Mickey: What's that?
The Doctor: No idea, just made it up. Didn't want to say "magic door".
Dishonest technician characters sometimes resort to vague, senseless "technical" babble to make up "serious problems" in the inner workings of a machine and offer to "fix" them for a high price.
When technobabble is used to justify a plot development, it's a Hand Wave. When it is used to solve a problem, it is a Polarity Reversal. When it is used to add to the genre feel, it is Narrative Filigree. Due to its historical use and abuse by sci-fi writers, Technobabble is nowadays played more and more often for laughs or parodied in some way.
Compare to Applied Phlebotinum and Green Rocks. When technobabble contradicts itself, well, A Wizard Did It. See also Blah Blah Blah, Hollywood Hacking and Technology Porn. Magi Babble for the fantasy version of this trope. Often the source of an Expospeak Gag; may be Sophisticated as Hell. Particularly ridiculous technobabble may appear to someone with actual expertise as being a technical form of Delusions of Eloquence, or just have a hysterical or horrifying meaning in the real world. Layman's Terms is the opposite trope. Compare and contrast Proverbial Wisdom, for wise or spiritual characters who cannot say anything without cloaking it in riddles, proverbs and flowery metaphors.
- The latest commercials for Verizon FiOS TV/Internet service star a technician explaining the benefits of the service to a curious kid who spotted a weird light in his truck. The boy then repeats this technobabble to his dad (word for word!) to entice him to get the service.
- How many times did you see an ad for a laundry detergent with "intelligent molecules"?
- In the UK, there was a TV advert making a big deal over "perborate" — sounds advanced, but sodium perborate is such a common bleaching agent in detergents. It's like making a fuss over caffeine in cola.
- Another UK detergent commercial showed a beaker of water with a drop of oil floating in the middle; a solution of the new detergent was dripped into it and ping! the oil drop went flying to the sides of the beaker. It looked quite impressive — until a consumer show repeated the experiment with the established brands of detergent, with exactly the same result every time. That ad got laughed off the air as a result.
- There's a commercial on in Canada selling some kind of laundry detergent that boasts about its "acti-lift technology". So does one in Spain.
- Every commercial for shampoo, face creams, etc that make up any old scientific-sounding mumbo-jumbo to sound like they are terribly advanced and especially effective. Lampshaded in the shampoo commercial that points out "Here's the science bit."
- Some bottled water ads have been boasting its high pH level. Which is great, until you realize that lye has a pH of 13. (Pure water's pH is 7.)
- For years, Certs advertised that they were the "only" breath mint with "Retsyn," as if this was some special ingredient that made their mints better or more effective than everyone elses. In fact, Retsyn was "a combination of partially hydrogenated cottonseed, copper gluconate, and flavouring. Aka: oil, copper sugar, and a vague but unremarkable chemical." The only real purpose Retsyn had was to serve as a marketing gimmick - and it was a very successful one, at that.
- Energy drinks often brag about being a good source of electrolytes. Since salt is one naturally occurring electrolyte, it's safe to assume they just added salt.
- This particular one is a plot point in Idiocracy. The simpleton citizens of the future have induced a dust bowl because they were watering their crops with the energy drink Brawndo, because "It has Electrolytes!", instead of water, which they use exclusively for toilets. They were literally Salting The Earth, and were too stupid to realize it.
- A sweetener cslled Sweet Freedom is advertised as "100% natural" (like deadly nightshade or lead) and "produced using a water process with no chemicals or enzymes used" (water is a chemical).
- Played to death and lampshaded in Haruhi Suzumiya.
Yuki Nagato: A localized, non-corrosive amalgamation of asynchronous space is independently occurring in restricted condition mode.
Kyon: It almost sounds like you're flipping through a dictionary, pulling out words at random.
- This trope is very prevalent in Mecha Show series regardless they are Super Robot Genre, Real Robot Genre or feature no Humongous Mecha at all.
- Combattler V had many blatant examples. In an episode, a court is judging Combattler is too dangerous to be controlled because it is made of super-alloy (chogokin) and powered with electro-magnetic energy.
- The Mazinger series have plenty of it:
Sayaka: Aphrodite A Immediate activation! number 1. Number 2. Number 3. Check! All Green! Retention bolt, begin release!
- Mazinger Z:
- Early on in the series it is explained that Photon Atomic (Koushiryoku) power is obtained in the process to transform Japanium in Alloy Z.
- In the manga version of the battle versus Jinray S1, Professor Yumi explains Jinray's electrical discharges generate an electro-magnetic field around Mazinger that disrupts the power feeding Mazinger and breaks down the Pilder's controls. He also warns that, should the electrical tension increase too much, Mazinger's mechanisms would melt.
- In the episode in which Minerva-X appeared, Professor Yumi theorized that she was made of super-steel.
- UFO Robo Grendizer: In an episode of the first season, the Vegans plot attacking during an eclipse and luring Duke to fight in the eclipse's umbra because the lack of solar waves will disrupt the flow of the Applied Phlebotinum that fuels Grendizer. Hence the Humongous Mecha will run out of power and will be rendered defenseless.
- Shin Mazinger Zero:
- Mazinger is acronym for Multidimensional Automaton Zillion Infinity Neural Generative Exterminate Reverter
- And in chapter 6:
- Mazinger Z:
- Mobile Suit Gundam and its derivative works are known for inventing whole new quasiscientific areas (e.g. Minovsky Physics) together with corresponding Technobabble. Example from Mobile Suit Gundam SEED:
Kira Yamato: Take the calibration and reset the zero moment point and the CPG. Connect the control module to quasi-cortex molecular ion pump. Rebuild neural linkage network. Update meta-motor cortex parameters. Restart feed-forward control. Transfer functions, correct for Coriolis deviation... Online!
- Code Geass: "Super-electro-magnetic-shrapnel cannon, FIRE!!"
proceeds to shot out little exploding pellets that in no way affect Suzaku's oncoming Nightmare-frame.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion is also infamous for its technobabble. It doesn't just feature babble about actual technology but about meta-physics as well, straight down to talking about things like "ego barriers."
Maya: The ego border is frozen in a loop.
- Episode 20 had the best one when Shinji's been absorbed by Unit 01 and they're trying to get him out. Problem is, he doesn't want to come back.
