The Ray! The Ray! The Ray! – Chapter 8, Act 1, Strip 19

You might wonder how Mopey’s sharing of this deep and profound secret squares up with the fact that she’s aware that there is an audience. But there are actually two important qualifications to that awareness:
– she knows the audience in question is an out-of-universe audience without direct influence on events in her world
– she doesn’t always have that awareness, because it’s subject to plot requirements. She has it most of the time, but at every juncture where it would actually make a difference, she’s hit with a bout of temporary and surgically targeted amnesia, courtesy of the plot gods. Convenient, isn’t it? =P

Well, it certainly came in conveniently in this situation, since it allowed Mopey to share her secret with Biff and us, just like we weren’t even there. And of course it’s easy to see why she would have had to keep mum on this, if she had known of her audience – the secret is just too shocking, and dare I say disgusting, to run the risk of it becoming commonplace knowledge. Taking recourse to veneration and prayer, even only of such a rational and scientifically-minded man as Dr. Zarkov, is quite embarrassingly metaphysical and superstitious for people who are supposed to be holding high the banner of empiricism…and the fact that it works just makes it worse, as far as that banner is concerned. No wonder that this scientific technique is only ever taken recourse to in extremis…and in private.

The argument one could make in defense of the late Dr. Zarkov’s veneration was his uncanny ability to discover previously unknown types of radiation seemingly at will. And a distinct will, at that, since the new radiation discovered was always perfectly suited to solving the problem at hand…and the discovery could come about just by “accident”, in the course of untargeted research in a makeshift laboratory. It’s hard to see this ability as anything else than supernatural. And so, somewhat begrudgingly, scientists have learned to deal with the fact that veneration of this singular individual can bestow real benefits on your research, and the reputational problem can be managed by just being very, very discreet about it.

And it worked out fine in this case, as it so often does – the spirit of the great scientist bestows his beneficial ray on Mopey’s research into the mysterious meteorite, and she immediately discovers a new type of radiation that will somehow solve the problem. Because Dr. Zarkov simply hailed from a time when radiation was more prone to solve problems than to cause them, unlike today.

This is not saying that leaving the whole set-up to itself and unobserved is also a clever idea. But then, isn’t it far too early in the plot to solve any problems without creating new ones?

More on Monday.

2 Replies to “The Ray! The Ray! The Ray! – Chapter 8, Act 1, Strip 19”

  1. Technology is indistinguishable from magic. And magic is indistinguishable from religion. Everything makes sense now.

    Dr. Zarkov, huh? I’d personally prayed to Dr. Mendeleev. At least he invented C2H5OH

    1. Well, technology should be easily distinguishable from magic. That it isn’t is solely due to two factors, in my opinion:
      – our world’s magicians actually employ technology to create their illusions (at least where they’re not simply good, ol’ sleight-of-hand).
      – much of the public perception of magic and of technology comes by way of popular fiction, the writers of which tend to have no proper understanding of either concept. XD

      Dr. Mendeleev is also a good choice, in view of his invaluable service to humanity. But thanks to that old Flash Gordon serial, Dr. Zarkov is surrounded by a strong glow of nostalgia for me, quite distinct from and in addition to the halo of sainthood. XD

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