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Readings Blew Up the Scale

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Freeza's Scouter before it self-destructs, Dragon Ball Z Abridged

Someone has a meter that breaks down or explodes when the readings are too high for it to handle. Note that it's not from measuring something that could reasonably destroy the scale, like design flaws, or measuring greater extreme heat than a thermometer can withstand. This is when the extreme amount of the readings themselves cause the destruction.

How is that possible? Chalk it up to Rule of Cool or Rule of Funny.

A Sub-Trope of both Readings Are Off the Scale and Explosive Instrumentation. Compare Awesomeness Is Volatile. See Overflow Error when a computer program overruns the limits of numeric variables.


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  • A short-lived series of commercials for Applebee's depicts a Tin-Can Robot explaining to the viewer about various promotions at the family restaurant while printing them out from its torso, then it produces smoke and catches fire because of how good these deals are or how many of them there are.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Darkstalkers: The Phobos/Huitzil computers in Night Warriors: Darkstalker's Revenge do this when reading Donovan's power (at the same time that Donovan is unleashing a very powerful attack on the Phobos).
  • Dragon Ball Z: If Scouters aren't getting broken, they're blowing up while their owners are still wearing them. No wonder they got phased out of the series.
    • After Bulma jury-rigged Raditz's Scouter, Goku's Dangerous Forbidden Technique made it explode from across the planet.
    • Vegeta did this three times in the Namek arc. He made Cui's Scouter explode when demonstrating his new power level, and blew up Zarbon's Scouter when he actually killed Cui. Frieza's new Scouter exploded when Vegeta proved he could actually go toe-to-toe with him (at least until Frieza transformed).
    • A filler scene later on showed that Super Saiyan Goku and final-form Frieza could blow up computers in different solar systems, implicitly killing the random superpowered mooks watching them.
    • In the first Cooler movie, Salza's scouter explodes when the injured Goku is given a senzu bean.
    • In the OVA where Vegeta's brother Tarble showed up, Goku demonstrated his Scouter was obsolete by casually making it explode in this manner.
    • In Resurrection 'F', Frieza's emergence from a healing tank makes every scouter on the spaceship explode.
    • In Dragon Ball Super: Broly, the new Scouters avert this and just stop measuring if a power level is too high.
  • One-Punch Man: In one story, Child Emperor builds a gadget that can accurately read a person's level of power. When he tries to use it on Saitama, it declares that he is "Undefined" and the visor cracks.
  • Peter Grill and the Philosopher's Time: Vegan uses her magic to summon a creature called Agape that can measure Peter's arousal levels. When Peter has an orgy with his harem, Agape blows up.
  • In Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, the title mech eating a Big Bang safely spoon-fed by Lordgenome causes the power gauge to shatter and then keep going outside the monitor. Keep in mind, this power gauge was designed in a universe where the Rule of Cool is scientifically acknowledged, to measure power levels that are known to routinely go off charts. The monitor blew up anyway.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: The first sign that the Egyptian God Cards live up to the hype is when Kaiba first uses Obelisk the Tormentor in a training duel against an AI: using Obelisk's special ability causes the instruments monitoring the situation to spark, smoke and fizzle out, and when Obelisk obliterates Blue Eyes Ultimate Dragon with a single blow, the AI explodes violently. Later in the semifinals, when Slifer and Obelisk clash, every televison set tuned into the duel shatters.
  • YuYu Hakusho: In the Three Kings arc, a group of Raizen's old training buddies come out of seclusion to pay their respects and join the new tournament. They collectively flex their power to "see if they've still got it" and Yomi's advisor's energy-reading device goes off the scale before it explodes; miles away from the energy source.