Ritsuko: Irradiate the wave pattern from all directions... It won't work. The signals are trapped in Klein space.
Misato: What does that mean?
Ritsuko: It means we failed. Abort intervention, reverse tangent plug! Return additions to zero.
Aoba: Destrudo reaction in old area! Pattern sepia! destrudo
Hyuga: A change is confirmed on the core pulse too! + 0.3 confirmed!
Ritsuko: Maintenance of the status quo is top priority, prevent backflow!
Maya: + 0.5... 0.8... It's odd, I can't stop it!
Shigeru Aoba: We've got an unidentified intruder! Someone's hacking the sub-computer! I'm tracing it!
- Fuyutsuki and Gendo Ikari were experts in "metaphysical biology" (You got philosophy in my science! You got science in my philosophy!) before going military. In other words, the Eva universe had a field of science devoted to things like the Angels even before the Second Impact.
- One of the most straightforward examples of this trope is in the fact that the MAGI must verify every Angel is "Blood Type BLUE" before the Evas can attack them. The fact that most Angels are several stories tall and shoot laser beams from their mouths isn't enough of a tip-off, apparently.
- Episode 13 is probably one of the best sources for this, as it focuses less on the pilots and more on the technicians, Bridge Bunnies, and Ritsuko. During the Angel's first attack sequence, we hear all kinds of Techno Babble, such as in this scene, just as the attack commences:
Makoto Hyūga: Ah, not now, they're coming in C-Mode! We can't stop 'em!
Shigeru Aoba: We've got to unfreeze the barrier! Open a decoy entry!
Technician: Decoy entry has been avoided!
Shigeru: T minus 18 seconds 'til trace completed.
Technician 2: Spreading barrier.
Technician: Barrier has been penetrated!
Shigeru: Open a second false entry!
Technician: Opening another false entry!
Makoto: No human's capable of this!
Shigeru: Trace completed! The hackers are in this building! It's under B-Wing...IN THE PRIBNOW BOX!
- Tenchi Muyo!: The infamous "Mihoshi's Fairy Tale" episode of the original OVAs,e in which Mihoshi claims the Big Bad in her story was stealing "ultra energy matter" for nefarious purposes. Scientist Washū demands to know just what the hell "ultra energy matter" is, and Mihoshi nervously handwaves it away with a Shaped Like Itself explanation that leaves Washū fuming.
- Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann gets some in the second half with the bio-computer. The only person who can understand a word of it is Leeron, and then only half. The show doesn't even try taking it seriously-generally, the ultra-dense technobabble spouted by the bio-computer is either ignored or boils down to "All this I'm saying doesn't really matter because you're just going to break physics anyway, you jackasses."
- A Certain Magical Index is quite fond of this trope, as well as the sister trope Magibabble. Most of the espers have a somewhat plausible explanation for their powers, but a lot of times when you look too close, the science starts to fall apart. That being said, the fact that every esper is explicitly a Reality Warper with a very limited skillset helps gloss over the physics goofs. And since the method to create espers was literally invented by an evil wizard, there's another explanation if it's ever needed.
- In Liar Game, Akiyama uses this in the prelims to the fourth round to explain how he can tell who is "Infected" and who is "Normal". He's actually faking the entire thing, but he does it convincingly enough that everyone believes him, allowing him to proceed with his plan.
- Hayate the Combat Butler: Even Nagi is accused of doing this by Isumi:
Isumi: Nagi uses such complicated words. When she's trying to deceive someone.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! referred to Kaiba doing a "quantum analysis" of his and Yugi's first duel. Because subatomic particles are so relevant to the world of card advantage.
- Card games are very Serious Business.
- Guilty Crown uses a lot of biology-themed Techno Babble, most of it misapplied or completely nonsensical (intron-RAM, anyone?).
- Space Dandy's explanation for how warping works is that the warpers mind is switched with another version of them from a different universe. Which sounds reasonable at first. But the more you think about it, the less sense it makes. If no motion is occuring, why would people use it. From their perspective, nothing happens. Either that, or the person disappears but never arrives anywhere since the incoming mind has no body to switch into. From the point of view of anyone watching, either it's a dud or it's lethal.
- On The Firesign Theatre's comedy album, I Think We're All Bozos on This Bus, the "Wall of Science" ride at the Future Fair is full of very silly technobabble, parodying science documentaries. For example, we learn about "Fudd's First Law of Opposition: If you push something hard enough, it will fall over", which is then used for a babblicious explanation of how a power plant works.
- Double Subversion in Atomic Robo. Dr Dinosaur is prone to talking at length about "timevolution" and the unlimited power of crystals. In a lot of comics, this would be business as usual, but here Robo usually yells at him about how what he's saying is complete pseudoscientific gibberish and will either do nothing or kill everyone present. Then it works anyway. This usually makes Robo a very sad robot indeed.
- The universe presented in Supergirl mini Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade is an Affectionate Parody of the Silver Age. It runs on mad pseudo-science.
'Supergirl: I bet I just need to calculate the relative orbits of Argo and Earth. Then, if I can fly high enough to make it into orbit, I can probably use the gravitational forces of this planet to slingshot me back into quasi-space! It's foolproof!
- In one Dilbert strip, the Pointy-Haired Boss asks Dilbert, "Did you know that twenty percent of all microfleems are subradiante?" He keeps telling Dilbert to consider the implications of this until Dilbert submits to his superior knowledge of technological facts. He doesn't actually know what a microfleem is.
- The Dilbert website used to contain a random mission statement generator, which bordered on this trope.
- Subverted in a The Far Side comic, where one scientist makes the mistake of uttering "The 'T' Word" in a lab. "Hey, could you hand me the... the... the thingy?"
- Advice and Trust: Lampshaded by Shinji in chapter 3:
Doctor Akagi was deep into some lecture about the Angel. Shinji tried to listen, hoping she'd offer something to give him hope, but the advanced mathematical diagrams and jargon-laden explanation went mostly past him. The Angel was three nanometers thick? Inverted AT-Field? Imaginary space? The floating sphere was its five-dimensional shadow? What the Hell was a 'Sea of Dirac'? He shook his head.
- In the Firefly fanfic Forward, Kaylee actually uses technobabble to scare off a group of suspicious federal marshals who are poking around the ship's engine room, by warning them that poking or moving anything will result in a horrific death via painful-sounding technobabble. They eventually back off and leave.
