"Lock On! 1, 10, 100, 1,000, 10,000, 100,000,000, 1,000,000,000,000, IMMEASURABLE! Triumphant Charge!"The instruments used by the heroes, be they solitary investigators in the back woods or interstellar explorers on the fringes of the galaxy, are never up to the task of actually measuring the full scope of their subjects. Nor can they be recalibrated to expand that range at the cost of some loss of detail. The result is that not a day goes by that something doesn't peg the meters, rendering them completely useless. A reading that's so far off the scale as to be truly incredible may even cause the measuring device to suffer from Explosive Instrumentation. Presumably this is to allow writers to say something is astonishingly big or powerful, without having to make up the measuring units for Subspace Quantum Tachyon Emissions, or using a real value that is completely out of proportion to what would be sensible. Basically Up to Eleven taken, well, Up to Eleven. In comedy genres, many Thing 'o Meters (like Pun 'o-meter or annoying 'o-Meter, or the ever-popular Weird Shit 'o-Meter) will most likely tend to go off-scale or even explode. It should probably be noted that, as the Real Life Examples below indicate, in Real Life, it's seldom as easy as just "recalibrating". At a certain point, any measuring device will eventually reach the limit of what it was designed to measure. Seen in almost every Space Opera. If you're using a chart, Off the Chart will be the case, too. A Super Trope to Readings Blew Up the Scale. When this is applied to reviews, it's Broke the Rating Scale.
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- In Dragon Ball Z:
Numbah 4: "Their power levels... are off... the charts! I'm really gonna have to get some... bigger charts...!"
- Characters working for the Big Bad Frieza have eyepieces called "Scouters" that measure ki, outputting it as a 'combat rating' (or 'power levels' in the dub), and if a low quality scouter, like the ones used by Red Shirts, is used to measure a combat rating that is rising at a rate that the unit cannot handle, it'll explode. The higher-ups get ones that don't have this flaw, although Vegeta has a bad habit of crushing them anyway. At different points in the series, Raditz, Nappa, Jeice, and Androids 17 and 18 are each shocked at their opponent's power level as given by the scouter, and they immediately dismiss their scouter as flawed or broken. In the case of the androids, the scouter being used was the one built into Android 16.
- One filler scene in the anime involved the mooks on a different planet measuring the readings of Frieza and Goku... who were killed when the readings overload blew up the entire complex.
- Toriyama admitted he did this intentionally, as he didn't like the hard-and-fast "this character is more powerful than that one by this amount" corner the scouters had painted him into, and also the ever-increasing power levels would have made for ever-increasingly stupid sounding numbers. According to Ryusei Nakao (Frieza's Japanese VA), Frieza's power level in his golden form in Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’ is 100 quintillion.note
- Toriyama himself engaged in a little of this regarding Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods, saying that on a scale of 1 to 10, Super Saiyan God Goku is a 6 and God of Destruction Beerus is a 10. Beerus' retainer and mentor, Whis, is a 15, and we're later introduced to two characters who Whis admits even he wouldn't stand a chance against: the High Priest, said to be among the top 5 most powerful fighters in all existence, and Zen-O, the Top God who is stated to capable of ending all 12 universes in an instant if he wanted.
- Codename: Kids Next Door spoofs this part of Dragon Ball Z in a skewed Rashomon-type episode. In Numbah 4's telling of the pizza delivery, it is a spoof of Dragon Ball Z, down to transformations and Ki (Or rather bubblegum bubbles) balls. During the scene where he is continually being zapped by The Delightful Kids From Down The Lane (as a multi-headed Frieza no less).
- Gintama also spoofs with a device called Spouzer, which rates power levels in units of kelp and boobs. The Spouzer shatters after evaluating two characters suffering from some sort of old-age-causing biological attack thingy, rating them at power levels of under negative 9000 and dropping.
- In one episode of Neon Genesis Evangelion, Lt. Ibuki uses this trope directly ("All our meters and gauges are going off the scale!") when trying to recover Eva-01 and Shinji.
- Misato finally addresses this trope in one of the last few episodes:
Maya: Yet, I can't believe it. I mean, it's impossible on this system.Misato: Nevertheless, it's a fact. We must accept the fact and then investigate the cause.
- In Rebuild of Evangelion it's not so much a matter of going beyond measurable values as exceeding safety thresholds; the "negative values" of plug depth indicate the pilot has moved out of safe depths in the plug and into the zone where "contamination" is a major concern. Eva-02's beast mode also causes all readings to go haywire and Eva-01's destruction of its limiters allows it to "transcend all human reason."
- Plug depths actually have a limitation on how high they can go. It's labeled "The Great Beyond Depth"; one can only assume things don't go well for the pilot there.
- Misato finally addresses this trope in one of the last few episodes:
- This line is used in the Gainax Opening of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, where Captain GARlock faces down an armada with an impossibly large size: The fleet size is "off the charts". The opening fades out as he orders the attack.
- The gauge our heroes use for measuring their spiral energy is designed to handle large values: It's a logarithmic scale, which first spirals outward in one color, then switches to another color and spirals outward again, and repeats this as much as is necessary. After Lordgenome's Heroic Sacrifice in the final episode, the gauge switches immediately to a never-before-seen rainbow color, spirals out to the maximum, and then the glass covering shatters and it keeps increasing onto empty air, in plain defiance of all logic and common sense. In other words, spiral power went off the scale on a scale that was designed to measure things that go off the scale.
- In Episode 2 of Vividred Operation, after Rei powers up the first Alone, one of the Bridge Bunnies at Blue Island HQ exclaims that the empowered Alone's energy levels have exceeded their gauges' limits and can no longer be measured.
- In an episode of MM!, new character Noa is trying to harness "pervert energy", which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin, energy related to the level of a person's perversion. She measures this energy from Taro while he's being tortured and is utterly astonished. Taro's later told that his insanely massive pervert power is what allowed Noa to proceed with her evil plan. What follows gradually turns into year another Dragon Ball Z parody.
- In Diebuster, the Buster Machine Quatre-Vingt-Dix uses a physics-breaking Exotic Maneuver to freeze enemies at -1,000,020,000,000 Celsius. Note that absolute zero (the coldest possible temperature, at which all molecular motion stops and thermal energy is nonexistent) is about -273 degrees Celsius. You cannot, ever, go colder than this.
- In Space Runaway Ideon, the crew of the Solo Ship head back to Earth to use the most advanced computer on the planet to try and calculate the eponymous mecha's potential output. Needless to say, they're all shocked when the readout points to literal infinity. Quickly, they begin to worry about the fact that a release of that kind of energy at once could destroy the universe. The computer wasn't exaggerating....
- In the FRLG saga of Pokémon Special, Orm uses the Dark Pokédex to gauge the power of Yellow's Pokémon and laughs at their low levels. And then Yellow's Viridian Power kicks in, sending the numbers over the eighties, effectively freaking him and Sird out to the point that they know better than to try to fight her head-on.
- In Episode 22 of Pokemon Black and White, one of Professor Juniper's assistants mentions that the energy readings they're getting are off the scale.
