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It Runs on Nonsensoleum

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"This is my timey-wimey detector. It goes ding when there's stuff."
The Doctor, Doctor Who, "Blink"

There's "hard" science fiction, which adheres only to what is currently known or theorized. And then there's "soft" science fiction, which usually either offers little to no explanation beyond "it's a time machine!/ray gun!/clone!, etc", or makes use of Techno Babble, which is when the writer gives a reason that sounds science-ish and trusts the Willing Suspension of Disbelief to take care of the rest.

But there is some science fiction, usually on the "softest" end of the scale, that deliberately uses what is obviously nonsensical science, with no illusions about the audience ever taking it as anything but a joke. It may explain the scientific principles on which the phlebotinum works, but the principles are so outlandish that the audience has to shrug and say, "it's comedy".

Oftentimes, Noodle Implements are needed to harness nonsensoleum. Other times, Achievements in Ignorance are the catalyst that allow nonsensoleum to work, and it will stop working once the characters realize that it shouldn't be possible. If they can still do it despite recognizing that what they're doing should be impossible then it's Beyond the Impossible. If a person has powers that run off of this trope then they may be using Literal Metaphors to make it work.


Can be seen as an acknowledgement of the Rule of Funny. Compare Insane Troll Logic, which is logic that is not supposed to make sense. If the explanation is used to cover a plothole and creates an even bigger plothole, it becomes a Voodoo Shark.

Sometimes justified by The Spark of Genius or Psychic Powers.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Nearly everything that America in Hetalia: Axis Powers invents depends on this trope - although, more often than not, nobody even tries to explain how a giant robot is going to go about stopping global warming, or how a ray gun makes people fall in love with each other.
  • In FLCL, "sushi-eyebrow" Amarao's explanation as to how and why robots are sprouting from main character Naota's forehead, apparently involving the thought processes of certain people's brains (particularly Naota's) creating hyperspace teleportation portals called "N.O. channels" when subjected to a good old smash from space officer Haruko's Rickenbacker bass guitar.
  • One Piece:
    • The author Eiichiro Oda often gives joke reason for things in his question-and-answer column, like how Zoro can talk even when he has a sword in his mouth because his heart allows him to speak...
    • This is best illustrated by the explanation for Sanji's Diable Jambe move, which involves setting his leg on fire with friction. According to Oda, his leg isn't hurt because his heart is burning hotter. What an awesome power heart is, huh?
    • Nami's Armor-piercing slaps bruise Luffy because "She hurts his spirit." Of course anyone with the ability to use haki would also be able to nullify Luffy's rubberness, but by the time this power was introduced, Nami had been slapping around Luffy for years. When he was introduced (much later but still a good while before Haki), Luffy's grandfather Garp also displayed the ability to hurt Luffy, claiming he was able to because of The Power of Love.
    • Sanji appears to be picking up the explicit ability to kick people pretty. Literally. As in, during his fight with uber-Gonk Wanze, he kicks him in the face, turning him temporarily into a Bishounen, and later, does the same (seemingly permanent and much appreciated) to Duval. This means that if this pirate/cook thing doesn't work out for Sanji, he could always become a plastic surgeon. Y'know, without the scalpels and stuff.
    • The reason Brook kept his Funny Afro even after being reduced to a skeleton is that he had "strong roots". He also claims that milk has healing properties for him because "Milk strengthens the bones"; Usopp calls him out on this one. Much later when, after a fight, Brook had a crack in his skull and Luffy was missing a tooth they both drink milk to heal these injuries.
    • All of Franky's robot powers run on carbonation from Cola. As do the special abilities of the Thousand Sunny, the Straw Hats' current ship. Everything from its air-burst speed-boost to a Wave-Motion Gun runs on cola.
    • Pappagg, the talking starfish? He can talk because - hear, hear - in Japanese "hito desu" is "I'm a human" and "hitode" is starfish. So, because of a pun, he spent his early years convinced he was a human; subsequently he learned to talk and walk around. Then he finally realized he was a starfish; but, oh well, it was too late.
    • The Marine Captains' Coat Capes, despite simply hanging on their shoulders are held in place by Justice. And justice will never fall!
    • It even shows in anime fillers. Twin villains Canpachino and Brindo have the ability to magnetically attract and repel each other. They specifically state that this power doesn't come from a Devil Fruit, but from their brotherly love.
    • Mr. 4 has a shapeshifting gun-dog that came from a gun eating a Devil Fruit (you heard that right.) There's also a Sword-elephant with the same explanation. A gun might be excused by shoving the fruit down its muzzle, but where do you put the fruit for a sword? Do you cut it and say it's bit into the fruit?
    • Anything that makes no sense in One Piece is often due to a very simple explanation. The supergenius (you can probably count on one hand the number of times his name ISN'T prefaced by that) Dr. Vegapunk did it.
  • In The Red Ranger Becomes an Adventurer in Another World, Tougo says his powers run on "Kizuna Energy" produced by his bonds with others. To Idola's frustration, it's incredibly vague and wishy-washy. So long as he's been introduced to someone and knows what motivates them, he considers it a bond and they're eligible to help him use his strongest moves and weapons, but the amount of power produced doesn't follow any kind of constants or rules. Lampshaded by Idola, who complains that it's full of loopholes in the way it decides what is and isn't a bond.
  • The Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann dub gives us a great short example, with Simon wondering how Gurren Lagann's leg gets patched up and Kamina shouting "FIGHTING SPIRIT!" at the top of his lungs as a presumed explanation. He's right. They were repaired by Spiral Power, which comes from fighting spirit. In this case, Nonsensoleum is the most powerful force in the universe.
  • In A Certain Magical Index nonsensical explanations are given out for how certain abilities work. You might think this is accidental and that the series is being serious. It is, in a way, but it's later lampshaded when the seventh Level 5 gives an explanation for how he does what he does. It sounds just like every other explanation for how abilities work, but then someone who knows what he's talking about pipes up and says that that makes no sense at all and it can't possibly work. It turns out the Level 5 has no idea how it works either. It's later explained that espers are basically Reality Warpers that unconsciously reject just enough of reality to give them superpowers, so their powers don't even have to make sense. The seventh Level 5, however, is the only one who can seemingly just break the laws of physics completely and utterly without hesitation.
  • Arachnid and Caterpillar have characters themed after all sorts of arthropods. Some of them have really unusual abilities for what appeared to be a mundane setting. Whenever one of the assassins does something, the narration goes on wild life documentary-esque tangents about how the characters' skills relate to the bugs they represent. This more often than not doesn't explain a thing about how, for example, Oki Megumi has cockroach superpowers or how Kabutomushi is immune to nerve gas and has her heart covered by steel armor.
  • Several Transformers series, particularly anime seriesnote  have characters gaining New Powers as the Plot Demands or some form of Super Mode or upgrade through A Burning Heart of JUSTICE. Basically, if a robot soldier gets enough righteous fury or sheer bloody-mindedness, they'll spontaneously get a new paint job, vehicle mode, or weapon. The dub of Cybertron at least has the characters address the situation, where the original Japanese script had the cast simply continue as if nothing unusual had happened.