- HERZ: Plentiful, as it was to be expected considering the source material is a Super Robot series. Chapter 3 gave a good number of examples, featuring different activation tests.
- Last Child of Krypton: Among the giant robot show elements and the sci-fi-oriented super-hero comic-book elements there is plenty of jargon around. And in the first chapter Rei very nearly calls the trope by name:
She held her breath to dull the pain, and for the second day there was light, oh so much light, and she heard the technicians babbling their coded language of feedback loops and neural connections and the Eva went dark, overwhelmed.
- Done occasionally in Calvin and Hobbes: The Series, though at one point it is defied (overlapping with Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness):
Sherman: OK, this chip has an automatic upgrading system. It will use an intergalactic...
Calvin: Yeah, yeah, yeah... big complicated words. They're all the same!
- In Origins, this is exploited by Slade Stevens, the head of S&S Munitions. He knows what he's saying is meaningless, but he also knows that nobody has the knowledge to contradict him, resulting in his being accepted as an expert.
- In Farce Contact, a Star Trek: Enterprise Parody Fic, technobabble is created as a consequence of the Universal Translator, as it's the only way anyone can remain incomprehensible.
- This exchange in Reality Is Fluid between a Cardassian scientist and a slightly Book Dumb* Starfleet captain.
Prof. Atani Dukat: By the way, Captain Kanril, can I compliment you on your science officer? Commander Riyannis really knows her astrophysics. I had a good time talking n-dimensional subspace mechanics with her earlier.
Capt. Kanril Eleya: Maam, I have no idea what you just said but Ill accept the compliment.
- In Beat the Drums of War, an admiral from Starfleet Science starts to explain to Fleet Admiral Jorel Quinn her plan to divert the invading Heralds into a black hole, but he stops her in mid-sentence because he didn't understand her the first time she explained it, either.
- Browncoat, Green Eyes:
Antonio: The tachyon accelerators rely on a delicate balance of fusion and fission-
Harry: Antonio! Please. Speak English around me. Not science, and definitely not Chinese.
- An old electrical engineering joke is a fictional device called the "Turboencabulator". Here's a portion of its description:
"The original machine had a base-plate of prefabulated amulite, surmounted by a malleable logarithmic casing in such a way that the two spurving bearings were in a direct line with the pentametric fan, the latter consisted simply of six hydrocoptic marzelvanes, so fitted to the ambifacient lunar vaneshaft that side fumbling was effectively prevented. The main winding was of the normal lotus-o-delta type placed in panendermic semi-boloid slots in the stator, every seventh conductor being connected by a nonreversible trem'e pipe to the differential girdlespring on the 'up' end of the grammeters."
- This was actually made into a video: "The Retro Encabulator".
- On Steve Martin's Let's Get Small album, he announces that he's written a joke for the plumbers in the audience:
"This lawn supervisor was out on a sprinkler maintenance job, and he started working on a Findlay sprinkler head with a Langstrom seven-inch gangly wrench. Just then this little apprentice leaned over and said, 'You can't work on a Findlay sprinkler head with a Langstrom seven-inch wrench.' Well, this infuriated the supervisor, so he went and got Volume 14 of the Kinsley manual, and he reads to him and says, 'The Langstrom seven-inch wrench can be used with the Findlay sprocket.' Just then the little apprentice leaned over and says, 'It says sprocket, not socket!'"[Beat]"Were the plumbers supposed to be here this show?"
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Trillian: Zaphod, can we stabilise X zero zero five four seven by splitting our flight path tangentially across the summate vector of nine G X seven eight with a five degree inertial correction?
- Played with in Life, the Universe and Everything: Ford murmurs portentously about detecting "eddies in the space-time continuum," and Arthur, not understanding at all, asks, "Who is Eddy then, exactly?"
- "And that's his sofa, is it?"
- Also played with in the first book and radio series:
Zaphod: Where did you learn a stunt like that, Trillian?
Trillian: Going 'round Hyde Park Corner on a moped.
- Legitimate Techno Babble makes a lot of Charles Stross' appeal.
- Encounter With Tiber has a multi-page bibliography. If the someone is babbling scientific words, its because they're reading the relevant Other Wiki page.
- Isaac Asimov:
- "The Endochronic Properties Of Resublimated Thiotimoline": A Parody of a doctoral thesis, written to de-stress from his efforts on The Kinetics of the Reaction Inactivation of Tyrosinase during its Catalysis of the Aerobic Oxidation of Catechol, his doctorate. Thiotimoline is a chemical substance that behaves in a completely impossible manner (specifically, a type of carbon molecule that is so soluble that it begins to dissolve before you pour water on it because it's so dense that some of its bonds get crowded out of normal three-dimensional space and into the future). He attempted to use a Pen Name when publishing. However, through an oversight, the story was published under his real name. Towards the end of his doctoral defense, one of his committee members casually asked "So, Mr. Asimov, what can you tell us about thiotimoline?" His committee thought the whole thing was hilarious, and were more interested in his Science Fiction than his thesis.
- "The Foundation of S.F. Success": (Conversational Troping) Dr Asimov advises the reader to use scientific jargon (even if it's wrong) in their own works, because that's what the fans enjoy.
- "The Ugly Little Boy": "Mesonic intertemporal detection"; Dr Hoskins' explanation for their ability to "see" the past and choose what area of time/space they create a bubble of "not time" around to bring forward into the present.
- Lampshaded in Lost in a Good Book:
Thursday: We're in the middle of an isolated high-coincidental localized entropic field decreasement.
Wilbur: We're in a what?
Thursday: We're in a pseudoscientific technobabble.
Wilbur: Ah! One of those.
- Further lampshaded in One Of Our Thursdays Is Missing, which reveals that any technological object in the Bookworld more advanced than a toaster is built by Techno Babble Industries.
- The Head of the Alchemists' Guild speaks like this in the Discworld novel Reaper Man, which is appropriate given the Alchemists are like early Discworld scientists.
- Also seen with the Smoking GNU in Going Postal, who are to the mechanical telegraph system known as the "clacks" what RL hackers are to the Internet. When Moist listens to their explanation of ...the Woodpecker, about the only words he recognizes are things like "chain", "disengage", and "the".
