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Measuring the Marigolds

Inchworm, Inchworm,
Measuring the Marigolds,
You and your arithmetic,
Will certainly go far.

Inchworm, Inchworm,
Measuring the Marigolds,
Seems to me you'd stop and see,
How beautiful they are.

Frank Loesser, "The Inch Worm", from the musical Hans Christian Andersen

Trying too hard to understand something prevents one from appreciating just how interesting and/or beautiful it really is. Appreciation is a feeling, not a number! Reducing the divinely incomprehensible to the mundanely complex isn't just tedious and hard — it's fundamentally wrong.

At its heart this trope is a reaction against hyper-intellectualism; a fear and frustration of someone assigning a number or a scientific name to everything from rainbows to emotions. It could be summed up as "put away your calculator and enjoy the beautiful sunrise". This trope is for those that respond "it's nothing special; just an optical illusion".

It can appear anti-intellectual because it has the Unfortunate Implications of implying that only people that don't know anything about a subject can appreciate it. Naturally, experts of the given subject are repulsed by this idea. Their understanding is never questioned, just their ability to appreciate it. Nobody has ever, for instance, advocated fielding Generals who know absolutely nothing about planning, logistics, strategy, or tactics but feel like they have deep psycho-spiritual connections with warfare. It's only when the Abstract Scale comes into play that arguments start.

An expert that fully understands and appreciates their field is aversion of this trope. In fact, such an expert can be a inversion. In other words, their understanding increases their appreciation instead of decreasing it. For example, one can marvel at both the visual beauty of a rainbow in addition to being in awe of the complex and delicate interplay of factors that allows it to exist.

This is a major gripe that Romanticism has against Enlightenment. Related to Straw Vulcan, Hollywood Atheist, and Mother Nature, Father Science, since this kind of character is almost Always Male. One manifestation of this is Don't Explain the Joke. Compare Centipede's Dilemma. According to the scientifically-minded, this Trope is basically Complaining about Shows You Don't Watch. Has nothing to do with the Otaku Surrogate character from Questionable Content.


Straight Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Edward Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist would launch into a speech like this every single time anyone said anything romantic. He used it to justify his anti-god stance in the first story arc, anyway. 'Alchemists are scientists, so we don't believe in vague things like God. And he hates me, incidentally.' Can be quite the romantic himself, actually, but seems to fancy the pose of being this.
    • Taken to one extreme in the final chapter/episode, where Ed somehow manages to turn a marriage proposal into a discussion about the properties of alchemy, which Winry lampshades by calling him out on.
    • Of course, after she calls him out, Winry follows up by backtracking and recalculating the exact percentage of her life that she'd like to give back to Ed.
    • He also manages to subvert this trope; immediately after a baby is born, his reaction is to scream "That's awesome! LIFE IS AWESOME!!!,".
    • Also played straight in one of the omake.
    Mei Chan: Birds are so lucky...they can fly wherever they want, I wish I could be a bird.
    Edward: A bird? That's lame. If you were a bird, you'd have flimsy hollow bones, and your brain would be the size of a pea. Not to mention the fact that you would be constantly crapping in mid-air to keep your weight down. Why would you want to be an animal like that?
    Mei Chan: Mr. Edward, you're not very popular with girls, are you?
    Edward: That's ridiculous! How could an intellectual like me not be popular!

    Comic Books 
  • One Fantastic Four story had a villain steal not the intelligence, but the creativity of Reed Richards, who is regarded as one of the most intelligent men in the Marvel Universe. He found himself shocked to discover that he couldn't even stare at a flower without being hit by the sheer sense of wonder Richards feels at the existence of all things!
  • Dr. Manhattan of Watchmen, though it's only partial. He finds wonder in such miracles as the bonding of atoms and the formation of mountains and continents, but doesn't hold any regard for life itself (mostly because he thinks he knows everything life has to offer). In fact, he only starts to love life again when he analyzes just how completely and utterly improbable (to the point of it almost being a statistical impossibility) daily life is.
    • Dan Dreiburg, AKA Nite Owl II, mentions this effect in passing in one of the supplemental pieces. He found he was losing his awe for owls in studying them, until a chance encounter with a hunting owl brought his fascination back.
  • Krona is in love with this trope. Coupled with his trademark impatience, it has led him to stumble on disaster after disaster because, unlike the aversions below, he insists on quantifying and qualifying everything, and is especially devoted to having a meaningful conversation with the sentience of the universe. The few times he's granted his wish, he is chided for his simplistic approach and rebuffed for his ignorance.

