In RealLife, an engineer's job is to design processes, machines or structures that perform a certain task, and perform it efficiently, reliably and safely. It's a challenging job, involving analytical thinking and mathemathics as well as creativity -- and last but not least, ''common sense''.

Not so in fiction. When you let a writer of fiction dream up a machine, odds are good that you'll end up with something that is horribly inefficient, [[NoOSHACompliance unsafe]], or just plain [[ArtisticLicensePhysics physically impossible]].

The reasons for this vary:
* Many writers [[CoolButInefficient will not even think about functionality]] when designing a machine; they're more concerned with the "look" and "feel" their machines convey rather than whether they actually make sense given the function they're supposed to perform. This is often the case with spaceships in [[MohsScaleOfScienceFictionHardness softer]] ScienceFiction.
* Even those writers that pay some attention to functionality often can't be bothered to think things through. Fuel consumption? Maintenance needs? Heat dissipation? They're the last things most writers worry about.
* And then there's failure to think outside the box -- that is, failure to consider that there might be [[BoringButPractical other, perhaps less spectacular ways]] to get the job done. Even machines that have been properly "designed" and thought through will make no sense whatsoever if there is clearly another, much more efficient way to do what they do.

If the work is set in modern times, you're supposed to [[MST3KMantra ignore it]], but if it is in a sci-fi or fantasy setting, it's a toss-up whether it will be ignored completely, explained as being made of {{Unobtainium}} or AppliedPhlebotinum of some nature, or only working because AWizardDidIt or a HigherTechSpecies show us how.

A ''very'' frequent cause of AwesomeButImpractical. CoolButInefficient is a subtrope. Related to NoOSHACompliance, as process safety is a pretty big issue for most engineers in RealLife.

See also: ArtistsAreNotArchitects, SciFiWritersHaveNoSenseOfScale, SquareCubeLaw.


[[folder: Anime & Manga ]]

* Most {{Humongous Mecha}}s except for these:
** Creator/ShirowMasamune, is in fact, an engineer. (Even he applies [[AcceptableBreakFromReality Artistic Licence]] though.)
** Creator/ShojiKawamori as well, and an aerospace engineer at that.
** Creator/TsutomuNihei is an architect/civil engineer by training, [[WriteWhatYouKnow and it shows]].
** ''Manga/TwentiethCenturyBoys'' features an engineer who gets kidnapped to build one and rants at his kidnappers about just how undoable it really is. Eventually, it does get built, [[spoiler: but it's a barely-functional one just for show so that the BigBad can steal credit from the hero for saving the world from it.]]
** ''LightNovel/FullMetalPanic'' actually used this in an interesting way: One HumongousMecha fell apart once the AppliedPhlebotinum allowing it to ignore its own weight failed.
* Mecha in general often touch this trope. A bipedal machine is, with anything resembling modern technology (or in the near-future sans [[HandWave Handwavium]]), a horribly complex, inefficient, and dangerous way to design a war machine. Just the stabilizing and moving systems alone would be a nightmare.
** Add a double dose of this when considering combining or transforming mecha. The sheer number of moving parts alone would give any engineer worth his salt a drinking problem let alone connecting the control systems and electrical circuits from two or more separate craft into a cohesive whole. Also consider how hard it is for pilots to refuel in mid-flight through a fuel line and then imagine ''ramming'' another mecha in order to combine...
* While ''Anime/NeonGenesisEvangelion'' narrowly averts this, it still gets caught in [[ArtisticLicensePhysics bad physics]] and [[ArtisticLicenseBiology impossible anatomy]]. The Evangelion mechas are actually [[spoiler: [[EldritchAbomination giant humanoid gods/aliens cloned from a giant alien that is linked to the creation of man]]. They were also placed in armor so tight and confining that they couldn't move without being piloted.]] However, the SquareCubeLaw would still keep the Evangelions from moving fast at all. Also, the midsections of the Evangelions are very thin, being even more narrow than their heads. So, they shouldn't even be able to stand, let alone move around.


[[folder: Fan Works ]]

* Lampshaded in ''FanFic/FantasyOfUtterRidiculousness'', in which [[WesternAnimation/MegasXLR Megas's]] PlotSensitiveButton makes it clear that "Technology Does Not Work This Way". Pushing the button results in a reverse-MIRV being fired. [[note]]That is, all the missiles would combine together into one warhead.[[/note]]
* Mostly averted in ''FanFic/LeftBeyond'' with the exception of nuclear technology, which the writer intentionally did not want to depict accurately. All the new technological development introduced by the Omega in the 2900s would be prefaced by an article showing something similar under development circa 2015.