- One of E. E. Doc Smith's Lensman books, Galactic Patrol, includes a very amusing technobabble explanation for the unlikely properties of one of his favorite inventions, Duodecpylatimate, AKA Duodec, the ultimate chemical explosive, though you do have to understand scientific notation to figure out the joke. Duodecpylatimate is described as "the quintessence of atomic destruction," whose power is second only than a nuclear explosion and has few of the drawbacks of atomics. No radiation danger, easy to handle, simple to use, powerful and easy to detonate. "Duodec" is a solid chemical explosive composed of 324 atoms of heptavalent nitrogen combined in 12 linked molecules of 27 atoms each.
- Parodied in Alan Dean Foster's Spellsinger series, where wizards incorporate technical terms from science and engineering into their arcane rituals. Lampshaded in that Jon-Tom immediately spots the connection, but turtle wizard Clothahump merely comments that the wizards in his (our) world must simply use comparable formulae for their spells.
- The titular Bastard Operator from Hell is a master of coming up with what an informed reader can tell is nonsense, but which the boss will consider to be very impressive.
- The BOFH also uses a technobabble overload to force lusers into Dummy Mode, where they will do whatever he tells them without thinking about it.
- Dan Brown, in Angels & Demons, describes a battery charger that would make anyone with the slightest knowledge of electronics cringe; its over-elaborate design includes servo-coils, the part of a disc drive which moves the heads. And this from a character who's supposed to be a physicist? Why didn't she use a simple constant-current source like everyone else?
- In the same book, the assassin apparently makes his cell-phone untraceable by splaying a ferret over it. Let's hope the local animal protection society never got to hear of that.
- In the classical novel by Alessandro Manzoni The Betrothed it's used by don Abbondio, a clergyman. He's just trying to find an excuse to convince the young Renzo to postpone his marriage (he has been threatened by the henchmen of a local noble to do that) and starts sprouting nonsense in Latin to impress him. Renzo, although, doesn't fall for it and just roars "Enough of your Latinorum!".
- Copious amounts can be found in Deep Storm, although half the time it's simplified by Dr. Crane's exposition parroting.
- The Star Wars Expanded Universe combines this with Hold Your Hippogriffs. Constantly. A joke about lightbulbs becomes one about stormtroopers changing glowpanels. (And for the record, it just takes one blonde to change a glowpanel, but he doesn't even have to touch it.)
- Lampshaded by Q in the Star Trek book I, Q. Q is visiting the Q Continuum, which is in a state of utter chaos. He describes it in technobabble, true to the tradition of Star Trek. After his lengthy, jargon-ny description of what the heck's going on, he proceeds to hang the lampshade:
Q: This must sound like a lot of technobabble to you. In layman's terms: The shit had hit the fan.
- Aubrey-Maturin: Stephen Maturin invokes this trope, due to the highly technical nature of running large sailing ships: "Your mariner is a splendid fellow, none better, but he is sadly given to jargon."
- Destination: Void by Frank Herbert is largely filled with this.
- John Scalzi's Redshirts mocks this (and numerous other Star Trek tropes) viciously. The science lab is regularly required to work under impossible deadlines. But they have the Box: it looks a lot like a microwave, and you can put any sample to be analyzed into it. Let it run for a while, then hand the results off personally to the Spock Expy (no simply transmitting it by computer) while spouting a load of nonsense, and it magically works. It makes no sense and the lab's crew hate it because it insults their understanding of science, but they do it because that's how it works.
- In The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins, Carolyn tries to do this, but Scott isn't buying it:
"Do you know what a gravity well is? It's kind of like that, except in reverse, and it only works on certain people."
"I have no idea what that's supposed to mean."
"Hmm. OK, think of it this way. Do you know how microwaves work?"
"It's based on microwaves."
"Oh, wait. I just remembered. I do know how microwaves work, and what you're saying is bullshit."
- Space Brat: The Wrath Of Squat inverts and parodies this when the resident Mad Scientist explains his Body Swap machine. He starts in layman's terms, but only gets a Flat "What". He then repeats himself in hilariously over-the-top Techno Babble; cue Freak Out!.
- In the novella A Taste of Honey, Adónane and Perfecta, upon meeting Femysade, immediately launch into what Aqib calls 'women's business' — namely mathematical and physics technobabble, throwing around phrases like 'fatidic notation', 'models of earthbound singularities', 'quantum measurement' and 'telekinetic watcher'.
- While working as a spy in The City of Gold and Lead, Will tries to encourage his Master to talk about his work, but unfortunately there aren't any human words for the technical terms the Master is using.
"A few days ago he was saying that he was feeling unhappy because during the zootleboot a tsutsutsu went into spiwis, and therefore it was not possible to izdool the shuchutu. At least, it sounded something like that. I saw no point in even trying to understand what it meant."
- Kids Praise: The time machine in the seventh album inevitably brought this on, with Psalty talking about an "over-under-inside-out power drive" at one point.
- SCP Foundation, SCP-1417-J ("Passive-Aggressive Meteorite"). During Emergency Procedure 1634-Broadway the Foundation personnel use a torrent of scientific-sounding language.
"...we've got a runaway positronic acceleration...realigning the multimodal flux relay...gluonic resistance readout of 38!...stop the antipolar magnetic attractors from aligning...reboot the central lenticular magnetron...subatomic electro-vulcanizer...rejigger the anti-nucleonic force matrix..."
- The playfield for TX-Sector is festooned with nonsense technobabble for the various targets, such as "Transphazers," an "Inter-Link Gate," "Nega Ports," and the "Infinity Zone".
- Parodied on Nebulous:
McQuasar: No, Professor Nebulous, you're talking nonsense!
Nebulous: Honestly, McQuasar, which part of anti-veritaneous actuality inversion don't you understand?
- The Firefly Tabletop RPG featured a table that allowed the GM to randomly generate damage to the players' ship. It had two columns, one for technobabble, and one for what this actually meant. They were rolled separately, and therefore one had no correlation to each other whatsoever.
- The technobabble column itself came in three parts: the part prefix (Primary/Hydraulic/etc), the part (Stabilizer/Vent/Feed/etc) and what happened to it (Cracked/Jammed/Exploded/etc) requiring three rolls to describe what went wrong when all anyone wants to know is the fourth, which is what it means.
