"In the course of my life, I have more than once been too ignorant to know that something was impossible before I did it anyway."In a world bound by laws of physics, some things are just impossible. Even when magic is involved, there are often limits. Despite this, somehow there's someone who can do things thought impossible, simply because they do not realize that they should be incapable of the achievement. Any of the characters might occasionally be And You Thought It Was a Game, but it can be a recurring trait for a Genius Ditz or a Bungling Inventor. This trope focuses on the times the character in question achieved what he or she did largely because they had absolutely no idea that it was supposed to be impossible. In contrast to many cartoons, which consistently (and inconsistently) apply and dismiss physics for the Rule of Funny, this trope is typically meant to occur when the act in question goes against whatever physics are firmly established within The Verse. Generally the best way to tell the difference is whether or not the Achievement in Ignorance can be lampshaded or not. This can be played either seriously or for laughs. If for comedy, it is often The Ditz who does the undoable deed. If for drama, the character in question may be a genius or prodigy in his particular field. This happens in Real Life, usually with things like math or physics equations and occasionally with feats of daring that the accidental daredevil hasn't been told are life-threatening. On the more mundane side of things are people learning or successfully trying things their more learned peers were taught couldn't be done. Compare with Magic Feather (which gives people confidence to do things they only think are impossible for themselves), Beyond the Impossible (for impossible events or people trying to break the rules), Too Dumb to Fool (where a fool immediately sees through a lie or other treachery), Centipede's Dilemma (where being aware of what you're doing makes it harder to do when it's not literally impossible), Beginner's Luck, and Strategy Schmategy. Also compare Runs on Ignorance, which deals with devices that require ignorance in order to work. Compare Accidental Discovery. Contrast Power Born of Madness (in which the person does impossible deeds because he no longer cares if they're impossible),the Determinator (who tends to do this kind of thing intentionally), and Metagame which is about achievements in meta-knowledge. May lead to a How Unscientific! moment. A Snipe Hunt may occasionally end this way. Related to Clap Your Hands If You Believe, in which this can quite literally be the case; and "How Did You Know?" "I Didn't." when the situation is not limited to physics, just a highly improbable lucky guess. See also Magic A Is Magic A, which the perpetrators of this trope tend to violate. Also see Too Dumb to Fool, which can sometimes be the source of this trope.
— Antillar Maximus, Codex Alera
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- Vince the Crash Test Dummy manages to drive—until Larry reminds him he can't—in this 1988 commercial from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Anime & Manga
- In All Around Type Moon, Rin Tohsakah, while learning to use a computer, makes a mistake and summons the player Saber from Fate/EXTRA. Let's reiterate; Rin summoned a Servant from an alternate future, an act of the Second True Magic, simply by being Hopeless with Tech. And at the end of the chapter, she manages to summon the game's other servants.
- Shaman King
- This trope is used to explain why it is that a bunch of kids are being sent to stop the reincarnated antagonist who has spent nearly a thousand years training in hell to become more powerful, and recently is on the verge of merging with God/The Great Spirit. Essentially, the adults have hit the barrier where they begin to realize there are limitations. The kids are too young/stupid to realize there are limitations yet.
- Harsher in Hindsight strikes in the sequel manga, the cast has grown and DOES realize their limitation, unable to change the world in the slightest, which mean Hao wins not only the tournament but also the bet. Rosseau was wrong?
- Dragon Ball:
- Goku trained for the 22nd Greatest Under the Heavens Martial Arts Tournament by running around the world without using the Kinto'Un (Flying Nimbus cloud) on account of advice from Master Roshi; When asked how he got to the tournament, he said he swam from Yahhoy which turned out to be on the other side of the world from the tournament.
- Much later, in Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods, Goku is able to keep landing hits on Beerus even when his god power runs out for this reason.
- In Super Dimension Fortress Macross/Robotech, this was the trope that enabled the crew of the SDF-1 to perform an extreme low altitude space-fold jump, which the enemy Zentraedi thought was impossible. The humans still barely understood a portion of the alien ship's capabilities and simply didn't know that using that system so close to a planet was considered an insane move. As it is, the human's seriously overshot their intended destination of the moon to just beyond Pluto and the stunned Zentraedi are left wondering if these supposed space warfare amateurs are actually tactical geniuses. The humans also irreparably banjaxed the space-fold drive -by which we mean to say they made it vanish in a Puff of Logic- but the Zentraedi had no way to know that. This would only be the first of many Indy Ploy or outright accidents that ended up confusing and impressing the Zentraedi.
- At the very beginning of Hajime no Ippo, Takamura challenges Ippo to catch a certain number of leaves falling from a tree. He expects Ippo to use both hands. Except he doesn't tell Ippo that. Ippo works his ass off to achieve the feat the same it was demonstrated by Takamura: one-handed.
- In Cahe Detective Club, Nana Mizuha wins an "All you can eat" contest with this. The sad thing is, she wasn't even trying and was taking her time, to the ire of her Unknown Rival Yurika Minamigawara.
- The first part of the Chunin Exam is designed to test students' sneaking and information gathering skills. The test accomplishes this by being ridiculously hard, so that the students will need to cheat to get the correct answers. They are penalized for being caught cheating. The expectation is that the students will realize that they need to cheat and not get caught. All of Team 7 passes, but only Sasuke figures out the intent of the test. Sakura works out the answers by hand, and Naruto leaves his test completely blank; neither gets caught cheating, so they pass. The proctor of the exam is rather amused when he sees Naruto's exam paper.
- To a lesser extent, Sasuke never seemed to realize that his teammates are unable to cheat and might need him to pass answers like Kankuro, Tenten, or Ino were able to do.
- Toya Akira from Hikaru no Go is forced to play a series of blind go games while cleaning a storage room. He succeeds against the more experienced players but cannot follow the logic of the novice because he has no real strategy.
- In Sword Art Online, when Kirito joins the gun-based Virtual MMORPG Gun Gale Online, he uses his exceptional reflexes to win a bullet-dodging game but plays it off as this, claiming he was simply anticipating the target-line indicators used to mark where a shot is about to be fired. It works, as all the other players present react as if they had never considered trying to do that.
- Issei routinely attempts to pull stunts like this in High School D×D, with varying degrees of success. A shining example comes in his first showdown with Vali, where he grabs a fragment of Vali's Divine Diving armor and declares he'll incorporate it into his Boosted Gear armor so he'll have a hand that can punch Vali without activating his magic. Albion points out the two are equal and opposite and the idea is patently ridiculous, to which Ddraig lampshades this trope, and Issei proceeds to do it anyway.
- Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann:
- The very first combining happens because Kamina, in his ignorance and insanity, figures that just slamming two Gunmen together will combine them. Lucky for him, he used one made for this task, although it looks at first that he instead just almost impaled himself.
- The whole series kind of goes on with this. At one point Team Dai-Gurren completes a difficult operation—later, their supercomputer reveals the odds of their victory had been computed beforehand, but hadn't told them because the result showed that success was a complete impossibility.
"The chance of success for this mission was 0%, but I can see theoretical calculations don't mean anything to you people."
- In Gundam Build Fighters, when China tries her hand and building a Gunpla and finds herself in a Gunpla battle, she defeats her main rival due to the fact she stuffed her Gunpla, Bearguy III, with cotton, helping to absorb the shock of an otherwise fatal attack. She didn't do this as a deliberate strategy, she did it to adhere to Bearguy's backstory of being a stuffed animal turned into a robot.
- Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo has Don Patch do this in the fight against Poet; an attack that takes away his teammates' memories does nothing to him because he is, by his own admission, apparently too stupid to have memories.
- In Fate/kaleid liner PRISMA☆ILLYA, flight is an advanced magical skill that requires complex calculations to perform. Illya shocks the others by causally doing it just because she watches a lot of anime and thinks magical girls are supposed to be able to fly. Miyu, on the other hand, inverts this — she cannot fly because she thinks it's impossible, despite Illya doing it right in front of her. When Illya tries showing Miyu an anime depicting a flying magical girl, Miyu just points out all the scientific reasons why it shouldn't work.
- In One-Punch Man, Saitama 100% honestly believes that his absolutely insane levels of strength, speed, and durability came from his daily basic training regimen of 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, 100 squats, and 10 kilometers of running. Everybody incredulously points out it's physically impossible for a normal human to get that strong even if they trained all the time for the rest of their lives.
- In Fairy Tail, Natsu grabs Virgo just as Duke Everlue summons her, resulting in him getting dragged with her to the Celestial Spirit World and then to Everlue's location. Shocked, Lucy asks Natsu how he's still alive, as the Celestial Spirit World's atmosphere has no oxygen so only spirits like Virgo can survive in it. Natsu says he hadn't noticed. Then again, he was only there for a few seconds at most.
- Neil Gaiman's The Sandman meets Hob Gadling, a 14th century peon who believes that people only die because they accept death as inevitable. By choosing to reject death, he believes he can live forever. Now, Hob's premise is completely, horribly wrong, but Death is so amused by his stupidity that she grants his wish. In a roundabout sort of way, this also makes him completely correct, just not for the reason he thinks. Hob ended up becoming one of Dream's few friends.
- Jeff Doe's whole character revolves around this. In The Epic Life, Jeff is a teenager with a very bent understanding of logic and reasoning. It isn't clear if this is the source of his power, but regardless, he has no concept of "abnormal" and follows his inclinations. Despite having no clear limits, he normally acts like a regular person (albeit absent-minded and innocent) averting the whole A God Am I trope.
- When Cassandra Cain was fighting the Joker, Cassandra was initially losing. Cassandra is able to analyze her opponent's fighting style to predict their next move, but the Joker has no fighting style - even he doesn't know his next move!!!
- When the Joker met Batman-expy Midnighter of The Authority, Midnighter, whose Stock Phrase is "I've fought this fight X thousand times in the supercomputer in my head so you've already lost" can only stare at the Joker with utterly no idea what to do next.
- The same thing happened when Taskmaster fought Deadpool. Taskmaster has the ability to analyze and duplicate any physical action, so he can instantly master any combat style just by observing it. Deadpool starts acting completely randomly and kicks his ass.
- In Seven Psychopaths, this is the in-story rationale for recruiting a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits to assassinate Hitler—all the sane people in the military have long since dismissed the notion of assassinating Hitler as impossible, so the only ones who stand a chance of succeeding are those who are too crazy to realize it's impossible.
- Atomic Robo:
- Why can giant ants exist despite the Square/Cube Law? Because they don't know there's a square cube law.
- At one point, one character thwarts an invasion of vampires from another dimension by using a plan that depended on the use of a Xenon laser. When he explains this, Robo informs him that the laser he used was not, in fact, a Xenon laser, and he doesn't think their facility even has one, leaving the guy baffled about how his plan worked.
- Taken to its extremes by Dr Dinosaur, whose inventions just plain don't make sense even within the context of a comic that once used the Large Hadron Collider as a proton cannon. This causes extreme frustration in Robo, who gets to watch the laws of reality bend into pretzel shapes because a delusional dromaeosaurid inverted gravity with a spanner, a lightbulb, two car batteries and a broken calculator.
- Tweedledope is a member of a group of villains called the Crazy Gang who can somehow create Applied Phlebotinum by just tinkering with junk. No doubt the most miraculous piece of machinery he created this way was the sentient portal-creating robot Widget.
- Green Lantern Simon Baz can ignore the limitations on his ring's capabilities because no-one told him about them.
- In one story from Wally Wood's Sally Forth, the characters are riding in a battle-scarred helicopter — until one of them points out that it should not be able to fly, causing it to fall immediately.
- In an Archie Comics story, the klutzy Archie loses his memory following an athletic mishap. Reggie toys with him by telling him he's the school's champion athlete, expecting that Archie will humiliate himself, only to be astonished when Archie proceeds to accomplish incredible athletic feats, such as a record-breaking pole vault without using a pole. When Archie throws a javelin beyond school property, accidentally puncturing a guy's tire, he gets a memory-restoring punch in the head and reverts to his usual clumsiness.
- In Fantastic Four, this has been used as an explanation for why Reality Warper Franklin Richards is so much more powerful as a young child than various adult versions of him (introduced via Time Travel) have been: he doesn't realize that all of the things he's doing are impossible. An adult Franklin who actually understands the laws of physics needs to think of ways to work around them, even though based on the way his powers work that's only a psychological limitation.
- In one Carl Barks comic, the Beagle Boys trick Super Goof into ingesting a formula that makes him so hungry he eats everything in sight, gaining a huge amount of weight. When he finally gets his act together and goes after them, he's so fat he can barely stay airborne. But he still apprehends the villains when he falls on them.
- Alfred E. Neuman of MAD fame displays this on various classic covers - sitting on a swing hanging from a branch he is holding, painting a white stripe down the middle of a road by painting a white road black and not painting the middle, etc.
- In Mass Effect Human Revolution, Conrad Verner, resident incompetent Butt Monkey and fanboy of the main characters, assembles a huge network of freelance mercenaries, repeatedly pulls off dangerous missions, and manages to even infiltrate an enemy frigate, sabotage it from the inside by accident, and then save everyone on board the ship. How does he do this? He found an original copy of a Shadowrun sourcebook and assumed it was a historical document, and then proceeded to follow it almost to the letter, not realizing it was a role-playing game.
Jensen: Wait...give me a moment to process this. Are you telling me Conrad LARP'ed his way throughout the Terminus systems and inadvertently created a network for freelance mercenaries?
- Team 8:
- While on their first "mission" (cleaning and repairing an injured herbalist's home), Kurenai has a full conversation with (who she thinks is) Naruto. He slips and falls off the roof, and then... he disappears in a cloud of smoke. It was a shadow clone. The strength and self-awareness of each clone is based on how much chakra is put into the technique, which is no problem for the chakra-riddled Naruto. But no one told Naruto that ever.
- Quite a lot of Naruto stories have Naruto accomplishing impossible or exceedingly difficult feats (such as creating a solid transformation technique) simply because he thinks' he's doing things right.
- My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic:
- Often the case with Ditzy "Derpy" Doo Hooves in fan works in general, though it seems more prevalent in fan fiction. She has been known to break the irrefutable laws of the universe, simply because she forgot it was impossible to break them.
- On a more "mundane" level, Wild, Sweet and Cool features Twilight and Rainbow Dash learning tandem racing, with Twilight as Rainbow's jockey. They do barrel rolls fine, but aileron rolls cause issues until they work out a system. Then they find out just what other pegasi think. (Or what they think of non-pegasi riders!)
- Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality:
- Inverted, as appropriate for a story where clear thinking rather than ignorance is a source of power. Harry lists out all the laws of wizardry describing things you can't do, and looks for restrictions that would sound plausible to wizards ignorant of science, but make no sense from a scientific standpoint. Harry zeroes in on the law saying that you can't Transfigure parts of whole objects—because as a Muggle knows, every whole object is made of individual atoms!
- A more standard version of the trope is invoked in Ch. 59, where Harry suddenly realizes that broomsticks run on Aristotelian physics—they just go where you point them, rather than continuing under their prior momentum and accelerating in the new direction pointed—presumably because the witch who invented them had never heard of Newtonian mechanics. (Which is a severe problem if you're an excellent pilot on standard broomsticks, and you've just ignited a powerful rocket, which does run on Newtonian mechanics, attached to your broomstick.)
- This Means War has Harry knowing lots of impossible magic due to ignorance.
