Ask the Mad Scientist by Sabrina Chase

Ask the Mad Scientist! – by Sabrina Chase

Welcome to another episode of Ask the Mad Scientist, coming to you *live* from the underwater submarine base of Raison d’Ethray! Brought to you by the fine folks at Blue Glow, purveyors of fusion reactors, Cherenkov radiation sources, and other petawatt power supplies for every kind of lair. Remember, look for the Blue Glow!

First, the winner of last week’s Research Funding Proposal Obfuscation contest is “I.M.A. Tank”, for “Method for Rapid Tissue Sampling by Means of High-Density, High-Velocity Discrete Metal Devices of Uniform Size and Weight.” Enjoy the crate of lovely Penrose tiling for your lab, and remember to correct for windage!

Now, on to the mailbag. Our first communication comes via long-range gravitational pulses from the galactic core…

“Dear Mad Scientist and other Earthlings: Long time reader, first time invader. I am a big fan of your column, and I have decided I simply *must* invade your buccolic little blue-green planet on my next trip! I understand Tokyo is a popular destination for rampant destruction, but do you have any other recommendations that might be off the beaten track?

With respectful tentacle-wavings in your general direction, Cketpakgh”

Always nice to hear from a fan, especially out in the Galactic Core! I don’t want to rain on your invasion, but Tokyo is an example of what you will have to deal with. No matter how flat it gets pummelled, you may have noticed it gets built right back up very quickly. Even Godzilla is defenseless against the construction unions. There’s a reaon Earth is listed as a Class 12 Hazardous Planet, you know. Even our single-celled organisms are quite dangerous, and a wise Mad Scientist treats them with respect. Pound for pound, the amoeba is the most dangerous life-form here! There are certain planets in the Sol system, Cketpakgh, I would not advise you to invade–especially if this is your first. But *do* let us know when you decide to visit! The Death Ray and Orbital Cannon Club gets very excited when visitors come and always extends a very warm–if slightly radioactive–welcome.

And now from that hotbed of agricultural Mad Science, Kansas!

“Dear Mad Scientist. I want to keep my spherical cows healthy but I am afraid the inoculation shots will cause them to deflate. What should I do?”

Good question! And kudos for considering the welfare of your cows. Happy specimens make for reproducible experimental results! As long as you avoid the flotation bladder, injections are perfectly safe. Have your lab assistant grasp the tail firmly in one hand and tickle the very top of the head with the other. When the cow starts giggling, inject at the line between the shoulder blades to either side of the spine.

So, what other Mad Science issues are troubling your brains? (Including the brains in jars).  Remember, there are no stupid questions in Mad Science!

111 responses to “Ask the Mad Scientist by Sabrina Chase

  1. Patrick Chester

    Some invasion assignments can be pretty bad…

  2. Could be bad. Imagine invading and attempting to devastate Detroit? Would the ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures be any different, or would it be considered an act of urban renewal?

  3. How do I get gravitational waves to gently stretch my spine and give me a massage? I get stiff sitting in my writing chair all day.

    • One method that works rather well is to take a small gravitational singularity and mount it on a monofilament string above your chair. Then tell a cat not to touch it. Cats can’t resist gravitational experiments! The slight oscillations in the singularity will provide just enough variation to keep your back flexible *and* remove dust in your immediate vicinity. (NOTE: using kittens is NOT recommended, for safety reasons.)

      • Thanks so much, Sabrina. Can I use the chinchilla? Don’t have a cat.

        • If you can incite the chinchilla to bat the singularity, then yes. (I have only once encountered a chinchilla and derived much enjoyment watching it take dust baths..) 😀

          • She only weighs a pound and a half, but they do this thing called wall-surfing, where they run like crazy at a wall (or rock in the wild, I assume), and use it to change direction suddenly, like a billiard ball.

            If her room door is unlatched, she can open it. She should be able to bat the singularity with a good run at it.

    • How do we get an entire football stadium audience to do the gravitational wave? Will it rock the stadium?
      ~signed~ Inquiring Mind.

      • Only if you are watching a team that plays Billy Graham football. (When the entire 20,000 fan section rises as one after a play, raises their hands to the heavens and cries in unison “JeEZUsChrist!” [Even I could have caught that pass. Even a blind snail with his back turned to the quarterback could have caught that pass.])

