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"Long numbers divided by zero spray forth marigolds, goldilocks, foliage unseen in shadowed glades, where treefall and cries of 'wolf' go unheard."

The characters did something so incredibly wrong that reality itself couldn't handle it. Could be the result of a Time Paradox, the result of a Yin-Yang Clash, or an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object, or the risk behind the Forbidden Chekhov's Gun.

To divide a number by zero is the one thing elementary math teachers tell you[1] that you simply cannot do (but as usual, Real Life is more complicated than elementary school; see the Trivia section above). It led to a joke on image boards [2] that if someone were to divide a number by zero, it would break reality. Someone making a suggestion that is severely unlikely is often compared to this. When Time Travel is involved, usually results in a Time Crash (and a Fate Worse Than Death for all involved). An Eldritch Abomination is something whose very nature is continuous division by zero itself.

Compare Awesomeness Is Volatile, where Chuck Norris can divide by zero. See also Logic Bomb, which can overlap with this. Not to be confused with The Singularity.

Examples of Divide by Zero include:


  • This Staples Easy Button commercial.

Anime & Manga

  • 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 actually 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.
  • The Espers are afraid that Haruhi Suzumiya will do this if she learns the truth about herself.
  • In Magical Chronicle Lyrical Nanoha Force there exists a spell "Divide Zero". (It is a powerful attack comparable to Nanoha's Starlight Breaker.)
  • The climax of the first season of Shakugan no Shana had the villains exploiting a loophole with the Clingy MacGuffin inside the main character that fueled his existence; so they overclocked it; flooding the town with Existence. It was implied that reality itself would blow up if this had been allowed to continue.
  • In 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. And then got really merciful and decided to not kill Lina after all.
  • 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 dividing by zero, then I am doing it wrong.
  • In Tsubasa Chronicle Syaoran broke the magical taboo of stopping a moment in time to save Sakura's life. The unraveling of the fabric of reality ensues.
    • Later however, this actually is revealed to be part of a Stable Time Loop responsible for his very existence.
    • Actually 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.
  • In the third arc of Umineko no Naku Koro ni, 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.
  • 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 (I forget exactly) "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 actually.
    • In mathematics "a zero" is another name for an input to an equation that would make the output zero (such as x=2 for y=2x-4). Ironically infinity would be a zero for (y=1/x) - that is, dividing by infinity.
  • Something very close to this happens in Puella Magi Madoka Magica. 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 - including hers. Cue Ultimate Madoka one-shotting her own evil future self and leaving the normal flow of time.


  • 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".
  • 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.
  • 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. When he finally solved the equation, it caused his apartment to explode.

Fan Work


  • In Dogma the one universal constant is that God is infallible. Proving Him/Her wrong would result in a Divide by Zero event, essentially unmaking everything God had ever made, i.e., everything.
  • Crossing the streams in Ghostbusters would result in "all life as you know it stopping instantaneously" and would cause "every molecule in your body to explode at the speed of light." Fortunately, the Big Bad was already screwing with reality in the end so it turned out to be the one time it was the right thing to do.
    • It helped that all instances of the streams being crossed happened within the ghost zone, where the physics are skewed so the result isn't the same as if it was done in the real world.
      • Alternate explanation: crossing the streams actually did result in as horrible an affect as Egon first explained. The reason the gate closed was because the other universe ceased to exist.
      • This explanation is no longer valid as in the Videogame you continue and expand the story of the movies (and is completely canon) and the main villains, as Gozer, continue existing. So either Egon is a bit exaggerated (sort of like Doc Brown with his theories of time crashes) or the Universe has way to deal with this.
      • Of course, in the videogame, crossing the streams just results in painful knock down. Maybe Egon fixed that problem, or it simply wasn't as bad as initially expected?
        • In the games, there's a safety measure installed in the new proton packs that automatically shuts down the neutrona wand if the beams cross. The safety has to be turned off at the end in order for them to defeat the Destructor. Apparently the ghost world just has different laws of physics.
  • The Nothing has this effect on the imaginary universe of The Neverending Story.


  • Nell uses an actual and deliberate divide by zero in The Diamond Age to break one of the Primer's simulations.
  • 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.
  • Parodied in the Discworld novels, where one of Hex's quirky error messages is "Divide by Cucumber Error". Also, "Please reinstall universe and reboot."
  • Ted Chiang's Division By Zero uses this as an analogy for the central mathematical conceit of the plot.
  • In one of the dialogues from Gödel, Escher, Bach, 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 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 a totally 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 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.
  • In Aldous Huxley's Point Counter Point (1928), a dilettante marquess is attempting to mathematically prove the existence of God:

 "You know the formula, m over nought equals infinity, m being any positive number? Well, why not reduce the equation to a simpler form by multiplying both sides by nought? In which case you have m equals infinity times nought. That is to say that a positive number is the product of zero and infinity. Doesn't that demonstrate the creation of the universe by an infinite power out of nothing? Doesn't it?"


