Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

A basic truth:

You know what I love?

Fake science. Especially fake science that has no way of actually working. See, I don't really have the head or training for science, so honestly, if you give me a long string of vaguely plausible sounding technobabble, I'll totally be all for that.

It doesn't even have to be particularly plausible. I'm a Doctor Who fan, after all, and well "reverse the polarity of the neutron flow" doesn't even work to a lay person like me. But I'm willing to go with it.

I don't know, there's just something awesome about that kind of comic book scientist. They can do ANYTHING as long as they can explain it in big enough words.

Also, they can do it wearing labcoats, and labcoats are always awesome. Goggles are dorky, but labcoats? Everyone looks cool in a labcoat.


  • At November 11, 2007 8:25 AM, Blogger Flidget Jerome said…

    It makes me so sad that we've never yet had Mad Mathematics in geek media. That is all.

  • At November 11, 2007 8:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    True...Who knows what Insane Mad Math Skillz might do?!

  • At November 11, 2007 2:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Pipes also add to the sciencey feel.

  • At November 11, 2007 3:26 PM, Blogger LurkerWithout said…

    Insane Mad Math Science Skillz are one of the in-story causes of Marvels Civil War...

  • At November 11, 2007 4:20 PM, Blogger Captain Infinity said…'re saying that reversing neutron flow polarity isn't the answer to everything?

    My understanding of science has been totally uprooted.

  • At November 11, 2007 9:39 PM, Blogger Rocketlex said…

    My favorite kind of fake science is devices which exist solely so the laws of physics can be ignored.

    "Faster than light travel is usually impossible, unless your ship is equipped with a Hyperspace Transverter."

  • At November 11, 2007 11:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    "Science in those days worked in broad strokes! They got right to the point! Nowadays it's always molecule, molecule, molecule…" The Tick from Grandpa Wore Tights.


  • At November 12, 2007 7:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Thank God. I wear a labcoat every day... this is the first time I made it onto the "cool" list.

  • At November 12, 2007 11:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    My favorites are1) hizenberg compensater 2. bat-shark repellent(yes it does exist kalinara! its in the movie of the tv show

  • At November 13, 2007 5:17 PM, Blogger Tom Foss said…

    I have no real issue with technobabble. I think it's more fun when the technobabble makes some kind of sense (like when they started talking about Heisenberg compensators in Star Trek). The only time I have problems with fake science in comics are when they get actual science obviously wrong, or when they bring real-world fake science into the story.

    I think the former is the biggest problem. Technobabble is basically supposed to fool you into thinking the speaker is really sciencey and intelligent; when they slip some verifiable falsehood in there, they undermine the whole point of the babble in the first place. When Doc Magnus says something stupid about Newton's "laws of thermodynamics" or Reed Richards suggests that 4000K is the temperature of a supernova, it makes them look like idiots, and it makes the writers look worse for not being able to do ten seconds of research on Wikipedia.
    Besides that, comics used to have a tradition of teaching good science, occasionally. Whatever happened to that?

    The other issue is more of a pet peeve, but has much the same effect as the earlier one: it makes the smart guy look like an idiot. Polite Dissent, not too long ago, had a neat panel of Iron Man threatening someone with homeopathic lasers (or something). Clearly, the writer thought "homeopathic" was just a sciencey-sounding buzzword, and not pseudoscientific dreck, but the effect to anyone who knows anything about homeopathy is to see Tony Stark as a credulous fool who shot his target with lasers so diluted that they would have no effect whatsoever.
    That's more of an extreme example (see also: Masuru Emoto's magic water in Grant Morrison's "Frankenstein"); a more common one is the whole "we use 10% of our brains" myth, which has made it into multiple "Heroes" episodes, at least one fairly recent Flash comic, and is key to Deathstroke's origin. The problem with these little bits of myth and pseudoscience is that they're often presented in the way that Julius Schwartz and his ilk would present real science; they're the time-out where the superhero shares some interesting fact with the audience. Unfortunately, they aren't factual in the least, and further undermine what used to be a neat tradition of using comics to educate as well as entertain.

    But straight-up technobabble? Heck, I probably wouldn't have even noticed that bit about reversing the polarity of the neutron flow (and I could probably win a no-prize explaining it).


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