      • See above answer regarding singularities, except issue one singularity to each fan. Then, when they do the wave, it will definitely rock the stadium.

  4. reddragonhawk

    This column is unfair to scientists who are only somewhat eccentric! #notmyscientist

  5. Thanks, I needed something to cheer me up this morning! 🙂

  6. Dear Mad Scientist,

    Can you please tell me what went wrong with my zombie horde invasion? I led them in an attack on New Orleans late last October and the populace just laughed and flashed their boobs!

    Our previous efforts — in Hollywood and again in Washington DC — failed when my zombies died too quickly from lack of sustenance, but I had such great hopes for the New Orleans attempt.

    I am considering attempting my next invasion in the Middle East — I am told Aleppo is very nice this time of year — but would like to have better understanding of what has been going wrong.

    B Karl Orf.

    • Ah, this is a classic symptom of zombie importation syndrome. It is *crucial* to locally source your zombie horde so that it is compatible with the local climate, microbiota, etc. You can’t expect, for example, a Pacific Northwest zombie that requires a damp environment to do well in a desert location like Egypt, can you? Also, they will be adapted to the amount of brains available having a similar quantity themselves. Yes, I know that increases the setup time and risks discovery, but as you have discovered, if you rush your zombie invasion you get rotten zombies. Good luck with your next attempt!

      • Now there’s a question that every mad scientist needs the answer to. How do you properly dispose of rotten zombies? I mean, there they molder, with their bones popping out of the grey goo, and you need to get rid of them before it spreads? What do you recommend?

        • You instruct them to dig their own graves, lie down in them one by one, give them some salt, and have the rest of the horde bury them. The last zombie gets its grave filled in by the more recent version.

          • Aha! This no doubt is where the old song comes from, “My brown zombies lie amouldering in the grave, but mad science marches on…” No rest for the wicked, you know?

        • I’ve always been partial to the compost heap.
          Unfortunately, the last time I used it for zombie disposal, the entire heap got up and walked away.
          That will teach me to throw in old Swamp Thing comics when I’m done reading them.

          • Aha! You’re the reason we have a new guest down on the bayou. Kind of a shambling sort of fellow? Don’t worry, we’re going to feed him up and send him back.

  7. BobtheRegisterredFool

    Suppose government were extremely interested in questions of Jew Science, like whether Blood Matzho was a real thing. Obviously issue grants to answer these questions. What kind of scientists are likely to apply for these grants? Probably dishonest mercenaries, those with an axe to grind contrary to consensus, and those who think the questions are unanswered, answerable, and more interesting than any other questions in any scientific discipline.

    One suspects that this could influence the field by way of some sort of founder’s effect.

    Supposing that scientists outside of the field defer to scientists inside of the field on questions of the field, once our hypothetical Jew Science discipline has journals, conferences, chairs and so forth, what gatekeeping mechanism is there should the tools and techniques of other disciplines conclude that a discipline is bankrupt?

  8. Dear Mad Scientist,

    I have finally perfected a Dog Whistle (I call it the Trumpette) which drives people barking mad — but it appears it only affects Liberals. Do you have any suggestions as to how I might be able to profit from this?

    I have attempted to re-calibrate the Trumpette to work on Conservatives but they apparently lack the inclination to hysteria that Liberals have. Thus far the most it has been able to do has been to reduce them to rolling on the floor laughing and demanding more popcorn.

    I am under significant pressure from my backers to start paying dividends on my development but (aside from some small stock market investments) have yet to find an effective means of monetizing my Trumpette.

    Ken U Hearmenow

    • Michael Brazier

      Have you thought of selling your whistles to the US military as a non-lethal riot suppression system?

    • If you can stand to deal with ’em, sell it to the tv news, so they can reliably whistle up a riot in time for the 6 o’clock news. Right now they have to rely on Soros funding, which doesn’t always come immediately enough to ensure the stoners show up on time…

    • Can it make random liberals believe that someone else is a conservative? You could set up cage matches where you convince each participant that the other is their mortal enemy, then sell popcorn and beer for the audience.

      You need to make sure the seats have set belts, though, to keep the audience from falling out of their chairs laughing as the slapfight progresses.