- The Adeptus Mechanicus of Warhammer 40,000 has Lingua Technis, a language devoted to Techno Babble. It lets them maintain their monopoly on technical knowledge.
- Genius: The Transgression: Actually represented in the rules, and known as Jabir. A Genius who tries to talk about any kind of science will find that they have suddenly stopped making sense.
- Spirit of the Century allows players to make declarations about scientific facts their characters know which can help in whatever situation they find themselves in. Since Spirit of the Century runs on the rules of pulp narrative, both players and Game Masters are encouraged to make such situations less about "realistic science" and more about "impressive sounding technobabble."
- Paranoia has a recommendation for the GM about this trope: talk fast. If any of the players ask for clarification, tell them that the information is beyond their security clearance. The Paranoia XP rulebook also had a table at the back to randomly generate technobabble-esque medication names
- The Fudge Factor Article Building A Better Space Ship states "Unless your players are more scientifically adept then usual, don't be afraid to simply take some cool sounding word and putting it in" on names. Their example is a Phased Ion Rifle.
- In Magic: The Gathering, a card from the Future Sight set modified how the player assembles contraptions. Contraptions don't exist. You can't assemble them. There are no rules pertaining to 'assembling' or 'contraptions' anywhere in the game... At least until Unstable which finally gave them rules and actual Contraption cards.
- This is actually a reference to a past card, Great Wall, which made it possible to block creatures with plainswalk even if you had a plains; at the time, only one creature with plainswalk existed, and even today, with over a hundred thousand cards, less than twenty have or grant plainswalk.
- According to Yu-Gi-Oh! Master Guide 4, the advanced technology of the Mecha Phantom Beast archetype includes quantum-output machines. The decoys created by these machines are nearly indistinguishable from the original on radar and are said to be so efficient at drawing away fire, that as long as a single decoy has been deployed, the original machine cannot be shot down.
- In The Rainmaker, Starbuck first tries to explain how he can bring rain in terms of Techno Babble. Since Lizzie isn't buying it, he quickly changes his approach:
Starbuck: Sodium chloride!—pitch it up high—right up to the clouds! Electrify the cold front! Neutralize the warm front! Barometricize the tropopause! Magnetize occlusions in the sky!
Lizzie: In other words—bunk!
Starbuck: Lady, you're right! You know why that sounds like bunk? Because it is bunk! Bunk and hokey pokey! And I tell you, I'd be ashamed to use any of those methods!
- Older Than Steam. In Ben Jonson's The Alchemist, a couple of con artists are trying to fool some rubes into thinking they're alchemists. Part of the show includes a long, babbling speech about the state of the Philosopher's Stone. Jonson was an obsessive researcher and much of the nonsense is based on contemporary alchemical jargon, but in a way to come across as nonsensical to even the contemporary audience:
Can you sublime and dulcify? calcine?
Know you the sapor pontic? sapor stiptic,
Or what is homogene, or heterogene?
- Another great example is Marlowe's Doctor Faustus, when Faustus quizzes his new demonic "servant" Mephistophilis about astronomy. Specifically, he wants to know why the planets move the way they do. Since Mephistophilis' job is to win souls for Hell, not to answer obscure scientific questions, he cops out with the Latin phrase "per inoequalem motum respect totes," which means "by unequal motion relative to the whole." This sounds like real astronomy, especially because of the old Gratuitous Latin thing, but it's so vague and general as to be this trope. It's so vague, it's not even false per se. It's as if you asked how a car worked and somebody told you "by virtue of lubricated mechanical linkages actuated by kinetic energy."
- Subverted completely with Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors and the sequel, Virtue's Last Reward. The abilities of espers and those who throw their consciousnesses through time could have easily been handwaved with vague explanations about telepathy and mental time travel. Instead, everything is explained in complete length, pulling from real world scientific theories and phenomena, such as morphegenetic field theory, Minkowski space, the many-worlds interpretation, and schrodinger's cat, to name a few. In the end, everything in the series seems to have gone out of its way to purposefully avoid using technobabble at pretty much any point, despite it being very sci-fi-like in nature.
- The anti-matter bombs in Virtue's Last Reward are specifically given an entire scene dedicated to explaining how they work, using real world science. This includes anti-matter is, what anti-matter annihilation entails (this part is justified in-universe as a needed explanation for Quark, since he's just a child), then how the bombs utilize this, and how you work out the joules of energy generated by a detonation by taking the amount of matter and anti-matter, and using Eisten's E=MC^2.note
- Subverted in Kid Radd, where the otherwise brilliant Mad Scientist has a huge blind spot for technobabble. "The sensors are picking up some stuff!"
- Parody: this Starslip strip.
- Parodied as well in this Irregular Webcomic! strip; see also the notes at the bottom.
- 8-Bit Theater features a technobabble dialogue in this strip.
- Parodied in Sluggy Freelance, here.
- Intragalactic did a parody of technobabble in a footnote here: "It wouldn't seem like you could chart space on a two-dimensional screen like this. Until you remember that at large distances space functions as a flat surface due to the exponentially increasing effects of gravity as we near the Planck time. Subspace anomaly nanoprobes wormhole."
- Also in Muertitos by the same author here: "The trauma has rendered her catatonic, clinically vegetative, and medicine saline doctor viral!"
- Lampshaded, in a typically direct way, in this Antihero for Hire strip.
- Lampshaded in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! when Jean Poule tries to explain the experiment which produced Molly.
- And again when Molly tries to explain her newest invention.
- Lampshade firmly hung in Keychain of Creation with the character of Nova, an Alchemical Exalt. Specifically, in her fight with Misho here. Misho's usually the go-to guy for Magi Babble about Magitek, but Nova's particularly bad about it, especially since her stuff is more "tek" than "magi."
- Narbonic, which featured such gems as this◊, this◊, and this◊.
- Note that the author insisted on making the technobabble the most scientifically accurate stuff in the entire comic.
- Then later somewhat explained after Dave goes mad, he states that English doesn't have half the words he'd need to explain how mad science works. So he made his own language◊.
- Gunnerkrigg Court: "Jargon computers technical wizardry babble jargon."
- Lampshaded in this Buck Godot: Zap Gun for Hire strip. "Ready to begin speaking in technobabble, sir." "Oh shut up, it's just us. Turn it on!"
- Shown in these two Bob and George comics.
- Keep reading — a few comics later it culminates nicely with a character exploding due to technobabble overload.