- This also deconstructed the concept as well, as this can cut both ways.
- In Fate Stay/Night fanfic Nerve Damage, Shirou Emiya converted all his nerves into ad-hoc Magic Circuits prior to the story, making him obscenely powerful. When Rin finds out, she tells him that mages have been trying to achieve that very feat for centuries only to fail catastrophically, and even attempting it really should have killed him. It might well have, considering Avalon.
- Starlight Over Detrot has the Detrot Tenth Librum Publicum, which is bigger on the inside only because nobody told the Architect it couldn't be.
- In The Joke, Steve thinks nothing of moving Thor's hammer Mjolnir, unaware that only people that are considered worthy are supposed to be able to do so.
- Sight has Ichigo accepting his Inner Hollow as his dark side and choosing to compromise with him instead of fighting his Inner Hollow and locking him away. Ichigo nor his Hollow did all of this without being aware that Ichigo did something very dangerous and not considered possible.
- In The Changeling of the Guard, the heroic changeling Idol Hooves explores an entire crypt that's stuffed with ancient booby-traps, completely failing to realize that it's supposed to be dangerous. Part of this is thanks to his nigh-invulnerable carapace protecting him from Annoying Arrows and the like, but still. This comes as a hell of a shock to Daring Do and Ahuizotl, who are having one of their usual battles over a treasure when Idol obliviously wanders into the middle of it and freaks them both out.
- In A Protector's Pride, Rukia gathers the reishi (spirit energy) in the air to power her spells and doesn't think anything of it. Hitsugaya points out that is a technique exclusive to Quincies (Shinigami use the reishi in their own bodies).
- The Infinite Loops: Billy has managed to kill several omnipotent loopers (Han Solo, Anakin Skywalker (twice), the entire Mane Six, etc.), drive a completely insane person sane, who proceeds to shoot him, make Gendo Ikari of all people a looper, and crash three safe-mode punishment loops, through nothing but pure, lethal stupidity. On top of that, he's also been labeled an MLE, despite having no malicious intentions whatsoever—his idiocy alone is enough to make him a threat to all of Yggdrasil. So many achievements, and Billy's too stupid to realize it.
- In Master, Pokémon?, it's the author's explanation for Ash's occasional feats of inhuman strength. Ash doesn't know how strong humans are supposed to be, so he semi-arbitrarily decided they're as strong as Machamp, and adjusted his human form to match. Hilarity Ensues.
- In Off The Line, Cloud Strife/Rainstorm does a lot of things other players or even the game developer didn't know were possible out of ignorance as a newbie player:
- Rainstorm befriends Red XIII because he assumed that the latter had an unique player class as opposed to most players who assume Red XIII is a mob or a pet.
- Rainstorm kills players higher leveled than him due him applying real world logic and physics onto the game, which most players don't.
- Rainstorm finds out that Vincent is a real person and not a boss nor a glitch after a few minutes of talking to him, which Cait Sith didn't know even after ten years of attempting to delete Vincent.
- Tsukuyomi from Infinity has no problems solving impossible theorems, conjectures and postulates of math thanks to advanced technology downloaded into her, and afterwards she simply says that she hoped she passed. She can also whip up a mean feast. But her best talent is probably being a painter. Probably, because beautiful paintings appear out of nowhere in her presence, but nobody remembers her painting them, not even her.
- Sonic X: Dark Chaos:
- This is the explicit reason why Eric is able to make machines that would put Tails and Eggman to shame (time travel and FTL drives being the most mundane) - he actually has no idea how they work, they simply come naturally to him because Maledict created him with extensive instinctual knowledge of machinery.
- The rewrite plays it for laughs; Tails took several months to create the Blue Typhoon's Warpspace drive, while Eric did it by accident in two days. However, it also makes the Dreadnought difficult to maintain and repair simply due to its arcane design.
- In THERMOS!, or, How a Muggle-Born Brought a New Age of Spell-Making to Hogwarts (Entirely by Accident), Phoebe brings a Muggle thermos to school with her, and her Pureblood friend Titus misunderstands her when she tries to explain what it is. This results in Titus pointing his wand at a cup and yelling "THERMOS!" in the hopes of making his drink stay warm all day, much to Phoebe's amusement. Phoebe's understandably shocked when it actually works.
- In Team 7's Ascension Naruto recreates the Nidaime's ability to perform water techniques without a source of water at least partially because he doesn't know he's not supposed to.
- Ranma manages to recreate a high level demonic spell in The Demon's Contract after witnessing Mara perform it once. She rants how impossible that is since he doesn't have any magic, magical training, or demonic/divine heritage to let him use it. Turns out, he taps into the magic of Jusenkyo to utilize magic.
- In This Bites!, this was invoked, then averted. Cross doesn't tell Zoro that he's trying to cut through a diamond-hard seastone cage, because he thought if Zoro didn't know he couldn't do it, he might be able to. It doesn't work.
- The premise of Forrest Gump is built on this trope. Forrest is so dense that he routinely attempts things other people wouldn't even consider, and so single-minded that he puts his maximum effort into everything he does. As a result, he meets spectacular success while the skeptics are left scratching their heads.
- In the movie version of Being There, this is a possible explanation for the final shot in which Chance walks on water.
- In the 2005 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Mike Teavee sees Willy Wonka's Television Chocolate setup as this on Mr. Wonka's part—Mr. Wonka was merely looking for a new way to get his chocolate to market and wound up creating a teleporter without realizing the true significance/potential of such an invention.
- In Pippi on the Run, the final Pippi Longstocking movie with Inger Nilsson as the eponymous character, this trope becomes a Running Gag. Over the course of the movie, Pippi does several completely impossible things, and then afterwards claims that the reason why she could do them was because she forgot they were impossible. The entire thing is subverted at the very end of the movie, when Pippi rides a broomstick around Tommy and Annika's house, and when Annika once again claims that this is impossible, Pippi cheerfully yells back that it's not impossible to her.
- This is the plot of Pay It Forward as described by the mother:
"You don't know my son, you tell him he can do something and he's going to believe you."
- In Tremors 2: Aftershocks, the subterranean, wormlike Graboids move into a new biological phase: three foot tall, bipedal, raptor-like beings nicknamed "Shriekers". When the Shriekers disable a car on the road out of town, (blocking the road) and disable communications by taking down the radio tower, the heroes nearly panic at the implications, especially after having previously seen how clever the Graboids could be. Then they discover that the Shriekers have vision based on seeing heat and are simply attacking anything hot in their way, such as a car engine or a radio tower, and have managed to disable their human opponents purely by chance. As one stunned character says when they find this out "You mean they're acting so smart...because they're so stupid?!"
- Jem and the Holograms; the protagonist becomes famous after she makes a selfie of herself singing, which is accidentally posted on YouTube, and goes viral with millions of hits, overnight. (Clearly, her music is better in-fiction than out of it.)
- The Thermians in Galaxy Quest construct fully functional, space-worthy Star Ship, complete with powerful weapons, Warp Drive, and Teleportation, based on the design of a ship seen in "Historical Documents" intercepted from space. Unbeknownst to them, these "Historical Documents" were actually episodes from the TV Series Galaxy Quest, broadcast from Earth by humans not remotely capable of producing these technologies.
- Star Wars:
- This was probably the original intention behind Han Solo's retort to C-3PO in The Empire Strikes Back: "Never tell me the odds!" Han does not want to know how unlikely his various insane flight maneuvers are to work precisely because that might deter him from trying them, and those insane maneuvers were their only chance of escape. Han does not want to know what is impossible, or so unlikely as to be effectively impossible.
- Played with in the same film when Luke tries and fails to use the Force to lift his X-wing out of the swamp. He fails, and then, when Yoda is able to do it, he says that he cannot believe it, only for Yoda to tell him that that was why he failed. He failed, that is, because he did not believe that it was possible, whereas Yoda knew that it was.
- Han continues to use the trope as his standard operating procedure in The Force Awakens, allowing for him to pull such insane stunts as jumping to hyperspace from inside a hangar. When Rey incredulously asks if that's even possible, Han replies, "I never ask that question 'til after I've done it."
- In Superman III, Gus writes a program in his computer class, then shows it to the instructor after hearing the instructor explain to another student that what the program does is impossible.
- Jim Butcher's Codex Alera:
- The city folk say that the people on the frontier have such strong magic because they don't know that they shouldn't. More precisely, the frontier-dwellers tend to have "Furies" that are strong, but partially-independent and hard to control; the inhabitants of the central provinces have much better control, most at the cost of raw power (the nobility are the major exception). Achievements in Ignorance is theorized as the reason for this, but it's never definite; it could also be that wild untamed furies on the frontier are naturally stronger, or living on the frontier hones people's skills in ways that soft city life does not.
- It's also specifically stated that doubt and uncertainty and frustration can inhibit furycrafting. At one point, a character across the ocean from Alera has a minor panic attack on suddenly remembering that theorists have asserted that furycraft is impossible on foreign shores, only to be reassured that another character has just accomplished several feats of furycraft (partly due to being too hard-pressed to remember it was theoretically impossible), and gets ordered to forget the theory.
- This is the explanation given for why younger wizards in Diane Duane's Young Wizards series have more power than older, more experienced wizards—they don't know or necessarily care about what qualifies as 'impossible'.
- In Norton Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth, Milo is told, in the end, that The Quest he accomplished was, in fact, impossible. This is, in fact, the Aesop of The Phantom Tollbooth: anything is possible, provided you don't know it's impossible.
- Discworld likes this one:
- Tiffany Aching reading the dictionary cover to cover because nobody ever told her she shouldn't and Susan Sto-Helit successfully teaching seven-year-olds algebra and, when told it's too hard for them, replies that so far they haven't figured that out. It needs to be said that examples of children learning something before adults would think they're ready to learn it are probably Truth in Television. A bright child may be reading books meant for adults by the age of eight or ten, though they probably won't understand everything they read.
- Bergholt Stuttley "Bloody Stupid" Johnson is such an incompetent architect and inventor that he ends up creating buildings that are Bigger on the Inside, and circles with the value of pi equal to exactly 3. Three of the national projects that he undertook can fit in a normal pocket. The full list is here.
- In Equal Rites, Esk teleports something without a counterweight and was able to do it because she didn't know it was impossible, because she hadn't been formally taught. It does, however, have consequences later. As well as a possible explanation being given: any wizard could do that, but doing so greatly increases the chances of something going very, very wrong in transit, leading to wizards who know better never trying it.
- Discussed in The Last Hero, when Leonard asks for journeymen craftsmen, rather than masters, because he has no use for "people who have learned the limits of the possible".
- Death gives this explanation for how he can move through walls and otherwise tell the laws of physics to sit down and shut the hell up. His advice to Mort in his stint as his apprentice is not to think about it too hard and forget that you know that you can't move through walls. Mort is able to do this when he isn't actively thinking about it as he escapes a group of thugs by backing through a wall.
- Susan also uses this trope when she travels back through time to ask Death a few questions about her job. The Raven uses this trope as an example of why education is actually a bad thing.
- An interesting example is Lord Rust, Ankh-Morpork's foremost military leader by dint of heritage; the man is a total incompetent with absolutely no tactical ability or military knowledge whatever and does not seem to comprehend the utter futility of attacking a vastly superior force on their home ground with virtually no provisions. While this has the obvious result of killing almost every man under his command, Rust is completely unharmed, even though he leads every suicidal charge from the front. By all laws of probability, he should be dead long ago. However, Rust has the unusual ability of being able to completely and subconsciously ignore anything that contradicts or is outside his extraordinarily unrealistic worldview, assuming that it simply cannot exist, including physical danger. He has been reported as charging directly at enemy lines surrounded by projectiles without being scratched; arrows have apparently changed direction to avoid him (which then hit his men). On the Discworld, sufficiently powerful belief can alter physical reality, and magic has been described as more or less ignoring the laws of physics.
- Hodgesaaargh finds the newly-hatched phoenix because nobody told him that nobody had ever found one.
- Cohen and his Silver Horde slaughter the Agatean ninjas because nobody told them that ninjas were invincible. They have a history of doing stuff like this. As Barbarian Heroes, they regularly do impossible things, kill impossible things, survive impossible things, and, in general, are impossible. There is a reason they have all lived to be very, very, very old and still haven't retired. In fact, that last one counts as the biggest impossibility they regularly pull off: even after they died, they didn't think they were dead and went on like it didn't happen.
- In Hogfather, HEX, the UU's thinking machine, becomes a Talkative Loon after prolonged exposure to the Bursar. Mustrum Ridcully's answer is to type D-R-Y-D-F-R-O-R-G-1/2-P-I-L-L-Snote into it, on the grounds that "if he can get the idea of being ill, he can get the idea of being cured". It works.
Ridcully: Seems to me that this thing believes what it's told, right?
Ponder: Well, it's true that HEX has, if you want to put it that way, no idea of an untruth.
Ridcully: Right. Well, I've just told the thing it's had a lot of dried frog pills. It's not going to call me a liar, is it?
- In Sourcery, the Genie uses this to travel through the sky in the lamp while Nijel is also holding it. The trick is not to draw too much attention to it (by thinking or talking about it) so that physics doesn't catch up with its impossibility.
- In Going Postal, at the end of the initiation trial that the old postmen run for Moist, they sic several massive dogs upon him, whom he recognizes from their bark as Lipwigzer dogs—which his grandfather raised. He handles the challenge with perfect confidence by using the commands that all purebred Lipwigzers are trained...only to learn afterwards that they were not Lipwigzers at all, but Ankh-Morpork junkyard dogs, with no Lipwig training whatsoever.
- Raising Steam has the steam train "Iron Girder" essentially fly across a rickety bridge, supported only by mist and fog, because Moist convinces Simnel that it can (which turns out to be a subversion, because Moist has secretly made a temporary living ... or whatever ... bridge out of the Ankh-Morpork golems that the mist and fog prevents anyone from seeing).
- The Belgariad:
- This is played seriously when Garion tries to resurrect the dead colt and succeeds, something Belgarath (the first and most powerful human sorcerer) can't do. In this case, it's primarily used to show just how much sorcery depends on the sorcerer believing a feat is possible. In particular the adolescent Garion sees things as simpler than they actually are, which lets him do things that his learned elders think are too complex to be done. Belgarath notes at one point that this is also puts Garion at risk, as this sometimes results in Garion attempting things that more experienced sorcerers would know are too dangerous to try. This is also Foreshadowing, as Errand, a complete innocent, convinces the gods to bring Durnik back to life in the last book largely by not comprehending he's dead...largely.
- Also subverted in the fifth book, Enchanter's Endgame, by Queen Islena of Cherek when ruling in her husband's stead. Following suggestions of a fellow queen-slash-Magnificent Bastard, she orders a priest trying to usurp power to go to the front lines or be sent to the dungeons. Such an ultimatum would be completely unacceptable behavior for the monarch, except Islena isn't well known for her intellect and is assumed to be ignorant of her apparent faux pas. Unable to counter the queen's order, his take-over not yet ready, and with no actual legal grounds to protest, the priest is sent to war. And once the priest is there with the rest of the army, he really can't come up with a compelling reason why he should be sent home again. Especially since members of his radical sect claim to be fearsome warriors who aren't afraid of battle. Her husband King Anheg later admits that he could never have done this because he is expected to know better.
