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The card said: "Make your swords as things unto chainsaws." No, it's not possible. He did it anyway.

"All you need in this world is ignorance and confidence, and then your success is assured."

In a world bound by laws of physics, some things are just impossible. Even when there's magic allowing wizards to do things, there are often limits.

Despite this, somehow there's someone who can do things thought impossible, simply because they do not realize that they should be incapable of the achievement. Any of the characters might occasionally be And You Thought It Was a Game, but it can be a recurring trait for a Genius Ditz or a Bungling Inventor. This trope focuses on the times the character in question achieved what he or she did largely because they had absolutely no idea that it was supposed to be impossible.

In contrast to many cartoons, which consistently (and inconsistently) apply and dismiss physics for the Rule of Funny, this trope is typically meant to occur when the act in question goes against whatever physics are firmly established within The Verse. Generally the best way to tell the difference is whether or not the Achievement in Ignorance can be Lampshaded or not.

This can be played either seriously or for laughs. If for comedy, it is often The Ditz who does the undoable deed. If for drama, the character in question may be a genius or prodigy in his particular field.

It does happen in Real Life, usually with things like math or physics equations, occasionally with feats of daring that the accidental daredevil hasn't been told are life-threatening. On the more mundane side of things are people learning or successfully trying things their more learned peers were taught couldn't be done.

Compare Magic Feather, which gives people confidence to do things they only think are impossible for themselves. See also Magic A Is Magic A, which the perpetrators of this trope tend to violate. May lead to a How Unscientific moment. Compare Beyond the Impossible for impossible events or people trying to break the rules.

Related to Clap Your Hands If You Believe, in which this can quite literally be the case. Related to How Did You Know? I Didn't. when the situation is not limited to physics, just a highly improbable lucky guess. Also see Too Dumb to Fool, which can sometimes be the source of this. Occasionally a Snipe Hunt may end this way.

Contrast Power Born of Madness, in which the person does impossible deeds because he no longer cares if they're impossible. Also contrast the Determinator, who tends to do this kind of thing intentionally. Compare Too Dumb to Fool, where a fool immediately sees through a lie or other treachery, and Centipede's Dilemma, where being aware of what you're doing makes it harder to do.

Examples of Achievements in Ignorance include:

Anime & Manga

  • Shaman King uses this to Hand Wave why it is a bunch of kids being sent to stop the reincarnated antagonist who has spent nearly a thousand years training in hell to become more powerful and recently is on the verge of merging with God/The Great Spirit. Essentially, the adults have hit the barrier where they begin to realize there are limitations. The kids are too young/stupid to realize there are limitations yet.
    • And then Harsher in Hindsight strikes in the sequel manga, the cast has grew and DOES realize their limitation, unable to change the world in the slightest, which mean Hao wins not only the tournament but also the bet. Rosseau was wrong?
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann's Spiral Power.
    • They even catch on to it.

 Lordgenome: The odds of this mission's succe--

Leeron: Don't tell us the odds.

    • After they succeed, he reveals the odds of success were 0%.
    • Team Gurren's motto is "Kick reason to the curb and go Beyond the Impossible"
  • One Piece
    • Monkey D. Luffy lives on this trope. Quite possibly the best example of this is when he dived right into the Big Bad God Eneru's ultimate attack: Raigou, which Eneru was going to use to annihilate the whole of Skypeia. Because Eneru forged a massive golden orb onto his arm, and Luffy was throwing his punches around him, the golden orb discharged the electrical currents and destabilized the ultimate attack, saving all of Skypeia. Word of God claims Luffy had no idea exactly what he was doing.
    • A talking starfish that the Straw Hats meet named Pappug learned to speak human tongue because when he was a kid he believed himself to be a human. By the time he realized he was not, he had already learned to speak. Even Luffy questions how exactly that works.
    • Zoro, who can and most likely will get lost under any circumstances, including running down a straight hallway with no exits. He also once got lost on the beginning of a narrow cliff. A trait shared with Ryouga from Ranma ½, who can get lost trying to go from one room in a house to another room. By going outside, and not noticing this is a problem.
  • In Dragon Ball, Goku trained for the 22nd Greatest Under the Heavens Martial Arts Tournament by running around the world without using the Kinto'Un (Flying Nimbus cloud) on account of advice from Master Roshi. When asked how he got to the tournament, he said he swam from Yahhoy which turned out to be on the other side of the world from the tournament.
  • In The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Kyon lampshades this as a possibility for Haruhi, what with her being able to bend reality, saying that, if you so wished to go faster than the speed of light, you can just have Haruhi on board to ignore the limit for you.
  • In Dog Days, Shinku is an Ordinary Middle School Student who is summoned from Earth to be a hero for a world of Petting Zoo People. It's stated early on that there's supposedly no way for a Summoned Hero to return home, but a way is eventually found but at the cost that the Hero can take back nothing he gained in their world, up to and including memories. That last is the major issue in the series final episodes. After Shinku is gone, however, a method to reverse it is discovered. This method required certain prerequisites by the Hero. Prerequisites Shinku fulfilled completely on his own without having ever heard of them.
  • Bobobobo Bobobo
    • In one episode, an enemy's attacks fail to hurt Don Patch. Don Patch's only explanation for this is "because I'm stupid."
    • In another episode, an enemy removes 90% of the titular character's (already somewhat limited) intelligence, which just allows him to do even more things that don't make sense, such as his hair turning into miniature versions of himself that beat up said enemy.
  • In Super Dimension Fortress Macross/Robotech, this was the trope that enabled the crew of the SDF-1 to perform an extreme low altitude space-fold jump, which the enemy Zentrandi thought was impossible. The humans still barely understood a portion of the alien ship's capabilities and simply didn't know that using that system so close to a planet was considered an insane move. As it is, the human's seriously overshot their intended destination of the moon to just beyond Pluto and the stunned Zentrandi are left wondering if these supposed space warfare amateurs are actually tactical geniuses.
  • In Igano Kabamaru, the young Kabamaru and the just as young Hayate keep foiling a girl name Hoshiko's attempts to kill herself - but since they're very young (no older than 8), they simply don't realise that she's suicidal. Kabamaru's grandfather Saizo does figure it out, and eventually convinces Hoshiko to live.
  • At the very end of Bleach, a little boy named Kazui Kurosaki does something amazing: eliminating the VERY last remains of Yhwach, aka the Bigger Bad of the series. He does so via simply poking at them with his finger, not realising that he's just stopped what could've been Yhwach's resurrection.