- They already introduced the trope a couple of years before, though.
- Lampshaded in this Freefall strip, among many others. If it includes Florence there's a chance technobabble is going to appear sooner or later. She may be speaking Engineer again (though what she actually said there actually makes perfect sense if you are a nuclear engineer). However, this strip proves that the robots aren't above it either.
- Surprisingly, the third example is just Jargon, although it is mixing religion and quantum mechanics, which is always a bad idea.
- Lampshaded in this The Way of the Metagamer comic.
- Done hilariously in this Exterminatus Now. Even better, the multiple walls of text can be summarized thus:
- And here, where they use some of the more well known ones. Don't miss the labels on the other switches.
- Far Out There does this all the freaking time, though there's usually at least a little lampshading going on.
- Completely inverted by Sandra and Woo.
- Technobabble in Girl Genius tends to run afoul of the Unspoken Plan Guarantee; if any use of technology is described it will fail or be foiled, necessitating on-the-spot improvisation that involves Percussive Maintenance, Frickin' Laser Beams, or just science that happens to be weird. The entire three-way poison cure between Agatha, Gil and Tavrek is a good example, as it was full of babbling Sparks getting owned by Finagle's Law.
- In Nip and Tuck, the Show Within a Show Rebel Cry features it, lampshaded.
- Goblins. Kin is prone to this, especially hilarious when talking to the dimwitted Minmax.
- In Sinfest, Percy uses it to belittle Pooch's discovery. (Percy had earlier declared a shoe was an "awesome machine" for him.)
- Parodied in Homestuck: while most of the characters are more likely to use Buffy Speak for anything technical, the Sburb installation screen includes such interesting phrases as "Realigning Cartesian mandrills".note
- Despite being an Affectionate Parody of science fiction in general, it's surprisingly rare in Commander Kitty. One of the more notable examples even had the author going on to explain it in the side notes.
- In Sturgeon's Law, Jenn attempts to cover up her incompetence with Star-Trek-style technobabble, with mixed results.
- In El Goonish Shive, Tedd uses it to explain why drenching the Goo with water will destroy it.
- Awful Hospital has this as a major plot element. Most characters encountered talk about "spiraling" and "sub-perceptual zones" with the same level of casualness most people would talk about dirty dishes and late night television. Slowly, the readers begin to (sort of) understand concepts like "layers" and "branchination", but the realms are just too massive to understand everything, so we will probably never know what "gleaming" is or what "furlers" actually are.
- Parodied in the second page of Larp Trek:
Geordi: Im all out of ideas, sir. Holodeck is just plain busted, theres not much I can-
Picard: What about re-routing power from the secondary ion-field conduits?
Picard: Perhaps yes, yes! We could parameterize the phase inversion coils and use that to remodulate the carrier frequency
Geordi: Sir, youre youre just randomly stringing together jargon that youve overheard in Engineering
- In Sidekick Girl, Haze explains how a hero with Super Speed can run through a solid object.
- The Whateley Universe runs on Technobabble, since it's a universe of mutant superheroes and supervillains, with a Cosmic Horror Story backstory. All the major power classifications have their own Technobabble for how they work. There are even rival Technobabble factions: most Psi researchers think that "magic" is just a form of psionics; most magical adepts think that "psi" is just a form of magic; etc.
- One mutant power in particular literally runs on Technobabble: so-called "devisors" make up a Technobabble explanation on how the piece of wondertech they're building would work, and then impose new physical laws on the device so that it actually does work.
- Used copiously in animated sci-fi epic Broken Saints, particularly by computer genius Raimi, which makes some of his stints as Mr. Exposition difficult to follow. Sometimes various field-specific jargon is thrown in just so we know writer Brooke Burgess has done the research.
- The writers at Orion's Arm put a lot of work into producing plausible technobabble, the effect of this is that determining what parts they made up is pretty hard.
- Sailor Moon Abridged, episode 31:
Amy: These readings are all weird, because we seem to be stuck in the time-space Nerf Gun continuum, and the only way out is if we make a pyramid out of—
Artemis: I think this bitch is just making shit up now.
Amy: You guys never listen to me anyway!
- SF Debris repeatedly calls these out in his Star Trek reviews. He goes one step further in his review of the Voyager episode "Prototype", where he explains the method by which Technobabble is created: take two unrelated, scientific-sounding terms, and stick them together. He proceeds to demonstrate it by creating some examples, with captions giving a possible explanation of what the complete term would mean, including:
- Volume Symbiosis: A biological link between two different shapes.
- Temporal Osmosis: The mechanism by which the movement of water controls the passage of time.
- Quantum Test Tube: A special kind of test tube whose contents can only be known by looking at it.
- Simian Beta-Decay: The mechanism by which an ape will break down into a number of smaller monkeys by emitting a high-speed electron.
- Orbital Mitosis: The act of a planet splitting and forming two smaller planets that share the same path around a sun.
- Schizophrenic Thermodynamics: The mechanisms behind energy-transfer found in the environment around batshit-crazy lunatics.
- Relativistic Gentrification: The economic phenomenon associated with the re-vitalization of inner city neighborhoods as those neighborhoods approach the speed of light.
- Another Voyager episode prompted a rant about this, culminating in Chuck demanding to know if Tom Paris has developed aphasia.
- Explored in an episode of Extra Credits in a decidedly non-gaming-related episode. Daniel Floyd points out the issues inherent in justifying The Force with midi-chlorian count.
What I'm saying is that you can't lend credibility to your story just by using science-words. Using real science, and allowing that to be the floor that helps you ground your universe in an internal logical constancy; that's why Science Fiction works, not just because it sounds science-y. Once you've got that underpinning, you can explore all the interesting things that shake out of it, which is what makes science fiction so great, and on the flip-side the limitless freedom that technology provides future fantasy is what allows it to deliver such compelling stories and explore such a wealth of ideas. Don't hamstring it by entangling it in a web of techo-jargon. So yes, that is why technobabble sucks.
- Kai, Chronicles of Syntax's resident Teen Genius, likes doing this.
- Parodied by the Angry Video Game Nerd while doing a mock advertisement of the game Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing.