    Comic Books 
  • In Archie Comics, the United Girls Against Jughead decide to curb his He-Man Woman Hater attitude by using a computer to find Jug's ideal girlfriend. After feeding the computer everything they know about Jughead, the machine explodes. The UGAJ conclude that Jughead is such an oddball that not even a computer can figure him out.
  • In the Fantastic Four, Reed and Sue's son Franklin is a Mutant with Goo-Goo-Godlike potential. So Reed tasked a robot "playmate", H.E.R.B.I.E., to monitor for any manifestations of Franklin's powers. The first time Franklin really begins to start pouring out psionic energy, H.E.R.B.I.E. issues a few futile warnings before overloading and exploding.
  • In Joe Bar Team, the main characters destroy numerous radar speed gun radars with their motorbikes using this very trope.
    Comic Strips 
  • One Calvin and Hobbes strip has an Imagine Spot where Calvin's dad lets him drive, and instead the car starts flying.
    Dad: How fast are we going?
    Calvin: Can't say. We broke the speedometer.
  • In a Garfield strip:
    Jon: From now on, I'm keeping track of the calories you take in!
    Jon: My calculator blew up.
  • In a Peanuts strip, Snoopy adds the number of pizzas he and Woodstock ate before midnight to the number of pizzas they ate after midnight. The result blew Snoopy's pocket calculator.

    Fan Works 
  • In The Bridge: Gigan, a cyborg, had torque limits to how much force his mechanical muscles could produce. When throwing everything he had against Kaizer Ghidorah, the desire to save his team caused him to exert more power than his mechanical part should have. At 109% the readings crack and spark. In the end at 264% they shatter.
  • Mentioned by John in The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World. After Cirda of the Terrible Trio announces that her scan of the other three is Over Nine Thousand, John reflects that if he were added to the mix her scanner would probably blow up.
  • In The Silver Raven, Nero's sheer power causes a device designed to measure a Witch's magical output to explode when Lilith takes him in to be examined by a member of the Healing Coven after he awakens his Devil Bringer.
  • In the Star Wars fanfic "The Sith Who Brought Life Day," an Imperial officer investigating the Rebel pilot who blew up the Death Star studies some archival youth aptitude and reflex tests from the backwater world of Tatooine, and discovers something quite unusual about one Luke Skywalker.
    At least according to the record, he'd been hitting the correct response buttons in the milliseconds after the trigger stimuli algorithm had been run, but before the actual images appeared onscreen, and the computer had not been able to handle near-simultaneous input and output. He'd crashed the thing three times before he'd evidently decided to slow down a little and let the program catch up.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Assassin's Creed: Callum's final session in the Animus results in a synchronization so perfect that it breaks the device. It also results in Callum being presented with visions of past assassins surrounding him and his long-dead mother inducting him into the order through their shared genetic memory. Everyone observing the moment is shocked because they weren't aware that the Animus was capable of such a thing.

  • Seen a fair few times in the Troperiffic Discworld series.
    • In Moving Pictures, a resograph (a device designed to measure changes in the nature of reality) starts going haywire thanks to the influence of the filmmakers in Holy Wood. Eventually, the showing of an Epic Movie about the Ankh-Morpork Civil War causes a rift in reality big enough to allow a Thing from the Dungeon Dimensions to escape onto the Discworld, which makes the resograph explode violently.
    • In The Last Continent, Ponder Stibbons' magic-measuring thaumometer melts when the magic field used to create the Last Continent exceeds its limit of one million thaums. Then Ridcully licks his thumb, holds it up, observes the large octarine flame produced, and comments that it looks about right.
  • Lensman:
    • In Children of the Lens, the last physical battle of the series involves a faster-than-light planet hitting a star.
      Finally it happened. What happened? Even after the fact none of the observers knew. The fuses of all the recorder and analyzer circuits blew at once. Needles jumped instantly to maximum and wrapped themselves around their stops. Charts and ultraphotographic films showed only straight or curved lines running from the origin to and through the limits in zero time.
    • Earlier, at the beginning of Galactic Patrol, the Patrol's Grand Fleet takes the first shots from Boskone's jury-rigged prototype primary beams. Kinnison jumps to read the analysis and reports: "Those beams were hot — plenty hot. These recorders go to five billion and have a factor of safety of ten. Even that wasn't anywhere nearly enough — everything in the recorder circuits blew."
  • In Theirs Not to Reason Why, the equipment used to measure Psychic Powers has a habit of burning out when it's used on Ia. Her precognition in particular is so strong that when they test it on her with a psi damper she stole from the enemy, she burns it out anyway.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Chernobyl, the original meters to measure radiation are destroyed in the initial explosion and the only ones at hand are meant to warn workers of unsafe work conditions and max out at 3.6. "Not great, not terrible." The next one they find goes up to 200 and also maxes out. When they get one that goes up to 1,000, it just blows out immediately.
  • In one episode of Gilligan's Island, Gilligan was playing with a lie detector that had been used earlier. When Mary Ann asked him if he took a couple of coconut cream pies she made and he said no, the lie detector blew up.
    Gilligan: Well, they were delicious.
  • In the finale of Power Rangers Wild Force, when Master Org completes his transformation into an Org, his power is so great that the mystical fountain the Rangers use to detect Orgs actually erupts.
    Princess Shayla: Rangers, it's the biggest Org spirit I've ever seen!