    Comic Books 
  • Even by comic book standards, the source of Marvel's Golden Age superhero The Whizzer's powers was pretty ludicrous: an injection of mongoose blood gave him the power to go really fast just like a mongoose does when it's killing a cobra.
  • The Fanservice-laden furry comic Tank Vixens achieved Faster-Than-Light Travel through the "Credulity Drive". The drive worked by playing a "hyperspace" light show followed by an image of the destination on all of a spaceship's screens, and the sheer gullibility of the crew would cause the ship to arrive. As long as nobody on board knew how the drive worked. This becomes important when the Big Bad enters the coordinates for Gone with the Wind...
  • "It runs on pure madness!" is a principle used quite often in Shade, the Changing Man. Things like Angel Catchers and Time Machines are built from unlikely whirlwinds of parts, arranged in implausible configurations, and powered by Shade's insane faith that they would work. For a time, even Shade's own body was formed and held together with madness.
  • In Scott Pilgrim, being a vegan apparently gives you Psychic Powers. The explanation of why this works — humans only use 10% of their brains since the other 90% is full of curds and whey — makes no sense, and all the characters know it. And if you break the rules too many times (three strikes it looks like) your powers are taken away by the Vegan Police.
  • A Scrooge McDuck story where Scrooge went to the center of the Earth to look for the key to time had his vehicle being powered by the power of the market put in a pressure chamber. At one point, he ran out of fuel because the market had been tamed, but his fighting with Donald charged up the pressure chamber again.
    • At the center of the Earth, there was a miniature space with another, small Earth. There was so little gravity down there that the ducks were able to walk on thin air because of that, but also able to walk on the ground. Of course, the author may have thought this actually made sense.
    • This is to say nothing of the magical time thingies the characters gained from the center of the Earth. They somehow used them to make money, but the explanations given as to how were so vague it barely even gets up to this trope.

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes:
    • Calvin invents devices that run on nonsensoleum, especially a cardboard box capable of traveling through time, transforming Calvin into an animal, or duplicating him. These are all the same box, the only changes being what direction the box's opening is facing and what's scribbled on its sidenote . Hobbes lampshades these inventions by saying, "It's amazing what they can do with corrugated cardboard these days."
    • Calvin himself took advantage of this at one point: after creating several duplicates of himself (whom he couldn't stand), he got rid of them by getting them to stand under the duplicator box, crossing out the label "Duplicator," and writing in the new label "Transmogrifier" so he could change them into worms.
    • When the transmogrifier was introduced, it was able to select between 4 forms: eel, baboon, bug, or dinosaur. When Hobbes asked what if he wanted to turn into something else, Calvin simply replies he left space to write more stuff on the dial.
  • Foxtrot: One strip has Paige intently watching a pot on the range. Peter asks her what she's doing, and she says she's watching the pot to ensure it doesn't boil, so whatever foul concoction their Cordon Bleugh Chef of a mother put in won't end up as dinner. Peter laughs, then learns there's twice the usual amount, and joins her.
    Paige:' Try not to blink when I do.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animated 
  • How does the FLDSMDFR (a food-creating machine) in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs work? By mutating water molecules.
  • In Home, Oh uses a slushie machine and some other junk to make Tip's mother's car capable of flight.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T, Bart Collins creates a sound-absorbing device using all the items in his pockets combined with liquid odor-eater and a hearing aid, on the theory that if odor-eater removes odors, then combining it with a hearing aid (and marbles, and string, matches, a frog, etc.) will remove all sound from a room. Then it turns out to be Atomic and blows up. It is All Just a Dream, after all.
  • The Core:
    • This movie, which is scientifically ridiculous from beginning to end, acknowledges this at one point when a character shamefacedly admits that he refers to his secret miracle substance, which not only gets stronger the harder you squeeze it and/or the more you heat it, but generates vast amounts of electricity while doing so, as "Unobtainium." This is based on an old engineer joke wherein an otherwise perfectly good design turns out to require some material whose tensile strength, melting point, or whatever is higher than that of any known substance, and the spec therefore calls for "Unobtainium."
    • It provides a detailed explanation of why it is impossible to travel to the Earth's core (heat, pressure, etc.). This is followed by the line, "Yes, but... what if we could?" Yes, the movie says, in character-appropriate dialog, that the entire rest of the movie is scientific nonsense. It's a sign saying, "Suspend your disbelief here."
    • John Rogers, one of the film's writers, is a physics major. The writers were entirely aware that what they were proposing was ludicrously incorrect, but deliberately patterned The Core in the style of a 60's Science Hero movie; it's not realism that's important, it's verisimilitude. It's also worth mentioning that the craft was originally written to have a windshield, and that there were dinosaurs in one of the earlier scripts.note 

  • In one Paul Bunyan story, he builds a sawmill that, simply by being set in reverse, can convert sawdust back into whole logs.

