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Readings Are Off the Scale

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"Lock On! 1, 10, 100, 1,000, 10,000, 100,000,000, 1,000,000,000,000, IMMEASURABLE! Kachidoki Charge!"
Finisher quote for DJ Gun Taiken Mode, Kamen Rider Gaim

The measurement instruments used by the heroes — whether it's a speedometer, a Power Level rater, or something else — can never actually measure the full scope of their subjects. Nor can they be recalibrated to expand that range at the cost of some loss of detail. When one encounters an especially intense situation, one can merely stare slack-jawed at their pegged, now-useless meter, and yell "Readings are off the scale!"

Presumably this is to allow writers to say something is astonishingly big or powerful, without having to make up the measuring units for Subspace Quantum Tachyon Emissions, or using a real value that is out of proportion to what would be sensible. Basically Up to Eleven taken, well, Up to Eleven.

In comedy genres, many Thing 'o Meters will tend to go off-scale, begin shaking violently, or even explode.

It should probably be noted that, as the Real Life Examples below indicate, in real life it's seldom as easy as just "recalibrating". At a certain point, any measuring device will eventually reach the limit of what it was designed to measure.

Seen in almost every Space Opera, as well as any series which involves Power Levels.

If you're using a chart, Off the Chart will be the case, too. Compare Readings Blew Up the Scale for a reading that's so far off the scale it will cause the device to suffer Explosive Instrumentation. Also compare to All of Them, for someone giving a 'verbal reading' that's off the normal scale. When this is applied to media reviews, it's Broke the Rating Scale.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Dragon Ball:
    • Characters working for Frieza have eyepieces called "Scouters" that measure ki, outputting it as a 'combat rating' (or 'power levels' in the dub), and if a low quality Scouter, like the ones used by Red Shirts, is used to measure a combat rating that is rising at a rate that the unit cannot handle, it'll explode. The higher-ups get ones that don't have this flaw, although Vegeta has a bad habit of crushing them anyway. At different points in the series, Raditz, Nappa, Jeice, and Androids 17 and 18 are each shocked at their opponent's power level as given by the Scouter, and they immediately dismiss their Scouter as flawed or broken. In the case of the androids, the scouter being used was the one built into Android 16. The Frieza Force learned their lesson by Dragon Ball Super: Broly, since the latest Scouters don't even bother trying to calculate battle power once it gets past a certain point and will just display dashes instead of numbers from then on. Considering the older models would literally blow up in peoples' faces, this could either be a safety precaution or a money-saving feature. Or both.
    • One filler scene in the anime involved the mooks on a different planet measuring the readings of Frieza and Goku... who were killed when the readings overload blew up the entire complex.
    • Toriyama admitted he did this intentionally, as he didn't like the hard-and-fast "this character is more powerful than that one by this amount" logic. This is shown in the story where, right off the bat, the ability to lower one's ki and fool the Scouter constantly flat-foots everyone who relies on them, proving that you can't use them to judge an opponent and that technique can win over strength. Scouters were eventually phased out because the ever-increasing power levels would have made for ever-increasingly stupid sounding numbers: Frieza's was at least 1,000,000 and he's followed up by multiple villains who are many, many higher than that. According to Ryusei Nakao (Frieza's Japanese VA), Frieza's power level in his golden form in Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection 'F' is 100 quintillion.note 
    • Toriyama himself engaged in a little of this regarding Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods by using tiers, saying that on a scale of 1 to 10, Super Saiyan God Goku is a 6 and God of Destruction Beerus is a 10. Beerus' retainer and mentor, Whis, is a 15, and we're later introduced to two characters who Whis admits even he wouldn't stand a chance against: the Grand Minister, said to be among the top 5 most powerful fighters in all existence, and Zen'o, the Top God who is stated to capable of ending all 12 universes in an instant if he wanted.
    • Codename: Kids Next Door spoofs this part of Dragon Ball Z in a skewed "Rashomon"-Style episode. In Numbah 4's telling of the pizza delivery, it is a spoof of Dragon Ball Z, down to transformations and Ki balls (or rather, bubblegum bubbles). During the scene where he is continually being zapped by The Delightful Children From Down The Lane (as a multi-headed Frieza no less):
      Numbah 4: "Their power levels... are off... the charts! I'm really gonna have to get some... bigger charts...!"
    • Gintama also spoofs with a device called Spouzer, which rates power levels in units of kelp and boobs. The Spouzer shatters after evaluating two characters suffering from some sort of old-age-causing biological attack thingy, rating them at power levels of under negative 9000 and dropping.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion:
    • In one episode, Lt. Ibuki uses this trope directly ("All our meters and gauges are going off the scale!") when trying to recover Unit-01 and Shinji.
    • Misato finally addresses this trope in one of the last few episodes:
      Maya: Yet, I can't believe it. I mean, it's impossible on this system.
      Misato: Nevertheless, it's a fact. We must accept the fact and then investigate the cause.
    • In Rebuild of Evangelion it's not so much a matter of going beyond measurable values as exceeding safety thresholds; the "negative values" of plug depth indicate the pilot has moved out of safe depths in the plug and into the zone where "contamination" is a major concern. Unit-02's beast mode also causes all readings to go haywire and Unit-01's destruction of its limiters allows it to "transcend all human reason."
    • Plug depths actually have a limitation on how high they can go. It's labeled "The Great Beyond Depth"; one can only assume things don't go well for the pilot there.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann:
    • This line is used in the opening where Simon faces down an armada with an impossibly large size: The fleet size is "off the charts". The opening fades out as he orders the attack.
    • In the show itself, the gauge our heroes use for measuring their spiral energy is designed to handle large values: It's a logarithmic scale, which first spirals outward in one color, then switches to another color and spirals outward again, and repeats this as much as is necessary. In the final episode, after Lordgenome's Heroic Sacrifice and absorbing the energy worth of The Big Bang, the gauge switches immediately to a never-before-seen rainbow color, spirals out to the maximum, and then the glass covering shatters and it keeps increasing onto empty air, in plain defiance of all logic and common sense. In other words, spiral power went off the scale on a scale that was designed to measure things that go off the scale.
  • In Episode 2 of Vividred Operation, after Rei powers up the first Alone, one of the Bridge Bunnies at Blue Island HQ exclaims that the empowered Alone's energy levels have exceeded their gauges' limits and can no longer be measured.
  • In an episode of MM!, new character Noa is trying to harness "pervert energy", which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin, energy related to the level of a person's perversion. She measures this energy from Taro while he's being tortured and is utterly astonished. Taro's later told that his insanely massive pervert power is what allowed Noa to proceed with her evil plan. What follows gradually turns into yet another Dragon Ball Z parody.
  • In Diebuster, the Buster Machine Quatre-Vingt-Dix uses a physics-breaking Exotic Maneuver to freeze enemies at -1,000,020,000,000 Celsius. Note that absolute zero (the coldest possible temperature, at which all molecular motion stops and thermal energy is nonexistent) is about -273 degrees Celsius. You cannot, ever, go colder than this.
  • In Space Runaway Ideon, the crew of the Solo Ship head back to Earth to use the most advanced computer on the planet to try and calculate the eponymous mecha's potential output. Needless to say, they're all shocked when the readout points to literal infinity. Quickly, they begin to worry about the fact that a release of that kind of energy at once could destroy the universe. The computer wasn't exaggerating....
  • Pokémon:
    • In the FireRed/LeafGreen saga of Pokémon Adventures, Orm uses the Dark Pokédex to gauge the power of Yellow's Pokémon and laughs at their low levels. And then Yellow's Viridian Power kicks in, sending the numbers over the eighties, effectively freaking him and Sird out to the point that they know better than to try to fight her head-on. (Technically still on the scale, but the suddenness of the spike has the same effect that going off it would.)
    • In Episode 22 of Pokémon the Series: Black & White, one of Professor Juniper's assistants mentions that the energy readings they're getting are off the scale.
  • In Umineko: When They Cry, where gods are hard-pressed to even reach the last measured digit in magic resistance, meta-Battler's resistance is maxed out at "Endless Nine", as the Siestas discover to their horror after they try to shoot him. It makes sense his Anti-Magic is at endless nine. He's Anti-Magic incarnate, thanks to his position in the game as "Magic cannot exist." Also note that this reading was taken during his high point; in the previous arcs he's a bit less of a determinator and in later arcs, he begins to accept the existence of magic and even gets to be Beatrice Endless Sorcerer. Though that doesn't stop him from no-selling Featherine's entire honor guard of main-character mages' spell-storm in EP8. Seems like once he reaches the truth, he can toggle it at will. Or maybe just when he's protecting someone.
  • In Baka and Test: Summon the Beasts, during a Furo Scene in the anime adaptation, Shimada examines several other girls' breasts with size-detecting heat vision. One... generously endowed character causes the numbers to max out.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Seto Kaiba's computer control panels nearly exploded when Kaiba powered up his Infinity +1 Card, Obelisk the Tormentor. A bit peculiar considering that Obelisk was a hologram with no physical presence whose model, animations, and statistics were probably programmed into a Duel Disk with computers probably not too far off from the ones used to gauge its power level. And given that each card's statistics had to be programmed into the Duel Disk to begin with, it's not so clear why Kaiba needed to monitor any monster's power levels at all.
    • The dub of the Duelist Kingdom arc has Tea saying (in an awestruck voice) "Blue-eyes Ultimate Dragon's Attack Power is off the charts!" The card in question has 4500 ATK and at this point in the game and show normal Blue-eyes' 3000 ATK was considered overwhelming, so the reaction was justified.
    • In Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, Amon becomes wise to Professor Cobra's plan to kill him by increasing the power to his D-Belt; so Amon sabotages Cobras equipment so that the same thing happens to everyone's D-Belt and then throwing a party where dueling is involved. (Amon realizes that Cobra will be forced to abort the plan, lest every student in the school die as a result, something he would never get away with.) The result is an Oh, Crap! from Cobra as readings on his equipment goes haywire, followed by him panicking as he tries to shut the system down.
  • In Ties That Bind, the companion movie to Street Fighter IV, Ryu's Satsui no Hadou is the target of Seth and SIN. The first time he's provoked into using his power, the power gauge the scientists are reading max at ...999999999999999 (the camera angle obscures the start of the number, but it's big). In the final battle, he manages to control the Satsui no Hadou, and we get a shot of the equipment rolling over from ...999999999999999 to ...000000000000000.
    • Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie has a more subdued example, where a similar reading of Ryu rated his fighting potential at 3620. That number may sound reasonable, but M. Bison's lead scientist believes that the reading must be wrong because only the most powerful martial artists can break 2000, so 3000+ is off the scale.
  • In the first Sakura Wars OVA the developers of the spirit armor are having trouble finding someone who is able to pilot it. After their latest military pilot nearly kills himself trying to operate the mech, the scientists comment that they need to find someone who can move the gauge on the spirit-power-measuring-thingy. They idly flip it on in the presence of the granddaughter of the chief scientist (and daughter of the owner of the company), and the gauge, of course, promptly overloads and breaks.
  • In Guilty Crown the protagonists find a Void-o-meter, to detect the level of power someone has both when they use their own Void and when someone else uses theirs. Most people rank around one hundred, with three hundred being on the higher end. For Inori, it slowly spirals up to two thousand before giving up and just declaring "OVER."
  • When the main Zentraedi fleet shows up in Earth's orbit in Super Dimension Fortress Macross/Robotech, everyone there understandably has an Oh, Crap! moment, and one of the characters mentions that due to the sheer volume of ships (5 million of them), their radar can't even keep up with it all.
  • Bleach:
    • The final arc opens with panic in the 12th Division as the Shutara Scale measurements break down. The Scale is supposed to measure the Balance of Souls between all the worlds, but a sudden upsurge in Hollow soul destruction sends the Scale off the charts. The Shinigami comment that the Scale simply isn't designed to handle so much destruction in such a short period of time, announcing the resurgence of the allegedly almost-extinct Quincies.
    • The Quincy invasion of Soul Society manifests as multiple powerful pillars of light. The 12th Division struggles to analyse them because the amount of raw power makes it hard to calibrate the instruments. They briefly get a clear reading to confirm the enemy is definitely Quincy before the attackers step out of the pillars and nearly half of the Gotei 13 is decimated within just a few short minutes. The measurements break down completely.
  • NG Knight Lamune & 40, the main robot King Sccrusher runs on a Hot-Blooded meter, and it can use a Limit Break when the gauge goes off a scale. Since this is a traditional shonen anime, the meter goes off the scale every episode.
  • In Fairy Tail's Grand Magic Games arc, Cana Alberona, armed with Fairy Glitter, has a much greater magic level than everybody else, much to everybody's amazement. The magic-measuring device stopped at 9999 because that was as far as it went... and because she completely vaporized the thing in the process.
  • The final episode of Sentou Yousei Yukikaze has so many JAM clustered around the Passageway that the sensor officers in the FAF fleet simply give up trying to count them. It's very justified, considering that the planet Faery is breaking up and revealing that it is built out of countless JAM.
  • Toriko does this with its Capture Level system. For example, capture level of 5 and above is immune to conventional weapons. The strongest beasts in the human world range between capture level 91-99. However in the Gourmet World it goes off the scale with creatures regularly getting levels of over 100. The first beast Toriko even encounters is the Breath Dragon with a capture level of 219. The strongest capture level is the Meat Dish of Acacia's Full Course GOD... 10,000.
  • Naruto:
    • This happens with the Ten Tails. When the Ten Tails finally appears, Kurama, the Nine Tails, tells Naruto that trying to measure the Ten Tails' chakra levels is pointless. Naruto goes into Sage mode, allowing him to sense the Ten Tails's Chakra, and is almost blown back by it, and we're given a visual of how much it has: It's depicted as a Planet. This is later taken further as the Ten Tails turns into its second form and, back at the Shinobi Alliance headquarters, an entire second sphere of chakra is created as a result of the mutation, symbolized as a planet appearing, and making it, in just its second form, have enough chakra to rival every living thing on the planet. And it just gets stronger from there.
    • Taken Up To Eleven with the appearance of Kaguya. While it's already hinted that Kaguya is extremely strong (so strong that the Sage of Six Paths himself, her own son, says that he's nothing compared to her), when she finally ressurrects herself, Naruto again attempts to measure her chakra. She has so much that She dwarfs the aforementioned Ten Tails. So she essentially dwarfs a being so powerful it was at that point stronger then every other being on earth combined!
  • YuYu Hakusho: In the Three Kings arc, a bunch of Raizen's old training buddies come out of seclusion to pay respects and join the new tournament. They collectively flex their energy to "see if they've still got it," and Yomi's strategist's energy-reading device goes off the scale before it breaks. Miles away from the energy source.
  • In [C] – Control, there are three levels of attack an Asset can use: Microflation is the weakest, Mezzoflation is medium and Macroflation is the highest. For attacks of Mezzo level and above, a digitized announcer calls out the name and level of those attacks when used. When the ungodly powerful Q uses her Signature Move Cannibalization, the announcer is unable to determine its level and stutters:
  • In I Went to School to be a Swordswoman, But My Magical Aptitude is 9999 the nine-year old heroine Rola is assessed when she joins a prestigious Academy for adventurers by touching a magic crystal. While she shows strong initial ratings on her physical stats, her ratings for the six different magic types are each 9,999. For comparison, the great sage who founded the school, a heroine from 130 years ago, had ratings in the 3,000 to 6,000 range. It is even said the crystal simply maxes out at 9,999 and her true abilities could be even higher.
  • Early on in My Hero Academia, the members of Class 1-A are given several tests to assess their physical abilities and Quirks, including one where they have to throw a ball as far as possible. Uraraka uses her anti-gravity Quirk on the ball and it just floats away, never to return, so her score is recorded as "Infinity".
  • Most Stands in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure are rated from A to E on various parameters, but a couple break the scale entirely, having either "infinite" or "null" written in their entries. Sometimes it's self-explanatory (Notorious B.I.G. has Complete Immortality and isn't connected to its user, so it gets infinite Range and Persistence), and other times it's just because trying to put the Stand on any kind of scale is impossible (how do you grade the destructive power of cursing a person to experience death for eternity?), which is especially common with Reality Warper-type Stands.
  • The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. in one episode the characters all have a physical examination. When Kusuo is tested on a device that reads a person's grip strength, he squeezes too hard due to his poor control of his Super Strength and it shows an extremely high rating. He hides this by squeezing even harder so the meter loops all the way around past the maximum and zero, so it looks like he got a low result.
  • Beastars: Oguma, on his deathbed, reveals that he really does love Louis by explaining that he calculates the monetary value of his relationships with everyone that he knows, but when he tries to calculate the price of his relationship with Louis, the only person he loves, his calculator only returns an error message.

