Impossible physics: Why My Little Pony can't really fly

"Physical Impossibilities in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" is a student physics presentation that examines three scenes from an animated My Little Pony show (it looks like a recent adaptation, not the original) and identifies the physics at work, explains (with equations!) why the scenes don't work, and offers suggestions ("dark matter!") to fix them. The student has posted his slides as well. He says he got 100% on the presentation, and I believe it was a well-deserved grade.

Slides (PPT) (via JWZ)


  1. Cory, seriously, MLP: FiM is something BoingBoing should do a podcast on. It’s become an internet-wide phenomenon capable of clogging video sites, image sites, and porn sites alike with G-rated expressions of pony harmony.

    The new show is a masterstroke of worldbuilding and character craft. The creator, Lauren Faust (of Powerpuff Girl fame) went out to make a show for kids with cosmology, real danger, and intelligence. She appropriated six archetypical personality types from romance novels to form a main cast of strong females. And she’s listening to the internet, with at least one character suggested by fans (Derpy) having regular cameos on the show. (There may be another, Dr. Whooves, but whether they’re using him intentionally or not is not certain.) In the process she’s made a terrific cartoon — with all its episodes available on Youtube — that skews heavily toward the male 18-35 year old demographic. It proves that an intelligent show featuring strong women can be a big hit, no matter what the format.

    This has become an internet meme of the highest order. I’m boggled that this is the first time BoingBoing has come across it. Watch some episodes and you’ll understand. Join the herd. :)

  2. MLP:FiM definitely counts as a ‘wonderful thing’. It’s about 20% wonderfuler than any other TV show.

  3. Wait. There are no Bronies in the BB crew? Here’s the fastest way to get up to speed:

    The show (My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, not the earlier incarnations) is brilliant. Amazing animation, considering it’s all done in Flash. Great characters, etc.

    Also, I love this kid. “I watch a show for little girls called My Little Pony…” *hoofbump*

  4. I’ve been trying to infect Bronydom into BoingBoing for over a month. It took physics to get the job done. Go figure.

  5. It appears as though he forgot one critical fact about pegasi in MLP:FiM. He mentions that he assumed Applejack and Rainbow Dash have comparable mass, but the show tells us that pegasus ponies are MUCH lighter than earth ponies. This is what allows them to walk, and even sleep, on clouds. This explains Rainbow Dash flying higher than you would expect on the see saw as well as how the butterflies were able to catch Fluttershy!

  6. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
    MLP relies on magic to fly.
    Now give me my A.

  7. This is highly cute. The analysis of the first video is also quite good.

    I have issues with the other analyses: (a) momentum is /not/ conserved in the see-saw (the momenta are in opposite directions!). You could solve it with conservation of angular momentum around the fulcrum of the see-saw, I suppose, but I would use conservation of energy. And (b) the force needed to stop the pony is much greater than just counteracting its weight. You need to compute the average force required to decelerate the pony over such a short distance (and/or short time – you can compute it two different ways).

    So, depending upon the parameters of the assignment, it wouldn’t earn a 100% in my class, but I think the assignment itself is quite clever, and I love the enthusiasm from the student and the class.

  8. The fact that I know what MLPFIM is and Cory Fuckin’ Doctorow doesn’t, makes me feel sad. You’re getting old, or something, dude!

  9. old news is old.

    also, the whole mlp:fim phenomenon began as trolling; those whose heads the troll went over latched onto it as something cool and started calling each other bronies and referring to the show as “a masterstroke of worldbuilding and character craft” that “skews heavily toward the male 18-35 year old demographic.”

    in a way, the troll was unsuccessful because rather than pissing off the target, we gave them something they can enjoy, since, much like many weeaboos, the bronies for whatever reason fixate on things intended for children (the psychological possibilities as to why are fascinating). but maybe the troll is successful in the sense that the bronies keep spreading this tripe all over the internet, which in turn both trolls more people (albeit unintentionally) and gives them more converts.

    bronies, i suppose, wind up being the viral carriers of the troll.


    1. If you think this started as a trolling scheme, you are wrong, /co/ fan from NOVEMBER reporting in.

      Sure, it started on /b/ as a trolling scheme, in february (doubtly so now, yet you still have threads), but that’s what you get for being /b/. However, long before, on /co/, Something Awful, Facepunch and other places, it wasn’t a trolling scheme and rather the fascination about how a show that was EXPECTED to be hilariously bad was somehow so good.

  10. I should start watching MLP:FIM again sometime. The last episode I saw was “Applejack Season,” and I thought it was the best yet.

    One useful side effect of the show getting most of its revenue from merchandise: Hasbro’s expressed basically no desire to take down the episodes uploaded to YouTube. (And they’re not even broken into half-episode chunks!)

    1. The file-sharing isn’t going to hurt the show at all. Rather it’s going to draw in more fans who’ll spend money to support the franchise.

  11. I take issue with his final calculation about Fluttershy. He uses a Kg weight based on actual ponies, and then gives the dimensions for the Fluttershy to be a matter of inches. Apart from his metric/imperial silliness, a My Little Pony who is clearly something very small, as in inches small, would not possibly have the same mass a full sized real world pony. It’s far too late for me to try and recalculate the proportional weight for Fluttershy, but it would have a serious impact on his final analysis. I don’t think it would be reasonable to say that the volume of butterflies that lifted her would provide sufficient force to break her fall, but it may provide a number of butterflies that theoretically could.

  12. It is clearly a /cloud/ of butterflys, not a single layer one butterfly thick. Butterflys supporting butterflys which are supporting Fluttershy. Totally physically plausible.

    Hmm. Actually, it’d be kind of interesting to – in conjunction with Eric R’s point about the small size and therefore reduced mass of Fluttershy – to work out how many layers of butterflys would be needed. What /is/ the packing ratio for a standard butterfly?

    Also: Who knew butterflys were such commie scum? Helping each other like that. *pshaw* Clearly they vote Democrat.

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