- Also, in Polgara the Sorceress, Polgara comments on Belgarath's ability to continue at any given task unrelentingly, and supposes he may be able to "store up sleep" during his long periods of rest, something she knows/believes to be impossible. Just afterwards, she decides it might be interesting to test the capacity of a human to do what seems impossible - when one doesn't know it—by convincing Mandorallen to pick himself up by the scruff of his neck.
- Played with in the third book of Ewilan's Quest, to explain how Matthieu/Akiro could teleport somewhere he had never been, which no one seems to have achieved before and was thus believed to be impossible.
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
- The key to flying is "throwing yourself at the ground and missing": being interrupted mid-fall and forgetting to hit and then—and this is vital—not thinking very hard about how you should be falling. Otherwise gravity will glance sharply in your direction and demand to know what the hell you think you're doing.
- This was the method behind the invention of the Infinite Improbability Drive. By way of explanation, the theory behind finite improbability generators was well-understood by that point, and largely consisted of ensuring that probability was twisted just right to ensure an otherwise improbable result. For example, ensuring that, at parties, every particle in the hostess's undergarments simultaneously quantum-leaped two feet to the left. The INFINITE Improbability Drive was considered something of a Holy Grail for scientists, but after centuries of trying they gave up and declared that it was next to impossible to create one. An underclassman, cleaning up after one of those previously-mentioned parties, realized that if it was ALMOST impossible, there must be some real possibility of it, and decided to find out what would happen if he worked out how improbable such a drive was, fed the result into a finite improbability generator, gave it a really hot cup of tea, and turned it on. Moments later, a fully-functional Infinite Improbability Drive was created. Not long after that, the underclassman was lynched by the now-thoroughly-annoyed scientists.
- This was a theme of Douglas Adams's works. For instance, in Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, a major part of the plot revolves around a computer programmer attempting to understand why there is a sofa lodged in his staircase, which was moved up there by a pair of removal men, twisted around in every possible angle, and declared irrevocably stuck. The programmer creates a computer simulation, which determines that it isn't possible for the sofa to have been stuck up there in the first place at all. He assumes his program is wrong, but begins to wonder if he may have discovered a whole new branch of physics. This was based on an exaggeration of a real thing that happened to Douglas Adams while he was at university, but the story does have an explanation given later on. Time Travel caused a door to appear in the wall where there wasn't one before, and the people behind it were nice enough to open the door so the mover could get by. When the door vanished, there was no longer any way for it to go back the way it came.
- The Blieder Drive of Eric Frank Russell's The Great Explosion was invented in this manner. Blieder was trying to invent a magic trick, but he had no idea what he was doing, and ended up launching a penny through the roof of his house at what later turned out to be many times the speed of light.
- Heralds of Valdemar:
- Used seriously with the Valdemarans, who not only are able to come up with magical solutions no one has tried before because they aren't familiar with the cultures and traditions surrounding magic, but are also able to analyze it according to logical rules because no one has told them that magic doesn't follow rules, leading to one of the Hawkbrothers' bewildered muttering "But magic doesn't work that way!"
- Said Hawkbrother eventually buckles in and starts learning Magic A Is Magic A, though he struggles with it. Going from perceiving himself as a master artist with magic to a bridgebuilder with math and calculations isn't easy for him.
- In Rogue Sorcerer, Aiden manages to kill six master Sorcerers as well as unintentionally put a death curse on every other Sorcerer in existence in a gambit which he had been certain would end in his failure and death.
- In the Star Trek: The Next Generation Q Continuum trilogy, the evil omnipotent being is more powerful than Q because he's insane and can ignore/doesn't know the limits of omnipotence.
- In one of the Myst novelizations, The Book of Atrus, Katherine has been secretly learning how to write Ages, and when she shows one of her books to Atrus, he patronizes her by saying something like "Good idea, but it couldn't work in practice." She just tells him to flip to the last page, where a link exists to a fully stable, torus-shaped world with one side always facing the sun, and viable life on both sides. Not only does this impress Atrus's socks off, but it fully drives home the fallacy of Gehn's way of thinking: In an infinite universe, anything that can exist, must exist somewhere.
- Honor Harrington:
- The Graysons had to work out on their own how to use most Manticoran technology. They ended up making some revolutionary discoveries from this, since part of the process included doing things no one already knowledgeable about the technology would have thought to try.
- Honor herself remarks in The Honor of the Queen that the world's greatest swordsman doesn't fear the second greatest, but rather the worst swordsman because he has no idea what the idiot will do.
- Graysons also are the known galaxy's experts in nuclear fission power. While everyone else had switched to fusion for safety and environmental reasons, Grayson had a very low tech base and a lot of heavy metals, including radioactives. After several centuries, this resulted in safe, reliable, cheap, and powerful fission powerplants, so effective that the Manticoran navy adopted them for their small combat ships/"fighters".
- In Mickey Zucker Reichert's Bifrost Guardians series, there is a magical fortress that is so well protected by various traps that, as everyone knows, it is impossible to break into. When the main characters need to do just that, one of them leaps to the challenge, saying that he's been doing "impossible" things all his life and he's not about to stop now. As it turns out, the magic protecting the fortress gets stronger the more you believe in its effectiveness—all you have to do to get in is to believe that you really can do the impossible.
- Joe's World gives us Wolfgang Laebmauntsforscynneweëld and his twin powers of lunacy and amnesia. He's, for instance, crazy enough to cover several weeks' walk by foot in mere days.
- From Robert A. Heinlein's works:
- Hugh Hoyland, the protagonist of Orphans of the Sky, on learning his people's world is actually a space ship, decides to teach himself how to pilot the ship. According to all common sense of astrogation, no single person can learn the necessary skills to fly a ship by himself, especially one of the size Hoyland was on. However, because all knowledge of this common sense was never printed in text, he never realized this and thus taught himself all the skills. This was repeated later in the novel when Hoyland, not realizing the difficulty of managing a landing and the sheer danger his life is in, successfully lands his craft on a planet.
- In The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, the titular cat Pixel does exactly that because he's too young to know it's impossible.
- In Glory Road Oscar Gordon, knowing nothing of hypergeometry, somehow manages to feed Igli to himself, thereby killing the unkillable construct.
- Circle of Magic:
- The books run on this trope, particularly the four main characters weaving their powers together in the first book. Lampshaded when Niko informs Tris that the magic-seeing spell should have worn off a week after it was placed.
Niko: There's an advantage to instructing young mages: suggestion counts for so much with you four.
- At the same time, though, it is noted by various characters that magic (much like science in the real world) has many things still unknown about it. You just don't realize this is so until the so-called impossible happens.
- The books run on this trope, particularly the four main characters weaving their powers together in the first book. Lampshaded when Niko informs Tris that the magic-seeing spell should have worn off a week after it was placed.
- The Wheel of Time:
- Nynaeve instinctively reinvents a form of Healing which uses all Powers instead of just Air, Water, and Spirit. The Aes Sedai of the Third Age are all adamant that this is dangerous and are shocked it even works, never mind that it actually works better. This is a running theme in regards to the Aes Sedai, that much of what they can and can't do is limited largely by tradition. That and a massive lack of initiative and imagination. The veil of general secrecy inherent within the White Tower is to blame for much of what was lost, with certain Aes Sedai not finding students they could trust to pass their skills on to and consequently taking their knowledge with them.
- In tel'aran'rhiod, Perrin blocks a beam of the supposedly irresistible force of balefire with the palm of his hand as if it were nothing, leaving Egwene aghast, telling him what he's just done should be impossible. Perrin, who didn't even know what balefire was a moment before, merely shrugs. It's likely that if she'd tried to do the same thing, it would have been impossible, because Your Mind Makes It Real and she's used to dealing with balefire in the waking world where it really is impossible to withstand. In Dream Land, though, it's no different than anything else and can be made or unmade on a whim... as long as you believe it can.
- In Riddle of the Seven Realms by Lyndon Hardy, the protagonists fly suspended beneath a balloon made out of lead. Astron, a demon to whom the human world's physics is new and fascinating, had simply improvised a substitute when the conveyance's original balloon was punctured by arrows, unaware that a "lead balloon" was considered preposterous by humans.
- In German, an achievement made in ignorance of the inherent dangers is frequently called a "Ritt über den Bodensee" (a ride across Lake Constance). This is based on a folk legend that was turned into a ballad by Gustav Schwab, Der Reiter und der Bodensee (The Rider and Lake Constance): In a cold winter, a rider loses his way in a snowstorm and without realizing it rides across the frozen-over Lake Constance. This is something a sane person would normally not attempt because due to the size of the lake (Germany's largest) and the Rhine running through it you could not be sure that it would be safe for a rider and horse to cross all the way. It does not end well though — when he is told that he has arrived in a village on the other shore, the shock of realization of the danger he unwittingly had gone through kills him.
- In the Nick Polotta book Illegal Aliens, humans are told of a (non-existent) material on their ships called "deflector plating" that is immune to all weapon fire. While the aliens are busy snickering behind their hands at the gullible humans, we go and invent deflector plating.
- In David Weber and Steven White's Starfire series, the war with the Bugs results in this happening when the newest members of the Grand Alliance, just getting introduced to the more advanced tech now available to them, innocently ask why the man-portable kinetic weapons that fire projectiles at 10% light speed, carried by infantry and ground vehicles for a century and half, haven't been adapted to allow for bombardment from orbit, giving the equivalent of tactical nuclear strikes without the radiation and fallout. Alliance military researchers promptly smack themselves on the forehead and begin producing the weapon system from off-the-shelf equipment.
- Foxface's death in The Hunger Games occurs thanks to this. One of the more clever tributes, she survives the Games by stealth and caution, stealing food from the other tributes in small amounts that they're not likely to notice. This backfires on her when she steals berries collected by Peeta, who isn't wilderness-savvy enough to realize that they're extremely poisonous. Katniss notes after the fact that a deliberate trap would have never worked, but Foxface had no reason to think twice about eating something that another tribute had collected for his own consumption.
- In The Saint short story "The Newdick Helicopter", a Con Man sells a mark plans for a "helicopter" (actually a gyrocopter). When the mark assembles the helicopter, he discovers it cannot take off vertically as he expected it to. Assuming he had put it together wrong, he starts tinkering with it and ends up inventing a fully-functioning helicopter. (Note that this story was published in 1933, several years before the first fully-functioning helicopter was built.)
- "A Tall Tail" by Charles Stross tells the story of how American intelligence officials and engineers dreamed up the most ridiculously dangerous and impossible rocket system imaginablenote and fed it to foreign agents (minus the "top secret component" that wasn't carefully leaked) in the hopes they'd actually try and build it, resulting in disastrous accidents that would affect their rocket/missile programs. The Soviets make it work... Briefly.
- Everfound gives us an odd variation combined with Reality Warper. The ruler of the City of Souls is sometimes known as "The Unremembering King" due to his ability to "unremember things". How this works is if the king says he does not remember something, then it ceases to exist. For example, he doesn't remember that Afterlights with red hair aren't parrots, so they sprout red parrot wings. He doesn't remember not being a powerful Mayan king, so he becomes one. As he fell toward the center of the earth, he tried to save himself by not remembering there ever being a direction such as "down"—so he was teleported instantly to the only place where there is, in effect, no "down"—the center of the earth.
- In The Clan of the Cave Bear, the narration states almost verbatim that Ayla could only come up with her two-stone trick because no one told her it was impossible to rapid-fire two stones from a sling.
- Lightsong from Warbreaker is the grand master of an extremely complicated game he doesn't actually know the rules of. At one point someone remarks on how innovative his tactics are and how they would never have thought to use that ball for that throw; Lightsong does not mention that he picked it because it was the same color as his drink and threw it onto the field completely at random.
- In Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, there is this:
"The best swordsman in the world doesn't need to fear the second-best swordsman in the world; no, the person for him to be afraid of is some ignorant antagonist who has never had a sword in his hand before; he doesn't do the thing he ought to do, and so the expert isn't prepared for him; he does the thing he ought not to do; and often it catches the expert out and ends him on the spot."
- Aylee Smedry in Alcatraz vs. the Shattered Lens has the Smedry power of being extraordinarily bad at math, so that she can, for example, believe that if you have one each of the three basic types of exploding teddy bear (It Makes Sense in Context), then that's six teddy bears total. However, since she's a Smedry, there really will be six exploding teddy bears. It's implied that she uses this trope to optimize her chances of helping the team, as when she calculates that they have 5479 purple teddy bear grenades (which are the only weapon capable of killing the enemy's giant robots).
- The Tamuli has a god do this: the explanation given for why the trollish method of invisibility (involving hacking up time into smaller fragments) allows you to see and hear doesn't make sense. This is realized (or noted, for people who had already heard it before) by most people discussing it, but the troll god responsible doesn't, so it still works.
- Done in Dinoverse with the help of a Sentient Cosmic Force. Bertram builds a machine for the Science Fair which has a simple function—play different randomized videos on screens while hooked up to suction cups on someone's head—but he wants people to think it's showing their dreams, so he builds something massive out of junk salvaged from tech shops. Somehow it turns into a Time Machine. Later it's shown that throughout the multiverse people have been building devices that do the same thing, and Betram must repair a broken one without tools while in the body of a Dilophosaur.
- At the end of Quarterdeck, Kydd earns his place in high society by inviting Thérèse Bernardine-Mongenet to a banquet hosted by Prince Edward. What Kydd doesn't (and the rest of Canada does) know is that his lady is the Prince's mistress, who isn't allowed to be with him at occasions such as the banquet.
- Xanth makes this an actual magical power. Princess Ida's power of "idea" makes any idea suggested to her come true if it's thought up by someone who's not aware that this is her power. Several plot points are solved by Ida or someone else who knows how her power works purposefully leading an unwitting third party into coming up with a possible solution, which Ida's power can then make real. Ida herself did not know about her talent for quite some time, with the result that every idea she had came true until she learned the nature of her power. Even the fact that Ida is a long-lost princess (and an identical twin to the previously-established Princess Ivy) was suggested by someone who simply thought that it was the sort of thing that usually happens in these stories, thus possibly making the whole thing something that her powers retconned into being.
- In The Great Train Robbery, the last part of Edward Pierce's plan to get to the gold requires him to climb along the top of a speeding train, and the revelation that he successfully did so causes an uproar in the courtroom. Although he spouts some poorly understood science about a slipstream preventing him from falling off, actual experts dismiss this as nonsense and decide that the only way he got away with it is because he had no idea it should have killed him.
- The entire premise behind the victory over the Buggers in Ender's Game. Ender was lead to believe that the entire war he fought was just a simulation meant to train him for the actual war. This was done to push him past the Moral Event Horizon and force him to use tactics that would otherwise be unthinkable against a real opponent: total xenocide. Once it's revealed what he did, he broke down into hysteria, stating he never would have done it if he knew it was real.
- Discussed and invoked in The Dresden Files. While setting up a Batman Gambit, Harry compares himself several times to Wile E. Coyote. When things start exploding in his face, he thinks to himself that Wile E.'s big mistake is looking down. If he kept running, he'd make it to the other side of the canyon. While Harry isn't technically ignorant of the dangers around him, he decides to keep going anyway.
- In Dykstra's War, the titular supergenius develops an entirely new branch of physics, and his basic theorems are only successfully challenged and updated by one person. He had seen some data indicating that under certain conditions, there was no theoretical barrier to accelerating to faster-than-light speeds, but Dykstra dismissed that because that simply made no sense and the laws of physics wouldn't allow for it, and the discovery was left to an autistic savant who didn't filter his data like that. It turns out that FTL is indeed possible.