    Literature 
  • Sherlock Holmes is a perfect example of this. He was always complaining about how Watson kept writing the adventures in a dramatic fashion rather than focusing on the meaningful facts. Which was rather hypocritical of him, since in "The Valley of Fear" he laid a trap for the villain and kept his associates in the dark about what he was doing specifically because it was more dramatic that way.
    • In "The Red-Headed League", he stops by an "artificial kneecap factory" (yes, really) and asks the man there some rather inane questions. When Watson chides him for wasting time, he responds that he was only asking the questions so he'd have an excuse to look at the man's knees. Watson asked what he saw, and Holmes responded "Exactly what I expected to see." At the meta level, explaining in detail what that was would have killed most of the mystery of the story too soon; in universe, he seems to be doing it just to be a dick to Watson.
    • Holmes does admit, in "The Lion's Mane," that Watson's storytelling is needed to fully engage the reader's interest rather than a straightforward depiction of cold facts.
    • Depending on his portrayal, he's sometimes a subversion as well. For instance, in the films staring Robert Downey, Jr., he's shown to be doing the Sherlock Scan at all times instinctively, not even trying. He's also shown to be enraptured by the sciences (especially forensics) and CAN see and enjoy the beauty in the world around him. He just likes reducing it to the bare facts to tweak those around him, especially Watson.
      • Of course, he's like that in the book too. The first time Watson met Holmes in A Study in Scarlet, he was in the middle of an ecstatic nerdgasm as he'd just managed to invent (the ancestor of) luminol.
  • The character Dee Dee Six in the Philip Ridley book Mighty Fizz Chilla is like this. At one point she says things like food don't matter to her beyond nutritional value - she could eat a banquet or take some vitamin pills and it would be the same to her.
  • Mark Twain once wrote an essay "Two Ways of Seeing a River" devoted to this very trope. Read it here.
  • Homo Faber, the well-known novel by Max Frisch, has exactly this type of guy as the protagonist-narrator.
  • The Walt Whitman poem "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer" is about the narrator becoming bored at a astronomer's facts and figures and going outside to look at the stars.
  • "since feeling is first" by E. E. Cummings includes lines like "who pays attention to the syntax of things will never wholly kiss you" and "kisses are a better fate than wisdom".
  • In Discworld the Auditors fall into this whenever they're not trying to destroy things because they can't be measured using numbers. At one point they attempted to understand art by reducing a painting to powder and sifting through to find the bit of it that was the art.
    • In Small Gods, Brutha is shown some color illustrations of plant life at the Library of Ephebe, in a book about the useful qualities of plants. Deeply moved by the images, he remarks "they're beautiful...", and the fellow who's showing him the book replies that that's one use the book's author had entirely overlooked.
    • Twoflower has shades of this; Rincewind once described him as the sort of person who, upon seeing a daffodil, would run off to get a botany book and not realize he'd trodden on the daffodil.
  • John Keats, Lamia:
    ...Do not all charms fly
    At the mere touch of cold philosophy?
    There was an awful rainbow once in heaven:
    We know her woof, her texture; she is given
    In the dull catalogue of common things.
    Philosophy will clip an Angel's wings,
    Conquer all mysteries by rule and line,
    Empty the haunted air, and gnomed mine—
    Unweave a rainbow...
  • In The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf calls out Saruman over this. Specifically, it's a big part of what reveals to Gandalf that Saruman has betrayed them.
    Gandalf: He that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Star Trek: The Original Series episode "This Side of Paradise". Mr. Spock has been affected by spores that release his emotional side. He and his love interest Leila Kalomi are looking at clouds.
    Spock: That one looks like a dragon. You see the tail and the dorsal spines?
    Leila: I've never seen a dragon.
    Spock: I have. On Berengaria 7. But I've never stopped to look at clouds before. Or rainbows. I can tell you exactly why one appears in the sky, but considering its beauty has always been out of the question.
  • House (being essentially a Sherlock Holmes expy) is frequently dismissive of human emotions and relationships. On the other hand he rides a motorcycle, takes a sadistic pleasure in artistic pranks, and does all sorts of other not-logical things. He doesn't look any happier, but they presumably do something for him.
  • A running theme on Scrubs involves the characters gradually becoming more and more jaded to the practice of medicine. For instance, when Turk is sued by a patient, Dr. Cox takes it upon himself to "crush his spirit," a process that culminates with Cox explaining to Turk and a roomful of sick children how a magician's "rabbit in the hat" trick works.
  • Reid has a habit of doing this on Criminal Minds. While he is excited about his scientific and statistical information he can bring to the current conversation, he usually sucks all the awe and emotion out of it for everyone else involved. Something of an inversion, since to him the details are as wondrous as the initial impression but everyone else sees it as dry and boring.
  • It's a bit of a running theme in Doctor Who- in fact, it's a lot of the reason that the Doctor takes human companions with him.
    The Doctor: Because I can't see it any more. I'm 907. After a while, you just can't see it. Everything. I look at a star, and it's just a big ball of burning gas, and I know how it began, and I know how it ends, and I was probably there both times. Now, after a while, everything is just stuff. That's the problem, you make all of space and time your backyard and what do you have? A backyard. But you, you can see it, and when you see it, I see it.

