"They've gone to plaid!"
"No, no, no, light speed is too slow! We're gonna have to go right to... Ludicrous Speed!"
There's driving a car, then there's supersonic, then there's lightspeed, then there's Faster-Than-Light Travel
Then there's Ludicrous Speed. This is speed so fast that it breaks your brain, curves your spine, divides by zero, and is in every way inconceivable
. After traveling at such velocities, a person is just never the same. It's the Brown Note
Ludicrous Speed is where during the story, a person will travel at such high speeds that it has a physical/or psychological effect on the person, usually mutation or insanity.
Named after "Ludicrous Speed!" in Spaceballs
(which is so fast it causes a ship traveling at that rate to Motion Parallax
), though the effect there is basically limited to a Non Sequitur Thud
A cousin of Space Madness
and Hyperspace Is a Scary Place
. Taking Driven to Madness
to its literal extreme. Can overlap with Go Mad from the Revelation
if the person discovers something mindbreaking about the universe.
Compare to an Eldritch Abomination
which breaks your mind with the mere inconceivable
sight of it. A Brown Note
caused by speed.
Has nothing to do with an African-American rapper on meth.
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Anime & Manga
- In the Speed Racer two-parter "The Fastest Car in the World", the legendary GRX engine was dug up from its maker's grave. At top speed, a car propelled by it could only be driven safely if the driver had inhaled "V-gas". Speed tried to drive it without V-gas, went insane — or had a nearly-orgasmic moment of fahrvergnügen, we can't tell — and almost crashed. And of course, V-gas has the downside of making the inhaler extremely thirsty- and if they drink water, they'll become terrified of even the slowest speeds (which Pops had to condition him out of, and which killed another test pilot).
- Dragon Ball: When Goku chased General Blue in his jet they eventually go so fast they end up in Penguin Village; in other words an entirely different series.
- In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure Part 6, Enrico Pucci's Stand Stairway to Heaven can accelerate the entire universe, giving him the illusion that he is moving insanely fast (so fast that eventually it's stated the only the Stand's user and God Himself can keep up with him).
- One of the threats The Flash faces is going so fast that he gets absorbed into the Speed Force, the cosmic force that gives him his power.
- Ludicrous Speed was the way Barry was able to visit Earth-Two and link the Silver Age to the Golden Age, as him vibrating incredibly fast in certain places on Earth-One gave him the ability to cross over into Earth-Two.
- Superman can easily reach Ludicrous Speed, which allows him to warp space-time and time-travel.
- Makkari, from Marvel's Eternals, once overloaded on energy and became so fast that he was out of sync with space and time, and was unable to slow down at all.
- Spaceballs is the Trope Namer, but is actually a subversion: the only harm that really comes out of it is the Spaceballs overshooting Lone Starr by a minimum of several hours in non-Ludicrous Speed travel time, and Dark Helmet taking some Amusing Injuries from crashing into a bridge console when Spaceball One decelerates.
- Then again, going to plaid is harm enough.
- The Stargate sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Granted, it's not the trip itself that changes Dave, but it certainly seemed to affect him deeply. Of course, only the book really makes it clear that ludicrous speeds are even involved, while the film is a better example of the trope...
- Airplane 2. After the shuttle goes to 0.5 Worp, the passengers are told that some metabolic changes may occur due to the rate of travel. Specifically, they all morph into Richard Nixon.
- In The Neverending Story 2, the Emptiness can travel at the speed of darkness, which is said to be faster than the speed of light.
- In the live-action film Inspector Gadget, the Gadgetmobile states he has only two speeds: "'Fast' and 'Whoo! What was that?'"
- Clockstoppers features Hypertime, which allows the user to travel at faster then the eye can see speeds. Prolonged Hypertime exposure can lead a character to age 10 years in a matter of months in continuous Hyper Time. Double Hyper Time (using a Hypertime device in a room thats already in hypertime) is extremely unstable. So unstable that a person is able to pass through solid objects.
- In X-Men: Days of Future Past, Peter uses his mutant super speed to zip Magneto down a hallway. He holds the back of his head to prevent whiplash, but he's visibly ill and dizzy for a bit after it's over.
- The Isaac Asimov short story "Escape," where the robot brains working on hyperspace travel discover that hyperspace travel causes humans to die (They Get Better though), which causes their Three-Laws Compliant brains to go haywire (Consolidated Robots's Brain renders itself into junk, while the US Robotics' one has more personality and develops a mischievous sense of humor). The two characters we see taking the hyperspace jump actually go to Heaven and Hell respectively (somewhat Gilbert and Sullivan-influenced places, due to Author Appeal).
