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Inventional Wisdom

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No way that button could ever come back to bite them.

"Why do we even HAVE that lever?"

When the Mad Scientist or Gadgeteer Genius creates a machine of diabolical nature, some function gets thrown into the mix that wasn't quite planned, doesn't really serve any practical purpose, and may even be an Achilles' Heel—a lever for flooding the cockpit of the Humongous Mecha with its fuel reserves, for instance.

A variant has additions made which do serve a practical use... just not ones which make logical sense for the machine to have. A jetpack that makes martinis and plays the complete works of Marvin Gaye, for instance.

Expect Lampshade Hanging to ensue.

See also Fridge Logic.

Compare Oven Logic, where the oven dial goes up to thousands of degrees. One has to wonder why the oven had a dial that could go up that high if it wasn't meant to be used that way.

Compare with Cow Tools, where nothing about the machine makes sense. Contrast with Mundane Utility, where simply being what it is lets the device do something useful — cooking popcorn with your Death Ray, for instance. Frequently overlaps with Self-Destruct Mechanism. See also Caps Lock, Num Lock, Missiles Lock.


Also compare with Murphy's Law.

The name, for the record, is a play off of Conventional Wisdom, in reference to the fact that an inventor holding the Sanity Ball would never install such things to begin with.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • When Takarada of Kill la Kill tries to fight using crab-like Powered Armor, Sanegayama beats him by shoving his shinai up a hole on the back that seems to not only go straight to the unprotected cockpit, but straight up Takarada's ass. What purpose such a structure could have served is never even asked.
  • In one of the versions of Mazinger Z, there was one lever on Hell Island served to launch the island spacewards and detonate it. Big Bad Dr. Hell uses it to try to take Mazinger Z with him when he realizes the battle is lost. It happens in Gosaku Ota's manga version.
  • One Piece has this in the Thriller Bark arc: when Brook finds a massive store of salt in the kitchen (salt being the only weakness of the countless Mooks on the island), he wonders why the Big Bad even keeps it…albeit in a room secured with lock, key, and chains.
  • In Dual! Parallel Trouble Adventure, Mr. Sanada frequently designs machines with large buttons that you think would activate them, he even coaxes the person to press the button/presses the button himself, before revealing that it doesn't actually do anything. 'It's actually' *Mitsuki sits down on a lever* 'that lever..'

    Comic Books 
  • The Adventures of Kool-Aid Man: Professor Kline builds a rocketship, but doesn't know how to turn it on.
  • Played with in Meanwhile. The Killitron is a doomsday device built by a mild-mannered inventor with no Omnicidal Maniac tendencies whatsoever. However, it turns out that it can be used to manipulate entropy, allowing for such miracles as reversing the aging process and transmuting food and water.
  • Inverted in Atomic Robo, when Robo's shocked at the lack of extra options:
    Robo: Relax. All we have to do is Reverse the Polarity and everything'll go back to... normal. [...] There is no reverse. How could they not include a reverse?! That's just criminally negligent with the kind of ludicrous stuff we get up to around here!
  • In the Blake and Mortimer book S.O.S. Meteors, the command console of the bad guys' weather control device features a large, conspicuous unlabelled button that immediately attracts Mortimer's attention. It of course turns out to be a self-destruct mechanism. While it does make some sense that they would need one, being located in a hidden base in enemy territory, the fact that all it takes is a simple press of a button with no reversal possible eventually contributes heavily to their downfall.

    Comic Strips 
  • Some examples from The Far Side:
    • A plane passenger is fumbling around with his seat controls, one of which is a switch marked "Wings Stay On"/"Wings Fall Off".
    • A tech's soundboard at a concert had a dial labeled "Suck" which he was gleefully adjusting.

    Fan Works 
  • In Anderson Quest: Killing Vampires and Werewolves and Leprechauns, Anderson gets very cross when he realizes the horrid Bizarrchitecture properties of Yharnam. A bit of investigating leads him on the trail of the utter incompetent who designed half the city, and among other things, introduced elevators, pressure plates, strange balconies and similar questionable choices. To nobody's surprise, it's Bergholt Stuttley Johnson, a.k.a. Bloody Stupid Johnson. Among other idiotic enterprises, he created a reality-defying bust whose gaze keeps following you around the room despite not moving, which reacted adversely to Ebrietas, got declared "the opposite of enlightenment" by the Choir and was the architect who remodeled Cainhurst Castle. Annalise's still kicking herself over the last one.