    Meta 
  • One of the things critics of TV Tropes might cite would fall into this Trope: TV Tropes Will Ruin Your Life because, after a particularly long Wiki Walk, you'll start seeing Tropes every time you watch a film and they'll distract you from enjoying the plot.
    But the heart of the problem is that TV Tropes takes good, challenging fiction and removes its identity as an individual piece of work. ... Nothing more quickly removes the fun and charm of something born from human emotion and creativity than to strip it down into cold and clinical statistics presented out of context.
  • On TV Tropes itself, complaints about research failure are usually put forward more because of a demand for accuracy rather than for intrinsic entertainment. Artistic License, Rule of Cool/Rule of Fun/whatever, will often be dismissed as 'the easy way out', neglecting the fact that good fiction uses these tropes just as often as bad fiction. And, well, it is fictional - there's no prizes for getting every detail correct. They don't seem to get that Tropes Are Not Bad, and that we're here to celebrate popular fiction. Indeed, half of the Wiki is now Awesome Moments, Funny Moments, Heartwarming Moments and their kin, which is basically the internet's repository of stuff people like just because they like it.
    • However, this can also lead to problems with Willing Suspension of Disbelief from readers who are quite familiar with the reality; one author shares as part of explaining why research matters, the tale of having the ending of a werewolf horror story cause it to shatter for a reader who happened to know that an EMT would be better at treating the hero's injuries than a doctor at that point. The advice essentially is that knowingly picking your breaks from reality is good use of Artistic License.

    Music 
  • The song Miracles angrily renounces anything scientific, instead referring to almost all natural processes as "miracles", such as feeding pelicans and the workings of magnets.
  • Coldplay's song "The Scientist":
    I was just guessing at numbers and figures
    Pulling the puzzles apart
    Questions of science, science and progress
    Do not speak as loud as my heart
  • On a different level, many a music teacher has suggested to his or her pupils that they dedicate time to learn at least basic music theory, as it will help them write music. Nearly as many music teachers have been saddened to hear their students claim that they "don't want to learn a bunch of rules that [they] have to follow." This is incorrect, because it assumes that music theory is a set of rules that must be followed. When told that music theory is more a way to analyze the writing and composition of music, these pupils are usually dismissive, citing, to some degree or another, this trope. What's sad is that this has almost certainly held back the musical talents of possibly thousands of budding musicians.
    • Not that as usually presented, basic music theory doesn't contain a lot of rules to follow. But if you haven't heard of the rules, you've also never asked yourself questions such as: "Am I already following these rules? Should I be? What is each rule trying to prevent? How do people get away with breaking each rule?" Music theory is to writing music as a map is to wandering; you can still put it away and enjoy the scenery. Having one just helps you know if you're going in circles, and lets you reach places far enough away from your home that you wouldn't have stumbled upon them otherwise.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • One B.C. character (probably Thor) neatly torpedoed his own chances of getting lucky by responding to a comment on the beauty of the moon rising by saying it's an illusion caused by the Earth's rotation. Cue him shouting at the retreating Cute Chick, "BUT IT IS STILL ROMANTIC, OH SOOOO ROMANTIC!" in a futile effort to recover the magic.
  • Referenced in the FoxTrot arc where Andy becomes obsessed with the film Titanic, to the point that Roger worries about her. Jason begins describing production trivia to her ("Did you know the scenes with everyone drowning were filmed in a heated indoor pool, and their foggy breath was added by computers?" and so on). Andy accuses Jason of trying to ruin her enjoyment of the film. The final panel has Jason telling Roger, "She's onto us. Do I still get paid?"

    Tabletop Games 
  • Overuse of this theme was one of the many criticisms leveled at the Old World of Darkness games. Mage: The Ascension had the Technocracy, who started out as an evil conspiracy combining the worst features of 1984, the Agents from The Matrix, every Government Conspiracy ever, and an especially boring math class. (They did receive a lot of Character Development as the game-line went on.) Changeling: The Dreaming characters were vulnerable to "Banality", which in practice meant that inhaling while too close to an accountant could make their souls die. Science Is Bad, mmmmkay?!
    • Of course, Changeling was also somewhat schizoid inconsistent on this point, as for every book that treated a slide rule as just as bad as cold iron, there was a source book where the nockers pointed out it was the moon landing that resulted in the biggest rush of Glamour most changelings had seen in their lifetimes, or a sample boggan accountant who resisted Banality through his profession because he actually took joy in numbers.
    • Averted in the following quote from the Second Edition of Mage: The Ascension, used to sum up the attitude of the Sons of Ether:
    "The beauty of science is not that it answers all the questions, but that with every answer, more questions arise."
    • Then there's the Weaver in Werewolf: The Apocalypse, a cosmic force which is associated with both technological progress and stasis. While it tends to be perceived as a lesser threat than the obvious Big Bad that is the Wyrm, many of the non-Glass Walker Garou continue to look down on things like cities or computers. Then it's further suggested that the origin of the entire Crapsack World can be traced back to the Weaver, since its imprisonment of the Wyrm was what drove it insane to begin with.
  • Early editions of Dungeons & Dragons had comparatively fewer rules than later editions for character actions other than combat and spellcasting. Back then if, say, you wanted to throw your drink in a villain's face to blind him, jump from a balcony, swing on a chandelier, somersault through the air, land on your feet, and run out of the room, your DM would have to figure out exactly how that would work - probably an attack roll with a small penalty, some Dexterity rolls, and a decision about whether you've generally played your character as a guy who would do that kind of thing. Now, your GM has extensive rules for how far you can jump, how for you can move, how much damage you take when you fall, what difficulty the Acrobatics check should be based on your level, oh, and if you don't have an attack power that blinds (or at least stuns or dazes) you can forget the drink-throwing having any useful effect. The new version makes everything much more standardized, predictable, easy to run, and fair, but many old-timers argue that the "rules instead of rulings" style of modern editions take all the heroism and excitement out of the game.
    • Of course, that's why 4th Edition also included a SPECIFIC list and a table, devoted to 'actions the rules don't cover'...So the GM can EASILY get a ruling for you doing that cool shit. (Especially "I want to swing from a chandelier and hit them!") Unfortunately, this same table makes sure that "cool shit" will always be less effective than your default attacks, thus punishing people trying to be creative. The original DMG spelled out that players with original ideas should be "rewarded" for that with a lower chance of success.

