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"To some extent, it's understandable that space adventures play fast and loose with physics. After all, who wants to watch Han Solo spend years on the journey to Alderaan, only to find that the planet has twice Earth gravity and he can barely stand up, much less swagger?"

Physics. It involves mathematics and esoteric-looking equations to memorize, which is paradise to some but one level of hell for others.

Writers often play fast and loose with physics - sometimes intentionally, sometimes not. This is usually acceptable when it makes for good storytelling and/or just plain awesomeness, and one should always keep the MST3K Mantra in mind. However, an Egregious violation of the laws of physics can result in loss of Willing Suspension of Disbelief, especially in a story that tries to be taken seriously, or if the error could have been avoided with minimal revision.

When this is done properly, it can make for Crazy Awesome action sequences and way-cool visuals - think The Dark Knight or Bioshock, for example. Done badly, it can ruin the atmosphere entirely.

Some scientifically-minded individuals have a website devoted specifically to detailing these failings in movies: Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics.

Soft Science Fiction uses Artistic License for physics extensively, as do many video games, war films, and horror movies.

Often lampshaded with "How Is That Even Possible?" Contrast Reality Is Unrealistic and Cartoon Physics, as they have their own laws and modus operandi, which is entirely played for laughs.


Sub Tropes: Edit


In-Universe Examples: Edit

Anime & Manga Edit

  • In episode forty of One Piece, a fishman believes that dragging Sanji to the bottom of the ocean will cause him to explode from the inside...this fishman clearly doesn't understand the way pressure works, or that there is the word "implosion."
    • Admiral Aokiji, who can instantly, and probably completely to the bottom, freeze part of the ocean. Even waves that come crashing down on him are frozen in place.
    • And Admiral Kizaru, whose Light powers frequently cause unexplainable explosions.
  • One of the main elements of Humongous Mechas in Diebuster is quite literally called "Physical Canceller". It allows for such feats as making a Freeze Ray of negative million degrees - with character remarking that it should be impossible.
  • Captain Tsubasa. That aspect of the series, specially of the anime, makes for a lot of running gags in the Spanish fandom. There's even an article trying to explain why the characters seem able to bend physical laws to their will. So far, they've reached the conclusion that Captain Tsubasa's Japan is a little asteroid orbiting the Sun, wich would explain why you can't see the goal until you reach the penalty area or how Tsubasa is able to jump twice the goal's height to score with his Scissors Kick, due to Asteroidal Japan's smaller gravity.
  • The same applies to The Kickers, another soccer anime. Particularly a certain group of 3 people, whose trick shot includes jumping up, then doing multiple somersaults while staying in air for sometimes multiple anime minutes, somersaulting dozens of times in the process.
  • Pokémon is indecisive on whether rubber conducts electricity or not (specially when you remember Team Rocket wears rubber gloves and boots and still gets fried quite easily).
  • The Tachikomas in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex are Spider Tanks that share the same size and weight of a small-sized car. They have wheels on their legs that can extend out into three-point toes for walking. Just standing up would present a balance issue if not for their A Is compensating that, but these same 4 small points of contact allow them to grip to a ceiling or a vertical plane such as a wall or the side of a building with very few problems. This is usually aided by the use of their synthetic thread-like wires, but they don't always need them to do so.
    • On top of this, they're also capable of jumping from high places without leaving any form of impact wherever they land, and they can climb over a chainlink fence without bending it even a little. Nobody questions how a machine of it's size is capable of defying such common physics.


Comics Edit

  • Hercules, of all people, feels the need to point out everything wrong about Ego compared to how planets are supposed to be structured.
  • A 1950s comic by Jack Kirby has a Mad Scientist who hates humanity planning to fly into space to drop a bomb that would destroy Earth. He does so, but when he launches the bomb it doesn't fall as he expected, it merely floats where he dropped it off. Then he realizes he forgot there's no gravity in space! The bomb explodes, destroying the spacheship and killing the scientist, but leaving Earth unharmed. Some scientist.


Literature Edit

  • Used as a plot point in the Polish sci-fi book Paradyzja. The eponymous Paradyzja is a xenophobic nation inhabiting a miracle of technology: a gigantic space station that rotates around its axis to generate gravity. Except not really. Paradyzja is actually just a bog-standard huge building located on a planet's surface. School students in Paradyzja are deliberately taught wrong physics so they don't notice the lack of a Coriolis effect, and visitors from outside are forbidden from bringing many harmless household objects that could be used to conduct a simple, telltale experiment.