    Films — Animation 
  • Monsters vs. Aliens: The latte dispenser is operated by a Big Red Button that is identical and right next to the button that launches all of the US's nuclear missiles.
    President: What idiot designed this?!
    Offscreen Voice: You did sir.
    President: Fair enough.
  • The Emperor's New Groove: The entrance to Yzma's secret lab has a lever that opens a Trap Door to a Croc Pool. It's right next to the lever that opens the door. While it could be used as a trap, Yzma doesn't seem to intend it that way, and she and Kronk can never remember which one is which.
  • In Home, Oh complains about the wisdom of an e-mail system in which "send" and "send all" are two giant buttons on the same screen. One also wonders why a personal communication device has the means to transmit a galaxy-wide message.
  • Yellow Submarine: The submarine has an easily-accessed ejector-seat button. Captain Fred even points it out to Ringo, who then presses it and finds himself discharged into the Sea of Monsters.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • At the end of Bride of Frankenstein, the enraged Monster is rampaging through the lab. As he approaches a very large wooden lever Dr. Pretorius shouts, "Don't touch that lever! You'll blow us all to atoms!" The question must be asked: if you were collecting all the supplies and fixtures you'd need to build your super high-tech lab, how far down the list would "a lever that will blow us all to atoms" be?
  • In The Cabin in the Woods, the agency has a big red button that releases all of the monsters they have stored up and no safeguards at all, other than a plastic covering. The ludicrousness of this is lampshaded in the DVD Commentary.
  • The Chompers in Galaxy Quest, Gwen lampshades how ridiculous it is that there is a Death Course in the middle of the ship.
    Gwen: Screw that! I'm not doing it! This episode was badly written!
  • A Death Course with chutes and flames appears in Race to Witch Mountain.
  • In Spaceballs:
    • Spaceball-1 can go to "Ludicrous Speed", which everybody except Dark Helmet realizes is something they shouldn't do. Fortunately the ship is also equipped with a hand-operated "Emergency Brake" which is labeled "Never Use".
    • The Spaceball-1 also has a self destruct button, hidden away in a remote, yet easy to access corridor, with only a few guards on hand. The cancel self-destruct is located in the main control panel, but is out of order.
  • The trapdoor in Red Sonja.
  • In the original Cube, somebody speculates that the only reason they were put into the cube was because it had been built as some government pork barrel project, and not using it would be to admit it was pointless.
  • Austin Powers: Practically everything Dr. Evil owns.
  • In Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: The Movie, the Rangers are desperate to disengage the Ninja Megazord from Ivan Ooze, so one Ranger hits the big button behind emergency glass. It delivers a Groin Attack.
  • In Garfield: The Movie, Garfield hits a big red button that immediately stops all the trains at a station. Signalling control centres actually have these, sometimes in actual big red button form, to be used in the event of a derailment or collision.
  • In Die Another Day the villain has a suit that he can use to shock people. For reasons that are not entirely clear, but possibly related to the guy who built it not entirely trusting his boss (with good reason), there's a button on the front that causes it to electrocute the guy wearing it.
  • In Red Planet the heroes bring a helper robot that was originally built by the military. It has a physical switch for whether or not to kill everyone. To their credit, they set it to "no" at the beginning of the movie, but perhaps they should have removed it? Or at least duct-taped it that way before the crash-landing?
  • In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Rocket Raccoon, for some reason, included an instant detonation button on the bomb built to kill Ego the Living Planet alongside the Magic Countdown button that would give them time to escape. This became a real issue when the Guardians had to depend on Baby Groot to plant the bomb, with Rocket expressively telling him not to push that particular button, without much success. It got to the point where Rocket even asked if anyone had any tape so he could cover the button.
  • Vacation: Rusty Griswold's plan to get to Wally World via car trip like his father did many years before runs into a great many complications, one of them being the car he rented for the trip, the "Prancer" (an Albanian knock-off van) is an absurdly idiosyncratic piece of crap loaded with unsafe and stupid gizmos with no label. One of the many unlabeled buttons in the van's key fob, which Rusty eventually presses, is a self-destruct. The van instantly turns into a gigantic fireball.