  • The "bubbles of evil" in The Wheel of Time may count.
  • Dragaera: Adron's Disaster
    • To say nothing of the disaster that knocked the Jenoine from power.
  • In Sergey Lukyanenko's The Stars Are Cold Toys, member of the Counter race (living computers) manages to survive the FTL process developed by humans (it kills or drives insane all known aliens, while giving humans pure ecstasy). How does he do that? By dividing by zero in his head, which puts him into a temporary coma until his "systems" restart.
    • Apparently, living computers can't understand the mathematical concept of undefined - the result of dividing by zero.
    • Initially, a human character assumes the Counter is talking about Fermat's Last Theorem when describing an impossible mathematical operation. However, the Counter merely replies that the theorem not impossible but simply incorrect.
      • Which would seem to be Did Not Do the Research, since Fermat's Last Theorem had been proven in 1995, before the novel was published.
  • The last three books of The Sword of Truth deal with a spell which creates a contradiction, by making a person exist and not exist at the same time, then these contradictions breed other contradictions... In short, the ultimate artifact of the series was created precisely for countering the spell before it unravels all reality.
    • To be more precise - the Chainfire spell is so powerful and unstable that it expands exponentially, destroying all memory - creating contradictions and gaps growing ever larger beyond the scope of merely forgetting the original subject of the spell. In addition, the residual effect of the Chimes (entities from the underworld that erode away magic from the world of life simply by existing on this side of the veil) make the effect far more dangerous. Instead of just the Chainfire spell turning every thinking being into a blank, slobbering slate, you have a world soon to be filled with blank, slobbering slates and on the verge of a mass-extinction event.
  • The Nothing has this effect on the imaginary universe of The Neverending Story.
  • 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).
  • 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.

Live Action TV

  • Stargate Atlantis: Using an Ancient Project to create a super-energy source, Doctor Rodney Mckay accidentally makes particles that defy the laws of physics. The result? He repeatedly gets called out for destroying an entire solar system!
  • In Doctor Who, this would be the result of detonating Davros' "reality bomb".
    • In series 5 we are seeing "cracks" in time and space in almost every episode which release energy that are un-writing time, erasing things from existence to where they never existed at all. The Doctor implies these cracks are the result of a future event where someone may have divided by zero...Turns out it was the TARDIS itself, the event in question being the TARDIS exploding, causing all of time and space to explode and cease to exist. Yikes!
    • The Space and Time specials presented a scenario where, in order to make a safe landing, the TARDIS divided by zero and landed in the only safe place available...inside itself. The Doctor is a little concerned about this.
  • In Dollhouse Adelle suggests this would be the result when the Doll Victor's current imprint mentioned the possibility of him paying to get the services of a Doll (he refused the idea, by the way).
  • Mad TV 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!
    • Hilarious in Hindsight as VH-1 actually ended up doing an I Love series on the 00's, entitled I Love The New Millenium, which both was done in 2008, before the decade ended, and in which the commentators discussed many of those same subjects.
  • It's not exactly the end of the world, but on an episode of News Radio, photocopying a mirror causes a building-wide blackout.
  • Farscape actually 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.

  • Square One TV had the Show Within a Show "Oops!", where a mathematician makes a mistake that causes a certain disaster to happen, eg incorrectly multiplying 603 by 7 causes Galloping Gertie to collapse.

Tabletop Games

  • In Dungeons and 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. No sane DM would allow this. Some, however, would, and then severely punish the players for tampering with reality. Or remember that canonically the result depends on which of these is stuffed into which. It should be noted that these arrows are quite expensive though.
      • A variant of this 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 entire Material Plane in a matter of minutes barring divine intervention.
        • A Sphere of Annihilation on its own should qualify, as it is literally a hole in the continuity of the multiverse. And considering it is an artifact, that means it was built.
    • 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.
    • 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.
  • 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, hitting The Immovable Object (a shield) with The Unstoppable Force (a 2-handed mace) will destroy both objects.
  • 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 pretty much 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.