  9. I am *not* a Mad Scientist, I am an enraged engineer, jackleg variety, one each.

    • Most Mad Scientists are, in fact, mad engineers. They don’t have theories about blowing up the moon, they have plans to do so.

  10. Dear Mad Scientist,
    I have developed a trans-dimensional portal, and it seems to be stable, requiring only two small nuclear plants to power it (plus a coal firing one for resetting the loci).
    My problem is that it can only seem to reach alternate worlds very close to our own, and all of them appear to be radioactive hell holes. What am I doing wrong?
    I.B. Wired

    • Have you tried giving it a really good thumping with a hammer? Or turning it off, then on again?

      Or, even worse…are any of your electronics made in England? (True story: I once worked with a high voltage power supply for a detector that SET ITSELF ON FIRE without even being turned on. Yep, made in England. During the postmortem we discovered most of the components on the circuit board had not been soldered–they were making contact purely by wire tension. Gaaaaaaaaaaaah and they wonder why I drink….)

      • In the automotive electrical world Lucas is known as the “Prince of Darkness.” A local Jaguar owner once said he always parked under a street light so when his electrical system failed he could see to troubleshoot.

      • English mad scientists using American-made equipment…

        “He’s out to rule the world, if he can get a government grant.”

      • There is a certain brand and model of KWh meter where the principle connections are secured by tension. This causes lots of fun when a bad manufacturing run left many slightly bowed, and installation could cause them to lose tension.

      • Q: Why do the British drink warm beer?
        A: Because their refrigerators are built by Lucas.

    • I think you’re just not giving it enough power. Move the nuke plants to your loci resetting power, and upgrade to my new portable (fits on a flatbed trailer) 10TW fusion plant for your main power, and you should be able to get lots better range (I’m pretty sure you’re just not opening a big enough wormhole).

    • I know using the good reactor on your end keeps the lab cleaner, and impresses the heck out of visitors like movie producers, annoying federal inspectors, or your fellow mad scientists; but if you want to have a destination that you really want to take your lab assistant to for a wild weekend, you need to stop using the unstable reactors for the distal end of the portal.

  11. Dear Mad Scientist,
    I’m stumped- where you find good, reliable, loyal, and cheap henchmen?
    I’ve tried college students, but they just want to sit around and stare at their phones all day. Mercenaries get mad and quit when you drop one into the shark pool for bumbling incompetence. And don’t talk to me about the cost of Igors!
    I’m so busy just keeping up with the basic cleaning and maintenance on the volcano lair I haven’t even had a chance to get the death ray built! Help!!!!
    -Dr. Cataclysm

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      Dear Dr. Cataclysm,

      Plenty of Mad Scientists and other would-be Evil Overlords have faced the same problems.

      Here at Helpers Of Mad Scientists and Evil Overlords, Inc., we have dedicated professionals ready to assist you in Personnel Management, Construction/Maintenance of Secret Lairs and other services.

      Our rates are quite reasonable considering the assistance that we provide and of course we greatly respect the privacy of our clients.


      Senior Director A. N. O. Nymous

      • Helpers Of Mad Scientists and Evil Overlords, Inc.
        A Wholly owned subsidiary of ACME

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          My Dear JP,

          Helpers Of Mad Scientists and Evil Overlords, Inc. is not connected in any way with ACME.

          ACME is a wholly owned subsidiary of Geococcyx Californianus, Limited.


          Senior Director A. N. O. Nymous

      • Dear Mr. Nymous,
        Sounds like a good resource. However, I do have a special entry exam for all new hires:
        “You are on assignment, and you happen to spot the hero interrogating a wounded member of our organization. You have a clean shot- which person do you shoot?”
        A) The Hero
        B) The member of our organization
        Almost nobody picks “A”, except the new kid that looks kind of like the guy I killed about 18-20 years ago. They all choose to shoot our guy, even if they have to aim around the freaking hero to do it!!!

    • I find wannabe actors are gullible enough if you present it a part as a extra on a new scifi or spy extravaganza. But they will be bothering you constantly about their motivation and the commissary food.