  • Discworld has Bungling Inventor "Bloody Stupid" Johnson, who has added quite a number of useless and dangerous things to his inventions.
    • In Hogfather he added some things to the bathroom in Unseen University that Archchancellor Ridcully would come to regret.
    • He also designed a nice, upper-class neighbourhood that just happened to break the laws of space and time. You can just throw the trash out of the window into the yard, since it's probably not your yard, anyway. It's also has a very low crime rate, as thieves generally prefer to break into one house at a time.
    • Or the post office sorting machine, which included a wheel with a circumference-to-diameter ratio of exactly 3 (rather than the usual three-and-a-bit, which he thought was untidy), and which soon started sorting letters before they were written. Nobody complained. Then it started receiving mail that was never written in the first place. And then the alternate universe mail started pouring in.
    • And his pipe organs usually include special sound effects such as thunder or animal noises, with at least one example also being connected to the building's plumbing system. The UU organ, located in the middle of a city with a million inhabitants, also includes a pipe that plays the Brown Note so loud that it causes earthquakes.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy features the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation, a company built entirely around this concept. In the words of the Guide itself, their corporate strategy is based on building devices whose "superficial design flaws completely mask their fundamental design flaws." In other words, you get so involved in getting the thing to work at all that you completely fail to realize that it's incapable of doing what it was made to do in the first place. From the first book alone, examples include a superintelligent robot with a suicidally depressed personality and an intelligent drink dispenser that, no matter what you ask for, always gives you exactly the same horrid concoction that is "perfectly tailored to your individual tastes."
  • Repeatedly Lampshaded in Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Supervillain, where it is apparently a fundamental rule of Mad Science powers that anything they make will include a Self-Destruct Mechanism, whether or not there is any logical reason for one or the inventor intended to put one in.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Chuck Versus the Mask, the museum's computer room has a big red readout that says system failure. Talk about a complete lack of faith in your system. Shouldn't they have hired a curator who knew how to use a computer?
  • Far Out Space Nuts: "I said lunch, not launch!" Maybe those two buttons shouldn't be right next to each other?
  • An episode of Star Trek has Kirk being court-martialed under suspicion of accidentally ejecting an "ion pod" with a crew member still inside it. The prime evidence is (falsified) footage of the bridge during the incident, which includes a closeup of the arm of Kirk's captain's chair, which has three buttons on it - presumably the three things it was determined a Starfleet captain needed to be able to do at any time: "Red Alert," "Yellow Alert," and "Eject Pod."
  • Doctor Who:
    • Davros, the Mad Scientist who created the Daleks, decided that it would be a good idea for his mobile life support system to have a clearly marked on/off switch on the panel in front of it.
    • The Big Finish Doctor Who story "Davros" gives a justification for this, as it was put there by the doctors who saved him as an option for him to kill himself if the pain ever became too much. He never took it.
      Davros: When I press this switch I will die. The poison in that projectile injector will kill me in a moment. It is a perfect, efficient, killing machine. It will be painless they say. They tell me they know the pain I am in. As if they could? And just like pressing this switch I will end that suffering forever. They say I should be the one to do it. But they are weak. They cannot bring themselves to look at me let alone kill me. They hesitate. They fear me. Even when I am like this. And they have their perfect, pure, strong bodies. They fear me. And well they should. I am no longer like them. I am above them. I have the ultimate power. The power of life and death. This body is my dominion. Mine to command. No one else's. I can sense them. Out there in the corridor. Cowering. Not daring to speak. They are the frail ones. They are the crippled. They are the ones without choice.
      They will die. They will lose this war and they will die. I could join them in defeat and death. But if I survive then something stronger will emerge. A new race, a supreme power in the universe. I will not press this switch! I will not cower! I will not die! I will not die! This is not the end! This is only… The beginning!"
    • The episode "42" has a sequence where Martha is trapped in an escape pod falling into a sun. The recall button for said pod is located on the outside of the spacecraft.
    • "Warriors' Gate": Apparently the TARDIS console has a switch that can take the ship out of the Space/Time Vortex — to press it while in flight would be suicide. Naturally, the Doctor almost pressed it, but Romana stopped him just in time.
  • Inverted in one episode of The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, Arwin creates two machines (a letter sorting machine and a pair of robot arms), when either machine malfunctions he tells the person he's with to push the red button only for them to point out there is no red button.
    Arwin: I always forget the red button.

    Music Videos 
  • In the video for "Rocking The Suburbs" by Ben Folds, the audio fidelity notably drops at one point. Cut to Ben and the video's director ("Weird Al" Yankovic) at a mixing board, whereupon the director improves the audio quality by turning down the Suck level on the mixing board.
  • Played for Laughs at the end of the video for Genesis' "Land of Confusion", featuring puppets by the crew of Spitting Image. After a bad dream and in need of water, the puppet Ronald Reagan tries to call for a nurse from his bed, and reaches for two buttons right next to each other labeled "Nurse" and "Nuke". Guess which one he presses instead.
    "Man, that's one heck of a nurse!"

