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Ridiculously Potent Explosive

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The chemical bomb that created this blast was small enough to be transportable by semitruck.

"If God is Dead, he was probably screwing with Arconite"
Breach grenade description, Heat Signature

It is a well-known fact that Everything Is Better With Explosions and many authors would also agree that Bigger Is Better. After all, the bigger the explosion, the more powerful your devices and the bigger the Spectacle! Thus, logically, Everything is Even Better With Bigger Explosions, right?

Just one problem; the explosion you're now displaying is far too big to be caused by the explosive you say is causing it — or, in the case of fictional explosives, too big for any known real-world explosive of equivalent size and type; it's literally providing too much bang for its buck. To create the explosion from that small a package would require a Ridiculously Potent Explosive. The Jabootu glossary calls this trope the "Atomic Grenade".

Some authors realize this and create their explosives out of Unobtainium, Magic, or their local Green Rocks or Minovsky Particle in an attempt to justify the explosive power, but even that is not a guarantee that you won't end up with creating an unjustified Ridiculously Potent Explosive if, for instance, your explosion is chemical yet rivals nuclear, or antimatter, devices in potency.

Subtrope of Artistic License Explosives, often a case of Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale in terms of energy, or it might occur because Writers Cannot Do Math. May be used to create Earth Shattering Kabooms. Compare Made of Explodium, for things which really shouldn't be exploding in the first place. Compare and contrast the Slap-on-the-Wrist Nuke for when the explosion underperforms for what is producing it, and the Big, Bulky Bomb, another similar (but reversed) misconception where a huge-looking bomb may have a bigger yield compared to a smaller one (disregarding the bomb's active elements). Examples might be subjected to Science Marches On should we manage to create more potent explosives of the same category in the future. Compare with Everything Makes a Mushroom, where the mushroom cloud itself is usually Played for Laughs.

No Real Life Examples, Please! This trope is about those explosives whose explosive portrayal would be impossible to replicate with real world equivalents, not merely really powerful explosives.
When a real-life explosive emerges that breaks the laws of physics, then it can be added.. and may God help us.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Aura Battler Dunbine: The world of Byston Well uses special materials to create what appear to be regular missiles and grenades for its Aura Machines, which run on the spirit energy (Aura) of the pilot. They are only normal in Byston Well. One of the two creators of Aura Machines later learns that the environment of Byston Well suppresses chemical reactions, and Aura power in modern (Upper) Earth is ten times more potent. Standard Aura chemical-based missiles and grenades fired in Upper Earth have the power of nuclear weapons and entire cities are destroyed as a result.
  • In Rurouni Kenshin, the bomblets Sanosuke obtains before heading for Kyoto are small enough to fit in a palm. Yet, when he throws them at the Rengoku, Shishio's personal armored battleship, the explosion is powerful enough bust open the hull, sinking it before it can return to the shore it just left.
  • Hunter Hunter: An example whose disproportionate potency is actively Played for Drama - the Chimera Ant arc introduces a Fantastic Nuke called the Poor Man's Rose, so named for the gigantic rose-shaped mushroom cloud it produces. If the massive explosion doesn't kill you, the radiation it spreads out for miles certainly will, and the bomb itself is cheap, easily-produced, and compact enough to store inside a person's heart. In keeping with the Chimera Ant arc's themes, the fact that something so destructive and cruel could also be made so portable and accessible is treated as a testament to humanity's capacity for evil.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • A New Hope: By the numbers, the Earth-Shattering Kaboom that wipes out the planet Alderaan would require more energy than the sun produces in two years and is definitely more than the relatively puny laser shown should be capable of outputting. Supplemental materials Hand Wave this by explaining that the Death Star's "hypermatter reactor" uses exotic particles from hyperspace to cheat the laws of physics and Rogue One makes great emphasis on the Khyber Crystals that are used to boost the laser's power (and were originally used for lightsaber construction — it's all but flat out stated in canon that the superlaser just runs on space magic by now).
  • The Avengers (2012) shows one of Hawkeye's trick arrows, which can't be more than grenade-sized, blow up with a fireball larger than one of the four propeller engines that keep the Airborne Aircraft Carrier aloft.
  • The Alpha-Omega Bomb of Beneath the Planet of the Apes is a cobalt-boosted nuclear warhead mounted on what looks like a golden Minuteman missile shell (the bomb's appearances in both this film and Battle for the Planet of the Apes inconsistently imply either it's a warhead on a missile or that the entire visible shell is the bomb) capable of annihilating the whole planet.
  • Deep Blue Sea: The ploy to kill the final Mako shark involves improvising a pipe bomb with the gunpowder in a handful of signal flares, a bomb that is explicitly mentioned will have the potency of two sticks of dynamite. When it goes off, the shockwave it sends out looks more like it had been made by half a ton of C-4.
  • Desperado's big money shot is of a single frag grenade (functionally just a bigass M-80 firecracker designed to fling shrapnel) which creates a fiery explosion so massive that it sends a wall of flame shooting up past the roof that El Mariachi is standing on.
  • In Die Hard with a Vengeance, two volatile liquids mixed creates a binary explosive known as PLX, which is energetic enough to flip a chair using only a paperclip-tip's worth. PLX actually exists in the real world but neither looks like it does in the movie nor is it — or any known chemical explosive — that energetic.
  • Eagle Eye has the Hex crystal, a crystal small enough to be disguised as jewelry that is said to be able to take out a football field.
  • In Invention for Destruction, Prof. Roche is kidnapped by Count Artigas because he is working on 'positive matter': an explosive so powerful that a single hell can level an entire city.
  • James Bond showcases this in GoldenEye with its signature exploding pen, taking the top half of a test dummy clean off. The MythBusters would later show that this is an impossible feat for a pen-sized explosive to do, even with modern explosives.
  • In The Mouse That Roared the MacGuffin that is central to the plot (and provides the Duchy of Grand Fezziwig with the victory it doesn't wants) is the "Q-Bomb", an experimental nuclear device with the capacity to take out an entire continent that just also happens to be so compact that it's shaped, has the same weight, is as easy to carry as (and is portrayed by) an American football.
  • In Star Trek Into Darkness, John Harrison invents a binary explosive so powerful that mixing the pill-sized solid tablet into a drinking glass of liquid blows an entire building sky-high.
  • In Super Mario Bros. (1993), the Bob-Omb is a teeny-tiny wind-up bomb roughly the size of a cherry bomb and which, realistically, should explode with just as much force. When Mario pulls it out, all passerby on the other side of a street run away in terror and when it goes off, it tosses Koopa (who is halfway into devolving into a Tyrannosaurus rex and either still weighs as much as Dennis Hopper, or halfway between that and the total weight of a Rex) about a dozen feet straight into the air.
  • In Van Helsing, Carl demonstrates the effect of a single drop of "Nitroglycerin No.48" — it blows up like a grenade, scaring the bejeezus out of all the other weapons researchers in the room. Their collective anger heavily implies this is not unusual for him.
    Researchers: STOP IT, CARL!!!