    Comic Books 
  • Lampshaded in an issue of Fantastic Four:
    Mr. Fantastic: Power is right off the readouts...
    Human Torch: So I'm guessing bigger readouts wouldn't help? Like that amp in Spinal Tap that goes Up to Eleven?
  • In Cable & Deadpool issue #15, Black Box has Deadpool hooked up to some equipment that's monitoring him and showing Black Box his thoughts. After some observation, Black Box notes that Deadpool's ferocity and skills are off the charts.
    Black Box: Clowns. He is too funny. But his ferocity—his skills—are off the charts. I should know...I've charted them all.
  • Lampshaded in an issue of First Comics' Humongous Mecha series Dynamo Joe:
    Pomru: The readings are off the scale! If we get outta this we're gonna need a bigger scale!
  • In X-23: Innocence Lost, Rice uses this to describe X-23's intellect and physical fitness when she's seven years old.
  • Ultimate FF: Sam tried to get readings of the mutated workers inside the dome, to no avail.

    Fan Works 
  • In Blood of the Phoenix after Harry fights a fifth-year dueling dummy, two sixth-year dummies and a seventh-year dummy during a school dueling competition and beats them all, his name is listed so far up the enchanted scoreboard that Ginny Weasley is technically in first place.
  • Child of the Storm: the sheer scale of Jean Grey's Psychic Powers and by extension, those of her twin sister, Maddie are noted more than once to blow every single pre-existing scale. Harry is the only one hanging in even approximately the same neighbourhood and with sufficient creativity, can fight Maddie for an extended period... but only while making damn sure to stay out of her reach, and he once remarks that he's the Moon to Jean's Sun - far closer than literally everyone else, but still far, far behind.
  • In White, when measuring the Arrancars' power to determine the Espada, Ichigo's reading is simply "error" from how powerful he is.
  • In The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World, Cirda of the “Terrible Trio” finds that power-scanning three of the four jams her scanner needle at the top. However, she can't determine anything else about their power because earlier she had cannibalized that functionality to ensure that her scanner would be able to sense things through the masks that nearly everyone wears. Sadly for her, the four don't have masks yet, so the cannibalism was unnecessary.
    • John overhears Cirda scream the exact "over Nine Thousand" lines from Dragon Ball Z. From then on, the four ironically refer to themselves as being “Nine Thousands” whenever they talk about going up against someone, or they need to complete a difficult task. They even gain a Share Phrase:
    No, wait, John said, a note of weary but evil craft in his mental voice. They should know what hit 'em. Teach 'em not to fuck with Nine Thousands.
  • Meta Example: Put My Immortal into Microsoft Word, and it will bring up an error message saying that there's so many mistakes that it can't correct them.
  • Dragon Ball Abridged:
    • Subverted in this dialogue:
      Nappa: VEGETA! What does the Scouter say about his Power Level?
      Vegeta: IT'S... one thousand and six.
      Nappa: What... really?
      Vegeta: Yeah. Kick his ass, Nappa.
      Nappa: Yay!
      [Nappa proceeds to get his ass kicked]
      Vegeta: Hmmmm... that doesn't seem right. Wait, wait wait wait... Nappa!
      Nappa: Whaaaaaat?
      Vegeta: I had the Scouter upside down. It's over 9000. [crushes Scouter] Rawr.
    • Parodied in a video released before they finished that episode.
      Nappa: VEGETA! What does the Scouter say about the Subscriber Count?
      Vegeta: IT'S... nine thousand and ten.
      Nappa: Wait, so you mean...
      Vegeta: Yes Nappa, it's...
      Nappa: It's!
      Vegeta: It's over!
      Nappa: It's over!!
      Nappa: WHAT EIGHT ... wait, what? Vegeta, you didn't do it right!
      Vegeta: Yes I did Nappa. Yes. I. Did.
    • Parodied once more during the battle with Freeza, when the overlord's scouter tries to measure Vegeta's power after the saiyan had gone through several zenkai boosts. After a few seconds of trying, the scouter displays "F**K THIS I'M OUT" and then explodes.
  • In the Worm/Hazbin Hotel crossover WannaBee, Clack gets a surprise when Taylor Hebert, upon getting her sins measured, actually manages to max out the Sin-O-Meter.
  • In The Worm That Dorks, during the Quirk Assessment Test, Izuku accidentally breaks off the handle of the grip tester. Aizawa marks down his grip strength as "Yes".
  • In the first chapter of Quantity of Quirks, Izuku's Quirk Assessment results are marked as "Yes" for grip strength, long jump, and distance running. The first because he broke the machine; the last two because he can fly.
  • In It's An Unliving, the Self-Insert Black Lantern has a timer built into his power ring that states how much time he has remaining before his ring is shut downnote . The timer maxes out at 640 hours and killing evil people fills the timer. A random serial killer earned him an hour. Lex Luthor earned twenty four hours. And Ra's al Ghul earned 213 hours. When he kills Vandal Savage, he's informed that the timer only gained 282 hours and the remaining 17,843 hours are available to use for alternative usagenote .
  • In A Green Dragon's Hoard: Momo technically gets first place on the Quirk Assessment, but only because Izuku's scores were all so high that Nemuri simply wrote down "Yes" for each one.
  • The Rigel Black Chronicles: Magical power coefficients for alchemy are measured using a color scale, with black as the minimum (and thus strongest) of 1.0. However, Dumbledore's coefficient is 0.97. Apparently it took a lot of trial and error to calculate.
    Dumbledore: My first six months, all my arrays exploded. Nicolas was quite displeased with the destruction I wreaked on his workshop.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Das Boot, when everything is going to hell and the submarine is stuck on the ocean floor, the depth gauge is far past its last marking (260 meters). 260 meters is already way past the point where the navy originally expected the hull to be crushed and destroyed. The manufacturer's warranty extended only to 90 meters.
  • Implied in Ghostbusters.
    • The PKE meter (handheld device used to measure ghost activity) seems to only have three readings: "Zero," "Pegged," and "Blown Up." When we see it used, it only seems to go "active" when a ghost is within visual range, so it's only slightly better than, say, looking.
    • The 2009 video game shows the PKE meter in better detail. The "antenna" on the meter rise higher the closer the meter is to a spectral entity, regardless of power. The bars in the middle are kind of a "hot-cold" mechanic for pinpointing a hidden ghost or cursed object. There's more to it than that, as Ray and Egon both comment on the readings, noting things that are non-obvious, but for the rookie Ghostbuster (that's you), it's just a ghost locator.
  • The Fifth Element: Temperature probes sent to absolute evil jam, one at a million degrees, the other at minus 5000. A bit later, Leeloo's DNA is described as having hundreds of different bases.note 
  • In The Phantom Menace, Anakin Skywalker's midi-chlorian level is said to be "off the charts" and "over twenty thousand." It's not entirely clear whether this means that they could only measure them up to twenty thousand, or that a little over twenty thousand was the actual count but unprecedentedly high, even Master Yoda doesn't have that much.
  • Midway through Forbidden Planet, we are shown a power gauge consisting of a (very large) number of lighted displays, each of which shows ten times the amperage of the previous one. (Think of it as a decimal display with a whole lotta digits.) What the protagonists consider a large power output barely registers as a blip on the first gauge. Naturally, by the end of the film, we see the whole panel lit up (and flashing!).
  • The energy readings of the reactor in Antarctica are off the scale to Nite Owl's Owlship in Watchmen.
  • Whiteout has a particularly ridiculous example, where someone says that the radar went off the charts. Given that radar isn't actually used to measure anything, how it can go "off the charts" is a mystery.
  • Star Trek (2009) uses it twice, most bizarrely for James Kirk's attribute tests (there's no way to score very high scorers?). Either that or "Off the charts" is used as Federation slang for "Really friggin' high": a fact which would explain an awful lot.
  • Inverted in the Soviet sci-fi film Moscow — Cassiopeia, where an accident (a guy sitting on a console) results in their relativistic ship accelerating beyond the speed of light in just a few seconds. The Captain notes this on the console readout, which shows the rising speed bar. Forgetting the fact that accelerating beyond the speed of light is impossible without some sort of Applied Phlebotinum, there'd be no way for any device to measure translight speeds (although you could still put the numbers on the scale just for the hell of it). The crew passes out and wakes up to find that they have arrived at their destination, while everyone on Earth has aged several decades, which seems to indicate that they did not, in fact, travel faster than light but merely approached the speed of light, causing Time Dilation. Given that the captain is still a teenager, it can be forgiven if he incorrectly gauged the speed.
    • According to the ship's name/acronym ZARYa (means "dawn"), the "R" standads for "relativistic", meaning the ship is actually designed to go to a significant percentage of the speed of light. The star in question is a real one; over 200 light years away, but with the Time Dilation, the teens were expected to only age about 20 years (requiring 90%+ lightspeed). Instead, they got into some Negative Space Wedgie, making it 20+ years on Earth, a couple minutes for them, and definitely FTL.
  • Bomba says this in one scene in Epic (2013).
  • In the original A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), Nancy has her dreams monitored by a brain-scan. The doctor notes that a "really intense" nightmare would read about seven...then watches in disbelief as it goes to 10, 15, 30...
  • In This Island Earth, Joe tells Cal about a strange bead-like device that blew up their equipment after giving off an amazing amount of power. Cal muses on this, realizing they could use it to generate enough power to power an entire town by itself with it.
  • In Godzilla vs. Destoroyah, they say this about the level of radiation Godzilla is emitting.
  • In Ultraviolet (2006), a computer scans Violet and tries to count how many weapons she has in her Hyperspace Arsenal. It eventually gives up and says "Many" in a surprised tone of voice.
  • Queen of Outer Space. After the rocketship crashlands on Venus, the crew note that the speedometer's needle is at the far end of the scale at 100 miles per second — they can only speculate how fast they might actually have been traveling.
  • In Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019), it's stated that King Ghidorah is hiding within the eye of a Category 6 tropical storm. In reality, there's no such thing as a Category 6 storm, since Category 5 encompasses all possible readings above Category 4 (although you could interpret it as the characters simply saying "Category 6" to aptly communicate that the cyclone is impossibly big).

  • Despite their phenomenally polymorphic instrumentation and interface, sensors on Star Trek are especially prone to this fatal weakness. This is lampshaded in the Star Trek: New Frontier book Being Human:
    Soleta: Readings are off the scale.
    McHenry: They're always off the scale. We just have to install bigger scales.
  • Funny inversion in Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman: The temperature at the evil sigil during the Apocalypse is never measured correctly. The machines put it at either -150 or +350 degrees. Both are correct, 'cuz that's the temperature in Hell.
  • Discworld:
    • The Last Continent uses a thaumometer, that measures magical energy. Sure enough, it melts when it detects a magical field of over a million thaums (in this case, caused by the creation of a new continent).
    • While not strictly "off the scale," as it continued to measure as intended, the resograph of Moving Pictures (which detects distortions in reality) was at one point spitting out a burst of eleven small lead pellets every few minutes. Unfortunately, the wizards who found it in the back of a storeroom didn't know what it was supposed to be measuring or what the number of pellets and the interval between dispensing them meant until they dug up the operating manual some time later, at which point it turned out that a "really serious" distortion in reality would make it cough up two pellets. Per month. The moment when he figures this out is one of the few times Ponder Stibbons, Unseen University's "token sane person", skips over "This Is Gonna Suck" and goes straight to "Oh, Crap!".
  • Comes up once in The Corellian Trilogy. Note that said detectors were good up to over 500° Celsius.
    C-3PO: —and there are probably temperatures much higher than that, except the detectors are not there any more to tell us.
  • In Ender's Game, this is said about Bean's intelligence. He scored near-perfectly on all their aptitude tests (save physical abilities, given his age), but had also included notes in the margins pointing out mistakes the test-makers had made when writing them and making suggestions for improving the tests. The instructors decide that Bean's intellect is so great that their tests cannot accurately measure it, and therefore they can't be sure of his true limits.
    • Essentially, he has no upper limit on his intelligence, due to the nature of the genetic engineering he underwent as a fetus (he lacks the normal inhibitors that slow down neural development after infancy, but also the ones which tell his body to stop trying to grow when he reached adult size).
    • It's pointed out several times that Bean is much smarter than Ender, but Ender is a natural commander, while Bean is more of a strategist (i.e. no one would follow Bean).
    • This also occurs with the final battle at the Formic homeworld. There are so many Formic warships in orbit that the computer can't track them all, leading to the edges of the radar constantly dropping and picking up readings.
  • Occurs in the Lensman series - but only a very few times. The Lensman Arms Race applies to sensors and recorders there as well as to other systems. When the readings do go off the scale, it's impressive. "Those beams were hot - plenty hot. These recorders go up to five billion and have a factor of safety of ten. Even that wasn't anywhere near enough - everything in the recorder circuits blew." The most extreme instance was when a Faster Than Light meteor was pulled from another dimension and sent into a star. No gauge, chart, or screen could properly record what happened at that point. Everything pegged out, whited out, etc. Incidentally, this marked the end of the Lensman Arms Race; the finale of the series occurs shortly after because this was already Apocalypse How levels; if they didn't act fast, the galaxy would go next.
  • Hermione from Harry Potter has done exceedingly well on tests, ranging from 113% to 320%. That was muggle studies. One can only assume that being raised as a muggle, she knew infinitely more about it than even the professor.
  • In Warbreaker, there is a passing mention of the amount of breaths that a Returned had registering as infinite to Vivenna. This may have been a mistake, as it was referring not to the God King, but to a normal Returned, which would only be about four times more than Vivenna herself. This is because Returned don't have two thousand Breaths, they have one Divine Breath that's two thousand times stronger than a normal Breath. This odd situation throws off Vivenna's senses a little, especially since she's never practiced using the Breath-sense before.
  • This is why it took so long to discover that the dinosaurs were breeding in Jurassic Park. The program that kept track of the population was set with the expected number as its upper limit, because everyone believed the dinosaurs were incapable of breeding. They assumed everything was all right as long as the population didn't drop. It was only when Ian Malcolm told them to re-program the counter with a higher number that it was proven that the dinosaurs were breeding. (in the film, this doesn't occur, Alan discovers a dinosaur nest in the field.)
  • In The Girl from the Miracles District, after Kosma scans Nikita's magic signature, he's horrified to see that practically all of it is the berserk spirit, with almost no space on the scanner to show all the rest.
  • Iron Widow: The legendary Chrysalis pilot Qin Zheng's spirit pressure was too great to be measured by the technology of his era. On top of that, he could control all five forms of qi interchangeably, while most people are limited to one or two.
  • In Jean Johnson's Theirs Not to Reason Why, there are devices which measure psychic abilities (telepathy, telekinesis, etc) on a scale of 0 (no ability) to 20 (highest known rating of any ability from any person ever measured). There is a second device which suppresses psychic abilities, which is discovered to be by a factor of 4 (so a rating of 12 would show as a measurement of 3 when the suppressor is interfering with the person being tested). Ia has several of her abilities tested, and they eventually rate her power level as 84: with the suppressor running and reducing her ability by x4, she showed a measurement of 21...
  • The Black Magician Trilogy: The position of High Lord in Imardin's Wizarding School goes to the strongest mage, which is tested by measuring how long the applicant's Mana reserves can withstand an assault by twenty senior mages. Akkarin defeated all twenty at once instead. This is an early sign that he uses the Vampiric Draining of Black Magic to boost his power to otherwise impossible heights.
  • Arifureta: From Commonplace to World's Strongest: The Role-Playing Game 'Verse of Tortus features items called "status plates" that describe the stats and abilities of their owners. Hajime Nagumo starts as a Level 1 Synergist, but by the time he finishes the Great Orcus Labyrinth, becoming a Phlebotinum Muncher in the process, his status plate gives up the ghost, displaying his level as "???".
  • In the manga oneshot, , the main character, Mieko has a power that determines how much affection someone has for her. A score of 0-20 is for people who aren't interested in her, 21-40 is for acquaintances, 41-60 is for friends, 61-80 is for best friends or those who admire her, and 81-100 is for those who love her romantically. When her best friend has a "∞" score, despite having a 68 before, Mieko is disappointed, mistaking the ∞ for an 8 and hoping to work hard so that her friend will like her again.
  • Chakona Space: During chapter 7 of Tales of the Folly, a few Chakats have some fun. When they finish, they are subjected to being rated by the rest of the crew and passengers of the Folly. Most give average scores, but one of the scorecards is marked "HOLY #%#^^$$!!". Later, in chapter 9, a pair who didn't realize they were quite so noisy get busy after work and affect all on board. Afterward, they are greeted by everyone holding the "HOLY #%#^^$$!!" card. Neal lampshades this when he comments: "We sometimes find the scale we’re using isn’t quite large enough for what we’re trying to measure."
    • Earlier in the same series, a small fleet of Starfleet's finest encounter the Folly. The sensor tech on one of the ships is having trouble believing the readings being sent to his systems.
      Sensor Tech Carson: "Well, for one thing, your passive scans are ‘showing’ non-powered objects at five times the range my sensors could, and the couple of times your people went active my display wouldn’t scale far enough out to see what they were looking at!"
  • How Not to Summon a Demon Lord: There is a mirror that measures people's Power Levels. When Diablo tries it, he's too powerful, so it malfunctions and shuts down.