  • Neil Gaiman's The Sandman meets Hob Gadling, a 15th century peon who believes that people only die because they accept death as inevitable. By choosing to reject death, he believes he can live forever. Now, Hob's premise is completely, horribly wrong, but Death is so amused by his stupidity that she grants his wish. In a roundabout sort of way, this also makes him completely correct, just not for the reason he thinks. Hob ended up becoming one of Dream's few friends.
  • In Seven Psychopaths, this is the in-story rationale for recruiting a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits to assassinate Hitler—all the sane people in the military have long since dismissed the notion of assassinating Hitler as impossible, so the only ones who stand a chance of succeeding are those who are too crazy to realize it's impossible.
  • Why can giant ants exist in Atomic Robo despite the Square-Cube Law? Because they don't know there's a square cube law.


  • This fanfic This Means War has Harry knowing lots of impossible magic due to ignorance.
  • In Team 8, while on their first "mission" (cleaning and repairing an injured herbalist's home), Kurenai has a full conversation with (who she thinks is) Naruto. He slips and falls off the roof, and then...he disappears in a cloud of smoke. It was a shadow clone. The strength and self-awareness of each clone is based on how much chakra is put into the technique, which is no problem for the chakra-riddled Naruto. But no one told Naruto that ever.


  • The premise of Forrest Gump is built on this trope. Forrest is so dense that he routinely attempts things other people wouldn't even consider, and so single-minded that he puts his maximum effort into everything he does. As a result, he meets spectacular success while the skeptics are left scratching their heads.
  • In the movie version of Being There, this is a possible explanation for the final shot in which Chance walks on water.
  • Done between Mike Teevee and Willie Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
  • The Matrix. The only reason Neo or anybody can use their powers is to trick themselves into rejecting the laws of Physics.
  • In Pippi On The Run, the final Pippi Longstocking movie with Inger Nilsson as the eponymous character, this trope becomes a Running Gag; Over the course of the movie, Pippi does several completely impossible things, and then afterwards claims that the reason why she could do them was because she forgot they were impossible. The entire thing is Subverted at the very end of the movie, when Pippi rides a broomstick around Tommy and Annika's house, and when Annika once again claims that this is impossible, Pippi cheerfully yells back that it's not impossible to her.
  • This is the plot of Pay It Forward as described by the mother:

  "You don't know my son, you tell him he can do something and he's going to believe you."