  • The Butter Battle Book features the "Bitsy Big-Boy Boomeroo", a bean-sized explosive that's supposed to have enough force to blow up an entire city. The book ends with the Yooks and the Zooks in a stalemate, threatening to use their bomb on the others.
  • The Doctor Who New Adventures see Ace develop Nitro-9 in candy form. Ten times more powerful and easier to carry than the original, it's fortunate that human stomach acid neutralizes it.
  • In the first Deathworld book, Jason promises one person several grenades made from "solid ultranite", powerful enough to blast open a large warehouse. He also promises the pocket lighter in which they are kept.
  • Halo: Ghosts of Onyx combines this with Chekhov's Gun when a human superbomb known as a NOVA bomb is discovered by the Covenant and brought to a planet. The NOVA Bomb, as (quite proudly) described by one of the admirals that oversaw its construction, is nine nuclear fusion warheads encased in futuristic armor. When detonated, it compresses the force of the explosion to the density of a neutron star, which boosts its yield a hundredfold. When detonated in a planet's orbit, it scorches a fourth of the planet, blows up the planet's moon, and causes massive storms across the rest of the world, wrecking it. When actually detonated on a planet, Earth-Shattering Kaboom results. Fittingly, the bomb was designed to be snuck aboard the Covenant's home base, High Charity, and detonated there, so the UNSC wasn't taking any chances.
  • In The Last Hero, a barrel of Agatean Thunder Clay compact enough to fit on Mad Hamish's wheelchair is powerful enough to destroy Dunmanifestin, producing an explosion that would be visible across the Disc and an Anti-Magic EMP that would wipe out the Disc's entire Background Magic Field. This seems to be enhanced by its location at the Hub however, when it actually detonates on the way down the mountain, the results aren't quite as impressive.
  • In the Lensman series the standard go-to explosive is "duodec" ("duodecaplylatomate"). Large stores can crack the crust of a planet, and "small" pellets are used to destroy a mansion (and outbuildings) without damaging nearby residences. However, duodec does quickly become obsolete for anti-spaceship work as the setting is the Trope Namer for the Lensman Arms Race trope.
  • "Let's Get Together": Total Conversion, or TC, implies that 100% of some Unobtainium changes from matter into energy.
  • A Tall Tail by Charles Stross concerns the creation and single, disastrous test of a Ridiculously Potent Rocket Propellant.
  • Warhammer 40,000 Expanded Universe:
    • Justified at the end of the Ciaphas Cain novel Caves of Ice. While the bombs planted were only intended to create a crater in the ice to trap an enemy vehicle, they blow up in a gigantic fireball because the caves below were flooded with fuel, effectively creating a giant fuel/air bomb, to the delight of the resident Mad Bomber chief sapper. The resulting explosion is so large that a ship in space is hit by the shockwave.
    • Dark Heresy's take on promethium (an all-purpose chemical fuel used in everything from flamethrowers to tanks to Titans) is that 500 million liters of the stuff (the carrying capacity of between 1 and 2 modern supertankers) results in an explosion more than ten times the size of the Sun.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who: The Seventh Doctor's companion "Ace" became (in)famous because she was a teenage Demolitions Expert who brewed her own variation of nitroglycerine, "Nitro-9". The "9" in the name was because the amount that could fit inside of a shaving cream can could create a small earthquake rated 9.0 in the Richter Scale if set off.
  • Repeatedly defied in MythBusters. They've tested many, many explosive myths, and the real-life blast is almost never as impressive as the original myth states. The closest they came to this trope was their testing of particle matter fireballs from a YouTube video, where they made a dairy creamer aircannon - most would barely consider dairy creamer an explosive, yet the cannon belched out a fireball big enough to make a mushroom cloud and sent the build team running for the hills.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000: Mike Nelson, Destroyer of Worlds blows up a planet with a baking soda bomb.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: The Original Series: In "Whom God's Destroy" Captain Garth somehow manages to create bombs which resemble tiny crystals in canister which he can easily carry. He describes them as the most powerful explosives in existence (making them greater than Photon Torpedoes and other weapons that utilise antimatter), claiming the whole canister is enough to destroy the whole planet. Whilst Garth is insane, all the evidence suggests he was right as blowing up a single crystal creates an explosion that shakes the Enterprise whilst it's in Orbit.
    • Star Trek: Voyager: No matter what's in an Omega Molecule, its energy is by definition stored in chemical bonds. The notion that it could destroy whole sectors of space—let alone subspace—is ludicrous.
    • On the other hand, the franchise frequently inverts this as well, especially when it comes to photon torpedoes. Their warheads use 1.5 kg each of matter and anti-matter, yet their explosions are often less powerful than they should be.

