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Mohs / Physics Plus

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Physics Plus: Stories in this class once again have multiple forms of Applied Phlebotinum, but in contrast to the prior class, the author aims to justify these creations with real and invented natural laws — and these creations and others from the same laws will turn up again and again in new contexts.


Anime and Manga

  • Battle Angel Alita averts many of the usual Acceptable Breaks from Reality and usually tries to provide in depth scientific explanations for technology, although explanations occasionally depend on invented or pseudoscientific principles, which combined with the implausible performance of many of its cyborgs results in it falling in here.
  • Dirty Pair wasn't particularly hard in its original incarnations, but the US manga adaptation turned things up a notch: space habitats were based off actual designs and extremely vulnerable to damage, nanotechnology had enormous overheating problems, gravity technology was both rare and creatively applied, and even the method of stellar destruction was inspired by the ideas of physicist Iosif Shklovskii.
  • Divergence Eve features FTL Travel, but isn't the main feature of the story. The main feature is about the wormholes allowing for FTL Travel (a second kind) via an alternative dimension, the fact that a now extinct alien race has overused said wormholes and caused a planet to internally collapse. Not only this, there's various DNA experiments with are more or less hand-waved away (compared to the two versions of FTL Travel, that are explained with detail) and the ability to download data from an alternative universe/dimension straight into a human's brain.
  • The Five Star Stories goes to great lengths to justify its Mortar Headds, but besides that, it has a lot of imaginary biological laws for both the 'evolved' Jokerians and the synthetic Fatimas.
  • Gundam falls somewhere between this and "One Big Lie" depending on which incarnation of the franchise you're talking about. Some, like the original Mobile Suit Gundam and Mobile Suit Gundam 00, use vaguely plausible ideas with huge deviances, like Minovsky physics and Newtypes, having their own rules. Then there's Mobile Fighter G Gundam, which is Science In Name Only and runs on Hot Blood rather than any kind of science.
  • Gunbuster has a mostly accurate depiction of relativistic time dilation as an important component of the plot, the laser weapons have massive lenses for firing at extreme ranges, and the series has lengthy behind the scenes attempts at in-universe scientific explanations for various setting details. On the other hand, the reactors and lasers of the mecha in question have an energetic output on the order of an entire *star*, putting the series firmly on the softer end of this category, and the sequel, Anime/Diebuster goes firmly into Science In Name Only territory with "physics cancellers" and a black hole getting cut in half.

Comic Books


  • The Marvel Cinematic Universe is somewhere between this and World of Phlebotinum. In general, everything ties back to the Infinity Stones, six artifacts which allow totally counterfactual abilities like teleportation, time travel, mind control, and infinite energy generation, but the rules governing these are pretty consistent and interact with real physical laws in credible ways.
  • Dune (2021) takes a relatively realistic approach on adapting many of the books elements to screen: Laser beams are light speed and only visible when traveling through dust, ornithopters use large multi-rotor configurations to maximize stability and boundary layer ingestion, and sandworms emit sound waves to fluidize the sand before tunneling through it. It still has anti-gravity, shields, FTL and psychic powers, of course, though these are treated mostly consistently.
  • Interstellar has gravity control, time travel, and even the more conventional spacecraft run on magical blue glow engines with minimal fuel requirements, but the movie puts some effort to ground things in real science, most of the common space cliches are averted and it has one of the most accurate portrayals of a black hole in fiction.


