I know it’s not pokémon, but Overwatch is an awesome game that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately: and for me, that means analyzing its science! For those concerned, this will just be a one-time thing: the second (out of >500) posts that’s not about pokemon on this blog. I don’t plan to do any more on Overwatch after this. Although, if you want to talk more about Overwatch’s science, feel free to private message me! (That means off-anon)
So let’s do this!
Tracer, real name Lena Oxton, is the speed-based mascot from Blizzard Entertainment’s Overwatch, a first person shooter that was released today! Originally a pilot, Tracer was chosen to flight test a teleporting airplane called Slipstream. However, due to a malfunction of the “teleportation matrix”, the plane (and Tracer with it) disappeared, presumed dead. Yet Tracer reappeared a few months later, now suffering from “chronal dissociation”. It is described as Tracer’s molecules being “desynchronized from the flow of time”, she couldn’t retain a physical form and disappeared for hours or days at a time.
Until a scientist named Winston (another playable character in the game) invented the chronal accelerator, the glowing device on Tracer’s chest and back. This device anchors Tracer to the present, and also gives her unique abilities, including speeding up, slowing down, and reversing her own time.
This device is what makes Tracer unique and so fun to play. Playing Tracer, you can “Blink” (teleport a short distance) or “Recall” (go back in time 3 seconds, instantly returning to the position, health, and ammo you had at that time). Both are possible through her chronal accelerator.
Those of you familiar with this blog know that I spend considerable amounts of time thinking about the hows and whys behind video game “science”. And as a physicist, Tracer’s chronal accelerator particularly caught my interest. So how does it work?
Well, let’s start by mimicking Tracer’s ability and going back in time: to 1905 Switzerland, when Einstein published his famous Theory of Relativity. Einstein made two simple assumptions (or “postulates”). 1) That the laws of physics are the same in all inertial reference frames. and 2) The speed of light in a vacuum is the same in all inertial reference frames.
The key here is thinking about these reference frames. What is a reference frame? We don’t normally think about it, but basically all of physics depends on where you’re measuring from, or with comparison to. Imagine you’re sitting on a train, pulling out from the station. Looking out the window, it looks like the platform is moving: you’re just sitting still. From your perspective, it is the platform that is moving, and not the train. To someone on the platform, however, the train (and you on it) are the ones moving. Or maybe you think you’re sitting still right now, reading this on your screen. But to someone floating in outer space looking on, the Earth is actually whipping around the sun at over 67,000 miles per hour (108,000 km/hr) right now. From your perspective, are you moving 67,000 miles per hour? No! That’s what we mean by reference frames. Everything you can observe, measure, or even theorize in physics depends on your reference frame. It’s all relative.
Still, we expect physics to behave the same in all inertial reference frames. The interesting stuff comes up when Einstein’s second postulate, the speed of light, comes into the picture. The idea is that nothing, not even light, can go faster than 3x10^8 m/s (known as c). Let’s go back to the train analogy, since it was one of Einstein’s favorites: If you stand up on the train and start running through the cars towards the engine, from the perspective someone on the platform, you are now moving even faster than the train: the train’s speed + your running speed, to be exact. Extending this to light, however, some problems arise. If you shone a flashlight on the train, you see those photons are moving at speed c. But from the platform person’s perspective, using the same idea, those photons would be moving at the speed of the train + c, which ultimately is faster than c. And that’s impossible. In fact, the person on the platform still sees the photons moving at speed c. So what happened?
Without getting into the math, Einstein discovered that the consequences of this were time dilation and length contraction. This basically means that from the reference frame (perspective) of the light, or anything going near the speed c, time actually passes slower and distances actually become shorter. That is how the speed of light is conserved in all reference frames: even though it should be going faster, it has less time and distance to travel, so in the end, it’s still stuck at c. The faster you go, the more time slows and the more distance contracts.
Keep in mind that this Special Relativity is only for constant speeds: also called inertial reference frames. For anything speeding up, slowing down, rotating, or otherwise accelerating, Einstein’s General Relativity comes in to play. While its based on the same ideas, General Relativity is much more complicated and gets into changing masses, curving space, and more.
But Special Relativity is really all you need to understand for Tracer–so let’s get back to her, shall we? We know that the chronal accelerator and it’s Blink/Recall abilities only effect Tracer. Therefore these abilities only act on her perspective, her reference frame. Take Blink, for example, which allows Tracer to teleport a short distance. Imagine if, instead of strictly “teleporting”, Tracer simply moved at close to the speed of light. To anyone outside watching, Tracer would practically instantly switch positions, giving the illusion of teleportation.
Yet the device is called a chronal (time) accelerator, not a Tracer accelerator. Well, I argue that it does both. The chronal accelerator allows Tracer to move at near-light speeds, but from Tracer’s perspective, this would cause time to slow down through the time dilation we talked about. But it doesn’t: when you play as Tracer, you seem to teleport as instantly as everyone else sees you. Therefore, the chronal accelerator both speeds up Tracer, and speeds up Tracer’s sense of time, which counter-acts the time dilation, and lets her experience her movement as if she were in an outside reference frame.
