How Cartoon Science Stands up to Real Science

I see many cartoons in my future.  Maybe it’s because I have one kid, and I am hoping to have a few more in the future.  Maybe it’s because I’m married to this guy.  Regardless, I’ve been thinking about cartoons a lot recently.  It’s hard not to notice all the scientific discrepancies at this point in my life.  So, to help all you other parents see things through my eyes (so you can finally be truly happy), I’ve decided to give you my thoughts on the science presented in cartoons.  Of course, for some of these, it’s been a while since I’ve seen an episode.  To make this as accurate as possible, I’ve taken on the burden of re-watching some of my favorites.  Without further ado, here’s some info about cartoon “science”.

X-men (and everything related, including X-men: Evolution; Wolverine and the X-men, etc.):

We’ve heard of mutations.  Mutations are a very real and common occurrence.  They can either cause improvements or deteriorations.  The mutations could make progeny be taller than the parent, or faster, or have extra toes.  So far, though, there have been no mutations that give telekinesis, super-fast regenerative healing, or eye-ball lasers.


I think the biggest problem I have with any form of entertainment that takes place in space is this:  Why are all the aliens human/humanoid?  And why do they all speak fluent English?  Voltron is among my very, very favorite cartoons.  But why is every single planet populated by humanoid creatures?

Also, how can they breathe the air on every single planet?  Is the atmosphere the exact same on, say, Arus, as it is on Earth?  And what about the gravity thing?  Is gravity the same on every planet also, or are these explorers able to adapt that quickly?  There are just way too many “huhs” to take any outer-space show seriously.  Fortunately, I don’t take them seriously.


Inspector Gadget:

There is just no physical way that all those gadgets could fit into such a tiny space.   And is Inspector Gadget human?  Or robot?  Or some of both?

Garfield and Friends:

A cat would not be healthy on a diet consisting solely of lasagna.



The science in this show is actually a bit dangerous.  No matter what Egon says, do NOT wear a proton accelerator on your back.  It’s too heavy and could cause some serious spinal injuries.  It’s better to put it on a wheely-cart.



Admittedly not a children’s cartoon, Futurama still has a lot of science to be discussed.  We’re going to skip over the outer-space stuff mentioned above, and move right on to the rest.

First, there’s the cryonics (mistakenly called cryogenics) thing.  The premise of the show is that pizza delivery boy is frozen for 1,000 years.  Interestingly, even though we see the world around him being destroyed several times, his cryogenic tube comes out none the worse for wear.  While cryonics is being used to possibly preserve humans until advanced treatments are available, there have not been any people un-frozen as of yet.  Those who may eventually be unfrozen will likely have been treated with chemicals to prevent the formation of ice within cells and tissues.  This was not the case for our delivery boy, who would likely have been injured by the freezing process.  Secondly, there’s a lot of stuff wrong with the physics.  The engine moving the universe, the time travel, the dark matter being pooped out of a tiny little cat-thing, and the being able to smell things though a smell-oscope.   It just isn’t right.

Futurama does have a few accurate scientific facts, though.  For example, when Amy defends her thesis, her committee members are sadistic and cold, there solely to see her suffer (by the way, I really wish I hadn’t seen that episode right before defending my thesis).

So there you have it.  Cartoon science doesn’t always stack up to real-life science, but that doesn’t make them any less entertaining.  It just makes me less fun to watch TV with.




Edit: While doing more, um, research, I noticed that Nibbler wears a flat origami-folded diaper.  That’s what I use on my daughter!


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