    Puppet Shows 
  • Sesame Street:
    • An episode involves a high-powered air conditioning system being installed in the Furry Arms Hotel. Humphrey specifically states that it's only meant to be turned up to 10. If the knob is turned up to 14, it will break. Those are literally his exact words. Guess what the resident penguins end up doing.
    • During the "Slimey to the Moon" arc one episode involves a crisis aboard the spaceship where the worms cannot get along after weeks of confinement. An incident leads to a button inside the ship being pressed that is specifically designed to put the ship off course if pressed. A bit of research reveals that there is a button to reverse the effect of the first button, but it is on the tip top of the ship's exterior—so that it cannot be pressed by accident!
  • In the The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss episode, "The Muckster", Jane Kangaroo orders the titular invention to help her clean her messy house for her appearance on The House and Home Show, with specific instructions from the Cat in the Hat and the Little Cats never to turn the dial to 6. When Jane is tempted to turn the dial to 6, Junior reminds her not to do so, to which Jane questions why the Cats would put a 6 on the machine to begin with.


    Tabletop Games 
  • The gnomes of Dragonlance. Their inventions seem to start with an idea, then modify as they go to fix perceived problems in ways that seem reasonable until you look at the whole. Some examples:
    • Falling into water while wearing heavy plate armor tends to be inconvenient. Wouldn't it be nice to take the armor off in a hurry when you need to? So it's set up to be removed quickly. If you fall into water, you might be a little panicked, so the way to remove it should be easily accessible, right? Bright red painted crash bar on the front. And plate armor — especially gnome-modified plate armor — is going to be expensive, so you want a way to retrieve all the pieces if you do need to remove it like that, so... all the pieces are attached to the belt with wires so you can easily find them....
    • A gnomic effort to light their caverns involved piping magma through them. When this made the average corridor hot enough to flash-fry gnomes, they poured water on the pipes. The net result was that it was still impossible to see because when you pour water on a tube of magma, you get huge quantities of steam. And it was still hot enough that you wouldn't want to spend too long in the corridors unless you were literally a fire elemental. But by the gods, it was lit!
  • In Paranoia, pretty much anything that comes out of Alpha Complex's R&D labs for testing during a Troubleshooter mission.
  • Genius: The Transgression has quite a few instances of these in the player character's Wonders, which often have flaws attached (like a time machine that needs a wall outlet, for example).
  • BattleTech has this problem with certain mechs. For example, the Charger is an Assault-class mech (putting it between 80 and 100 tons, making it the largest class of generally available mech) that was originally built for scouting duties, usually left to mechs less than half its weight. The designers also actively discouraged non-scouting duties for it, removing most of its weapon hardpoints. Other mechs have less glaring but still present issues, such as a mech that only shoots 10 long range missiles a turn having two tons of ammo, or 240 missiles, while their main armament only has one ton of ammo despite doing considerably more damage. And this is in a game where unused ammo can explode, taking the limb and everything attached to it out as well.