  • Stanisław Lem has sci-fi stories set after the Discovery of the Energetic Potential of Lemon Juice.
  • Discworld:
    • In The Truth, it's explained that the dried frog pills the Bursar takes to keep him apparently sane are actually hallucinogens, the idea being that a proper dose will cause him to hallucinate that he's sane (just like most people).
    • In Hogfather, when Hex (a non-electronic computer composed primarily of ants marching through glass tubes) becomes unstable, its rationality is restored by typing the words "dried frog pills" into it. (This may have been inspired by the Cookie Monster virus, one of the first computer viruses.)
    • Guards! Guards! introduces the concept of L-Space, where large collections of books warp time and space based on the principle that knowledge is power, power is energy, energy is matter, matter has mass, and mass warps space-time. Thus, the reason why owners of independent book stores tend to be so eccentric is that they're secretly from an alternate dimension (usually one where it's acceptable business practice to wear carpet slippers all day and only open the shop when you feel like it).
    • Sourcery: the characters travel across the sea in a magic lantern. This works because one of them is holding the lantern, and they're all inside the lantern. The trick is to complete the journey before the universe catches on... oops, too late.
    • In a footnote in Mort, there's a passage regarding the philosopher Ly Tin Weedle's theory of kingons (or queons), the elemental particle of monarchy, that he believed traveled faster than light; there could only be one king at a time and there couldn't be a gap between kings, so monarchy must travel faster than anything else in the universe. His plans to use this discovery to send messages by carefully torturing a small king to modulate the signal never came to fruition because at that moment the bar closed.
    • In the fiction portion of The Science of Discworld, the thinking engine Hex increases his own processing abilities by reasoning that, in the future, he'll have already done so, then pulling the needed components out of probability phase space where they must therefore exist in potentia. It's Lampshaded that, while this train of thought is, for the most part, garbage, it isn't complete garbage.
    • The Pork Futures Warehouse, which allows people to trade in pork that doesn't exist yet. So they built a warehouse to store it until it does. If you go inside you'll find semi-transparent pig carcasses hanging around, waiting to become real. This is inspired by real-life futures trading, where someone agrees to buy something at a set price at a specific time in the future to try to avoid market fluctuations.
  • The universe of Dr Dimension heavily relies upon Heinz products for propulsion and energy generation, so much so that the number 57 is considered to be holy by a number of religions.
  • All of the inventions at the Academy on Balbinarbi in Gulliver's Travels are this, ranging from a diarrhea cure that somehow turned the user inside out and a contraption used to extract sun beams from cucumber slices note .
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
    • The Infinite Improbability Drive, which, in a nutshell, works against all probability precisely because someone went through the trouble of calculating precisely how improbable it is for it to work.
    • The Infinite Improbability Drive was created using Nonsensoleum. They already had a Finite Improbability Generator, but needed an Infinite one to take in the whole universe for use as a drive, and frustrated scientists declared this "virtually impossible" - it took one of the lab cleaners to figure out that a "virtual impossibility" is also a "finite improbability", so he could use the Finite Improbability Generator to create the Infinite Improbability Drive or, in fact, teleport its core component, the Heart of Gold/Golden Bail, there from where it had been hidden from the Krikketers. Furthermore, the Finite Improbability Generator is powered by a "fresh cup of really hot tea", as it runs on the unpredictability of the Brownian motion of the water molecules. note 
    • In Life, the Universe and Everything, a new form of travel is devised based on "Bistromathics", the unnatural manner in which numbers behave when dining at a fancy restaurant is involved (from discrepancies in the size of the party booked vs. how many people show up to the price of the food to how to split the bill).
    • Life also introduces the "Somebody Else's Problem Field", a cloaking device that takes advantage of people's natural tendency to ignore things they can't comprehend or don't want to deal with, and proposes that the secret to unassisted human flight is to throw yourself at the ground and miss. Which, while a gross over-simplification, is sort of how things maintain orbits... so it's not entirely false. It works, too.
    • There's a ship drive that functions on the principle that bad news always reaches places before anything else. Too bad nobody would allow it to dock.
    • If you've done six impossible things this morning, why not round it off with breakfast at Milliways - Restaurant at the End of the Universe. Don't worry about booking a table or forgetting your wallet; since this restaurant is at the temporal end of the universe, rather than the spatial, you've had literally all of time in existence to book your seats and the food you had when you last visited the place, which you've obviously already done by the time you get to the place, even if you haven't done so from your perspective yet.
    • The Restaurant at the End of the Universe has an accidental application of nonsensoleum, when a rock band using cutting-edge high-tech amplifiers achieves such loud volumes that the tectonic plate on which the concert is taking place flips like a flapjack, converting a former blasted wasteland into a fertile field of volcanic soil which becomes the garden spot of that world in just a few short years. It also somehow cured the natives of their unwanted psychic powers, which were forced on the populace by the rest of the galaxy for being quiet and happy while the everyone else was miserable from the small talk they were forced into by social convention. The concert was to distract them from the constant buzz of other people's thoughts.
      "It was a good gig," a spokesman for the band commented.
  • The novel The Holy Land claims that extraterrestrials are taller because of relativity. They've been flying in spaceships for generations, and since everything in the universe is shrinking (the real reason for the redshift), the time dilation means that they've shrunken less.
  • The Long Earth: Travel to parallel dimensions is achieved with a device that consists of a metal case, a few wires, and a potato. Although given that at least some people have the ability to "step" without them, it might be another trope entirely.
  • Robert A. Heinlein's tongue-in-cheek novel The Number of the Beast features, among other things, a dimensional transference drive that works by gyroscopic precession. Specifically, precession applied to a gyroscope in such a way as to make it do something geometrically impossible. Instead, it takes itself and anything touching it into in another universe.
  • The Phantom Tollbooth has a cart with no visible means of propulsion that starts moving when all the passengers are quiet, because "it goes without saying."
  • Robert Rankin's Raiders of the Lost Car Park:
    • The explanation for where The Fair Folk are hiding: if you've ever tried to glue a rectangular map onto a globe of the same scale, you'll find it doesn't fit properly. The bits of the map that don't fit onto the globe are the regions in which they hide out. These are only accessible to humans by playing certain notes on an ocarina that has been reinvented with a power drill. And that's the part that, comparatively speaking, makes sense.
    • Knees Up Mother Earth features a motor vehicle fuelled by the ''rage' of its driver. Via a helmet built from Meccano.
  • This was the Word of God explanation (and heavily implied in the stories — although so much of history was lost to the characters that they never figured it out, there are clues for the reader that this is what is going on) for why Time Travel took the main character to a fantastic version of the past in Larry Niven's Svetz short stories — which would eventually lead to Rainbow Mars. They had managed to invent Time Travel... but since Time Travel was impossible and could only work in fiction, it took them to a fictionalized version of the past. Hence Svetz bringing back Moby Dick — complete with a dead Ahab — when he was sent to find a whale, after a close brush with the Leviathan.
  • Tall Tale America:
    • The chapter on Jim Bridger and Febold Feboldson ("Western Scientists") is all about this. Petrified forests having petrified gravity, feeding fish iron rich food so you could harvest them with a magnet, literally cutting fog with a knife and burying it under ground; they've got it all.
    • The second chapter about Paul Bunyan, the one where he's a "scientific industrialist", has got some whoppers. He invents refrigerator cars when he packs some cows in with a bunch of popcorn; the cows think the popcorn's snow and freeze solid on the spot. Then there's how he finds oil wells by following dinosaur footprints, or how he carves one large hole into pieces to sell as small, individual holes for fence posts.
  • Thursday Next:
    • Lost in a Good Book features Nextian Geometry, which (for example) uses the "principle" that cylindrical objects such as cakes and scones look rectangular from the side, as the basis for a design of cookie cutter which doesn't leave those irregular bits of leftover dough. But only if the cutter is used with Nextian dough, which tastes like library paste.
    • First Among Sequels reveals that the Chrono Guard can time-travel because of the reasoning that, in all the entire history of the universe, someone must have invented time machines. However, when they finally trace the future history of the universe to the end and find out that no one ever did, all their time machines vanish.
  • In the Wild Cards books, some Aces are super inventors, but other scientists/engineers can't operate or maintain their devices because it's their own psychic power that makes them work.