Trucker: Engines equipped with quantum phasing molecular mechanics to pass through solid objects so as to not interrupt the racing experience! Nothing stands in your way! When you're BIG RIGS! Rear-spinning tires with warp-drive velocity for interdimensional exploring! Leave the game behind and exceed the boundaries of existence! BIG MOTHERFUCKIN' RIIIIIGS!!!
- Parodied in Giuoco Terapia:
Miché: You see, my game needs a lot of memory. Were talking about preloading over 500 terabytes of data. Dumping it all on one server would leave traces in the tail domain, and render the code vulnerable, so Ill log into the hotel net, but not the WiFi net. Too risky. Ill log into the circuit of the time cards. Theyre punched every six hours with a deviation of five minutes and 16 seconds. This creates an ultradynamic IP. Even a hacker operating on a low level wont see it in the nets upper layers.
- The subreddit /r/VXJunkies is centered around a totally real scientific hobby involving lots of esoteric terminology.
- Mahu: Being a sci-fi series, "Second Chance" has quite a lot of this. Thanks to characters explaining the terms afterwards, it can be understood with little difficulty.
- Excellently parodied in the "Where No Fan Has Gone Before" episode of Futurama.
Bender: I'm done reconfoobling the energymotron... or whatever.
Attila the Hun: Stop! Don't shoot fire stick in space canoe! Cause explosive decompression!
- Also, from "Kif Gets Knocked Up a Notch:"
Zap Brannigan: Spare me your space-age techno-babble, Attila the Hun!
Farnsworth: Just as I suspected. These robots were buried in improperly-shielded coffins. Their programming leaked into the castle's wiring through this old, abandoned modem allowing them to project themselves as holograms.
- Or how about "The Honking:"
Hermes: Of course! It was so obvious!
Farnsworth: Yes, that sequence of words I said made perfect sense.
Professor Farnsworth: I'm sure I don't need to explain that all dark matter in the universe is linked in the form of a single non-local meta-particle.
- Really, they use (and parody) this all the time, in a variety of different ways.
- Code Lyoko is also chock full of it. Suffice to say it's never a good idea to let Jérémie explain how his newest program works. Or let Aelita answer questions about simple mathematic concepts.
- One of the most famous examples is the line uttered by the Comic Book Guy in The Simpsons in the episode "Das Bus". Notable for being actually clear, logical, and transparent to anyone who knows about computer networking. In layman terms, he has a dial-up modem, he wants broadband access, and in order to do that, he needs a router that can fit inside his private network. Here's the full quote:
Comic Book Guy: I'm interested in upgrading my 28.8 kbps internet connection to a 1.5 Mbps fiber-optic T-1 line. Will you be able to provide an IP router that's compatible with my token ring ethernet LAN configuration?Homer: [has no idea what was just said] Can I have some money now?
- Samurai Jack can parody this excellently at times due to the fact that nine times out of ten, Jack, being the Fish out of Temporal Water that he is, wouldn't understand the simplest terms being explained to him.
Shoe Salesman: They just arrived. Utilizing the latest technologies. Air foam, transposit shock-absorbing double-wishbone 5.1 -digital-surround suspension- Well, whatever, dude! They're the newest, latest ones. Let's try them on!
- Megas XLR has a running gag of having Future Badass Kiva saying some sort of technobabble, only to have it shrugged off by lazy bum Coop.
Kiva: What's the big deal on drinking a Slushie anyway?
Coop: What do you drink in the future to freshen up?
Kiva: We drink a balanced electrolytic hydrating fluid.
Coop: ...That must be some grim future you have!
- She's describing Gatorade.
- Alternately played straight and played with in Teen Titans. You have five teenagers living/fighting crime together. Cyborg is a half-robot and thus knows a lot about computers and machines, despite not finishing high school; Raven grew up meditating and reading ancient magical scrolls; Starfire is an alien with substantial knowledge of science and her own world's culture but will ultimately be stumped if you ask her a question about Earth's history, culture, and language; Robin is a Bad Ass Normal raised by Batman who makes all of his own toys; and Beast Boy, as Raven so artfully put it, learned his history from a cereal box — and the rest from TV. Get this group together and you're in for some pretty interesting conversations.
- Happens several times in Justice League, usually courtesy of the League's resident aliens from hyper-advanced cvilizations.
Superman: How can we stop it?
- In one episode of Justice League Unlimited, Supergirl finds herself in the future. Being from a similarly advanced civilization herself, she slips into technobabble (for our ears) at least once.
- In the first episode of the Thanagarian invasion Justice League Unlimited, one of the Thanagarians suggests to the Martian Manhunter that he wouldn't understand the technology they are using. Being from an advanced alien race himself, J'onn replies with a burst of technobabble indicating a deeper understanding of what's going on that she obviously expected.
- Parodied in an earlier episode of Justice League. Doubles as foreshadowing for the example above, as it demonstrates that both J'onn and Shiara are from highly-advanced civilizations.
J'onn J'onzz: There is one possibility. To halt the process, we would need to create an Einstein-Rosen bridge to drain off the infecting anti-fusion matter.
Flash: Create a what to do what?
Hawkgirl: Make a wormhole to suck away the bad stuff.
- In Dave the Barbarian, this is parodied in an episode in which Dave suggests solving the problem with convenient technobabble. Candy responds that convenient technobabble levels are dangerously low.
- In Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, it is lampshaded when Flash receives a trope fitting answer about the way they are going to get into the enemy base and says "Some of us don't speak Star Trek".
- Can happen occasionally in Jackie Chan Adventures, particularly with the Section 13 engineer, Kepler.
Jade: Hey Kepler. Whatcha workin' on?
Kepler: Solid state particle beam driven high density hypnosis inducing phase shifter. Two speed.
Jade: Uh, sounds complicated.
Kepler: [laughs] Hardly.
- In the Jimmy Two-Shoes episode "A Cold Day in Miseryville", Heloise gives one to explain her new Weather-Control Machine to Jimmy and Beezy, receiving blank stares. She then deadpans an explanation you'd give a child, instantly giving the two a complete understanding of the entire thing's mechanics (personified by them suddenly wearing classy scholar attire).
- Also seen in one opening of Family Guy where Peter is watching TV and a stand up comedian (Dennis Miller) comes on and delivers this line: "I don't want to go on a rant here, but America's foreign policy makes about as much sense as Beowulf having sex with Robert Fulton at the first Battle of Antietam. I mean, when a neo-conservative defenestrates, it's like Raskolnikov filibustered deoxymonohydroxinate." Which in turn leaves Peter with the amazing comment "What the hell does "rant" mean?"