    Video Games 
  • Dwarf Fortress has a fondness for these, with players often ending up with levers that serve no purpose but to flood parts of their own fortress with lava. This is particularly pronounced in games when players swap out between years so that no-one knows what the lever actually does and building around it. For example, Boatmurdered had a lever that, when pulled, flooded a siege workshop. It turned out it had originally been put in to irrigate the farms and became hilariously useless later when someone built a siege workshop on them.
  • In Advance Wars: Black Hole Rising, Lash proposes to the more practical Hawke that an airport she just finished for him be equipped with add-ons like a self destruct sequence.
  • Between the two Portal games, there are several examples, all designed by Aperture Science's Cloudcuckoolander founder.
    • The fuel system de-icer is also a sentient, malevolent A.I. that can slowly flood the facility with massive amounts of "deadly neurotoxin" stored in a large tank.
    • A portal gun capable of warping space was originally designed for use as a shower curtain.
    • Turrets that are sapient, and capable of feeling pain.
    • Empathy Generators on the turrets. To keep them able to shoot people, they also installed an Empathy Suppressor.
    • Aerial Faith Plates are basically catapults that can propel the player vast distances. Their intended use was to load cargo onto trucks, despite the fact that the cargo is thrown with such force that it breaks and/or bounces back out.
    • Thermal Discouragement Beams, giant lasers that were apparently installed to keep office workers from leaving their desks.
    • Propulsion and Repulsion Gels, which were originally conceived as dietary aids despite the latter containing an element that "does not like the human skeleton."
    • And finally Conversion Gel, which literally just paints surfaces white so portals can be put on them. Any old white paint would have sufficed, but no, Aperture Science felt the need to make the white pigment out of crushed moonrocks, complete with implications that not only did the obviously enormous cost of procuring said rocks bankrupt the company, but also that a major character developed terminal pneumoconiosis as a result of it.
  • In Kingdom of Loathing, the clan VIP room's shower temperature can be set so low that it makes shards of ice rain down on the user. When you use it, your character questions why someone would even make something like this.
  • Applies to so many door-lock minipuzzles in all sorts of games. Why would a supposedly everyday door require people to go through lengthy, complex manipulations to get through — the users would get fed up. Why would a door be locked with a device that is disassembled when unlocked, or otherwise only good for one use.
  • In Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor, the Self-Destruct Mechanism is located next to the switch for the headlights. Which would be a problem even if the controls weren't complete garbage.
  • Awesomemod (a mod for The Sims 3) has a configuration setting called "ExplodeInBFBVFS", which allegedly causes your game to explode in "a big fiery ball visible from space". All it really does is display a funny message when you try to run the game, and then immediately quits.
  • Chrono Trigger: In Ozzie's boss battles, you win once the correct switch behind him is hit. The fact that he always has at least one switch that opens a trap door under him is what qualifies him for the trope.
  • Evil Mad Scientist Sludge Vohaul in Space Quest II: Vohaul's Revenge is kept alive by a life support system equipped with a single button that, if pressed, turns it off immediately with no apparent failsafe. Furthermore, it's placed deep inside the workings of the machine where nobody can normally reach it, but inconveniently small foreign objects that get inside can.
  • In Hopkins FBI, the title character must find and disarm a bomb in a bank. The bomb he uncovers has four indicator lights labeled "Powered", "Armed", "Halted", and "Explode". The last one, of course, lights up just before the bomb explodes. By then, there's not much of a point to it, is there?
  • In SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom, Plankton builds a machine to create himself an army of robots. Unfortunately, they end up turning against him because he had the machine set to "Don't Obey" instead of "Obey". It then turns out the machine made a robot in his image which becomes part of the final boss fight.
  • In Final Fantasy IV, if the boss battle with Mad Scientist Dr. Lugae and his Killer Robot Barnab/Balnabas goes on too long without either/both being defeated, Lugae will notice something on his creation and go "What Does This Button Do?" Again, note that he made the dang thing. Not surprisingly, it activates the Self-Destruct Mechanism, which can take out the party if they're low on health.
  • Kuukiyomi 3: Consider It More and More!!: In the 69th situation, the player character is in the toilet and there are three buttons available (from right to left): big flush, little flush and "?". The third one creates a "hee..." sound when pushed.

    Web Animation 
  • In Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse, Barbie's Master Computer, Closet, has a button that can change it from a helpful servant, to a power-hungry tormentor. No-one among Barbie's gang can remember why Closet has such a button, not even its inventor, Ken.
  • A Homestar Runner cartoon reveals that the "Multi-function dragon" has a number of scales that, when hit, cause the dragon to do a number of tasks. And there's one labeled "instant death" that simply kills the dragon (which the King of Town's Knight hits by accident). True, it's a living creature and not a machine, but the end result is more-or-less the same.