Webcomics Edit


Western Animation Edit

  • In The Simpsons, when Bart, Milhouse and Martin are reading about how Radioactive Man was formed Martin says in astonishment, "I'd have though being caught in a nuclear explosion would have killed him!"


Other Examples: Edit

Note that this is not a trope so much as a series of things that may be goofs, may be a one-time use of artistic license for Rule of Cool, or may be a "proto-trope" in its larval stages, which will one day be common enough to be a trope of its own. As such, please list examples by "type" of physics violation, so we can catch these proto-tropes as they form.

Also note that this is not a forum. If an example is actually not a violation of physics, remove it. Don't debate it here.

Violation of Laws of Inertia and/or Momentum Edit

Anime and Manga Edit

  • Spiral has an excruciating moment where Ayumu's Sidekick tosses a key down to him from a moving train. Needless to say, it falls straight down in slow motion.
  • In Hunter X Hunter, one arc has the protagonists and their allies playing dodgeball against an enemy. The game is won by one character making the ball stick to the enemy's wrists, while the enemy was trying to deflect the ball thrown by the protagonists back towards them, volleyball-style. According to the story, doing so made the antagonist be pushed back by the force of the ball until he was out of bounds, while deflecting the ball and changing the velocity of the ball to the opposite direction would have allowed him to hold his ground. The Law of Conservation of Momentum weeps.
  • More or less every Shonen anime which features humongous energy beam attacks falls prey to this. These attacks typically display little or no momentum transfer, while also showing massively destructive effects otherwise. This generally ignores conservation of momentum. Even if the beams are assumed to be pure electromagnetic energy, photons still carry momentum. The recoil of even a city-smashing beam should suffice to throw the shooter around like a gnat in a typhoon, unless he's about as heavy as an aircraft carrier. And with the planet-destroying attacks shows like Dragonball Z regularly throw around...it gets much worse.
    • Dragon Ball is however one of the few that did actually use the beams to create momentum in the shooter, albeit rarely.

Comic Books Edit

  • The 1985 Squadron Supreme series featured a character named Inertia who's power was "stealing one person/object's inertia" and transferring it to another. This would be a cool and interesting power with many uses of its own but seeing this power in action, it's clear the character is actually transferring momentum or kinetic energy. Inertia is an object's ability to resist changes in motion.

Film - Live-Action Edit

  • In the low-budget 1990 movie Captain America, the title hero is somehow able to redirect the course of a rocket he's strapped to by kicking it really hard. He kicks it so far off course that instead of the intended target, Washington, DC, he ends up in Alaska, somehow not exploding. And moving slowly enough for someone to take a clear picture of him from the ground.

Live Action TV Edit

  • Some very bad simulations of microgravity were used on Bones, when Booth and Brennen interview an astronaut-in-training on board the "Vomit Comet". Not only did the microgravity-drifting actors push buttons and reach for objects without gripping the walls for stability, but when the plane leveled out and the characters settled back down, Booth's feet came down next to a pen and index card that were already lying on the floor.
  • Babylon 5 is a large space station designed to rotate to produce a simulation of gravity, which is fine in and of itself. However, not only do the sections of the station rotate at different rates to accommodate different alien species (creating problems with torque, stability, etc.) scenes shot on a baseball diamond and in a casino (with a roulette wheel) fail to show the Coriolis effect, which should be noticeable in a five-mile long cylinder rotating quickly enough to simulate Earth-like gravity. Although neglecting to consider Coriolis forces may explain why Londo's roulette strategy always fails.

Western Animation Edit

  • The New Adventures of Superman episode "Rain of Iron". A Villain on Earth fires an iron ball at an asteroid in space. The ball bounces off the asteroid and flies back to Earth. If an iron ball hit an asteroid it would just embed itself, not bounce away like a rubber ball.
  • An episode of My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic, "Sonic Rainboom", shows Rainbow Dash managing to break the sound barrier and create the titular rainboom, saving Rarity and the knocked-out Wonderbolts from falling to their deaths. However, she then does a 90-degree turn while still moving at about the speed of sound. A fan did the calculations and showed that Rainbow Dash (and the ponies she was carrying) would have experienced well over 1,600 times the force of gravity. On Earth, this would not only kill a living person instantly, it would probably liquefy his body. On Equestria, however, all ponies survive unharmed.
    • Another fan did calculations based on a couple of other incidents, concluding that many things in Equestria, such as Applejack and random cloud-like swarms of butterflies, are actually composed of dark matter given the way they negate or transfer momentum.