    Live-Action TV 
  • American Restoration: A foot x-ray machine (known to be a big radiation leakage source to begin with) is brought in to be restored. A radiation specialist is brought in to see if/how badly this one leaks. He turns it on and it leaks more radiation than Chernobyl. His detector doesn't read high enough to properly quantify the extent of the leakage. It is worth noting here that the restorers promptly removed the X-Ray tube from the machine and rebuilt it with a simulation which projected a photographic x-ray negative onto a screen instead of using real x-rays.
  • A quick gag in season 4 of Arrested Development has Dr. Norman tell George Sr. that the latter's testosterone levels are off the scale. Then he clarifies that they are below the scale.
  • Babylon 5 used off-the-scale readings as shorthand for the equivalent of Wooden Ships and Iron Men spotting a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. The rest of the time they're just fine as-is.
    • In the short-lived sequel series to Babylon 5, Crusade, Captain Gideon subverted the trope the first time it appeared by ordering that the sensors for the Excalibur be recalibrated so that the readings were back on the scale. Given that they are adventuring out on the frontier, they run into that kind of all the freaking time, and he'd like to know if the ship's Wave-Motion Gun might actually work on that particular target.
  • The Big Bang Theory's Doctor Sheldon Cooper claims at one point that his IQ "cannot be accurately measured." This is in fact an issue with extremely high IQs. Pretty much all IQ tests produce increasingly unreliable results for results higher than 145-148 due to the fact that there's generally not a large enough sample to normalize them properly.
  • Chernobyl: Happens three times in a row before the characters can get an accurate scale. Played deadly serious, since they're measuring radiation.
    • The explosion of Reactor #4 is read by the workers' dosimeters as 3.6, which is the highest they can go (the plant's actual heavy-duty dosimeter was destroyed when the reactor blew up, which is why they're working with such small ones). It's pretty obvious to everyone that this is not actually the correct number and is a bit low for an exposed reactor core, but unfortunately Dyatlov, Bryukhanov, and Fomin are either deeply in denial or desperately trying to cover it up, so they report 3.6 as the accurate number. During the initial meeting in Moscow, Legasov points out that this was likely "the number they had" to justify his suspicions that the disaster is far worse than the Chernobyl higher-ups are letting on.
    • Later, a dosimeter that went up to 1000 roentgens was outright fried by the radiation.
    • A 200 roentgen dosimeter survived, but also reported the radiation as the highest it could go.
    • Finally, the characters receive a heavy-duty dosimeter and Pikalov goes up to the core in a lead-lined truck to get an accurate reading of 15,000 roentgens, the equivalent of two Little Boys per hour, confirming the true scale of the disaster. And in real life, it is suspected that that dosimeter maxed out too.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The number of lifeforms in "Silence in the Library" registers over a million million,note  before the scanner even gives up trying.
      The Doctor: A million million lifeforms... and silence in the library...
    • In "Planet of the Dead", a UNIT scientist named Malcolm explains to the Doctor that he's named a measurement after himself, which he's using to chart the size of the wormhole.note  This leads to a large Oh, Crap! when he realises that the wormhole is growing.
      Malcolm: It's the wormhole, Doctor, it's getting bigger! We've gone way past 100 Bernards; I haven't invented a name for that!
    • "The Pandorica Opens": River uses some kind instrument to detect that there are "at least ten thousand" warships in orbit above planet earth. When Amy pesters her for a more accurate number, she says that there are too many readings for her detector to measure.
    • "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS": Salvager and looter Gregor Van Baalen uses a computerized scanner to assess the value of the TARDIS. "Everything". Price tag? "Total sum of all currency insufficient". Though that's actually an honest answer, since the TARDIS has the ability to produce practically anything else one could ask for and is itself irreplaceable.
  • The Goodies. In one episode it becomes so hot the thermometer squirts mercury in someone's face when they go to look at it.
  • In an episode of How Clean is Your House?, Aggie tells a smoker that the carbon monoxide levels in her living room were right off the scale.
  • The page quote comes from Kamen Rider Gaim. When he performs certain attacks, the power is added up in multiples of ten, sometimes ending up at 100,000 or 1,000,000. When using Kachidoki/Triumphant Arms (he gets a super-er mode later, but at the time it's the most powerful thing ever, able to contend with swarms of enemies. And that super-er mode is, in fact, at its best when using Kachidoki Arms' weapon!) and activates a finisher he's using for the first time in the big team-up with Ressha Sentai ToQger, it goes up over a trillion before the Computer Voice gives up, declaring its power level immeasurable.
  • Knight Rider: K.I.T.T. had a top speed that approached 300 mph ... and several times, Michael Knight drove the car that speed (always accomplished through film speed techniques), usually racing to catch a criminal or avert a potentially deadly situation ... such as the time Knight needed to (very quickly) transport a nuclear bomb to a desert location before it exploded. In the example, K.I.T.T. easily outran several state patrol troopers – the first one reported that the car was traveling at speeds "off the clock" and crashed (at blinding speed) through a road block.
  • In the Lost episode "The Incident", Dharma is drilling into the island's electromagnetic pocket. Dr. Chang notes that the Gauss readings are off the scale. (This magnet is known to be strong enough to crash a plane.)
  • A comedic version from The Munsters - when Lily was asked what Herman's weight was, she replied "three spins". When asked for clarification, she said that when he stepped on the scale, the needle spun around three times.
  • Occasionally, the MythBusters will get results that go above and beyond any sort of measurement available to them. In one notable instance, they managed to completely max out a G-force accelerometer with a rating above its maximum value of 500 G, or five hundred times the force of gravity; this device had previously recorded numbers in the 160 G range, already considerably more than necessary to kill a human being. 500 G is around five times the lethal baseline of G-forces for humans, and they still managed to produce more force than even that unpleasantly high number. However, the best way to tell that the Mythbusters have gone off their known scales is to wait for Stunned Silence from Adam.
  • When the White Dino Gem reveals itself in Power Rangers: Dino Thunder, Tommy tells the other Rangers that the energy readings are higher than his equipment can track.
  • In Star Trek: "The Corbomite Maneuver", the mass of a starship only one mile across was off the scale, according to Spock. One wonders how he measured the mass of, oh, planets or moons.
    • Either the starship had a ludicrously dense hull, or the Enterprise's sensors just weren't designed to measure the mass of anything substantially larger than itself.
    • It's more sensible to assume that the mass for a starship a mile across was wildly out of proportion to what it should be for a vessel that size.
    • In "Operation: Annihilate!" the meter on Spock's biobed measuring pain drifts straight to the top and stays there. Implying that it simply can't measure any higher.
      • Another episode has a more humorous take on that, where Spock lies on the bed and the readers immediately go haywire, including at least one needle leaping to the highest point and staying there. Spock then points out that these are normal readings for a Vulcan and, since the biobed was calibrated for humans when he laid on it, he triggered almost every life support alarm the system had.
  • Averted in Star Trek: Enterprise, where a device designed to measure the age of metal happily shows a negative number when used on parts from the future. (Presumably the device can measure the effect the universal background radiation had on the forging process, or somesuch technobabble.)
    • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Where No One Has Gone Before", the Enterprise is accelerated to a velocity that causes Data to quote this trope.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Various Aura Vision spells will give their users a Poke in the Third Eye if they detect an "Overwhelming" aura that's above the conventional limits for the phenomenon being detected. Trying to read the mind of someone with Super Intelligence, Detect Evil on a Demon Lord, or analyze the magic properties of an Artifact can short out the spell and leave the caster stunned.
  • Lots of combos in Magic: The Gathering allow you to generate more Mana than you put in, resulting in the ability to use timing rules to generate an arbitrary amount of things. For example, A Magus of the Coffers taps at a cost of (2) mana to give you one Black mana for each swamp you control. You can then equip him with the Sword of the Paruns, which will let him untap for (3). Pay two, tap the Magus for six black mana, pay three to untap him, and then do it again. Written out: -(2) => +(6B) => -(3) => -(2) => ETC. Lather, rinse, repeat, and apply to the variable cost cards, such as Exsanguinate, and you wind up with combos that can do 9999 damage to each opponent at the table and then let you gain that much life. Considering you start the game at 20 life and even the Commander's Arsenal Life Counter only goes to 99, it's certainly off all of the official charts.
  • The base Chronicles of Darkness game uses a Point Build System where a character's Attributes (e.g.: Strength) and Skills (e.g. Weaponry) are measured on a five-point scale, with 5 representing a conventional human maximum, although some supernatural abilities can temporarily boost them even higher. Characters from the various game lines can also break that limit once their core Power Level gets higher than 5, on the basis that a Vampire: The Requiem elder, Mage: The Awakening archmage, or similarly puissant entity simply isn't bound by mortal norms anymore.
  • Warhammer 40,000: Done subtly with the T'au Forge World battlesuits. The Ta'unar Supremacy Armour and the Y'Vahra Battlesuit have the designations KX139 and XV109 respectively. Thing is, the T'au count in Base 8, with the XV88 Broadside Battlesuits previously being their top-of-the-line armament before rolling overfor the XV104 Riptide. Their new anti-titan materiel didn't just go to another place value, it broke their numbering system.
  • Cyberpunk: lists Adam Smasher's Empathy stat as Yeah, right... on a scale from 1 to 10. According to the fluff, Smasher is simply so psychotic, sociopathic and unstable from the start that there is no lower level of sanity for cyberpsychosis to drive him to, or to put it another way, he subverts Cybernetics Eat Your Soul by not having had a soul to begin with.

