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Unscientific Science

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When a writer explains something blatantly unscientific with something that's also blatantly (or not so blatantly) unscientific, they have shown an example of Unscientific Science. For example, a writer might explain why two characters can hear each other in space by invoking quantum physics.

This happens frequently when a hard science fiction show is serialized, and the writers can't think of a better explanation for something happening. The solution for them is often to be more vague about the science behind what happened.

This is not for something unscientific that goes unexplained or unacknowledged. This is only for when something unscientific is used as an explanation for something else unscientific. If this page was for the former and not the latter, this page would be incredibly long.

Compare New Rules as the Plot Demands (when the science is normally consistent until this trope comes into play) and Magic A Is Magic A (when the writers are consistent about how the nonsensical science works). See also Doing In the Wizard (where seemingly supernatural things are revealed to be scientific), as this trope is often that one done badly.

A subtrope of Hollywood Science and a relative of Voodoo Shark and It Runs on Nonsensoleum.

Lots of overlap with Artistic License of most forms.


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     Anime and Manga  

  • Mazinger Z: During the Final Battle in the Gosaku Ota manga chapters, Mazinger-Z was thrown in a Lava Pit...and it emerged unscathed. When Big Bad Dr. Hell blurted out it was impossible (not even Made of Indestructium Mazinger-Z can endure a lava bath, let alone Made Of Flesh Kouji Kabuto), Kouji replied he had used the rockets located on Mazinger's feet to stir the lava and create an air bubble around his robot...which actually is harder to buy than the "It's Nigh-Invulnerable and it emerged out very quickly" excuse.


  • In the direct-to-TV film Momentum, the protagonist is a physics professor who is also secretly a telekinetic. Two cops are investigating a series of bank robberies performed by people doing seemingly impossible feats. After he foils a convenience store robbery and is caught on camera, they come to ask him a few questions. They randomly bring up telekinesis. He points out that he's not an expert on anything like that. So they ask him in his capacity as a physics professor...because physics professors are supposed to know about things like that, apparently. His answer involves something about the telekinetic making a connection on the "cellular" level to the object he or she is moving. This guy needs to be fired immediately for saying stuff like that. The only way this could be reasonable was if it was limited to organic matter, which would exclude a vast majority of what they might want to use telekinesis on.
  • In a well-intentioned but misguided attempt to bypass Willing Suspension of Disbelief and the Rule of Cool, the explanation for how Gun Kata works in the movie Equilibrium is that experts were able to review thousands of gunfights and calculate the most likely trajectories of enemy fire, allowing a practitioner to dance around speeding bullets without getting shot and reliably hit targets without needing to aim. While the psychological aspects of this are vaguely plausible in that a large part of many functional martial arts involves similar exploitation of predictable instinctive human behaviors and blind spots, the problem is that these patterns change with a person's level of competence (and overlooks that shooting is more of a martial science than an art, and has virtually no technical "rules" to exploit. The most likely trajectory of return fire in reality is always from the target). Even when going by the movie's premise, the most dangerous individual to a practitioner of Gun Kata would have attended Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: their incompetence means the area they hit might accidentally overlap with the zone where the Gun Kata practitioner knows no person with eyes should be aiming. As noted on the academy's trope page, this is often Truth in Television, but real experts who have actually studied real shootouts unanimously conclude the only effective way to survive a gunfight is to get behind the best available cover and hope for a miracle.
  • Pacific Rim: When the kaiju Leatherback uses an EMP, the plot demanded that Striker Eureka be disabled but Gipsy Danger remain operational. Instead of a mundane explanation (far enough away from the blast) or no explanation at all ("Hey, look, Gipsy Danger still works"), the writers bothered to throw in two unrelated explanations: Gipsy Danger had a nuclear reactor instead of whatever powers the other Jaegers, and was therefore "analog, not digital," and thus invulnerable to an EMP. In reality, there are 3 problems: the "analog" descriptor doesn't make sense (how can a hologram-generating, mind-melding machine have zero "digital" parts?); even if it did, non-digital electronics can be destroyed by an EMP; and even they couldn't, a nuclear reactor has no properties that make it less vulnerable to EMP than a diesel motor or jet engine.