  • Muse Magazine at one point had a "dog counter" for requests for a dog-focused issue (following a similar counter for a cat issue). In one issue, a reader letter demanded that all pre-cat issue requests for a dog issue be included because she thought the number was too low. Right below that was a picture of the dog counter exploding.

  • In Finian's Rainbow, the geologists claim to have discovered gold in Rainbow Valley in such enormous concentration that it broke the needle of their meter.

    Video Games 
  • During the fourth Lostbelt in Fate/Grand Order, God Arjuna/Arjuna Alter gathering energy for his Noble Phantasm causes several of the Shadow Border's sensors to overload from the sheer magnitude of his power.
  • Final Fantasy XII: Once he gets his hands on the Dawn Shard, Judge Ghis decides to hook it up to his airship's engines to measure its power. After a brief pause for Ghis's crew to mention that the Readings Are Off the Scale, the entire ship explodes mid-air.
  • One mini-game in Pajama Sam 3: You Are What You Eat From Head To Feet, features a score counter that can only count up to 99. Once that score is exceeded, the counter stops working in a dramatic fashion.
  • The Rhythm Heaven minigame "Quiz" has a counter showing how many times you've pressed the buttons. If you press the buttons more than 99 times, your counter will explode. Continuing to mash buttons will also blow up the host's counter and the "QUIZ" marquee.
  • Splatoon 2: At the end of the final boss fight in Octo Expansion, Pearl engages in a Beam-O-War with the final boss. During this, the meter for the end of match results pops up, and Pearl's side end up exploding out the other end, resulting in an 888.8% victory for the good guys.
  • The opening trailer of Tekken Tag Tournament 2 shows Lili watching a tournament fight with her hi-class viewing glasses. She notices Jun Kazama near the exit and tries to zoom in on her presumably to measure her power level, only for the glasses to overload and short out.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • "Irony Meter":
    • On Fundies Say the Darndest Things, a common response to an ironic statement made by one of the fundies whose statements have been quoted is that it has "destroyed my irony meter."
    • This originated on the Usenet group alt.atheism, back in the 1990s: an irony meter was never mentioned except in the context of its (usually spectacular) failure:
      "Every irony meter on the planet just exploded."
      "My irony meter has melted a hole in the ground and is putting up plumes of radioactive fallout."
      "I spent extra to get a heavy duty, auto-ranging industrial irony meter, with the 4th generation titanium filter and laser readout and everything, less than a year ago. Pfft, it's toast. First time I've had to use a fire extinguisher of a piece of smoking electronics."
      "OK, Mark, you now owe me a new Myth 6 (model 66) Irony-O-Meter. It was not even a week old and it blew up like Krakatoa."
    • However, this trope was once defied when a commenter modified his irony meter so that it would not explode:
    "And apparently this one has infinite irony, because my irony meter is still going. You are going to have to make your own guys, it isn't patented or anything, and I just made it out of spare parts: mostly my old ironymeter, a clock and one of those stroke counters some people use in golf."
    • At one point, a meter designed to measure "nigh absurd amounts of irony" overloaded so much that it blew up straight through the roof, into space, and impacted Venus so hard it caused the planet to undergo nuclear fusion and turn into a miniature sun.
    • Irony Meters have also been stated to 'implode' on occasion, often creating a miniature black hole in the process.
  • Lampshaded by the Protectors of the Plot Continuum. Frequently, their Canon Analysis Devices blow up when faced with particularly heinous breaches of canon. Savvy agents will hurl their CAD's in the opposite direction the moment something truly awful happens. Occasionally, they just don't turn their CAD's on at all, knowing that it would go boom — which doesn't always stop the explosion.
  • Hockey writer Sean McIndoe frequently does assessments on the NHL teams off-season moves, with a Bizarro-meter ranking from 0 to 10. The very first, concerning only the Toronto Maple Leafs, had a very bad contract extension making the Bizarro-meter explode (not to mention two instances of 10\10).

