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—Professor Farnsworth, Futurama

In science fiction shows, particularly ones where advanced super-technology drives the plot, the good guys and the bad guys will often have their own R&D teams. When the tech level is supposed to be evenly matched between the sides, this is frequently because both sides have Rival Science Teams.

Maybe the lead scientists know each other professionally. Maybe they went to school together or worked together in the past or were lovers or whatever. What's important now is that the two head scientists hate each other. They may still respect each other's work professionally, but they've taken diametrically opposed paths over political ideology, scientific theory, sheer ego, etc., and now they're motivated to beat the other team.

Usually, the opposing science teams will be very familiar with the research of their rivals. When one side debuts their latest technological triumph, the other team is there to explain to the heroes or villains what exactly it is they've pulled off, either with curses at having been beaten or just the perfect countermeasure in mind.

Rival science teams may sometimes be ideologues for their side, or they may simply be hiring themselves out to whoever funds their crazy research in an attempt to get one up on their rivals. This trope specifically refers to rivalries between the supporting cast. It does not describe when the heroes and villains themselves are scientists, far more personally involved in the main conflict.

Their contribution to the plot is to provide McGuffins and to explain those belonging to the other side. Rival Science Teams are very often behind Lensman Arms Races.

Examples of Rival Science Teams include:

Anime & Manga

  • Code Geass: The teams working under Earl Lloyd Asplund and Rakshata Chawla for Britannia and the Black Knights, respectively, inspired the creation of this page. The two sides frequently bemoan the other side's achievements -- Lloyd expresses irritation that "That Woman" completed the Hadron Cannon, and Rakshata is irritated that "the Earl of Pudding" completed the Float System first. By second season, both sides have replicated the achievements of the other side, created counter measures to those that were problematic in the first season, and are busy rolling out new technology.
    • It's a Lensman Arms Race, alright. On a rather large scale. And it was Nina who won by perfecting the FLEIJA warhead
  • Tenchi Muyo! has a borderline case of this. While Washu is in the supporting cast of the series, and Dr. Clay is the lackey of a distant goddess, the part of the series that has the two of them in conflict have them acting far more as main hero and villain than would normally fit this trope. However, they did go to the same school, do know each other's technology thoroughly, have the same "animal themed hair," and do dislike each other intensely. In fact, Dr. Clay's cold dismissal of the clay-based clone he created to kill Tenchi after taking a kidnapped Ryoko's appearance makes Washu VERY pissed off and she angrily asks him how dare he call himself a scientist.
  • Possibly, Shinigami captain Mayuri Kurotsuchi v/s the Arrancar Szayel Aporro Grantz from Bleach. Two squicky Mad Scientist guys with very low morals.
    • Mayuri won. Not even close.
    • Based on recent filler there seems to be a similar rivalry between Mayuri and the Captain Unohana in regard to medical treatment, Ichigo himself comments on the atmosphere between the two.

Comic Books

  • The comic Ninja High School has a lower level rivalry going on between Professor Steamhead and Professor Beanhead over whether steam or beans will save the world. (Both are classic one-technology Mad Scientists who use their chosen technology to accomplish everything).



  • Manticorans and Havenite "tech-witch" Shannon Foraker's Bolthole team in David Weber's Honor Harrington series.
  • Foaly the centuar and Opal the pixie are rival scientists from Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl series. Foaly works for the LEP (fairy police force) and Opal is the prodigious heir to the Koboi company and becomes a main villain, even before they were on opposite sides of the law they were extremely competitive.
    • To a lesser extent, Foaly and Artemis himself are rivals because of the human boy's impressive intellect and ability to decipher and outwit superior fairy technology.
  • The Boys in the Back Room in Dr. Seuss' The Butter Battle Book.

Video Games

Western Animation

  • The Futurama movie The Beast With A Billion Backs has Professor Farnsworth and the Planet Express team fight Wernstrom's team for the right to participate in a scientific expedition... in a game of "deathball", which involves the players running around in a giant marble labyrinth game trying to knock giant ball bearings into holes.

Real Life

  • The USA and USSR during the Cold War.
    • One prime example was the nuclear chemistry teams at Lawrence Berkeley and Dubna, who spent over thirty years arguing over which had been the first to synthesize elements 104-106, and therefore who got to name them.
    • And don't forget The Space Race.
  • To some degree, the German and American atomic bomb projects.
  • General Electric led by Thomas Edison versus Westinghouse led by Nikola Tesla
  • The rivalry between Watson and Crick, Rosalind Franklin, Linus Pauling, and Maurice Wilkins to be the first to discover the structure of DNA
  • Cope and Marsh, two rival paleontologists who scoured the 1870's Old West for prehistoric fossils, and may have sabotaged/stolen each other's digs, in a lifelong competition: "The Bone Wars". Cope ran out of money; Marsh won, 89 dinosaurs to Cope's 56.
  • Michael White writes about some of the most important rivalries in science in this fascinating book. Newton and Leibniz, Edison and Tesla, Darwin and Wallace and even Bill Gates and Larry Ellison are amongst those covered.

—Professor Wernstrom, Futurama
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