- In Uprooted, Agnieszka's accomplishments pretty much run on this. She uses a healing spell that her teacher has written off as useless, goes for whatever incantation and rhythm feels right rather than the carefully studied formulae that he follows, and rescues her best friend from the malevolent Wood because she didn't know completely what it would entail. Her active suggestions also rely on this, like using an incredibly dangerous text to cleanse her friend of The Corruption. (That said, she does also practice and study, just from books written by other intuitive mages like her.) Her teacher eventually gives up shouting How Unscientific! at her.
- Pretty much everything Richard does with his magic in The Sword of Truth. He routinely pulls off stunts that much older, learned, and experienced wizards and sorceresses believe is impossible. And in fact, Richard himself struggles with even the most basic of magic when he actively thinks about using his power. It turns out that Richard is a particular type of wizard called a War Wizard, who utilize their power purely on instinct and intuition rather than formal study. That's right, it's an entire school of wizardry that runs on this trope.
- Parodied in Arrested Development when Rita walks across a pool after suggesting that Michael visit her in England by walking across the ocean, "if it's not too deep". As it turns out, it's one of Gob's
- Gilligan's Island: Gilligan once flew by attaching a pair of artificial wings to his arms and flapping them until the Skipper told him it was impossible.
- Discussed in an episode of My Favorite Martian, when Uncle Martin explains to Tim why he's so concerned about their landlady's new private detective hobby:
"An amateur is infinitely more dangerous than a professional. If Alexander Graham Bell had been a professional electrician, he would never have invented the telephone—he would have known it was impossible!"
- In the Smart Guy episode TJ Versus the Machine, TJ beats the unbeatable chess computer Socrates by taking a lead from Marcus. Marcus doesn't have a clue what he's doing, and TJ realises that a computer designed to compete against expert players won't be able to formulate a strategy against random, unpredictable play.
- A "Flowers for Algernon" Syndrome episode features Matthew, a very stupid person, drinking what he thinks is an intelligence-boosting formula and, because he is so stupid and gullible, he believes it works and therefore it actually does. Until he became smart enough to realize it was only a placebo and immediately reverted back to his old stupid self.
- Quantum Leap. Children under five can see Al and the real Sam. So can animals. This was probably a case of Real Life Writes the Plot, since a director couldn't tell small children or animals to pretend that Dean Stockwell wasn't there.
- Red Dwarf:
- Rimmer is advised to invoke this trope in the episode "Cassandra", being told that if he doesn't know enough to know that he doesn't know enough, there's no fear holding him back.
Kochanski: He's got the power of ignorance.
Kryten: And with the ignorance he's got, that makes him one of the most powerful men who ever lived!
- At the beginning of that season, Rimmer mentioned that anyone who couldn't fix the drive plate had to have a brain the size of a newt's testicle. Apparently, it's really, really hard to botch the job.
- Rimmer is advised to invoke this trope in the episode "Cassandra", being told that if he doesn't know enough to know that he doesn't know enough, there's no fear holding him back.
- In a Home Improvement episode, Tim challenges Bob Vila to a charity riding lawn mower race. Tim gets the bright idea to customize his with a jet engine. Naturally, he loses control of it, and the next information about him comes from the evening news, where he's "running amok down I-96 with a police helicopter in hot pursuit". Although the mower itself is impounded and Tim gets a ticket, the good news is he managed to mow forty lawns and make $186 in the process.
- Married... with Children:
- Kelly will do this on occasion. One episode had Bud distracting her by giving her a Where's Waldo? book. She runs all over town trying to find Waldo and, at the end of the episode, he is sitting next to Kelly at the dinner table.
- In one episode, Marcy became a hero - by accident - when a bank robber took her hostage at gunpoint. She threw up, and he slipped on the vomit, dropping his weapon. (She received a gunshot wound in the hand, but did receive a rather large cash reward for apprehending him.)
- On Scrubs, the Todd once revived a flatlined patient...with a high-five.
Dr. Cox: Great moment, there, dumbass. It starts out with a profound misunderstanding of how the human body works, and winds up with you shattering some old man's hand.
- In a episode of Power Rangers Zeo, Bulk and Skull are able to defeat a group of Cogs, foot soldier robots of King Mondo. The Cogs usually analyze fighting style and predict movement but because Bulk and Skull are not trained in combat, their "style" is erratic, so the Cogs can not defeat them.
- Sweet Genius:
- Some winners have been primarily self-taught and have won largely because they didn't cook by the same rules the trained professionals did, resulting in unusually creative desserts.
- One chef in the infamous bone marrow challenge decorated her plate with the bone the marrow came in, not realizing Chef Ron has a thing about inedible decorations. However, the way she used it was creative enough to actually earn his praise, and she won the episode.
- Basically the premise of the series. In a town full of the world's top geniuses, the average-intelligence-having sheriff often saves the day by not knowing enough about science.
- Which is sometimes invoked after a while, especially by Sheriff Carter's friend Henry Deacon, since he has seen how many Eureka Moments have come from it. Henry is one of the few that doesn't immediately dismiss Carter's intelligence and treats his "dumb" questions more as teaching moments.
- In one episode of Corner Gas, someone mentions Oscar's incompetence at cooking. It cuts to a scene where Oscar is standing in front of a bowl of salad, and the salad spontaneously blows up.
- In the sketch "Poker Face" by Studio C, Matt somehow got to the final four of a poker tournament despite having no clue how to play the game. Or what "call" even means.
- At the end of the final episode of Blackadder the Third, Prince George announces he's alive because the bullet hit the cigarillo box in his pocket. As soon as he realizes the cigarillo box is in his other jacket, he dies.
- The Goodies: In "The Lost Tribe", Graeme builds a canvas television that works perfectly. Then he is told that a canvas television is a scientific impossibility so he throws it away.
- The development of X Japan and by extension much of the Visual Kei scene happened as a direct result of this trope: Yoshiki, hide, Taiji, Toshi, and Pata didn't know and didn't care that Glam Rock and Glam Metal were generally thought to be incompatible with Speed Metal and Thrash Metal, how to promote within the Japanese record label and media system of The '80s without upsetting the apple cart of the industry, and much more about how to do metal music "right", and almost all of them aside from Toshi were drunk much of the time. Somehow, this only helped them start the country's most successful and biggest-selling rock/metal band and become the Trope Namer, Trope Maker, and defining band of Visual Kei.
- This is the topic of the Collin Raye song "What They Don't Know", where the narrator sees boys fishing in a tiny puddle and decides not to tell them they're not going to catch anything.
- Lee Murdock wrote the song "Just Five Minutes" about a man who fell overboard from a vessel on the Great Lakes and successfully swam to shore; he commented in the liner notes that the guy was young and didn't know that you can only survive five minutes in the ice-cold waters of the lakes.
- Pete Sandoval (of Morbid Angel, probably the most influential Death Metal drummer ever) has a funny story about how he became known as "Pete the Feet". One day the other members played a recording of a drum machine, and lightly poked fun at Pete for it being faster than him. His response? He kept practicing and practicing, until he was able to outpace the machine, eventually forcing the band the admit that it was, in fact, not a real drummer.
- Parodied when a CEO with no experience is hired because "someone who doesn't know anything doesn't know what can't be done." When he goes to shake hands with the Pointy-Haired Boss (who is right-handed), he extends his left...
- This happened in Dilbert again with Ratbert, who was told he was so stupid that he had telekinetic power.
"I have the power to watch television!"
- In another series of strips, Ratbert decides to fly simply by flapping his arms. Dilbert insists it can't be done. Bob the Dinosaur gives Ratbert some advice that turns out to work, resulting in him flying near an annoyed Dilbert and remarking "This must be so embarrassing for you."
- One time Dilbert tells someone from Marketing that he reprogrammed his DNA into that of a weasel's. The poor dope is so gullible that he actually starts changing!
- Odie chases Garfield up a tree, resulting in both of them sitting on a high branch. Jon immediately tells Odie that "dogs can't climb trees". Garfield's response? "It's amazing what one can accomplish when one doesn't know what one can't do."
- In fact, in one of the early comics, this is how Garfield himself learned to walk on his hind legs. Until it stuck, he'd promptly face-plant when Jon reminded him it's not possible.
- One strip shows Odie sleeping on the underside of a hammock, and Garfield notes that he doesn't even understand the laws of gravity.
- Schroeder can play extremely difficult piano pieces on a toy piano where the black keys are simply painted on (or are they...).
- Similar to the above-example in Garfield, there was one week-long series where Snoopy and Linus climbed a very large tree to investigate a "strange creature" in Woodstock's nest which turned out to be an egg. Eventually, Lucy came along, and Charlie Brown explained what was going on. Lucy shouted to them that dogs can't climb trees; Snoopy replied, "You're right!" before falling out with a crash.
- Calvin and Hobbes:
- In one Sunday strip, Calvin was daydreaming in class that he was Spaceman Spiff, being attacked by an enemy craft. He dreamed that his ship was hit, and he started plummeting towards a planet's surface. "This spells disaster!" screams Calvin/Spiff. Then Miss Wormwood yells at Calvin to pay attention, and he quickly says, "Uhm, 'disaster', D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R." Fortunately, that was exactly the word Miss Wormwood had just asked him to spell.
- The same thing happened when Spiff was doing a countdown and hit 7 right when Miss Wormword asks Calvin what 10 minus 3 is.
- And again when Spiff had just fired on some aliens ('Krakow! Krakow! Two direct hits!') when Suzie asks Calvin about the name of Poland's former capital.
- Like the above example, a Sunday strip has Paige nodding off in class, dreaming she's being romanced by the handsome, dashing Pierre. She repeats "Oh, Pierre" in reply to everything he says, until she wakes up, discovering she just answered her teacher's question - "What is the capital of South Dakota?" - correctly.
- Oh, and the strip with the current trope illustration.
- Dino Attack RPG plays this for laughs constantly with Enter and Return. Where to begin, they firmly believe that sharks, trees, and umbrellas are appropriate equipment for surgery, successfully used a shark to revive a patient after conventional CPR and a defibrillator already failed, and in one instance after being sent on a Snipe Hunt, they managed to leave a hospital, buy a fishing pole, go to the harbor, catch a shark and get back in roughly 30 seconds.
- From a Sarah Silverman routine: "Stop telling girls they can be anything they want when they grow up. I think it's a mistake. Not because they can't, but because it never would have occurred to them that they couldn't."
- Steve Jackson Games' role-playing system, which takes place in a cartoon universe, gives appropriately cartoony reasons for being able to do this sort of thing. If a character wants to walk off a cliff and on thin air, or breathe underwater or whatever, he can roll to intentionally try to fail an intelligence roll. If he fails, it's considered that he's too dumb to realize it's impossible. This is a reference to all the times cartoon characters do just that. It's actually considered a law of Toon Physics that gravity does not affect a character until they realize it's supposed to. This is demonstrated in an episode of Tiny Toon Adventures.
- The "Star Toon" setting in the Tooniversal Tour Guide sourcebook features the Bozonians, an alien race so monumentally stupid they can build outlandish architectural wonders and incredible scientific devices because they're too dumb to realize the things they build should be impossible. Visitors to their home planet of Bozok are strictly forbidden, because all it would take is one smart-ass telling the locals "That's impossible!" to bring down a civilization.
- Warhammer 40,000:
- This is how a lot of humanity's technology operates in the dark days of the 41st millennium. After thousands of years of scientific regression, the Adeptus Mechanicus not only has a monopoly on mankind's Lost Technology, they worship it and wrap all but the simplest of mechanical tasks into a religious ritual. So activating an ancient plasma reactor or whatnot involves a great deal of chanting, incense, the application of sanctified engine oil, and some specific taps with a wrench that just so happen to hit the "on" switch. Depending on the Writer this is all a scheme to keep the common people from learning how to maintain their own devices, while other sources have the AdMech genuinely clueless of the scientific principles behind their shiny toys.
- The Orks are an even more pronounced example. Greenskins don't have scientists that we'd recognize, but "Meks" and "Doks" with mechanical and medical knowledge hard-wired into their DNA. They can put together an engine block or perform an organ transplant purely on instinct, but wouldn't be able to explain how they did it. For the Orks' weirder, physics-defying inventions, the devices function to some extent because the Orks expect them to - Orks are latent psykers, but aren't conscious of this fact. This is why captured Greenskin technology is so temperamental or nonfunctional when used by a non-Ork, and why when it comes to Orky vehicles, The Red Ones Go Faster.
- An even more extreme example are the Jokaero. Similar to the Orks, these orangutan-like aliens are capable of creating technology on an instinctual level. Unlike the Greenskins, though, these aren't piles of junk randomly slapped together and brought to life through sheer willpower. The Jokaero can make some of the most advanced, highly miniaturized technology in the galaxy, utilizing advanced techniques and seemingly natural phenomenon that the best minds in the Imperium can't wrap their heads around. And they can do it with pretty much any bits of junk that happen to be lying around. A Jokaero can sit on a pile of technological scrap and assemble a spacecraft that is more advanced than almost anything any other race can put together. Again, another difference from the Orks is that anyone can use Jokaero tech. In spite of this, there is great debate if Jokaero are even sentient, as they don't appear to have any discernible language or culture, with everything they do motivated only by their will to survive. The evident lack of sentience, their innate technological prowess and the non-exclusivity of their tech means that the Imperium is willing to make them an exception to their Kill 'em All policy regarding Xenos, and Jokaero technology is highly sought after by both Rogue Traders and Inquisitors. That said, their creative process appears to be entirely random. Handing a Jokaero a bolt pistol could result in it having enough firepower to vaporize a tank in one shot, or an otherwise normal bolt pistol with some high-tech but ultimately useless flourish, with no way to discern which you are going to get.
- Genius: The Transgression:
- The premise is implied to be this. Since the Inspired put the "mad" in "Mad Scientist", they have a tendency to veer into Insane Troll Logic. They're still able to make inventions using that logic, however, often achieving impossible feats.
- Indeed, one of the defining conflicts of the game is between "normal" Geniuses (who know it isn't possible and do it anyway) and Unmada: Geniuses who truly believe science works according to their paradigm. Around an Unmada, it does...
- Mage: The Ascension:
- The ignorant and blind Sleepers, all of non-mage humanity, constantly keep the terrible demons, gods, monsters, etc at bay, and away from our tasty souls, day in and day out. This is done through the amazing, awe-inspiring power...of disbelieving and desperately ignoring that these things could possibly exist. The PCs being Mages, you realize that this disbelief is a terrible, unacceptable thing.
- Clever mages can get around disbelief by convincing sleepers that there is a logical explanation and it's not magic they're seeing. A true mage posing as a stage magician could get away with separating their lovely assistant in half for real so long as the audience stays convinced that there's a hidden trick for them to try guessing, or giving a scientific sounding technobabble for an impossible device.
- It works even better to play on the staggering ignorance of the general population. Things that should only work in action movies are a great way to disguise magic that static reality would otherwise reject, mainly because most people aren't bright enough to know it isn't possible. A can of hairspray and a lighter is enough to make basic fire effects coincidental, even if the resultant stream of fire outclasses any actual flamethrower in power. It is suggested that the unrealistic aspects of popular fiction are deliberate attempts to subvert the dominant paradigm.