Ignoring Friction Edit

Comic Books Edit

  • The first issue of Nemesis has the main character stand in front of the outside of an airplane...while it's in mid-flight. Before you ask, no, Nemesis doesn't have superpowers. Yes, the comic is supposed to be realistic.
  • The Flash. While they address the issue of wind friction but giving him an immunity to the heat generated by it, he should have tremendous difficulty with acceleration (positive, or negative) at the speeds he travels. Obviously ignored because the story of a character limited to the speed of a drag racer wouldn't be as much fun.

Live Action TV Edit

Ignoring Mass/Momentum/Etc Edit

Anime and Manga Edit

Comic Books Edit

  • In the first arc of the X Wing Series comics, an arc plagued with bad editing, a Wookiee swings a wooden stick at a TIE fighter in flight and shreds the wing that he hit. He's not even knocked off balance and the stick is still intact and in his hand, but the TIE explodes. TIE fighters are a bit fragile for starfighters, but they're still space-capable fighters whose wings work as limited armor. And, in the books of the series, they're able to fly quickly through a forest snapping the branches of trees without taking on damage.

Film - Animated Edit

  • Up: Carl's house's apparent loss of momentum. Realistically, it would be almost impossible to get going, and then would drag you a hundred feet when you try to stop. Also, the wind would move it better than you, so you'd just be dragged the way the wind blows. And air pressure is far enough from constant that the house wouldn't stay even like that. They also manage to steer the house with control surfaces that are tiny in comparison to the wind resistance of the house, not to mention the balloons, and there's no apparent effect the direction the house is facing would have anyway, especially seeing as it should have no airspeed as it is unpowered.
  • Stitch in Lilo and Stitch, who possesses super-strength, is able to pull a semi-truck to a stop. In the sequel, he actually keeps a space ship from taking off by grabbing onto it. In truth, regardless of how strong he is, a creature of Stitch's light weight could never do these things unless he also had super-anchoring powers.
    • Stitch is dense, and therefore can't swim. He's the size of a small dog, and doesn't appear to weigh much more than one either; the five-year-old Lilo is able to lift him with minimal difficulty. Density is a function of both size and mass, so if he's able to pass for a dog in all respects, weight included, he should have the same approximate density as Lilo does.

Film - Live-Action Edit

  • In Spider-Man, the Green Goblin cuts the cable of a cable car and grabs it to present Peter a Sadistic Choice. When an object hangs from a horizontal cable, it puts lateral force on the cable (to make it form a V shape, if that helps you visualize). A cable car weighs several thousand pounds. Even if we could Hand Wave the Green Goblin being able to carry that weight, it would have simply pulled him off the platform he was standing on.
  • In Me Myself and Irene, Charlie's 'sons' manage to take off in a helicopter that, in reality, would have been unable to hover, let alone fly, with the weight of the three in question on board.


Radiation and Light Don't Work That Way Edit

Comic Books Edit

  • In the DCU Daxamites are vulnerable to lead radiation. (This has been retconned into a severe allergy to lead, even in trace atmospheric amounts)

Film - Live-Action Edit

  • Plan 9 from Outer Space. Everyone should know that particles of sunlight are "made up of many atoms"!
  • Eraser features the EM-1 portable 'railgun'. It is fitted with an 'X-ray scope' allowing the shooter to see the target through walls. Human targets are conveniently presented as skeletons with a pulsing heart clearly visible. First, anything we see is either reflected radiation (the the visible range of electromagnetic radiation) or radiation emitted by the observed object (like heat detected by thermovisual camera). X-Ray meant to pass through steel and concrete twice are unlikely to reflect of anything one may encounter in your normal surroundings (X-Ray machines are essentially slide projectors with human body acting as the slide). Furthermore, X-Ray capable of passing through concrete would also pass through bone with ease, not to mention the soft tissues, or the massive dose of radiation this would give out.

Live Action TV Edit

  • In the Stargate SG-1 episode "Allegiance", someone invisible is running around causing trouble. Carter is asked to come up with a way to make him visible, and decides that the right way to do it is to get the naqahdah reactor to emit a burst of electromagnetic radiation with wavelength between 400 and 700 nanometers. While this may sound like Techno Babble, it actually means something -- her plan is to make him visible by shining a light on him. Given how closely the numbers involved match up, it's unclear whether this is a goof or just a very subtle Expospeak Gag. Or both.
  • In Sliders, after launching a nuclear rocket at a comet to destroy it before it hits Earth, Quinn is surprised when it doesn't explode on impact, however Arturo explains the delay is down to the limited speed of light. However, the light coming from the rocket approaching and hitting the comet should be delayed too, so it should still appear to explode on impact.

