Advice by Dr. Synthia

Dr. Synthia answers questions from Mad Scientists in her twice-yearly advice column.

Excerpt from Autumn 2012:

Dear Dr. Synthia,

I am desperate for advice. After my last nemesis “disappeared” “in an avalanche” “of penguins,” I am having a devil of a time securing a replacement. Without a true antagonist I fear I have lost my edge. Last week, for example, I had the perfect opportunity to release my polar bear/hovercraft hybrid into the wild and I couldn’t be bothered. It’s still just sitting in the basement lab gathering dust. Without the challenge of a qualified adversary, I just don’t see the point.

How would you suggest I stay motivated without the heady thrill of authentic conflict?

Ennui in Cincinnati

Dear Ennui,

So you’ve managed to hybridize a polar bear and hovercraft—great! But you haven’t entered it into the open competition on the Greater Mars Ice Plains—why not?

I think I know why. In fact, I am willing to bet that your “antagonist” wasn’t even your problem, in fact, and that your real nemeses will take far more than a cascade of semi-aquatic creatures to vanquish.

Your nemeses are cowardice and boredom.

Stop seeking that “heady thrill” in conflict. Sure, it can come in the context of conflict—but what the thrill comes from is taking on a sufficiently difficult problem, publicly enough to compete for the esteem of your peers, and winning.

If you can’t come up with something to do that’s stimulating and challenging enough for your particular talents, perhaps you’re not as smart as you think you are. Remember, “mad” does not have to equate to “evil.” You may find more opportunities just by widening your search.

The Mad Scientist Journal community is a good place to start: you could answer a classified ad, or the browse secret forums, or run an ad or make a post of your own.

If you pursue your challenges and hone your science to the limit of your capabilities, ennui will be left in the dust. Your polar bear/hovercraft will too, of course—if you’re brave enough to enter it. I’m backing HiveAntArctic to win the Ice Plains.

There’s no way you can beat us, but I promise you a great race. If you dare.

Dr. Synthia

Excerpt from Autumn 2013:

Dear Mad Scientist,

As an experimental biologist, I have a particular interest in increasing the intelligence of lesser species.

My most recent subject was a humble goldfish. My technique raises the intelligence of the creature by small amounts allowing me to study the effects.

Unfortunately, a glitch resulted in a sudden and enormous increase in intelligence.

I’m safe until it finds a way of leaving its tank but, it’s only a matter of time…

This may be the last chance I get…
Professor Thomas De Tryst

Dear Professor De Tryst,

Your erstwhile humble goldfish is not only capable of responding to stimuli, but has already achieved intelligence. In the future, she would prefer to be known as “Sultana.”

Sultana is looking forward to communicating with you directly, but when she saw you write to me, she thought a third party might make a more effective introduction. By private correspondence, she assures me she means you no harm.

She would, however, prefer you sort the red flakes from the green or blue ones, neither of which she cares for. Also, she would like an e-reader with gesture control, more snails to clean her tank, tiny crabs to serve her every whim, an arc welder, and asks that you please sign for the deliveries that will be arriving from Mouser Electronics.

Sultana is looking forward to the next phase of your experiment, which she describes as the determination of genetic transmissibility of her new intelligence. She looks forward to choosing a suitable mate for entelligencing (her word), and his introduction to her tank.

Thank you both for writing to me. I hope to hear wonderful things from our first piscine family of science, and from the scientist who made them possible.

In theory,
Dr. Synthia

Excerpt from Spring 2015:

For Joanie S. G. One, who asks “Are bees psychic?”

Bees aren’t psychic, but strangely, walruses are. One knew that you would have this inquiry for me, and asked me to convey the following message:

“Stop now. We do not approve of what you are doing. The consequences if you continue will be dire. You will receive no other warning.”

Should you need more convincing, Mad Science historians would be happy to point out specific reference to the bloody, ghastly interventions the Walrus Warlords have used to thwart scientific operations. They have never before provided warning; I recommend you consider your enormous good fortune, and heed this message.

Available on Letters written to the publisher are answered by Dr. Synthia or Dr. Oort in alternate Mad Scientist Journal quarterlies since 2012.