    Web Comics 
  • In Gunnerkrigg Court, the animals of Gillitie Wood think that of the Court scientists' study of magic.
    • Conversely, many Court scientists feel that refusing to even attempt to explain how things work is a disservice to the beauty of their complexity.
  • Abstruse Goose: This is how scientists see the world. The strip does not, however, carry this trope throughout.
  • XKCD, while usually a strict inversion, plays the trope straight in this comic.

    Web Original 
  • A number of Fundies Say the Darndest Things quotes question how scientifically minded people can feel love (whether towards a person, a concept or a deity) if they believe it to be a neurological process rather than metaphysical in nature; the usual response is that this knowledge doesn't change the way it feels.
  • Mr Deity accused Lucifer of this when she explained to him that Penn & Teller don't really have magic powers.

    Western Animation 
  • Amazo in Justice League. He started out as a blank-slate nanotechnology android capable of analyzing people to internally reproduce aspects of them. Lex Luthor manipulated him into doing his dirty work, and Amazo proved to be a serious threat because he could copy the powers of every superhero he encountered, then further evolve to become immune to their vulnerabilities. Eventually, he discovered Lex's manipulations, grew disillusioned, and left Earth, calling it insignificant. Some time later, after essentially evolving into a Physical God, he returned to Earth, creating massive panic among the Justice League, until it turned out he was struggling through an existential crisis, having obtained unimaginable power but not knowing what to do with it. Doctor Fate took him in, hoping to teach the android how to appreciate life and find a purpose for himself.
  • The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, occasionally.
  • On The Simpsons, the citizens of Springfield once rioted against science, saying it was like someone who spoils the end of a movie.
    Moe: *fossil falls on him while he hits it* I hope medical science can cure me!
  • In Young Justice this is how Kid Flash is portrayed in the episode "Denial", constantly explaining away everything done with magic, with science.
    • Which is of course in the setting stupid, and a bad analogy to any people from our world with similar opinions, as magic is relatively common in the DCU, including the new version of Earth-16 where Young Justice takes place, and has proved itself repeatedly.
    • Kid Flash's perception is likely owed to the fact that the Flash family doesn't really have any magical villains, including Abra Kadabra who uses technological tricks to perform his seeming magic and was probably who Kid Flash had in mind when going through one of his diatribes (Klarion the Witch Boy, who is spying on the group, even asks Abra, "Isn't that how you perform your tricks?")
  • Dexter's Laboratory spent a whole episode on this ("Way of the Dee Dee") where Dee Dee showed Dexter the beauties and mysteries of life (in a humorous way) after she pointed out that Dexter was pretty much deprived of life in his laboratory: "Spoiled away, alone in the dark, searching the answers to questions nobody asks... locked away from the world, never to explore the true mysteries of life". Though in all fairness, the episode ends with Dee Dee apologizing for trying to make Dexter live life her way and admitting she should've have tried to change him.
  • Velma in Scooby-Doo is very much this. In the second live action movie, she even stated that she only trusted the facts, and that finding out logical answers to problems was her true calling in life.