    Web Videos 
  • The Sin counter has been through its paces on CinemaSins, but one scene on The Fate of the Furious is too much for it to handle, causing it to break, random symbols appearing with each sin instead of numbers. Then another ridiculous scene causes it to die (read: glitch up and start blinking around the screen). Of all the crap that poor counter has seen, it just couldn't take the likes of that. From then on, the videos have featured a "Sin Counter 2.0" in a different font.
    Movie Sin Tally: R.I.P.
  • In the Flander's Company episode "German Übber Fantasy", Gadgeteer Genius Caleb builds a "Millstone Detector" to help Hippolyte sort out supervillain candidates. That's when Maxence and Déborah, a pair of insufferable, fashion-obsessed gits, come by. The detector starts beeping very fast and explodes.
  • In the Joueur du Grenier episode for Star Wars, Grenier calling The Phantom Menace the best film in the series makes his "Sarcasm Detector" beeps loudly. Then, when he praise the quality of a PlayStation game of the same name, the detector explodes.
  • Shane Killian's "Bogometer", used to measure the dishonesty of creationist claims, explodes at 3:18 of this video when Janet Folgar claims that "It was Bible-believing Christians who gave us science as we know it."
  • This trope became a minor Running Gag on The Nostalgia Critic. The Critic would count a certain feature in a movie; after a handful of examples, an explosion would sound and the Critic would cry out, "Oh, great, you blew up the (X) Meter!"
  • The Spoony Experiment
  • Todd in the Shadows applies a "Douche-O-Meter" to Justin Bieber's "Sorry". It breaks after the first lyric. Then, on a later lyric, it explodes — even though it wasn't plugged in.
  • What the Fuck Is Wrong with You?: In his review of the Doctor Who 8th Doctor movie, Nash has a "Nerd Rage meter", and when it turned out the Doctor was half-human, it finally blew up. Then it blew up again later on.

