The physics of Casper the Friendly Ghost: why can’t he open the door?

Twitter spent the holiday weekend debating the science behind the animated spirit. These are some of the questions haunting cartoon buffs

Name: Casper the Friendly Ghost.

Age: 78. Casper was created in 1939 by American illustrators Seymour Reit and Joe Oriolo.

Appearance: Translucent Iain Duncan Smith.

Occupation: Trainee ghost.

In the news because: He is predicted to return to the cabinet if the Tories win the election.

Casper? Sorry, I thought you meant IDS.

Why is Casper in the news? Because US comedian Daniel Kibblesmith has raised a significant question.

Which is? “Can someone please explain to me the physics of Casper?”

Is that significant? Not especially, but it tickled the fancy of the US and UK twitterati on a holiday weekend when they didn’t want to be thinking about Trump, or the general election, or the end of western civilisation as we know it.

What was his point? He wanted to know why solid objects sometimes passed through Casper’s body and at other times were absorbed. Casper comics depict the friendly ghost knocking on a door while being “filled up” with falling snow. He also plucks apples from a tree, but places them in them in his legs for storage.

And did the twitterati supply an answer? Many answers. “He has an ectoplasmic membrane of variable solidity, you oaf, you clown, you uneducated buffoon,” posited @kthorjensen with perhaps unnecessary vigour. “He exists both as a particle and as a wave,” proffered @stunt_penguin. “A constant seems to be that his bottom is more solid than his head,” observed @querulus, forensically. Though, as @TheWallStBull noted in response, “You’re describing just about everyone I know.”

Maybe the laws of physics just don’t apply to cartoons. You are not really buying into this riff, are you?

How did little Casper die? You have hit on another important question in Casperology – is he really dead? The many books and films about him over the past 70-odd years differ on this point. Casper, the very successful 1995 live-action feature film, presented him as a 12-year-old boy called Casper McFadden who died of pneumonia, but the more wholesome 1960s comic books suggested he was born a ghost to happily married ghost parents.

Do say: “What’s a nice ghoul like you doing in a place like this?”

Don’t say: “Boo!”

The GuardianTramp

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