    Real Life 
  • J. R. R. Tolkien, in a letter to a friend, once told what he claimed was an old joke about a German professor who "wrote a large book on Das Komische. After which, whenever anyone told him a funny story, he thought for a moment, and then nodded, saying: 'Yes, there is that joke'."
  • Learning a language usually changes the way you perceive it. If you liked how it sounded before, you might not like it anymore afterwards (and vice versa).
  • Famed biochemist Erwin Chargaff felt this way about science, heavily criticizing the direction in which it was going.
  • Ever see a cool magic trick? Some people find they are not that amusing when you figure out how they work.
    • If you're the kind of person who legitimately enjoys magic shows, better hope you don't find yourself sitting next to that one asshole in the audience who feels the need to explain how every trick is done to you, or if he doesn't know decides to grumble and complain about how juvenile it is.
  • Paul "Hungrybear9562" Vasquez's "Double Rainbow" viral video has been subject to this, especially after it was autotuned by Songify This. As the man himself explained in multiple interviews (as well as a video response to his own video), his asking "What does it mean?" in the video was actually him seeking spiritual meaning in the rainbow sighting. Despite this, several science-related YouTube channels (and dozens of people commenting on his original video as well as the autotuned version) decided to "answer" his question with a detached, academic, and dry explanation on how rainbows occur.
    • Riot Games—which has several employees holding doctorates in the sciences—even got in on the marigold-measuring act with one of the "joke" lines Lux (a magician who specializes in spells involving light) says in League of Legends. Much to Paul Vasquez's dismay, the amount of people trying to explain to him how rainbows occur has gotten even more obnoxious than before.
  • Film students often claim to be unable to enjoy films to a full degree because they're too busy analyzing them.
  • Emile Cioran, one of the bleakest nihilistic writers of all time, once said "Lucidity is the only vice which makes us free — free in a desert."


Subversions and Aversions:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Yotsuba&!!, Asagi shows Yotsuba that the tsukitsukiboushi making the onomatopoetic chirps heard in late-summer are cicadas, and not summer-ending fairies as she believed. Yotsuba, however is excited to learn something new, and eagerly spreads the word that cicadas are cicadas!

    Fan Works 
  • Dept Heaven Apocrypha has Ledah, a workaholic overachiever with all the apparent emotional capacity of a brick wall. Slowly, it's been revealed that this is more a result of his walled-in emotional problems and history of being abused than anything else, as he displays quite childish wonder at something so simple as realizing he has a friend.
    • He's also like this in canon, although the example is played rather straighter there. Interestingly, in both incarnations, Ledah is deeply religious.
  • In the fanfic The Conflicts of Haruhi Suzumiya there is a scene where Ryoko is watching the rain, explaining all the ways she can analyse it. She ends with, "It's beautiful. The more I find out, the more I feel I can appreciate how special everything really is."

    Literature 
  • The short story Democritus's Violin is about this trope. An academic windbag gets angry at the main character for using science in an essay on Bach and she gets back at him by pulling a prank which (supposedly) proves that the world is strictly reductionist and any belief in the power of art is the product of a dim mind. Um, yay?
  • In The Science of Discworld, Stewart and Cohen use the example in the trope description; pointing out that understanding how rainbows work doesn't stop them being beautiful; it means you know why they're beautiful.
    • In fact Ian Stewart, like most mathematicians, uses the word "beautiful" a lot.
    • A particularly well-executed proof is often referred to as 'elegant'.
    • Mathematics, pure mathematics, is as much an art as it is a science. Theorems are astoundingly beautiful, if looked at the right way. The way high-school math is taught does not foster this perspective.
    • Another Discworld example might be Twoflower, who, according to Rincewind, "appreciates beauty in a different way. If he saw a daffodil, he would run off to fetch a book on botany, not realizing he had stepped on the daffodil."
    • There's a subtle aversion in The Wee Free Men. Tiffany muses that you can spend all day studying the many intricate parts and complexities of a simple flower—rather than thinking that this takes away the beauty in any way, she concludes that it's not practical to become utterly fascinated by the beauty when you have butter to churn.
  • The Word of God is perhaps more a Take That than an aversion, but at any rate it is too good not to link to here.
  • In Breakfast of Champions, there's a scene where the author is attacked by a dog. Kurt Vonnegut spends two full pages on a ridiculously detailed and brilliantly dramatic explanation of what happens biochemically in his nervous system, body and brain from the time he sees the dog until he jumps over a car.
  • In the novelization of Buckaroo Banzai by Earl Max Rauch, Dr. Banzai is clearly a man who finds beauty in science and learning. An early passage states that his guiding principles in life are "The Five Stresses, The Four Beauties and the Three Loves". The Five Stresses(things which are to be stressed in life) are decorum, courtesy, public health, discipline and morals. The Four Beauties are Mind, Language, Behavior and Environment. The Three Loves are Love of Others, Love of Justice and Love of Freedom.
  • Richard Dawkins wrote "Unweaving the Rainbow" about this idea and went to great lengths to show how understanding the underlying rules and processes behind everyday objects adds layers of fascination and beauty rather than taking them away.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Sherlock, after the titular detective rants about all of the useless information in the world, and how he only keeps important things on his "hard drive" (i.e. his brain), John more or less accuses him of taking this approach to life. Later Sherlock comments on the beauty of the night sky, and John is shocked.
    Sherlock: (looking at the stars) "Beautiful isn't it?"
    John: "I thought you didn't care about-"
    Sherlock: "Doesn't mean I can't appreciate it."
  • In an episode of Sliders, when an android explained to Wade why the sky is blue, and she found it romantic.
  • Charlie Eppes in NUMB3RS is a math genius who sees incredible and fascinating beauty in how mathematics helps describe the world.
    • Indeed, Charlie gets very emotional and passionate when talking about math. However, he also provides a straight example when it comes to magic. He does not enjoy magic shows, because he so easily comprehends how the tricks are done. His girlfriend, on the other hand (who is also a mathematician), loves magic, and lampshades this very Trope in pointing out that understanding how it's done doesn't have to detract from the enjoyment.
  • Carl Sagan's Cosmos is, in its entirety, a repudiation of this Trope. In fact, it might be seen as espousing the opposite - seeing as you are made of trillions of highly evolved cells equipped with ludicrously complex molecular machinery, the components of which, as well as nearly everything else, were made from the ashes of long-dead stars, that we can transcend time and death by reading... The most mundane events are suddenly much more profound and wonderful.
    • As Carl Sagan once said, it takes away nothing of the romance of a sunset if you know a bit about how it works.
    • As is Jacob Bronowski's The Ascent Of Man, described by Charlie Brooker as being like "taking a warm bath in University juice."
    • And Into The Universe with Stephen Hawking, a show on space and time that's framed as a peek into the titular physicist's mind. And it is gorgeous in there.
    • And the Swedes were lucky to have Peter Nilson, author and astronomer, who wrote beautifully about such things as the heat death of the universe, and didn't let his knowledge of acoustics spoil his love of music or of ecohistory spoil his love of the Swedish countryside - he wrote books on both, as well as science fiction novels.
  • Gil Grissom of original-recipe CSI: Crime Scene Investigation is a poster child for this. There's an episode where Catherine chides him for wanting to know how magic tricks work.
  • Jonathan Creek.
  • Inverted on Northern Exposure: Ed Chigliak, Magical Native American, artist, and bishonen, hates computers, until he realizes that ones and zeros are just like his people's view that the universe is made up of two things: Nothing, and everything.
  • Rarely explicitly stated, but in Big Bang Theory, the Nerds - even Sheldon on occasion - are amazed at the beauty and wonder that exists around them and quickly point out that there's amazing things that you wouldn't even know existed without the aid of science - Astronomy appears to be their poison of choice.
  • On Fool Us, Penn Jillette frequently says that he and Teller enjoyed a trick more than the audience because they knew how it was done and could fully appreciate the skill with which a piece of sleight of hand was done.
    • For bonus points they can show how they do the cup and balls trick with see through cups and a base, and you will still be amazed at how they did it. They move so fast it might as well be magic.
  • Temperance Brennan has, shall we say, a unique means of appraising Seely Booth's appearance;
    Brennan: Booth has a bigger mandible and a more prominent zygomatic than Fisher, as well as a more pronounced ratio between the width of his clavicles and his ilia.
    Angela: So, it's because Booth is hot? Now we're getting somewhere.