- Creating new vampiric powers in Vampire: The Masquerade is supposed to be something only very old and powerful vampires can manage. However, the weak 14th and 15th generation vampires seem to be able to do it with ease. They grew up on stories that said, for example, that vampires could fly; therefore, they managed to find the magic that let them do it, simply because they were too unimportant for elder vampires to explain to them that it was impossible.
- The Jedi Knights customizable card game (which features fewer Jedi knights than you might think) has the following flavor text on Han's Modified Heavy Blaster: "In theory, you can't modify a DL-44 Heavy Blaster. No one told Han that."
- Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder:
- Shadow Conjuration spells summon things that function as real if the defender fails to disbelieve in them. Normally, they are used offensively, but when used defensively, the recipient has has to choose to ignore knowing that he knows it's not real in order for it to be real enough to give him or her the full benefit.
- With the right Prestige Class combination, disbelieving makes it more than 100% real.
- It's implied in Don't Rest Your Head that not only do the normal people ignore anything related to Mad City (for example, when they stole an entire district, they thought it was destroyed in a fire), they can literally No Sell anything the Nightmares do. Most of the time.
- Metal Gear
- In Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, if Snake calls up Otacon and complains about seasickness, Otacon will suggest he take pentazemin (a fictional form of benzodiazepine he normally uses to reduce hand tremors while sniping). He does, and his seasickness goes away. A surprised Otacon reveals he suggested the pentazemin as a placebo effect and there was no way it should have worked.
- Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater: OK, so Snake collects various plants and animals, which he can call Para-Medic to identify. At the same time, he carries around night-vision goggles and other various things which require battery power. When he collects a species of bio-luminescent mushrooms, he assumes that, because they glow, eating them will "recharge [his] batteries". This works even though Para-Medic specifically told him it was impossible; Snake's ignorance is just that good. Calling back Para-Medic after eating these mushrooms leads to a fun conversation between her and Sigint about the placebo effect.
- In Portal 2, it's revealed that the man behind Aperture Science, Cave Johnson, was not only insane with mercury poisoning, but didn't know anything about how science actually works. It's because he didn't know the limitations of technology that his corporation created physics-breaking inventions like the Portal Gun. Considering the invention of portals was for "possible shower curtain applications", and that he said they were going to "throw science at the wall and see what sticks", this is actually quite likely. It helped that the man didn't think his science should "stand on the shoulders of giants" and instead did everything from the ground up. Problem is, this also meant his test subjects suffered a variety of known hazards.
- Humans in the Disgaeaverse are already pretty damn tough in order to keep up with the various demonic invaders and/or Overlords, but most of the reasons are pretty damn rational (Cpt. Gordon is military trained, as is Jennifer, while Almaz is a guard and Sapphire a berserker). And then there's Fuka Kazamatsuri. While humans can tap into 30% of their potential without risking self-injury, she manages to tap into the full 100% when her back's against the wall... all by believing that she's in the midst of a soon-to-end nightmare despite being stone dead and a Prinny to boot! And unlike the previous humans, she has no training. She's just an Ordinary Middle School Student with a lot of ambition!
- Some Pokémon, such as Bidoof, have the ability Unaware, which allows the user to ignore the opponent's offensive and defensive boosts. For example, Bidoof can inflict normal damage on an opponent that raised its defense with Harden or Iron Defense, through sheer ignorance.
- The move Amnesia, which boosts Special Defense, seems to work this way. Explicitly stated in Pokémon Special, where Lorelei says it works by allowing a Pokemon to ignore damage by forgetting that it took damage. She implies, however, that this is a temporary thing, and eventually all this "forgotten" damage will catch up and overwhelm the Pokemon, which is a facet of the move that doesn't exist in the games.
- According to Touhou lore, Kanako deliberately arranged for the power of nuclear fusion to be given to Utsuho, specifically because the latter was too birdbrained to know that controlling nuclear power was difficult. It worked, though Utsuho became evil for a while. This eventually led to an odd side effect: Utsuho became a savant at nuclear physics, despite still needing examples of how long 100 meters is.
- The 15 Keys Rising has an awesome moment when Brett stopped a train by headbutting it, and walked away unscathed. He revealed he wasn't aware it hurt people, and didn't feel a thing.
- One of the most amusing moments in Fallout: New Vegas has you perform successful brain surgery on Caesar with low medical skill but a Luck stat of 9 or higher.
(when asked how you managed to pull it off)
Courier: I have no idea whatsoever.
- In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the Dragonborn can admit to the leader of the Greybeards that they have no idea how they are able to use the Thu'um, they just do. Arngeir explains that Dragonborn are unique in that they can instantly learn new Words of Power, which would take normal people years or decades to master, if they can even do so at all. It's around that point in the game that you stop gaining new Thu'um words easily and have to actually work for them.
- In the Worgen starting zone in World of Warcraft, your character is stuck in Worgen-form and unable to change back and forth at will until near the end of the zone's story, when the Night Elves give you the means. Well before that point, however, one of your quests involves getting senile old Grandma Wahl to evacuate in the wake of the Cataclysm. In the course of the quests, you see her transform into a Worgen and attack an enemy that was threatening her cat. Upon returning to her to turn in the quest, she's returned to human. Grandma Wahl apparently controls the curse by virtue of being too dotty to realize she's even a Worgen in the first place, let alone that she's supposed to be Shapeshifter Mode Locked.
- The Witch's House:
- A sign on the third floor tells you to walk straight down the hall and to not deviate from the path or get distracted. Fail to follow the rule, and you will die at the end of the hall...unless you don't read the sign, then you can take the crookedest path you want. Ignorance of the rule excuses you from it!
- However, if you read the sign before in other playthroughs, it will remember...
- In Splatoon's single player campaign, at one point a member of Mission Control somehow manages to make herself almost impossible to understand in the radio because she's holding hers upside down. This is represented by having her dialogue box shown upside down.
- The game is this in-universe, as the Annoying Dog, actually the game's creator Toby Fox, is shown to have made a "fairly decent video game just by barking into a translator".
- In the Pacifist ending, Napstablook turns out to be the only one who wasn't drawn into Asriel's massive soul steal. How'd they avoid it? They simply closed the blinds and continued doing their usual activities.
- In Fallout 2, it's possible for a stupid character, a character rendered temporarily stupid through a Mentats comedown, or Psycho, to skip a step when fixing the Vagrants' ship and still get it to work.
- Fallout 4:
- The Idiot Savant perk proves sometimes it's better to be lucky than wise! It gives you a random chance to gain triple EXP from any action, with this chance increasing the lower your Intelligence is. The upgraded version of this gives a quintuple EXP bonus (that's 5 times higher), and the final version brings the bonus back down to three times but also gives triple EXP for subsequent actions taken for a time.
- Even the modding community of the game ran away with that trope, using Idiot Savant as a requirement for doing stuff that would make even the most Psycho-laced bandit question their sanity. For example, building a crossbreed minigun slash assault rifle chambered for shotgun shells!
Description: Wait... What?
- Plants vs. Zombies 2: It's About Time: The Primal Peashooter plant has a chance to Knock Back any zombie it hits (100% for its Plant Food)- including the huge, heavy Gargantuar, and also the Excavator who otherwise No Sells forward-firing plants. The only zombie immune to its knockback entirely is the Jurassic Bully, which as Penny puts it- "is too stupid to observe typical physics", hence becoming immune to the knockback by not knowing that it should be.
- Tidus in Final Fantasy X is completely ignorant of Spira's customs and the Church of Yevon. Because he stubbornly refuses to conform to the social norms, he starts asking the big questions that no one else thought to ask for over a thousand years. This leads Yuna's party to discover that the entire faith is a lie to control the masses.
- There's a somewhat odd example of this in Fire Emblem Fates. Setsuna is apparently a Lethal Chef, because, despite her Cloud Cuckoolander traits, she actually overthinks things when she cooks. After getting some criticism from Azama, Setsuna decides she's going to think as little as she usually does while cooking... and somehow manages to make a really good meal while zoned out.note
- In RuneScape there is a Ga'al (a Tzhaar born without memories) who used magic to hide himself, but hid himself too well and got stuck, and only appears when certain conditions are met which the game doesn't give any clues about. If you ask him what runes he used for the spell, he will say that he didn't use any runes. Your character will point out that this is impossible, and he will say that nobody told him that.
- When you ask the blacksmith Oziach about rune armor, he tells you he will sell you some if you slay the dragon Elvarg, who destroyed an entire nation of wizards on her own and has been untouched ever since. He expects that the ridiculous Impossible Task will make you leave him alone. Long story short...
- Fate/stay night:
- Shirou was told that Projection magic was useless, so he stopped pursuing it as his primary magic and simply uses it as a warmup before he tries other types of magic. This is roughly equivalent to performing surgery on someone as a warmup to fixing a radio: painful, dangerous, has little to do with what you're gearing up to do, and something that a non-expert should never do. And no one is an expert in Projection because it's seen as incredibly difficult and incredibly useless. However, Shirou doesn't know this, so he basically creates matter from nothing, which is supposed to be an impossible feat even in this universe. At best, most people can only keep their projections around for a few minutes and they're of shoddy quality, but Shirou shows the ability to replicate items that never seem to disappear as well as legendary weapons. And he doesn't even realize this is amazing.
- To his credit, this isn't entirely an achievement in ignorance so much as it is no one realizing how Shirou's magic actually works or recognizing that he's doing something other than what it looks like. He has internalized a Reality Marble—basically a cheat in otherwise consistent natural law—that specializes in the knowledge and tracing of swords and sword-like weapons, though he can't properly utilize it due to his poor magecraft skills. Archer calls it Unlimited Blade Works. That said, he didn't only practice Projection with swords—because it's more like he's drawing the blade from inside himself, it could be said that his "Projecting" swords is almost a different form of magic entirely.
- Okabe Rintarou of Steins;Gate somehow managed to turn a microwave into a freaking time-machine by fiddling with it enough in an attempt to get it to remote operate. Subverted when he eventually realizes this and reacts just as one might expect.
- 8-Bit Theater:
- Fighter and Black Belt do this constantly. Black Belt has No Sense of Direction to the extent that he can ignore gravity, warp the Space-Time-Continuum, and duplicate himself. Fighter meanwhile, has done things such as fold portable holes into themselves and split himself into multiple Fighters in order to even out conflicting teams. Although this may be more of an achievement in poor organization than stupidity, Red Mage once survived having his skeleton pushed out his mouth because he lost his pencil and was unable to record the damage on his character sheet. Besides, as he claimed, everyone knows that skeletons are vestigial organs.
- Red Mage frequently tries to invoke this trope, with various degrees of success. His approach is probably best summed up with "I know that and you know that, but I don't know that".
- Vilbert (who claims to be a vampire, but is also a LARPer and probably just making it up) explains that he able to survive in the sunlight because he feels it would be an uninteresting death. note
- Black Belt once held up a rope for the others to walk across over a lava pit. He then followed. When asked how, he replies, "Simple. I held up the rope and walked across, like you guys."
Thief: But...we took the rope down on this side.
Black Mage: Yes, but I don't think he knows that.
- Fighter survived a fall at terminal velocity by blocking the ground.
Thief: You blocked the Earth.
Fighter: Why not? I can block magic, and fire, and all kinds of stuff.
Thief: I hate it when the things he says that don't make sense make sense.
- This trope was explicitly used by Red Mage when he told Fighter to use "make [his] swords as things unto chainsaws", the logic being that Fighter is too stupid to realize he doesn't know how to do that. It works.
- Black Mage, naturally, has mixed feelings about this trope.
"What I hate about my life...part of what I hate about my life is that it is working..."
- Or the time Fighter started flying because he though they had slain gravity. After surviving an airship crash, he assumed that since falling didn't kill them, that they must have killed falling instead.
- In Bob and George, on at least two occasions Mega Man has undergone violence that should have killed him and survived because he's too dumb to realize he should be dead. For example:
Ran: Mega Man?! You're still alive?! You were at ground zero of a nuclear explosion!
Mega Man: Oh, that. I just regenerated like you're always doing.
Ran: Mega Man, you don't have a regeneration chamber like I do.
Mega Man: Well, it's a little late to tell me that now.
- Dave does this every time he fixes a machine in Narbonic. This turns out to be because he's a latent Mad Scientist.
- Tales of the Questor:
- Quentyn and his friends put together an absolutely unique magic item using techniques no-one has ever seen before. Subverted in that they're not stupid, but three sheets to the wind at the time. In other words: drunk.
- Not only were they responsible for creating perhaps the most powerful magical sword in existence from what should have been the most magically worthless enchantment training sword (think about recording over a cassette tape hundreds of times), they invented new runes to tie all the latent enchantments together, essentially revolutionizing the field.
- Collar 6: No one told Laura that she shouldn't be able to reach subspace at her level without physical stimulation.
- The Order of the Stick:
- Elan has fallen into this a time or two, to the point that Daigo has theorized that Elan is of more use in a given situation the less he understands what is going on. On one particular occasion, Elan managed to invoke this trope. When face to face with his Evil Twin Nale, Nale is surprised that Elan thought he was dead. As a Genre Savvy bard, he should've known that a villain is never dead if they Never Found the Body, and half the time not even then. Elan counters that the hero always thinks the villain is dead until he shows up again.
Nale: Gah! I think I'm giving myself a migraine trying to understand the level of willful ignorance that requires!
Elan: First blood: ELAN!
- A rogue once managed to land a sneak attack against Haley because he didn't realize that she had Improved Uncanny Dodge, which makes her immune to sneak attacks by characters with less levels than her. When this was pointed out, she was instantly healed of the damage inflicted.
- When Redcloak battled a fellow priest in Azure city, the priest got hit with a Destruction spell. He asked Redcloak if his Saving Throw result was good enough to survive the attack, then promptly died when it wasn't. Later on we see him waiting in line in the afterlife, and he realizes that he calculated the Save wrong and should have survived after all.
- Blackwing intentionally invokes this to good effect. In need of magic, he manages to find a scroll of Vaarsuvius', and while he recognizes that it's a harmless Divination spell, his complete inability to properly activate it causes an explosive Magic Misfire — which is exactly what he needs at the moment.
- Elan has fallen into this a time or two, to the point that Daigo has theorized that Elan is of more use in a given situation the less he understands what is going on. On one particular occasion, Elan managed to invoke this trope. When face to face with his Evil Twin Nale, Nale is surprised that Elan thought he was dead. As a Genre Savvy bard, he should've known that a villain is never dead if they Never Found the Body, and half the time not even then. Elan counters that the hero always thinks the villain is dead until he shows up again.
- In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, when Molly meets Jolly the Giantess (in a Looney Tunes homage)—
Molly: So how's it feel, pushin' the envelope of the ol' Square/Cube Law?
Jolly: Well, I hath ne'er studied law.
- Drowbabe is able to shrug off wounds because she's under the effects of a Mage Armor spell, and has convinced herself that the spell provides damage resistance (it actually makes it easier to dodge blows).
Big Ears: Mage Armor doesn't offer damage resistance.
Drowbabe: Seriously? Oh Crap!. That means I actually should have taken more damage from your hit to my leg earlier. Well, that would put my hitpoints way past negative... [dies]
- Minmax manages to create a sword made of Oblivion, the concept of nothingness, by toying around with a magic sword and a hole in reality. Kin theorizes that the sword only continues to exist because Minmax can't comprehend the concept of Oblivion, and his ignorance might even fuel the sword and make it more powerful.