Tabletop Games Edit

  • Paranoia stats that red armor blocks red lasers and nothing else, while blue armor blocks all laser frequencies from red to blue. They explicitly mentioned in the manual that it is done this way because they don't want to deal with multiprismatic armor, and that the game mechanics work the way they want when they lampshade this license.


The Speed of Light is Faster Than That Edit

Comic Books Edit

  • In a 1960s comic, the Flash once ran across a room and back faster than light could cross it once. While this itself isn't a big deal (Any Flash can exceed the speed of light billions of times over without trying), he did it while he was holding a conversation. Speed Force powers GO!

Western Animation Edit

  • The New Adventures of Superman. In several episodes the narrator said that Superman was traveling faster than the speed of light (186,000+ miles per second) within the Earth's atmosphere. That means in one second, he could fly around the entire circumference of the Earth (~25,000 miles) seven times! It then shows him moving for several seconds through the Earth's atmosphere.


Wonder Twins Power! Energy in the Form of Heat! Edit

Film - Live-Action Edit

  • In From Russia with Love, James Bond destroys a number of attacking speedboats over a large area simply by dumping fuel in the water and lighting it; however this would have no effect if the boats were moving at high speed, since they would be cooled by the splashing water (and its evaporation) faster than they could be heated; likewise, the bow-wave of the boats would extinguish the flames immediately around them. Later movies were worse.
    • It should be noted that Bond tricked the other boats into stopping (by pretending to surrender) before igniting the fuel. The explosion caused by the ignition of the fuel containers also sprayed the boats and passengers with burning fuel oil; speeding away would not have helped them at that point.

Video Games Edit

  • Golden Sun. Kraden, attempting to cover for Camelot's bad writing, theorizes that things suddenly became very cold after lighting Jupiter lighthouse[1], when lighting Mercury lighthouse[2] barely made an impact on the climate, because "wind cools more efficiently than water". This is exactly the opposite of how well wind cools things; air is a terrible conductor of heat.


Fire Needs Oxygen, Doesn't It? Edit

Film - Live-Action Edit

  • Independence Day. In one scene, a traffic jam that fills a traffic tunnel in Los Angeles is incinerated at once, and the protagonists escape simply by ducking into a side door. Even if that somehow protected them from the blast, and from the temperatures of several hundred degrees that would have been generated, the fire would have taken all oxygen from the tunnel, and any survivors would have asphyxiated.
    • The Novelization explains that there was a large floor vent in this room, and that it helped serve as an air intake when the fire blazed through, allowing the protagonists to continue breathing. Don't quite remember how they managed not to be cooked, however.


Large Objects Appearing In or Disappearing From Orbit Edit

Live Action TV Edit

  • At the climax of the Doctor Who story The End of Time, the entire planet Gallifrey appears next to Earth and apparently has no effect on either the Earth, the Moon, or their orbits. Gallifrey itself appears to already be moving the necessary orbital velocity, too, since it doesn't immediately start falling towards the Sun.
    • Somewhat justified in that Gallifrey was still phasing into our time from the time war. But that's a whole 'nother issue.
  • Smallville's grand finale had Clark shoving the planet Apokolips out of orbit. It was large enough to fill a large portion of the sky. Then there's the issue of how Clark suddenly had the power to both move a planet and counter the planet moving engines but that's another trope.