    Western Animation 
  • In one episode of El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera the titular character gets measured by a literal Karma Meter. It promptly explodes due to the fact that he still hasn't decided on being a hero or villain.
  • Ghostbusters, The Real Ghostbusters: Egon's PKE Meter often caught readings intense enough to make the thing overheat and/or explode.
  • An episode of Mummy Nanny shows an old collector piece radar that can't handle flashing anyone above 203 km/h (that's 126 mph). But it's in town, so it's safe, right?
  • An episode of My Little Pony Tales features a band talent show with a scale that measured how good the performance was. When the heroes performed their song, the scale hit the roof and blew up.
  • A variation occurs in an episode of Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero focusing on an incredibly complicated game called "Ultrahyperball". Sashi's computerized glasses explode not from scanning something immeasurable, but from trying to load the rules. The actual rulebook is so massive, player's eyes will fall out of their sockets long before finding out how to win.
  • On Phineas and Ferb, Phineas is trying to track a cute little alien, so he built a cute-meter. Later he mentioned that he filtered Isabella's cuteness and when he turned the safety off, the cute-meter blew up.
  • The Simpsons
  • Happens twice to the same power scanner in the Steven Universe episode "Garnet's Universe". The scanner actually reassembled itself just so it could blow up again. Of course, Steven made everything in this episode up, so it's not a problem.
  • In the Teen Titans episode "Only Human", Cyborg and Atlas are in a Brawler Lock twice. The first incident has Cyborg unable to overpower him since he reached a hundred percent and sees himself as Just a Machine with mechanical muscles having defined limits. The second time, however, he overpowers his own limits with Heroic Willpower, leading his 100% readout to crack and start displaying 110%, 120%, etc. He also never gets it replaced since he's overcome his psychological block, accepting that he has no true limits if he puts his mind to it.
  • Tom and Jerry:
    • "Polka-Dot Puss" has Jerry trying to convince Tom he's sick. He sticks an old-fashion ambient thermometer in his mouth and flicks a lighter on under it. It quickly goes to maximum, the glass tube expands at the end and blows all the pressure with a whistle.
    • In "Down and Outing", Jerry presses down on the car's gas pedal, and the car ends up going so fast that the speedometer breaks.

    Real Life 
  • The 2010 Wimbledon match between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut is the longest professional tennis match in history, with Isner finally winning 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (7-9), 7-6 (7-3), 70-68. During the absurdly-long fifth set both the electronic scoreboard at the court the two were playing at as well as the internet scoreboard on Wimbledon's website broke down and were unable to display the correct score — the former was stuck at 47-47 and was later turned off (an IBM technician made a hotfix to get it working when play resumed the next day) while the website scoreboard made it to 50-50 before also freezing and eventually had a note attached to the bottom asking viewers to add 50 to each side.
  • A possible inversion — there are multiple reports of aircraft flying in the Israel area that have their navigation systems go haywire. The reason? The Dead Sea area is BELOW sea level, causing nav systems that aren't coded to deal with that to freak out and believe the plane has flown several hundred feet into the planet. In a couple of extreme cases with little documented evidence this phenomenon has caused the nav systems to completely crash. Most of the documented examples have much lesser impact, with the nav simply blaring that the plane had crashed and refusing to offer any navigation guidance at all; even after it had safely landed by pilots using visual navigation. Either way, the scale of the reading caused a system to lose it (and anecdotally even implode), just with an incredibly LOW number — negative, to be specific — instead of a high number.
  • At Chernobyl, the first high-range dosimeter they tried after the explosion burned out as soon as it was switched on. That should have been a clue...
  • In the early exploration of deep-sea thermal vents by manned submersible, on one expedition an attempt was made to insert a temperature probe into the opening of one of the vents in order to see how hot it actually was. Between the heat and the pressure of that depth, the probe promptly melted. The submersible's crew decided to quickly withdraw from the vent, lest the sub's hull follow suit.
  • The Youtube video for Gangnam Style had its view count briefly stuck at 2,147,483,647note , before Youtube's engineers updated the website to handle larger numbers. One senior Youtube representative commented that they had never expected a single video to rack up that many views.
  • When investigating the Value Jet Flight 592 crash, which was caused by an onboard fire, the NTSB tested how hot a fire caused by oxygen generators could get. The thermometers—which could measure several thousand degrees—didn't go high enough to give an actual reading. While that's Readings Are Off the Scale, what qualifies this as "blowing up the scale" was the extensive damage the test fire did to the testing facility.


Video Example(s):


Rockin' Beats

Melody's band the Rockin' Beats receive so much cheering and applause that the scale measuring it explodes.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / ReadingsBlewUpTheScale

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