    Live-Action TV 
  • El Chapulín Colorado, being a superhero satire, obviously runs on Grade-A Nonsensoleum to make the titular hero paralyze people with a bicycle horn, shrink to about 4 inches tall, and show up at Venus, ancient Japan or Nazi Germany.
  • Doctor Who:
  • In Hikonin Sentai Akibaranger, the Akibarangers are powered by delusions and their henshin call is Jūmōsō! ("Grand Delusion!"), thus their abilities literally run on nonsense!
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000:
  • Red Dwarf: Such gleefully unscientific phenomena as a mutated flu virus that makes the sufferer's hallucinations "solid" (When Lister objects that this doesn't make sense, Rimmer's second attempt at explaining it fails to be significantly different from the first) and a similarly affected photo developing fluid that not only brings photos to life but allows time travel through them when projected onto a screen.
  • In the Star Trek universe, the tech, no matter how far-fetched, is supposed to be taken seriously within the context of the story. But once in a while it gets, in a self-aware fashion, pretty close to the edge of Nonsensoleum. A good example is the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "One Little Ship," in which a runabout and its crew are shrunk to a tiny size by a Negative Space Wedgie and then zoom around the interior of the Defiant fighting off a hostile boarding party. It's obviously meant as a completely goofy premise, with only the most perfunctory attempt at an Applied Phlebotinum justification, for the sheer fun of telling the story, and the key is that even the characters in universe lampshade how enjoyably silly it is.
    Nog: The miniaturization process won't begin until the runabout reaches the edge of the accretion disc.
    Kira: I see. And, uh, then they'll begin to shrink?
    Nog: Yes, sir. (Kira stifles a giggle)
    Sisko: (deadpan) Major, are you laughing at our investigation of this subspace anomaly?
    Kira: (innocently) No, sir.
    Worf: The data collected here could provide Starfleet with the key to creating transwarp corridors through space. It could give us a substantial tactical advantage over the Dominion.
    Kira: Oh, it's very important research. ...What? I'm not laughing! No, just because we are shrinking three people to the size of coffee cups...! (finally loses it)
  • One episode of Tales from the Crypt was about a sideshow man at a carnival who'd attained the power to be killed and resurrected from a mad doctor transferring a cat's nine lives over to him using some crazy machine. As part of this mad logic, he keeps count of how many times he's been killed to ensure he still has one extra life to spare. Then he realizes his count is short and the life he's about to lose really is the last one...
  • The Chronoskimmers from Where In Time Is Carmen Sandiego run on "fact fuel" generated by crew members answering history questions.

  • One part of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy radio series that was never adapted in other versions has a fifteen mile high statue of Arthur Dent Throwing the Nutrimatic Cup. The mile-long marble cup floats in mid-air "because it's artistically right."
  • Nebulous' inventions and scientific discoveries in Nebulous include things like 'the discovery of a sense between smell and touch called "smouch"' and Factor 1000000 sunblock ("if you wear it for more than an hour, you get rickets").