Film - Live-Action Edit

  • The very presence of something as large as the mother ship in Independence Day in orbit should have caused flooding, earthquakes, and other severe problems with the Earth. And that's not getting into what the effects of it actually exploding in orbit would be. When it exploded, this would have been definitely been an "Extinction-Level Event" (to borrow the term from Deep Impact).
    • Even earlier, when the alien mothership passes over the Apollo landing site, vibrations erase the astronauts' footprints. There's no medium for the vibrations to travel through. Also, it was supposed to be 1/4 the size of the Moon. Passing that close would have severely distorted the orbit of the Moon. Indeed the gravitational effects should have been detectable months before as distortions of the Moon's orbit around the Earth (which is continually being measured and can be done so with extreme accuracy). Not to mention the effect on the tides on Earth itself. And for that matter the reflected sunlight from the mothership should have made it detectable by telescopes long before it even crossed the orbit of Mars, and once it was in Earth orbit, it should have been visible to the naked eye and have been at least several times brighter than the full moon.
      • The vibrations that erased the astronauts' footprints could have been due to "moonquakes" caused by the same gravitational stress that would have caused earthquakes on the Earth.
      • However large the mothership is, it isn't solid. There's a lot of empty space in there, so volume-for-volume it's a lot less massive (and an object that appears a quarter the size of the Moon has only one-eighth the volume of the Moon; if "a quarter the size" means one fourth as big in every dimension," it's one sixty-fourth the volume). It's also shown as being fairly dark (the moon is about the color of asphalt, though, so that doesn't help much).
  • Another Earth, Oh my, Another Earth. Admittedly this movie isn't about people running for their lives on the appearance of a twin of Earth appearing and coming in close to our planet - the movie is about grief and redemption with the second Earth representing hope. Still, that being said:
    • The other Earth is always portrayed as "full" in the sky during the day (The way the Moon is full); it would have to stay on the night side of Earth to do that unless it was only being viewed at sunrise and sunset.
    • A second Earth-size planet that near would would really throw off Earth's orbit. It would also impact other planets' orbits, though to a much lesser (but still detectable) extent.
    • Even if the planet had been hiding behind the Sun the whole time before it appeared, we would have already been able to infer its existence from its effect on the other orbits in the inner solar system.
    • If a planet were coming that close to Earth people would be more worried about a collision.
    • Ocean tides here on Earth are the result of the moon pulling on the Earth. Another Earth so close as to be bigger than the moon in the sky would send ocean tides over huge swaths of populated land.
    • And if it's that close, our own moon would have crashed into it.


The Wedge Principle (no, not about underwear) Edit

Films - Live-Action Edit

  • Superman's arch-enemy isn't Luthor or Brainiac, but the laws of physics. Due to the wedge principle, picking up anything substantially larger than himself would also trouble Superman, because he is exerting all force on one tight spot. The object would collapse under its own weight. Finally, refer to this for everything that is wrong with the climax of the first film.
    • Same in the movie Superman Returns, when he puts a Boeing gently down by holding its nose, and when he lifts a ship too.
    • The physical complications listed above have caused some fans to speculate that Superman's power is not actually physical strength and invulnerability, but rather a form of telekinesis. For a while Post-Crisis, that was the canon explanation of his powers in the comics. It still is the explanation of the powers of Superman's blatant Marvel Universe Expy Gladiator.
    • This has actually been parodied in an old Donald Duck comic by Carl Barks, where Don granted superpowers tries to lift a sunken ship into the air, only for it to snap in half and slam into him from both sides.
      • It was also parodied in an old comic strip by Mad Magazine's Sergio Aragones in the Mad Super Special Fall 1981: The Comics. An ocean liner has run into a rock and is sending out SOS signals. Supernman tries to rescue it by picking it up from underneath, in the middle of the ship's keel. When he does so, the ship breaks in half.

Tabletop Games Edit

  • Aberrant actually points out and justifies this in-continuity. Regardless of how a power appears to work, it is actually a "quantum effect" which may incorporate various side effects to make it work like it should. This happens subconsciously, allowing Novas to make their powers work like they think they should work. A mentioned example is a Nova lifting a battleship, which should at most result in the ship breaking instead; the Nova subconsciously wraps the ship in a stabilising quantum effect so it can work "like it does in the comic books".

Western Animation Edit

  • Similar to the Superman example above, Tracy of Filmations Ghostbusters also has problems with physics. Example: In "The Curse of the Sleeping Dragon," a test of strength involves lifting a temple's pillar, thereby raising the roof. Tracy does this, but in real life it would cause the rest of the temple to collapse! (In the episode, it doesn't.)


Relativity (it's not about Kissing Cousins) Edit

Film - Live-Action Edit

  • Women of the Prehistoric Planet, more well-known since being featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000, has a scene in which an alien spacefarer foots his mouth badly while trying to explain Relativity. He proclaims, "It's due to a warp in the time paradox." Nobody has to be a theoretical physicist to know that "time paradox" should have been "space-time continuum." Paradoxes have nothing to do with how fast time passes on an object traveling through space.


If it Burns Up in the Atmosphere, You're Fine Edit

Films - Live-Action Edit

  • In Deep Impact, blowing up the second piece of the comet would not only not help, it would arguably make things much worse. If every piece still impacts the Earth (by that I mean actually is stopped by the Earth or its atmosphere) you are still dumping all the kinetic energy of the comet chunk into the Earth's atmosphere! That's a huge amount of energy, dumped in practically all at once. It would still create a massive explosion, dwarfing all of our nuclear bombs combined. About equal to 10,000 times the global nuclear arsenal.