    Video Games 
  • DanceDanceRevolution: A boss song can have one or more parts of its Groove Radar spill right over the edge. But the crowner would have to be the Groove Radar for the Challenge chart of "MEGALOVANIA", where it just looks like one giant blob plastered on top of the thing.
  • In Final Fantasy XII, Ghis's control personnel on-board the Leviathan marvel at the power of the Dawn Shard.
    Female Technician: Sixty-eight hundred, sixty-nine hundred, seven thousand! This must be deifacted Nethicite! The count still climbs!
  • In Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals, when the party steps forward to have their personal energy measures by Lexis's kymograph, Guy's results are five times more than the highest reading Lexis had ever seen, then Selan's are shown to be eight times more, then for Maxim, yes, the readings are off the scale.
  • Homeworld's Nebula missions feature this. However, it is stated that your personnel are working to recalibrate them to compensate.
    • Done straight when the Bentusi are first encountered. Made hilarious by the calm way it's stated.
  • Also happens in Chrono Trigger, if Robo is in the party during the battle with Lavos' final form. He tries to assess Lavos' power level:
    Robo: Power level is... immeasurable. It's completely off the scale!
  • Enemy Scan abilities in the Final Fantasy series usually depict boss statistics as a series of "???" readings, indicating how powerful they are compared to regular flunkies. Notably, some games allow you to upgrade the Libra/Scan spells to reveal these readings.
    • Their stats aren't actually off the scale, mind you. They often aren't even beyond what is achievable for the player characters given sufficient Level Grinding. (Except HP and MP, which are often above the player characters' limit, which is usually 9999 and 999 respectively. The Big Bad of Final Fantasy III, for instance, has 65000 HP.)
    • Final Fantasy X has summons which can deal damage over the damage limit, as well as weapon modifications which allow the player characters themselves to do so (predictably called "Break Damage Limit").
  • World of Warcraft:
    • Monsters and enemy players more than ten levels above yours will have their level displayed as "??" or a skull symbol. They might be +11 to you, or +50. Either way, you probably don't want to mess with them. Most common occurrence of such were the "Welcome Bears" for starting Forsaken players when they could wander over from their starter level 10 zone into level 40+ Western Plaguelands.
    • Raidbosses are also level skull. They count as being 3 levels higher than the attacker's current level for purposes of determining hit chance and such. Notably this still applies even if you overlevel the dungeon they are in - their health and power may be piddly compared to yours now, but accuracy penalty still applies.
    • World of Warcraft now has an achievement labelled "It's Over Nine Thousand!!!" What is it for, exactly? Why, for getting over 9000 achievement points, of course!
  • In Persona 3, Your Mission Control all but freaks out at trying to perceive the Superboss' power.
    Fuuka: Her power is unbelievable! Who is she?
    • And in Persona 4, she does freaks out sensing the superboss.
      Rise: Her power level is insane! Who is she?! Don't tell me you're going to fight her!
    • For a hat trick in Persona 5, your Mission Control at first is struck with Cuteness Proximity, but then the freaking out sets in upon checking out the superbosses (there's two this time):
      Futaba: Huh? Who're these kids...? Awww... Those little costumes look perfect! They're so cute! Can I take them home with-Wait... What!? Whoa... for real!? These power levels...! Watch out! Those two are... monsters!
  • Lampshaded in the Ghostbusters videogame:
    Egon: ''These readings are off the I'll have to make new charts."
    • Even more hilarious is the fact that Egon is not astounded, but annoyed. Of course, being the super-brain that he is, he probably just doesn't like having something he can't quantify.
  • In Fallout 3, the player has a radiation measuring device. At the end of the game, if the player steps into the highly irradiated control room of the Project Purity building, the meter will get maxed at +100,000 (as in, more than one-hundred-thousand rads) and jiggles. Mercifully, no-one comments on this.
  • Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door had the Iron Cleft Bros. with a defense so high it was even in Goombella's book marked as ???. The only thing hard enough to hurt an Iron Cleft is another Iron Cleft.
    Goombella: Defense is... UNKNOWN?!? What the heck is wrong with this book?!? It says no known form of attack can damage an Iron Cleft!
  • FreeSpace 2 had a Vasudan sensor officer describing the mass readings of the Sathanas as "Exceeding superdestroyer class". They ended up making the "juggernaut" class to describe the Sathanas... and then the fanmade Blue Planet mod introduces two ships which "exceed juggernaut specifications by at least fivefold."
  • In Half-Life 2: Episode One, the Combine are purposely trying to destabilise their Citadel's Dark Energy Core to cause a massive explosion (sacrificing the whole base of operations, and the surrounding city), then use the release of energy to send a message off-world and open up a super-portal from which off-world reinforcements can pour in. When Alyx Vance looks at the Control Room monitor, she claims that the Core Reactor's readings are off the charts.
  • In Portal:
    • The Announcer in the second game claims "nine... nine... nine... nine..." days have passed since the first game. How much time has actually passed is open to speculation.
    • In the original Portal GLaDOS mentions that "Aperture technologies remain safely operational up to 4000 degrees [sic] Kelvin." (It is implied that Aperture test subjects do not.) Such a temperature is far off the scale of household and most industrial thermometers. To put how hot this is into perspective, consider that the surface of the Sun is just over 5778 K. And the player has to use an Aperture Science Emergency Intelligence Incinerator to destroy Aperture technology, meaning it must be even hotter.
  • Shadowrun from Genesis has this with Walking Bear, a female orc shaman. When people want raw power, they usually hire Winston Mars, a Troll Samurai who can reach incredible amounts of strength (the power charts even states his power as [sic]Incredible! when maxed out). But here's a catch: Orcs have the one of the best Max Body/Strength, second only to Trolls. Also, using cyberware as a shaman will weaken your spells. But if you stop fearing the soul-stripping cyberware then cyber up Walking Bear, you will end almost as strong as Winston Marrs (also cybered, in this comparison). With this, Marrs will have a full power bar and Bear will have a nearly-full ("Massive" power). HOWEVER, there are talismans which increase strength and defense ratios, which are only usable by shamans and were meant to be used to make up for their fragility. That said, after maxing up Walking Bear, give her a Power talisman (you can only have one) and Defense talismans (they stack, up to three). The power readings will still read only as "Massive" instead of "Incredible!", but the bar graph charts for attack/defense will be so high, they will go beyond its limit and actually start a new one to carry its excess. Her defense is so massive that even in a game where you never will be invincible, be due to scratch damage, rolling ones or other overwhelming strikes, BULLETS WON'T EVER FAZE HER, and only the strongest mental attacks will scratch her mental gauge.
  • In the original Disgaea the Superboss Baal shows up. Laharl reads his power as "Level 4000" (his literal level out of the maximum possible 9999). By way of comparison, the previous optional boss was 2500. The Final Boss of the story proper is 90.
    • In a meta-example, in the third game it is possible to achieve amounts of dealt damage big enough for last digits of the number to go off the screen edge.
    • In the fourth game, the damage cap seems to be 184 quadrillion (can anything even have so much HP!?)
    • It is also possible to increase a character's pool of mana so high that the display can't keep up with it. At high enough levels, the game simply lists the character as having "Lots of Mana".
    • Similarly, when the amount of money won in battle exceeds 7 digits, the games will display "Super [Bonus]" or "A lot" in place of the actual amount.
    • Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny goes even further off the charts — the new Level Cap for the game is an excessive 99 million! Damage in the game was shown to go somewhere into the quintillions, and potentially higher!
  • Grolla in RosenkreuzStilette gets a big shock when Iris attacks her with immensely powerful magic, leading her to think of her as not just any girl, but some kind of immensely powerful monster.
    Grolla: What in the...!? How did she obtain such powerful magic? Iris, what ARE you!?
    Iris: Heheheh. Why, I am myself, of course. I don't expect a commoner to understand my genius.
  • In the GITADORA series, charts are given a rating from 10 to 99. Guitar Freaks & Drummania V5, the Superboss song "Rock To Infinity", on all instruments' Extreme difficulty, is given a rating of infinity. Subverted when the song is unlocked for play as a non-extra stage song, in which it's simply rated 99. Subsequent installments continue to simply give the song a finite number rating within the game's rating scale.
  • In Mass Effect: "Uh, Commander? I'm getting some strange readings. Really strange. Like, off the damn charts."
  • The Crowd Sourced Science Messages mod for Kerbal Space Program will note such results for some experiments in some environments, such as a barometer imploding on Eve.
  • The prologue of Xenogears has a team of Bridge Bunnies yelping about the rising "base code" of a vaguely-defined thing that is attacking their spaceship.
  • During one particular boss fight in Xenoblade Chronicles 1, you are given a vision where one Physical God titan cuts the other in half with its sword; the damage readout for this attack, which normally shows a number (and a skull if the attack is fatal to the target), instead displays a Mobius strip.
  • In Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, on first encountering the final boss, the main character's suit can't even translate its appearance into a perceptible form. It requires outside assistance from a near-divine entity before you can see what it looks like.
  • Fate Series:
    • The EX rank in general, as the rank indicates the weapon/ability cannot be properly measured. Ea is this by virtue of being incredibly powerful, but other EX abilities approach the trope from different angles. For example, A rank magic resistance grants incredible resilience to a spell, EX magic resistance makes spells simply miss the person entirely. A rank Mad Enhancement renders its user absurdly powerful, but completely incoherent; EX madness can be anything from "in full control of their faculties, except in this one circumstance, where they go full crazy with stats to match" to "so crazed literally nothing gets into their thick skulls, and so insane their speech goes back to being coherent".
    • Fate/stay night: Gilgamesh´s sword, Ea, a rank EX Noble Phantasm with the ability to destroy reality and slice the world in 2 (the scale goes from E- to A++ for anything but the most ridiculous Noble Phantasms). Fully charged, it does 5000 units of damage (Excalibur by comparison does 200) though the amount can be multiplied several times by powering it with Gil´s own mana and that of the weapons in the Gate of Babylon. It can somehow be stopped by Avalon. Given Avalon was famous in Arthurian stories as stopping the wearer from being ever being hurt, and granting them pretty-much-immortality, this isn't as out there as it seems. In fact, Rin chides Shirou over forgetting that Excalibur was far, far less important to Arthur than the sheathe.
    • Fate/Grand Order:
      • Servants are rated on a scale of 1-5 stars by stats and rarity. Joke Character Angra Mainyu is the only one to clock in at zero stars. Atypically, he fits at both the top and bottom: he's generally weaker than any one-star (though he's actually treated as a two-star in terms of stats and level requirements), but due to his unusual requirements, he is also much rarer than any five-star.
      • Avenger Edmond Dantès, has a Luck stat completely blanked out - the scale can't accurately measure the fact that the events surrounding his legend means his luck is insanely bad and absurdly good simultaneously.
      • Oberon Vortigern's NP is an EX-Rank Anti-World Noble Phantasm much like Ea, but unlike it and several other similarly ranked NPs in the game, it goes Up to Eleven in that both its Range and Maximum Targets are also listed as Unlimited. That's because Lie Like Vortigern is basically a sentient black hole that has the capacity to devour everything in existence.
      • When normal human Bedivere is properly scanned by Chaldea in Fate/Grand Order - Divine Realm of the Round Table: Camelot, his Magic stat can only be measured as F because it's just that low in comparison to Servants.
    • Fate/EXTRA: CCC-exclusive character BB had her stats represented as "Star" rank, which is somehow above EX-Rank! Then again, as an AI-construct of the Moon Cell, she likely hacked her stats to be so high. When she appears in Grand Order, they're brought down to normal, but her Luck Rank is at EX because her efforts in CCC change it from E- to EX automatically because the scale quantifies what happened to her as a miracle that only someone who had that much luck could ever accomplish.
  • Civilization V has Gandhi's willingness to use nuclear weapons set to 12/10. For purposes of effect, this is the same as 10/10, but it does come into play: a leader's traits can vary by up to two points in either direction, randomly determined at the game's start (if a leader's base in a trait is, say, 6/10, the actual amount can be anywhere from 4 to 8); with a 12/10, Gandhi will never have less than 10 in Nuke Use.
  • Asura's Wrath has the Gohma measured in Impurity levels, but one in particular stands out. Gohma Vlitra Impurity Level: IMMEASURABLE.
  • In the Shining Series, any stat that is over 100 is shown as ??.
  • In Mega Man X4, when Cyber Peacock tries to analyze X, he comes up with the following gem:
    "His potential... is limitless?! ...not possible."
  • In StarCraft, Kerrigan runs up into off-the-scale problems, repeatedly.
    • In her backstory, she already was the most powerful human psionic. So powerful that she went off the scale, and they designed a new scale with her as the benchmark for the maximum Class 10.
    • After being infected by the Zerg and turned into their Queen, with mind equal to the usually building-sized Overminds, she is off the scale by an order of magnitude. She gets called a "class 12" as an approximation.
    • Eventually in Star Craft II: Heart of the Swarm, she obtains her "Primal" Zerg form, which of course boosts her abilities even further. The scale gives up entirely and she is described simply as "Unclassifiable".
  • Legend of Grey Moon has a stats screen at the end of the game, listing time, deaths, gems (out of 16) and secrets (out of 11). However, these maxima are misleading and there are actually more; at 100% Completion, the stats screen will tell you that you have 17/16 gems and 28/11 secrets.
  • In Carmageddon 2 all the cars have a five-segment "strength" rating that tells you, generally speaking, how much they can hurt your opponents. The impractically huge and ridiculously heavy dump truck gets a rating of eighty out of five.
  • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, while not in the storyline or dialogue, abusing the Alchemy/Enchanting or Alchemy/Restoration Positive Feedback Loop would cause all numbers in affected equipment — both enhanced stats and gold value — to have so many digits that they would go off the side of the screen. Creating a fortification of health enchantment with such huge buffs allows you to tank a hit from a giant
  • In Kirby Air Ride, one of the game modes (City Trial) allows players to collect stat-boosting items. When a player collects health boosters, the length of your life bar will extend, actually taking up more of the screen. It is possible to extend the bar so long that it actually extends off the top of the screen so that you can no longer see the end.
  • The Torifune Military Academy in BlazBlue evaluates its students' potential in various categories during the nomination and enrollment periods; even afterwards, the student council can reference them to help with their education or (in the case of troublemakers) containment. In the wake of an incident between a trio of "in-name-only" nobles and Makoto, Jin pulls up hers and points out to Tsubaki just how out of their league the nobles stood to be.
    "A beastkin, huh? Her ars magus aptitude is average, but her physical tests are off the charts. She would have no trouble dealing with a group of two or three people."
  • NBA superstar Steph Curry had such an absurdly successful real life season in 2015-16 that the developers of the game NBA 2K 16 admitted that they couldn't properly replicate his shooting accuracy without breaking the game engine.
  • Fire Emblem can only display HP up to a certain level, depending on the game, in the in-battle HP meters. If a character's health goes past that (such as the final boss of Blazing Sword, the Fire Dragon), the HP is displayed only as "??" until they've taken enough damage to bring it below the limit. In addition, the HP gauge glows until that point.
  • The eponymous Superbosses of the Leviathans DLC for Stellaris, have a fleet strength depicted as just a skull.
    • The story trailer for Apocalypse says this word-for-word when the Molluscoid Colossus is preparing to fire its planet cracker at Europa VII.
  • Pokémon GO will display a wild Pokémon's Combat Power as "???" if it is higher than that of any that the player has.
  • In Sonic Forces, Tails tries to scan Infinite to determine his powers... only for the results to come back so messed up, he can't make sense of them.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic: On Iokath, Lana Beniko notes that the superweapon power levels are off the chart and rising by the second. How she can tell if they're rising then they're already off the scale is anyone's guess, although the central glowy bit is noticibly getting brighter.
  • The thermometer on the HUD in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is calibrated for normal atmospheric temperatures. In extremely hot regions, like Death Mountain, it is consistently maxed out, and any wooden weapons and shields Link has equipped will catch fire (and so will Link, if he doesn't have adequate protection from Flamebreaker armor or a Fireproof elixir). Likewise, if Link gets frozen solid, the thermometer gets completely encased in ice. Also, opening the map while on Death Mountain has the temperature indication reading a red "Error".
  • In BoxxyQuest: The Gathering Storm, the final boss has functionally infinite health and can’t be beaten with force, prompting this exchange between two of your party members:
    Shift: So that's it? We're just a distraction?! Screw that, I wanna beat STORM fair and square!
    Eddie: I'm not sure if that's even possible. STORM is unlike any enemy we've ever seen before. The "HP" scale simply does not apply to it.
  • Warframe has a set limit on the amount of damage it can display, a point far beyond the health of any enemy in the game. However, certain warframes (with Banshee being the most egregious) can take a powerful critical-based weapon into damage levels so high that the number displays as a negative. (The damage is still happening as normal, of course, it's just that the number display can't handle it.)
  • Frog Fractions normally displays a numerical amount of fruit that the player has, though the player can find a huge secret stash of it by going underwater. After the stash is found, the player's fruit count will be displayed as "Like a billion", which is basically treated as having infinity.
  • During Chapter 3 of The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky FC, the party delivers a black orbment to Professor Russell so he can figure out what it is. Professor Russell decides to scan it, and the results are catastrophic. At first, the readings are erratic, then Tita reports that the needle is spinning, meaning the maximum reading is being exceeded several times over. And that's before the scanning equipment ends up setting it off, forcing Professor Russell to shut it down when it becomes apparent that it's deactivated every orbment in Zeiss except the scanner.
  • Mass Effect: Andromeda: The first time Ryder activates a Vault, Peebee, who is elsewhere at the time, calls in to tell Ryder the readings are off the chart. Then she apprehensively adds "really, really off the chart." Turns out Ryder also activated a security system, and everyone has to run for their lives.
  • In Mega Man Legends, after grabbing the red refractor from the Lake ruins, Roll suddenly calls you up in alarm saying she just picked up a reaverbot signal.
    Roll: Mega Man! I just picked up a reaverbot signal! It came out of nowhere! It's a big one! The readings are going off the scale!