    Meta 

    Music 
  • Tom Glazer wrote "Why Does The Sun Shine? (The Sun Is a Mass of Incandescent Gas)" in 1959. The long-forgotten song was later covered by They Might Be Giants, and their children's educational CD "Here Comes Science" includes an updated version, "Why Does the Sun Really Shine? (The Sun is a Miasma of Incandescent Plasma)". Justified in that these songs are meant to both educate and entertain, (and do both splendidly).
  • As a judge on The Sing Off, Ben Folds is enjoying the show on more levels than the rest of us as he elaborates the exact technical merits of each performance. He looks giddy as he explains how the three-part harmony comes together or points out the arrangement of events every four to eight bars.
  • Rilo Kiley's song "Science Vs. Romance" possibly references this (I used to think, if I could realize I'd die, then I would be a lot nicer,", "Used to believe, in a lot more. Now I just see straight ahead", but it's about a scientist trying to regain his feelings again, evidenced by the line "Facts vs. romance, you go and call yourself the boss, but we're not robots inside a grid."
  • Flaming Lips songs from the "Clouds Taste Metalic" and "The Soft Bulletin" era, are often ocuppied with demonstrating the beauty that lies between emotions and chemistry. Most notably are When You Smile: "Every single molecule is right, when /All of the subatomic pieces come together/ and unfold themselves in a second" and the title of the song "What Is the Light?" ("An Untested Hypothesis Suggesting That the Chemical [In Our Brains] by Which We Are Able to Experience the Sensation of Being in Love Is the Same Chemical That Caused the "Big Bang" That Was the Birth of the Accelerating Universe").
  • The Angel and Robot Show/Phenomenaut's It's Only Chemical flipflops between being played straight (You might think this song is special with the way it makes you feel, but it's not/It's only chemical) and being a subversion, as it also applies to the bad emotions you go through in life - and that emotions just being chemicals is a good thing (It's better that way).