- In Umineko: When They Cry, where gods are hard-pressed to even reach the last measured digit in magic resistance, meta-Battler's resistance is maxed out at "Endless Nine", as the Siestas discover to their horror after they try to shoot him (page picture). It makes sense his Anti-Magic is at endless nine. He's Anti-Magic incarnate, thanks to his position in the game as "Magic cannot exist." Also note that this reading was taken during his high point; in the previous arcs he's a bit less of a determinator and in later arcs, he begins to accept the existence of magic and even gets to be
BeatriceEndless Sorcerer. Though that doesn't stop him from no-selling Featherine's entire honor guard of main-character mages' spell-storm in EP8. Seems like once he reaches the truth, he can toggle it at will. Or maybe just when he's protecting someone.
- In Baka and Test: Summon the Beasts, during a Furo Scene, Shimada examines several other girls' breasts with size-detecting heat vision. One... generously endowed character causes the numbers to max out.
- Yu-Gi-Oh!: Seto Kaiba's computer control panels nearly exploded when Kaiba powered up his Infinity Plus One Card, Obelisk the Tormentor. A bit peculiar considering that Obelisk was a hologram with no physical presence whose model, animations, and statistics were probably programmed into a Duel Disk with computers probably not too far off from the ones used to gauge its power level. And given that each card's statistics had to be programmed into the Duel Disk to begin with, it's not so clear why Kaiba needed to monitor any monster's power levels at all.
- The dub of the Duelist Kingdom arc has Tea saying (in an awestruck voice) "Blue-eyes Ultimate Dragon's Attack Power is off the charts!" The card in question has 4500 ATK and at this point in the game and show normal Blue-eyes' 3000 ATK was considered overwhelming, so the reaction was justified.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, Amon becomes wise to Professor Cobra's plan to kill him by increasing the power to his D-Belt; so Amon sabotages Cobras equipment so that the same thing happens to everyone's D-Belt and then throwing a party where dueling is involved. (Amon realizes that Cobra will be forced to abort the plan, lest every student in the school die as a result, something he would never get away with.) The result is an Oh, Crap! from Cobra as readings on his equipment goes haywire, followed by him panicking as he tries to shut the system down.
- In Ties That Bind, the companion movie to Street Fighter IV, Ryu's Satsui no Hadou is the target of Seth and SIN. The first time he's provoked into using his power, the power gauge the scientists are reading max at ...999999999999999 (the camera angle obscures the start of the number, but it's big). In the final battle, he manages to control the Satsui no Hadou, and we get a shot of the equipment rolling over from ...999999999999999 to ...000000000000000.
- Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie has a more subdued example, where a similar reading of Ryu rated his fighting potential at 3620. That number may sound reasonable, but M. Bison's lead scientist believes that the reading must be wrong because only the most powerful martial artists can break 2000, so 3000+ is off the scale.
- In the first Sakura Wars OVA the developers of the spirit armor are having trouble finding someone who is able to pilot it. After their latest military pilot nearly kills himself trying to operate the mech, the scientists comment that they need to find someone who can move the gauge on the spirit-power-measuring-thingy. They idly flip it on in the presence of the granddaughter of the chief scientist (and daughter of the owner of the company), and the gauge, of course, promptly overloads and breaks.
- In Guilty Crown the protagonists find a Void-o-meter, to detect the level of power someone has both when they use their own Void and when someone else uses theirs. Most people rank around one hundred, with three hundred being on the higher end. For Inori, it slowly spirals up to two thousand before giving up and just declaring "OVER."
- When the main Zentraedi fleet shows up in Earth's orbit in Super Dimension Fortress Macross/Robotech, everyone there understandably has an Oh, Crap! moment, and one of the characters mentions that due to the sheer volume of ships (5 million of them), their radar can't even keep up with it all.
- The final arc opens with panic in the 12th Division as the Shutara Scale measurements break down. The Scale is supposed to measure the Balance of Souls between all the worlds, but a sudden upsurge in Hollow soul destruction sends the Scale off the charts. The Shinigami comment that the Scale simply isn't designed to handle so much destruction in such a short period of time, announcing the resurgence of the allegedly almost-extinct Quincies.
- The Quincy invasion of Soul Society manifests as multiple powerful pillars of light. The 12th Division struggles to analyse them because the amount of raw power makes it hard to calibrate the instruments. They briefly get a clear reading to confirm the enemy is definitely Quincy before the attackers step out of the pillars and nearly half of the Gotei 13 is decimated within just a few short minutes. The measurements break down completely.
- NG Knight Lamune 40, the main robot King Sccrusher runs on a Hot-Blooded meter, and it can use a Limit Break when the gauge goes off a scale. Since this is a traditional shonen anime, the meter goes off the scale every episode.
- In Fairy Tail's Grand Magic Games arc, Cana Alberona, armed with Fairy Glitter, has a much greater magic level than everybody else, much to everybody's amazement. The magic-measuring device stopped at 9999 because that was as far as it went...and because she completely vaporized the thing in the process.
- The final episode of Sentou Yousei Yukikaze has so many JAM clustered around the Passageway that the sensor officers in the FAF fleet simply give up trying to count them. It's very justified, considering that the planet Faery is breaking up and revealing that it is built out of countless JAM.
- Toriko does this with its Capture Level system. For example, capture level of 5 and above is immune to conventional weapons. The strongest beasts in the human world range between capture level 91-99. However in the Gourmet World it goes off the scale with creatures regularly getting levels of over 100. The first beast Toriko even encounters is the Breath Dragon with a capture level of 219. The strongest capture level is the Meat Dish of Acacia's Full Course GOD... 10,000.
- This happens with the Ten Tails. When the Ten Tails finally appears, Kurama, the Nine Tails, tells Naruto that trying to measure the Ten Tails' chakra levels is pointless. Naruto goes into Sage mode, allowing him to sense the Ten Tails's Chakra, and is almost blown back by it, and we're given a visual of how much it has: It's depicted as a Planet. This is later taken further as the Ten Tails turns into its second form and, back at the Shinobi Alliance headquarters, an entire second sphere of chakra is created as a result of the mutation, symbolized as a planet appearing, and making it, in just its second form, have enough chakra to rival every living thing on the planet. And it just gets stronger from there.
- Taken Up to Eleven with the appearance of Kaguya. While it's already hinted that Kaguya is extremely strong (so strong that the Sage of Six Paths himself, her own son, says that he's nothing compared to her), when she finally ressurrects herself, Naruto again attempts to measure her chakra. She has so much that She dwarfs the aforementioned Ten Tails. So she essentially dwarfs a being so powerful it was at that point stronger then every other being on earth combined!
- YuYu Hakusho: In the Three Kings arc, a bunch of Raizen's old training buddies come out of seclusion to pay respects and join the new tournament. They collectively flex their energy to "see if they've still got it," and Yomi's strategist's energy-reading device goes off the scale before it breaks. Miles away from the energy source.
- In [C] - Control, there are three levels of attack an Asset can use: Microflation is the weakest, Mezzoflation is medium and Macroflation is the highest. For attacks of Mezzo level and above, a digitized announcer calls out the name and level of those attacks when used. When the ungodly powerful Q uses her Signature Move Cannibalization, the announcer is unable to determine its level and stutters:
- In a One-Punch Man side-chapter, Child Emperor builds a power-measuring mask. Saitama registers as "Undefined", which seemingly re-affirms the general belief that he's is a powerless schlub...but they completely miss the fact that scanning Saitama caused the mask to crack. King also scans as "Undefined"... because he's too weak to even register (but everyone assumes that his strength is too high to be calculated).
