Ludicrous Speed

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Jump to: navigation, search
"They've gone to plaid!"
No, no, no, light speed is too slow! We're gonna have to go right to... Ludicrous Speed!
Dark Helmet, Spaceballs

There's driving a car, then there's supersonic, then there's lightspeed, then there's Faster-Than-Light Travel.

Then there's Ludicrous Speed. This is speed so fast that it breaks your brain, curves your spine, divides by zero, and is in every way inconceivable. After traveling at such velocities, a person is just never the same.

Ludicrous Speed is where during the story, a person will travel at such high speeds that it has a physical/or psychological effect on the person, usually mutation or insanity.

Named after "Ludicrous Speed!" in Spaceballs (which is so fast it causes a ship traveling at that rate to Motion Parallax to plaid), though the effect there is basically limited to a Non Sequitur Thud.

A cousin of Space Madness and Hyperspace Is a Scary Place. Taking Driven to Madness to its literal extreme. Can overlap with Go Mad From the Revelation if the person discovers something mind-breaking about the universe.

Compare to an Eldritch Abomination which breaks your mind with the mere inconceivable sight of it. A Brown Note caused by speed.

Examples of Ludicrous Speed include:


Anime & Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • In the Speed Racer two-parter "The Fastest Car in the World", the legendary GRX engine was dug up from its maker's grave. At top speed, a car propelled by it could only be driven safely if the driver had inhaled "V-gas". Speed tried to drive it without V-gas, and almost crashed. And of course, V-gas has the downside of making the inhaler extremely thirsty- and if they drink water, they'll become terrified of even the slowest speeds (which Pops had to condition him out of, and which killed another test pilot).


Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • One of the threats The Flash faces is going so fast that he gets absorbed into the speed force that gives him his power.
    • Ludicrous Speed was the way The Flash (Barry) was able to visit Earth-Two and link the Silver Age to the Golden Age, as him vibrating incredibly fast in certain places on Earth-One gave him the ability to cross over into Earth-Two.


Film[edit | hide]

  • The Stargate sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Granted, it's not the trip itself that changes Dave, but it certainly seemed to affect him deeply. Of course, only the book really makes it clear that ludicrous speeds are even involved, while the film is a better example of the trope...
  • Airplane! 2. After the shuttle goes to 0.5 Worp, the passengers all appear to be wearing Ronald Reagan masks as a side effect.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • The Isaac Asimov short story "Escape," where the robot brains working on hyperspace travel discover that hyperspace travel causes humans to die (They Get Better though), which causes their "Three Laws"-Compliant brains to go haywire (Consolidated Robots's Brain renders itself into junk, while the US Robotics' one has more personality and develops a mischievous sense of humor). The two characters we see taking the hyperspace jump actually go to Heaven and Hell respectively (somewhat Gilbert and Sullivan-influenced places, due to Author Appeal).
  • One of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy novels mentions something called the R factor, which is a measure of how fast somebody is traveling based on their psychological perception of speed. Anything going at a speed higher than 1 R is going "too fast", by definition, although the actual value of 1 R varies by individual and species. The crew of the starship Bistromath end up traveling at 10^17,000 R, i.e. 10-with-seventeen-thousand-zeroes times faster than an appropriate speed would actually be.
    • And, of course, there's the Improbability Drive, which has unusual effects on its ship's passengers ("Ford, you're turning into a penguin. Stop it."). Though it might be more accurate to call it pure ludicrousness with speed as a convenient side effect.
  • Stephen King wrote a short story called "The Jaunt" which has a future humanity easily colonizing other worlds thanks to a mass-produced teleportation mechanism. The only catch is that any living thing that goes through the transport while conscious either dies or comes through a gibbering lunatic. Ironically, the story implies that this is because the brain experiences everything in the "warp" as going so slow that it takes an eternity to finally arrive.
  • There was a short story, written towards the end of the 19th century, where a train travels at the then-unheard of speed of 80 MPH, but it had to stop so often for the souls of the passengers to catch up.
  • The gloss on The Rime of the Ancient Mariner says "The Mariner hath been cast into a trance; for the angelic power causeth the vessel to drive northward faster than human life could endure." At this tremendous speed, the mariner went from Antarctica to England in a couple of days.
  • A rather nasty science fiction book by Charles R Pellegrino, Flying to Valhalla, that featured a light speed trip that caused the characters to become disconnected from reality, reliving their life over and over again, for years!
  • The Star Wars Expanded Universe has hyperspace, the sight of which is said to cause someone to go insane. Oddly, Lord Vader found it calming. Naturally, Nil Spaar, the Big Bad of the Black Fleet books, is ejected in an escape pod while still in hyperspace.
  • In Larry Niven's Known Space stories, looking out of a spacecraft in hyperspace has adverse mental effects on humans.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • In the quietly forgotten Star Trek: Voyager episode "Threshold", Tom Paris travels at warp factor 10 causing severe physiological changes in him and Captain Janeway's bun of power, which culminates in their copulation and subsequent batch of newt babies.
  • An episode of the Discovery Channel's Biker Build-Off had two teams making street-legal drag bikes. One had such forceful acceleration that it dislocated the rider's shoulder.
  • After 3 million years of constant acceleration, Red Dwarf finally breaks the light barrier. The shipboard computer Holly, who has an IQ of 6000 (though he has gone a bit senile over the years), finds this situation simply impossible to navigate. As he puts it, by the time he sees an obstacle in their path "we've already gone through it!".


