Sunday, April 25, 2010

Cartoon Laws of Physics for Kids

The laws of physics that govern the cartoon universe may not sneer with those set down by Newton, but they are immutable nonetheless. Rule No. 1, as defined by generations of Wile E. Coyote/Road Runner shorts, asserts that a body suspended in space will remain impervious to gravitational forces until the moment it becomes fully aware of its situation.

In hot pursuit of the scrawny, flightless bird, the coyote’s momentum takes him over the edge of a cliff. He keeps churning his legs like furry brown pistons until he happens to look down, whereupon the time-honored formula of 32 feet per second kicks in. Before gravity does its dirty work, the doomed beast will take a moment to produce a tiny sign that reads something along the lines of “Eep!” or “Yipes!”

In a sense, the kids upfront abide by similar principles, inasmuch as it follows a distinct internal logic that doesn’t necessarily apply to the general-entertainment upfront. In the Looney Tunes cosmos, characters may create replicas of themselves if they attain a certain velocity (usually this happens in the context of some sort of dog-vs.-cat melee). A similar principle has taken hold in the kids TV space, where the emergence of new networks has sent some established players back to the drafting table.


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