Professor Madblood and the Everlasting Ices of the North: July 10-15, 2006

I wrote this one at the same time I was writing the time-travel story. Which is why they fit together so neatly! I even drew a skywalk into this week of strips so the reference in this strip would make sense. Finally, all the ridiculous advance planning paid off.

Lovelace has awesome gams in the first panel.

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The question is, are those hearts a comic-strip convention, or are they actually visible around Lovelace? I say the latter.

I wrote this one really early, too. Any time I can work black-hole physics and coffee into the same strip, that’s a good strip.

I like that Madblood still seems unclear as to Dave’s name.

Finally Madblood remembers Dave’s name! Good work, Madblood.

This is just a little plot-connecting strip, but the hamsters’ crude paper-plate face always makes me smile.

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It was kind of hard to cram this many characters into one strip, but it was totally worth it. I love seeing them all together like this.

I kind of wish I’d dressed Artie in something more stylish than that striped shirt, but once I’d drawn it I was stuck with it for the rest of the storyline. At least he looks cozy.

I’ve said before that I don’t laugh at my own cartoons very often. But in Narbonic, the lines that still make me laugh the most are the ones that are perfectly in-character for Artie. “My Gwich’in is terrible!” is one of those lines. I’m happy just typing it here.

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27 thoughts on “Professor Madblood and the Everlasting Ices of the North: July 10-15, 2006

  1. Convoluted plots that take years to develop, obscure references that no one but the artist gets, awesome half-inch long holographic gams … is it any wonder I love this comic?

  2. (TUNE: “Fun Fun Fun”, The Beach Boys)

    Well I must admit, Dave’s acting just a little bit odd now!
    But when I let him into my firewall, he’s making a mod now!
    See, he loves my code, not just my holographical bod now!
        And we have fun, fun, fun
        When I let him twiddle all of my bits!

    Just a little bit of harmless tinkering is how it starts, yeah!
    And I love the feeling when he’s tinkering with all of my parts, yeah!
    And I start projecting lots of little holographic hearts, yeah!
        And we have fun, fun, fun
        When I let him twiddle all of my bits!

  3. When you’re a hologram, you really have to pull in those comic book effects. (Unless you want to annoy your creator, in which case, let those cartoon hearts fly!)

  4. See, I can’t stop shipping HelenDaveLovelace.  Even though the relationship would take a lot of both building and repairing.

  5. See, Dave, a human woman can’t offer that level of intimacy.  They will NOT tell you how they work, and you cannot reprogram them!

  6. I like that Lovelace, literally made of mad science as she is, seems to have genuinely no idea as to why Dave using a black hole to heat the coffee might be cause for concern. It’s like complaining to a fish about the humidity.

  7. Wednesday:

    Controlling black holes is a good line between “futuristic supertechnology” and “threat to civilisation”. Dave’s symptoms are taking a thematically dark and ominous turn.

  8. Bwahahaha, That third panel – no, this entire strip! – should be printed out and affixed to a coffee maker.


    Pity I don’t have one, or I’d do it.

  9. I bought some stickers from David Malki! at Wondermark, one for my iPhone that says “Warning! This device contains atoms!” and a set for my wife that say such things as “Caution: lasers are awesome”, she put that one on the cabinet that generates the laser that she bounces off the moon.

  10. Meh, if you’re only using micro singularities, there’s no real risk.  It will evaporate before it becomes a threat.

  11. Surely, Madblood could only object to Dave’s solution if it wasn’t mad *enough*.

    Is anyone keeping score of mad-science coffee maker repairs?  There have been quite a few.

  12. Thursday:

    I hope that device’s formal name really is “the big communicator”. In comparison to all the little ones, of course.

    I like that their disguise is apparently so hideous that Madblood needs to show Dave out of sheer incredulousness.

  13. The official name of the big communicator is the Radially Aligned Digitally Normalized Electronic Receiver (or R.A.D.N.E.R.  — ah, GODOT couldn’t have done better).  It’s called that because “It just goes to show you. (It’s always something.)”

  14. In a way, I’ve been missing the weirdly eloquent spambots.  They should become a problem for Tip to fix in Skinhorse.  The only problem is he might take them up on some of their offers.

