How Is That Even Possible?
A Stock Phrase
that is commonly used as a Lampshade Hanging
of those occasions when the laws of physics (and other scientific laws) are blatantly defied
. This is sometimes caused by Achievements in Ignorance
, when the impossible thing only occurs because the person involved has no idea that what they are doing is supposed to be impossible.
Often Played for Laughs
, this phrase can be used to tell the audience that the strange or unusual occurrences going on aren't
the norm for the world in which the story is taking place. It can also be used as part of the Rule of Scary
for the same reason.
On occasion, this trope will be accompanied by an explanation of how the strange occurrence is impossible. The creators will use this to demonstrate that they did their homework
. Alternately, the impossible event will be chalked up to "magic"
, possibly with an explanation that magic really isn't supposed to work that way
. If something breaks the story's internal logic
expect this question to come up.
Compare and contrast with Fridge Logic
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Anime and Manga
- From Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home:
Uhura: Admiral, I have a signal closing on the whales. Bearing 328 degrees.
Kirk: On screen.
Gillian: How can you do... that...
Uhura: On screen.
- Also an ongoing theme in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, begining with the evident (but impossible) fact that the Enterprise fired on the Klingon chancellor's flagship while under a flag of truce.
- This, incidentally, leads into another iteration of this trope: For another ship to have been in position to launch the attack in question without being detected, it had to be cloaked, and ships in the Star Trek setting cannot fire their weapons while cloaked, except for the fact that one ship evidently did just that.
- From The Emperor's New Groove:
Kuzco: No! It can't be! How did you get back here before us?
Yzma: Ah... [looks confused] How did we, Kronk?
Kronk: Well, ya got me. [pulls down a chart displaying the progress of the previous chase] By all accounts, it doesn't make sense.
- In The Matrix, this is a beat cop's reaction to not only witnessing Trinity leap over a six-lane street, plus sidewalks, to go from rooftop to rooftop, but seeing Agent Brown follow her.
- The Beatles affect this reaction in Yellow Submarine when they see that Sgt. Pepper's Band, encased in a big glass ball, is the spitting image of themselves (or as John explains it, "extensions of our own personalities").
- In Contact (the book, not the movie), while the characters are moving through the wormhole, one of them, a theoretical physicist, does some calculations and says (paraphrase): "I can almost prove mathematically this can't be happening".
- At several points in World War Z a character notes that the zombies are impossible - not just biologically, but even from elementary physics (moving endlessly with no energy input.) And having waved to reality as it passed, the story carries on as before.
- At several points in Galaxy of Fear characters are bewildered by the various things they're menaced by. Tash asks a cloning technician droid how the clones are being grown so quickly, but the droid tells her it's classified.
- In the Honor Harrington books, Manticore's enemies tend to be quite startled at the Manticorans' technological feats, the fruits of a quite expensive decades-long secret research program. Starting from Mission of Honor, the Manticorans get a chance to experience that sensation themselves when the Mesan Alignment attacks their home system with unseen new technologies, without leaving any hard evidence to implicate themselves.
Live Action TV
- In an early Sesame Street sketch, Ernie poured himself a glass of milk while hanging upside down, ignoring Bert's warnings that the milk would spill.
- In multiple episodes of iCarly, Spencer says this after something he makes/fixes spontaneously bursts into flames.
- Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Spectre of the Gun". When Spock and McCoy test their Knockout Gas on Scott, it doesn't work.
Spock: Captain, you don't seem to understand. It did not function, but it must function.
McCoy: Nothing could go wrong, Captain. It should work.
Spock: A scientific fact. But if the tranquillizer does not function, which is clearly impossible, then a radical alteration of our thought patterns must be in order.
- In the Smallville season 3 episode "Covenant", Kara flies. Clark Kent, who has never seen this power before (in fact, he doesn't learn how to consciously fly until season 10), is baffled and asks how it is possible.
- Fringe. No specific example needed, its said pretty much Once an Episode.
- Charles Addams's skier◊ cartoon... specifically, the other skier's reaction.
- In one series of Bloom County strips, Opus and Milo are hunting for the Basselope in the forest. In one, Opus thinks he sees him and takes a Polaroid shot, but instead takes a picture of a squirrel blowing a raspberry at them with a loud "Thpptp!" In the last panel, Opus looks at it and says, "How can a picture go 'Thpptp'?"
- From Red vs. Blue:
Church: Poor Jimmy was the last one to go. Tex walked up to him, pulled Jimmy's skull right out of his head and beat him to death with it.
Tucker: Wait a second... how do you beat someone to death with their own skull? That doesn't seem physically possible.
Church: That's exactly what Jimmy kept screaming.
(cut to Tex, in black armor, beating Jimmy to death with his own skull)
Jimmy: This doesn't seem physically possible!
- Dragon Ball Z Abridged: Goku obtained a muffin and the ability to read minds by pressing the muffin button of the spaceship... except there is no muffin button.
- King Kai says this directly when Goku pretends to hang up on him while they were communicating telepathically.
Goku: "Oh, all right. I promise I will absolutely not click-brrrrrrr *long inhale* rrrrrrrrr"
King Kai: "He hung up on me! How did he even do that?"
