About a month ago, Jade Gonzalez was minding her own business when, as she puts it, there was a glitch in the universe.
At the time of the incident in question, the 18-year-old was working at her mother’s Phoenix, Arizona restaurant Asadero El Fogon, slicing a side order of lemons for a customer. She turned away for just a moment, and when she turned back, she realized the lemon was still intact.
"There was a glitch," Gonzalez balks at the start of the TikTok, in which she shows surveillance video of what happened. "A glitch in the system."
Speaking to TODAY Food in an interview, Gonzalez said the strange phenomenon all happened on a pretty regular day. As she recalls, it was sunny out, and that day she had hit her stride working the cash register and servicing customers. She was moving quickly. Then a regular asked for a side of lemon with his order.
“I go. I wash my hands. I come and I grabbed the lemon. I put one half aside. I cut the other half, I go grab the bag," she recalled. "Then when I go to put it in the bag … I always separate it in the bag … I couldn’t separate it.”
Surveillance footage of the incident shows Gonzalez taking a lemon and slicing it in half. She then sets aside one of the lemon halves, cuts the one closest to her into quarters, then walks a few steps away (still in view of the security camera). Upon returning to the halved lemon, she picks it up with the plastic bag only to hesitate. Gonzalez’s confusion can be seen as she raises the lemon up to examine the still intact halved lemon.
"I do remember cutting it all the way," she told TODAY. "I can feel when the knife cuts down and it touches a table. So I’m 99.9% sure I cut it all."
According to Gonzalez, only three other workers were on-site at the time: her mother, her aunt and the restaurant’s chef. None of the women, Gonzalez claimed, switched the lemon out. She insists that none of them (including herself) know how to use video-editing tools, and if they had, there wouldn’t have been enough time to edit the recording. After giving the lemon to her customer, Gonzalez told her aunt about what happened and followed her advice to check the surveillance footage. She said the time between when she cut the lemon and inspected security footage took minutes.
So far, Gonzalez’s video has amassed over 3.1 million views and thousands of comments from TikTok users who have analyzed and speculated causes for the occurrence.
"I LITERALLY SCREEN-RECORDED, cropped to zoom in and played at 0.3 speed," one user replied. "THE LEMON MOVED BACK IN PLACE!!!"
"You moved timelines girl," another comment insisted, while others questioned how well Gonzalez sliced into the lemon in the first place.
"I can tell that you didn’t slice it all the way through and the slice was very thin to the point where it wasn’t noticeable," wrote another user.
"are you 100% sure the lemon was still whole? sometimes they get stuck together after cutting," commented another.
In a pinned comment, Gonzalez wrote to viewers: "Just to be clear everyone has their own opinion and beliefs please be respectful to others. this is just what I got from my own experience."
Rizwan Virk is a futurist and MIT computer scientist currently doing research at Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination. He is also the author of the book "The Simulation Hypothesis." For the book, Virk collected data from concepts related to computer science, artificial intelligence and quantum physics to explore the idea of whether or not we might exist in a simulated reality like "The Matrix."
Speaking to TODAY about Gonzalez’s experience, Virk noted that he is skeptical about whether Gonzalez experienced a glitch because of the video quality and the camera’s proximity to the lemon. Still, he said that there are a few explanations for what might have happened when it comes to simulation theory.
"If it was a real glitch, then you know, it’s very possible that she cut the lemon, and it got rendered in two pieces for her from her perspective,” he explained, citing an aspect of quantum physics called the observer effect. Virk offered a multitude of head-spinning theories and explanations, from being out of synchronization to the Mandela effect. One of the easiest to comprehend was related to simulation theory, which just about anyone who uses Zoom or FaceTime might be able to understand.
"Simulation theory posits that the world is like a video game and that what we think of as physical reality is actually a rendering on something like a computer screen," he explained, likening the theory to the experience of doing a Zoom interview with TODAY. "You are being rendered on my screen, and I am being rendered on your screen. And that’s how video games work. So when you play 'Fornite' or 'World of Warcraft,' you’re rendering it on your local device, and then you’re syncing with the server every time something happens. So it’s possible that if I did something locally, you know, let’s say I gave a thumbs up or I cut a lemon, and somehow that the information when it’s being sent to the server gets screwed up, which can happen in the cloud. And so I think ‘I’ve already done that,' but until it syncs with the server, you won’t necessarily see it."
According to Virk, a premise of quantum theory called the observer effect could also be at play. Weizmann Institute of Science says the observer effect is a premise of quantum theory which states that “by the very act of watching, the observer affects the observed reality.”
“When someone observes one possibility, the probability wave collapses down to a single possibility,” Virk explained. “It’s possible that it happened in her observational frame. But then when she went back, other people didn’t see it. It gets back to the same issue of being out of synchronization with what’s really going on.”
Whatever the explanation, when it comes to Gonzalez and the reality she lives in, she believes anything is possible. "I completely understand, like, I know it’s hard to believe," she said, noting that if she came across a similar video in the feed of her own phone, she’d have questions herself. "I understand it. A lot of people do stuff just for views."
Still, Gonzalez insists what she experienced that day was something otherworldly.
"I’ve never experienced anything like (it). I have had moments in the past where I’m like, 'Didn’t I just do this or didn’t I just like put this over there,'" she recalled. "Now I’m thinking, 'What if those were other glitches?'"