- Mob Psycho 100 features occasional panels dedicated to showing how built up Mob's emotions are, usually peaking at 100% when he's at his most powerful. But if he's knocked unconscious, his power is given as "???%," and when he sees what he thinks are the charred corpses of his family, he flies into such a rage that it doesn't even clearly define it as ???% - it's just a smudge.
- Lampshaded in an issue of Fantastic Four:
- In Cable & Deadpool issue #15, Black Box has Deadpool hooked up to some equipment that's monitoring him and showing Black Box his thoughts. After some observation, Black Box notes that Deadpool's ferocity and skills are off the charts.
Black Box: Clowns. He is too funny. But his ferocity—his skills—are off the charts. I should know...I've charted them all.
- Lampshaded in an issue of First Comics' Humongous Mecha series Dynamo Joe:
Pomru: The readings are off the scale! If we get outta this we're gonna need a bigger scale!
- In Innocence Lost, Rice uses this to describe X-23's intellect and physical fitness. When she's seven years old.
- In Blood of the Phoenix after Harry fights a fifth-year dueling dummy, two sixth-year dummies and a seventh-year dummy during a school dueling competition and beats them all, his name is listed so far up the enchanted scoreboard that Ginny Weasley is technically in first place.
- In White, when measuring the Arrancars' power to determine the Espada, Ichigo's reading is simply "error" from how powerful he is.
- In The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World, Cirda of the “Terrible Trio” finds that power-scanning three of the four jams her scanner needle at the top. However, she can't determine anything else about their power because earlier she had cannibalized that functionality to ensure that her scanner would be able to sense things through the masks that nearly everyone wears. Sadly for her, the four don't have masks yet, so the cannibalism was unnecessary.
No, wait, John said, a note of weary but evil craft in his mental voice. They should know what hit 'em. Teach 'em not to fuck with Nine Thousands.
- John overhears Cirda scream the exact "over Nine Thousand" lines from Dragon Ball Z. From then on, the four ironically refer to themselves as being “Nine Thousands” whenever they talk about going up against someone, or they need to complete a difficult task. They even gain a Share Phrase:
- In Das Boot, when everything is going to hell and the submarine is stuck on the ocean floor, the depth gauge is far past its last marking (260 meters). 260 meters is already way past the point where the navy originally expected the hull to be crushed and destroyed. The manufacturer's warranty extended only to 90 meters.
- Implied in Ghostbusters.
- The PKE meter (handheld device used to measure ghost activity) seems to only have three readings: "Zero," "Pegged," and "Blown Up." When we see it used, it only seems to go "active" when a ghost is within visual range, so it's only slightly better than, say, looking.
- The 2009 video game shows the PKE meter in better detail. The "antenna" on the meter rise higher the closer the meter is to a spectral entity, regardless of power. The bars in the middle are kind of a "hot-cold" mechanic for pinpointing a hidden ghost or cursed object. There's more to it than that, as Ray and Egon both comment on the readings, noting things that are non-obvious, but for the rookie Ghostbuster (that's you), it's just a ghost locator.
- The Fifth Element: Temperature probes sent to absolute evil jam, one at a million degrees, the other at minus 5000. A bit later, Leeloo's DNA is described as having hundreds of different bases.note note
- In The Phantom Menace, Anakin Skywalker's midi-chlorian level is said to be "off the charts" and "over twenty thousand." It's not entirely clear whether this means that they could only measure them up to twenty thousand, or that a little over twenty thousand was the actual count but unprecedentedly high, even Master Yoda doesn't have that much.
- Midway through Forbidden Planet, we are shown a power gauge consisting of a (very large) number of lighted displays, each of which shows ten times the amperage of the previous one. (Think of it as a decimal display with a whole lotta digits.) What the protagonists consider a large power output barely registers as a blip on the first gauge. Naturally, by the end of the film, we see the whole panel lit up (and flashing!).
- The energy readings of the reactor in Antarctica are off the scale to Nite Owl's Owlship in Watchmen.
- Whiteout has a particularly ridiculous example, where someone says that the radar went off the charts. Given that radar isn't actually used to measure anything, how it can go "off the charts" is a mystery.
- The 2009 Star Trek film uses it twice, most bizarrely for James Kirk's attribute tests (there's no way to score very high scorers?). Either that or "Off the charts" is used as Federation slang for "Really friggin' high": a fact which would explain an awful lot.
- Inverted in the Soviet sci-fi film Moscow — Cassiopeia, where an accident (a guy sitting on a console) results in their relativistic ship accelerating beyond the speed of light in just a few seconds. The Captain notes this on the console readout, which shows the rising speed bar. Forgetting the fact that accelerating beyond the speed of light is impossible without some sort of Applied Phlebotinum, there'd be no way for any device to measure translight speeds (although you could still put the numbers on the scale just for the hell of it). The crew passes out and wakes up to find that they have arrived at their destination, while everyone on Earth has aged several decades, which seems to indicate that they did not, in fact, travel faster than light but merely approached the speed of light, causing Time Dilation. Given that the captain is still a teenager, it can be forgiven if he incorrectly gauged the speed.
- According to the ship's name/acronym ZARYa (means "dawn"), the "R" standads for "relativistic", meaning the ship is actually designed to go to a significant percentage of the speed of light. The star in question is a real one; over 200 light years away, but with the Time Dilation, the teens were expected to only age about 20 years (requiring 90%+ lightspeed). Instead, they got into some Negative Space Wedgie, making it 20+ years on Earth, a couple minutes for them, and definitely FTL.
- Bomba says this in one scene in Epic .
- In the original A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), Nancy has her dreams monitored by a brain-scan. The doctor notes that a "really intense" nightmare would read about seven...then watches in disbelief as it goes to 10, 15, 30...
- In This Island Earth, Joe tells Cal about a strange bead-like device that blew up their equipment after giving off an amazing amount of power. Cal muses on this, realizing they could use it to generate enough power to power an entire town by itself with it.
- In Godzilla vs. Destoroyah, they say this about the level of radiation Godzilla is emitting.
- Despite their phenomenally polymorphic instrumentation and interface, sensors on Star Trek are especially prone to this fatal weakness. This is lampshaded in the Star Trek: New Frontier book Being Human:
Soleta: Readings are off the scale.
McHenry: They're always off the scale. We just have to install bigger scales.
- Funny inversion in Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman: The temperature at the evil sigil during the Apocalypse is never measured correctly. The machines put it at either -150 or +350 degrees. Both are correct, 'cuz that's the temperature in Hell.
- The Last Continent in Discworld uses a thaumometer, that measures magical energy. Sure enough, it melts when it detects a magical field of over a million thaums (in this case, caused by the creation of a new continent).
- While not strictly "off the scale," as it continued to measure as intended, the resograph of Moving Pictures (which detects distortions in reality) was at one point spitting a burst of eleven pellets every few minutes. According to the instruction manual, a "serious disturbance" would be enough to trigger two pellets. Per MONTH.
- Comes up once in The Corellian Trilogy:
C-3PO: -and there are probably temperatures much higher than that, except the detectors are not there any more to tell us.
- Note that said detectors were good up to over 500°.