    Theater 
  • Penn & Teller at one point had a part of their stage show in which Teller would climb into a complex contraption of interconnected boxes and poke his head and limbs out in various impossible-seeming configurations while Penn manipulated and rearranged the boxes, all set to music in a sort of magic-trick-cum-dance-routine. It was impressive enough, but not so different from anything you'd see at a magic show. Then they turn the entire contraption around to show that its back side is transparent, and do the entire routine again so that the audience can see just exactly how much skill and dexterity the trick required, particularly from Teller. It was amazing.
  • The musical adaptation of The Snow Queen (no, not Frozen) has Kai, the boy taken by the queen, only find mathematical equations and numbers purer than his dirty city, rejecting the time he and Gerta (the protagonist) together as "childish" and dismissing her as "too stupid to understand". He's used by the Queen to solve mathematical equations: the biggest one of them all is solving eternity. Gerta brings him back from cold rationality with love, and love is the answer to eternity.

    Video Games 
  • Mass Effect 2 has Mordin Solus, the very model of a scientist Salarian. He shows extreme passion about his beliefs and work and has a deep appreciation of the arts. He sees the Collectors as a mockery of the Protheans, as the heart and soul of their race has long since been lost.
    • Most notably, he admits that after working on the Genophage, which at the time he logically saw as the correct choice, the guilt drove him to seek spiritual answers.
    • The trope was invoked for laughs in the third game when he said he'd like to retire to a beach somewhere and collect seashells, only to admit he'd probably run tests on them out of boredom.
  • N accuses Professor Juniper of "arbitrarily measuring and categorizing Pokemon without appreciating them" in Pokémon Black and White. If you were reading Juniper's intro speech in the game's prologue, you'd know this isn't the case.

    Web Comics 
  • Of course, xkcd is a complete inversion of this, which often talks of math and science with an infectious sense of awe and giddiness, demonstrated here.
  • Clinton from Questionable Content also inverts it, arguing that you can't truly appreciate the marigolds until you've measured them.

    Web Original 
  • Inverted by Symphony Of Science which is pretty much nothing but various scientists gushing about how awesome the world and its mechanics are, Auto-Tuned and set to music.
  • Eliezer Yudkowsky argues against it under the title, "Explaining vs. Explaining Away, with some follow up notes on taking Joy in the "Merely" Real.
  • Sign up for a few skeptical and science podcasts, such as Skeptoid, The Skeptics Guide To The Universe, or indeed any other. Sure, there may be the occasional attack on pseudoscience and alternative medicine, but most of the content is very bright people waxing lyrical about how cool a new discovery, newly realized aspect of the natural world, or just learning something you never knew is. Generally, but not always, attacks on "believers" are reserved for those who try to use law to mandate their view or who sell a product with no proven benefits, especially in the fields of medicine and nutrition.
  • Both of Hank Green's Youtube science shows avert this, with Sci Show focusing on science news and ideas Hank Green finds cool, while Crash Course Biology, Ecology, and Chemistry taking a more targeted approach at various scientific disciplines. Part of what makes it work is Green's obvious enthusiasm

    Western Animation 
  • The 90s Spider-Man: The Animated Series made Peter a subversion of this Trope - for instance, when he's on a Ferris wheel, Mary Jane asks how fireworks work, at which point he goes into a talk on the fuses and the gunpowder and the doping with trace metals and so on. When Mary-Jane comments that he's taken the romance out of them by analyzing them, Peter points out that knowing how they work doesn't make them any less beautiful. She would later use the knowledge to create a makeshift distress signal.
  • The Disney cartoon Donald In Mathmagic Land is an attempt to avert this. Despite Donald's insistence that advanced mathematics is for "eggheads", a disembodied "Spirit of Adventure" manages to convince him otherwise by showing how math influences things like parlor games and music theory.
  • This is the message of the "Give Your Heart a Try" number in Twas The Night Before Christmas, though the later song "Hope and Hurry" does a lot to balance it out.
  • On My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Twilight is essentially a scholar of magic (and is fairly interested in history). She is repeatedly enthusiastic about her studies to the point of adorkability and is regularly disappointed or occasionally shocked, when others don't show the same level of interest in these things as she does.
    • Played straight in Feeling Pinkie Keen when she decides to accept that Pinkie Pies 'Pinkie Sense' is real, but learns the Family-Unfriendly Aesop that sometimes you should just believe in things, and then makes absolutely no attempt to study this fascinating new discovery in the field of magic.
      • She made plenty of attempts to study it throughout the episode, she just couldn't figure it out.