[[folder: Film ]]

* ''Franchise/StarWars'': There is a lot of debate of how possible/impossible the city-planet of Coruscant is, and not least the concept of miles-high buildings and the infrastructure required to maintain them and the population they contain.
** One notable offender is the Senate Building. Its central chamber is so large that unless the air inside was kept extremely dry, clouds would condense in the upper tiers. [[note]]This actually happens in some NASA buildings![[/note]]
** There's also the issue of how a city-spanning planet could possibly void all the heat that it generates, and the gaseous exhaust of trillions of vehicles, building systems, and industrial facilities.
** Another: The SquareCubeLaw notwithstanding, the buildings are so slender in comparison to height, that the slightest breeze would probably cause them to [[ buckle]].
** The chicken walkers (AT-ST's) are just walking targets. The Hoth walkers (AT-AT's) make a bit more sense, if we take into account that repulsor coils big enough to make something as big as an AT-AT float would be such an energy drain that the power plant wouldn't be feasible for mass production. The only reason two AT-AT's got taken out at all was more Luke's RuleOfCool then anything else. [[note]]Then again, ExpandedUniverse information implies that the only reason the AT-AT's were a threat in the first place was because weather conditions on Hoth prevented the Rebels from using anything other than modified civilian airspeeders, which lacked the firepower necessary to dispatch the walkers[[/note]]
** The prequels and Clone Wars series make this worse, since the earlier designs were much more effective. The Clone equivalent to an AT-AT could walk straight up cliffs, had a lower center of gravity distributed further apart on more limbs, and had weapons that didn't [[FixedForwardFacingWeapon all face forward]] just for one example... and [[{{Handwave}} vulnerable to the above-mentioned mines that the AT-AT have long legs against]]. For the record, the disadvantages of low height actually came up in the first ''[[WesternAnimation/StarWarsTheCloneWars Clone Wars]]'' cartoon, where Durge and his lancer droids were able to trash the AT-TE walkers with their lances.
** Maybe this is excessive --SuspensionOfDisbelief exists for some reason-- but if as according to EU sources the reactor of Imperial Star Destroyers generate the same energy as a small star, unless they had ''very'' good heat dissipation technologies (not just the exhaust vents the Death Star had) there'd be enough waste heat[[note]]Something impossible to avoid because of the Second Law of Thermodynamics[[/note]] to vaporize them. The Death Star's hypermatter reactor, far more powerful, has those same problems UpToEleven.
* In ''Film/{{Laura}}'', the clocks' strike is a key plot point in the movieóbut wind-up clocks need separate drive trains for moving the hands and striking the time, and so require two keyholes on the clock face. The prop clocks seen in the movie only have one keyhole, which would be for the hands; hence, they could not actually have struck the time.
* In general any time an elevator car falls due to the cables being damaged or cut, most writers don't seem to be aware of the redundant emergency braking systems in place on the car rails. If they are featured they tend to take a long time to kick-in with lots of impressive sparks and grinding noises.
** In real life when people questioned this when the elevator was first demonstrated at a world fair the inventor assured everyone by ''getting into the car himself and ordering the cables to be cut.'' The brakes engaged immediately as designed.

[[folder: Literature ]]

* Architecture and machinery that fits, or appears to fit, this trope is common in Creator/DrSeuss books, [[ItRunsOnNonsensoleum which are nonsensical anyways.]]
* Trantor, the capitol of the Galactic Empire in Creator/IsaacAsimov's Literature/{{Foundation}} series, is a planet-spanning city like Coruscant in the example below (in fact, it's been suggested that Trantor was the inspiration for Coruscant). The engineering problems might be somewhat averted by the fact that unlike Coruscant, most of Trantor is underground. However, in later books in the series, people seem to have no trouble at all stripping away entire sections of the city, with apparently no concern for what it might do to the structural stability of surrounding parts of the city. Well, they do call that period "The sacking of Trantor". There had been said at some point in the books Trantor was inhabited by 40 billion people whose entire way of life depended of fleets of spaceships [[CasualInterstellarTravel bringing in foodstuffs each day and taking trash out]].
* Averted in the ''Literature/VorkosiganSaga''; all the engineering is realistic, and the 5-space theory expounded in ''Literature/{{Komarr}}'' sounds plausible.
* ''Literature/HonorHarrington'' has multi-hundred-story skyscrapers that are strong enough to stand on their own. They use countergrav for construction and to allow people to avoid spending half their lives in elevators.