  • The Uplift series, by David Brin: Hard science mixed with a lot of Imported Alien Phlebotinum to make one of the 'hardest' of the Space Operas, a sub-genre that is usually very 'soft'. Although, in fairness, there are really two Uplift series. The first trilogy is far harder than the second, which ventures into much more fantastical science by the end — including aliens wishing their enemies out of existence through reality warping.
  • The Pentagon War has the Quantum Confinement-and-Constriction field, the Magnetic Focuser, Hyper Holes, and a gizmo whose very existence flies in the face of Einsteinian relativity. It tries to apply these consistently, however, and is careful not to break established laws like Conservation of Momentum or the Laws of Thermodynamics.
  • Starship Troopers features FTL travel, but this is handwaved as an excuse to allow for the main Bug War plotline. Other elements (such as the famous Powered Armor) are speculative, but certainly within the realm of possibility. The book is also vague on whether humans can survive on alien planets without protective measures of some kind. The main purpose of the work is to be didactic, not to get the science 100% right.
  • The Whateley Universe has superheroes, but explains everything through the science of 'pattern theory'. There's occasional diversions to explain things like Giant-man style giants and why they don't have problems with the square-cube law and why they don't overheat (in fact, they overcool and Matterhorn accrues 'snow' on his shoulders as he stays big) and why they have trouble interacting with our 3-D world as they get larger and larger. Giant humanoid robots don't work, for all the real-world reasons, although inventors at Whateley Academy are still trying. The implications of Phase's density-changing (actually, moving through other dimensions of our reality) power keep being revealed, and he still has troubles caused by the Law of Conservation of Momentum and the Law of Conservation of Angular Momentum.
  • The plot of Fine Structure is centered around various higher dimensional technologies enabling typical space opera assumptions - though the mechanics are treated in a plausible and consistent manner, and the Imprisoning God makes the vast majority of it unavailable throughout the plot, forcing characters to rely on more real and mundane technologies.
  • First Contact Is Bad for You takes place in 2051, so most technology in the book was at least emerging or theoretically plausible at the time of writing. However, there are signs of a long-extinct alien race and their leftover technology - little effort is made to explain them in scientific purposes.
  • The Honor Harrington book series: Space Is an Ocean, but the series demonstrates internal consistency, relies on only a couple pieces of "new" technology (gravity control methods and hyperspace bands; three, if you also include Treecats' telepathic abilities), mostly merely extending other pieces of current technology (medical science, nuclear fusion containment, lasers). Additionally, space combat is very three-dimensional and ship-to-ship engagements are often fought at fractional light-second distances (contrast the traditional Star Trek Starship Standoff).
  • The Revelation Space Series tends to use generally realistic physics when possible, while not being afraid to introduce plenty of fringe theoretical physics powered Applied Phlebotinum like reactionless drives capable of near c acceleration, planet killing metric weapons and faster-than-light travel that can erase people and civilizations from history when needed.
  • Michael Reisman's Simon Bloom series manipulated the very fabric of reality via scientific formulas and Books (which the Narrator says deserve capital Bs due to their importance), but it handles their use of this fairly consistently.
  • E. E. "Doc" Smith's Lensman and Skylark Series arguably fit here better than World of Phlebotinum. In both, the one big lie is faster than light travel, in the former by neutralising inertia, in the latter by the discovery that relativity is simply wrong and it's possible to go as fast as you like. Both also rely heavily on atomic power which is far from realistic, but being written well before the subject was at all understood that's entirely forgiveable. The same also applies to weaponry and various talk of rays and vibrations, which can largely be understood to be lasers before such a thing existed. The Lensman series also includes psychic powers which pushes things towards the softer end of the scale, but virtually everything in Skylark stems from just those two points.

Tabletop Game

  • Battletech is a curious case. Acceptable Breaks from Reality such as Faster-Than-Light Travel and Humongous Mecha aside, it averts many common scifi tropes such as Artificial Gravity, Inertial Dampening, ignorance of heat management and unrealistically high accelerations, but is "softened" by many Scale Failures.
  • GURPS Technomancer is an interesting example, combining widespread use of outright magic with realistic existing and near-future tech - nuclear powered teleportation circles launch spacecraft into orbit that run on VASIMR engines with delta-V boosting homeopathic propellant, gas-dynamic lasers lased through ectoplasm produce necrotic death beams that snipe cancer cells, and dragons are engineered for radar stealth. The magic itself appears to run on some elaborate higher-dimensional physics, which are elaborated on in Infinite Worlds.
  • The core universe of Traveller fits in here - while there's a number of major breaks with reality such as Faster-Than-Light Travel and Gravity Control, it's portrayed very consistently, and the majority of technology is generally in line with reality. Some of the alternate campaign settings are even harder, and could fall into the One Big Lie or Speculative Science categories.


  • Battlestar Galactica (2003) series seems to fall in this category. Cylon resurrection is never really explained, but spacecraft movement seems to follow Real Life physics and the FTL jump drive's limitations are applied more-or-less consistently.
  • The harder end of the scale within Star Trek may fall in here (primarily Star Trek: The Next Generation), with the rest being one point lower. Deep Space Nine tends to keep its TNG-inspired use of phlebotinum internally consistent if nothing else.
    • As a curiosity, when Star Trek: The Original Series came out, it was intended to be Speculative Science, almost Futurology. The concept of antimatter has been around since 1898, deuterium is a totally real thing, Deflector Shields and Photoprotoneutron Torpedoes make perfect sense (though the latter, unintuitively, uses antimatter in its warhead), "phasers" are clearly just "phased lasers," a number of Starfleet technologies have become defictionalized (self-opening doors, tablet computers, voice-operated computers) with more on the way, and "warp drive" was chosen because NASA saw it — and, indeed, still sees it today — as one of the most likely ways to achieve Faster-Than-Light Travel. However, the series started sliding into Technobabble almost immediately, particularly given its budget — there was no way to show the much more realistic approach of "shuttles landing on alien planets" every week, for instance, so the transporters were invented, immediately opening a massive can of worms as Heisenberg's uncertainty principle had been known since the 1920s.note  Dilithium, trilithium, protomatter and more followed in its wake, inevitably costing the franchise its relatively-hard-science rating.
  • Andromeda, a series based on one of Gene Roddenberry's ideas that he never used, is a bit harder than "Trek", there's no transporters and most of the Andromeda Ascendant's weapons are fairly plausible (relativistic missiles, anti-proton cannons, point-defense lasers...), but its maneuverability and acceleration require extensive use of Artificial Gravity and the only method of Faster-Than-Light Travel is slipstream drive. A form of hyperdrive where the ship uses antigravity to reduce its mass to near zero and then travels along "strings" connecting different solar systems, along the way navigators have to intuit what paths they take and organic pilots are right about 99.7% of the time due to the "ability of organic observers to collapse wave function probabilities."
    • The later seasons border on fantasy with sapient stars and aliens who can fold space at will.
  • On a whole, the Stargate-verse belongs here. The various installments generally try to be realistic in how known things work and things that are not real are generally handled in a consistent manner and indeed can show up again and again in different contexts or scenarios. While there is FTL, Psychic Powers and sometimes Rubber-Forehead Aliens or more often Human Aliens, the franchise generally explores how normal humans with typically military background work along with the strange things they find all the time. The various installments are also unusual in that many things the characters find turn out to be useful in other contexts and many episodes indeed deal with new developments based on artifacts or technologies found and decoded in earlier episodes, even earlier seasons in several cases. The only exception, it seems, are the titular Star Gates themselves, but those are very old devices scattered all over the place and the one Star Gate that typically behaves the most odd is the one on earth since it lacks a proper control device, instead a human-made computer is used and the software behind that changes for test purposes every so often, so that part is explained too.

