(Originally appeared in 1994 in The Institute, published by IEEE. Additions and extensions have since appeared all over the Internet, but this is the original and definitive set.)

LAW 1: Any body suspended in space will remain in space until made aware of its situation.
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 9.8 m/s2 takes over.

LAW 2: Any solid 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 outsized boulder retards their forward motion absolutely. Sir Isaac Newton called this sudden termination of motion "the stooge's surcease."

LAW 3: 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.

LAW 4: The time required for an object to fall 20 stories is greater than or equal to the time it takes for whoever knocked it off the ledge to spiral down 20 flights to attempt to catch it unbroken. Such an object is inevitably priceless, the attempt to capture it is typically unsuccessful.

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 cradle the chandelier, a treetop, or the crest of a flagpole. The feet of a character who is running or wheels of a speeding auto never touch the ground, especially when in flight.

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-replications only at manic high speeds and may ricochet off walls to achieve the velocity required.

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 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 he attempts to follow into the painting. This is ultimately a problem of art, not of science.

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.
COROLLARY: A cat will assume the shape of its container.

LAW 9: Everything falls faster than an anvil.

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.

CST Approved via Public Domain based on copyright-free publication on http://funnies.paco.to/cartoon.html


Amendment A: A sharp object will always propel a character upward.

Amendment B: The laws of object permanence are nullified for "cool" characters.

Amendment C: Explosive weapons cannot cause fatal injuries.

Amendment D: Gravity is transmitted by slow-moving waves of large wavelengths.

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.

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