Forgath: By Herbert's dice! In Minmax's hands, that sword is insanely powerful.
Minmax: Huh? I don't get it.
Forgath: That's perfect! Keep thinking that way!
- Minmax then proceeds to give the sword the incredibly appropriate name of "Oblivious". Naturally, while not knowing what the word "oblivious" means.
- Drowbabe is able to shrug off wounds because she's under the effects of a Mage Armor spell, and has convinced herself that the spell provides damage resistance (it actually makes it easier to dodge blows).
- Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal has this somewhat...unnerving take.
- Manly Guys Doing Manly Things:
- Jared succeeds in using a Level 5 Magikarp as his starter Pokémon, which should be impossible because the only attack Magikarp has at that level is the useless Splash. Jared, however, doesn't understand the basic mechanics of Pokemon battling and instead uses Mr. Fish as a bludgeon, and wins enough battles this way for Mr. Fish to evolve.
- Time Travel works this way: there are no paradoxes or alternate timelines as long as you don't worry about how it works. If you do...
- Ashura of Two Evil Scientists can run on air just by not looking down.
- While not stupid by any means, Sollux still managed to walk out of a dream bubble and come back to life simply because he didn't realize you weren't supposed to do that. Later turns out to be an aversion: he was never fully dead to begin with, and it was perfectly within the rules to leave.
- Eridian managed to completely drive the angels in the Land of Wrath and Angels to extinction, despite them being nigh-unkillable NPCs that each take at least a minute's worth of sustained fire from Ahab's Crosshairs to kill and don't drop anything like enemies do...because they aren't enemies, they're game constructs, and you aren't supposed to attack them.
- In a Questionable Content strip, Hannelore, like John Bonham below, does complicated drumming in an unusual way.
- Tedd's attempt to investigate the scientific underpinnings of magic in El Goonish Shive reveals that this is one of the rules, at least when it comes to magical enchantments put on people. If you put a 1-hour enchantment on someone and tell them it'll last a week, it will last a week simply because they don't know it's supposed to have worn off already. This cuts both ways—tell them the magic'll wear off shortly, and it will, even if it wasn't supposed to. As long as they trust your word, anyway. That essentially means that being very naive and completely uninformed about magic has the potential to turn you into a magic-powered supersoldier...
- Done in Melonpool when Sam, an alien dog, is writing a letter when Roberta comes along and asks how he's doing it with no thumbs. His handwriting promptly turns to scribbles before he glares at Roberta.
- In Dubious Company, after somehow managing to burn down the water temple, Elly was banished.
- An octopus in Gunnerkrigg Court somehow learned to levitate because he didn't realize he was supposed to be in the ocean. Upon learning that octopuses normally live in water, he flies to the ocean, dives in, and decides that "this makes a lot more sense". But he appears to be doing dolphin-kicks with his tentacles.
- In this Mountain Time, a Styrofoam lifesaver manages to sink because a character points out that there's a hole in it.
- xkcd: This may explain how Beret Guy manages to unlock vacuum energy from a vacuum cleaner. Not to mention inflating a laptop through its power cable, pouring soup from a power socket, and running a profitable business in the face of all reason.
- Spacetrawler: Yuri's Eeb brain graft should not have been possible. Ears are one thing, but grafted brain tissue from another species should have been immediately rejected. This foreshadows that humans and Eebs are closely related species.
- Aficionados Chris uses a toaster labeled "Retro Duo" that he bought from a hobo as a game console in his Godzilla Games review. Despite not being plugged in or have the function to play games, he can play them flawlessly.
- On The Guild, it turns out that Kwan is a champion-level competitive gamer in Korea. The guildees probably wouldn't stand a chance against him, but Mr. Wiggly defeats him by using spells an experienced player would never use. Kwan didn't bother defending against them.
- In Dragon Ball Z Abridged, Goku is able to obtain a blueberry muffin during a space voyage because of his deluded belief that there's a button which makes muffins on-board the spaceship (despite being repeatedly told earlier there wasn't one).
- In the 21st episode, the power of the muffin button allows him to read minds.
- It's implied later that the Muffin Button may have actually been real, since Goku finds a muffin button on Freeza's ship when Namek is exploding. The Muffin Button in Goku's pod was a leftover bit of technology from when it was one of Freeza's.
- Dr.Gero apparently has no idea how he put his brain inside his android body which he immediately questions himself when 18 asks this.
- Homestar Runner:
- This may explain the title character's use of the "telekinetic powers/invisible arms" that the fans are still debating over. Homestar may not realize that he should be unable to manipulate objects or coat sleeves or stay airborne between two shackles in Trogdor's Dungeon in 8-Bit is Enough. However, suggesting the same of Marzipan might be pushing it.
- Quite a few characters have Invisible Anatomy. It could be that the characters grew up with it and so don't think it's unusual (or impossible).
- According to the Strong Bad Email "4 branches", Strong Bad has classified a whole list of "So Stupid It's Smart-ities" Homestar has accomplished, like accidentally reciting Coulomb's Law when asked "What's two plus two?"
- In Red vs. Blue, when Church enter's Caboose's mind, he finds that everything inside there is based on how Caboose understands the world around him. At one point, he needs to use Tucker's sword - the sword can't be used by anybody but Tucker, but Caboose is too dumb to understand this, so the sword works for Church inside Caboose's mind.
- This article has Brockway acquire the power to shoot lightning due to misunderstanding a side-effect of Celexa.
When asked to explain this in simpler terms, he elaborated that I was "so retarded that it crossed the line into the supernatural".
- At one point in Agents of Cracked, Swaim gets President James A. Garfield and Garfield the Cat mixed up. Despite this, he somehow manages to invite President Garfield the Cat to a teleconference, who indignantly states that he was promised lasagna.
- This article has Brockway acquire the power to shoot lightning due to misunderstanding a side-effect of Celexa.
- In Code MENT, Lelouche is able to corner Clover in his G1 base and has absolutely no idea how he managed it (which he tells Clover when asked).
- Game Grumps and Steam Train:
- When engaging in a Games Grumps Vs. match, Jon often does better going in blind, which frustrates Arin to no end.
- When the guys played Trine 2 on Steam Train, Ross attempted to solve any and all problems by conjuring boxes, and in so doing actually bypassed several puzzles that would otherwise have required actual problem solving. In response, the developers sent him some swag, including a certificate of excellence in the art of boxing from Amadeus the wizard.
- On Jon's own channel, JonTron, this happens quite a lot, by way of managing to play games inserting them into the wrong consoles. Or the wrong machines entirely. And playing episodes of Goosebumps by inserting the books into a console.
- For half of the play through of Punch-Out!! for the Wii, Danny did not know that he could duck or regain health. Instead, he developed ridiculous timing skills that allowed him to exploit brief moments of vulnerability before his opponents could hit him with moves he thought were unblockable.
- SF Debris: Parody Janeway is capable of solving any kind of Negative Space Wedgie by shooting it, mostly by failing to realize that they should not be susceptible to phaser blasts. This includes resolving time paradoxes with gunfire and even breaking the event horizon of a black hole, a procedure which, scientifically speaking, is about as plausible as becoming able to fly by hunting down gravity and stabbing it through the heart with a tuning fork.
- On Not Always Working, three pranksters in a video game store fill an empty console box with water bottles to fool any would-be shoplifters. Their assistant manager gets caught with it, and it isn't his first shoplifting offense.
- Meanwhile on Not Always Right, a man tries to buy a bird from the pet store... a wild bird that he'd caught just outside the store, mistaking it for an outside display.
- A roleplaying website had an event that featured an organization based around a large amount of superhumans. Two of them explicitly manifested this as a superpower; the second one became an Omnidisciplinary Scientist who could play around and break virtually any field of science over her knee because she believed she was a supergenius without peer who could just figure things out no one else could. The first one, on the other hand, was a butler to the group's ruling council, because in trying to figure out what his powers were and how they worked, they made his powers stop working.
- After Welcome to Night Vale's former mayor Pamela Winchell retires, she takes up several hobbies which go horribly wrong. Her attempt at birdwatching somehow causes massive fires, tropical fishing results in a flash flood, and her coin collecting crashes the economy, just to name a few. Even Cecil and the other locals find all this both astonishing and alarming.
- In Ultra Fast Pony, it's impossible to kill Rainbow Dash because she's so stupid she doesn't know how to die.
- On the subreddit /r/ShittyAskScience a user once asked, If the sun were to instantly disappear, would it take 8 minutes for the earth to stop orbiting it?. However, this is actually what would happen if the sun were to spontaneously disappear as the force of gravity travels at the speed of light. The page exploded when they realized that someone asked a question so unreasonably stupid it became reasonable.
- The Angry Video Game Nerd has a Commodore 64 computer in his game room and among the games he has played on it include Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing, The Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures among a few other PC fan games, and an SNES Emulator to play Hong Kong '97.
- Dashie Games: Towards the end of Dashie's playthrough of Life Is Strange Episode 2: Out Of Time, he gets to the part where Max tries to convince Kate not to commit suicide. The point is, he has no prior knowledge of this. The decisions he chooses is "Things will get better," "It was in silent mode," "I'm gathering proof," "Be strong," "Your mother," and finally, because Dashie knows someone named Matthew and that it was 11:30 at this point, "Matthew 11:28." After all of these decisions due to having no prior knowledge and no walkthrough to guide him as a result, in the end, Dashie ultimately ends up saving Kate. Due to his success in this, Life Is Strange became one of his requested games and it racked up a lot of likes.
- Meatwad, of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, develops some rather astonishing abilities (telekinesis, teleportation, etc...) when he is told he has a new brain and loses them when he finds it is his toy rubber brain with cosmetic alterations.
- Megas XLR: Coop lives by this trope; he even lampshades it in "S-Force SOS"
Zerak: Impossible! No can escape the force of the Infinity Zone!]
Coop: Hey, good thing no one ever told me that.
- Xiaolin Showdown:
- An early episode has three of the four heroes trapped in an invisible box by an evil mime. Raimundo is able to make noise sliding the Mantis Flip Coin against the "invisible" bars, while it was previously established that the walls were solid, and there were no bars. They use this to escape when they realize the box acts like whatever they think it does. This raises the question of how they got trapped in the box in the first place, considering they didn't believe that it was there until they walked into it.
- The Mime was there when they walked into it and he believed in the box. So perhaps his belief was stronger than the others, or the others could have believed there is something there, they just didn't know what.
- Looney Tunes:
- The reason Wile E. Coyote and other characters in the shorts can do things like run off a cliff and not fall until they look down.
- An early Daffy Duck cartoon had Daffy riding an invisible bicycle, with the remark "I'm so crazy, I don't know this is impossible!"
- Another one had Wile E. and Road Runner run off the cliff. Wile E. looks down and falls to the ground, while the Road Runner still floats on a fragment of rock. Peeved by the latter part, Wile E. says via a sign, "I wouldn't mind - except that he defies the law of gravity!" Road Runner, in response, holds up a sign that says "Sure - but I never studied law!"
- Bugs Bunny accomplished a similar feat in "High-Diving Hare". After Yosemite Sam tries to saw through a high-diving platform and the rest of the platform collapses, Bugs quips "I know this defies the law of gravity, but I never studied law!"
- There is at least one instance of a character running off of the cliff, realizing it without looking down, and try to continue without looking down. Obviously, they look down (usually getting lured by their enemy).
- There is a variation with Elmer and Bugs as children, where Elmer says they didn't study gravity yet. Then Bugs slipped him a book...
- There was a Tiny Toon Adventures episode which explained the phenomenon. Elmer, teaching the young toons, said that as long as the toon didn't look down it wouldn't fall.
- Which in itself is a shout out to an earlier Disney work where Walt himself explained this as the Plausible Impossible effect.
- In a Tom and Jerry cartoon, Tom tries to catch Jerry by casting a fishing line - with cheese as bait - into the mouse hole. He doesn't catch Jerry, but he does land an actual fish, to his utter surprise.
- In the I Am Weasel episode "Law of Gravity", I.R. Baboon was actually able to defy gravity up until the point that he actually gets to read the actual Law of Gravity. Later on, Baboon destroys the Law... and every lawyer on Earth starts floating helplessly in mid-air. Weasel explains it only affects lawyers because they're the only ones who understand the law.
- The Powerpuff Girls
- Professor Utonium kind of is this Trope. Every time he invents something useful, he does so by accident. (This includes the Girls, by the way, as described in the show's opening sequence.) He can't seem to do anything useful on purpose, however. (It's probably not a good idea to mention the Dynamo, something he did invent on purpose. It was a disaster.)
- Bubbles managed to get a 1075 on a test in "Him Diddle Riddle" by drawing on it.
- In an episode of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, Billy's Dad is in the audience of a Battle of the Bands with Billy, having mistaken it for an actual battle and waiting for an opportunity to crash the stage. When the time arrives:
Billy's Dad: Now my son! Let us go forth and conquer all!! [starts flapping his arms and cackling madly, flying into the air]
Billy: Wow, Dad! I didn't know you could fly!!
Billy's Dad: [surprised expression] Fly?! [crashes into the stage]
- In Duckman, the title character gets a new adrenal gland from who he THINKS is a world-famous stuntman who recently died in a freak accident. This leads to him believing he can do all sorts of monumental stunts and acts of derring-do. And it works...until his partner informs him that the gland came from a dyslexic accountant (and a new adrenal gland wouldn't give one increased strength, balance or flexibility, either). He calls off his latest daring stunt and everything is back to normal.
- The Penguins of Madagascar:
- The penguins have trouble removing a hornet nest. They discover that Mort isn't hurt by the hornets because he is protected by a "halo of ignorance". Kowalski uses a machine to drain their minds of bad thoughts so that they could then deal with the hornets. Hilarity Ensues.
- In the episode "It's About Time", a time machine creates a hole in the space-time continuum that threatens to destroy the universe. Rico then tosses the machine into the hole, and it closes. When Kowalski states the impossibility of it, Skipper responds, "That's why Rico's a maverick. He makes his own rules."
- In an opening of Arthur, Francine flaps her arms and flies. Arthur shouts out that kids can't fly, right when she's floating 10 feet above him. Once Francine's bubble is burst, she plummets to the ground.
- South Park:
- In one episode, Kyle's parents tell him he can go to a Raging Pussies concert if he brings democracy to Cuba. He does just that, unaware that his parents thought this task impossible. They still don't let him go.
- In the episode "The Tale of Scrotie McBoogerballs" kids are appalled when the supposedly "risque" and "mature" book The Catcher in the Rye doesn't live up to their expectations, and, for shits and giggles, decide to write their own banned book, making it as disgusting as possible. They succeed, and their creation is praised worldwide as a literary masterpiece.
- After expressing a desire to join the Crips, which they believe is an organisation for people who have been disabled from birth, Jimmy and Timmy manage to "pop some punk-ass Bloods", despite assuming that this means buying marshmallows and ginger ale. They cross the road on the way to the store, causing a truck driver to swerve and kill the rival gang members. The Crips are ecstatic that they both popped some bloods and brought back marshmallows and ginger ale.
- In Wakko's Wish, Buttons runs straight up a tree to save Mindy, only to fall when she tells him "Puppies can't climb trees."