[[folder: Live Action TV ]]

* ''Series/{{Revolution}}'': [[spoiler: Electricity isn't the only thing Monroe needs to get his helicopters flying from [[Recap/RevolutionS1E10NobodysFaultButMine episode 10]] onward. These machines have sat idle for 15 years, and fuel and lubricants do not last indefinitely. There's also a good chance that the avionics have physically degraded with time and exposure to the elements]].
* ''Franchise/StarTrek'': Routinely violates sound engineering principles. If you took a drink for every time the TNG ''Enterprise'' was nearly destroyed because something like the reactor [[FailsafeFailure failsafes failing]], you'd be comatose within a few episodes. Limited (or lack of) systems redundancy, no compartmentalization of critical systems, lack of surge protectors that cause control consoles to explode just about every time the ''Enterprise'' gets shot, using active measures like force fields for biohazard containment (instead of, say, a freaking ''box'' marked "biohazard") ... the list is endless.
** Lets not forget the original ''Enterprise'''s pencil-neck, which by all means would snap off whenever it did anything resembling a turn. Later ship designs downplay the length and thicken the "neck" section, generally making it slightly more believable, even if it was still a rather unsound design. This particular weakness gets graphically demonstrated in ''Film/StarTrekBeyond'' when [[spoiler:[[BigBad Krall's]] [[ZergRush swarm attack]] slices off both warp nacelles, preventing the ''Enterprise'' from pulling a HyperspeedEscape, before cutting through the neck and leaving both the saucer and drive sections helpless]].
** ''Star Trek'' also misuses terms such as "alloy" and "compound".
** But averted in [[Series/StarTrekTheNextGeneration TNG]] when Scotty tells Geordi that he wrote the original regulations conservatively. It's not (just) that it makes him look good when Kirk asked for more and Scotty could deliver, it's also that it's simply a good idea to not run the device at redline the whole time (reduces wear and tear, for one thing).
** On a more philosophical level, the franchise generally doesn't seem at all clear on the ''vast'' differences between engineers, spacegoing engineers, scientists, and so on. Presumably an artifact of having TheMainCharactersDoEverything... on the other hand, this might explain a lot about Starfleet.
* ''Series/StarTrekVoyager'':
** They decided that it would be a great idea if instead of metal wiring, most of the ship's utterly vital systems are connected with gel packs, which are basically biological goo. Not only does it open up engineering weaknesses that no good old copper wire would face (such as one instance where it was poisoned by Neelix's [[LethalChef cooking]]) but also cannot be replicated or grown. Yes, they chose the one system that couldn't be made on the fly with their replicators. They also have have other engineering slip ups like have no emergency lights and ''manual'' door overrides that don't work if it doesn't have ''power.''
** And perhaps the most incomprehensible engineering choice in all of Star Trek, making the power supply for the Voyager holodeck ''incompatible'' with the rest of the ship. A power generator ''built into Voyager'' is somehow incompatible with the rest of Voyager. Why any engineer would design such a baffling system has never been explained.
* In ''Series/HaltAndCatchFire'', Cameron's computer experiences a power surge, burning out her hard drive. Donna and the Cardiff Electric engineers attempt to recover the data by removing the platters from Cameron's busted hard drive, mounting the platters onto a second drive, and if the FAT[[note]]File Allocation Table[[/note]] is still intact, move the data to a third drive. It's a rather convoluted solution that could theoretically work; however, Donna and the engineers were handling the platters out in the open rather than in a controlled, dust-free clean room; opening a hard drive outside of a clean room environment can more or less destroy it. The clearance between a hard drive platter and its read[=/=]write head is only a handful of nanometers; even contaminants as small as dust, smoke, and human hair will ruin a hard drive and its stored data.
* ''Series/TheManInTheHighCastle'': The Nazis have rebuilt downtown Berlin according to Hitler's master plan, with [[SigilSpam swastika-festooned]] megastructures all over the place, most conspicuously the truly-enormous ''Volkshalle''. Unlike VideoGame/WolfensteinTheNewOrder, which handwaved it with a [[AppliedPhlebotinum "super concrete,"]] no attempt is made to explain how such enormous structures can stand in a ''city built on a swamp''.[[note]]In real life, ''Reichsminister'' Albert Speer had several concrete test pylons placed around Berlin to evaluate the feasibility of Hitler's dream city. They can still be seen today, although they've sunk considerably since 1944 and are still sinking. Berlin's underlying soil is too soft and damp to take that kind of load.[[/note]] Another engineering problem with the ''Volkshalle'' is also left out, namely that a dome that size would have its own indoor precipitation because of the humidity brought in by 100,000 or more people standing inside.