    Western Animation 
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: Plankton equips his Robot Mr. Krabs with a Penny-Powered Self-Destruct Mechanism.
    Plankton: Coin-operated self-destruct? Not one of my better ideas.
  • Kim Possible: The Lorwardian Motherships' engines have an "off" switch.
    Warmonga: Long have I questioned the wisdom of that accursed switch!
  • Phineas and Ferb: Most of Dr. Doofenshmirtz's inventions have some sort of reverse, or self-destruct function, especially when this would make no sense. Some examples:
    • In "The Monster of Phineas-n-Ferb-enstein", Dr. Doofenshmirtz's ancestor builds a device to make a potion that will make a person "Evil-Er". For some reason it also has a "Fairy Princess" setting.
    • In "Hail Doofania!" the Rainbow Generator features a Self-Destruct Mechanism.
      Ferb: You know, in retrospect I questioned the inclusion of a self-destruct button in the first place.
    • In Across the 2nd Dimension Doofenshmirtz mentions he once deployed an army of robots and hid the self-destruct buttons on their feet. Guess how the robots were defeated.
    • According to Phineas, the reason the Other Dimension-inator didn't work the first time was that the self-destruct button was causing the machine to stop working just by being installed.
    • In "Finding Mary MacGuffin", Doofenshmirtz spends an entire episode looking for an on-off switch so he can activate his latest -inator. It turns out that all the -inator does is open the cage that he had trapped Perry in.
    • In "Candace Gets Busted" Doofenshmirtz builds a Go-Away-Inator which spins a wheel of locations and sends whatever it's pointed at away. Near the end of the episode it sends a group of people into Doof's pants. It turns out that that "My Pants" setting was there because he confused the -inator's wheel with his dry-cleaning wheel.
    • In "Phineas and Ferb Hawaiian Vacation", Doofenshmirtz puts a molecular-scale control panel on his De-Evolution-Inator, which comes in handy when he needs to use it on himself after turning himself into an amoeba.
  • The Fairly OddParents: "Action Packed"
    Jorgen: NO! Why did I put a reverse switch on it?!
    Timmy: 'Cause this is MY movie!
  • In one episode of Eek! The Cat, a professor built a rocket ship to Jupiter, and he told the astronauts that before launch they must make sure the absurdly huge switch is set for Jupiter and not the sun. One character asked, "Why is that even there?"
  • Danny Phantom:
  • A few examples from the Dilbert cartoon:
    • When the evil Leena is trapped in her own prototype, the De-pruner, her coworkers hit the "decapitate" button.
      Leena: I knew I shouldn't have added that option.
    • Dilbert also installed a voice-operated temperature changer in the shower. Which reacts to any number he says, regardless of context. Dogbert is disappointed to find he himself cannot change the temperature when Dilbert is taking a shower, but he can ask about "That movie with the crazy computer..." "You mean '2001'?"
  • The Simpsons:
    • A Halloween special features a murderous Krusty doll: "Yep, there's your problem. Somebody set this thing to evil."
    • Another Halloween special features Ned desperately trying to stop Homer from pressing a button in the nuclear plant that makes it explode and destroy Springfield. Ned was given no other choice than to kill Homer, but even THAT didn't stop him from pressing the button.
    • In a later episode, Bart sets a bunch of Roombas from "off" to "malevolent sentience". They promptly go on a mini-rampage.
  • Megas XLR: Sometimes Coop can't even make sense of his own designs. Some examples:
    • Megas has 3 buttons labeled "Destroy the world", "Smite the world" and "Destroy the world, worse", and one button labeled "Save the world". Guess which button is needed? Guess which one is missing from the control panel?
    • Megas is low on oil in one episode, so Coop literally wrings the grease out of several cheesesteak sandwiches directly into a small tube that refills the tank. The gauge goes from "Empty" —> "Need a little" —> "Almost There" —> "Enough" —> "No really, I'm fine" —> and "PLEASE STOP!"
    • Similarly, one of Megas' temperature gauges goes all the way up to "GOOD CRIPES!"
  • Some examples from Codename: Kids Next Door:
    • Recurring teenage villain Cree explained that the only reason she escaped from a prison spaceship was because one of the pilots accidentally pressed the "Blow Up the Engines" button during a fight over trading cards.
      Cree: Who else but a bunch of stupid kids would put a "Blow Up the Engines" button on a spaceship?
    • In another episode, the ice cream Monster of the Week is defeated when Numbuh Three turns on the heater in the ice cream factory. Quote The Delightful Children from Down the Lane:
  • He-Man and She-Ra's Christmas Special shows Orko launching a rocket that's manipulated by one easily breakable lever.
  • Futurama had Professor Farnsworth's glow-in-the-dark nose making machine. About halfway through the episode, he prepares to insert a note from Leela's parents into it to analyze it and hopefully translate it. This exchange took place:
    Fry: Isn't that the machine that makes noses?
    Professor: It can do other things! Why shouldn't it?
  • In one episode of Adventures in Care-a-Lot, Grizzle takes over Care-a-Lot using the Caretaker II, a belly-badge-stealing ray that can turn invisible. Naturally, it gets lost while invisible, and while looking for it, Grizzle warns his minions not to press the blue button that releases all the belly badges, complaining that he never should have installed that button.