Bridge to Nowhere has Nothing on This Edit

Films - Live-Action Edit

  • In I Robot the depiction of a damaged bridge crossing Lake Michigan shows a complete lack of understanding of how a suspension bridge actually works.
    • This tends to be true for any film that shows a damaged or collapsed suspension bridge.[3] Generally, the central span collapses and the towers are pulled inward as if pulled down by it. However, a suspension bridge uses cables under constant tension to transfer the weight of the span to anchors or counterweights located at either end of the bridge, so the towers are normally kept in balance between the weight of the span pulling inward and the anchors pulling outward. If the span collapses, the towers would bend outward since the anchors would no longer be balanced by the span.


You Can Survive the Impact if you have Protection Edit

Films - Live-Action Edit

  • In RoboCop 2, both RoboCop and RoboCop 2 fall over 100 stories -- but survive undamaged and unharmed, due to the durability of their mechanical parts. However this would still be unable to protect their human brains and other human parts.
  • Likewise, Indiana Jones in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull can survive being hurled hundreds of feet because he's inside a refrigerator.
  • Iron Man: Tony Stark survives a fall from hundreds of feet in his Mark I. Granted, some people have survived falls from that height but they typically didn't have an horizontal velocity to combine with the vertical from an arced blaster jump. He doesn't even seem to be injured.

Literature Edit

  • In Jules Verne's From the Earth to the Moon, the astronauts get to the moon by being shot out of a 900 foot long cannon. In order to reach sufficient velocity to reach the Moon while traveling the length of the cannon, the ship would have to accelerate at 22,000 gravities, which would squash the astronauts inside it flat no matter what precautions were taken.

Webcomics Edit


Under Pressure (and not just the writers) Edit

Anime and Manga Edit

  • The second episode of Gundam Wing has the Gundam Deathscythe fighting underwater with as much agility as if it were on land. The depths were far enough to be the giant robot equivalent of deep sea diving using specialized diving suits.

Films - Animated Edit

  • Battle for Terra: In one noteworthy scene, two humans are watching a room in which an alien is in an alien-atmosphere-pressurized room. Then a human is put into the alien's room, and one of the other humans has to decide whether he wants the human or the alien to live by changing the atmosphere or leaving it alone. He ends up choosing the human, but then, seeing the alien's breather mask, tells his robot to save her. The robot cuts open the glass, at which point the whole window explodes outward as the air in the pressure room escapes -- even though this was after the atmosphere was adjusted to the same human-friendly levels it would be like outside the room.
    • The phrase cubic pounds of air is used. Twice.

Western Animation Edit

  • In the Futurama "The Deep South", the ship is pulled underwater and manages to withstand the pressure all the way to the bottom (they're specifically stated to be at "the exact center of the Atlantic Ocean"). There's a bit of a lampshade hanging here, since when the Professor is asked how many atmospheres of pressure the ship can withstand, he says (with some sarcasm) "Well, it's a spaceship, so anywhere between zero and one." (Of course, Futurama loves to play fast and loose with physics in general, so this isn't the worst example of bad science even in this episode.) The crewmembers are also able to walk and breathe underwater after taking a special, er, "pill".

Plate Tectonics is Not About Dinnerware Edit

Films - Live-Action Edit

  • 2012 attempts to justify its scientifically predictable doomsday with an obscure geological theory of crustal displacement formulated in the 50s. The film even throws in an appeal to authority by claiming that Einstein agreed with the theory. The latter is true, and the film depicts at least vaguely accurately what crustal displacement in action might look like. What it fails to address though, is the fact that the theory was formulated before plate tectonics theory was developed, something that didn't happen until the 60s. What does this mean for the movie? Oh, only the fact that the two theories are mutually exclusive, and since plate tectonics is now proven true, the other can't be.
    • Furthermore, Einstein, while brilliant, was not an expert on geology. You wouldn't trust his opinion on plate tectonics any more than you would trust him with open-heart surgery.