- In Ender's Game, this is said about Bean's intelligence. He scored near-perfectly on all their aptitude tests (save physical abilities, given his age), but had also included notes in the margins pointing out mistakes the test-makers had made when writing them and making suggestions for improving the tests. The instructors decide that Bean's intellect is so great that their tests cannot accurately measure it, and therefore they can't be sure of his true limits.
- Essentially, he has no upper limit on his intelligence, due to the nature of the genetic engineering he underwent as a fetus (he lacks the normal inhibitors that slow down neural development after infancy, but also the ones which tell his body to stop trying to grow when he reached adult size).
- It's pointed out several times that Bean is much smarter than Ender, but Ender is a natural commander, while Bean is more of a strategist (i.e. no one would follow Bean).
- This also occurs with the final battle at the Formic homeworld. There are so many Formic warships in orbit that the computer can't track them all, leading to the edges of the radar constantly dropping and picking up readings.
- Occurs in the Lensman series - but only a very few times. The Lensman Arms Race applies to sensors and recorders there as well as to other systems. When the readings do go off the scale, it's impressive. "Those beams were hot - plenty hot. These recorders go up to five billion and have a factor of safety of ten. Even that wasn't anywhere near enough - everything in the recorder circuits blew." The most extreme instance was when a Faster Than Light meteor was pulled from another dimension and sent into a star. No gauge, chart, or screen could properly record what happened at that point. Everything pegged out, whited out, etc. Incidentally, this marked the end of the Lensman Arms Race; the finale of the series occurs shortly after because this was already Apocalypse How levels; if they didn't act fast, the galaxy would go next.
- Hermione from Harry Potter has done exceedingly well on tests, ranging from 113% to 320%. That was muggle studies. One can only assume that being raised as a muggle, she knew infinitely more about it than even the professor.
- In Warbreaker, there is a passing mention of the amount of breaths that a Returned had registering as infinite to Vivenna. This may have been a mistake, as it was referring not to the God King, but to a normal Returned, which would only be about four times more than Vivenna herself. This is because Returned don't have two thousand Breaths, they have one Divine Breath that's two thousand times stronger than a normal Breath. This odd situation throws off Vivenna's senses a little, especially since she's never practiced using the Breath-sense before.
- This is why it took so long to discover that the dinosaurs were breeding in Jurassic Park. The program that kept track of the population was set with the expected number as its upper limit, because everyone believed the dinosaurs were incapable of breeding. They assumed everything was all right as long as the population didn't drop. It was only when Alan Grant told them to re-program the counter with a higher number that it was proven that the dinosaurs were breeding. (in the film, this doesn't occur, Alan discovers a dinosaur nest in the field.)
Live Action TV
- Angel: Gunn borrowing a 'whisker' from The Conduit.
- Knight Rider: K.I.T.T. had a top speed that approached 300 mph ... and several times, Michael Knight drove the car that speed (always accomplished through film speed techniques), usually racing to catch a criminal or avert a potentially deadly situation ... such as the time Knight needed to (very quickly) transport a nuclear bomb to a desert location before it exploded. In the example, K.I.T.T. easily outran several state patrol troopers – the first one reported that the car was traveling at speeds "off the clock" and crashed (at blinding speed) through a road block.
- Babylon 5 used off-the-scale readings as shorthand for the equivalent of Wooden Ships and Iron Men spotting a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. The rest of the time they're just fine as-is.
- In the short-lived sequel series to Babylon 5, Crusade, Captain Gideon subverted the trope the first time it appeared by ordering that the sensors for the Excalibur be recalibrated so that the readings were back on the scale. Given that they are adventuring out on the frontier, they run into that kind of all the freaking time, and he'd like to know if the ship's Wave Motion Gun might actually work on that particular target.
- In the Lost episode "The Incident," Dharma is drilling into the island's electromagnetic pocket. Dr. Chang notes that the Gauss readings are off the scale. (This magnet is known to be strong enough to crash a plane.)
- In Star Trek: "The Corbomite Maneuver," the mass of a starship only one mile across was off the scale, according to Spock. One wonders how he measured the mass of, oh, planets or moons.
- Either the starship had a ludicrously dense hull, or the Enterprise's sensors just weren't designed to measure the mass of anything substantially larger than itself.
- It's more sensible to assume that the mass for a starship a mile across was wildly out of proportion to what it should be for a vessel that size.
- In "Operation: Annihilate!" the meter on Spock's biobed measuring pain drifts straight to the top and stays there. Implying that it simply can't measure any higher.
- Another episode has a more humorous take on that, where Spock lies on the bed and the readers immediately go haywire, including at least one needle leaping to the highest point and staying there. Spock then points out that these are normal readings for a Vulcan and, since the biobed was calibrated for humans when he laid on it, he triggered almost every life support alarm the system had.
- Averted in Star Trek: Enterprise, where a device designed to measure the age of metal happily shows a negative number when used on parts from the future. (Presumably the device can measure the effect the universal background radiation had on the forging process, or somesuch technobabble.)
- In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Where No One Has Gone Before", the Enterprise is accelerated to a velocity that causes Data to quote this trope.
- In an episode of How Clean Is Your House, Aggie tells a smoker that the carbon monoxide levels in her living room were right off the scale.
- The Big Bang Theory's Doctor Sheldon Cooper claims at one point that his IQ "cannot be accurately measured." This is in fact an issue with extremely high IQs. Pretty much all IQ tests produce increasingly unreliable results for results higher than 145-148 due to the fact that there's generally not a large enough sample to normalize them properly.
- In the Doctor Who episode "the Pandorica Opens", River uses some kind instrument to detect that there are "at least ten thousand" warships in orbit above planet earth. When Amy pesters her for a more accurate number, she says that there are too many readings for her detector to measure.
Doctor: A million million lifeforms... and silence in the library...
- The number of lifeforms in "Silence in the Library" registers over a million millionnote , before the scanner even gives up trying.
Malcolm: It's the wormhole, Doctor, it's getting bigger! We've gone way past 100 Bernards, I haven't invented a name for that!
- In "Planet of the Dead", a UNIT scientist named Malcolm explains to the Doctor that he's named a measurement after himself, which he's using to chart the size of the wormhole.note This leads to a large Oh, Crap! when he realises that the wormhole is growing.
- And then, there's the looter who uses a computerized scanner to assess the value of the TARDIS. "Everything". Price tag? "Total sum of all currency insufficient". Though that's actually an honest answer, since the TARDIS has the ability to produce practically anything else one could ask for and is itself irreplaceable.
- A comedic version from The Munsters - when Lily was asked what Herman's weight was, she replied "three spins." When asked for clarification, she said that when he stepped on the scale, the needle spun around three times.
- American Restoration: A foot x-ray machine (known to be a big radiation leakage source to begin with) Is brought in to be restored. A radiation specialist is brought in to see if/how badly this one leaks. He turns it on and it leaks more radiation than Chernobyl. His detector doesn't read high enough to properly quantify the extent of the leakage.
- It is worth noting here that the restorers promptly removed the X-Ray tube from the machine and rebuilt it with a simulation which projected a photographic x-ray negative onto a screen instead of using real x-rays.
- Occasionally, the Mythbusters will get results that go above and beyond any sort of measurement available to them. In one notable instance, they managed to completely max out a G-force accelerometer with a rating above its maximum value of 500 G, or five hundred times the force of gravity; this device had previously recorded numbers in the 160 G range, already considerably more than necessary to kill a human being. 500 G is around five times the lethal baseline of G-forces for humans, and they still managed to produce more force than even that unpleasantly high number. However, the best way to tell that the Mythbusters have gone off their known scales is to wait for Stunned Silence from Adam.