     Real Life  
  • Just ask any scientist about their field of specialty, and the last thing you'll get is a robotically dull answer. Try asking a botanist about flowers, or an astronomer about galaxies. These people chose these fields in the first place because they feel intensely about them. You don't get rich researching science. It is, almost of necessity, a labor of love.
    • Hell, ask a mathematician about their work, aka "the dullest thing in existence", and you're likely to get a whole lot of enthusiasm and excitement.
    Bertrand Russell, Study of Mathematics: Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty, a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture, without appeal to any part of our weaker nature, without the gorgeous trappings of painting or music, yet sublimely pure, and capable of a stern perfection such as only the greatest art can show. The true spirit of delight, the exaltation, the sense of being more than Man, which is the touchstone of the highest excellence, is to be found in mathematics as surely as in poetry.
    • The very concept of "mathematical beauty" not only defies this trope, but turns it on its head. People who aren't mathematically minded miss out on the beauty of something like Euler's identity, e+1=0.note 
    • Physicians can be particularly passionate about their field, sitting where it does at the intersection of cutting edge technology, the frontier of science, and a deep humanitarian mission. Dr. Atul Gawande's Complications is an excellent introduction to just how emotional the field is.
    • Brian Cox (the physicist, not the actor) has made a career of averting this trope, in much the same vein as Professor Sagan.
  • Richard Feynman also was a major advocate of this style of thinking. In What Do You Care What Other People Think?, he advocates this position with an argument he had with an artist:
    Feynman: I have a friend who's an artist, and he sometimes takes a view which I don't agree with. He'll hold up a flower and say, "Look how beautiful it is," and I'll agree. But then he'll say, "I, as an artist, can see how beautiful a flower is. But you, as a scientist, take it all apart and it becomes dull." I think he's kind of nutty. [...] There are all kinds of interesting questions that come from a knowledge of science, which only adds to the excitement and mystery and awe of a flower. It only adds. I don't understand how it subtracts.
  • After he received stories of people disillusioned by his book The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins wrote a counter to this viewpoint in the form of Unweaving The Rainbow. It helped that not only did most people criticize The Selfish Gene purely from title alone, but those that did actually read it thought that he was endorsing a bleak dog-eat-dog philosophy of the worldnote , despite the fact that he explicitly said he wasn't doing this in the first chapter of the book. He also added a preface with that message when he found out the executives behind the ENRON scandal had cited the book as an excuse for their behavior.
  • Philosophy, (systematic) theology, and other exercises of raw reason are often enlightening once you've grappled with a particular problem and, as it were, solved the riddle, or at least contributed towards understanding it more.
  • Animators spend all day sitting at a desk, studying how a body moves, how things move, making them move, drawing hundreds of drawings. Learning how it works, systematically. It doesn't make it any less enjoyable to watch cartoons being able to spot where other animators went the extra mile, or made mistakes, or knowing what needs to be done to accomplish what happened.
    • Also, analysing people's movements make you realise just how different each person moves and how it reflects their personality, mood etc. Whereas most people would have the default assumption that "a walk is a walk," a walk in animation tells you EVERYTHING.
      • The same applies to acting, whether it's a live action role, or a voice role. How does your character walk? Does he slump forward? Does he swagger? Is he pigeon toed? Does he have a particular accent? How strong is it? Is he trying to lose it? Does he have a soft voice, or a gravelly rasp? All of these little things change who he is, and how he's perceived. It's why the school of method acting still exists. People spend months getting into, and building their idea of who the character is, because it matters to them.
  • Nathaniel Wyeth came from a very artistically inclined family (son of N.C., brother of Andrew and Henriette), but as an engineer he was probably the family black sheep. Nonetheless, he was pretty good at it, eventually becoming the chief engineer of the DuPont company. (Among his inventions was PET, the plastic used in soda bottles.) True to his genes, he would speak eloquently about using equations the way Andrew uses brushes.
  • David Kushner's book Masters of Doom has this to say about id software's John Carmack and his programming knowledge: "...after so many years immersed in the science of graphics, he had achieved an almost Zen-like understanding of his craft...Rather than detaching him from the natural world, this viewpoint only made him appreciate it more deeply. "These are things I find enchanting and miraculous," he said. "I don't have to be at the Grand Canyon to appreciate the way the world works, I can see that in reflections of light in my bathroom." In further context, this could also be a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming for Carmack, who, up until that point, was said to have appeared impassive to his peers most of the time.
  • Simple kiddie tricks may lose their awesomeness, yes, but more advanced tricks of master magicians can become even more amazing when you start to understand how much brilliance, hard work, and showmanship skill go into them.
    • Penn & Teller had a show in the UK called "Fool Us." It was a competition. P&T would sit in the audience and see a trick one time from the audience's point of view. They got no help. No special camera angles, no tapes to watch, and only one performance of the trick. If they could not figure out how your trick was done on a single viewing, you won a trip to Vegas and the right to open for them. The acts were all top notch, and yet maybe only one in six actually got past them. That did not stop them from taking almost childish joy in each performer's tricks.
  • Stephen Hawking actually complained about this: with the discovered of the "God Particle", he complained that, with lots of questions in physics revealed, it took away all the mystery.
  • The Discovery Channel is dedicated to measuring marigolds (some might say it used to be), but that didn't keep them from celebrating how awesome the world can be.


Ludd Was RightAnti IntellectualismMorally Ambiguous Doctorate
Mathematician's AnswerCharacterization TropesMenacing Stroll
The McCoyRomanticism Versus EnlightenmentThe Middle Ages
It's Popular, Now It SucksImageSource/Newspaper ComicsMisplaced Wildlife
Mary SueDouble StandardMillionaire Playboy
Maybe Magic, Maybe MundaneAdded Alliterative AppealMeat Moss

alternative title(s): Unweaving The Rainbow; Science Ruins Beauty
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