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Orky "teknologie" runs, quite literally, because the Orks believe it should work that way. This is typified in their most common upgrade to any vehicles' speed: they paint them red, because "da red wuns go fasta!" So while the real reason is that Orks have tremendous Psychic Powers, their explanations fit this trope perfectly.
    • This is used to hilarious effect when a group of Imperial engineers try to determine what it is that makes Orky weaponry so deadly. They dismantle it, put it back together, try everything they can to even get the gun to fire but nothing. This is because the gun is missing several vital components. When they put it in the hands of an ork, it fires with deadly power.
    • Ork spaceships have been reported to navigate through space for months despite having run completely out of fuel, just because the crew thought they should or simply didn't notice.
    • Ork stealth technology consists of painting things purple, because nobody's ever seen a purple army.
  • In Mage: The Ascension every human is essentially unaware that they are a Reality-Warping God, and mages are beginning to awaken to the truth, but most need their Focus to actually employ their powers, as they believe that whatever method they practice is actually responsible for the changes they employ, whether they use druidic magic, mad science, martial arts or reality hacking. The more they raise their Arete the more they realize that the magic is in them rather than their tools. Averted with the Technocrats, as their Enlightenment further cements their belief that their technology is the source of the fantastic abilities, and even when a Technocrat Ascends, they basically become a Ghost in the Machine.
  • One of the main problems with the mad science of Genius: The Transgression — it runs entirely on the inventor's madness (sorry, Inspiration). Any attempt to pin down the underlying scientific principles involved (especially by a mundane observer) will fail, and any attempt by a mundane observer to closely examine or tinker usually results in the thing blowing up... or worse.

    Video Games 
  • Metal Gear:
    • Metal Gear Solid 3:
      • During an incredibly meta codec conversation between Sigint and Snake discussing the Patriot gun:
    Sigint: And it never runs out of ammo?
    Snake: Never.
    Sigint: Why's that?
    Snake: Because the internal feed mechanism is shaped like an infinity symbol.
    Sigint: Ah, I get it. Yep, that'll give you unlimited ammo.
    • Snake can eat a bioluminescent mushroom to recharge his batteries. Para-Medic and Sigint agree to themselves that it must've just been a placebo effect.
    • Metal Gear Solid 2:
      • Towards the end, Raiden asks Snake if he has enough ammo to lend him, and Snake replies, "Infinite ammo" while pointing to his bandana (a reference to the bandanna from Metal Gear Solid, which did indeed give Snake infinite ammo for the weapon he was holding).
  • Fallout: The series explicitly works based not on actual science, but Science! of the 1950s. Nuclear powered cars and radiation causing giant bugs to pop up is just how things are supposed to work.
  • In Monday Night Combat, bacon raises a character's attributes past their maximum limit until the end of their current life. The explanation? "Bacon makes you better at everything, just like in real life".
  • The whirligigs of Netstorm: "This device is lofted on its own impossibility and so it destroys by the power of negation." Whatever the hell that's supposed to mean. Oddly enough, they need to refuel every so often, which implies that they must be loaded with impossibility before each flight. Does impossibility have a physical form? One would assume not, but then why is their impossibility supply finite? More importantly, how do you power an object with impossibility in the first place, let alone destroy things with it? It seems that the Whirligig is something of a philosophical quandary, though it must be acknowledged that attempting to use logic on an example of this trope is futile.
  • In The Simpsons: Bart vs. the Space Mutants, the aliens have a machine that's somehow powered by purple objects. Making this even more ridiculous, the aliens change the power source of the machine each stage to: hats, balloons, exit signs and plutonium rods (the only one that actually makes some sense).
  • Team Fortress 2:
    • The Gray-aligned robots are powered by... money.
    • According to an early version of "Meet the Medic", the Medigun pack is apparently powered by an unknown red liquid, pain pills, blood, sandwiches, and piss.
    • The Tie-in comics inform us that the surest way to get the Demoman "drunk" and useless is to feed him solid food and water. His body has been spending so much time "wrestling nutrients out of grain alcohol and aspirin tablets" that it starts acting funny because it thinks it's been poisoned.
  • Merry Gear Solid:
    • The game offers a bunch of nonsensical reasons for why things work the way they do, usually powered by puns and synonyms. For instance, a moldy jam sandwich can be used to counteract radar jamming, because the mold in it absorbs jam.
    • The second game has Snake acquire a Nikita rocket launcher that fires "Kissiles": missiles with lips that only knock their target unconscious by overwhelming them with love. Though Snake calls this out as ridiculous, he's a lot more receptive to the idea when Otacon reminds him that the alternative is that he's blowing up children.
  • The official reason why Metal Slug Recurring Boss Allen O'Neal is able to come back from the dead in every game, even when he's Eaten Alive by an orca and his bones spat out? He has a family he has to return to.
  • Grim Fandango, being set in "The Land of the Dead" and thus primarily inhabited by skeletons, frequently runs into this. For example, in keeping with the Film Noir tone, several characters smoke cigarettes or cigars despite lacking the respiratory system and circulatory system necessary to enjoy it; they even lack a tongue to taste it with, meaning it's an entirely trivial habit performed entirely because it's awesome.
    Surly Clown: (twisting balloons) My carpal tunnel syndrome is really acting up.
    Manny: But... you don't have any tendons.
    Surly Clown: (annoyed) Yeah, well you don't have a tongue, but that doesn't seem to shut you up, now, does it?
  • This is the only possible explanation as to how Patchouli Knowledge's rocket, which was more of a vaguely rocket-shaped three-tier cottage with very nice windows, cobbled together from random bits of poorly understood trivia about the Apollo rocket, was perfectly capable of reaching the True Moon in Silent Sinner in Blue.
  • Awesomenauts being a homage to wacky 80s' sci-fi cartoons, revels in this trope, above all when it comes to some of the Nauts' backstories. The silliest example so far is probably Commander Rocket, who somehow survived getting his head blown away and replaced by a head prosthesis. Don't ask...
  • The explanation for the player character having a Ripple Effect-Proof Memory in Spandex Force 2: Superhero U.
    Professor Blizzard Wizard: I think it's quantum.
    Princess Pain: That makes no SENSE!
  • The manual of Three Dirty Dwarves has a treatise from a scientist explaining how the titular dwarves (who are tabletop RPG avatars brought into reality by their Reality Warper creators) managed to enter our world. It starts with the premise that the non-existent nature of the dwarves' home dimension makes dimension-hopping easier (as "the rules of physics don't apply) and piles on the nonsensoleum from there.