- When the White Dino Gem reveals itself in Power Rangers Dino Thunder, Tommy tells the other Rangers that the energy readings are higher than his equipment can track.
- The page quote comes from Kamen Rider Gaim. When he performs certain attacks, the power is added up in multiples of ten, sometimes ending up at 100,000 or 1,000,000. When using Kachidoki/Triumphant Arms (he gets a super-er mode later, but at the time it's the most powerful thing ever, able to contend with swarms of enemies.), a finisher he's using for the first time in the big team-up with Ressha Sentai Tokkyuger, it goes up over a trillion before the Computer Voice gives up.
- There is a build in 3.5e Dungeons & Dragons called Pun-Pun. It starts a kobold (technically, any reptilian works but its always more fun to use the absolute weakest starting point possible with things like this) and ends with it having all stats set to something that can only be described as "arbitrarily high".
- Basically, it creates a recursive loop of stat buffs. Since it must be a real number, it can technically never be equal to infinity but - in theory - all six base stats (and by extension, almost every other numerical bonus and modifier) can pretty much get as close as possible. Becoming a god is an essential and quite early part of the process in all versions of the build.
- Lots of combos in Magic: The Gathering allow you to generate more Mana than you put in, resulting in the ability to use timing rules to generate an arbitrary amount of things. For example, A Magus of the Coffers taps at a cost of (2) mana to give you one Black mana for each swamp you control. You can then equip him with the Sword of the Paruns, which will let him untap for (3). Pay two, tap the Magus for six black mana, pay three to untap him, and then do it again. Written out: -(2) => +(6B) => -(3) => -(2) => ETC. Lather, rinse, repeat, and apply to the variable cost cards, such as Exsanguinate, and you wind up with combos that can do 9999 damage to each opponent at the table and then let you gain that much life. Considering you start the game at 20 life and even the Commander's Arsenal Life Counter only goes to 99, it's certainly off all of the official charts.
- In Final Fantasy XII, Ghis's control personnel on-board the Leviathan marvel at the power of the Dawn Shard.
Female Technician: Sixty-eight hundred, sixty-nine hundred, seven thousand! This must be deifacted Nethicite! The count still climbs!
- In Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals, when the party steps forward to have their personal energy measures by Lexis's kymograph, Guy's results are five times more than the highest reading Lexis had ever seen, then Selan's are shown to be eight times more, then for Maxim, yes, the Readings Are Off the Scale.
- Homeworld's Nebula missions feature this. However, it is stated that your personnel are working to recalibrate them to compensate.
- Done straight when the Bentusi are first encountered. Made hilarious by the calm way it's stated.
- Also happens in Chrono Trigger, if Robo is in the party during the battle with Lavos' final form. He tries to assess Lavos' power level:
Robo: Power level is... immeasurable. It's completely off the scale!
- Enemy Scan abilities in the Final Fantasy series usually depict boss statistics as a series of "???" readings, indicating how powerful they are compared to regular flunkies. Notably, some games allow you to upgrade the Libra/Scan spells to reveal these readings.
- Their stats aren't actually off the scale, mind you. They often aren't even beyond what is achievable for the player characters given sufficient Level Grinding. (Except HP and MP, which are often above the player characters' limit, which is usually 9999 and 999 respectively. The Big Bad of Final Fantasy III, for instance, has 65000 HP.)
- Final Fantasy X has summons which can deal damage over the damage limit, as well as weapon modifications which allow the player characters themselves to do so (predictably called "Break Damage Limit").
- In World of Warcraft, monsters and enemy players more than ten levels above yours will have their level displayed as "??" or a skull symbol. They might be +11 to you, or +50. Either way, you probably don't want to mess with them. If you play undead, the first example you'll see will probably be one of the "Welcome Bears", and then your only hope is to Exit, Pursued by a Bear.
- Raidbosses are also level skull. They count as being 3 levels higher than the attacker's current level for purposes of determining hit chance and such.
- World of Warcraft now has an achievement labelled "It's Over Nine Thousand!!!" What is it for, exactly? Why, for getting over 9000 achievement points, of course!
- In Persona 3, Your Mission Control all but freaks out at trying to perceive the Bonus Boss' power.
Fuuka: Her power is unbelievable! Who is she?Rise: Her power level is insane! Who is she?! Don't tell me you're going to fight her!
- Lampshaded in the Ghostbusters videogame:
Egon: ''These readings are off the charts...now I'll have to make new charts."
- Even more hilarious is the fact that Egon is not astounded, but annoyed. Of course, being the super-brain that he is, he probably just doesn't like having something he can't quantify.
- In Fallout 3, the player has a radiation measuring device. At the end of the game, if the player steps into the highly irradiated control room of the Project Purity building, the meter will get maxed at +100,000 (as in, more than one-hundred-thousand rads) and jiggles. Mercifully, no-one comments on this.
- There is also another area ( The above-ground entrance to Vault 87) that will irradiate you to death — more than 3,000 rads/sec, fatal to the Vault Dweller in zero point three seconds — unless you use console commands to make yourself invincible or max your radiation resistance to 85%, which will reduce the rad levels to a slightly more manageable ~350 rads/sec... in which case you'll live for about two point eight seconds. Running for the locked and permanently unopenable door? Better have a huge pile of Rad-Away that's hotkeyed!
- This is incredibly annoying seeing as how at some point in the game you get paid to have locations marked on your map. In order to get Vault 87 marked you have to run up to it even though you can within five feet of it FROM THE INSIDE OF THE VAULT. The price you get for the mark doesn't justify the means, unless you just want bragging rights. Even more annoying is that Enclave soldiers make it through the impassible door and instant almost instant death radiation and you STILL can't get through that door.
- There is also another area ( The above-ground entrance to Vault 87) that will irradiate you to death — more than 3,000 rads/sec, fatal to the Vault Dweller in zero point three seconds — unless you use console commands to make yourself invincible or max your radiation resistance to 85%, which will reduce the rad levels to a slightly more manageable ~350 rads/sec... in which case you'll live for about two point eight seconds. Running for the locked and permanently unopenable door? Better have a huge pile of Rad-Away that's hotkeyed!
- Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door had the Iron Cleft Bros. with a defense so high it was even in Goombella's book marked as ???. The only thing hard enough to hurt a Iron Cleft is another Iron Cleft.
Goombella: Defense is... UNKNOWN?!? What the heck is wrong with this book?!? It says no known form of attack can damage an Iron Cleft!
- FreeSpace 2 had a Vasudan sensor officer describing the mass readings of the Sathanas as "Exceeding superdestroyer class".
- They ended up making the "juggernaut" class to describe the Sathanas... and then the fanmade Blue Planet mod introduces two ships which "exceed juggernaut specifications by at least fivefold."
- In Half-Life 2: Episode 1, the Combine are purposely trying to destabilise their Citadel's Dark Energy Core to cause a massive explosion (sacrificing the whole base of operations, and the surrounding city), then use the release of energy to send a message off-world and open up a super-portal from which off-world reinforcements can pour in. When Alyx Vance looks at the Control Room monitor, she claims that the Core Reactor's readings are off the charts.