  • Many fantasy stories essentially have this as the reason children can see supernatural things adults cannot. They haven't developed a Weirdness Censor and thus have no idea the things they see aren't supposed to exist. The censor is often retro-active. "I simply couldn't have seen and done all those things as a child, that kind of thing does not happen."
  • In Jim Butcher's Codex Alera series, the city folk say that the people on the frontier have such strong magic because they don't know they shouldn't be.
    • More precisely, the frontier-dwellers tend to have "Furies" that are strong, but partially-independent and hard to control; the inhabitants of the central provinces have much better control, most at the cost of raw power (The nobility are the major exception). Achievements in Ignorance is theorized as the reason for this but it's never definite; it could also be that wild untamed furies on the frontier are naturally stronger, or living on the frontier hones peoples' skills in ways that soft city life does not.
    • It's also specifically stated that doubt and uncertainty and frustration can inhibit furycrafting. At one point, a character across the ocean from Alera has a minor panic attack on suddenly remembering that theorists have asserted that furycraft is impossible on foreign shores, only to be reassured that another character has just accomplished several feats of furycraft (partly due to being too hard-pressed to remember it was theoretically impossible), and gets ordered to forget the theory.
  • This is the explanation given for why younger wizards in Diane Duane's Young Wizards series have more power than older, more experienced wizards. They need it, because they tend to do more impossible things.
  • In Norton Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth, Milo is told, in the end, that The Quest he accomplished was, in fact, impossible. This is, in fact, the Aesop of The Phantom Tollbooth that anything is possible, provided you don't know it's impossible.
  • Discworld likes this one.
    • Tiffany Aching reading the dictionary cover to cover because nobody ever told her she shouldn't and Susan Sto-Helit successfully teaching seven year-olds algebra and, when told it's too hard for them, replies that so far they haven't figured that out. It is needed to be said that examples of children learning something before adults would think they're ready to learn it are probably Truth in Television. A bright child may be reading books meant for adults by the age of eight or ten, though they probably won't understand everything they read.
    • Bergholt Stuttley "Bloody Stupid" Johnson, of Discworld, is such an incompetent architect and inventor that he ends up creating buildings that are Bigger on the Inside, and circles with the pi equal to exactly 3. Three of the national projects that he undertook can fit in a normal pocket. The full list is here.
    • In Equal Rites Esk teleports something without a counterweight and was able to do it because she didn't know it was impossible, because she hadn't been formally taught.
    • Discussed in The Last Hero, when Leonard asks for journeymen craftsmen, rather than masters, because he has no use for "people who have learned the limits of the possible".
    • Death gives this explanation for how he can move through walls and otherwise tell the laws of Physics to sit down and shut the hell up. His advice to Mort in his stint as his apprentice is not to think about it too hard and forget that you know that you can't move through walls. Mort is able to do this when he isn't actively thinking about it as he escapes a group of thugs by backing through a wall.
    • Susan also uses this trope when she travels back through time to ask Death a few questions about her job. The Raven uses this trope as an example of why education is actually a bad thing.
    • An interesting example is Lord Rust, Ankh Morpork's foremost military leader by dint of heritage, the man is a total incompetent with absolutely no tactical ability or military knowledge whatever, and does not seem to comprehend the utter futility of attacking a vastly superior force on their home ground with virtually no provisions. Whilst this has the obvious result of killing almost every man under his command, Rust is completely unharmed, even though he leads every suicidal charge from the front. By all laws of probability, he should be dead long ago. However, Rust has the unusual ability of being able to completely and subconsciously ignore anything that contradicts or is outside his extraordinarily unrealistic worldview; assuming that it simply cannot exist; including physical danger. He has been reported as charging directly at enemy lines surrounded by projectiles without being scratched, arrows have apparently changed direction to avoid him (and hitting his men). On the Discworld, sufficiently powerful belief can alter physical reality, and magic has been described as more or less ignoring the laws of physics.
    • Hodgesaaargh finds the newly-hatched phoenix because nobody told him that nobody had ever found one.
    • Cohen and his Silver Horde slaughter the Agatean ninjas because nobody told them that Ninjas were invincible. Of coursethere were a lot of ninjas.
  • This is played seriously in The Belgariad when Garion tries to resurrect the dead colt and succeeds, something Belgarath (the first and most powerful human sorcerer) can't do. In this case, it's primarily used to show just how much sorcery depends on the sorcerer believing a feat is possible. In particular the adolescent Garion sees things as simpler than they actually are, which lets him do things that his learned elders think are too complex to be done. Belgarath notes at one point that this is also puts Garion at risk, as this sometimes results in Garion attempting things that more experienced sorcerers would know are too dangerous to try. This is also Foreshadowing, as Errand, a complete innocent, convinces the gods to bring Durnik back to life in the last book largely by not comprehending he's dead...largely.
    • Also subverted in the fifth book, Enchanter's Endgame by Queen Islena of Cherek when ruling in her husband's stead. Following suggestions of a fellow queen-slash-Magnificent Bastard, she orders a priest trying to usurp the throne to go to the front lines or be sent to the dungeons. Such an ultimatum would be completely unacceptable behavior for the monarch, except Islena isn't well known for her intellect and is assumed to be ignorant of her apparent faux pas. Unable to counter the queen's order, his take-over not yet ready, and with no actual legal grounds to protest, the priest is sent to war.
      • Her husband King Anheg later admits that he could never have done this because he is expected to know better.
    • Also, in Polgara the Sorceress, Polgara comments on Belgarath's ability to continue at any given task unrelentingly, and supposes he may be able to "store up sleep" during his long periods of rest, something she knows/believes to be impossible. Just afterwards, she decides it might be interesting to test the capacity of a human to do what seems impossible - when one doesn't know it - by convincing Mandorallen to pick himself up by the scruff of his neck.
  • In Hitch Hikers Guide to The Galaxy, the key to flying is "throwing yourself at the ground and missing", being interrupted mid-fall and forgetting to hit, and then—and this is vital—not thinking very hard about how you should be falling. Otherwise gravity will glance sharply in your direction and demand to know what the hell you think you're doing.
    • This method was also behind the invention of the Infinite Improbability Drive. By way of explanation, the theory behind the Finite Improbability Drive was well-understood by that point, and largely consisted of ensuring that probability was twisted just right to ensure an otherwise improbable result. For example, ensuring that, at parties, every particle in the hostess' undergarments simultaneously quantum-leaped two feet to the left. The INFINITE Improbability Drive was considered something of a Holy Grail for scientists, but after centuries of trying they gave up and declared that it was next to impossible to create one. An underclassman, cleaning up after one of those previously mentioned parties, realized that if it was ALMOST impossible, there must be some real possibility of it, and decided to find out what would happen if he worked out how improbable such a drive was, fed the result into the Finite Improbability Drive, gave it a really hot cup of tea, and turned it on. Moments later, a fully functional Infinite Improbability Drive was created.
      • And then the underclassman was lynched by the now-thoroughly-annoyed scientists.
  • The Blieder Drive of Eric Frank Russell's The Great Explosion was invented in this manner.
  • Used seriously in the Heralds of Valdemar series with the Valdemarans, who not only are able to come up with magical solutions no one has tried before because they aren't familiar with the cultures and traditions surrounding magic, but are also able to analyze it according to logical rules because no one has told them that magic doesn't follow rules, leading to one of the Hawkbrothers' bewildered muttering "But magic doesn't work that way!"
    • Said Hawkbrother eventually buckles in and starts learning Magic A Is Magic A, though he struggles with it. Going from perceiving himself as a master artist with magic to a bridgebuilder and his math and calculations isn't easy for him.
  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation Q Continuum trilogy, the evil omnipotent being is more powerful than Q because he's insane and can ignore/doesn't know the limits of omnipotence.
  • In one of the Myst novelizations The Book of Atrus, Katherine has been secretly learning how to write Ages, and when she shows one of her books to Atrus, he patronizes her by saying something like "Good idea, but it couldn't work in practice." She just tells him to flip to the last page, where a link exists to a fully stable, torus-shaped world with one side always facing the sun, and viable life on both sides. Not only does this impress Atrus' socks off, but it fully drives home the fallacy of Gehn's way of thinking: In an infinite universe, anything that can exist, must exist somewhere.
  • The Graysons in the Honor Harrington novels had to work out on their own how to use most Manticoran technology. They ended up making some revolutionizing discoveries from this, since part of the process included doing things no one already knowledgeable about the technology would have thought to try.
    • Honor herself remarks in The Honor of the Queen that the world's greatest swordsman doesn't fear the second greatest, but rather the worst swordsman because he has no idea what the idiot will do.
    • Graysons also are the known galaxy's experts in nuclear fission power. While everyone else had switched to fusion for safety and environmental reasons, Grayson had a very low tech base and a lot of heavy metals, including radioactives. After several centuries, this resulted in safe, reliable, cheap, and powerful fission powerplants, so effective that the Manticoran navy adopted them for their small combat ships/"fighters".
  • In Mickey Zucker Reichert's Bifrost Guardians series, there is a magical fortress that is so well protected by various traps that, as everyone knows, it is impossible to break into. When the main characters need to do just that, one of them leaps to the challenge, saying that he's been doing "impossible" things all his life and he's not about to stop now. As it turns out, the magic protecting the fortress gets stronger the more you believe in its effectiveness - all you have to do to get in is to believe that you really can do the impossible.
  • Joe's World gives us Wolfgang Laebmauntsforscynnewe?, and his twin powers of lunacy and amnesia. He's, for instance, crazy enough to cover several weeks' walk by foot in mere days.
  • In Robert A. Heinlein's Orphans Of The Sky the protagonist Hugh Hoyland, on learning his people's world is actually a space ship, decides to teach himself how to pilot the ship. According to all common sense of astrogation, no single person can learn the necessary skills to fly a ship by himself, especially one of the size Hoyland was on. However, because all knowledge of this common sense was never printed in text, he never realized this and thus taught himself all the skills.
    • Repeated later in the novel when Hoyland, not realizing the difficulty of managing a landing and the sheer danger his life is in, successfully lands his craft on a planet.
    • In Heinlein's The Cat Who Could Walk Through Walls the titular cat Pixel does exactly that because he's too young to know it's impossible.
  • The Circle of Magic books run on this trope, particularly the four main characters weaving their powers together in the first book, and lampshaded when Niko informs Tris that the magic-seeing spell should have worn off a week after it was placed.

  Niko: There's an advantage to instructing young mages: suggestion counts for so much with you four.

