Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Cartoon Laws of Physics

If you are of a certain age (like John, Mike, and I, for instance), you will remember the wonderful cartoons we used to enjoy in the days before travesties like Dora the Explorer. Cartoons that were funny. Cartoons that really made you laugh. Cartoons that made the understanding of abstract concepts like physics actually fun. From the Blog Fodder file comes this summary of The Cartoon Laws of Physics ...

Cartoon Law 1: Any body suspended in space will remain in space until made aware of its situation.
Example: A character steps off a cliff, expecting further solid ground. He loiters in midair, soliloquizing flippantly, until he chances to look down. At this point, the familiar principle of 32 feet per second per second takes over.

Figure 1: Suspension of Gravity

Cartoon Law 2:
Any body in motion will tend to remain in motion until solid matter intervenes suddenly.
Whether shot from a cannon or in hot pursuit on foot, cartoon characters are so absolute in their momentum that only a telephone pole or an outsize boulder retards their forward motion absolutely. Sir Isaac Newton called this sudden termination of motion the “stooge's surcease.”

Cartoon Law 3: A body passing through solid matter will leave a perforation conforming to its perimeter.
Also called the “silhouette of passage,” this phenomenon is the specialty of victims of directed-pressure explosions and of reckless cowards who are so eager to escape that they exit directly through the wall of a house, leaving a cookie-cutout-perfect hole. The threat of skunks or matrimony often catalyzes this reaction.

Figure 2: A Silhouette of Passage

Cartoon Law 4: The time required for an object to fall twenty stories is greater than or equal to the time it takes for whoever knocked it off the ledge to spiral down twenty flights to attempt to capture it unbroken.
Such an object is inevitably priceless, the attempt to capture it inevitably unsuccessful.

Cartoon Law 5: All principles of gravity are negated by fear.
Psychic forces are sufficient in most bodies for a shock to propel them directly away from the earth's surface. A spooky noise or an adversary's signature sound will induce motion upward, usually to the cradle of a chandelier, a treetop, or the crest of a flagpole. The feet of a character who is running or the wheels of a speeding auto need never touch the ground, especially when in flight.

Cartoon Law 6: As speed increases, objects can be in several places at once.
This is particularly true of tooth-and-claw fights, in which a character's head may be glimpsed emerging from the cloud of altercation at several places simultaneously. This effect is common as well among bodies that are spinning or being throttled. A “wacky” character has the option of self-replication only at manic high speeds and may ricochet off walls to achieve the velocity required.

Figure 3: A Cloud of Altercation

Cartoon Law 7: Certain bodies can pass through solid walls painted to resemble tunnel entrances; others cannot.
This trompe l'oeil inconsistency has baffled generations, but it is known that whoever paints an entrance on a wall's surface to trick an opponent will be unable to pursue him into this theoretical space. The painter is flattened against the wall when he attempts to follow into the painting. This is ultimately a problem of art, not of science.

Cartoon Law 8: Any violent rearrangement of feline matter is impermanent.
Cartoon cats possess even more deaths than the traditional nine lives might comfortably afford. They can be decimated, spliced, splayed, accordion-pleated, spindled, or disassembled, but they cannot be destroyed. After a few moments of blinking self pity, they reinflate, elongate, snap back, or solidify.

Cartoon Law 8, Corollary A: A cat will assume the shape of its container.

Cartoon Law 9: Everything falls faster than an anvil.

Cartoon Law 10: For every vengeance there is an equal and opposite revengeance.
This is the one law of animated cartoon motion that also applies to the physical world at large. For that reason, we need the relief of watching it happen to a duck instead.

Cartoon Law 11: A sharp object will always propel a character upward.
When poked (usually in the buttocks) with a sharp object (usually a pin), a character will defy gravity by shooting straight up, with great velocity.

Cartoon Law 12: The laws of object permanence are nullified for “cool” characters.
Characters who are intended to be “cool” can make previously nonexistent objects appear from behind their backs at will. For instance, the Road Runner can materialize signs to express himself without speaking.

Cartoon Law 13: Explosive weapons cannot cause fatal injuries. They merely turn characters temporarily black and sooty.

Cartoon Law 14: Gravity is transmitted by slow-moving waves of large wavelengths.
The operation of these waves can be witnessed by observing the behavior of a canine suspended over a large vertical drop: its feet will begin to fall first, causing its legs to stretch. As the wave reaches its torso, that part will begin to fall, causing the neck to stretch. As the head begins to fall, tension is released and the canine will resume its regular proportions until such time as it strikes the ground.

Cartoon Law 15: Dynamite is spontaneously generated in "C-spaces" (spaces in which cartoon laws hold).
The process is analogous to steady-state theories of the universe which postulated that the tensions involved in maintaining a space would cause the creation of hydrogen from nothing. Dynamite quanta are quite large (stick sized) and unstable (lit). Such quanta are attracted to psychic forces generated by feelings of distress in “cool” characters (see Law 12, which may be a special case of this law), who are able to use said quanta to their advantage. One may imagine C-spaces where all matter and energy result from primal masses of dynamite exploding. A big bang indeed.

Cartoon Law 15, Corollary A: The rate of burn on the fuse of a cartoon bomb depends upon who lights it.
For example, a fuse carefully calculated to burn at a specific rate such that the bomb will explode directly under a passing roadrunner will instead flash to nothing immediately upon being lit by Wile E. Coyote, who will experience a brief moment of wide-eyed surprise (the Ohno Second) before vanishing in a huge explosion.

I hope this summary of the cartoon laws of physics has been useful and instructive. I'm still working on an analogous list of cartoon laws of political activity, and am accepting nominations for such.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.



eViL pOp TaRt said...

Really greal cartoon laws. I wonder if the Acme Company has found ways to alter the laws of physics, or they don't apply where Wiley Coyote and Bugs Bunny lives!

These were AWESOME!

The Mistress of the Dark said...

There are some good tunes out there now though..just not for little ones. I loved Foster's Home For Imaginary Friends and Chowder.

But yeah..can't help but love Bugs, The Flintstones and The Jetsons...

I think the Acme company made their fortune on that poor coyote

Mike said...

I'm not sure but I think that guy John is really really old. I think he has some original Leonardo da Vinci toons.

Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

We have to keep these laws of physics in mind when we design things. But also keep Murphy's Law in mind. This was a great laugh for Sunday night!

chrissy said...

Dora the Explorer is a train wreck of a cartoon. My son likes it...and I want to scream when I promise him 30 minutes of tv and it's on.
Yo Gabba Gabba is worse may explode if you see that....beware

John said...

I was surprised that the 'John' link went to me. I don't think that I'm as old as you two guys.

wv: elintess -- when fuzzy particles attaches themselves to the high dollar clothes of the very wealthy.

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