- In the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon, Presto rarely managed to pull what he needed out of his hat, but somehow, he and the other heroes often managed to solve the crisis with what he did conjure up. For example, in one episode, the heroes were up against a group of giant iron statues, and he managed to produce a cannon - but when he tried to come up with ammunition for it, all he managed were ball bearings. Fortunately, all but one of the statues slipped on them and fell, while Bobby managed to use his club to catapult the cannon itself into the last one, smashing it to pieces.
- In a mainstream Animaniacs episode, Stinkbomb B. Basset Hound pursues Slappy, and when she climbs a tree to get away from him, he scales the tree after her. When he reaches her, however, she tells him that dogs can't climb trees, at which point he plummets to the ground. (He gets a good idea in the next scene and tries to use climbing gear to do it, but doesn't fare much better.)
- An episode of Jimmy Two-Shoes had Jimmy in an animal jail. When Jimmy begs that he's not an animal, the other animals join in. When Molotov reminds them that they don't know how to speak, they go back to making animal noises.
- The Simpsons:
- Homer Simpson achieved an Epic Fail so massive that he managed to cause an actual nuclear meltdown in a nuclear plant simulation truck with no fissionable materials.
- He also managed to light a bowl of cereal on fire by pouring milk on it.
- In a Treehouse of Terror episode, he managed to build a time travel machine by failing to repair his toaster.
- He manages to solve two problems simultaneously, each one solving the other! When trying to build a doghouse, he hurts and injures himself, causing him to cuss a lot. Marge suggests a swear jar. After several days of trying to build the doghouse using the swear jar, he eventually stops cussing, and gains enough change this way for Marge to buy a doghouse. (And a six pack of Duff.) in other words, the doghouse project helps him stop swearing and the swearing helps gain a new doghouse!
- And Grandpa Simpson once managed to take off his underpants without taking off his pants first. When asked how he did that, he is as confused as everyone else.
- This is how Ed of Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy is able to warp reality and do things no normal kid should do-such as lifting a house. Actually lampshaded once: Edd and Eddy come to a screeching halt at the edge of a cliff, Ed slams into them and knocks them off. Eddy starts yelling at him, before Double D looks down and announces: "Uh, gentlemen? IMPROBABLE ALERT!" While Ed contemplates that he can "make it" (jump to the other side of the ravine while already standing on air) the others scramble back to safety.
- Danger Mouse and Penfold accidentally get themselves and their flying car whisked back in time to Robin Hood days. Penfold points out that they didn't have cars in the middle ages. D.M. sighs and says he had hoped Penfold wouldn't say that until they'd landed. Penfold asks why. The flying car disappears and they plummet.
- In one episode of Rocket Power, Sam's skateboarding simulation program comes across a move that it has deemed physically impossible, but Otto doesn't believe it. He spends the episode practicing the move and eventually pulls it off...with a little help from a tennis ball shot out of the Stimpletons' lawn mower. Convinced that he can do it, Otto tries it at a competition and wipes out.
- SpongeBob SquarePants:
- SpongeBob and Patrick set up a bonfire while they believe themselves to be wanted men, and the instant Patrick wonders on how they could possibly light a fire while underwater, it fizzles out.
- In another episode, land-dwelling fanboy Patchy the Pirate sent him an invitation to a party, but when SpongeBob received it underwater, the writings on it have been turned into indecipherable smudges. SpongeBob then proceeds to make a smug comment.
SpongeBob: Whoever sent this obviously has no idea about the physical limitations of life underwater! Well, might as well throw this in the fire!
- In "Snowball Effect", SpongeBob tries to teach Patrick on how to make a snowball. Patrick fails...but in the process, ends up creating a snow cube, a snow pyramid, and a snow double helix.
- Goofy refers to this phenomenon on an episode of Goof Troop. Pete wants to steal Goofy's cat, Waffles, as part of some scheme. So he convinces Goofy that Waffles is allergic to the color of Goofy's house. When Max's encyclopedia declares that cats are color-blind, Goofy shrugs it off: "Maybe Waffles hasn't read that book."
- One episode of Sealab 2021 ends with Marco singing a duet in Portuguese...while thinking he's singing in Spanish.
- During an episode of The Venture Bros., The Monarchs Henchmen wake from a wild night of partying to find they actually managed to capture Brock and the Venture family. Blind stinking drunk.
24: Oh shit! I thought we dreamed that part!
- In the first season episode of Code Lyoko "Cruel Dilemma", after Jeremie again fails to make Aelita's virtualization program work, Odd snoops around in Jeremie's room, takes some of Jeremie's candy, and when Jeremie surprises him, drops the candy on the keyboard of the computer...accidentally rebooting the virtualization program and completely by accident, inputting an unknown command that makes it work. (Unfortunately, because Jeremie didn't see what Odd did and can't save the program for some reason, he can only use it once, and when Yumi falls into the Digital Sea at the end, he has to use it to save her from a Fate Worse Than Death, meaning Aelita has to wait.)
- In an episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Aquaman uses his ability to control aquatic creatures to take command of... silverfish. The Atom points out that silverfish are insects, but ends up shrugging it off with a Sure, Let's Go with That. This is itself a Call Back to their first meeting, in which Aquaman used his powers in a "Fantastic Voyage" Plot to command a lymphocyte. This gave Ryan a Twitchy Eye.
- Horribly subverted in The Batman. The Joker had no idea what his Joker Putty formula would do to human flesh, but when he found out it had turned Ethan Bennet into Clayface, his sick mind actually considered that a great accomplishment.
- My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic:
- The episode "Twilight's Kingdom, Part 1": "I don't think it works that way, Pinkie." While interrogating an inanimate rubber chicken won't get the Key of Laughter, throwing it at the Harmony Box actually does transform Boneless the rubber chicken into the Key of Laughter.
- This is one explanation for how Pinkie Pie manages to constantly violate the realistic, Magic A Is Magic A setting with her unusual abilities. Something that other characters lampshade frequently.
- Futurama has a two-for-one deal of this in the episode "The Deep South". Dr. Zoidberg's house burns down... underwater.
Zoidberg: How did this happen?!
Hermes: [utterly dumbfounded] That's a good question.
Bender: [walks over to the burned rubble] Oh, that's where I left my cigar! [picks it up and smokes it (again, this is all happening underwater)]
Hermes: That just raises further questions!
Fry: Bender! You can't bend a wooden door!
- In "Leela and the Genestalk", Bender is able to bend a wooden door in part because of this trope.
Bender: [Hushed] You know that, and I know that, but this door looks pretty stupid.
- One episode of Fairly OddParents, "A Mile In My Shoes" had Cosmo trying to light candles underwater as part of dinner (reasoning that "somebody's gotta dry up all this wet food"), which Wanda exclaims should be impossible. However:
*Timmy walks in the room*
Timmy: Hey, guys, what's new?
Wanda: (the candles light) Um... the laws of physics?!
- In 1976, it was widely known in the computer industry that the circuitry needed to make an entire general-purpose computer work could not fit in a box smaller than a desk. Steve Wozniak designed the Apple 1 Personal Computer in 1976. He later stated that had he known more about computer theory back then, he wouldn't have tried to make the Apple 1 - However, what probably made it possible at all was his habit of taking Mini Computers (The desk-sized versions) which used 150 chips and taking entire weekends redesigning them, often with only 50 chips. This habit alone probably would have invoked this trope from the computer engineers of the time.
- In 1939, George Dantzig, a mathematics graduate student, arrived late in class and copied what he thought was homework written on the blackboard. After taking longer than usual to solve the problems, he apologized to his professor for his lateness and turned them in. What he didn't know was that what he copied wasn't homework but two unsolved statistics theorems, the proofs of which he published. To this day, colleges and professors will sometimes place previously unsolved problems like these in with other more mundane problems on "entrance exams" or other evaluative tests, just to see if some brilliant young student who hasn't heard about the problem not being solved yet can find a solution nobody else thought to try.
- Dantzig's story eventually morphed into the Urban Legend of the student that was late for an exam and barely completed all the problems on the board only for him to be told that the final problem(s) were "unsolvable" problems and that he made history. The legend can be traced to Reverend Robert Schuller, whom Dantzig once met and told him about the blackboard incident only for Schuller to add the embellishments found in the legend.
- This happens fairly often with accomplished self-taught musicians:
- John Bonham learned to play a bass drum triplet with one foot after listening to a Vanilla Fudge record and mistakenly thinking that Carmine Appice was doing the same—Carmine was an early user of a double bass drum kit. While heel-toe (which is essentially what he was using) is standard now among drummers who need to play extended double-kick rolls extremely fast, it was completely unheard of back then.
- Virgil Donati developed fantastic bass drum technique by practicing until he could play Deep Purple's "Fireball" with one bass drum, not realizing Ian Paice used a double bass to pull it off when he recorded it.
- The cornerstone of impressionist André Philippe Gagnon's act is his spot-on imitation of a saxophone (using only his voice!) perfected as a child when he imitated Henry Mancini's The Pink Panther theme. Why? He didn't understand that it wasn't a person making that noise!
- New Age guitarist Michael Hedges taught himself to play The Beatles' "Yesterday" in its recorded key of F, a very difficult key to play in using standard guitar tuning. He only much later learned that Paul McCartney had tuned his guitar down a whole step and played the song as if it were in the much easier key of G.
- Harpo Marx was dismayed to hear that classically-trained harpists did not use their little fingers, because he did. He paid a tutor to teach him the classical style, but eventually fired the tutor when it became evident that the tutor was more interested in learning Harpo's style than in teaching Harpo the classical style.
- Chet Atkins was a guitarist with a unique and extremely difficult four-finger picking style. It took him years to develop that style. He did it because he was convinced that it was impossible to play like Merle Travis with only the thumb and forefinger. He was wrong; that was exactly how Merle Travis played.
- Some left-handed guitarists like Dick Dale and Albert King play their guitars upside-down, with the strings upside down as well. This makes for some special chord structures and a special way of bending the strings (downwards, instead of upwards).
- A lot of The Beatles' groundbreaking achievements come from them not being too familiar with the way music's "meant" to work from a traditional way. On "A Day in the Life", Paul McCartney said he wanted all the instruments in the orchestra to start off on their lowest note, and then finish off on their highest, as loud as possible, after 24 bars. It was left to George Martin to transcribe that to music notationnote . Another case involves "Strawberry Fields Forever": when the band had recorded two completely different versions of the song, John Lennon said he wanted to use the first half of one and the second half of the other. When the producer and engineer pointed out that they were in different keys and tempi, he just shrugged it off and said "You'll work it out." As a result, they had to spend painstakingly long hours varispeeding and editing, but they successfully joined them togethernote . Had John (or Paul on the "Day in the Life" example) been classically trained or had a more "academic" approach to music, they might never have come up with such original ideas.
- Carter Beauford, drummer for the Dave Matthews Band, taught himself to play as a young boy by watching himself in a mirror imitating what he saw his favorite drummers do. However, being so young, he didn't realize until later that by watching himself in the mirror he was doing the reverse of what his role models were doing. The end result, when he figured this out and learned to play "properly", is that he's one of the very few ambidextrous drummers in the world and has a unique style that's caused him to be considered one of the greatest rock drummers ever.
- Jim Stafford was completely self-taught on every instrument he plays, which astounds anyone who has seen him perform—for example, playing "Classical Gas" on The Late Show With Johnny Carson, it's shocking the acoustic guitar doesn't burst into flames.
- The Shaggs were subjective in the quality of their music, and were objectively mediocre musicians. Somehow, they were praised by Frank Zappa, Kurt Cobain, and several other famous musicians, and inspired not only a tribute album, but a stage musical. They obviously had very little knowledge about musical theory or the instruments they were playing, singing, and as such were forced by their father to form the band because he saw success in their future. At one point, Zappa called them "Better than The Beatles". Now with this in mind, go listen to one of their songs.
- Mike Flores developed his now-famous bass technique by accident; as a child, he was trying to learn guitar but kept losing guitar privileges whenever his parents grounded him, so he picked up his father's bass (which couldn't be taken away) instead and tried to emulate using a pick with his fingers instead of plucking. This was well before one could readily access instruction videos to find out how the pros did it, so he essentially just played in a way that made sense to him. This technique was, by conventional standards, totally wrong, but he didn't know this and became so proficient with it that there was no point in trying to learn how to play correctly, as he could play circles around just about everyone with it.
- Marty Friedman is known for having a very unusual picking style that makes replicating his solos extremely difficult; as a largely self-taught player, he never learned how he was "supposed" to attack certain passages, and as a result, he developed a style that was his and his alone. Not only does he not palm mute (which is practically unheard of in rock and metal), but he regularly uses upstrokes where most guitarists would use downstrokes and vice versa, and he frequently picks from the fingers rather than the elbow or wrist, which is yet another curveball that makes his solos sound even more unique. The result is compositions that are far, far more difficult to play than they sound, which throws lots of players unfamiliar with his style off when they try to learn his solos and find that they just aren't coming out right with traditional pick attacks.
- Joe Walsh of Eagles taught himself to play the harmonized guitar part in The Beatles' song "And Your Bird Can Sing", not realizing that it was actually George Harrison double-tracking himself and that even Harrison himself couldn't play it on one guitar at a time.
- This is apparently part of the premise of Blue Man Group's act: the eponymous Blue Men have re-created alt-rock and contemporary pop music by tapping PVC pipes and beating up pianos without realizing they shouldn't be able to create those sounds without synthesizers and digital studio equipment.
- When teaching young children how to play their instruments, a good teacher never tells their students that anything is "easy" or "hard". As a result, those children learn to play well much more quickly.
- There is also an urban legend about a French immigrant who made a huge business in the USA during the Great Depression. When questioned about the achievement, he stated that his English was so bad back then he could read no newspapers—and, therefore, knew nothing about the depression.
- Akira Toriyama, praised for his groundbreaking techniques in the manga industry, was clueless about said industry when he started. Since he didn't really know what the general tricks of the trade were, he just did what he felt like doing and published it. The works he produced have since been regarded as some of the most innovative material of its time.
- Money in general works like this; as soon as you have an economy that's no longer based on the most primitive level of trade, you need to have a mutual agreement to ignore the logical problems of your system. Especially prevalent with banks; they work fine as long as everyone acts as if their money will be safe in the vaults, but if too many people think it might be safer if they withdraw it, the whole thing falls apart (though this is only actually a problem with fractional reserve bankingnote ).
- Every recession is an aversion of this trope (even if it looks like it's not at first): the economy does well, people become optimistic and start living above their means, debt skyrockets, the future returns are no longer capable to carry that amount of debt let alone new debts, people panic, everything comes crashing down. Sure, it may be tempting to think that if everyone went on spending future money and nobody panicked everything would be dandy—but people forget that they panicked for a reason and that debt is a very real thing. Some basic economic principles can't be ignored with just a fearless attitude any more than you can ignore the laws of physics. Money may be more flexible and complicated than a barter economy, but it is still needed for very real things. This trope is, however, what makes recessions possible in the early "hey that's a problem for future me and by then I'll be super rich" phase—not to mention that money depends on being certain that it will be worth something in the future. So, yeah, this trope is a very mixed bag when it comes to the economy: It's both a boon and a curse.
- There is a story of a viral video that went around depicting a man playing baseball with nun-chucks. A martial arts master repeated this apparently unaware that the videos were faked and it was thought impossible.