    Video Games 
  • Ace Combat: Assault Horizon features Trinity, a weapon that is functionally identical to a tactical nuke and small enough to be launched from a multi-role combat aircraft like an SU-35 or F-15. However, it is explicitly not nuclear in nature. A small nod to realism is that Trinity is far more unstable than would normally be acceptable for a military-grade explosive, but it is still way more potent than it has any right to be.
  • In Command & Conquer: Tiberium Wars, Liquid Tiberium is made out to be enormously explosive, with a warhead sized bomb said to provide a yield '10 times greater than a 200 megaton thermonuke', on top of chain reactions if detonated correctly - and it does live up to that claim In-Universe by creating an explosive cloud stretching more than a thousand kilometers into spacenote  while the chain reactions set off a quarter-World-Wrecking Wave.
  • Divinity: Original Sin II has the Homemade Explosives, a unique grenade that can only be stolen from Higba when you encounter him at Driftwood. The explosive is the size of a wine bottle that, when thrown, covers the entire screen with fire and does roughly 10x the damage from a regular Firestorm Grenade, which scales based on the Intelligence stat of the character who threw it. Its explosion is strong enough to kill anything in the game.
  • Double Subverted in the penultimate level of Eternal Darkness. Michael Edwards, a Canadian firefighter who has some C4 explosives he's been using to control fires in the Gulf War is prompted to use it to destroy the pillar of flesh by a mysterious voice. However, he realises it's nowhere near powerful enough to do the job. Luckily, the same enchantment spell that's been used on weapons the entire game turns out to work just as well on modern weaponry and bombs; the resulting explosion takes out the entire underground city.
  • In Heat Signature, Arconite is the explosive used to make breach grenades, which, despite being small enough be thrown by hand or launched out of a standard grenade launcher, have the same destructive power as a ship to ship-missile, capable of not just killing absolutely anything, but also completely destroying the section of spaceship they're used in, causing nearby enemies to be sucked into space and giving you an instant escape route.
  • Several Mortal Kombat fatalities utilize in-game explosives, only multiplied by a factor of 10 to 20, which apparently upgrades their explosive potential to Earth-Shattering Kaboom levels.
  • Suzuki Bakuhatsu has some hilarious instances:
    • The orange-sized bomb can destroy the whole part of Eastern Japan.
    • In the iced coffee stage, a microscopic bomb is able to explode as large as a handheld bomb, and killing a human in an instant.
    • The car engine bomb is able to destroy the Earth completely.
    • A microscopic bomb inside a piece of rice in the bento box is able to destroy a hospital building.
    • A submarine bomb is able to evaporate the entire ocean.
  • In XCOM 2, some missions involve blowing up alien facilities. In order to do this, the player must have one of their units plant an "X4 Charge" before clearing out. The charge is a fist sized bomb that's planted somewhere inside the building, but the ending cutscene of the missions always show the entire structure exploding in a fireball worthy of Hollywood and being levelled to the ground. Word of God is that this even includes an unseen underground section of the buildings (to justify needing the X4 even if the fighting has leveled the aboveground parts).