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
- The first book mentions something called the R factor, which is a measure of how fast somebody is traveling based on their psychological perception of speed. Anything going at a speed higher than 1 R is going "too fast", by definition, although the actual value of 1 R varies by individual and species. The crew of the starship Bistromath end up traveling at 10^17,000 R, i.e. 10-with-seventeen-thousand-zeroes times faster than an appropriate speed would actually be.
- And, of course, there's the Improbability Drive, which has unusual effects on its ship's passengers ("Ford, you're turning into a penguin. Stop it."). Though it might be more accurate to call it pure ludicrousness that gives you Ludicrous Speed as a side effect.
- Stephen King wrote a short story called "The Jaunt" which has a future humanity easily colonizing other worlds thanks to a mass-produced teleportation mechanism. The only catch is that any living thing that goes through the transport while conscious either dies or comes through a gibbering lunatic. Ironically, the story implies that this is because the brain experiences everything in the "warp" as going so slow that it takes an eternity to finally arrive.
- There was a short story, written towards the end of the 19th century, where a train travels at the then-unheard of speed of 80 MPH, but it had to stop so often for the souls of the passengers to catch up.
- Warp in Chalice Cycle by Howard L. Myers has a similar problem, but the speed limit depends on environment and ship size. As explained to an alien in Heavy Thinker, atoms in normal space create turbulences in objects moving through them in warp state. Denser matter and bigger warp ships mean stronger turbulences. And those turbulences slow down travelers' souls, separating them from bodies. Long separation leads to insanity, 2-3-second one is considered incurable. Humans with implanted warp units can safely exceed the speed of light in interstellar gas, but manned ships have to move slower to keep the crew sane. The alien Monte is too big to painlessly go supralight.
- The gloss on The Rime of the Ancient Mariner says "The Mariner hath been cast into a trance; for the angelic power causeth the vessel to drive northward faster than human life could endure." At this tremendous speed, the mariner went from Antarctica to England in a couple of days.
- A rather nasty science fiction book by Charles R Pellegrino, Flying to Valhalla, that featured a light speed trip that caused the characters to become disconnected from reality, reliving their life over and over again, for years!
- The Star Wars Expanded Universe has hyperspace, the sight of which is said to cause someone to go insane. Oddly, Lord Vader found it calming. Naturally, Nil Spaar, the Big Bad of the Black Fleet books, is ejected in an escape pod while still in hyperspace.
- In Larry Niven's Known Space stories, looking out of a spacecraft in hyperspace has adverse mental effects on humans. It's described as developing a mental "blind spot" and distorting perception nearby to eliminate any view of hyperspace itself. In one story two people are exposed to raw hyperspace (the hull of their ship is vaporized); they become nearly catatonic, since their blind spot expands to cover the entire universe with the exception of the few objects remaining in their field of vision.
- A science-fiction short story treated FTL speed this way, as the only survivor of a ship that went FTL experiences waves of expanding consciousness as he starts becoming one with the universe due to FTL being supposedly impossible (all while the government continually tries to force him to say his experience never happened for apparently no other reason than 'science says you can't go faster than light'). This apparently is so disruptive that someone (who may be a cosmic being masquerading as a human female) appears and talks him into letting her remove his experiences, at which point he declares 'Are you crazy? You can't go faster than light' at his next interrogation. Hearing what they wanted, the government promptly stops trashing his life and lets him go.
- The operation of the Tubes permitting faster-than-light travel in Star Bridge is a closely-guarded secret of the Eron Corporation (for which they represent a very lucrative monopoly) and passengers travelling by tubeship are rendered unconscious for the duration. One character goes through a tube conscious, in a space suit. He does not enjoy it, and speculates that in addition to the expressly stated justification of protecting the secret of the tubes, passengers are made unconscious to keep them from going insane.
Live Action TV
- In the quietly forgotten Star Trek: Voyager episode "Threshold", Tom Paris travels at warp factor 10 (established to be "infinite speed") causing severe physiological changes in him and Captain Janeway's bun of power, which culminates in their copulation and subsequent batch of newt babies.
- An episode of the Discovery Channel's Biker Build-Off had two teams making street-legal drag bikes. One had such forceful acceleration that it dislocated the rider's shoulder.
- After 3 million years of constant acceleration, Red Dwarf finally breaks the light barrier. The shipboard computer Holly, who has an IQ of 6000 (though he has gone a bit senile over the years), finds this situation simply impossible to navigate. As he puts it, by the time he sees an obstacle in their path "we've already gone through it!".