- The Placebo Effect:
- The placebo effect can be considered an example of this phenomenon. Someone who has been given a sugar pill for their health problems and thinks it's actual medicine will usually feel better, at least the first few times they take the "medicine". It's a case of Your Mind Makes It Real. However, this only improves subjective conditions like pain, or ones with a mental or stress-related component, like insomnia. Diseases which are uninfluenced by mood or emotion will not be affected by the placebo effect (people will temporarily feel better but not be better), which can be dangerous if a pseudoscience such as homeopathy tries to claim that it can cure or treat an actual, dangerous disease or condition.
- The placebo effect can cause subjects to experience the supposed side effects of the drug. In one notable example, almost half of the men in one study reported total hair loss after taking a placebo that they were told was a "cancer drug" - even though they hadn't been directly told that the drug had any side effects.
- People can get sick if told they have been poisoned or that a dummy pill has possible side effects. This is called the Nocebo effect. As with the placebo effect, there is nothing external to the body causing it. This phenomenon was responsible for propagating the erroneous belief that tomatoes are poisonous. Similarly, people can get "drunk" when drinking non-alcoholic beverages just by thinking they are alcoholic.
- Charles Babbage, credited as the inventor of the mechanical computing machine. When he first drew up the concept, he believed that the first such machine was the "Mechanical Turk" (a chess machine which had played Napoleon, among others). The Turk was, however, exposed as a very clever hoax, designed to accommodate a very small concealed human operator, around the time he got started on building the first actual mechanical computer prototype.
- An occasional concept in military thought; for an attack from which there is no possibility of retreat, such as an amphibious landing, green soldiers often perform better than veterans. This is because they are unfamiliar with the dangers of what they are attempting, and will therefore try things that veterans know carry a high risk of ending in death.
- An adage from Murphy's Laws of Combat:
"Professional soldiers are predictable; the world is full of dangerous amateurs."
- Perhaps the greatest example of this in the 20th Century is Operation Barbarossa in World War II. It should have been impossible to launch a surprise attack of its scope on the Soviet Union; Josef Stalin was paranoid beyond belief and had perhaps the world's greatest spy network under him, who found out leagues of information and passed it on. Stalin dismissed it; he and Adolf Hitler were very similar in several aspects, and Stalin attributed his thought process to Hitler, that being that it would be ridiculous for Germany to open a two-front war with its limited resources. No competent man (like Stalin saw himself as, and by extent Hitler due to their similarities) would be so stupid. But Hitler was a delusional racist who saw invading the Soviet Union as manifest destiny and as part of his high calling to cull the world of all inferior races, of which Slavs and Bolsheviks ranked very highly. So he did, and Stalin, thinking Hitler's madness to be some sort of trick to break the alliance they had, would find his country caught completely off-guard and nearly defeated (or at least badly crippled) before they could begin to fight back; before the idiocies that had accidentally let Hitler catch the Soviet Union with their pants down caught up with Nazi Germany and ultimately led to their attack bogging down, stopping, and ultimately being repelled and reversed all the way back to Berlin as the Reich came crashing down.
- Most of Hitler's war plans fall under this. With Germany coming out of a deep recession, and very lacking in strategic resources, they simply did not have the capability to sustain any conflict for more than a few weeks. Hitler, either unwilling or unable to accept this, ordered his armies to attack anyways. Contrary to popular belief, both Poland and France had large and fairly modern armies for the time, so it was unthinkable that Germany even had a chance. The German generals came up with blitzkrieg, combined arms tactics that managed to capture strategic points before the opposing armies could react. This worked rather well until they tried it on a country that could easily trade land for time to engage their full military potential (see above).
- In the (snowy) Battle for Vimy Ridge, the Canadian 85th Highlanders of Nova Scotia succeeded in attacking Hill 145, the highest part of the battlefield and a linchpin in the Germans' defences. The unit was completely green and used only for work parties thus far. Their artillery barrage preceding their attack was called off unknown to them (in fear of friendly fire because of the close proximity of their trenches to the Germans), and the 85th attacked moments after the silent zero hour with a battle cry regardless. The German defenders were mostly caught by surprise on account of them knowing a large artillery barrage for the intent of suppressing the defenders always came soon before attackers would reach them so no one in their right mind would try to attack without it.
- Martial arts of any kind show a similar strange pattern. A rank amateur with no training is often a greater threat to a master than a beginner, since the completely untrained individual will be unpredictable. They may land a lucky shot or series of shots. It's Confusion Fu due to ignorance. This can become very funny in fencing. A martial artist who takes up the sport often has trouble adapting at first and is easy prey to an experienced fencer. A raw beginner will sometimes score hits by accident, especially in epee, where there are no rules about priority or target area. They're just waggling their weapon unpredictably and getting lucky.
- In a case of Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking, when Channel 4 hosted a poker tournament between pro and amateur players, the pros said they struggled with the amateur players, having got so used to the tells of their fellow pros. This is likely why so many "amateur" players can have success in big poker tournaments with seasoned pros: both their tells and betting patterns are foreign to the pros, leaving them far more unpredictable. (A word of warning to anyone hoping to replicate this feat: there are several poker strategies that are very good at taking money from poor players but have serious weaknesses. Expert players wouldn't bother trying them against other experts, but if they have reason to believe that their opponent wouldn't know the appropriate counter-strategy, they can and will use one of these to win easily.)
- This can even come up in chess matches, despite both sides knowing the same information—trying to figure out what the amateur is doing can confound the professional, because the amateur doesn't know what they're doing, and so can't be predicted. Also, amateurs will perform the most ridiculous, foolish moves that no competent player would make, and thus a pro might leave themselves open to something resulting from such a move, or find it difficult to realize that it is even being attempted.
- For years, physicists knew you could not suspend one magnet over the other without some sort of additional support. The top magnet would either flip due to the attractive forces, or slide off. This had been given a beautiful mathematical proof, and anyone caught illicitly trying to disprove it would be the subject of some teasing. However, eventually someone came along who had the good fortune of not knowing that floating one magnet over the other had long been proved impossible, and promptly solved the problem: just spin the free floating magnet like a top. The original proof had been right as far as it went, but spinning the magnet was a loophole no one had accounted for (save, in a broad sense, superconductors, which work on similar principles but aren't magnets).
- Evolutionary computer design is based on this principle: you set the end goals you want the program to achieve, but don't give it specific instructions on how to get there, allowing the program try some solutions, test them, then mutate and combine the best of them to try again. The end result is often something no human would ever design but would perform at least as well if not better. One example was designing a structural "backbone" for a space station. Human designs involved a standard radio-tower style beam, while the computer produced an organic design that looked like an actual bone, massed less, and was structurally stronger. Perhaps one of the strangest examples was when a piece of programmable hardware ran a genetic algorithm to try to create an oscillator and ended up creating a radio receiver and parasite at the same time. Another experiment ran on a programmable logic array to distinguish between sounds resulted in a circuit where part of it wasn't even connected to any inputs, outputs or the rest of the circuit, but if removed resulted in the circuit failing. It also didn't work when copied to another chip of the same kind which means it used subtle manufacturing defects of the chip as integral parts of the circuit! And there's this antenna, which manages better coverage, less energy spent, and skipping some steps of the production process. And also looks like a spider with a bad seizure.
- The reason martial arts expert Tony Jaa can pull off his amazing stunts without wires is that he grew up watching martial arts movies without knowing there was such thing as Wire Fu. Nobody thought to tell him he couldn't do what he eventually managed to do.
- In informal shooting competitions, it isn't uncommon to see people do things with weapons that any knowledgeable person would consider ludicrous, such as learning how to actually use Guns Akimbo because they haven't been told it's impossible, or making relatively long-range shots with a handgun while using an improper technique, or developing quick reloading techniques not favored by any instructor, or rapidly make precise long-range shots with rifles that aren't supposed to be able to do that, or performing admirably in close quarters setups with inappropriate weapons and techniques, simply because nobody told them that they aren't supposed to be able to dual wield guns, or that long range shooting with most handguns is very difficult and impractical and they aren't supposed to hold the gun that way, or that they aren't supposed to reload that way, or that Mosins and AK's are allegedly incapable of that kind of shooting, or that they aren't supposed to use a certain weapon or a handling technique for that situation, or that certain caliber they use is considered too harsh to shoot in volume. Pretty much, they overcome a lack of formal knowledge and sub-optimal setups just with sheer amounts of practice and stubbornness. Most common amateur achievements include mastering open iron sights while everybody else recommends apertures and optics, or developing semi-aimed point shooting techniques instead of going with the Cooper style sighted fire, or taking a weapon off target and/or using the trigger hand to make the reload, or accidentally learning to shoot offhand simply because they found it easier to support and reload weapons that way, or they decided that any mechanical shortcomings in sight design or mechanical operation, like the sights of most eastern guns being difficult to adjust or the Mosin-Nagant bolt not being particularly swift or smooth just meant that they had to try harder to learn to compensate for the design and memorize aim offset and just practice at working the action more swiftly, or they've just gotten good at controlling recoil and putting up with the punishment that the stock visits upon them.
- Many of the innovative visuals and special effects seen in Citizen Kane are the result of first-time film director Orson Welles simply refusing to believe that certain things couldn't be done on screen.
- A literal case of this with gamers who earn Xbox 360 Achievements (or PS3 Trophies) without looking up the requirements on what is needed to get them. Specifically, when you're near the end of a No Damage Run and are aware of it, you might start locking up or playing too conservatively for your own good. No such problem if it hasn't occurred to you that you haven't taken damage or don't realize there's a reward at stake. Particularly prevalent in Rhythm games, where players can enter an almost trance-like state of mind when they're doing well, only to be sucked out of it when they realize how well they're doing, usually resulting in them screwing up.
- This interview with Ken Levine reveals that if he'd known how difficult and borderline impossible it should have been to create System Shock 2 with the resources and technology he had at the time, he probably would have failed to deliver what is now a classic.
- The illustrator Franklin Booth learned to draw by copying from wood engravings, thinking they were pen and ink drawings. This gave him his distinctly complicated and precise style.
- Fold It is a free game about figuring out how proteins fold. Player's results go to researchers over the Internet to see how if the result works. This game helps in a few ways. The first is you can have more people trying to figure out how the proteins fold with almost no training. The other is that many players, due to lack of training, do not have preconceived notions of how proteins should fold. For 15 years, scientists were trying to figure out how a protein in a type of AIDS-causing virus folds. They released the protein as a puzzle in Fold It. Players submitted a solution to how the protein actually folds in 10 days.
- Rachel Maddow deliberately invoked this: while her show was under construction, Rachel deliberately avoided any advice on how to run the program. She now averages around 1.1 million viewers nightly, ranking her second in popularity among all cable news networks.
- In one of the greatest running spectacles in history, an old man named Cliff Young showed up at the start of one of the world's most hellish and mind-numbingly long ultramarathons, totaling 875km between Sydney and Melbourne, Australia, in denim overalls and wellies. He never had the slightest chance at finishing the course, as everybody could see, but days spent rounding up sheep on his family farm had convinced him that he could make it through. Five days and fifteen hours later, he crossed the finish line a victor. Apparently, nobody had told him competitors in this race were supposed to stop for sleep breaks, so instead he just kept going and broke the course record by more than two days. Not realizing that there was a prize for winning, he split the $10,000 reward equally between all of the competitors. His running style, dubbed "The Young Shuffle", was deemed by athletic trainers to be one of the most efficient ways to travel while conserving the most energy. Three other athletes copied his technique to win the race later on.
- There's an Urban Legend that bumblebees fly even though science has proven that they can'tnote . This trope is part of the "don't believe the naysayers" Aesop underlying that story.
- Burmese pythons are natural climbers when young. In the wild, however, as they grow to over 12 feet long and 100-150 lbs, the trees they used to climb no longer support them and, after falling a few times and hurting themselves, they learn to stop climbing and hunt along the ground. People who own Burmese pythons as pets keep them from hurting themselves, usually by catching them if they're going to fall. So they never learn they shouldn't climb any more, and amusing pictures can be found of giant snakes on top of cat trees and bookcases and the like.
- When Isaac Asimov was studying chemistry, he detested the subject and did poorly on lab work, continuing only out of inertia. Unexpectedly, one of his least favorite teachers began to fiercely advocate for him in his second year of undergraduate studies, and was a large part of the reason he was allowed to stay in school to get his PhD. Why? The year he'd had the teacher, the man had deliberately given him problems above his level to try and make him drop out, but he hadn't realized that he was being tricked and had solidly worked through everything he was given without asking for extra help. As Asimov later wrote, "I stubbornly worked through them, however, and did so without complaint because I was too stupid to suspect conspiracy."
- Betty Edwards' Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain is highly regarded as being one of the best books on drawing in spite of it initially being based on the "Left Brain/Right Brain" theory, which has long-since been proven false. The reason? The techniques the books used to help others learn how to draw actually work. Newer editions of the book now speak of the Left Brain/Right Brain theory in a figurative sense instead of a literal one.
- Elon Musk's business ventures are usually based on that model. He had no practical experience in either aviation, engineering or automotive design and so he did not know how an electric car was "supposed to" look like, nor did he build a rocket the way it was "supposed to" work like. This of course resulted in the highly successful Tesla and rockets that replace complex electromechanical parts with "simple" computer programs that were simply unavailable when the first rockets were built in the 1940, 50s and 60s, However, if this blog post is anything to go by, this approach has its limits.
- Averted or inverted in the young Richard Feynman's research in liquid helium. He managed to calculate everything he attempted with one exception: the order of a phase transition in liquid helium. Following a presentation, one of the field's tribal elders announced one thing Feynman should be wised up on: nobody has ever been able to determine the order of a phase transition from first principals.
- Arc System Works, as a whole, had little to no experience with Unreal Engine 3. They still made it run Guilty Gear Xrd at a solid 60 FPS, with stylized looks and animation reminiscent of high quality sprites, and generally made it look amazing.
- When he was 13 years old, Jim Shooter realized that his family needed money, and resolved to get a job to help them out. As he was a big fan of comic books, he decided to become a writer on Legion Of Superheroes. His parents never bothered discouraging him because they knew that he'd receive nothing but a rejection letter anyway - except DC Comics liked his scripts so much they offered him a job. He remains the youngest writer ever to write comic books professionally.
- There's a saying in Go that those who simply know Joseki (a series of standard, well-known plays) are worse than newbies. Newbies still make moves that are unpredictable, but those who simply play out Joseki are predictable. The point of knowing Joseki though is to understand when such moves are useful and when they are not to counter them.
- In 1925, Marvin Pipkin succeeded in developing an inside frosted lightbulb that wasn't brittle, not knowing that the task was assigned to him as a prank since developing such a lightbulb was supposed to be impossible.
- On September 17th, 2016, a bomb went off in Manhattan, New York's Chelsea district. Police ended up discovering a second bomb, a pressure cooker bomb, already disabled. After awhile, security footage was found and the mystery of how the second bomb was disabled was revealed — two men, later revealed to be Egypt Air airplane security guards, discovered the suitcase the bomb was in in the middle of the road. Not realizing the discarded suitcase was a bomb and feeling bad that such a good suitcase was going to waste, the men approached the suitcase, opened it, discarded the "pot" and took the suitcase.
- H. Jon Benjamin became an awesome piano player on his first try even though he didn't know how to play the piano in the first place.