  • The trope image comes from The Transformers episode "B.O.T.", which is about the Decepticons trying to rebuild Bruticus because he is supposedly the only one big enough to use their gigantic superweapon (even though they still have both Devastator and Menasor). Despite the Decepticons' success, the Autobots manage to foil their plans and destroy it. How do they do this? The B.O.T. presses a button on a human-level control panel clearly marked "Over Load" [sic]. True to its label, it overloads the superweapon and makes it explode. This and numerous other nonsense moments in the story contribute to its reputation as the worst episode in the franchise's history.
  • Parodied by Cartoon Network with a Birdman short (link here). Falcon 7 asks why Birdman allows Avenger on his console, while Birdman insists he's "fully-trained" and demonstrates by ordering Avenger to press the Coffee button...which is right next to the Doomsday button. He gets the coffee, but accidentally hit the Doomsday button too.
  • Iron Man: Armored Adventures: Killer Shrike's flight tech is directly linked to his wrist blasters. After Iron Man smashes the blasters, he points out to the plummeting villain what a bad idea that was.
  • In American Dad! Stan dies and goes to Heaven, and tries to use his gun to threaten people into sending him back to Earth. Everyone laughs at the idea that they could be harmed in Heaven, until Stan steals an Angel Gun which can kill anyone. As he runs out, one guy questions why they have those.
  • In one episode of Rugrats, Stu builds a doll-making machine, only for the dolls it makes to turn out wrong (i.e body upside down, legs attached to head, arms at wrong end). It's later revealed during Tommy and Chuckie's adventure in the basement that the reason for this was because it was set in reverse, which Tommy inadvertently fixed when he held the lever for ballast to grab Chuckie and ended up setting it into 'Forward'. Still, one has to wonder why Stu never noticed that error, let alone put a forward/reverse lever on the machine in the first place.
  • In one episode of Buzz Lightyear of Star Command where Buzz was being hunted by the Shape Stealer, a creature that could possess anyone, Commander Nebula had him hide in the Master Escape Pod. Unfortunately, the creature had taken control of Buzz, and used the pod's Manual Override to lockdown Star Command and cause it to self destruct. The look that Mira gave Nebula when he explained the pod had master control over the station was priceless.
    Commander Nebula: Well, It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time!
  • In the episode of Courage the Cowardly Dog where the three-headed son of the chicken from outer space appears to take revenge on Courage, one of the attempts was a complex Rube Goldberg booby trap that lead to Courage being Chained to a Railway while the three-headed son came at him on a train. Courage managed to save himself by throwing a track switch, after which the three heads looked over the plans and wondered why in the world that was included in the trap.
  • Mickey Mouse Works: One Mickey to the Rescue segment features Mickey trying to untie Minnie from some railroad tracks before she gets run over by Pete's locomotive. After his attempts to free her end up getting them both tied, Mickey ends up using his tail to pull a nearby switch that diverts the train just when it was about to hit them.
    Pete: Oh, I knew I shouldn't have put in that second set of tracks!
  • In one episode of Rocko's Modern Life, Rocko and his friends are trying to fix his car, but are unable to despite trying everything. Until Filbert notices the car has a "fixed/broken" switch on the under the hood that's currently set to "broken".
  • Jerry Driscoll from Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja built a death ray with an adjustable blast radius as part of a contest. He was disqualified because no one was willing to test if the "universe" setting worked.
  • The Emperor's New School naturally has taken the infamous "wrong lever" from the movie the show spun off from and turned it into a Running Gag, the results of which are different almost every time, ranging from Yzma being crushed by falling objects, to pulling the school's fire alarm, to nothing, prompting Yzma and Kronk to take the stairs to the secret lab.
  • Wabbit: A Looney Tunes Production: After some failed attempts to remove skunk stink off himself, Wile E. Coyote invents a machine to suck all the stink molecules off his body. While the machine initially works as intended, Wile E. finds out too late that he forgot to install an off switch. We see that the later stages of the machine involve tearing apart and reassembling the user. To add insult to injury, the released stink attracts a group of skunks that climb in through the top (implying that other small animals can sneak in as well), before the malfunctioning machine overloads and explodes.
    Wile E. Coyote: It's working, you can turn it off now!
    Bugs Bunny: Uh... there is no off button.
    Wile E. Coyote: WHAT?!
    Wile E. Coyote: (Loud Gulp)
  • From the Harley Quinn (2019) episode "Dye Hard", during a fight in Wayne Tower, Harley finds a gun and doesn't realize what it is until she fires it at a mook. For some unfathomable reason, it turns out it's a "Cancer Ray". A gun that causes cancer.
    Mook: Harley Quinn... you gave me cancer?!
    Harley: Why would they even make this!?
  • South Park: Chef gets a new TV with a "Human Eradication Mode" which, if selected, causes the TV to grow limbs and laser guns, and attempt to wipe out the human race.