  • In The Wheel of Time Nynaeve instinctively reinvents a form of Healing which uses all Powers instead of just Air, Water and Spirit. The Aes Sedai of the Third Age are all adamant that this is dangerous and are shocked it even works, never mind that it actually works better.
    • This actually seems to be a running theme in regards to the Aes Sedai, that much of what they can and can't do is limited largely by tradition. That and a massive lack of initiative and imagination. The veil of general secrecy inherent within the White Tower is to blame for much of what was lost, with certain Aes Sedai not finding students they could trust to pass their skills on to and consequently taking their knowledge with them.
  • In Riddle of the Seven Realms by Lyndon Hardy, the protagonists fly suspended beneath a balloon made out of lead. Astron, a demon to whom the human world's physics is new and fascinating, had simply improvised a substitute when the conveyance's original balloon was punctured by arrows, unaware that a "lead balloon" was considered preposterous by humans.
  • In German, an achievement made in ignorance of the inherent dangers is frequently called a "Ritt über den Bodensee" (a ride across Lake Constance). This is based on a folk legend that was turned into a ballad by Gustav Schwab, Der Reiter und der Bodensee (The Rider and Lake Constance): In a cold winter, a rider loses his way in a snowstorm and without realizing it rides across the frozen-over Lake Constance. This is something a sane person would normally not attempt because due to the size of the lake (Germany's largest) and the Rhine running through it you could not be sure that it would be safe for a rider and horse to cross all the way. It does not end well though—when he is told that he has arrived in a village on the other shore, the shock of realization of the danger he unwittingly had gone through kills him.
  • in the Nick Polotta book, Illegal Aliens, humans are told of a (non-existent) material on their ships called "deflector plating" that is immune to all weapons fire. While the aliens are busy snickering behind their hands at the gullible humans, we go and invent deflector plating.
  • In David Weber and Steven White's Starfire series, the war with the Bugs results in this happening when the newest members of the Grand Alliance, just getting introduced to the more advanced tech now available to them, innocently ask why the man-portable kinetic weapons that fire projectiles at 10% light speed, carried by infantry and ground vehicles for a century and half, haven't been adapted to allow for bombardment from orbit, giving the equivalent of tactical nuclear strikes without the radiation and fallout. Alliance military researchers promptly smack themselves on the forehead and begin producing the weapon system from off-the-shelf equipment.
  • Foxface's death in The Hunger Games occurs thanks to this. Foxface was one of the more clever tributes. Surviving mostly by stealing food from the other tributes, comeuppance came by stealing berries that had been picked for the main characters to eat. The problem is that the person who picked the berries had no idea they were poisonous and Foxface didn't think twice about stealing food that opponents had planned to eat themselves. Kantiss notes after the fact that a deliberate trap would have never worked.
  • In The Saint short story "The Newdick Helicopter", a Con Man sells a mark plans for a 'helicopter' (actually a gyrocopter). When the mark assembles the helicopter, he discovers it cannot take off vertically as he expected it to. Assuming he had put it together wrong, he starts tinkering with it and ends up inventing a fully functioning helicopter. (Note that this story was published in 1933, several years before the first fully functioning helicopter was built.)

Live Action TV

  • Parodied in Arrested Development when Rita walks across a pool after suggesting that Michael visit her in England by walking across the ocean, "if it's not too deep". As it turns out it's one of Gob's magic tricks illusions.
  • Gilligan's Island: Gilligan once flew by attaching a pair of artificial wings to his arms and flapping them until the Skipper told him it was impossible.
  • Lampshaded in an episode of My Favorite Martian, when Uncle Martin explains to Tim why he's so concerned about their landlady's new private detective hobby:

 "An amateur is infinitely more dangerous than a professional. If Alexander Graham Bell had been a professional electrician, he would never have invented the telephone - he would have known it was impossible!"

  • News Radio has a Flowers for Algernon Syndrome episode where Matthew (a very stupid person) drinks what he thinks is an intelligence-boosting formula, and because he is so stupid and gullible he believes it works and therefore it actually does.
    • Until he became smart enough to realize it was only a placebo and immediately reverted back to his old stupid self
    • We eventually find out that Matthew is a fully qualified dentist, who quit because the job was depressing. He still keeps up his license, however.
  • Quantum Leap. Children under five can see Al and the real Sam. So can animals. This was probably a case of Real Life Writes the Plot, since a director couldn't tell small children or animals to pretend that Dean Stockwell wasn't there.
  • Rimmer in Red Dwarf is advised to invoke this trope in the episode "Cassandra", being told that if he doesn't know enough to know that he doesn't know enough, there's no fear holding him back.

 Kochanski: "He's got the power of ignorance."

Kryten: "And with the ignorance he's got, that makes him one of the most powerful men who ever lived!"

    • At the beginning of that season, Rimmer mentioned that anyone who couldn't fix the drive plate had to have a brain the size of a newt's testicle. Apparently, it's really, really hard to botch the job.
  • Married... with Children's Kelly Bundy will do this on occasion. One episode had the family distracting her by giving her a Where's Waldo book. She runs all over town trying to find Waldo and, at the end of the episode, he is sitting next to Kelly at the dinner table.
  • On Scrubs, the Todd once revived a flatlined patient...with a high-five.

  Dr. Cox: Great moment, there, dumbass. It starts out with a profound misunderstanding of how the human body works, and winds up with you shattering some old man's hand.



  • This is the topic of the Collin Raye song "What They Don't Know," where the narrator sees boys fishing in a tiny puddle and decides not to tell them they're not going to catch anything.

Newspaper Comics

  • Parodied in Dilbert: A CEO with no experience is hired because "someone who doesn't know anything doesn't know what can't be done." When he goes to shake hands with the Pointy Haired Boss (who is right handed), he extends his left...
    • This happened in Dilbert again with Ratbert, who was told he was so stupid that he had telekinetic power.

  "I have the power to watch television!"

    • In another series of strips, Ratbert decides to fly simply by flapping his arms. Dilbert insists it can't be done. Bob the Dinosaur gives Ratbert some advice that turns out to work, resulting in him flying near an annoyed Dilbert and remarking "This must be so embarrassing for you."
  • In Garfield, Odie chases Garfield up a tree resulting in both of them sitting on a high branch. Jon immediately tells Odie that "dogs can't climb trees". Garfield's response? "It's amazing what one can accomplish when one doesn't know what one can't do."
    • In fact, in one of the early comics, this is how Garfield himself learned to walk on his hind legs.
  • In Sally Forth Wood: a helicopter is in a war zone somewhere in the universe until Snorky reads its manual and concludes it cannot fly, at which point it doesn't any more.
  • Schroeder can play extremely difficult piano pieces on a toy piano where the black keys are simply painted on.