  • In Grrl Power, Harem mentions in passing that Dabbler's IQ can't be measured on any existing scale.
  • Kanaya in Homestuck develops the "snarky horseshitometer" to gauge the success of her trolling campaign on Rose. After watching Rose blow up a portal, something Kanaya didn't think was sane even if she suspected it were possible, the horseshitometer tilts so hard in Rose's favor that it self-destructs.
    The FLIGHTY BROADS AND THEIR SNARKY HORSESHITOMETER explodes. It simply cannot take this much horseshit.
  • Asha in Kubera got a 0515 on the part of her magic test that measures her power level. That's not a great score, but it's reasonable...except for that zero at the front. That shouldn't be there; it's just not how the scores are formatted. As it turns out, she actually got a 10515, and the counter only goes up to 9999. Considering that a 2000 was considered incredible, you can understand why they assumed there was no need for anything higher.
  • Mob Psycho 100 features occasional panels dedicated to showing how close Mob is to an emotional outburst on a scale of 0% - 100%, with his Psychoactive Powers being fully and uncontrollably unleashed at 100%. But if he's knocked unconscious, he enters a Heroic Safe Mode with a meter given as "???%," and when he sees what he thinks are the charred corpses of his family, he flies into such a rage that it doesn't even clearly define it as ???% - it's just a smudge.
  • Played with in a One-Punch Man side-chapter, when Child Emperor builds a power-measuring mask. Saitama and King both register as "Undefined", and it's assumed that Saitama is too weak to even register on the scale whereas King is too powerful to be measured. In reality, it's the other way round (indeed, Saitama's reading is so high that it nearly breaks the mask).