- A Bugs Bunny cartoon featured this with Marvin's "illudium Q-35 explosive space modulator", to blow up the earth because it obstructs his view of Venus.
- Princess Bubblegum in Adventure Time uses this when describing her scientific work. In one episode, a romantic rival to Finn is just as conversant in Techno Babble as she is.
- Dexter's Laboratory used this often, a famous example is in the very first episode where Dexter and Dee Dee are fighting over a device that turns people into animals.
Dexter Now, do you understand...?(device turns him into a pig) That by combining the positive and negative polarities in sucrose radium,... (turns into a yak) We can excrete the elements from any variety of zitgaforme! (turns into a gorilla)And unificate them with the superlative repercussions of the magnetic ospium! (turns into an ostrich) Thusly, this machine should not be USED by a... (turns into a hamster) ...person of lower intelligence, such as...! (Dee Dee, still in frog form, laughs with the device in hand) Dexter: You're not listening to me! (grabs the device and turns Dee Dee into a tiger) Now, pay attention!
- Baljeet of Phineas and Ferb tends to deliver these when discussing the math and mechanics that go into Phineas and Ferb's creations or weird things the characters are dealing with, usually boring his friends and most other people in the process. He often receives a wedgie from Buford just to get him to shut up.
- In the Kaeloo episode "Let's Play TV News", Mr. Cat uses complex words to explain his latest invention to Kaeloo and Stumpy. Of course, they don't understand, so he has to show them how it works.
- Voltron: Legendary Defender has lots of techno babble, especially from Pidge and any character with a science background.
- Essentially every product or idea sold on the basis of the word "quantum." Products that predate quantum mechanics — homeopathy, for example — are offered with a lot of convincing-sounding, but nonsensical "data" about superposition and parallel dimensions.
- Attempts to use technobabble to lend a veneer of plausibility to pseudoscience often have the opposite effect on people who actually know anything about the scientific disciplines being abused. One example — apparently the ills of the world are caused by the bond angle in water changing; not only would this not happen without a change in the fundamental constants of the universe, but it's something everyone would notice because it would affect the freezing and boiling points of water. The same people then go on to talk about how boiling water drives off the electrons because its natural state is electrically charged, at which point anyone who has a basic knowledge of chemistry and physics would realize it's nonsense, and anyone who has a degree in either subject will be laughing, facepalming or both. Most people don't, which is why it's so popular to use.
- Parodied by the Dihydrogen Monoxide Research Division, who claim that a compound called "Dihydrogen Monoxide" is a dangerous chemical indirectly responsible for cancer, extremely addicting and deadly when accidentally inhaled among other things. Although all the terminology used is correct and none of the stated information is false, the possible dangers are greatly exaggerated or portrayed from an unusual point of view. Anyone with basic knowledge in chemistry quickly realizes that "Dihydrogen Monoxide" is actually water. Although clearly a hoax, numerous people unfamiliar with chemistry — including no few elected officials◊ — have actually advocated a ban of the chemical.
- It's quite common for scientific terms to be abused; for instance, sugar-free "energy" drinks don't contain any energy in the scientific sense ("stimulant drink" would be a more accurate name), and many products are claimed to "contain no chemicals", which on the face of it means that they're made of nothing but pure energy (salt, sugar, and water are all chemicals).
- The ICAO Accident Prevention Manual mentions an incident where a private pilot once wrote the authorities asking if he could save money by mixing kerosene with his aircraft fuel. They sent back a letter stating: Utilization of motor fuel involves major uncertainties/probabilities respecting shaft output and metal longevity where application pertains to aeronautical internal combustion power plants. Pilot's reply: "Thanks for the information. Will start using kerosene next week." Answering by cable this time, the authorities responded: Regrettably decision involves uncertainties. Kerosene utilization consequences questionable, with respect to metalloferrous components and power production. Cable reply from the pilot: "Thanks again. It will sure cut my fuel bill." Response by telex (a network that can reach both parked and flying planes directly) within the hour: DON'T USE KEROSENE. IT COULD KILL THE ENGINE, AND YOU TOO!
- Many troll posts found on various Internet forums have a good dose of this. One of the most famous is the legendary FLAC vs. MP3 copypasta from /mu/:
Hearing the difference now isn't the reason to encode to FLAC. FLAC uses lossless compression, while MP3 is 'lossy'. What this means is that for each year the MP3 sits on your hard drive, it will lose roughly 12kbps, assuming you have SATA - it's about 15kbps on IDE, but only 7 kbps on SCSI, due to rotational velocidensity. You don't want to know how much worse it is on CD-ROM or other optical media.I started collecting MP3s in about 2001, and if I try to play any of the tracks I downloaded back then, even the stuff I grabbed at 320kbps, they just sound like crap. The bass is terrible, the midrange...well don't get me started. Some of those albums have degraded down to 32 or even 16kbps. FLAC rips from the same period still sound great, even if they weren't stored correctly, in a cool, dry place. Seriously, stick to FLAC, you may not be able to hear the difference now, but in a year or two, you'll be glad you did.
- Physicist Alan Sokal wrote an article in the journal Social Text that was essentially this, emphasis on "babble". He did so to prove that the humanities division would accept anything.
- Some guys got a vanity academic journal to accept a paper made up entirely of technobabble generated by a computer, from a university that didn't exist. The only concern was how soon the submitters were going to pay their fee. The editor who had supposedly read the paper promptly quit, saying he had never seen the paper in question and the journal eventually shut down.
- A number of supplements talk about how wonderful it is that they contain DNA. As does every life form on Earth. Inversely, many "natural" foods are claimed to be better than genetically modified ones because GMOs contain DNA. Same problem.
- This tends to happen a lot with companies who have a large list of products and they tend to abbreviate everything. Usually happens with tech companies and military contractors. Some businesses will keep a database of "corporate lingo" for new hires.
- You can expect plenty of technobabble on sites related to the sketchier forms of online day-trading (binary options, forex, etc) in order to obscure the fact that it's basically gambling with a house edge that would make casino operators green with envy.
- "Organic" foods. "Organic" means "containing carbon"; name one foodstuff which doesn't (other than salt, that is).