Gravity Blunders Edit

Literature Edit

  • In George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, the Wall is stated to be 700 feet high, yet people on the ground can fire arrows from wooden bows at defenders on top of the Wall and hit with enough force to kill. Not even modern compound bows could accomplish this feat. For reference, the average skyscraper is between 500 and 900 feet. This might be a good time to mention that the difficulty of accurately firing a bow 700 feet is nothing compared to the issue of not possibly having the strength to propel an arrow 700 feet UPWARDS (think back to elementary school science -- one word, gravity).
    • Though it is mentioned that, of the thousands of arrows fired at the Wall over the course of one battle, only one actually managed to hit anybody, and that guy only died because he fell off the edge.
  • In Iain M Banks' Consider Phlebas a crew are about to land on a ringworld, and the Captain tells them not to use their antigravity units: "Anti-gravity works against mass, not spin." Never mind what new physics they have to accomodate warpdrive and antigravity, acceleration by gravity and acceleration by movement are still functionally identical, and what works on one must work on the other.
  • Averted in Robert A Heinlein's The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. Soldiers brought from Earth to repress the rebellion on the Luna penal colony resent being there because it is nearly impossible for anyone to return to the Earth after more than a few months on the Moon because their body has acclimatised to 1/6 Earth gravity. The soldiers are also disadvantaged because their normal walking gait learned on Earth causes them to fly into the air. Also, a delegation sent from Luna to Earth must take long and very inconvenient acclimatisation measures just to not die when they arrive Earthside, and every step is an enormous strain.

Theatre Edit

  • Rossini's opera William Tell climaxes with the title character standing at the bottom of a cliff, shooting an arrow upward that kills his foe (who was standing at the top of the cliff).

Video Games Edit

  • Master of Orion II got "Graviton Beam" and Black Holes at once. It gives a weapon with a special effect and something to navigate around, but theories of gravity do not work this way.


Not Enough or Too Much Energy Shown Edit

Anime and Manga Edit

  • Only every shonen fight, ever. Look at any big super powered fight from your favorite long running shonen anime (Bleach is a huge offender Ichigo vs Aizen comes to mind) and take note of home many times somebody uses an attack that could break mountains. Then take note of how there isn't a deafening sound, a bone breaking, or insane knockback from the attack. Also, there shouldn't be any light produced by an attack, no matter how strong it is, nor should the energy from the attack be rooted to where it actually should go (a body, an arm, the mountain, or simply the ground itself. Lastly, note how despite thousands upon thousands of cracks appearing from these moves, no deafening, ear-splitting earth-cracking is heard!
  • Project Blue: Earth S.O.S has a glaring example of not knowing their sciences. In the third episode, they launch an old fashioned space shuttle using oxygen and solid fuel. However, the observers are watching this craft take off from a few hundred meters away and are out in the open. Even ignoring the fact that the heat from the engine would likely fry everyone at that range, there is the rather large problem of sound. Space shuttle engines when taking off are loud, really really loud. Literally they are loud enough to stop liquid from being able to flow - NASA discovered they when one of their electrical generators stopped working during takeoff. The sheer volume of the engine stopped the fuel from flowing. That level of noise would kill a human being for various reasons - including all their blood not being able to flow anymore.
  • In To Aru Majutsu no Index, Misaka Mikoto's railgun is actually incapable of causing that kind of destruction. Actual lightning travels faster than 1030 m/s (the railgun's max speed). Assuming that this is so and using the weight of a 500 yen coin (~7 grams), the kinetic energy of each blast at maximum is at 3700 Joules, around the same amount as a .280 Remington fired at 861 m/s. But who cares about that when she's blasting someone off with her electricity?
    • Bear in mind that there is also angular kinetic energy (rotational energy) to consider, since a coin flicked at Mach speeds likely tends to spin like mad. But however much angular kinetic energy Misaka's railgun can realistically possesses, the destruction caused by it does still exceed any attainable limits.

Film - Live-Action Edit

  • In the Eraser movie mentioned above, the EM-1 'railgun' is said to propel the bullet (roughly the size of a .50 FMJ) to a speed close to the speed of light. As the kinetic energy equation [E=(mv^2)/2] shows, the muzzle energy of such weapons would be 1,8x10^18 J, i.e. close to 300 MT TNT equivalent (which is 6 times the yield of Tsar-Bomba, the most powerful nuclear device detonated ever). Even at half the speed of light we're still speaking about the yield greater than the one of the Little Boy.
    • Even more than that, actually, since the kinetic energy of a massive body approaches infinity as its velocity approaches 'c'.
    • Forget the the energy of the bullet: consider the power density of the battery required to pump out the juice needed to accelerate the bullet over a distance of just over a meter to "nearly the speed of light". Instead of the bad guys trying to sell weapons to some rinkydink rogue nutcase, they should be marketing the power supply to NASA, ESA, the Russians, the Chinese, or anyone else who want to toodle around in space.
    • And what happens to the bullet when it exits the barrel and hits the atmosphere at "near light speeds"? I wouldn't want to be the poor sap at the trigger end...

Video Games Edit

  • In Day of Sigma OVA, Sigma launches several large missiles, think ICBM sized, at Abel City. Several of these missiles touchdown and explode, leaving massive, smoking craters. Obviously, the shock waves from the explosions should've leveled the city outright.