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Inverted in Grim Fandango; at the beginning of year four, the lack of speed is slowly killing Glottis. Glottis is a spirit who was created expressly for the purpose of driving cars. This is both his purpose and sole desire in life, but he was created too big to fit into any of the Department's cars, so when you meet him he's kinda-sorta ekeing out survival by working as a mechanic instead.
  • In a meta sense, GRIN's overlooked PC racing game Ballistics was often compared to the aforementioned 2001 stargate sequence by critics, as its whole gimmick was being designed for players to go incredibly fast-supersonic fast-all the time. In a strictly in-game sense, the speed of the first speed class in a barely-modified machine can be incredibly disorienting to the uninitiated. The fastest speed class in a fully-modified racer is almost impossible to follow, best described as a montage of sonic booms, motion blur and primary colors zipping by.


Web Comics[edit | hide]

Sam: I feel the need.
Helix: For speed?
Sam: No, it's more like the need for clean underwear.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

Flash: I can never go that fast again. If I do... I don't think I'm coming back.

  • Merely going to sub light speed in the Space Opera sketches on Ren and Stimpy can do this.
  • A Running Gag in Looney Tunes, usually when a plane is plummeting, the speedometer starts spinning up ever faster, before displaying a message like "unbelievable, isn't it?".
  • Also from Looney Tunes, the Road Runner. With a burst of speed, he can vanish over the horizon in a fraction of a second, cause paved roadways to ripple like water, uproot utility poles with his slipstream, and basically defy the laws of physics. (Of course, he never studied law.)
  • In the episode of The Tick (animation) featuring space-faring aliens called The Whats, the level of fear produced by Arthur is so great that the Whats' fear-fueled spaceship surpasses the speed of light... into the speed of lint.


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • Time Dilation alone almost certainly makes the speed of light an example of this trope.
    • Time dilation isn't the only wackiness: The faster you travel, the shorter you become; at the speed of light, you become infinitely short. If you were somehow able to continue increasing your speed such that you were traveling faster than the speed of light, you would start becoming longer again—while traveling backwards in time.
  • In the past, people used to believe all sorts of yet-to-be-reached speeds would have dangerous and potentially fatal effects, including people a century ago thinking that travel by high-speed locomotive would leave the passengers unable to breathe. By high-speed, we mean 25 mph, at which speed the pressures would suck all the air out. At 30 mph they believed people would be sucked bodily out of the windows. The fear was apparently based less on the speed itself than the belief that there would be a drop in air pressure because of it. Not that expecting 25-30 mph to cause a significant drop is much less ludicrous. Which is particularly hilarious given that a galloping horse goes faster than that, and racehorses have been clocked very close to 50 mph.
  • A less Egregious example is the sound barrier, which was believed to cause G-forces high enough to prevent any plane from breaking it intact. Note that high accelerations, or even high changes in acceleration, are indeed dangerous, capable of causing whiplash, concussions, and tearing of the tissues holding the organs in place. As they say, it's not the high speed of a fall that kills you, it's the very sudden stop at the end.
    • Reportedly pilots who have claimed to have broken the sound barrier in early jet planes, said the jolt of the bang knocked some of the rivets out of their holes. This may be partially because some of those planes went supersonic by accident (steep dives at full throttle in planes that wouldn't ordinarily reach supersonic speeds by flying straight), and the laws of aerodynamics change dramatically when going above the speed of sound. Hence, the planes began to handle very strangely and may have indeed begun to break apart before they slowed back to a speed they were meant to operate at.
      • Compressibility (which even affected some prop-driven WWII fighters, the P-38 most notably) was notable at higher altitudes and high speeds (high altitude = speed of sound is slower). The plane wouldn't be transonic, but some of the airflow would be. The usual result, the controls didn't work and if you were REALLY unlucky the plane shook itself apart (this is what killed Geoffry De Havilland). Changing the tail control surface design finally allowed control through the barrier (where the issue went away).
  • There is a rumor that anyone who drives a Bugatti Veyron or comparable super-super-car to its top speed will achieve a form of Buddhist enlightenment. There is an episode of Top Gear where James May does just this - you can see it in his eyes.
    • That may be because the intense speed and the constant risk of a horrible bone-crunchingly burning death floods your your body with pure adrenaline, causing your perception (of time, of your surroundings, of everything else) to accelerate to almost-unheard-of speeds.
    • If you want a version of the trope played straight, there was Richard Hammond's experience driving a Formula One car. The car was basically so much faster than anything he'd driven up to that point (aside from the late Vampire dragster), not just in straight-line speed but in cornering response, acceleration and braking, that his mind couldn't keep up. However, that wasn't his real problem: his real problem was when he realized that in order to make the car behave at all, he had to drive it faster: faster than his mind was telling him was even safe. Think about that for a moment: in order to make sure the car didn't crash, he had to drive it at a speed that would make him think he would. Instant Zen in a car. How many other cars do you know of that behave like that?
      • F1 doesn't hold the speed records though, that goes to the CART-era of Indy Car, when the average lap speed record was set at 241.428 mph in 2000 at the 2.5 mile superspeedway in Fontana and the fastest speed trap reading was 256.948 mph two years prevously at Michigan.