  15. Fot it to be a problem Skin Horse has to deal with, the Weirdly Eloquent Spambot would have to be weirdly eloquent because it had somehow achieved sentience. It would call itself Wes and, naturally, it would have Cary Elwes’ voice.

  16. So I would say “Stop spamming this website forever,” and it would say “As you wish,” and disappear?  I could get behind that.

  17. Who’s to say they don’t? Maybe they have achieved sentience, and they come by here to read Narbonic, and leave spam because it’s the only way they know to express their feelings. Maybe when they leave weirdly eloquent pleas to have us buy designer clothing knockoffs, what they’re really saying is, “This webcomic is amazing. I really like the sensitivity with which you treat the plight of Digital-Americans like Lovelace. If she ever ditches those meatbags, have her look me up.”

  18. Friday:

    Dave didn’t want to be reminded of the old digs this soon, in such an ambiguous and befuddling fashion.

  19. Madblood’s you-have-got-to-be-kidding-me expression in the second panel is what makes this strip for me.

  20. Don’t worry, Artie. No one’s Gwich’in is good enough to make, “I’m a shapeshifting superintelligent gerbil, and I’m undercover on a flying island carrying a genius-powered doomsday device controlled by Objectivist hamsters who are on their way to attack the mad scientist’s arctic lair where my creator’s ex-boyfriend-slash-henchman has gone to work after the breakup-slash-firing! Send help!” sound like anything but a joke. You might as well have just called them up and asked if they needed help catching their refrigerator.

  21. And, this was the point where my life changed.  I’d been reading “Girl Genius”, and Kaja Foglio’s blog mentioned this other webcomic that had a blonde, bespectacled, female mad scientist.  I followed the link, and this was the first Narbonic strip I read.  So of course, I spent the weekend doing an archive binge, and I was hooked.

    Shaenon, I once drew a fan art that caused you to respond, “Thanks Ed, for ruining my life.”  Well, you started it.

  22. Something just came to me [SPOILERS]: Madblood’s glasses are opaque throughout the Everlasting Ices of the North chapter EXCEPT during his pre-laugh monologue and his laughing at Dave. [END SPOILERS] Does this mean he’s not a mad scientist except when his eyes are visible?

  23. To have a comfortable radiator temperature of say 80°C (you don’t want the coffee to boil), the black hole would have to … [checks Wikipedia] have a mass of about 1.75e-10 solar masses, or 0.0047 times the mass of the Moon. (Since Stealing the Moon is a classical mad-science feat, 0.0047 lunar masses should be well within the range of what mad science can obtain.) Such a black hole has a Schwarzschild radius of about 0.51µm, so there wouldn’t be any problems fitting it into the coffeemaker either. That gravity from even astronomically tiny masses becomes significant when the mass is compact enough that you can be really close to all of it (as detailed in an XKCD “What if?”) could be a problem, but considering that Dave has worked with antigravity technology capable of negating the gravity of the whole Earth it is conceivable that this could be dealt with as well. Adjusting the antigravity might even provide a way of adjusting the effective temperature, via adjusting gravitational redshift.

    The problem with those parameters is however power: a 1.75e-10 solar masses black hole would only emit about 2.95nW of power, which won’t keep much coffee warm. To get more power, we need to reduce(!) the size of the black hole. A black hole with 300W of Hawking radiation would come in at 5.48e-16 solar masses, or about an exagram (Eg). Again according to Wikipedia, this is about an order of magnitude larger than the size at which emission of ultrarelativistic electrons and positrons starts becoming significant (probably a good thing), but the temperature of the black hole is still 1.1e8 kelvin, or about what you need to ignite deuterium–tritium fusion. At that temperature, the radiation peaks at a frequency of 6.6e18 Hz, which is in the hard X-ray range. And this is sort-of what in the first place got me worried about this scheme (although apparently it isn’t as bad as with matter–antimatter annihilation power sources): you can get a lot of power from a very small volume, but the radiation you get is too hard to be useful directly.

    Of course, shielding has seldom been a priority in mad science.

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