Tracer’s chronal accelerator allows Tracer to move at near-light speeds, while speeding up her sense of time to allow her to experience her movement as an outside observer would.
This, coincidentally, also accounts for the flash of light that Tracer leaves behind when she does this. Remember that regardless off how fast Tracer moves, light moves the same speed. While our eyes could never pick up a person moving that quickly, the light she emits we do see.
Tracer’s “recall” ability, going backwards in time, is a little more difficult to pinpoint. But, according to the math in Special Relativity, it is theoretically possible to slow down time so much that it ends up moving backwards: that happens when you move faster than light. Which, again, isn’t possible. Yet, with what we know about the chronal accelerator so far, it might be…for Tracer.
Again, the chronal accelerator speeds up two things: First, it speeds up Tracer to move at near-light speeds. Second, it speeds up Tracer’s sense of time, such that she experiences her own movements as if from an outside reference frame. So consider this: both Tracer and her sense of time are sped way, way up. She’s going the speed of light in fast-forward mode. With those two things together, Tracer may actually perceive herself as going faster than light: which results in her going backwards in time.
Naturally, this kind of device would require huge amounts of energy (more than Tony Stark’s chest reactor, that’s for sure), and some kind of physics that obviously hasn’t been invented yet. That aside, other problems such as the whiplash one would experience from this, or the strange symptoms of Tracer’s chronal dissociation, can still be accounted for with our science.
This is where the General Relativity I mentioned comes into play. When Tracer experienced “chronal dissociation”, she often lost her physical form, disappearing for days or months at a time.
In General Relativity, when things accelerate close to the speed of light, mass, energy, and momentum are all the same thing, and often swap between each other. For something going that fast, it will convert mass into energy, or so on. When Tracer was losing her physical form, her mass was being converted into energy, which resulted in her disappearing. Her molecules must have been accelerating, wiggling about at insane speeds that invoked this. The chronal accelerator got that under control; by constantly counter-accelerating Tracer’s molecules, so she can keep her form. As for the whiplash, perhaps the device utilizes her disorder, actually allowing Tracer to disappear while she’s moving/”teleporting”. If she has no mass, she certainly can’t feel whiplash. Alternatively, the third component I mentioned was momentum. A sudden change in momentum is ultimately what causes whiplash: so perhaps the device, instead of converting mass into energy, converts Tracer’s momentum into energy, effectively negating the effects of whiplash. Take your pick!
So that’s what I’ve got on Tracer! Thanks for sticking to the end if you made it this far. Be sure to check out our 200+ pokémon analyses we’ve done if you enjoyed this. Other than that, all I have to say is Cheers, love!
I absolutely love the month that precedes the season premieres of big brother. All the conspiracy theories about what the season’s theme will be, fake house guest leaks, the over analyzation of these people’s social media accounts, the realization and relief that these people aren’t going to be on the show, real house guest leaks, the depression from the people that they actually cast, the intense url hoarding, pre-season interviews, the preseason picks to win, the ladies of the talk doing a week of big brother on their show, the big brother drafts, ASDGJSLFJLDKH!!! I just really love this show and the community on here and can’t wait for the first “but first of the season”!!!
I think klaus as a villain had the best quotes to support SE against de
What I find interesting is that each villain emphasizes different facets of the SE bond. With Klaus, he understood their foundation, like he understood the strength of their love and then expressed incredulity at Elena’s indecision because of his understanding of that connection:
Rebekah felt that connection so she envied it, that kind of love, which just illustrated how powerful and obvious it was to the point that she actually helps Stefan save her despite despising them:
Katherine knew exactly what to say to get under everyone’s skin because she knew you can’t just stop loving/caring about a man like Stefan:
Then you have Tessa and even though the doppelganger love spell plot line doesn’t make sense and it’s an affront to SE, still, this idea of love conquering all, it means something because it harkens back to the fact that in the past, Elena and Stefan always did conquer the odds together by ending up with each other again, it speaks more to their history and their tenacity:
And then you have Silas who doesn’t care about the doppelganger fantasy but is like he’s always going to be in her heart, bruh, how could she possibly not be in her heart?
And then Kai like, so basically to leave Stefan, your soul had to be corrupted because Stefan is what was good and wholesome in your life.
And then you have periphery characters:
And it’s different than the quotes we get about Delena because the quotes we get about Delena usually by Stefan usually explain to Elena why it is she loves Damon or it’s pushing the two of them together so as to not give up, it’s not reiterating their love or their bond or understanding it, it’s like so this is what it is, this is why you should fight for it and it’s like shouldn’t y’all just know that? These quotes are observations just by WATCHING Stelena together or in Kai’s case, hearing their story.