Smashing CRTs: Unpicking Sonic’s Boxes

Anyone who dares follow me on Twitter may have picked up on my recent obsession with the CRT monitors (AKA Boxes!) that litter the various zones of the early Sonic the Hedgehog Games. I don’t exactly know why my brain has been idling on these iconic ingame items, but the more I turn it over in my mind the more bizarre it seems: Hedgehog smashes CRT monitor… gets stuff!

I’ve certainly not been one to shy away from applying ‘science’ to Plant Mobius in the past, but all I have to work with here is that Sonic smashes CRT and one of five different things happen (taking the SMD original as the blueprint): He picks up 10 gold rings; Grabs the Power Boots for Super Speed; Gains a one hit shield; Becomes invulnerable for a short time; or gains an extra life. So the big question is:

Is there a scientifically feasible explanation for the CRT item boxes in Sonic the Hedgehog? 

10 Rings

Screenshot 2019-07-22 at 21.49.54

Oh the classic 10 ring monitor. From Green Hill to Ice Cap, this has been a staple of Sonic gaming for years and years! Just pop one of these and Sonic instantly has 10 of those shiny gold rings he’s so fond of. But wait! This one is sort of actually practically feasible; most electronics have small amount of gold in them plated on to connectors etc. Unfortunately I couldn’t easily find a estimate of how much gold is likely to be in an old CRT monitor, I could however find a rough estimate for the amount of gold in a typical old PC, roughly 0.237 ml, which is certainly on the generous side, but might work for our purposes.

Sonic’s rings are large compared to his size. We know (as I’ve mentioned previously) that the mighty hedgehog himself stands at a convenient 1 m tall and with a quick bit of ruler work (and screenshot of Green Hill Zone) we can see that each ring is approximately 40 cm diameter and clearly a torus. We also know that to forge 10 rings from a single smashed monitor gives 0.0237 ml of gold per ring which would give us a the thickness of each band at roughly 80 microns… not exactly the chunky hunk of metal seen floating in neat rows across the landscape, but it is legitimately technically possible to get 10 gold rings from an old CRT monitor… sort of

Feasibility Rating: Despite being technically feasible, it’s unlikely that Sonic would have the required furnace and metalworking equipment to extract these hair-thin gold rings… Far Fetched… 

Power Boots

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You know, I always used to call these speed boots; grab some of these and Sonic’s speed doubles to a blistering, and often fatal, pace. My first thought was that maybe someone had spilt some coffee on the monitor, because that’s just the kind of thing that people used to do with CRT’s, and Sonic got some kind of shot lived caffeine boost. The problem is that the icon clearly shows a picture of the boots implying that it’s his footwear that’s been turbo-charged and not his physiology. Those classic red shoes hold the key to Sonic’s speed, after all he needs to pretty high-tech super high coefficient of friction soles to transmit the mighty power from his legs to the ground; so yes, I’m suggesting that in hitting that CRT Sonic is able to ‘re-sole’ his shoes with a super high traction silicone rubber.

Now I’m not a polymer specialist, but the clue here is the name silicone which is a compound made of long organic polymerised chains of a silicon containing monomer. Silica is the oxidised version of the ever popular semi-conductor; silicon, and is also the main constituent of both glass and sand (there’s quite a bit of it about). CRT monitors contain a lot of glass so my theory goes like this: Sonic smashes the monitor and fragments the glass, he then heats it in a coke furnace to extract the silicon. The silicon then needs to heated again with chloromethane to form dimethyldichlorosilane, from here it’s a relatively straightforward polymerisation (apparently) involving …erm… a little bit of fractional distillation… and whatnot… Of course you’re all wondering where Sonic gets hold if the chloromethane? Well, that’s the clever bit as chloromethane is produced by various species of phytoplankton such as the type that are bound to be hanging around in the lush rivers and lakes of Green Hill Zone… Right?

Feasibility Rating: I’m pretty pleased with coming up with something that’s even vaguely sensible here and I’m pretty sure you could make silicone rubber from the glass in an old CRT monitor, but Sonic would need to be carrying a small lab setup somewhere in the pants he doesn’t wear… impractical…

Shield

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The iconic Sonic the Hedgehog shield is one of those visuals that I wish had stuck around longer in to the series. The Sonic 2 variant  is much less striking that that early rotating force field that protects Sonic from a single enemy hit… but I’m not here to talk about visuals, you all want to know how it works.

CRT monitors operate by scanning an electron beam across a phosphorescent screen rapidly and with varying intensities to generate a moving image. The beam is deflected/moved by changing electro-magnetic fields that are generated by passing current through conductive wound coils. My theory is that Sonic extracts these coils (and some charged capacitors as a power supply) from the smashed CRT and rigs himself up a protective magnetic field. As Robotnik’s Badniks approach, the field induces a current in their internal circuits, temporarily disabling them so that Sonic is not harmed when he is hit…

Feasibility Rating: This one is pretty far from the mark. Even if coils and capacitors from a CRT could induce a current powerful enough to disrupt electronics, many of the things Sonic is protected against are just spikes so it doesn’t really make sense…best I could come up with… 

Invulnerability

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That classic trail of stars following him as he merrily charges through enemies destroying everything in his path. There is only one explanation; Sonic has managed to create a device to generate a localised cloud of ball lightning. Once the realm of campfire stories and sailor’s tales this unassuming hedgehog has discovered the secret to one of the most illusive natural phenomena ever observed. Not knowing the secret myself it’s not clear if it’s the components from the CRT that he uses to do this, or if he simply harvests energy … or even uses the loud implosion from the collapsing cathode ray tube to kickstart the lighting generation. All I know is that he’s a master of electricity that has not been seen since the days of Nicola Tesla…

Feasibility Rating: I… I got nothing… ball lightning was literally the best I could come up with, but even generated in labs with huge power sources the phenomenon is only momentarily stable… Mythical… 

Extra Life

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In the early days of photography some people believed that cameras would steal your soul…. it turns out they were right… for hedgehogs at least. Film a hedgehog then play it back on a TV and their soul will be trapped in the CRT until released. The truth is that nobody quite knows why someone is entrapping the souls of hedgehogs and leaving them to suffer in obscure locations throughout the Planet Mobius, but we do know that Sonic is just as bad as them; on smashing the CRT he doesn’t allow the unfortunate hedgehog’s soul to rest Instead he captures it for himself and uses it to resurrect his own life force if the worst were to happen. I guess in his head he sees the destruction of Robotnik as worth the sacrifice of his spiky brethren, but Sonic; does the ends justify the means?

Feasibility Rating: …???…

4 thoughts on “Smashing CRTs: Unpicking Sonic’s Boxes

  1. I never even considered how Sonic might extract all these benefits from CRTs. Very imaginative. And this also reminds me that I need to finish my replay of Sonic 3 & Knuckles. I wonder if there’s any way to explain those fire, water, and electric shields.

    Liked by 1 person

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