Cartoon Physics

This page is authored by Ray Purdom, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, based on an original activity by Dan Burns, Los Gatos High School, Los Gatos, CA
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This material was originally created for Starting Point: Teaching Economics
and is replicated here as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service.


The physical laws of nature are often broken or bent in cartoons for comic effect. Students will watch segments of cartoons that depict physical activities and discuss the physical world portrayed with the accepted physical laws of nature.

Learning Goals

The goal of this activity is to reinforce the knowledge of several laws of physics and to uncover misconceptions that students may possess.

Context for Use

This activity could be used at the beginning of the semester to introduce the subject and to explore the prior knowledge or misconceptions that students possess. The activity could also be used when a particular principle is studied.

Description and Teaching Materials

We will use the Road Runner cartoon series to promote discussion of physical principles introduced or violated in numerous Road Runner segments. This collection of segments was put together by Dan Burns and includes suggested questions that students might be asked after viewing the segments of Road Runner Physics.

Teaching Notes and Tips

It is helpful is you provide a list of physics principles to your students before they watch any of the scenes from the Road Runner. The list of principles will help focus student attention on the learning objectives, instead of merely enjoying cartoons.


Common physics concept questions can be used to evaluate the success of these activities in students comprehending the principles.

References and Resources

Some additional cartoon resources collected by Dean Bair - Cartoon Resources