Video Games

  • In Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story, Mario and Luigi have access to an area inside of Bowser that has warp pipes that lead to areas in the Mushroom Kingdom, outside of Bowser. Bowser himself can't access these warp pipes for obvious reasons. Theoretically however, if Bowser were to enter one of those warp pipes... which lead to an area inside of himself... This trope may very well be invoked.
  • Sorceress Ultimecia from Final Fantasy VIII deliberately attempts this via the Ellone Junction Machine... and then Ellone herself. By flinging her own consciousness further 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, all reality frozen (except for the heroes, who allow this to happen so they can exploit it and show up at Ultimecia's front door)/
  • 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.
  • Dividing by Zero is what allows a Time Paradox to occur 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.
  • Metal Gear Solid 3 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.
  • The Unrepeatable Bug, an enemy in Superhero League of Hoboken, can divide by zero to cause moderate damage to an opponent. The text notes that the victim "didn't avert his/her eyes in time".
  • 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) agrees it didn't count, but apparently reality thought it was close enough and it was enough to start everything come crashing down.
  • In the mythology of Suikoden, Sword (a being that could destroy anything) and Shield (an indestructible being) got into a fight. When Sword struck Shield, both shattered into 27 pieces, the True Runes. And the Big Bang.
  • In a bit of a Stealth Pun example, bosses and enemies in the Mega Man Zero games explode after being divided by Zero via Z-Saber slashing. Very likely unintentional, but funny nonetheless.
  • A known Fly FF bug: Dividing by Zero will crash the game.
  • The Elder Scrolls calls such events "Dragon Breaks", where the god of time, known by many names and guises, but most prominently as a dragon god "Akatosh", is tampered with.
    • In the first era, a remnant of a once-powerful organization of anti-elf inquisitors carried out a ritual in attempt to purge Akatosh of the elven aspects of the mythological basis that Akatosh was based on, the elven golden eagle god Auri-El. The effort proceeded to break Time for a period of a bit over 1000 years. How could they measure how long that period was? The Khajiit, a cat-like race on Tamriel whose mythology was heavily steeped in the two moons, used those as a basis for time.
    • The giant brass golem Numidium was built by the Dwemer, an extinct race of elves commonly mislabeled as "dwarves" who were essentially atheists in a world where gods were very real. Numidium was essentially their refutation of the gods made material. Numidium had a nasty habit of causing Dragon Breaks because of this, such as the temporal toxic waste dump in Eleswyr where Tiber Septim's mages tried to figure it out after the Dunmer Tribunal gave it to him as a tribute, or the Warp In The West, where all the endings in Daggerfall essentially simultaneously happened and the temporal paradox was so straining on reality that a nuclear-like explosion occurred.
    • The 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 The Elder Scrolls page. Someone with slight training is struck blind immediately. People with great training (e.g. members of the Cult of the Ancestor Moth in Oblivion) gradually go blind as they read more of the scrolls. Then we have the Dovahkiin in Skyrim. Dragonborn are mortals with the soul of a dragon, and dragons exist outside of time. Reading the Scroll you obtain as part of Skyrim's main quest results in being momentarily blinded, then recovering. It's like the universe needed to reboot or something...
  • 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.
  • This is the spectacular effect of using the Pandora's Box in Shadow Madness.
  • In the Backstory 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.
  • 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.
  • While it doesn't actually take place in Portal 2, some dialog plays with it.

 Cave Johnson: This next test may involve trace amounts of time travel. So, word of advice, if you meet yourself on the testing track, don't make eye contract. Lab boys tell me that'll wipe out time. Entirely. Forward and backward.

  • Earthbound has the "Simultaneous Defeat Glitch". It is triggered when, in a party of two or more, all party members are finished off by the damage an exploding enemy inflicts upon death. The game decides you win with zero alive members and, as always after a battle, tries to divide any experience gained between your alive party members - in this case, zero of them, resulting in 4294940287 exp. which is unfortunately unobtainable.
  • In Sonic Shuffle, if you get a Carbuncle item and have no other Force Jewels, it eats itself.
  • System Shock 2 features broken vending machines that cannot be used until repaired using sufficient Repair skill or a repair kit. The glitched interface of the broken machine features "division by zero" among the flood of garbage data, presumably the source of the problem.
  • 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.

Web Comics

Web Original

Western Animation

  • One episode of The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy revealed that this is essentially what happens if Mandy ever smiles. The ultimate outcome? Billy, Mandy, and the Grim Reaper wind up literally becoming the Powerpuff Girls.
    • And Irwin becomes Mojo Jojo.
    • The scenario was inverted in a much earlier episode, where Mandy very clearly smiled after she made everyone else on Earth vanish instantly.
      • And in the very first episode, where she smiled and winked at the camera.
  • Egon of The Real Ghostbusters 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.
  • In the first Futurama 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.
  • One episode of Adventure Time has 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!


Real Life

  • In Einsteins equations for the theory of General Relativity, there is actually one point in which, for certain situations, you would have to divide by 0. Most probably both the Trope Namer and Trope Creator, as the result of it is the equation that describes Black Holes.


 Waldorf: Do you know of any real-life cases of division by zero?

Statler: Sure! I'm sitting next to one! Do-ho-ho-ho-ho!

<Waldorf hits Statler>


  1. Sometimes, an elementary math teacher will insist that division by zero gives zero. They are wrong, although 0/0 is different than any other 0-division case.
  2. actually, the meme is much older than that