The Science of Avatar: The Last Airbender

One of the best American, made-for-TV cartoons out there is Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender. It’s about a world in which certain people are born with the ability to control an element, either fire, water, earth or air, and a boy named Aang who is the reincarnation of the Avatar, master of all four elements.

The show’s really great. The animation, although choppy at times, is fantastic. The fight scenes are choreographed really well and seem very real. The story is awesome, the characters are funny and interesting. And on and on. Despite that, the show has some glaring quirks.

In the show, earthbenders can control pretty much any kind of rock or metal. Firebenders can shoot fire and lightning from their fingertips (and other appendages). Airbenders can control the air, and waterbenders control the water.

But how totally unfair is that? Metals make up about 75% of the periodic table. Which means that earthbenders get to control more elements than the rest of the benders combined. Waterbenders only get to control one element. Sucks for them. They can control the H2O molecule, but can’t control hydrogen or oxygen separately for some reason. Airbenders cheated the fuck out of the waterbenders there, sorry to say. And firebenders? They also control the air. Or at least oxygen. Because fire is just really quick oxidation. And lightning? Lightning is just electricity. Which means firebenders can control electrons.

New title for firebenders: Electron-benders.


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