- This phrase being said verbatum is a running gag in the College Humor point-of-view sketches.
- Danbooru has an image pool with this name.
- In a Strong Bad Email segment, Strong Bad finds Homestar stuck in the office's water cooler, with one foot hanging out of the nozzle.
Strong Bad: Just explain to me what you were trying to do when this happened.
Homestar: Well, I was in Barbados, hanging a picture on the wall...
Strong Bad: Okay, that tells me everything I need to know.
- Camp Lazlo, specifically the episode where they tried to sell expired, uncanned beans. A man was walking towards the stand... and then floated into midair, drifted right over the stand, and then floated back onto the street and continued walking. This prompted Raj to ask how that was even possible.
- The end credits repeat that scene with other characters doing the same thing.
- Futurama: In "Space Pilot 3000", Bender's arms fall off. A moment later we see the arms, in closeup, pick up and reattach each other. Fry is just as baffled as the audience.
- In "The Deep South", Zoidberg's undersea conch-shell home somehow burns down...
Zoidberg: How could this have happened?!
Hermes: That's a very good question.
Bender: [picking up his still-lit cigar from the underwater ruins] So that's where I left my cigar.
Hermes: That just raises further questions!
- During the Justice League episode "Hereafter", the Flash is almost fried by enemy lightning. Wonder Woman saves him by deflecting the lightning with her metal bracelets. Flash's response? "There are so many reasons why that shouldn't have worked."
- Possibly justified; though not explicitly stated in the show, Wonder Woman's bracelets (and the rest of her powers) are magic-based, and may not necessarily follow normal laws of physics.
- In a Road Runner cartoon, Wile E. Coyote falls off a cliff while in pursuit of the Road Runner who, it turns out, is standing on a chunk of rock in mid-air. The bedraggled Coyote looks up from the bottom of the canyon at the Road Runner and holds up a sign commenting that what the Road Runner is doing defies the laws of gravity. The Road Runner responds by holding up his own sign saying it doesn't matter because he's never studied law.
- Previously done in the Bugs Bunny cartoon "High Diving Hare," where Bugs is trussed up on a diving board platform and Yosemite Sam is sawing off the board, but the ladder and platform collapse with Sam instead.
- This line is literally said in several episodes of Almost Naked Animals where the main character Howie has been catapulted across a room in a cardboard box and continues to surf at top speed throughout his hotel, including going inside an elevator and being taken up to the next level, only to be thrown out by some invisible force to go 'box surfing' on the next floor. However, it is only when he is 'surfing' up the stairs without slowing down that he literally says "How is this even possible?"
- In "The PTA Disbands" episode of The Simpsons, Homer gets upset at Lisa for making a working perpetual motion machine because it violates the laws of physics. ("In this house, we obey the laws of thermodynamics!")
- In the episode, "The Front", Bart and Lisa ask Grandpa what his first name is; he can't remember, but he knows he has it written on his underwear, so he takes them off... Without taking his pants off. When Bart and Lisa ask how he did that, even he doesn't know.
- 1973-74 Super Friends episode "The Watermen". The title characters are trying to refuel their starship by extracting silicon from sea water. This causes the sea water to immediately turn into red tide, which is impossible: red tide is caused by microorganisms. An oceanographer named Professor Matey points out several times that the red tide is not acting normally.
- In one Woody Woodpecker cartoon, the villain is trying to ambush Woody using a rifle with a crosshairs. As he watches Woody approach through the crosshairs, Woody actually walks up the vertical line of the crosshairs, causing the villain to look up and exclaim, "How did he do that??"
- In the MAD sketch "My Little Warhorse", Pinkie Pie face-plants into a cake she made that reads "Yay Friends!" spelled out in icing. When she lifts her head, the icing has somehow rearranged itself to spell "Go bronies!", and this is her reaction.
- In one scene in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "It's About Time!", Pinkie Pie explains that her Pinkie Sense can't help predict the impending disaster Twilight Sparkle is getting worked up about, because it's only good for vague, short-term predictions. Pinkie demonstrates when she gets a "twitchy tail" reaction that indicates a falling object, and a flowerpot lands on Twilight's head... despite both ponies being inside a tent. Pinkie then wonders aloud where the flowerpot came from.
- In another episode, Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash are hanging out at the beach. When RD wants to take a nap, she asks Pinkie to be quiet; so Pinkie, about to jump into the water, slows her descent, and slowly lowers herself into thw water in clear violation of gravity. Dash briefly wonders how that was possible, then shrugs it off as Pinkie being Pinkie.
- In one episode of Danny Phantom, Frostbite explains that Danny is developing An Ice Person powers, and offers to train him. Danny asks how it is possible. Frostbite points out that Danny already has ghost powers and calls him out on his Arbitrary Skepticism.
- In an episode of King of the Hill, while trying to get ideas for how to make his house look terrible so that it isn't sold, Hank goes to Bill's house and pulls the switch to the ceiling fan in the kitchen, which causes Bill's microwave to turn on. He even asks out loud how that's possible. (And then replicates it in his own house.)