    Web Original 
  • When Protectors of the Plot Continuum are on a mission, and Canon Defilement readings are off the scale, it is generally a good idea to throw one's Canon Analysis Device away before it goes kablooie.
  • According to Rational Wiki, irony meters have a habit of exploding when this trope comes into effect.
  • Chakona Space features the contributor series, Tales of the Folly. This trope happens several times including at least one hanging lampshade.
  • A rather terrifying nonfiction example could be found in the now sadly defunct blog, "Random Acts of Reality" by a London Ambulance Service EMT. On one occasion he transported a patient whose blood pressure was so high that the monitor couldn't accurately measure it and glitched out. Not surprisingly, the driver had the lights and siren on for that trip to the ER.
  • The SCP Foundation grades anomalous objects on one of three levels: Safe (objects that are easily contained and if left to their own devices pose little threat to humanity), Euclid (objects that are not provably hostile, but whose limits and the exact nature of their powers are unknown, thus they might be dangerous) and Keter (objects that are extremely and actively dangerous, even under containment, and are often very difficult or even impossible to contain). A rare few SCP objects are so dangerous and/or bizarre that the community has had to make up a new classification beyond Keter: Apollyon (only one canon SCP object has this designation, and it is capable of causing XK-class End of the World Scenarios and the Foundation has no known way to stop it or even slow it down).
    • SCP-3812 is a Reality Warper that cannot be detected by Foundation equipment specifically designed to measure distortions to reality. Unusually for this trope, this isn't because SCP-3812's level of reality distortion is too low or too high to be measured, but because it isn't distorting it's own reality: it's distorting it's own fictional narrative.
  • The Tim Tebow CFL Chronicles: Tebow notes that his performance in the Broncos vs. Chiefs game on November 13th, 2011 was so bizarre that his passer rating afterwards was 102.6—a wildly unintuitive result from a game where he only attempted eight passes and only completed two of them.
    In a life of goofy left-handed football accomplishments, I consider that game to be stranger than anything I'd ever done to that point. I necessitated the sort of lopsided pass-run imbalance that the NFL hadn't seen in over 30 years. I completed only two passes. I somehow won, and I somehow finished with a great passer rating. I played so strangely that numbers lost their meanings.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • Arthur:
    • One episode features an incident with the Boss-O-Meter, which Arthur uses on his parents and teacher, rating their bossing-around skills. None of them even come close to his bratty sister DW, whose whiny screaming tactics break the machine.
    • In "More!", when DW goes to preschool one morning, there is a scanning device from her POV that displays the supposed allowances of every other kid. The numbers go spinning when the radar's on Emily, DW's rich friend.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door: During a parody of Dragon Ball Z:
    "Their power levels are off the charts! I'm gonna have to get some bigger charts!"
  • The Fairly OddParents!: The download meter (technically, that should be an upload meter) of Crocker's computer: "1% complete... 0% complete... -1% complete..."
  • Ghostbusters:
    • Egon in The Real Ghostbusters has a habit of getting PKE readings that are off the scale. Nobody ever suggests getting a bigger scale, but he does have to get a new PKE meter every now and then, when trying to measure an especially powerful entity (generally 9 or higher) leads to Explosive Instrumentation.
    • This trope was the justification for the equipment upgrade in Extreme Ghostbusters. The series averted it as often as it played it straight though. There were many times where they found a ghost that was a perfectly measurable classification (especially in The Teaser) and other times where a creature was literally off the scale because they weren't ectoplasmic entities or didn't have psycho-kinetic energy at all, and thus couldn't be measured by the PKE meter.
  • In Hanna-Barbera's The Harlem Globetrotters series, the Trotters are scoring so many points so fast that the scoreboard shorts out and explodes.
  • Infinity Train: Passengers on the train have a glowing number on their hand that measures their emotional progress; they can leave the train when it falls to 0. However, Amelia is so emotionally unhealthy and did so many terrible things that her number extends off her hand and up to her neck. Grace and Simon, who intentionally raise their numbers to stay on the Train forever, have numbers reaching up their arms as well. By the end of season three, Simon's number covers his whole body. When Jesse returns to the Train to save M.T., his number flashes various meaningless values (n, pi symbol, fractions) because his problem is something that the train isn't designed to fix, and in fact goes against its usual rules. Once they figure out a solution the number immediately drops to 0.
  • Looney Tunes: In "Falling Hare", the speedometer of the plummeting-to-earth plane that Bugs Bunny and the Gremlin are in is going so fast that it stops briefly to read "Incredible, isn't it?"
  • Parodied in Outer Space Astronauts. "These readings are off the chart!" "Well, they're on the chart; they're just, near the top."
  • The Penguins of Madagascar: When Kowalski mentions that readings of spectral activity are off the charts, Skipper immediately tells him to get bigger charts.
  • In the Phineas and Ferb episode "Lawn Gnome Beach Party of Terror", Phineas's radical surfing so impresses a panel of judges, he gets scores of ten to the fifth power and infinity, while the third judge has apparently had to re-think Einstein's theory of relativity. "Cowabunga, laws of nature!"
    • For a downplayed example, Doofenschmirtz once bragged that his latest creation had a melting capacity of seven. And then remembered to explain that the usual scale was one to five.
  • Parodied in one episode of Sonic Boom:
    Tails: These numbers are off the chart! Fortunately, I have a bigger chart.
  • An episode of Star Trek: The Animated Series had Spock caution his team against drinking some water they found because his tricorder said "the water is too pure", which is an awfully odd reading to have listed on a tricorder. Meaning that the water couldn't possibly be in that state in nature, which means either it's being artificially produced, or is contaminated in a way that they can't detect. So caution is warranted.
  • In ThunderCats (1985), Safari Joe has a device that can analyze potential prey to determine their strengths and weaknesses. It explodes when it tries to analyze the Sword of Omens.