- Shadowrun from Genesis has this with Walking Bear, a female orc shaman. When people want raw power, they usually hire Winston Mars, a Troll Samurai who can reach incredible amounts of strength (the power charts even states his power as [sic]Incredible! when maxed out). But here's a catch: Orcs have the one of the best Max Body/Strength, second only to Trolls. Also, using cyberware as a shaman will weaken your spells. But if you stop fearing the soul-stripping cyberware then cyber up Walking Bear, you will end almost as strong as Winston Marrs (also cybered, in this comparision). With this, Marrs will have a full power bar and Bear will have a nearly-full ("Massive" power). HOWEVER, there are talismans which increase strength and defense ratios, which are only usable by shamans and were meant to be used to make up for their fragility. That said, after maxing up Walking Bear, give her a Power talisman (you can only have one) and Defense talismans (they stack, up to three). The power readings will still read only as "Massive" instead of "Incredible!", but the bar graph charts for attack/defense will be so high, they will go beyond its limit and actually start a new one to carry its excess. Her defense is so massive that even in a game where you never will be invincible, be due to scratch damage, rolling ones or other overhelming strikes, BULLETS WON'T EVER FAZE HER, and only the strongest mental attacks will scratch her mental gauge.
- In the original Disgaea the "Bonus Boss" Baal shows up. Laharl reads his power as "Level 4000" (his literal level out of the maximum possible 9999). By way of comparison, the previous optional boss was 2500. The Final Boss of the story proper is 90.
- Grolla in RosenkreuzStilette gets a big shock when Iris attacks her with immensely powerful magic, leading her to think of her as not just any girl, but some kind of immensely powerful monster.
Grolla: What in the...!? How did she obtain such powerful magic? Iris, what ARE you!?
Iris: Heheheh. Why, I am myself, of course. I don't expect a commoner to understand my genius.
- In the GITADORA series, charts are given a rating from 10 to 99. Guitar Freaks & Drummania V5, the Bonus Boss song "Rock To Infinity", on all instruments' Extreme difficulty, is given a rating of infinity. Subverted when the song is unlocked for play as a non-extra stage song, in which it's simply rated 99.
- In Mass Effect: "Uh, Commander? I'm getting some strange readings. Really strange. Like, off the damn charts."
- The Crowd Sourced Science Messages mod for Kerbal Space Program will note such results for some experiments in some environments, such as a barometer imploding on Eve.
- The prologue of Xenogears has a team of Bridge Bunnies yelping about the rising "base code" of a vaguely-defined thing that is attacking their spaceship.
- In Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, on first encountering the final boss, the main character's suit can't even translate its appearance into a perceptible form. It requires outside assistance from a near-divine entity before you can see what it looks like.
- In Portal:
- The Announcer in the second game claims "nine... nine... nine... nine... *static*" days have passed since the first game. What the actual amount of time is is open to speculation.
- In the original Portal GLaDOS mentions that "Aperture technologies remain safely operational up to 4000 degrees kelvin." (It is implied that Aperture test subjects do not.) Such a temperature is far off the scale of household and most industrial thermometers. To put how hot this is into perspective, consider that the surface of the Sun is just over 5778 K.
- Fate/stay night has Gilgamesh´s sword, Ea, a rank EX Noble Phantasm with the ability to destroy reality and slice the world in 2 (the scale goes from E- to A++ for anything but the most ridiculous Noble Phantasms). Fully charged, it does 5000 units of damage (Excalibur by comparison does 200) though the amount can be multiplied several times by powering it with Gil´s own mana and that of the weapons in the Gate of Babylon. It can somehow be stopped by Avalon.
- Given Avalon was famous in Arthurian stories as stopping the wearer from being ever being hurt, and granting them pretty-much-immortality, this isn't as out there as it seems. In fact, Rin chides Shirou over forgetting that Excalibur was far, far less important to Arthur than the sheathe.
- The EX rank in general is this, as the rank indicates the weapon/ability cannot be properly measured. Ea is this by virtue of being incredibly powerful, but other EX abilities approach the trope from different angles. For example, A rank magic resistance grants incredible resilience to a spell, EX magic resistance makes spells simply miss the person entirely.
- Asura's Wrath has the Gohma measured in Impurity levels, but one in particular stands out. Gohma Vlitra Impurity Level: IMMEASURABLE.
- In the Shining Force series, any stat that is over 100 is shown as ??.
- In Mega Man X4, when Cyber Peacock tries to analyze X, he comes up with the following gem:
"His potential... is limitless?! ...not possible."
- In StarCraft, there exists a rating scale on how powerful a "psionic" (psychic) is. It goes to Class 10 as an exceptionally powerful psionic who is practically a One-Man Army. Infested Kerrigan's rating on that scale? Class 12! Eventually this is clarified that she is an order of magnitude greater than a Class 10, which they called "Class 12" for convenience. After gaining her "Primal" form in Star Craft II: Heart of the Swarm, she is even more powerful, and is described simply as "Unclassifiable".
- For bonus points, when Kerrigan was human the scale had to be redesigned as she had been off the scale. On the redesigned psionic scale, she's a 10.
- Legend of Grey Moon has a stats screen at the end of the game, listing time, deaths, gems (out of 16) and secrets (out of 11). However, these maxima are misleading and there are actually more; at 100% Completion, the stats screen will tell you that you have 17/16 gems and 28/11 secrets.
- In Carmageddon 2 all the cars have a five-segment "strength" rating that tells you, generally speaking, how much they can hurt your opponents. The impractically huge and ridiculously heavy dump truck gets a rating of eighty out of five.
- In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, while not in the storyline or dialogue, abusing the Alchemy/Enchanting or Alchemy/Restoration Positive Feedback Loop would cause all numbers in affected equipment — both enhanced stats and gold value — to have so many digits that they would go off the side of the screen. Creating a fortification of health enchantment with such huge buffs allows you to tank a hit from a giant
- In Kirby Air Ride, one of the game modes (City Trial) allows players to collect stat-boosting items. When a player collects health boosters, the length of your life bar will extend, actually taking up more of the screen. It is possible to extend the bar so long that it actually extends off the top of the screen so that you can no longer see the end.
- The Torifune Military Academy in BlazBlue evaluates its students' potential in various categories during the nomination and enrollment periods; even afterwards, the student council can reference them to help with their education or (in the case of troublemakers) containment. In the wake of an incident between a trio of "in-name-only" nobles and Makoto, Jin pulls up hers and points out to Tsubaki just how out of their league the nobles stood to be.
"A beastkin, huh? Her ars magus aptitude is average, but her physical tests are off the charts. She would have no trouble dealing with a group of two or three people."
- NBA superstar Steph Curry had such an absurdly successful real life season in 2015-16 that the developers of the game NBA 2K 16 admitted that they couldn't properly replicate his shooting accuracy without breaking the game engine.
- Fire Emblem can only display HP up to a certain level, depending on the game, in the in-battle HP meters. If a character's health goes past that (such as the final boss of Blazing Sword, the Fire Dragon), the HP is displayed only as "??" until they've taken enough damage to bring it below the limit. In addition, the HP gauge glows until that point.
- The eponymous Bonus Bosses of the Leviathans DLC for Stellaris, have a fleet strength depicted as just a skull.
- Pokémon Go will display a wild Pokémon's Combat Power as "???" if it is higher than that of any that the player has.