    • Another question- what animals work best for the drop pit?
      I’ve tried sharks, piranha, and various croc species, and the lazy critters just ignore whatever incompetent henchman that gets dropped in.
      How can one strike fear into the heart of one’s organization when the bumbling fool isn’t instantly devoured, but kind of floats around asking if he can come out yet?
      -Dr. Cataclysm

      • For feral animal pits I strongly recommend either venomous serpents or rats (never, ever, combine the two.) So long as you keep the pit warm (this is where your volcanic lairs really pay off!) serpents will provide endless hours of amusement killing the victim in a variety of ways. Large rats (Sumatran are highly recommended but Norwegian ones will suffice) are inexpensive to maintain, provided the pit enclosure is made of a material sufficient to resist their gnawing.

        Under no circumstances ought you fill your pit with bunnies* unless you can find a carnivorous breed. While some suppliers may try to tell you vampire bunnies will serve your every need that is falsehood; you should hold out for zombie bunnies at the very minimum.

        *N.B. – while Playboy Bunnies can indeed kill a man it tends to be a very drawn out process and their between times maintenance can be very very high.

        • I’ve tried snake pits, but while the poisonous ones do have the advantage of being quick, painful, and terrifying, you have the haul the corpse out, and there’s always one or two irate serpents hanging on and getting loose. Which means you still have to get rid of the body, and feed the snakes.
          Large snakes do take care of the killing & disposal thing, but are pretty much sleepy and useless for months after a kill.

          The pit of carnivorous bunnies sound kinky enough for my mad scientist soul- anyone have a line on a reputable breeder of registered Caerbannog Rabbits?

        • I actually know of a 1960’s era spy novel wherein a British Agent transparently modeled after Bond is kept prisoner in a cell by means of – so to speak – Playboy Bunnies. I.E. they send beautiful women in every day and keep him too drained to think.

          The book is THE AFFAIR OF THE BUMBLIN BRITON by Patrick O’Malley, and if you like breezy, witty spy spoofs, I recommend it and its companion books highly. They aren’t Great Books, but they are good send-ups of the James Bond thing.

      • For reliable effect, avoid animals altogether. A poison arrow frog would be your best bet if they were willing to touch the person, but you can’t count on them.

        Either genetically engineer contact poison into plants, or use an acid or poison bath.

        • You could always go with the giant mechanical shredder, but Saddam and his sons pretty much permanently branded that ‘low rent’

          • Not to mention that acid baths are okay for the beginner/ basement level mad tinkerer, but unworthy of any mad scientist with ambition and style. To be respectable, one needs some sort of critter to do the murdering.

      • Patrick Chester

        You have to make sure they’re hungry when you drop the victim in. Especially piranha. That “a whole cow in one minute” thing was done with a group of starving piranha. Perhaps a rotating schedule will work so you don’t accidentally starve the critters.

        • You just have to make sure whoever you’ve tossed in isn’t going to make them all line up in rows while he preaches at them…

      • For true intimidation, forgo the traditional pit in favor of a shallow lagoon well stocked with crabs. For maximum effect, this should be in clear view of the company break room. The offender is simply given a shot to the back of the head (a captive bolt device, such as used in slaughterhouses, is a popular choice), weighted, and dropped into the lagoon. The crabs, in full view of your remaining henchmen, do the rest. You can drive the point home by serving crab cakes at the evening mess.

      • You don’t want to go with unreliable critters for your Pit of Doom (TM). Get something that will go after anything that disturbs them. Think insects. Hornets are not a good choice, because flying creatures are always prone to leaving their chambers and bothering your minions. While it can be vastly amusing, watching these encounters on your CCTV feeds, it is bad for morale.

        No, what you want is ants. Fire Ants, Bullet Ants, or any of the stinging, swarming ants who hate to be disturbed. You will need walls on your pit that they cannot climb, but the cost of a coating of Teflon is trivial to the endless amusement to be derived from dropping an unsuspecting (or even a fully-informed) victim into the pit and watching them scream and writhe until they finally stop. Thus, you feed your pets and give demonstrations to keep minions in line at the same time.

  12. Dear Mad Scientist:

    What exactly is the difference between a mad scientist and one that is merely angry? I have a hard time sustaining a proper righteous rage anymore, even over hot topics of religion or politics. I have no problem with insanity, and few problems with being scientific, but I haven’t quite figured out how to combine the two and level up in mad scientist.