  • Scary Go Round's Tim Jones built a time machine that was a self-heating teapot with a clock on the side and an electronic eye in the lid. To use it, one simply had to set the clock to your desired time, then turn on the teapot; using the principle that "a watched pot never boils", the water would heat up but never boil. In the process, time would get confused, and reset itself to the nearest timepiece.
  • Starslip':
    • The Superlinear drive works on the principle that the fastest path between two points is a straight line. The superlinear drive finds the straight line, then it finds an even straighter one to travel, thus allowing Faster-Than-Light Travel.
    • The previous mode of locomotion, the Starslip Drive, worked by inputting the destination and flipping you into an alternate universe where you were already there. This causes some Cerebus Syndrome moments when the main characters wind up in an alternate universe where another main character never existed.
  • The B-Movie Comic has a Transforming Mecha with a traditional air brake, the kind that turns a fall into a pleasant hover two feet above the ground. When its button is pressed, it works by triggering a small explosive charge that propels a massive tungsten bolt. Into what, you ask? Into Isaac Newton's memorial at Westminster Abbey.
  • The comic Absurd Notions has at its core, the testing of tabletop games (and general geekiness) as its plot device. One of the settings they test is the requisite outer space cliche-ridden junk. While the DM tries to set the stage for the players, he mentions how the space craft make interstellar travel through 'IJD' technology. One of the players replies, "I...DJ? Inter-dimensional jump?" where the DM responds, "Nope, IJD, It Just Does."
  • Sparky in Books Don't Work Here doesn't have enough education in Mad Scientist to give a logical explanation so he just wings it.
  • Sluggy Freelance:
    • Almost everything runs on plot. Especially Riff's devices. And more especially, Schlock's devices. And MORE MORE especially, the devices they make together or with each other's technology. (Riff uses Schlock's inflatable technology to make inflatable guns that somehow shoot lasers without destroying themselves.) Even better is that Schlock creates a balloon version of himself that inflates WHEN YOU PIERCE IT.
  • The rare times there's an explanation for how something works, it's usually played as a joke — though time travel and dimensional travel often have a logic, whether based on magic or impossible technology, that's thought out in detail.
  • While not Sci-Fi, The Order of the Stick is openly plot-based. The characters are aware and use it for everything from fast-forwarding in time to realizing what's about to happen.
    Julio: I can get you there in ten days. Eight, if the fate of the world's at risk.
    Roy: You have reserve power you can use?
    Julio: No, I mean this ship literally flies faster the more is at stake. Darndest thing, really.
    Roy: Huh... could we shave off a day if there might be two worlds on the line?
    Julio: Worth a shot, but I've been doing this for 30 years and I've never arrived anywhere earlier than the nick of time.
  • Gorgeous Princess Creamy Beamy, in order to support the fetish appeal.
  • Mountain Time has a car that runs on hollandaise and emits shampoo, and another one that travels through dimensions when Billy Joel music plays on its tape deck.
  • Professor Zweistein of The Fan attempts a rather nonsensical explanation regarding people turning into anime characters due to lengthy exposure to anime. This turns out to be a subversion as he later admits that he made it up on the spot.
  • In Tobias And Jube, the titular duo have a spaceship drive that allows it to cross vast distances really quickly. The way it works is: the crew suggests a place to go and decide to go there. The ship then arrives there solely because it would have to arrive there eventually.
  • In Girls in Space the girls travel space in a VW Camper Van. This was converted into a spaceship when the Universal Upgrader (a prototype made by an intergalactic electronics company) was fired at it.
  • 8-Bit Theater:
    • Fighter survives a freefall by using his Paladin abilities to block the ground. Fighter's "explanation" is that since he can block all sorts of elemental attacks, it's natural that he'd be able to block Earth.
    • As far as Red Mage is concerned, the less sense a plan makes, the greater its chance of success! He took this Up to Eleven when devising a plan that he claimed to be infallible. Why? It made no sense, therefore it couldn't be stopped. His reasoning for that run thusly: the more complex the plan, the more things can go wrong. Ergo, if the plan is completely insane and unworkable from the outset, there's no way for it to fall apart, so it's guaranteed to succeed! (Black Mage became so irritated by this explanation that he temporarily went blind.)
  • Dresden Codak: The Dark Science arc is premium unleaded nonsensoleum: Kim hires a director friend to produce horrendous adaptations of literary classics, in order to convert "posthumous indignity" (i.e., the authors spinning in their graves) into clean energy. It would've worked, too, if anyone had gone to see the films.
    Kim: If sufficiently disgusted, an author's spinning corpse can produce over 400 megajoules per grievance.
  • Dragon Tails with Bluey's Science Explained.
  • The Life of Nob T. Mouse is built on this trope. Characters are not born, they just appear. There's a city built on a giant wodge of putty plugging a hole in the universe where the Big Bang happened. Waving a jelly on a stick with pink-icing buns stuck on it will summon a letterbox that lets you post yourself to another universe. The list goes on and on.
  • Girl Genius: Othar Tryggvasen (GENTLEMAN ADVENTURER!) and his "special trousers" which allow him to No-Sell an irate Supersoldier landing on him and snapping his spine in half. Othar is on his feet two panels later and no explanation beyond "Special trousers. Very heroic." is ever given.
  • In Black Adventures, quantum physics cause Magical Girl Transformation Sequences and the Nimbasa subway is powered with Ingo and Emmett's "Bruderliebe".
  • Goats has a singularity that turns kittens into pop tarts, or vice versa. It turns out to be both a Running Gag and, eventually, a bit of Applied Phlebotinum.
  • The Cool Ship in Dubious Company runs on inebriation! No, not alcohol. Inebriation. The crew must be drunk to drive. Why yes, this is a comic about pirates.
  • In Voodoo Walrus A publishing house operates out of an underwater techno-volcano powered by a baby fueled furnace. Not to mention the tendency of explosions be at least partially comprised of live, unperturbed by being in explosions, cats.
  • Homestuck:
    • Post-Scratch Bro Strider that is to say, Dave, invented a way of making JPEG artifacts in real life that obviously runs on this trope. Its quite profitable despite nobody wanting the products, because they have a negative cost to manufacture.
    • The events of "[S] Cascade": To summarize: the heroes have triggered a Cosmic Retcon that will cause them to become Ret-Gone if they don't escape the universes (yes, ''universes'' they are residing in. While the method of travel chosen by the remaining trolls, as well as Dave and Rose, is pretty tame by Homestuck standards (that is, traveling on a meteor psionically propelled through the Furthest Ring ), the way Jade and John leave is positively insane. To sum it up: Jade hijacks a spaceship and literally drives it through the fourth wall to end up in Andrew Hussie's house, after which they take a three-year-long trip to another fourth wall leading to the new universe. Yes, this actually happens.
    • Spades Slick is unable to open a door because the barcode he needed was on the hand ripped off by Snowman. He gets out of it by flipping his 2-D sprite, so left hand becomes right and vice-versa.
    • Roxy can create objects by imagining them and then removing nothingness.
    • Gamzee can't die, because clowns don't die. It's literally the only explanation we got. Even the author himself admits that he doesn't know how this works.
  • Mac Hall: Ian manages to turn applied theology into a jelly donut.
  • Beeserker is all about a pair of Sciencemen who build a robot powered by bees. Even the author says he has no idea how that works.
  • In Allen the Alien, apparently, the English the aliens speak is translated Czech. It's entirely played for laughs.
  • In a No Fourth Wall strip of Arthur, King of Time and Space, Merlin, criticizing the literal use of Unobtanium in Avatar claims his time machine is powered by Runsoutatcriticalmomentsium.
  • xkcd:
    • Abusing the principle of explosion to get "Your Mom's phone number".
    • One strip has a guy say he felt a sharp pang the moment his brother died. A physicist wonders if this was instantaneous or if there was a light speed transmission delay. He then goes on to wonder if they could use this to send a message faster than light and break causality, and asks how many other siblings the guy has.
  • In Manly Guys Doing Manly Things Time Travel, according to Commander Badass, runs on bullshit. And if you think about it too hard, things happen.
  • Bob and George combines this with an inverted example of Too Dumb to Live. Mega Man is able to survive incredible amounts of damage because he has the "extraordinary ability to not recognize life-threatening injuries." In other words, he's too stupid to die.
  • Minmax of Goblins manages to create a sword made of nothingness by playing around with a magic sword and a hole in reality. It's theorized that the sword is powered by Minmax's lack of understanding of what it is or how it works. Minmax immediately decides to give the sword the, uh, incredibly badass name "Oblivious," which another character notes is an apt name since Minmax clearly doesn't understand what it means.

