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Break the Scientist
aka: The Professor Is Crying Again
So, we all know that every time you show dinosaurs and cave-people together
in the same era a palaeontologist cries
. Probably not literally, of course. You'd have to be fairly unstable to be brought to tears just because some TV show took some artistic liberties. After all, it's just a show
However, if a scientist or other expert saw this kind of defiance of the laws of the universe taking place right in front of them
, it's likely that they would be a bit shaken up
All those years of careful study and research suddenly proven wrong... NOOOOOOOOOO!
This trope occurs when the expert in question is a character in the work who becomes upset that their reality is blatantly defying the laws of nature, physics, etc. This may manifest as actual crying, Unstoppable Rage
, or even a nervous breakdown
Often Played for Laughs
as a form of Lampshade Hanging
- the author is demonstrating that, yes, they know perfectly well that it doesn't make sense, and are giving the viewer a gentle reminder not to take it too seriously
If the professor is already aware of the existence of other magic, aliens, etc, then his disbelief is Arbitrary Skepticism
. Often happens to the Agent Scully
Contrast Admiring the Abomination
, when the Professor is pleased rather than alarmed at a sudden scary turn of events because it's proved him right
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- Reed Richards in Fantastic Four does this all of the time.
- Which is itself an incredible source of Fridge Logic, given he can stretch and bend like he's made out of goddamn stretchy-goo.
- He can deal with comicbook superscience — magic continues to confound him.
- This angers Homer of all people in The Simpsons comic edition where Professor Fink uses his latest device to grant Homer increased intelligence. He rails on the impossibility of dinosaurs co-existing and fighting humans while watching a B-Movie, much to Bart's surprise.
- Ellie and Alan's miniature freakout the first time they see a dinosaur in Jurassic Park.
Live Action TV
- Physics grad student Chris Parsons in the Doctor Who serial "Shada" does a lot of this.
- This is actually a plot point quite often on Fringe. In a season 3 episode, Walter was confused and upset when the heaviest element was used by another scientist (who stumbled upon it and has no idea why it's doing this either) to make people float in the sky. Yes, it makes no sense. As it turns out, this lapse in the laws of physics is a sign that our universe is about to collide with another one and destroy them both.
- Stephen Hawking did this rather hilariously to Sheldon Cooper in an episode of The Big Bang Theory, pointing out a mistake that Sheldon had overlooked. Upon noticing it, Cooper passes out.
- Null Mysteriis is an academic organization devoted to the scientific study of supernatural creatures and phenomena, believing that things like vampires, werewolves, and mages all have rational, scientific explanations. Problem is, they live in the World of Darkness. Depending on the GM, either they're correct, and science simply hasn't advanced to the point where study of the supernatural is possible, or they have it all wrong, and the supernatural completely defies all attempts at explanation. Understandably, this tends to drive more than a few Null M. scientists insane.
- This is what happens in Funny Business when a group of computer scientists learn of Jeanette's godlike powers. Tom is so shaken up by this that he goes on a lengthy rant about how useless his profession is if there exists a being who can ignore the laws of physics at will. It's not exactly "crying in the corner", but the effect is the same.
- In Welcome to Night Vale, poor, perfect Carlos seems to be a victim of this.
- An old Looney Tunes cartoon had a professor giving a lecture where he refuted the existence of UFO's and "Little green men". Just as he's laughing at the very idea, a flying saucer with a baby green Martian flies in and hovers before his face for a few moments, causing the laughter to turn into tears.
- One of the planet travel guides in Tyrian reads "Many a scientist comes here after retirement to watch all their fundamental mathematical theorems fall apart as they watch the landmasses floating in apparent defiance to their life's work."
- This actually has happened to a lesser extent with rival theories. One notable example was Fred Hoyle whose steady state theory was discredited once sufficient evidence was more accurately explained by the Big Bang theory. However in this case an element of the steady state theory is largely correct, that stellar fusion does in fact create the heavier elements. After it was proven Fred Hoyle still wasn't in favor of it because he saw a universe with a finite beginning as bad due to the fact that it meant that the universe would also have a finite ending.
- In general the problem with this concept is that in reality a theory can still be partially accurate even is elements of it are shown incorrect. The reason for this is the way in which scientific theories are developed. A scientific theory cannot be proven, it is merely accepted once it is failed to be disproved. What this means is that a well accepted former theory is never completely discredited as we see with Newtonian physics versus relativistic physics. While Newtonian physics are inaccurate at relativistic speeds (those approaching the speed of light), it is still accurate enough within normal speeds and masses that make up most interactions on Earth and is still used in most engineering on Earth.
- The best analogy for this relationship is that of a mathematical curve fit. If some element of a fit is shown to be wrong, even if it is drastically wrong in areas, some part of it must be accurate otherwise it would never have been accepted in the first place.
- Isaac Asimov wrote an essay on this issue once titled "The Relativity of Wrong", using the analogy of a flat earth vs a perfectly spherical earth vs an oblate spheroid which is that due to its spin the Earth is actually slightly thicker at the equator. While the earth is neither flat nor perfectly spherical, being spherical is closer than being flat.