- Inverted in Grim Fandango; at the beginning of year four, the lack of speed is slowly killing Glottis. Glottis is a spirit who was created expressly for the purpose of driving cars. This is both his purpose and sole desire in life, but he was created too big to fit into any of the Department's cars, so when you meet him he's kinda-sorta ekeing out survival by working as a mechanic instead.
- In a meta sense, GRIN's overlooked PC racing game Ballistics was often compared to the aforementioned 2001 stargate sequence by critics, as its whole gimmick was being designed for players to go incredibly fast-supersonic fast-all the time. In a strictly in-game sense, the speed of the first speed class in a barely-modified machine can be incredibly disorienting to the uninitiated. The fastest speed class in a fully-modified racer is almost impossible to follow, best described as a montage of sonic booms, motion blur and primary colors zipping by. Even more amusing is that you can go so fast, the game tends to break-letting you phase right through obstacles that you otherwise would whack into.
- Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing has an infamous unintentional example. Want to drive a big rig at relativistic speeds? You can do that. Just hold down the reverse key for 10 minutes or so.
- Time Dilation alone almost certainly makes the speed of light an example of this trope.
- Time dilation isn't the only wackiness: The faster you travel, the shorter you become; at the speed of light, you become infinitely short. If you were somehow able to continue increasing your speed such that you were traveling faster than the speed of light, you would start becoming longer again — while traveling perpendicular to time.note
- In the past, people used to believe all sorts of yet-to-be-reached speeds would have dangerous and potentially fatal effects, including people a century ago thinking that travel by high-speed locomotive would leave the passengers unable to breathe. By high-speed, we mean 25 mph, at which speed the pressures would suck all the air out. At 30 mph they believed people would be sucked bodily out of the windows. The fear was apparently based less on the speed itself than the belief that there would be a drop in air pressure because of it.
- In the early days of rail travel, some psychologists proposed building tall fences along railway lines — because they thought train passengers looking out of windows could go mad from watching the countryside rush by at unnatural speeds.
- A less egregious example is the sound barrier, which was believed to cause G-forces high enough to prevent any plane from breaking it intact. Note that high accelerations, or even high changes in acceleration, are indeed dangerous, capable of causing whiplash, concussions, and tearing of the tissues holding the organs in place. As they say, it's not the high speed of a fall that kills you, it's the very sudden stop at the end.
- Reportedly pilots who have claimed to have broken the sound barrier in early jet planes, said the jolt of the bang knocked some of the rivets out of their holes. This may be partially because some of those planes went supersonic by accident (steep dives at full throttle in planes that wouldn't ordinarily reach supersonic speeds by flying straight), and the laws of aerodynamics change dramatically when going above the speed of sound. Hence, the planes began to handle very strangely and may have indeed begun to break apart before they slowed back to a speed they were meant to operate at.
- Compressibility (which even affected some prop-driven WWII fighters, the P-38 most notably) was notable at higher altitudes and high speeds (high altitude = speed of sound is slower). The plane wouldn't be transonic, but some of the airflow would be. The usual result, the controls didn't work and if you were REALLY unlucky the plane shook itself apart (this is what killed Geoffry De Havilland). Changing the tail control surface design finally allowed control through the barrier (where the issue went away).
- There is a rumor that anyone who drives a Bugatti Veyron or comparable super-super-car to its top speed will achieve a form of Buddhist enlightenment. There is an episode of Top Gear where James May does just this - you can see it in his eyes. If you want a version of the trope played straight, there was Jeremy Clarkson's experience driving a Formula One-equivalent car. The car was basically so much faster than anything he'd driven up to that point, not just in straight-line speed but in cornering response, acceleration and braking, that his mind couldn't keep up. However, that wasn't his real problem: his real problem was when he realized that in order to make the car behave at all, he had to drive it faster: faster than his mind was telling him was even safe. Think about that for a moment: in order to make sure the car didn't crash, he had to drive it at a speed that would make him think he would. Instant Zen in a car. How many other cars do you know of that behave like that?
- During the high speed run of the TGV (high speed train), whose current land speed record is 574.8 KPH (357 MPH), some people on-board the train felt slightly nauseous.
- Though 'spooky action at a distance' is likely instantaneous regardless of distance, and hence of infinite speed (though the terminology of "speed" is largely irrelevant), should it not be, it works at least 10,000 times the speed of light.