    Web Original 
  • The Crew of the Copper-Colored Cupids's Department of Problem-Solving once stopped time inside a warehouse by filling it with clocks, the idea being that, just like you have to remove a bit of a chemical substance to analyze it, or draw a bit of blood to perform a blood test, clocks only get a reading on time by absorbing and consuming a little bit of time — so put enough clocks in one place and they'll absorb ''all' the time and there won't be any left.
  • Devisors from the Whateley Universe run on this trope, although they sometimes get devices that are close to reasonable. This is annoying to those with both Gadgeteer and Devisor traits, since they don't know if what they built either obeys the rules of science or ignores the rules of science, in which case they can't patent and mass-manufacture it. The only test is if someone else can build it.
  • The troll science meme has lots of this, along with an amount of Insane Troll Logic.
  • The Freeeze Ray (it freezes time!) from Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog runs on 'Wonderflonium'. ("Do Not Bounce".) The fanmade sequel Doctor Horribles Sing Along Sequel took this Up to Eleven, as it sees Johnny Snow inventing a way to bring people back from the dead. It's a Life Ray, built by taking an ordinary Death Ray and reversing the polarity.
  • In one of the more glorious cases of Off the Rails ever, a certain Crazy Awesome player builds a spaceship that runs on stupidity, and thus takes advantage of his GM's utterly vile and inane world to acquire unlimited power.
  • This is the premise of the SCP Foundation: The Foundation collects strange objects, creatures and people, lists the ways they contradict the known laws of the universe, and try to find out why and how these things still function.
  • Don't even bother attempting to figure out how most any tech in Protectors of the Plot Continuum would actually work. They travel between worlds using literal plot holes, they get power from authors spinning in their graves and the fabled Bleeprin, which manages to erase bad fanfic memories as well as relieve the pain of them, is just aspirin and bleach mixed together. It's explicitly stated that you can't tell them Bleeprin shouldn't work, because then it won't and it makes them mad.