    Real Life 
  • Many heating devices can reach temperatures far beyond the point where they stop being useful. Some hot tubs get hot enough to kill people, while some toasters get hot enough to burn any type of bread into a hunk of charcoal. This is both handy and intentional for 240 volt heating appliances, however, in case they end up being used in a three phase circuit: Line to line voltage on a 3 phase circuit is only 208 volts, meaning there is a serious reduction in power (for example, a 2400 Watt 240 Volt device, when plugged into a three phase circuit, can only crank out 1800 Wattsnote ) and that surplus of heat is suddenly a lot more useful.
  • Car speedometers often go higher than is safe to travel in the car in question, or is designed to read velocities that the car isn't even capable of reaching. In both cases it's fully justified. For the former, driving a vehicle at its maximum speed for any length of time (redlining) will drastically shorten the lifespan of the car and can burn out the engine, so they are designed with much higher speeds than what would be practical to prevent this. For the latter, often there is one type of speedometer which has to cover a whole range of cars. There's also the fact that it's ideal to have the most common max speed (like 50 or 60 mph) near the top of the speedometer, which makes it relatively easy to see without taking your eyes off of the road for too long. Part of the reason is also ego stroking to the drivers, who on average reported greater satisfaction with their car when the speedometer ranges significantly beyond what the car can actually do than a speedometer that goes up to its engineering limit, all other aspects of the car being the same; the (false) notion that the car could go 200 mph since that's how high the speedometer goes makes the driver think their car is awesome.
  • Volume controls often go much higher than is ever practical. In some cases, this is simply to prepare for uncommon usage, while in other cases, maximum volume would actually blow out the speakers.
  • Computer keyboards:
    • One desktop PC keyboard from around 2000 had special keys to turn the computer on and off, so you wouldn't have to reach down, fumble for the switch, etc. Of course the keyboard drew its power from the computer, so the "On" key never worked. The "Off" key didn't have that problem, but it was in the upper right corner, and thus very easy to hit by accident.
    • Up to this day, keyboards, especially compact keyboards, utilize all this pesky unused space above the arrow keys by placing power control buttons... where Print Screen, Insert or Delete button would usually go. Constantly shutting the computer off (often losing unsaved files in the process) gets frustrating enough that some users tear out those keys.
  • An inversion of this contributed to the Apollo 13 accident. While emptying a cryogenic oxygen tank using a heater, the dial used to watch the temperature did not go above the expected maximum, and as a result no one knew that the temperature was getting significantly higher and damaging some equipment.
  • Tandy computers had a button that functioned as "Escape" (ESC) on modern computer setups, only it was called "break", because it broke whatever loop a program was stuck in. On the Tandy Color Computer 3 it was even bright red, leaving many uninformed users to be terrified to touch the button for fear the button was something that would break your computer. ("Break" is still on your keyboard - it's usually a secondary function on your "pause" key.)
  • The first incarnation of the Apple ][ computer had the "reset" button right above the "enter" key. Since the "Enter" key is pressed more often than any other key, and the "reset" button will instantly hard-reboot your computer, this caused some problems.
  • Military equipment typically comes with a scuttle mechanism to destroy it when capture is imminent (generally by triggering a thermite charge - the "scuttle charge" - on top of the case). This is occasionally confused with the "Battle Short" switch on military equipment which may conceivably be used as a scuttle mechanism, but that's not its primary purpose: what it does is short out all the breakers and governors, allowing you to run the equipment over its rated maximum power. This is useful in combat when having your equipment overload is preferable to getting hit with high explosive, but if you leave it engaged in other circumstances you are likely to have a bad day.
  • Zawinski's Law of Software Envelopment - Every program attempts to expand [its features] until it can read mail. Those programs which cannot so expand are replaced by ones which can.
  • There is a software development practice called gold plating: continuing development past the point where extra effort is really worth the value. This usually results in adding extra features that the customer did not request, in hopes that any extra effort will be noticed. This is considered bad management practice, because even in the event that the customer is glad to see these features (which is not guaranteed!), he will not pay extra for them (since adding things without request and then demanding money is a type of fraud) while the developers' time is wasted on developing these features and continuing to support them anyway. There's also the potential for the extra features to cause a bug that interferes with usage of the requested features.
  • Microsoft Office got a little out of control with its Easter Eggs in the 90s, to the point of falling into this trope. Excel 97 contained a flight simulator that could be accessed by performing a long series of actions in a spreadsheet. Microsoft later banned this practice for worry of complaints regarding their products taking up extra disk space for such features - and because an Easter Egg which increases the complexity of a program for no real reason can result in additional bugs, not to mention you probably don't want your programs to contain potential backdoors which wouldn't typically come up in beta testing.
  • If you frequently use any chat where Enter=submit message, odds are you'll end up submitting an incomplete message at least once because you hit Enter when you meant to hit the apostrophe or were trying to put in a line break.
  • The Stupid Shit No One Needs & Terrible Ideas Hackathon is, as the name might imply, all about producing this kind of thing. Participants have produced such gems as "NonAd Block" (blocks all content except ads) and "Outcognito Mode" (publicly tweets everything you do).


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): I Question The Wisdom Of This Device


It's a Cancer Ray

While trying to fight back against some Goons in WayneTech, Harley picks up a gun that turns out to be a Cancer Ray.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / InventionalWisdom

Media sources:

Main / InventionalWisdom