Video Games

  • Blue Archive tends to blend both ends of the spectrum. The conventional technologies present throughout Kivotos would mostly fall into the Futurology category, such as advanced combat drones and smart weapons, AI and automated manufacturing, and it tends to try and portray things like hacking accurately, while the one handheld railgun we see is too heavy to be wielded by anyone other than a combat android. On the other hand, the Halos that provide students with anomalous durability have little explanation, as do the narrative "Mimesis" creations and weirder precursor technologies.
  • Since Command & Conquer has three different universes, each has a different place on the scale. Overall it can be placed here as it features time travel, portal-based FTL, electro guns and visible laser technology, stealth fields and many a Cool Tank as far as the humans are concerned (the alien Scrin are a little weirder). None the less it always explains its technologies with All There in the Manual material and never gives technologies additional abilities that are implausible, all the while drawing a lot from Zee Rust concepts and mid 20th century ideas.
  • Arguably Sword of the Stars. FTL methods are based on esoteric if not outright fictional scientific theories like the so-called "Menisceal Principle", high-end techs include weaponized sub-atomic particle beams and there are bevies of Precursor-leftover tech that defies current scientific understanding, but much is also feasibly extended from existing scientific knowledge. To its credit, ships are much more modestly sized than in most other series; even the ~800m Leviathans, monstrous by the series's standards, fail to break the kilometer mark common to many other series' capital craft, and definitely are far from the multi-kilometer hulks of higher-end/softer works. However the first game goes to the opposite extreme with FTL capable destroyers that are smaller than Real Life space shuttles.
    • The Liir have no explanation for how their "stutter" drive teleports short distances every few milliseconds, until the second game where the Suul'ka are capable of psionically folding space.
  • Metal Gear blends hard and soft elements so dizzyingly that it might as well be freaking epoxy putty. On the soft side, the series has things like immortal women, actual telepathic psychics, pyrokinetic men on fire, people with supernatural luck, autotropic grandpa snipers, men who can control attack bees and another who can control lightning, superhumans who can blow up a Humongous Mecha in one strike, and actual vampires, with much of said technology being notoriously done in in the most Hand Wave-y way possible (Nanomachines Can Do Anything). On the hard side, however, it's clear that what they do get right is painstakinglly well-researched, with things like Spider Tanks, Artificial Intelligences going rogue and Cyborgs being portrayed in a way that'd be merely Awesome, but Impractical in the real world, while things like nuclear railguns, optic camouflages and cloning is portrayed so accurately that it becomes downright scary.
  • Homeworld (excepting Cataclysm) fits in here as well, disregarding scale issues: while Faster-Than-Light Travel via hyperspace jumps is possible (treated as time-delayed quantum teleportation requiring massive amounts of energy) the technology is stated as reverse-engineered from Progenitor ships and not completely understood by most current galactic civlisations. Most other devices are either explained fully, suggested to be based on Real Life principles, or treated consistently.
    • Artificial gravity does exist without further explanation, however appears to require capital ship-sized systems to the extent that gravitic weapons and defenses are built with entire vessels around them.
    • Old School Dogfighting and Space Friction are justified as secondary plasma exhaust jets located in several locations on the ships' hulls.
    • Cryonics require extensive genetic modification to work properly and still do not guarantee success.
    • Weaponry is mostly based on mass-driver technology, be it Magnetic Weapons capable of firing metal and plasma or firearms using space-worthy propellant mixtures. Ion Beam Cannons are hinted to be stream-firing plasma armature railguns, ejecting ionised gas at relativistic speeds. Lasers are an exception, being visible pulse beams mounted as point defenses on larger vessels or projectile interception weapons on specialised fighter craft.
  • FTL: Faster Than Light has FTL (jumps only between set beacons, much more like a Portal Network), artificial gravity, Deflector Shields and teleporters. They have their own internally consistent set of rules that are sometimes exploited (teleporters work through shields, so there are weapons that teleport explosives to the enemy ship) and the other weapons are fairly realistic.


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