    Real Life 
  • The very first flight of the Ariane 5 launcher resulted in a big ball of fire, because the reading coming from an accelerometer went off the chart; the guidance system was reused from the Ariane 4 rocket, but the Ariane 5 flight profile had a much higher horizontal acceleration that the older system wasn't intended to handle. More precisely, the reading was to be converted from a 64-bit floating point value to 16-bit signed integer value, but was too large for the latter formatnote . It was arguably the most expensive bug in history.
  • The Apollo 13 incident began on the ground, when one of the oxygen tanks that would later go into space with the service module was having a mechanical problem due to the tanks getting dropped during a move between spacecraft. The liquid oxygen drain was jarred and unusable. The technicians decided to vent the liquid oxygen from the tank with the help of the onboard heating system. This caused the temperature gauge (which was designed for use in space after all) to go off-scale high. However, nobody knew at the time just how far off the scale things were. The results are well-known. Specifically, looking at the Wikipedia article, the temp gauge didn't go above 100° Fahrenheit (38° Celsius). This wasn't considered a problem, because a thermostat was supposed to cut the heat at 80° F. Unfortunately, this had fused on because when the electrical system was redesigned from 28v to 65v, the thermostat wasn't. The result was that temperatures hit an estimated 1000° F (538° C) and burned the insulation off the wires. Which led to an exposed, sparking wire inside a tank of pressurized oxygen. Which then exploded.
  • Radiation monitoring instruments are prone to this sort of problem, especially those instruments used for health and safety physics.
    • Following the 1961 power excursion in the SL-1 nuclear reactor and the subsequent steam explosion within and meltdown of the reactor, the first team to check out the alarm discovered their radiation detectors pegged at maximum. The second team, which went in with higher-range radiation detectors, also had their detectors peg at maximum. When the bodies of those killed in the explosion were recovered, the bodies alone pegged these high-range meters.
    • When the Chernobyl reactor exploded, it took the one dosimeter in the place capable of reading really high radiation with it. The repair workers and firefighters made do with ordinary personal dosimeters, which immediately pegged at at their highest settings, leading the crew to assume that the steam explosion hadn't penetrated the reactor (ignoring the pieces of reactor fuel lying everywhere). In reality, some areas of the plant had radiation levels 5,600 times the range of the dosimeters. And when a new dosimeter with a larger range was brought in, the high readings convinced them it was defective.
    • A disturbing example from radiation medicine: the radiation monitoring devices in some malfunctioning radiation therapy devices (Therac-25 machines) experienced saturation when they (and patients) were incorrectly exposed to extremely high current electron beams. One patient, after one of these treatments, reported a sizzling sound, as of something frying, that turned out to be these saturated radiation monitors. Of course, the patient didn't necessarily know that at the time.
    • Geiger counters. Because of how a GM tube works (a low pressure gas inside is ionized, which causes a cascade effect that creates a voltage difference, causing an electrical dicharge which is registered as a "count", which then has to be quenched by an onboard power source before a new count can be registered), exposing a Geiger counter to a very high radiation field will effectively saturate it. With older counters, this would cause them to show a false reading that was MUCH lower than the amount of radiation that was actually present. This happened at Chernobyl, causing some people to think there was far less danger than there actually was. Newer meters that are computer controlled can detect this state and will usually display "overload" on the display. This doesn't damage the device in any way (removing it from the high radiation field will restore normal functionality), but a Geiger counter in the overload state cannot be trusted to give reliable readings. Geiger counters are therefore effectively useless in high radiation fields.
  • In Real Life, a sensor being off-scale may mean the sensor or its wiring has failed. Whether it fails off-scale low or off-scale high depends on the type of sensor and on the kind of damage. During the Space Shuttle Columbia accident, several sensors on the left wing (most of which were left over from early tests from when it was the first space shuttle) registered off-scale readings, in real time, as the wing was slowly melting away due to a hole that let hot gases in. By observing the relative timing of the sensor failures and knowing the layout of the wiring within the wing, the investigators were able to determine the path of the damage.
  • The driver of a BMW Mini was once issued a speeding ticket... for going 3000 km/h. The radar had malfunctioned.
  • From the late 1970s through to the early 1990s, most car and light truck speedometers had a top speed of 85 mph, due to government regulations (and definitions of sports car vs. passenger car). Despite this, almost all cars were capable of traveling well in excess of that speed, "burying the speedometer" in the process. (Prior to this, speedometers often could read speeds anywhere from 100 to 120 mph, depending on the year and manufacturer.) It used to be the case that a candid "No, officer, I don't know how fast I was going; the speedometer doesn't go that high" could get you out of a ticket if the officer was having a good day. Suffice it to say, Don't Try This at Home.
  • Prior to the 1990s, most odometers "rolled over" upon hitting 99,999.9 miles, resetting to "zero" (even though there are 100,000 miles on the car). Prior to the advent of electronic odometers, these devices used reels, with numerals printed on them in order from 0 through 9; the first five had a black background color with white numerals (representing ones through ten thousands) and the sixth digit was printed in black on a white background (to represent tenths of a mile). Some vehicles used in foreign countries that use the metric system "roll over" at 99,999.9 kilometers. Electronic digital odometers often will record up to 999,999 (either miles or kilometers, depending on the vehicle's setting) before resetting at zero.note  The trip odometer, both the printed reel and electronic types, work on this same principle, although they typically reset to 0 after 999.9 miles/kilometers.
    • This is exploited in Matilda by Harry Wormwood to make old cars look younger than they actually are by artifically rolling out the tape.
  • Graham's Number cannot be expressed with any standard form of mathematical notation, including stacks of exponents (x ^ y ^ z...) and even taxes Knuth's up-arrow notation.
  • Because of limited government data regarding air quality in Beijing, residents will often turn to the US Embassy, who use the AQI, a number between 1 and 500 calculated from a variety of indicators, where 1-50 is "good," 201-300 is "very unhealthy," and 301-500 is "hazardous"... until one day in 2010, the formula gave them a number over 500. The programmers of the automated report hadn't taken such a possibility seriously, and thus came the quickly viral report by the embassy that the air quality in Beijing was "crazy bad" before being corrected to a more sterile, yet still absurd, "beyond index." Article here.
  • When André the Giant went in for back surgery, the anaesthesiologist had no idea how much gas to give him, as the hospital's charts for such simply didn't have entries for men of Andre's height and weight. They had to invent a new method based on his alcohol consumption in order to determine the proper dosage.
  • The Israeli airforce had the negative (not opposite) of this problem, losing a couple of fighter jets before working out what the matter was. The Dead Sea is 423 metres below sea level, and planes doing low level flying would register on the computer as below sea level, a fact that understandably freaked out the computers on board, which would try and "save" the plane, with fatal consequences. Specifically, the code divided by the altitude to calculate certain readings, and did not react well to passing sea level.
  • The Pakistan Army operating in the Himalayas had ordered their forward troops to send back temperature readings with their daily reports. After a while, the Area HQ got puzzled when every post, every day for weeks sent back readings of -50° C (about -58° F). The reason? You guessed it. For those who didn't 
  • When your computer is doing floating-point math and comes up with a number too large to keep track of, it calls the number "infinity", the same result as if you divide by zero. Many programming languages provide a special notation for this "value", NaN, or "Not a Number".
  • When the UNIVAC I mainframe computer predicted that Dwight Eisenhower would win the 1952 U.S. presidential elections, the teletype printout read "THE CHANCES ARE NOW 00 TO 1 IN FAVOR OF THE ELECTION OF EISENHOWER." This resulted from UNIVAC's programmers believing that a 3-digit number system wasn't needed - UNIVAC had calculated odds of 100 to 1, but simply hadn't been programmed to show a hundreds place.
  • The turbocharged BMW M12 engine used by Benetton, Brabham, and Arrows in 1986 is believed to have been the most powerful engine ever seen in Formula One. The thing is, nobody's quite sure, because nobody knows exactly how powerful it was - the dynos of the time could only measure up to 1000 hp, and when the M12 was tested, its readings just went flying off the scale. BMW estimated it could produce up to 1400 hp, but to this day, its true output is unknown.
  • When exploration of deep sea thermal vents by manned submersibles was just beginning, during one dive the submarine's team tried inserting a temperature probe into a vent. The probe melted.
  • At the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, Romanian gymnast Nadia Comăneci obtained a perfect score of 10. While this had technically been possible the whole time, it was deemed impossible to do, so scoreboards were only designed to display a single digit before the decimal point. Her score was displayed as an abysmal 1.00 (although nearly everyone in attendance immediately recognized what it meant — except for Nadia herself, who was initially taken aback before finally realizing what she'd done).
  • Before Zimbabwe ditched its national currency, hyperinflation caused ATMs to break down because they couldn't handle the astronomical numbers involved.
  • "Gangnam Style", the most viewed video on YouTube until Wiz Khalifa's "See You Again" came along, very nearly broke the site's view counters when the number of views went over 2,147,483,647, the maximum value of a 32-bit signed integer; YouTube had to upgrade to 64-bit signed integers capable of holding values up to 9,223,372,036,854,775,807 afterwards.
    We never thought a video would be watched in numbers greater than a 32-bit integer (=2,147,483,647 views), but that was before we met PSY.
  • The Y2K problem was a strange example. The scale on the years field was only 2 digits, allowing dates from 1900 to 1999. This was done to save sending an extra digit which at the time would have been very expensive. Fortunately programmers had a lot of time to redesign their systems, but if left uncorrected, millions of computers would have had the time be "off the scale".
  • Back in the 90s there was also a joke about McDonald's signs that basically Played the Y2K problem for laughs. At that time many McDonald's franchises had "over 99 billion served," on their sign, indicating that McDonald's restaurants had sold over that many hamburgers. The joke revolved around the sign not being able to hold another digit to move up to "over 100 billion served" once that many were sold:
    "Over 00 billion served"?
  • Kind of an inversion: The Ozone hole would have been detected much earlier if scientists had trusted their instruments more. The values were defined as "off the scale" and thus as a measurement error. They weren't.
  • The rainfall resulting from Hurricane Harvey of 2017 proved so substantial that the National Weather Service was unable to accurately display what happened for some time. More to the point, they ended up having to expand the scale with two new rainfall total classifications to get across just how bad this storm has been to Texas.
  • In 1980, the Edmonton Oilers brought in an exercise physiologist to test their recuperative abilities. Wayne Gretzky's score was so high, the tester later said he "thought the machine had broken."
  • Explosive substances can be classified by their shock and friction sensitivity. The less energy you have to put into a substance to make it explode, the more likely it is to explode. So you want to measure the least energy necessary to make it explode - or rather, the most energy you can put in without causing an explosion. But this scale doesn't really work for azidoazide azide, because nobody has ever managed to touch it softly enough to not make it explode.
  • Probably the most safe and realistic way to get readings off the scale is to choose the wrong scale (or basic parameters) for measurement.
    • A lot of analog measuring devices have a universal scale with the range settings of 1 to 100, 1 to 1000, 1 to 10000, etc. If the readings are off the scale, that could simply mean the scale definition is too small (like, if the input value is 500, and you're trying to measure it on 1 to 100 scale), and it's time to switch to the higher definition.
    • In spectrophotometric analysis, choosing the basic parameters is the key to proper measurement. This method is used to measure the optical density of liquid materials, is very precise and sensitive (and limited by the measuring range, as stated above), and if the readings go off the scale, that means that the liquid is too dense and can't be properly penetrated by the light beam. This can be solved by diluting the liquid, say, 1 to 10 and higher; when the readings would be measurable, the only thing remaining would be multiplying the results by the same number.
    • Measuring the current value in the wall outlet (effectively short-circuiting it) with rugged Cold War era analog multimeter may lead to the bent indicator needle after cracking into the hard stop.note 
  • The 2010 first round Men's Singles match at Wimbledon between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut is the longest professional match in tennis history, lasting a total of 11 hours and 5 minutes spread over three days due to darkness and court availability. Wimbledon did not implement a tiebreaker in the final set until 2019, the last of the four Grand Slam tournaments to do so; that meant that to win the final set required playing a full game and winning the set by two, no matter the current set score. Which didn't happen until Isner finally managed to win the match 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (7-9), 7-6 (7-3), 70-68. The fifth set score got so high the digital scoreboard at the court was stuck at 47-47 and was later turned off because IBM didn't design it to go that high (the online scoreboard lasted until 50-50); an IBM programmer worked on a hotfix to get it working again but said it would have failed again had the score reached past 75-75.
  • The McArthur Forest Fire Danger Index, commonly used in Australia to rate fire risks, was originally designed to have a maximum score of 100. However, the 2009 "Black Saturday" bushfires registered a rating that was then off the scale (estimated at a whopping 180) and ultimately proved to be one of the most devastating fires in Australian history. A subsequent adjustment to the system allowed for ratings exceeding 100 (and at the same time introduced a new fire danger level higher than "Extreme").
  • Astronomers measuring solar flares have a rating scale in which a letter indicates the tier of severity and then a number (usually two digits) indicates the magnitude within that tier. The largest solar flare recorded as of November 2003 was rated an X 45. Then on April 23, 2014, NASA detected a solar flare around DG Canum Venaticorum that went completely off the sensor scales. Later analyses with other instruments estimated the solar flare to be 10,000 times greater than the previous record, or somewhere around an X 100,000.
  • When the NTSB recreated the fire that brought down ValueJet Flight 592note , the temperature gauge—which went up into the thousands of degrees, maxed out. Even the testing facility needed extensive repairs after the test.
  • The Loud House: Revamped, a fanfic of The Loud House, became so big that it broke's word count scale, which is measured in a 24-bit integer (maxing out at 16,777,215).
  • Crysis is notorious for its amazing graphics, and the absolute nightmare getting the highest graphics settings to run properly can be ("But can it run Crysis?" became a meme for a reason). It's mentioned down here instead of under Video Games because the official documentation, instead of listing a recommended range of graphics card, just says, "Use the latest."


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Over Nine Thousand, Off The Scale, The Readings Are Off The Scale, Over 9000


Helen's Stress Test

Mr. Brittas makes his wife Helen do a test where the higher pitched a noise is shows how stressed you are. A few seconds listening to Brittas and Helen's results go into ultrasound.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / ReadingsAreOffTheScale

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