[[folder: Table Top Games ]]

* Just about every single thing to come out of ''TabletopGame/{{Warhammer 40000}}'' is either made out of shot traps, should collapse in on itself, or both. Even the more reasonably designed Imperial Guard tanks like the Baneblade are literally built out of shot traps, with short ranged guns that have bores nearly as large as their length as standard armament. It's only that tabletop rules forbid doing so that stops anyone from simply shooting the Baneblade in its Demolisher cannon and destroying it.
** Digging into the lore of Battlefleet Gothic produces quite a few more of these. Among other things a "torpedo" is an eighty-metre long self-steering engine that overloads its reactor core when it gets close enough to something, which sounds reasonable enough... until you realize it gets transported from the magazine to the tubes by [[WeWillUseManualLaborInTheFuture armies of serfs with pulleys and a trolley]].
** When they actually go and present the specifications behind the equipment in the setting, the results are often underwhelming, as [[ one image]] comparing the Land Raider to the [[CoolTank M1 Abrams]].
** Surprisingly enough, averted in some of the armour designs - The [[ "walking tank" style model]] of Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka was sculpted by someone with a background in mechanical engineering, who made a point of making the joints, pistons and servos actually be there for a reason.
*** Which is somewhat bizarre, considering that the Orks actually have a canonical justification for using this trope (They are all latent psykers, so if enough [[ClapYourHandsIfYouBelieve Orks think something should work, it works]]).


[[folder: Video Games ]]