Tabletop Games

  • Steve Jackson Games' role-playing system Toon, which takes place in a cartoon universe, gives appropriately cartoony reasons for being able to do this sort of thing. If a character wants to walk off a cliff and on thin air, or breathe underwater or whatever, he can roll to intentionally try to fail an intelligence roll. If he fails, it's considered that he's too dumb to realize it's impossible. This is a reference to all the times cartoon characters do just that. It's actually considered a law of Toon Physics that gravity does not affect a character until they realize it's supposed to. This is demonstrated in an episode of Tiny Toon Adventures.
  • In Warhammer 40k, it is explained that ork technology only works because orks aren't bright enough to realize that it should not work. They also believe that red vehicles go faster. In fact they believe it strongly enough for it to be true.
    • There is one instance where an ork manages to steal a spaceship and go for a joyride around the system, despite the fact the ship had no fuel. It worked simply because he didn't realize that he was running on empty.
    • The Orks have incredibly powerful telekinetic powers, they are just too dumb to realize it.
    • There's also the fact that this is what the Mechanicum wants the Imperium to be, at least when it comes to raw technology. Anything more sophisticated than turning a door handle or turning on a light switch is considered sacred and "beyond the mien of normal men," and that you must have faith in the Machine Spirits to do the work for you. Yes that includes the operation of career/mission/SURVIVAL critical equipment.
      • The imperium does not think very highly of human lives. Those few individuals that they do decide to keep for more than a few years tend to get equipment which are on par with relics, with many of them closely studied and monitored whenever not in use.
  • Genius: The Transgression: The premise is implied to be this. Since the Inspired put the "mad" in "Mad Scientist", they have a tendency to veer into Insane Troll Logic. They're still able to make inventions using that logic, however, often achieving impossible feats.
    • Indeed, one of the defining conflicts of the game is between "normal" Geniuses (who know it isn't possible and do it anyway) and Unmada- Geniuses who truly believe science works according to their paradigm. Around an Unmada, it does...
  • And Mage: The Ascension has the ignorant and blind Sleepers (all of non-mage humanity) constantly keeping the terrible demons, gods, monsters, etc at bay (and away from our tasty souls) day in and day out. This is done through the amazing, awe-inspiring power...of disbelieving and desperately ignoring that these things could possibly exist. The PCs being Mages, you realize that this disbelief is a terrible, unacceptable thing.

Video Games

  • Metal Gear Solid 3 Snake Eater: Snake Eater—OK, so Snake collects various plants and animals, which he can call Para-Medic to identify. At the same time, he carries around night-vision goggles and other various things which require battery power. When he collects a species of bio-luminescent mushrooms, he assumes that because they glow, that eating them will "recharge [his] batteries." This works even though Para-Medic specifically told him it was impossible. Snake's ignorance is just that good.
  • In Portal 2, it's revealed that the man behind Aperture Science, Cave Johnson, was not only insane with mercury poisoning, but didn't know anything about how science actually works. It's because he didn't know the limitations of technology that his corporation created physics-breaking inventions like the Portal Gun. Considering the invention of portals was for "possible shower curtain applications", and the he said they were going to "throw science at the wall and see what sticks", this is actually quite likely. Most of the gameplay involves this exactly: finding which walls you can stick portals on!
    • It helped that the man didn't think his science should "stand on the shoulders of giants" and instead did everything from the ground up. Problem is this also meant his test subjects suffered a variety of known hazards.
  • Humans in the Disgaeaverse are already pretty damn tough in order to keep up with the various demonic invaders and/or Overlords, but most of the reasons are pretty damn rational (Cpt. Gordon is military trained, as is Jennifer, while Almaz is a guard and Sapphire a berserker). And then there's Fuka Kazamatsuri. While humans can tap into 30% of their potential without risking self-injury, she manages to tap into the full 100% when her back's against the wall... all by believing that she's in the midst of a soon-to-end nightmare despite being stone dead and a Prinny to boot! And unlike the previous humans, she has no training. She's just an Ordinary Middle School Student with a lot of ambition!

Visual Novels

  • Shirou in Fate Stay Night was told that Projection magic was useless, so he stopped pursuing it as his primary magic and simply uses it as a warmup before he tries other types of magic. This is roughly equivalent to performing surgery on someone as a warmup to fixing a radio: Painful, dangerous, has little to do with what you're gearing up to do and something that a non expert should never do. And no one is an expert in Projection because it's seen as incredibly difficult and incredibly useless. However Shirou doesn't know this, so he basically creates matter from nothing, which is supposed to be an impossible feat even in universe. At best, most people can only keep their projections around for a few minutes and they're of shoddy quality, but Shirou shows the ability to replicate items that never seem to disappear as well as legendary weapons. And he doesn't even realize this is amazing.


  • Eight Bit Theater's Fighter and Black Belt do this constantly. Black Belt has No Sense of Direction to the extent that he can ignore gravity and warp the Space-Time-Continuum, to appear walking on the ceiling. Fighter meanwhile, has done things such as fold portable holes into themselves and split himself into multiple Fighters in order to even out conflicting teams. Although this may be more of an achievement in poor organization than stupidity, Red Mage once survived having his skeleton pushed out his mouth because he lost his pencil and was unable to record the damage on his character sheet. Besides, as he claimed, everyone knows that skeletons are vestigial organs.
    • Red Mage frequently tries to invoke this trope, with various degrees of success. His approach is probably best summed up with "I know that and you know that, but I don't know that".
    • Vilbert (who claims to be a vampire, but is also a LARPer and probably just making it up) explains that he able to survive in the sunlight because he feels it would be an uninteresting death.
      • Vilbert is definitely some sort of supernatural being: after all he did survive having a bunch of organs pierced by a falling armoire.
    • Black Belt once held up a rope for the others to walk across over a lava pit. He then followed. When asked how, he replies, "Simple. I held up the rope and walked across, like you guys."

 Thief: But...we took the rope down on this side.

Black Mage: Yes, but I don't think he knows that.

    • Fighter survived a fall at terminal velocity by blocking the ground. He's clearly a Solar Exalted who used the Heavenly Guardian Defense.

 Thief: You blocked the Earth.

Fighter: Why not? I can block magic, and fire, and all kinds of stuff.

Thief: I hate it when the things he says that don't make sense make sense.

    • This trope was explicitly used by Red Mage when he told Fighter to use 'make [his] swords as things unto chainsaws', the logic being that Fighter is too stupid to realize he doesn't know how to do that. It works.
    • Black Mage, naturally, has mixed feelings about this trope.

 "What I hate about my life... Part of what I hate about my life is that it is working..."

  • In Bob and George, on at least two occasions Mega Man has undergone violence that should have killed him, and survived because he's too dumb to realize he should be dead.
  • Dave does this every time he fixes a machine in Narbonic. This turns out to be because he's a latent Mad Scientist.
  • In Tales of the Questor, Quentyn and his friends put together an absolutely unique magic item using techniques no-one has ever seen before. Subverted in that they're not stupid, but three sheets to the wind (in other words: drunk).
    • Not only were they responsible for creating perhaps the most powerful magical sword in existence from what should have been the most magically worthless enchantment training sword (think about recording over a cassette tape hundreds of times), they invented new runes to tie all the latent enchantments together, essentially revolutionizing the field.
  • Collar 6: No one told Laura that she shouldn't be able to reach subspace at her level without physical stimulation.
  • Elan of The Order of the Stick has fallen into this a time or two, and has arguably learned to invoke this trope. When face to face with his Evil Twin Nale, Nale is surprised that Elan thought he was dead. As a Genre Savvy bard, he should've known that a villain is never dead if they Never Found the Body, and half the time not even then. Elan counters that the hero always thinks the villain is dead until he shows up again.