    • Here’s a handy diagnostic: When you reveal your plan of the day to your captive/lab assistant/local law enforcement, do they stare and say “Who pissed in YOUR wheaties!”? If so, =>ANGRY. If they cower, shriek, and say “But…but… you’re MAD!” …I think you see where I’m going with this. Generally you want to increase the derangement and taper off on the fury if you want to make the big leagues. Mostly it has to do with blood pressure.

    • Isn’t it that the merely anger are quiet and coldly determined while the mad are, as I’ve seen it put, “too giggly* to be allowed access to nuclear weapons.” As if ‘not allowed’ would stop them.

      * Might not be ‘giggly’ but some similar indicator.

      • The classic, hearty sinister “Muwahahaha” is always good. This should come from the diaphragm, and accompanied by a timely flash of lightning.
        For the Evil Ladies, the classic anime “Noblewoman’s Laugh” is also a good choice.
        Giggling is to be avoided at all cost.

        • Yes. At the very least, giggling may result in your being taken for a hero of a children’s story.

        • OK, My blood pressure is plenty high enough already, and I have an ex-girlfriend who once described my sinister laugh as truly evil and scary. So I’m good to go.
          As for evil plans, I think SMOD should have some competition. There’s no guarantee it’s going to show up for the next election, so a high-tech device that will accomplish the same end is in order. I know just where to recruit expert minions for the project…

  13. Dear MadS:

    Are you or any of your colleagues in the market for a canoid pet? Mangey, our family chupacabra has just dropped a litter of pups, and there ain’t enough goats in Manacle County to keep ’em fed once they’re weaned. Free to good homes, serious inquiries only,

  14. Dear Ask the Mad Scientist!

    I think it was Dilbert who said “There are no stupid questions but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots.”

    So here is my question.

    I need a sanity, or insanity check as it were, to see if the solution to the following situation could work.

    A astronaut screws up big time and winds up stuck in the middle of a planetary ring system. This ring is not like Saturn’s, made up of dust motes and sand. This one is made of big frigging boulders ranging from the size of basketballs to that of freight train cars. Think the asteroid field in the ‘Empire Strikes Back’ but not as chaotic.

    Rescurers are waiting outside the rings but aren’t dumb, err brave enough to go in to rescue him. His suit thrusters don’t have enought delta v to get him out of the rings. Eventually our intrepid astronaut gets an idea. He uses a grapnel line to secure himself to a rock, bends his legs and jumps as he releases the line. This pushes him up into a higher orbit where he Catches another rock and repeats until he gets to the edge of the ring.

    Is this an idea that is so dumb that it might work, or is it just dumb?


    Stranded around Synecdoche

    • Dear Stranded,
      If it works, it ain’t dumb.

    • Dear Stranded,

      How long will the O2 supply in your suit hold out? Even in a ring system, distances are pretty large, so if you’re too deep in, you might not be able to make it out before you suffocate. For your plan to have a higher chance to succeed, however, don’t forget to travel perpendicular to the plane of the ring system, so you have less distance to travel to a point where the rescuers can risk picking you up.

  15. Dear Mad Scientist,

    Is it possible to patent a new concept Death Ray, or do the Chinese Mad Scientists just steal your neat idea and never pay a penny?

    Mad Inventor

  16. “People of Mars, surrender! Your puny weapons are no match for-”

    “Hey Bud, this is Earth.”

    “Earth? Earth with thermonuclear weapons Earth?”

    “Uh huh.”

    “Hello, Friend!”

  17. richardmcenroe

    Dear Cketpakgh, if this is your first incursion on Earth, may we suggest you pick a venue that will let you establish as discreet a presence as possible. For instance, you could inflict your inhuman wrath on Ferguson, parts of Chicago, Juarez, Flint, Miami, San Francisco, or Oakland with little or no notice until you were comfortable and familiar with your new work environment…

  18. Dear Mad Scientist,

    I thought we were going to advance first into cyborg tech! What happened?! What sorcery is this?!

    (yeah, it’s not a parody, but, I thought it worth dropping the link into here.)

  19. Patrick Chester

    I started trawling through Vexxarr again and found this which might be slightly on topic, if only as warning of pitfalls of invading Earth…