Escher Architecture Edit

Art Edit

  • Cezanne tended to tilt table and play with angles so that more would be visible.
  • MC Escher was famous for his physics-defying artwork. The example image is a detail from his etching "Waterfall".

Video Games Edit


Fire Doesn't Work That Way Edit

Webcomics Edit

  • El Goonish Shive: Somewhere A Physicist Is Crying. That would be Panel 3 of this strip. And he cries some more in this strip.
    • Turns out this one is simple: A summoner wanted a fire monster, but there's no such thing as "living fire," so he ended up creating a monster that looks like fire but isn't actually hot and can be "extinguished."
    • The comic's 'New Readers Guide' immediately warns us thusly: "WARNING: Often ignores the laws of physics." found here


Steam Does Not Puff That Way Edit

...In other words, Steamflunk.

Works of fiction that involve steam power sometimes overlook the basic way in which steam power actually works, or ignore the fine details so as to not bog down the storyline.

Specifically transgressions include:

  • Steam engines are hungry. They use enormous quantities of fuel at a much less efficient rate than internal combustion engines, and have to be periodically refilled with water. Not only does this mean that operating a steam powered machine quite labor-intensive, the infrastructure needed to meet these demands is often overlooked.
  • Between the combined weight of the engine, the aforementioned extravagant amounts of fuel, and the water required to make a boiler function, steam powered flying machines are a flat impossibility (there is no way to make a steam engine efficient enough to overcome all that extra weight). There's a reason that hot air balloons were the only form of human flight until the internal combustion engine.
  • Steam power is dangerous. The steam pressure and boiler levels must be constantly monitored to keep the whole thing from exploding.
  • Steam power is filthy, at least when the heat source is an actual fire and not Phlebotinum. Anyone or anything in the vicinity of the machine is going to get dirty with soot and possibly coal dust. The machine in question will also have to be manually cleaned of ash and minerals built up inside of the boiler. Not to mention the staggering levels of smog and pollution in a steam-based society--the famous London Smog, for instance, came from so many residences and factories burning coal and venting the smoke right into the air.
  • Most of this pertains to some historic implementations, steam technology is quite open-ended. Any source of heat will do, even fossil fuels can be burned much more cleanly without the constraints of internal combustion engines. Inefficiency also isn't necessarily bad, otherwise we wouldn't use steam technology in power plants or nuclear-fueled ships.
    • In point of fact, the reason steam is used in power plants is that it is very nearly the only way to convert heat into motion, and that motion to electricity is pretty damn efficient, upwards of 80%. This is also why wind and water power are so popular; they convert directly from motion to electricity. The conversion from coal to heat to steam, however, is something much less efficient, about 30% efficient. The reason steam power is used is because it works anywhere and on any fuel, not because inefficiency is a desirable thing.

Specific examples:

  • Disney's Atlantis: The Lost Empire did a good job with this, at first. The submarine had several shots of a realistically designed boiler and engine room, and later, after the submarine was incapacitated and abandoned, the convoy of wheeled vehicles appears to include a giant tank of water. However, the film fails hard when "The Digger" rolls onto the scene. From the outset, this vehicle doesn't seem to have near enough boilers space (the moving parts alone are as big as a pickup!) When it briefly breaks down, it backfires flame--Audry then suggests fixing it with a part from a gasoline/diesel truck. Worst of all is when it starts making an idling sound like an internal combustion engine--seconds after Milo starts fiddling with the boiler.
  • The spider, the wheelchair, and many other gadgets from the 1999 Wild Wild West film are stated to operate on steam, but do not appear to have any provisions for carrying and delivering fuel and water.
  • The three fireplace-sized logs that Doc gives to Marty in Back to The Future III would not be sufficient to run a steam locomotive for a mile or more. This example overlaps with Just Train Wrong, because the idea behind a steam locomotive is to produce a steady, even source of heat and raise the water/steam temperature incrementally. Since there's such a large volume of fluid a significant, but short burst of heat probably wouldn't be sufficient to raise the pressure in any significant way.
  • Real Life example: One of the first locomotives that George Stephenson built exploded, because the crews left it sitting and didn't realize they had to keep an eye on the pressure. To be fair, this was before most of the standard safety mechanisms had even been developed.

Notes

  1. wind-elemental and located in a temperate region
  2. water-elemental, located very far North, in the world's equivalent to the Arctic circle
  3. The Core, Star Trek, X-Men: The Last Stand, Monsters vs. Aliens, to name a few.