 Nale: Gah! I think I'm giving myself a migraine trying to understand the level of willful ignorance that requires!

Elan: First blood: ELAN!


 Molly: "So how's it feel, pushin' the envelope of the ol' square cube law?"

Jolly: "Well, I hath ne'er studied law."

  • Goblins:
    • Drowbabe is able to shrug off wounds because she's under the effects of a Mage Armour spell, and has convinced herself that the spell provides damage resistance (it actually makes it easier to dodge blows).

 Big Ears: Mage Armour doesn't offer damage resistance.

Drowbabe: Seriously? Oh Crap. That means I actually should have taken more damage from your hit to my leg earlier. Well, that would put my hitpoints way past negative... *dies*

    • Minmax manages to create a sword made of oblivion while toying around with a hole in reality. Kin theorises that, because oblivion can't exist, the less understanding the wielder has of the concept of oblivion, the more powerful it will become.

 Forgath: By Herbert's dice! In Minmax's hands, that sword is insanely powerful.

Minmax: Huh? I don't get it.

Forgath: That's perfect! Keep thinking that way!


Web Original

  • On The Guild, it turns out that Kwan is a champion-level competitive gamer in Korea. The guildees probably wouldn't stand a chance against him, but Mr. Wiggly defeats him by using spells an experienced player would never use. Kwan didn't bother defending against them.
  • In Dragon Ball Abridged, Goku is able to obtain a blueberry muffin during a space voyage because of his deluded belief that there's a button which makes muffins on-board the spaceship (despite being repeatedly told earlier there wasn't one).
    • In the 21st episode, the power of the muffin button allows him to read minds.
    • Krillin survived fighting Frieza because he didn't know that he wasn't immortal.
  • In the web series Homestar Runner, this may explain the title character's use of the "telekinetic powers/invisible arms" that the fans are still debating over. Homestar may not realize that he should be unable to manipulate objects or coat sleeves or stay airborne between two shackles in Trogdor's Dungeon in 8-Bit is Enough. However, suggesting the same of Marzipan might be pushing it.
    • Quite a few characters have these telekinetic powers/invisible arms. It could be that the characters grew up with it, and so don't think it's unusual (or impossible).
  • In Red vs. Blue Church is inside Caboose's mind, and needs to use Tucker's sword. Tucker's sword can't be used by anybody but Tucker, but Caboose is too dumb to understand this, so the sword works for Church inside Caboose's mind.
  • This Cracked article has Brockway acquire the power to shoot lightning due to misunderstanding a side-effect of Celexa.

 When asked to explain this in simpler terms, he elaborated that I was "so retarded that it crossed the line into the supernatural"


Western Animation

  • Anyway, in Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Meatwad develops some rather astonishing abilities (telekinesis, teleportation, etc...) when he is told he has a new brain and loses them when he finds it is his toy rubber brain with cosmetic alterations.
    • Shake seems to have done this as well, when he is seen teleporting while Meatwad is nowhere nearby.
  • Megas XLR: Coop lives by this trope; he even lampshades it in "S-Force SOS"

 Zerak: "Impossible! No can escape the force of the Infinity Zone!"

Coop: " Hey, good thing no one ever told me that."

  • An early episode of Xiaolin Showdown has three of the four heroes trapped in an invisible box by an evil mime. Raimundo is able to make noise sliding the Mantis Flip Coin against the "invisible" bars, while it was previously established that the walls were solid, and there were no bars. They use this to escape when they realize the box acts like whatever they think it does. This raises the question of how they got trapped in the box in the first place, considering they didn't believe that it was there until they walked into it.
    • The Mime was there when they walked into it and he believed in the box. So perhaps his belief was stronger than the others, or the others could have believed there is something there, they just didn't know what.
  • The reason Wile E Coyote and other cartoon characters (especially from Looney Tunes) can do things like run off a cliff and not fall until they look down.
    • An early Daffy Duck cartoon had Daffy riding an invisible bicycle, with the remark "I'm so crazy, I don't know this is impossible!"
      • Another one had Wile E. and Road Runner run off the cliff. Wile E. looks down and holds up a sign that says roughly "This defies the law of gravity." Road Runner, who is still floating, holds up a sign that says "I never studied law."
    • There is at least one instance of a character running off of the cliff, realizing it without looking down, and try to continue without looking down. Obviously, they look down (usually getting lured by their enemy).
    • There was a Tiny Toon Adventures episode which explained the phenomena. Elmer, teaching the young toons, said that as long as the toon didn't look down it wouldn't fall.
      • Which in itself is a shout out to an earlier Disney work where Walt himself explained this as the Plausible Impossible effect.
  • In one episode of Family Guy, Peter goes temporarily blind, he walks into the Drunken Clam bar during a fire and rescues the trapped bartender. When asked, his reply is priceless.

  Peter: That freaking place was on fire?!