  • The Animorphs series has a couple. The biggest one is in The Mutation. The Nartec apparently used to be people who mutated after their island 'sunk'. This makes no sense. The explanation? Radiation sped up their mutation. Lampshaded when the protagonists note how nonsensical it sounds, and it's made clear that the Nartec are pretty much all insane.
  • In the Maximum Ride series, the gang have wings and other bird-like attributes, and Erasers are basically werewolves. This is explained by the fact that their DNA was altered. Apparently, there is one specific gene for bird wings (which there actually isn't), and there's a gene that allows humans to...transform into werewolves?
  • In I Am Number Four, the Loriens have seemingly magical powers. It's explained...that it happened by evolution. And apparently, these adaptations were to protect the planet they lived on. We're genuinely not sure whether or not the authors intended for this to make sense or not.
  • The Reality Bug by D. J. MacHale. In it, the Reality Bug tries to break out of fantasy into reality. The explanation is that Jumpers are somehow giving the Bug physical power.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is full of this, and it's Played for Laughs. For example, the engine of the starship Heart of Gold needs to generate infinite improbability, but it is only possible to generate finite amounts of improbability, which led physicists to say it's virtually impossible for one to exist. Then someone reasoned that a virtual impossibility is the same as a finite improbability, and when the numbers were plugged into a finite improbability drive, it just spontaneously popped into existence. (After which its creator was hunted down and strung up by a mob of his fellow physicists for being a smartarse, for which it is difficult to entirely blame them.) And then there's the Starship Bistromath from Life, The Universe and Everything which uses what can only be described as nonsensoleum-based Minovsky Physics based around splitting the bill in a restaurant of all things to delicately bend the laws of physics to get around the light barrier, which ironically enough also causes less of the unfortunate Reality Is Out to Lunch effects that happen with the Infinite Improbability Drive.
  • In The Twilight Saga, the vampires are supposed to be science-based. It was explained that when a person is turned into a vampire, they have all of their bodily fluids converted into a sort of venom, their eyes change color, their skin loses all pigmentation, they get flawless features (considered universally beautiful), and their cells become crystal-like. All of this is from venom "injected" by a single bite from normal teeth (that is, no fangs). Furthermore, the description of the sparkling means that the cells must be lined with tiny mirrors. Erm...
    • Also ignored when some of the vampires start making babies.
    • The book also tries to explain how science-based vampires have the ability to foresee the future, read minds, control the elements, electrocute others by touch, and so forth. Said explanation comes down to that same vampire venom that did all of the above somehow selecting a single "trait" the human has and amplifying it. Not only is that well beyond what a mutation can do, but it's heavily implied in the books (and outright stated in a few cases of the Illustrated Guide) that the super-powered vampires had some form of superhuman abilities as normal humans already. Stephenie Meyer seemed to be under the impression that there are humans in real life with the ability to see the future and that such a trait is on par with qualities like "compassion".