* This trope came back to bite the creators of the latest ''VideoGame/RedFaction'' game. Apparently [[GoneHorriblyRight the combination of their famed Geomod engine with a realistic physics engine caused the outrageous "futuristic" buildings they planned on using in the game to collapse under their own weight]], forcing them to go back to the drawing board with more sensible architecture. Explained by Volition themselves [[ here]].
* ''VideoGame/TheSims'', falling under acceptable breaks of reality, since house building can take a long time without you thinking how many pillars to put to support the entire structure. Of course, there are also GoodBadBugs that allow things like a ''floating house''.
* ''VideoGame/{{Minecraft}}'' doesn't so much have an artistic license as it has ''[[ToonPhysics entirely separate laws of physics from reality]]''. On one hand, sand, gravel, and most living things will respect the laws of gravity while most other blocks ignore it entirely, enabling [[FloatingContinent floating continents]] and [[OminousFloatingCastle fortresses]] to be built and naturally generate with a little effort. Yet on the other, most anything electronic baring mods follow the laws of electronics mostly swimmingly (well, minus the fact that [[PerpetualMotionMachine redstone torches]] produce seemingly infinite power.)
* ''VideoGame/DwarfFortress''. An entire fortress held up off the ground by one single brick of soap? They've been done, and that's considered ''relatively insignificant''. Then again, without Dwarfy physics, we wouldn't get the mind-bendingly complex {{Death Trap}}s and megaprojects that Dorfs have been known to build. Case in point, DOMAIN, a suborbital KillSat defense network that works by ''[[CrowningMomentOfAwesome pumping magma up to dozens of Z-levels above ground level and dropping it on opponents]]'', is still making the rounds on the Bay 12 forums.
* Rado's Annex, a free-standing two story subtower connected to Darm Tower by a walkway on the ''sixteenth floor'' in the ''VideoGame/{{Ys}}'' series is pretty much structurally impossible. Yunica actually points this out when she first sees it in ''Origins''.
* In ''VideoGame/StarcraftII'' the Viking transforming assault fighter can flip from starfighter to ground-walking mecha. The background description in the game strongly implies that ''transforming can kill an insufficiently agile pilot'' somehow, which is just plain idiotic. There's no call for the interior of the cockpit to be somehow involved in the transformation, nor would you ever want to field something that could kill the pilot as part of its normal performance going right.
** An InUniverse version with Terran buildings, which continue to burn down when their HP is in the red without enemy assistance, due to electrical shorts, ruptured vespene tanks, and "hasty and often improvised construction." You'd think after decades in the Terran sector, they'd have learned to fix these, especially when the UED (remember, the guys from Earth) show up using the exact same buildings. One of the available upgrades in the campaign are firefighter drones that deploy when a building is in the red and fix it up to half its HP.
** A subversion with the Odin, which is noted to be laughably AwesomeButImpractical. So Swann comes up with the Thor, a smaller-scale, mass-producible version... but by no Means a MiniMecha, the thing needs to be airlifted by a DropShip that can hold two tanks.
* The ''VideoGame/MetalGear'' series makes heavy use of HumongousMecha in general. Notable in that [[VideoGame/MetalGearSolid3 one of the games]] actually lampshades [[SelfDeprecation how impractical the design is]].
* The M808 Scorpion tank of ''Franchise/{{Halo}}'' has several highly questionable design elements. The Scorpion is apparently a "light tank" that is larger than the '''''[[MilitaryMashupMachine Panzerkampfwagen VII Maus]]'''''. Here's a scale comparison between the [[ Scorpion, aforementioned Maus, and the sanely designed M1 Abrams]], which is itself criticized by some as excessively large. Its M820 successor, introduced in ''VideoGame/Halo5Guardians'', has a slightly more sound design (and a much higher-caliber cannon). To put this all in comparison, here are the actual numbers:
** The M1 Abrams is 8ft tall, the Maus is 11ft tall, and the Scorpion is 14ft tall. M1 Abrams is 12ft wide, the Maus is 12ft wide, and the Scorpion is ''26ft'' wide.
** The Scorpion's max speed is 54km/h, while the original M1 Abrams can do 72km/h on roads and 48km/h cross-country, beating most of it's contemporaries, excluding the french [[UsefulNotes/GaulsWithGrenades Leclerc]] which can match the Abram's road speed and hit 55km/h cross country. In fairness, [[DamnedByFaintPraise it is faster than the Maus]] and its top speed of 20km/h.
* The spinigun assault rifle barrel in ''VideoGame/{{Borderlands 2}}'' is attached below the receiver, meaning the bullets have to curve from the chamber, down the bore, and into the rotating barrel assembly.
* Suffice to say, ''Franchise/FiveNightsAtFreddys'' is not an accurate representation of animatronics:
** The animatronics are far above real life animatronics, being more like full-fledged {{Killer Robot}}s as opposed to computer-controlled puppets. Most animatronics are completely unable to walk around due to their wires, power supply etc. typically being below a stage and attached through the legs (which, incidentally, are not often built with functioning joints), and even if they could, they would break apart as animatronics are often designed to break if enough pressure is applied so as to prevent injury. If the [[BrainFood Bite of 87]] really happened, an animatronic's jaw would be the only serious casualty.
** Their endoskeletons resemble thin skeletal robots, which are a far cry from the more complex endoskeletons in real animatronics. In addition, they're identical aside from their costumes, whereas realistically each character would have a unique endoskeleton.
** Mangle, despite being taken apart and put back together in a haphazard fashion by children (a feat which itself raises eyebrows), can move around, hang from ceilings and support its own weight while doing so. Realistically it shouldn't be able to do more than be a pile of scrap on the floor.
** The springlock suits mentioned in [[Videogame/FiveNightsAtFreddys3 the third game]] act as both fully functional animatronics (again, with no apparent power supply or computer lines) and employee costumes via retracting the endoskeleton pieces around the sides of the suit. Looking at one such suit (Springtrap), however, you'll notice that even if the endoskeleton could still work as an animatronic after essentially being torn apart, there really isn't much room for the pieces to go to around the suit (especially in the limbs, and the feet, which are basically large blocks of metal) and comfortably allow a human to fit inside.
* ''VideoGame/FarmingSimulator 17'', being a [[SimulationGame simulator]], goes out of its way to detail the ''graphics'' of the vehicles and attachments with such things as power take-offs, three-point hitches, ball hitches, and fifth wheels. But when it comes to actually hooking the equipment up, you can get away with all kinds of shenanigans. For example, you could run a beet-harvesting wagon behind a pick-up truck with the harvester's power take-off driveshaft obviously hanging in midair. [[note]]A power take-off is basically an exposed auxiliary driveshaft that allows a vehicle to provide rotational power to some other accessory. It's an essential feature of farm tractors, and fifth-wheel trucks sometimes offer them too. Consumer pickups don't generally offer it standard.[[/note]]