  • In the I Am Weasel episode Law of Gravity, I.R. Baboon was actually able to defy gravity up until the point that he actually gets to read the actual Law of Gravity. Later on, Baboon destroys the Law...and every lawyer on Earth starts floating helplessly in mid-air. Weasel explains it only affects lawyers because they're the only ones who understand the law.
    • This is likely a Shout-Out to the numerous times Bugs Bunny and Road Runner claimed, in response to doing some gravity-defying action, that they never studied law.
      • There is a variation with Elmer and Bugs as children, where Elmer says they didn't study gravity yet. Bugs slipped him a book...
  • In Duckman, the title character gets a new adrenal gland from who he THINKS is a world-famous stuntman who recently died in a freak accident. This leads to him believing he can do all sorts of monumental stunts and acts of derring-do. And it works...until his partner informs him that the gland came from a dyslexic accountant (and a new adrenal gland wouldn't give one increased strength, balance or flexibility, either). He calls off his latest daring stunt and everything is back to normal.
  • On The Penguins of Madagascar, the penguins have trouble removing a hornet nest. They discover that Mort isn't hurt by the hornets because he is protected by a "halo of ignorance". Kowalski uses a machine to drain their minds of bad thoughts so that they could then deal with the hornets. Hilarity Ensues.
    • On the episode "It's About Time", a time machine creates a hole in the space-time continuum that threatens to destroy the universe. Rico then tosses the machine into the hole, and it closes. When Kowalski states the impossibility of it, Skipper responds, "That's why Rico's a maverick. He makes his own rules."
  • In an opening of Arthur, Francine flaps her arms and flies. Arthur shouts out that kids can't fly, right when she's floating 10 feet above him. Once Francine's bubble is burst, she plummets to the ground.
  • In South Park, Kyle's parents tell him he can go to a Raging Pussies concert if he brings democracy to Cuba. He does just that, unaware that his parents thought this task impossible. They still don't let him go.
    • In case you were wondering how that turns out, Cartman ends up getting every adult in town arrested for "molestering" the kids (to be fair, he didn't actually know how bad that was...for once). Long story short, Children of the Corn.
  • In Wakkos Wish, Buttons runs straight up a tree to save Mindy, only to fall when she tells him "Puppies can't climb trees."
  • An episode of Jimmy Two Shoes had Jimmy in an animal jail. When Jimmy begs that he's not an animal, the other animals join in. When Molotov reminds them that they don't know how to speak, they go back to making animal noises.
  • Homer Simpson of The Simpsons achieved an Epic Fail so massive that he managed to cause an actual nuclear meltdown in a nuclear plant simulation truck with no fissionable materials.
    • He also managed to light a bowl of cereal on fire by pouring milk on it.
    • And Grandpa Simpson once managed to take off his underpants without taking off his pants first. When asked how he did that, he is as confused as everyone else.
  • This is how Ed of Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy is able to warp reality and do things no normal kid should do-such as lifting a house. Actually lampshaded once: Edd and Eddy come to a screeching halt at the edge of a cliff, Ed slams into them and knocks them off. Eddy starts yelling at him, before Double D looks down and announces: "Uh, gentlemen? PROBABILITY ALERT!" While Ed contemplates that he can "make it" (jump to the other side of the ravine while already standing on air) the others scramble back to safety.
  • Danger Mouse and Penfold accidentally get themselves and their flying car whisked back in time to Robin Hood days. Penfold points out that they didn't have cars in the middle ages. D.M. sighs and says he had hoped Penfold wouldn't say that until they'd landed. Penfold asks why. The flying car disappears and they plummet.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: Spongebob and Patrick set up a bonfire while they believe to be wanted men, and the instant Patrick wonders on how they could possibly light a fire while underwater, it fizzles out.

Real Life

  • A popular contemporary legend tells the story of a college math student who oversleeps and arrives late for a major test. Upon arrival he sees three equations on the blackboard and successfully solves all three. Later, his professor informs him the class was only supposed to do the first two and the third was meant as an example of an equation mathematicians since Einstein have been trying to solve without success.
    • This has some basis in fact, being a somewhat embellished telling of an actual event that happened during mathematician George Dantzig's graduate studies: Dantzig had arrived late in class (not an exam) and copied what he thought was homework written on the blackboard. After taking longer than usual to solve the problems, he apologized to his professor for his lateness and turned them in. Sure enough, that wasn't homework but two unsolved statistics theorems, the proofs of which he published.
    • To this day, colleges and professors will sometimes place previously unsolved problems like these in with other more mundane problems on "entrance exams" or other evaluative tests just to see if some brilliant young student who hasn't heard about the problem not being solved yet can find a solution nobody else thought to try.
  • Another set of examples from Snopes: a number of musicians learn interesting tricks to duplicate songs they heard on the radio, without realizing that those tricks were done using equipment or multiple people. For instance, one guitarist learning to play a tricky guitar part, only to find out it was originally recorded on two guitars.
    • In a similar vein John Bonham learned to play a bass drum triplet with one foot after listening to a Vanilla Fudge record and mistakenly thinking that Carmine Appice was doing the same—Carmine was an early user of a double bass drum kit.
    • This is apparently part of the premise of Blue Man Group's act, the eponymous Blue Men have re-created alt-rock and contemporary pop music by tapping PVC pipes and beating up pianos without realizing they shouldn't be able to create those sounds without synthesizers and digital studio equipment.
    • The cornerstone of impressionist André Phillipe Gagnon's act is his spot-on imitation of a saxophone (using only his voice!) perfected as a child when he imitated Henry Mancini's The Pink Panther theme. Why? He didn't understand that it wasn't a person making that noise!
  • When teaching young children how to play their instruments, a good teacher never tells their students that anything is "easy" or "hard." As a result, those children learn to play well much more quickly.
  • A group of engineers at General Electric would present new hires with the supposedly impossible task of designing a light bulb with no uneven hotspots. One day, a new engineer created just that, much to the surprise of the veteran staffers.
  • There is also an urban legend about a French immigrant who made a huge business in the USA during the Great Depression. When questioned about the achievement, he stated that his English was so bad back then he could read no newspapers - and therefore, knew nothing about the depression.
    • A lot of people got rich in the Great Depression, and business actually grew. What made it so bad was that for a decade, businesses were hedging their bets and doing everything to cut costs, which meant that the job market was in relative stasis. In general, economic downturns lasting for any significant amount of time can be mostly psychological. Confidence (consumer, employer, etc.) can be used to overcome problems, but it takes credible signs of others' confidence to apply this in the real world.
      • This troper once heard the entire stock market crash compared to the above mentioned Wile E Coyote running off a cliff and only falling once he realised there was nothing supporting him anymore; if only he kept on running he'd have reached the other side with no problem. Similarly, if nobody realised that the economy couldn't support their various businesses, they'd keep on going, and the economy would get back to a level where it could support them. A combination of this trope and Your Mind Makes It Real.
      • Money in general works like this; as soon as you have an economy that's no longer based on the most primitive level of trade, you need to have a mutual agreement to ignore the logical problems of your system. Especially prevalent with banks; they work fine as long as everyone acts as if their money will be safe in the vaults, but if too many people think it might be safer if they withdraw it, the whole thing falls apart.
  • Every recession is an aversion of this trope (even if it looks like it's not at first): the economy does good, people become optimistic and start living above their means, debt skyrockets, the future returns are no longer capable to carry that amount of debt let alone new debts, people panic, everything comes crashing down. Sure it may be tempting to think that if everyone went on spending future money and nobody panicked everything would be dandy- but people forget that they panicked for a reason and that debt is a very real thing. Some basic economic principles can't be ignored with just a fearless attitude any more than you can ignore the laws of physics. Money may be more flexible and complicated than a barter economy but it is still needed for very real things. This trope is however what makes recessions possible in the early "hey that's a problem for future me and by then I'll be super rich" phase- not to mention that money depends on being certain that it will be worth something in the future. So yeah, this trope is a very mixed bag when it comes to the economy: It's both a boon and a curse.
  • There is a story of a viral video that went around depicting a man playing baseball with nun-chucks. A martial arts master repeated this apparently unaware that the videos were faked and it was thought impossible.
  • The placebo effect can be considered an example of this phenomenon. Someone who has been given a sugar pill for their health problems and thinks it's actual medicine will usually feel better, at least the first few times they take the "medicine". It's a case of Your Mind Makes It Real. However, this only improves subjective conditions like pain, or ones with a mental or stress-related component, like insomnia. Diseases which are uninfluenced by mood or emotion will not be affected by the placebo effect (people will temporarily feel better but not be better), which can be dangerous if a pseudoscience such as homeopathy tries to claim that it can cure or treat an actual, dangerous disease or condition.
    • This is why in a clinical trial, one group will be given a treatment and the other a placebo rather than nothing. That way, although all subjects will report improvements because of thinking they've been treated, you know the treatment works if that group has greater improvement than the placebo group.
    • People can also get sick if told they have been poisoned or that a dummy pill has possible side effects. This is called the Nocebo effect. As with the placebo effect, there is nothing external to the body causing it. This phenomenon was responsible for propagating the erroneous belief that tomatoes are poisonous. Similarly, people can get "drunk" when drinking non alcoholic beverages just by thinking they are alcoholic.
  • Possibly Charles Babbage, credited as the inventor of the computer. He didn't believe he was the first, having previously been beaten by an automatic chessplaying machine. What he didn't know was that the machine was a hoax—a human operator was concealed inside.
  • Observed by Alan W. Pollack, a musicologist who analysed every song by The Beatles, in order. He frequently points out when songs either use, or better improve on techniques used in classical music, and just as frequently points out that none of The Beatles could or would have possibly done it on purpose.
  • An occasional concept in military thought; for an attack from which there is no possibility of retreat, such as an amphibious landing, green soldiers often perform better than veterans. This is because they are unfamiliar with the dangers of what they are attempting, and will therefore try things that veterans know carry a high risk of ending in death.
    • One of Napoleon's top officers, Marshal Soult, was on the verge of winning a battle against the British in Spain in 1811, but as he put it afterward, "they didn't know enough to run away" when he'd beaten them,[1] so they held their positions and won.
  • An adage from Murphy's Laws of Combat:

  Professional soldiers are predictable; the world is full of dangerous amateurs.

    • Martial arts of any kind show a similar strange pattern. A rank amateur with no training is often a greater threat to a master than a beginner, since the completely untrained individual will be unpredictable. They may land a lucky shot or series of shots. It's Confusion Fu due to ignorance.
    • And in a case of Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking, when Channel 4 hosted a poker tournament between pro and amateur players, the pros said they struggled with the amateur players, having got so used to the tells of their fellow pros.
    • This can even come up in chess matches - trying to figure out what the amateur is doing can confound the professional, because the amateur doesn't know what they're doing, and so can't be predicted. Also, amateurs will perform the most ridiculous, foolish moves that no competent player would make, and thus a pro might leave themselves open to something resulting from such a move, or find it difficult to realize that it is even being attempted.
  • For years, physicists knew you could not suspend one magnet over the other without some sort of additional support. The top magnet would either flip due to the attractive forces, or slide off. This had been given a beautiful mathematical proof, and anyone caught illicitly trying to disprove it would be the subject of some teasing. However, eventually someone came along who had the good fortune of not knowing that floating one magnet over the other had long been proved impossible, and promptly solved the problem: just spin the free floating magnet like a top. The original proof had been right as far as it went, but spinning the magnet was a loophole no one had accounted for. No, superconductors aren't an exception, because they're not magnets.
  • It's actually pretty easy to make a triangle with three right angles as long as you aren't restricted to Euclidean geometry. For example, you can make a (big) right-angled-triangle on the surface of the Earth: put one corner at the North Pole and the other two on the equator, ninety degrees apart. This is not a case of Terry Pratchett not doing the research, though: the Discworld isn't a sphere.
  • Evolutionary computer design is based on this principle: you set the end goals you want the program to achieve, but don't give it specific instructions on how to get there, allowing the program try some solutions, test them, then mutate and combine the best of them to try again. The end result is often something no human would ever design but would perform at least as well if not better. One example was designing a structural "backbone" for a space station. Human designs involved a standard radio-tower style beam, while the computer produced an organic design that looked like an actual bone, massed less, and was structurally stronger.
    • Perhaps one of the strangest examples was when a piece of programmable hardware ran a genetic algorithm to try to create an oscillator and ended up creating a radio receiver and parasite at the same time.
    • Another example is this antenna.
    • Another experiment ran on a programmable logic array to distinguish between sounds resulted in a circuit where part of it wasn't even connected to any inputs, outputs or the rest of the circuit, but if removed resulted in the circuit failing. It also didn't work when copied to another chip of the same kind which means it used subtle manufacturing defects of the chip as integral parts of the circuit!
  • The reason martial arts expert Tony Jaa can pull off his amazing stunts without wires is that he grew up watching Jackie Chan movies without knowing there was such thing as Wire Fu. Nobody thought to tell him he couldn't do what he eventually managed to do.
    • Actually subverted, as Jackie Chan himself doesn't use any Wire Fu and does every stunt himself.
    • Sadly not entirely true now, due to age and repeated injuries taking their toll. He still does as much as he can, but he can't do them all any more.
  • Many of the innovative visuals and special effects seen in Citizen Kane are the result of first-time film director Orson Welles simply refusing to believe that certain things couldn't be done on screen.
  • A literal case of this with gamers who earn Xbox 360 Achievements (or PlayStation 3 Trophies) without looking up the requirements on what is needed to get them.
    • Specifically, when you're near the end of a No Damage Run and are aware of it, you might start locking up or playing too conservatively for your own good. No such problem if it hasn't occurred to you that you haven't taken damage, or don't realize there's a reward at stake.
    • Particularly prevalent in Rhythm games, where players can enter an almost trance-like state of mind when they're doing good, only to be sucked out of it when they realize how good they're doing, usually resulting in them screwing up.
  • This interview with Ken Levine reveals that if he'd known how difficult and borderline impossible it should have been to create System Shock 2 with the resources and technology he had at the time, he probably would have failed to deliver what is now a classic.
  • The Four Minute Mile. It was once thought that no human could go faster than that. When it was broken (by an Amateur Runner who never heard of this "fact"), it became common knowledge that humans CAN go faster than that and instead of being a feat attempted only by Olympians, Highschool students started achieving it.
  • The illustrator Franklin Booth learned to draw by copying from wood engravings, thinking they were pen and ink drawings. This gave him his distinctly complicated and precise style.
  • The game "Fold It" is a free game about figuring out how proteins fold. Player's results go to researchers over the internet to see how if the result works. This game helps in a few ways. The first is you can have more people trying to figure out how the proteins fold with almost no training. The other is that many players, due to lack of training do not have preconceived notions of how proteins should fold. Scientists were trying to figure out how a protein in a type of aids causing virus for 15 years. They released the protein as a puzzle in Fold It. Players submitted a solution to how the protein actually folds in 10 days.
  1. "I had turned their right, pierced their centre and everywhere victory was mine"