A joint Fermilab/SLAC publication

The twisted physics of cartoons and anime

06/23/08

A few months ago we ran a story in symmetry on bad physics in movies and TV, and how scientists, working as consultants, try to set things right. So I was pleased to find, via Talk Like a Physicist, a lengthy and impressive compilation of the Anime Laws of Physics:

#2 - Law of Differentiated Gravitation: Whenever someone or something jumps, is thrown, or otherwise is rendered airborne, gravity is reduced by a factor of 4.

#46 - Law of Flimsy Incognition: (from Conrad Knauer) Simply changing into a costume or wearing a teensy mask can make you utterly unrecognizable to even your closest friends and relatives.

#3 - Law of Sonic Amplification, First Law of Anime Acoustics: In space, loud sounds, like explosions, are even louder because there is no air to get in the way.

#6 - Law of Temporal Variability: Time is not a constant. Time stops for the hero whenever he does something 'cool' or 'impressive'. Time slows down when friends and lovers are being killed and speeds up whenever there is a fight.

#12 - Law of Phlogistatic Emission: Nearly all things emit light from fatal wounds.

#26 - Law of Feline Mutation
(from A. Hicks)

Any half-cat/half-human mutation will invariably: 1) be female, 2) will possess ears and sometimes a tail as a genetic mutation, 3) wear as little clothing as possible, if any

The intro to the list, which was created by Ryan Shellito and Darrin Bright, notes that the laws of physics are somewhat different in anime than they are in American cartoons. Snuffing around a bit, I found this helpful guide to Cartoon Laws of Physics:

Cartoon Law I

Any body suspended in space will remain in space until made aware of its situation.

Cartoon Law VII

Certain bodies can pass through solid walls painted to resemble tunnel entrances; others cannot.

This trompe l'oeil inconsistency has baffled generations, but at least it is known that whoever paints an entrance on a wall's surface to trick an opponent will be unable to pursue him into this theoretical space.

Cartoon Law VIII

Any violent rearrangement of feline matter is impermanent. Cartoon cats possess even more deaths than the traditional nine lives might comfortably afford. They can be decimated, spliced, splayed, accordion-pleated, spindled, or disassembled, but they cannot be destroyed. After a few moments of blinking self pity, they reinflate, elongate, snap back, or solidify.

Corollary:  A cat will assume the shape of its container.

Special bonus:  Check out these videos of Dr. James Kakalios, author of The Physics of Superheroes, explaining "Spider-Man and Conservation of Momentum, or What Killed Gwen Stacy?"; "Electro & Magneto;" "Superman's Blooper;" and "The Atom's Blooper."

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