- Spoofed in this xkcd strip.
- Kanaya in Homestuck develops the "snarky horseshitometer" to gauge the success of her trolling campaign on Rose. After watching Rose blow up a portal, something Kanaya didn't think was sane even if she suspected it were possible, the horseshitometer tilts so hard in Rose's favor that it self-destructs.
The FLIGHTY BROADS AND THEIR SNARKY HORSESHITOMETER explodes. It simply cannot take this much horseshit.
- Asha in Kubera got a 0515 on the part of her magic test that measures her power level. That's not a great score, but it's reasonable...except for that zero at the front. That shouldn't be there; it's just not how the scores are formatted. As it turns out, she actually got a 10515, and the counter only goes up to 9999. Considering that a 2000 was considered incredible, you can understand why they assumed there was no need for anything higher.
- In Grrl Power, Harem mentions in passing that Dabbler's IQ can't be measured on any existing scale.
- Dragon Ball Abridged:
Nappa: VEGETA! What does the scouter say about his Power Level?
- Subverted in this dialogue:
Vegeta: IT'S ... one thousand and six.
Nappa: What... really?
Vegeta: Yeah. Kick his ass, Nappa.
—->(Nappa proceeds to get his ass kicked.)Vegeta: Hmmmm... that doesn't seem right. Wait, wait wait wait... Nappa!
Vegeta: I had the scouter upside down. It's over 9000. *crushes scouter* Rawr.Nappa: VEGETA! What does the scouter say about the Subscriber Count?
Vegeta: IT'S ... nine thousand and ten.
Nappa: Wait, so you mean...
Vegeta: Yes Nappa, it's...
Vegeta: It's over!
Nappa: It's over!!
Vegeta: IT'S OVER EIGHT THOUSAND!
Nappa: WHAT EIGHT ... wait, what? Vegeta, you didn't do it right!
Vegeta: Yes I did Nappa. Yes. I. Did.
- When Protectors of the Plot Continuum are on a mission, and Canon Defilement Readings Are Off the Scale, it is generally a good idea to throw one's Canon Analysis Device away before it goes kablooie.
- According to Rational Wiki, irony meters have a habit of exploding when this trope comes into effect.
- Atop the Fourth Wall: when Superman picks up Wonder Woman in "Amazons Attack #3 and 4", his stupidity level percent goes over 9000.
- Chakona Space features the contributor series, Tales of the Folly. This trope happens several times including at least one hanging lampshade.
- A rather terrifying nonfiction example could be found in the now sadly defunct blog, "Random Acts Of Reality" by a London Ambulance Service EMT. On one occasion he transported a patient whose blood pressure was so high that the monitor couldn't accurately measure it and glitched out. Not surprisingly, the driver had the lights and siren on for that trip to the ER.
- In Spoony's text review of Alone in the Dark:
We need better scales if we're ever going to be an effective intelligence agency, guys. I'm sick of this "off the scale" shit.
- The SCP Foundation grades anomalous objects on one of three levels: Safe (objects that are easily contained and if left to their own devices pose little threat to humanity), Euclid (objects that are not provably hostile, but whose limits and the exact nature of their powers are unknown, thus they might be dangerous) and Keter (objects that are extremely and actively dangerous, even under containment, and are often very difficult or even impossible to contain). A rare few SCP objects are so dangerous and/or bizarre that the community has had to make up a new classification beyond Keter: Apollyon (only one canon SCP object has this designation, and it is capable of causing XK-class End of the World Scenarios and the Foundation has no known way to stop it or even slow it down).
- The Penguins of Madagascar: when Kowalski mentions that readings of spectral activity are off the charts, Skipper suggests getting bigger charts.
- Arthur features an incident with the Boss-O-Meter, which Arthur uses on his parents and teacher, rating their bossing-around skills. None of them even come close to his bratty sister DW, whose whiny screaming tactics break the machine.
- In "More!", when DW goes to preschool one morning, there is a scanning device from her POV that sees how much the other kids apparently cost in the form of numbers below. The numbers go spinning when the radar's on Emily, DW's rich friend.
- Egon in The Real Ghostbusters likewise has a habit of getting PKE readings that are off the scale, to the point that The Penguins of Madagascar might've been referencing him. Nobody ever suggests getting a bigger scale, but he does have to get a new PKE meter every now and then, when trying to measure an especially powerful entity (generally 9 or higher) leads to Explosive Instrumentation.
- This trope was the justification for the equipment upgrade in Extreme Ghostbusters. The series averted it as often as it played it straight though. There were many times where they found a ghost that was a perfectly measurable classification (especially in The Teaser) and other times where a creature was literally off the scale because they weren't ectoplasmic entities or have psycho-kinetic energy at all, and thus couldn't be measured by the PKE meter.
- Parodied in Outer Space Astronauts. "These readings are off the chart!" "Well, they're on the chart; they're just, near the top."
- The Simpsons: Professor Frink's sarcasm detector.
Frink: ...this baby is off the charts, mm-hay!
Comic Book Guy: Ooh, a sarcasm detector! That's a real useful invention.
(sarcasm detector explodes)
- A similar example from the episode "The Springfield Files":
Agent Scully: Now we're going to run a few tests. This is a simple lie detector. I'll ask you a few yes or no questions and you just answer truthfully. Do you understand?
(lie detector beeps and explodes)
- A similar example from the episode "The Springfield Files":
- Parodied in one episode of Sonic Boom:
Tails: These numbers are off the chart! Fortunately, I have a bigger chart.
- In an episode of MAD, this was parodied in a segment called, Grey's In Anime.
- An episode of Star Trek: The Animated Series had Spock caution his team against drinking some water they found because his tricorder said "the water is too pure", which is an awfully odd reading to have listed on a tricorder. Meaning that the water couldn't possibly be in that state in nature, which means either it's being artificially produced, or is contaminated in a way that they can't detect. So caution is warranted.
- Parodied in Kids Next Door, during a parody of Dragon Ball Z:
"Their power levels are off the charts! I'm gonna have to get some bigger charts!"
- In the Phineas and Ferb episode "Lawn Gnome Beach Party of Terror", Phineas's radical surfing so impresses a panel of judges, he gets scores of ten to the fifth power and infinity, while the third judge has apparently had to re-think Einstein's theory of relativity. "Cowabunga, laws of nature!"
- In "Falling Hare," the speedometer of the plummeting-to-earth plane that Bugs Bunny and the Gremlin are in is going so fast that it stops briefly to read "Incredible, isn't it?"
- In Thunder Cats, Safari Joe has a device that can analyze potential prey to determine their strengths and weaknesses. It explodes when it tries to analyze the Sword of Omens.
- The very first flight of the Ariane 5 launcher resulted in a big ball of fire, because the reading coming from a speedometer went off the chart. More precisely, the reading was to be converted from a 64-bit floating point value to 16-bit signed integer value, but was too large for the latter formatnote . It was arguably the most expensive bug in history.