    Web Videos 
  • Mr. Gibbs: In "Don't Nuke Yourself Challenge", one of the "bombs" is titled as "A Simple Soda Can" and looks like an ordinary soda can. It's the worst bomb out of all of them.
    Ledger: Okay, so the Soda Can is not to be.. fucked with. Let's remember that.

    Western Animation 
  • In the short Haredevil Hare, Marvin the Martian's Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator looks like an ordinary stick of dynamite but is powerful enough to blow up most of the Moon (or, if channeled through a telescope, the Earth), and Bugs Bunny's rocket is propelled by what looks like an ordinary firecracker.
  • South Park: in "Marjorine", the bomb that the kids use to destroy the fortune-teller (which is a piece of paper) consists of several cans of gasoline poured onto the thing before being wired to a detonator. The resulting explosion is so massive that it levels the whole forest the kids were in and could be seen from space.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: Played for Laughs, in "Dying for a Pie" when the bomb disguised as a pie finally goes off at the end of episode, the explosion is so great we see stock footage of an underwater A-bomb going off and the blast was large enough to destroy the entire city.
  • "Promethium-X" from the symbiote arc of Spider-Man: The Animated Series - a tiny chip, when sufficiently heated, produces an enormous explosion. The catch is that its half-life is measured in days, after which it becomes lead (which also means it's very radioactive, but not physics-defyingly so).
  • The Tom and Jerry cartoon "The Missing Mouse", revolves around an escaped lab mouse that had swallowed some experimental high-powered liquid explosive — powerful enough that the amount that fills the stomach of a mouse maybe two inches tall at the most turns a very large house, its (very large) garden, and an unknown amount of the surrounding neighborhood into a very deep crater.
  • Total Drama loves to play these for laughs.
    • In Total Drama Island, the first challenge all the contestants had to go through was high dive off a cliff into the water below. When Owen finally takes the plunge, he hits the water with enough force that the water explodes halfway up the cliffside and creates a tidal wave that wrecks the contestant watching on the beach.
    • Izzy is a pyromaniac who loves causing explosions when put anywhere near a detonator. When her team was tasked with building a bonfire, Izzy scrounges together some natural materials (mostly tree sap) into the shape and size of a basketball. As soon as she tosses it into the smoldering embers of her team's bonfire, the flames shoot up into the sky with enough force to gently push away Chris' helicopter. This also attracts the attention of the Royal Mounted Canadian Police, who were tracking her down for going AWOL.
    • In Total Drama Action, one of the challenges for the war film episode involved using controlled explosives to decorate a base. Duncan managed to use the right amounts to create an intimidating giant skull with the paint. Izzy goes overboard and creates a giant green paint explosion that can be seen from the sky. Chris and everyone else around the explosion was left covered in green paint, their hair blown back and locked in the direction of the explosion.


Video Example(s):


Liquid Tiberium chain reaction

The GDI Ion cannon is normally a rather local WMD, but when it hits a cache of liquid Tiberium, it triggers a chain reaction that leaves the world forever changed.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (15 votes)

Example of:

Main / WorldWreckingWave

Media sources: