Reverse Engineering: The super scientific dangers of capturing Pokemon with your phone


I don’t mean to alarm anyone, but there is a chance that capturing Pokemon could be the end of civilization as we know it. It could likely bring the apocalypse and wipe out every living creature on the planet. If my calculations are correct — and they tend to be — and if you are still playing Pokemon Go, then you are walking with a literal bomb in your pocket.

Niantic recently gave us some more specific information about its new Harry Potter mobile game, but that got me overthinking about Niantic’s flagship game POGO. How do these monsters end up inside your phone and in your pocket in the first place? Clearly, we are looking at some very dangerous physics here, no matter how you slice it. In fact, it could very well be explosive on a global scale.

Law of conservation

To understand the basics of either of these hypotheses, you first have to understand the law of conservation of mass. The dictionary defines the law of conservation of mass this way: “The total mass of any isolated material system is neither increased nor diminished by reactions between the parts.” To simplify this in terms relevant to what I’m talking about here: No matter how we change the Pokemon in question, there will always be the same amount of mass.

According to the Pokedex, Mr. Mime has a mass of 54.5 kilograms and has a height of 1.3 meters. If we expanded Mr. Mime to 2 or 20 meters, it will still have a mass of 54.5 kg. The same applies to compression. If we press Mr. Mime to 1 m or 1 mm, it will still have a total mass of 54.5 kg. Chemical changes work the same way, but changing the chemical make-up of matter makes things a bit more difficult to measure. But if we set Mr. Mime on fire — as many of us want to do — then the mass of all the matter (solids, gases, and liquids) present after fire burns out will still have the total mass of 54.5 kg.

Creating black holes?

At first, I thought that perhaps there would be an issue with making black holes when you compress a Pokemon small enough to fit in your pocket or in your phone. Oddly enough, that would not be small enough to cross what’s called the Schwarzschild radius. When the density of an object is compressed to a point that an event horizon is created — where the density of an object is so great that it starts to collapse in on itself — then becomes a black hole.

The Schwarzschild radius, based on Einstein’s theory of general relativity, calculates the size an object has to be to start collapsing in on itself. G in this equation is equal to the gravitational constant, c is the speed of light, and M is the mass of the object. If you would like to do the calculations for yourself, the gravitational constant is equal to 6.674×10-11 N⋅m²/kg², and the speed of light is 299,792,458 m/s. The average human is about 70kg. That means that the incredibly small radius of a black hole with the mass of a human is 1.04×10-25 m. That number looks like this when written out:


For those who need a visual — too bad. Even the best electron microscopes can’t see something that small. You don’t get anything above a millimeter until you have something with the mass of Earth. That means that even our biggest Pokemon can be compressed to fit in our phones without causing a black hole, but that does mean there is another problem.

Under pressure

If not a black hole, then what does happen to matter when compressed? Remember, we aren’t just pressing these Pokemon tight enough to fit into a Pokeball, but that Pokeball then has to fit on your phone. So we are talking about compressing some creatures over a couple hundred kilo into a microscopic place.

We know that there are four stages of matter: solid, liquid, gas, and plasma. And there are two ways for matter to flip between these states, the first being temperature. We know as you heat up an element, it will cycle through the four stages, but there is another common way to get matter to cycle through the stages: pressure.

At this point, I’m not going to question how it happens or what force a Pokeball would use to actually compress a Pokemon, so let’s just accept that it does. The issue we start to run into rather quickly is heat and eventually electron degeneration. So the electric charge is a factor, and so is the ionization of the Pokemon when it is reformed, which means that the Pokemon that you start with will not be the Pokemon you end up with. And I don’t mean because of “evolution.” (Side note: “Evolution” is a bad term for what happens to a Pokemon, but I will use it here because that’s what it’s called in the game.) It’s literally changed its atomic structure.


The most common theory about how Pokemon fitting into Pokeballs and then inside your phone has to be the idea that a Pokeball transforms matter to energy then back again. This is literally the worst theory in existence. It’s not because it’s not possible. Matter can definitely be turned into energy. In fact, people do it every day, but it’s usually in a very controlled environment. But because the universe operates on entropy, energy is not turned back into matter.

You all know the calculation for turning matter into energy: It’s E=mc², but not everyone knows what that all means. Well, m is matter. And c is the universal constant – in other words, the speed of light. And E is the energy output, usually measured in joules. If we convert Mr. Mime into energy — remember he has 54.5 kg of matter — then we get 4,898,216 terajoules of energy output. I’m willing to bet that a Pokeball and definitely your phone cannot contain that amount of energy. For perspective, Fat Man dropped on Nagasaki contained only 84 TJ. It’s not quite an extinction event like the asteroid and/or volcanoes that killed the dinosaurs, but it will level a small country.

My advice: Stop catching Pokemon before you kill everyone!

I’m kidding… you gotta catch ’em all. What do you think will happen? All science requires testing and retesting. What is your hypothesis? What do you think happens when trainers catch Pokemon? And I didn’t even mention how heavy your phone would be if it had all those Pokemon pressed inside it. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Have you ever wondered how the worlds of your favorite MMOs would work in the real world? Welcome to Reverse Engineering, in which MOP’s Larry Everett takes apart the tropes, equipment, and worlds from all kinds of massive online games, from dragons to jetpacks. Let him know what you’d like to see reverse engineered next!
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