- The Apollo 13 incident began on the ground, when one of the oxygen tanks that would later go into space with the service module was having a mechanical problem due to the tanks getting dropped during a move between spacecraft. The liquid oxygen drain was jarred and unusable.. The technicians decided to vent the liquid oxygen from the tank with the help of the onboard heating system. This caused the temperature gauge (which was designed for use in space after all) to go off-scale high. However, nobody knew at the time just how far off the scale things were. The results are well-known. Specifically, (looking at the Wikipedia article) the temp gauge didn't go above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees C). This wasn't considered a problem, because a thermostat was supposed to cut the heat at 80 degrees F. Unfortunately, this had fused on because when the electrical system was redesigned from 28v to 65v, the thermostat wasn't. The result was that temperatures hit an estimated 1000 degrees F (538 Degrees C) and burned the insulation off the wires. Which lead to an exposed, sparking wire inside a tank of pressurized oxygen. Which then exploded.
- Radiation monitoring instruments are prone to this sort of problem, especially those instruments used for health and safety physics.
- Following the 1961 power excursion in the SL-1 nuclear reactor and the subsequent steam explosion within and meltdown of the reactor, the first team to check out the alarm discovered their radiation detectors pegged at maximum. The second team, which went in with higher-range radiation detectors, also had their detectors peg at maximum. When the bodies of those killed in the explosion were recovered, the bodies alone pegged these high-range meters.
- When the Chernobyl reactor exploded, it took the one dosimeter in the place capable of reading really high radiation with it. The repair workers and firefighters made do with ordinary personal dosimeters, which immediately pegged at at their highest settings, leading the crew to assume that the steam explosion hadn't penetrated the reactor (ignoring the pieces of reactor fuel lying everywhere). In reality, some areas of the plant had radiation levels 5,600 times the range of the dosimeters. And when a new dosimeter with a larger range was brought in the high readings convinced them it was defective.
- A disturbing example from radiation medicine: the radiation monitoring devices in some malfunctioning radiation therapy devices (Therac-25 machines) experienced saturation when they (and patients) were incorrectly exposed to extremely high current electron beams. One patient, after one of these treatments, reported a sizzling sound, as of something frying, that turned out to be these saturated radiation monitors. Of course, the patient didn't necessarily know that at the time.
- In Real Life, a sensor being off-scale may mean the sensor or its wiring has failed. Whether it fails off-scale low or off-scale high depends on the type of sensor and on the kind of damage. On the Space Shuttle Columbia accident, several sensors on the left wing (most of them being left over from early tests from when it was the first space shuttle) registered off-scale readings, in real time, as the wing was slowly melting away due to a hole that let hot gases in. By observing the relative timing of the sensor failures and knowing the layout of the wiring within the wing, the investigators were able to determine the path of the damage.
- The driver of a BMW Mini was once issued a speeding ticket...for going 3000 km/hr. The radar had malfunctioned.
- During the late 1970s through early 1990s, most car and light truck speedometers had a top speed of 85 mph, due to government regulations (and definitions of sports car vs. passenger car). Despite this, almost all cars were capable of traveling well in excess of the highest speed ... "burying the speedometer" in the process. (Prior to this, speedometers often could read speeds anywhere from 100 to 120 mph, depending on the year and manufacturer.) Used to be, a candid "No, officer, I don't know how fast I was going; the speedometer doesn't go that high" could get you out of a ticket if the officer was having a good day. Suffice it to say, Don't Try This at Home.
- Prior to the 1990s, most odometers "rolled over" once hitting 99,999.9 miles, resetting to "zero" (even though there are 100,000 miles on the car). Prior to the advent of electronic odometers, these devices used reels, with numerals printed on them in order from 0 through 9; the first five had a black background color with white numerals (representing ones through ten thousands) and the sixth digit was printed in black on a white background (to represent tenths of a mile). Some vehicles used in foreign countries that use the metric system "roll over" at 99,999.9 kilometers. Electronic digital odometers often will record up to 999,999 (either miles or kilometers, depending on the vehicle's setting) before resetting at zero.note The trip odometer, both the printed reel and electronic types, work on this same principle, although they typically reset to 0 after 999.9 miles/kilometers.
- In contrast, Graham's Number cannot be expressed with any standard form of mathematical notation, including stacks of exponents (x ^ y ^ z...) and even taxes Knuth's up-arrow notation.
- Because of limited government data regarding air quality in Beijing, residents will often turn to the US Embassy, who use the AQI, a number between 1 and 500 calculated from a variety of indicators, where 1-50 is "good," 201-300 is "very unhealthy," and 301-500 is "hazardous"... until one day in 2010, the formula gave them a number over 500. The programmers of the automated report hadn't taken such a possibility seriously, and thus came the quickly viral report by the embassy that the air quality in Beijing was "crazy bad" before being corrected to a more sterile, yet still absurd, "beyond index." Article here.
- When André the Giant went in for back surgery, the anaesthesiologist had no idea how much gas to give him, as the hospital's charts for such simply didn't have entries for men of Andre's height and weight. They had to invent a new method based on his alcohol consumption in order to determine the proper dosage.
- The Israeli airforce had the negative (not opposite) of this problem, losing a couple of fighter jets before working out what the matter was. The Dead Sea is 423 metres below sea level, and planes doing low level flying would register on the computer as below sea level, a fact that understandably freaked the computers on board, which would try and 'save' the plane, with fatal consequences.
- Specifically, the code divided by the altitude to calculate certain readings, and did not react well to passing sea level.
- The Pakistan Army operating in the Himalayas had ordered their forward troops to send back temperature readings with their daily reports.After a while,the Area HQ got puzzled when every post, every day for weeks sent back readings of -50 C (about -58F). The reason? You guessed it. for those who didn't
- When your computer is doing floating-point math and comes up with a number too large to keep track of, it calls the number "infinity", the same result as if you divide by zero.
- When the UNIVAC I mainframe computer predicted that Dwight Eisenhower would win the 1952 U.S. presidential elections, the teletype printout read "THE CHANCES ARE NOW 00 TO 1 IN FAVOR OF THE ELECTION OF EISENHOWER." This resulted from UNIVAC's programmers believing that a 3-digit number system wasn't needed - UNIVAC had calculated odds of 100 to 1, but simply hadn't been programmed to show a hundreds place.
- When exploration of deep sea thermal vents by manned submersibles was just beginning, during one dive the submarine's team tried inserting a temperature probe into a vent. The probe melted.
- At the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, Romanian gymnast Nadia Comăneci obtained a perfect score of 10. While this had technically been possible the whole time, it was deemed impossible to do, so scoreboards could only reach up to 9.99. Her score was displayed as an abysmal 1.00.
- Before Zimbabwe ditched its national currency, hyperinflation caused ATMs to break down because they couldn't handle the astronomical numbers involved.
- Gangnam Style, the most viewed video on YouTube, broke the site's view counters when the number of views went over 2,147,483,647, the maximum value of a 32-bit signed integer. YouTube had to upgrade to 64-bit signed integers capable of holding values up to 9,223,372,036,854,775,807 afterwards.
We never thought a video would be watched in numbers greater than a 32-bit integer (=2,147,483,647 views), but that was before we met PSY.
- The Y2K probelm was a strange example. The scale on the years field was only 2 digits, allowing dates from 1900 to 1999. This was done to save sending an extra digit which at the time would have been very expensive. Fortunately programmers had a lot of time to redesign their systems but if uncorrected millions of computers would have had the time be "off the scale".
- Kind of an inversion: The Ozone hole would have been detected much earlier, if the scientist had trusted their instruments more. The values were defined as "off the scale" and thus as a measurement error. They weren't.