Impossible Genius

"I've built a TV out of paperclips, and reprogrammed a super-computer using dishwashing detergent and a toothpick. So look, fixing a propeller on a biplane? That's about as difficult as taking a nap."
Miles "Tails" Prower, Sonic Lost World

You know those jokes about how the Professor in Gilligan's Island could build anything out of coconut shells and sand? This is when you have a character (or group of characters) who can actually do stuff like that. It's Played for Laughs, but in-universe they aren't joking; the character or group really is that good.

Sometimes a characteristic of an Omnidisciplinary Scientist, Evil Genius, or The Smart Guy. Might involve Bamboo Technology. See also The Spark of Genius, Mad Scientist. Overlaps with It Runs on Nonsensoleum if the parts or the principles involved are sufficiently ridiculous. If it's made clear that the character's invention only works because they're making it work with magic or superpowers, that's Magic-Powered Pseudoscience.

Niece-trope of The Ace. While The Ace can accomplish any feat imaginable because he's Just That Awesome, these characters can do physically impossible feats of engineering and construction because they're Just That Smart. They may casually dismiss such feats as being (from their perspective) pathetically easy. See also Testosterone Poisoning, for characters who are Just That Manly. Compare Techno Wizard.


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     Comic Books 

  • In All Fall Down, both IQ and IQ Squared are these. The former built doomsday weapons, the latter created a software empire worth billions.

     Film - Live Action 

  • Iron Man Tony Stark builds an arc reactor in a crude workshop in a cave, using parts that are little more than a box of weapon scraps. Other engineers state that only Tony Stark could do such a thing.


  • The Smarty-Pants from Gordon Korman's Nose Pickers From Outer Space books. The final exam for admission to their ranks includes memorizing the infinity times-table, and they've harnessed the power of the coleslaw molecule.
  • Willy Wonka has harnessed nonsensoleum to such ends as creating a television-based teleporter and a flying glass elevator that is kept aloft by "candy power" and/or "skyhooks" and can function as a spacecraft if necessary.
  • Inverted in Discworld by the inventor and architect B. S. Johnson, who was so transcendentally incompetent that reality itself wasn't safe from his bungling. Crowning achievements include Empirical Crescent, an Eldritch Location where any given door will probably open into the right room in the wrong building; a mail sorting machine built around a flywheel with a pi value of exactly 3, which brought down the post office by retrieving mail from random points in time; and cast-iron garden furniture that spontaneously melted on at least three occasions.

     Live Action TV  

  • MacGyver, although his reputation "aren't you that guy that can build a time machine out of three paperclips?" was far less realistic than the actual character.
  • If there's an alien baddie threatening lives, you can be sure The Doctor will use his incredible scientific genius and planning to stop it, and save the day. That said, by the standards of his own race, he's nothing special.
    • I'd like to point out that while he's nothing special among the Gallifreyans, he is a mad genius in his own specific ways and he is often stated (by other Gallifreyans) to be able to do impossible feats which defy logic and laugh at the Laws of the universe. His plans usually work because he doesn't think they wouldn't work.
  • And that other Doctor from Star Trek: Voyager. Chakotay's mind has become detached from his body? The captain and the helmsmen have devolved into amphibians? Just another day in the life of an unappreciated Emergency Medical Hologram.
    Torres: How did you manage to reintegrate his consciousness?
    EMH: It involved three neural transceivers, two cortical stimulators and fifty gigaquads of computer memory. I would be happy to take you through the process, but it would take at least ten hours to explain it all to you. Needless to say, it was a remarkable procedure. I would consider writing a paper about it if there were a convenient forum in which to publish it.
  • MythBusters has tested a number of myths of this sort. In a number of cases they actually succeeded in accomplishing the seemingly unlikely in Real Life, for example, building a rope out of toilet paper, but usually only after days of work using large amounts of raw material.

     Tabletop Games 

  • The Izzet League from the Ravnica setting of Magic: The Gathering are portrayed like this. Niv-Mizzet himself takes it up another order of magnitude.
  • Genius: The Transgression has players take the role of Mad Scientists who are capable of this at the cost of risking Science-Related Memetic Disorder.
  • Anyone with Quick Gadgeteer advantage in GURPS.
  • Ork Mekboyz from Warhammer 40,000. They are able to take scrap metal from junkheaps and turn it into crude but effective Powered Armor, assault vehicles, and Humongous Mecha. It's part inherent engineering know how hardwired into them by their creators the Old Ones and part the reality warping Ork gestalt psychic field making their machines work better.
  • Magic items in Pathfinder are, well, magic. It takes a spellcaster to create them — or a Master Craftsman, who can be a complete muggle but can coax magic out of ordinary materials by being just that good.

     Web Original 

  • The Webcomic Girl Genius has Sparks, hyper-geniuses that regularly laugh in the faces of all laws, human or natural, with their wacky creations.
  • Casey and Andy can build anything that does anything, as long as you describe it as a "[main purpose or function]-o-mat". At one point, Quantum Cop asked for their aid and described what he wanted the device to do; they refused since the idea was impossible. They had no problem at all when he corrected himself and just asked for the appropriate -o-mat.
  • Basically any mad genius in the Narbonic / SkinHorse universe. In one memorable instance, one makes a subspace teleporter out of all of the coat hangers in a walk in closet. It's powered by "Spring Power"

     Western Animation  

  • In Phineas and Ferb, the title characters. Dr. Doofenshmirtz and Agent P also have a touch of this.
  • Egghead Jr., the small chicken in Foghorn Leghorn cartoons.
    • In one episode, Foghorn was babysitting Egghead, so they're playing hid-and-go-seek. While Egghead is counting, Foghorn hides himself in a nearby trash can, chuckling that "he'll never find me in here". Egghead then pulls a pencil and some paper from Hammerspace, does some calculations, and proceeds to dig Foghorn out of the ground. He is absolutely shocked, and rushes over to the trash can...and then decides against it, saying that he "just might be in there too.".
  • Gadget from Rescue Rangers. She can build pretty much anything a situation calls for out of scraps and bits of garbage lying around, and on the spot at that! Like a rocket sled thrown together from a shovel, blowtorch and c-clamps in the middle of a chase scene.
  • Og in Mike, Lu & Og only needs to be described a modern-day device in order to build a replica of that device using parts found around the tropical island where they live. In other words, he can build nearly anything out of the jungles and beaches around him with no effort—he just needs ideas to start from.