    Western Animation 
  • Darkwing Duck hardly has any other kind of technology. For example, there's the completely fictional notion of all matter consisting of "trons", particles that come in good and evil flavours.
  • Futurama:
    • Much of Professor Farnsworth's science is based on total nonsense. For instance, his theory of "reverse fossilization" — that if fossilization turns organic matter to minerals, then one simply had to reverse the process to turn household appliances into animals. He also built a spaceship which moved by staying perfectly still by shifting the rest of the universe, whose engine's afterburners worked at two hundred percent efficiency. Ships can cross the universe in days even though you can't travel faster than the speed of light because the speed of light was increased six hundred years ago.
    • Lampshaded at least once:
      Cubert: That's impossible!
      Professor Farnsworth: Not at all! It's really quite simple.
      Cubert: Then explain it.
      Professor Farnsworth: Now that's impossible!
    • Lampshaded later in the same episode, but with love and idealism:
      Professor Farnsworth: Nothing is impossible if you can imagine it! That's what being a scientist is all about!
      Cubert: No, that's what being a magical elf is all about!
    • Inverted in "When Aliens Attack", with the Professor explaining, using perfectly sound science, how aliens could know about a show that hadn't aired in a thousand years:
      Professor: Well, Omicron Persei 8 is about a thousand light years away. So the electro-magnetic waves would just recently have gotten there. You see—
      Fry: Magic. Got it.
    • In "Mars University", the characters meet Gunter, Professor Farnsworth's talking monkey. Fry asks if Gunter can talk because he was genetically engineered, but the Professor laughs and tells him that genetic engineering is a bunch of science fiction mumbo jumbo. He then explains that Gunter's intelligence and ability to talk come from "his electronium hat, which harnesses the power of sunspots to produce cognitive radiation."
  • Phineas and Ferb: ** The very first episode has them escaping earth's gravity, in a rollercoaster, because the Eiffel Tower flung them there like a slingshot.
    • Though interestingly, sometimes things will have a scientific basis, such as their plan to experience forty hours of sunlight by flying around the world in "Summer Belongs to You." Amusingly, this was the one time one of their friends decided to exhibit Arbitrary Skepticism—he may not understand their usual insane take on science, but he knows a day isn't that long!note 
    • In "Candace Gets Busted", Dr. Doofenshmirtz accidentally teleports a house full of people into his pants. Confused as to why his teleporter had that option, he realizes he mixed its wheel's setting up with his dry-cleaning wheel... which raises the question of why he has a dry-cleaning wheel.
    Doofenshmirtz (talking for the wheel): I am a dry-cleaning wheel. Why do I exist?
  • Sheep in the Big City:
    • One episode had a robot called "the plot device", leading to conversations like:
      Woman: How did you get here so fast?
      Major Minor: I used a plot device!
      Plot Device: (sticks head into view) Hello.
    • The sheep-powered ray gun, for which the Secret Military Organization needs Sheep, despite the fact that the farm from which he escaped was a sheep farm with at least 50 more. We don't know why, but the ray gun only works with one sheep and only if he's alive. There is Lampshade Hanging whenever anyone suggests to just make a ray gun with a power source other than sheep, but the idea always gets rejected.
  • Family Guy:
  • In The Tick vs. the Big Nothing, an alien ship has a device that enables it to travel at the speed of lint. Which is faster than light, because it's one of the first things you find in your pockets after you do your laundry.
    Interpreter: And how does it get there?
    Tick: Uh, I don't know.
    Interpreter: It's that fast!
  • In an episode of Tiny Toon Adventures, when Buster Bunny asked Calamity Coyote how the machine he created works, all he could say is that it works "with magic". Buster even comments on "the miracles of modern science".
  • In Hanna-Barbera's version of The Little Rascals, Pete is usually hitched in front of the Rascals' wooden carnote . But in at least three of the 35 shorts, Pete is a passenger in the car, and it isn't stated how the car is propelled.
  • Most of Holden's inventions in The Flamin' Thongs. He created a wormhole generator by placing a worm and a doughnut in a cement mixer and spinning the mixer at the speed of light, thereby fusing the worm and the doughnut into one entity. This somehow succeeded in creating a wormhole.
  • The Simpsons: In the episode "Don't Fear the Roofer", Homer gets his new friend Ray Magini to fix his roof. However, other people soon begin to postulate that Ray doesn't actually exist, since everyone who was with Homer when he spoke to Ray claimed not to have actually seen him. Thinking that Homer is delusional, his family takes him to the doctor, and after several treatments of painful therapy, Homer thinks he's back to sanity again. But then they find out that Ray was real all along, and that there were logical explanations as to why no one else saw him — except for one case where Bart couldn't see Ray even though he was in plain sight and should have been able to. Guest star Stephen Hawking then shows up and delivers the trope — a miniature black hole had appeared between Bart and Ray that absorbed the light from Ray so Bart couldn't see him.
  • In an episode of Cow and Chicken, Flem and Earl were seemingly stranded in the middle of an ocean, reminiscing on memories that didn't actually happen. In the end, it turns out they were stuck in their bathtub the entire time, suffering from "Steam Induced Amnesia." It's then lampshaded, as the Red Guy demonstrates it to the audience by intentionally breathing in steam which causes him to lose his memory and suddenly think he's Amelia Earhart.
  • In an episode of Krypto the Superdog, tiny aliens land on Earth to refuel their spaceship, the fuel in question being sugar. (And they're rather sickened to discover humans eat what is their equivalent of gasoline.)
  • The Mini-Munsters, an entry in ABC's Saturday Superstar Movie (1972-74), had the macabre family discovering their hearse runs on music instead of gasoline.

  • Isaac Asimov imagined a substance called Thiotimoline and made it the subject of a series of mock scientific papers which were written as if they were actual chemistry papers, the only giveaway being that they're about a chemical so soluble that it dissolves before water is added and it only gets sillier from there.
  • The tongue-in-cheek idea of building an anti-gravity or perpetual motion device by attaching a piece of buttered toast to a cat's back and dropping them from a height. According to the buttered cat paradox, the cat must land feet first and the toast must land butter side down, but both can't hit the ground at the same time. The "phenomenon" is illustrated to hilarious effect in this Brazilian energy drink ad.
  • Fantasy artist Robin Wood's "Theory of Cat Gravity": The sun has gravity in spades. Cats lie in the sun to absorb gravity. Cats then lie on their owners, using the stored gravity to pin them in place. This is why it's so hard to bring yourself to get up off the couch when a cat is lying on you.

Alternative Title(s): Fueled By Nonsensoleum, It Runs On Nonsensium, It Runs On Nonsenseoleum


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