     Video Games  

  • The Professor Layton series loves this trope when it comes time for Doing In the Wizard. Any plot that relies on "supernatural" happenings will be debunked in a fashion that makes even less sense than, say, a vampire. It's blatantly lampshaded in Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney as Phoenix boggles at the "rational" explanation for the witchcraft.
  • In Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, all manner of previously established, or strongly implied, magical powers and occurrences are retconned to be nanotechnology, or some other flimsy explanation.
    • The villain Vamp, an undead Psycho Knife Nut who likes to drink blood, is revealed to have survived otherwise fatal injuries (such as repeatedly getting shot in the head) because nano machines give him an accelerated Healing Factor...which he had not demonstrated at all in his previous appearance, where his first head wound did not close throughout the game, and leads to serious Gameplay and Story Segregation where he keeps healing no matter how many bombs and bullets you hit him with, unless you suppress the nano machines with a special injection. His ability to pin your shadow to the floor is weakly dismissed as a form of hypnotic suggestion, while his power to walk on water is just plain forgotten.
    • While magic having rational, scientific explanations in the game is more of a running theme rather than the actual message of the story, it still seemed rather out-of-place and bizarre to do it in the 4th game, given that previous games having characters who were definitely supernatural, such as shamans and psychics, not to mention one game that was set in the 60s long before nanotechnology even existed that featured a man made out of killer bees.
    • In the second game, Revolver Ocelot is possessed by the ghost of his old boss, previous Big Bad Liquid Snake, after replacing his missing arm with the dead man's own, and the third game implies that Ocelot is the son of a psychic medium called The Sorrow which could help explain why. Guns of the Patriots, however, makes it that his Demonic Possession was actually a highly elaborate deception where he hypnotized himself in order to fool the totalitarian A.I. that secretly run the planet, reasoning that they would somehow react differently to his threat if they thought he was Liquid (who did not know their secrets) rather than Ocelot (who knew all of their secrets), a convoluted plan that is simultaneously Doing In the Wizard yet requires the A.I. to believe that the Wizard / ghosts do in fact exist anyway- which previous canon establishes they do- yet not believe that if Liquid Snake did possess Ocelot he might have access to Ocelots' memories, or that Ocelot might have simply told Liquid when the latter was still alive.

     Western Animation  

  • Parodied a couple of times in Futurama.
    • In "A Clone of My Own", the Planet Express Ship can travel faster than the speed of light, according to Farnsworth. When Cubert calls him out on how blatantly wrong this is, Farnsworth explains that scientists increased the speed of light.
    • In "The Deep South", the inhabitants of Atlanta evolved into mermaids due to consuming caffeine. Made even more hilarious by the fact that this is basically what happened in the Animorphs book The Mutation (the example above), only here, it's played for laughs.
    • In "Roswell That Ends Well", Farnsworth explains that they were able to time travel due to a mixture of microwave radiation from the microwave, and "gravitons and graviolis" from a nearby supernova.
    • In "Calculon 2.0", the process Prof. Farnsworth uses to revive Calculon is blatantly reminiscent of a Satanic ritual, despite his insistence that it's all science. Hermes lampshades it by saying "This could not be less scientific!"
    • In "The Thief of Baghead", looking at the titular actor's face causes any organic person to lose their soul. Farnsworth insists that it's not their soul, it's their life energy, and it's perfectly scientific, dammit!
  • In Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, main character Flint Lockwood invents a machine that turns the weather into food by "mutating" water. Water, as we all know, does not have a genetic code.
  • In Gravity Falls, a mind-switching "Electron Carpet" is explained as building up such a charge that it can switch minds, rather than just electrons. Of course, Dipper is twelve years old and is constructing a hypothesis from a carpet tag, but given that this took place after episodes with ghosts, clone-creating photocopiers, shrink rays, mermen, discarded candy monsters and rainbow-vomiting gnomes, it's not like anyone present would have batted an eye if he'd just said "magic".
  • Played with and mixed with Doing In the Wizard in South Park's episode "Bloody Mary". A Marian statue begins bleeding out its ass, and is held to be a miracle. The Pope does what the real world Catholic church does and investigates. After examining it closely, he concludes that it isn't a miracle...because the stone statue is actually bleeding out its vagina, not its ass.
    TV Reporter: And the Pope said, quote, "A chick bleeding out her vagina is no miracle. Chicks bleed out their vaginas all the time."
  • In Miraculous Ladybug, we just believed that if there was any explanation for no one to recognize Ladybug and Cat Noir, not even their family or friends, it would be magic. After all they transform by magic, their mask is never removed by magic, so naturally magic would be the explanation for that. Then Miraculous World: New York came along and revealed to us that no one recognized them because of their "quantum mask". Only that. Without ever explaining what exactly quantum mechanics did to preserve their secret identity or what "quantum mask" was supposed to mean at all.