...) No spikes in EG-related stories no nothing, they just keep growing at a steady rate. Which puzzles me.


There is no doubt a lot of them are about Sunset Shimmer going back to Equestria for one reason or another. :)

Finding the oldest story with the Equestria Girls tag is going to be somewhat tricky, so I'll put it off until later, though...

EDIT: Oh, and speaking of proportion.

Equestria Girls movies total up to 215 minutes runtime. The entire televised series totals up to 2860 minutes of runtime as of today. So the movies are equal to 7.15% airtime of the series, or 6.99% of the total. I.e. they appear to have made somewhat more of an impact than an average episode, or at the very least, no less. :)


Found the newspost where they added the Equestria Girls tag. Past all the character tags they added is also the categories they added. I missed it the first time because I was looking for new category tags, not character tags. :twilightsheepish: Anyways, November 5th last year is when stories started getting the Equestria Girls tag added to them, and new stories came out with that tag too. Now the oldest story with the EG tag on it is easy to find, just use the tag for EG, sort by Approved, go to the last page of results and at the bottom.... Bleh. Nothing more uninteresting than finding another dumb clopfic. :facehoof: Incidentally, the first story on Fimfiction is this Great and Powerful story. Quite a nice discovery that I wouldn't have found had I not gone down this thread.

Math is a tool we can apply to describe the universe. It is not necessarily the source code of the universe. If your model breaks, the universe doesnmt have to follow. There are and have been many examples in physics where a theory predicts impossible results. The universe has survived all such theories! Your thought experiment has shown that your MODEL is incomplete, not that the universe will explode.


What differentiates between a work of fiction and a model and what prevents a work of fiction from exploding? ;)


camel espresso

…uh…interesting typo. Don't think camels are in canon…?
Technically, slot 8 is occupied. https://www.fimfiction.net/story/8 But there are no words in this version; it is likely a testpost.

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