Cartoon Laws of Physics
Cartoon Law I
Any body suspended in space will remain in space until made aware of its
Daffy Duck steps off a cliff, expecting further pastureland. 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.
Cartoon Law II
Any body in motion will tend to remain in motion until solid matter
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 III
Any 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.
Cartoon Law IV
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
Cartoon Law V
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 VI
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
Cartoon Law VII
Certain bodies can pass through solid walls painted to resemble tunnel
entrances; others cannot.
This trompe l'oeil inconsistency has baffled generations, but at least 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 VIII
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.
Corollary: A cat will assume the shape of its container.
Cartoon Law IX
Everything falls faster than an anvil.
Cartoon Law X
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 Amendment A
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 Amendment B
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 Amendment C
Explosive weapons cannot cause fatal injuries.
They merely turn characters temporarily black and smoky.
Cartoon Law Amendment D
Gravity is transmitted by slow-moving waves of large wavelengths.
Their operation 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 Amendment E
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 Amendment B,
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.