Mad Scientists: Frankenstein and the Fly


Full Transcript

Announcer: Welcome to Stuff From The Science Lab from howstuffworks.com.

Allison Loudermilk: Hey, guys, and welcome to the podcast. This is Allison Loudermilk, the science editor at howstuffworks.com.

Robert Lamb: And this is Robert Lamb, science writer at howstuffworks.com. And we're getting into the Halloween season here. And one of my favorite things about Halloween, my favorite Halloween costumes, my favorite Halloween ideas is of course the mad scientist.

Allison Loudermilk: Have you gone as a mad scientist before?

Robert Lamb: Oh, yes. I've gone as a mad scientist before.

Allison Loudermilk: A specific mad scientist or just a general mad scientist?

Robert Lamb: A specific mad scientist.

Allison Loudermilk: Who?

Robert Lamb: I went as Dr. Clayton Forrester from Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Allison Loudermilk: Excellent.

Robert Lamb: He has one of my favorite quotes about mad scientists in general, and mad science. He was being asked something, or there was a complicated issue that came up, and he responded, "It would take a scientist to explain and I'm simply too mad." But who comes to mind when you think of mad science and mad scientists?

Allison Loudermilk: Well, definitely some of the ones that we're going to talk about today - Frankenstein, I would say. I'm a little ashamed to admit this, but I will, because it's a podcast and you guys can't see me. But I think of that guy from Back to the Future. Did we ever decide on his name? Doctor Holiday? Doc Holiday?

Robert Lamb: No, you're getting your movies confused.

Allison Loudermilk: Okay.

Robert Lamb: You're talking about Doc Hollywood and that was -

Allison Loudermilk: Is he the guy with the crazy hair?

Robert Lamb: No, no. That was Doc Brown.

Allison Loudermilk: Doc Brown, yeah. That's who I think of.

Robert Lamb: He's totally a mad scientist. And he's played by Christopher Lloyd. That's a great example of a cinematic mad scientist.

Allison Loudermilk: Okay, so that's what I think of.

Robert Lamb: He's into crazy fringy science.

Allison Loudermilk: He's got the hair.

Robert Lamb: He's got the hair. He's not playing by the rules. I believe he was getting plutonium from terrorists or something. It's been awhile since I've seen it. And then ultimately experimenting without a strict scientific method going on. There's not really a method to his madness.

Allison Loudermilk: But is there a method to some of our mad scientists madness today?

Robert Lamb: Ther

e is.

Allison Loudermilk: And science? Is there a method to their madness and their science?

Robert Lamb: Well, there's definitely a method to it.

Allison Loudermilk: So we're going to talk about two of the biggies today.

Robert Lamb: Yeah, certainly one of the biggies and then another one that resonates in American culture in the past couple of decades. But mad scientists, when you boil it down and when they're not serving as just a plot device, they basically embody society's collective fears and misgivings about the advancement of science and how science can be exploited.

Allison Loudermilk: Primal fear of science.

Robert Lamb: Yeah. Now sometimes it is just a stock thing. Like Dr. Clayton Forrester on Mystery Science Theater or Professor Vernor in the movie Twins. That wasn't saying anything important about science.

Allison Loudermilk: Did you really just bring up the movie Twins?

Robert Lamb: Yeah. Nobody thinks of Twins like, "Twins totally brings up some really good points about where we are in our perception of science at the time." No. The mad scientist was just there to facilitate the running gag that was Danny Devito and Arnold Schwarzenegger are brothers and twins.

Allison Loudermilk: I do have that image of them in the white suits right now. I wonder if you guys do out there as well.

Robert Lamb: And then sometimes they're just stock villains like Lex Luther in Superman. He eventually became more of a politician, but originally he was a mad scientist. Or Dr. Doom - any time someone's got a name like Dr. Doom or Dr. Satan, anything you like, you know there's a mad scientist situation going on. And it's an excuse for crazy scientific abilities that our hero has to fight.

Allison Loudermilk: It's a relatively new concept, this whole idea of a mad scientist. If you think about it, the word scientist didn't appear in print - at least according to some - until 1840. And the idea of a mad scientist is also a pretty new idea.

Robert Lamb: Yeah. You have to back up a couple of decades from 1840 to 1818 to find the classic example of the mad scientist, the one that resonates today - the first thing in your mind when you think of mad scientist most of the time. And that, of course, is Mary Shelley's book Frankenstein. Or, the secondary title for this was The Modern Prometheus.

Allison Loudermilk: I never realized that was the secondary title of Frankenstein.

Robert Lamb: Yeah, it's easy to look over. They don't always put it in big print. And that's the other thing. This book has been in print continuously since 1818. That's pretty impressive.

Allison Loudermilk: And as long as we're talking about 18, it was written by an 18-year-old.

Robert Lamb: Yeah, as someone who dabbles -

Allison Loudermilk: You write.

Robert Lamb: Yeah, I write. As someone who writes fiction as well, sometimes, you look at this and it's this awesome novel. And she was 18 when she wrote it. It's amazing and a little infuriating.

Allison Loudermilk: Yeah. And then there's of course, the famous story behind her originating Frankenstein.

Robert Lamb: Oh, yeah. This was her husband, Percy Shelley.

Allison Loudermilk: The poet.

Robert Lamb: Yeah. And then -

Allison Loudermilk: Romantic poet.

Robert Lamb: And then bad boy Lord Byron - perhaps with his pet bear and his skull that he would drink out of. Because he was the original bad boy of literature.

Allison Loudermilk: Yeah, and they're all hanging out together and they decided to each write a ghost story. I remember reading about this in the New Yorker. They had a great, very long, article about Mary Shelley and all that stuff. Another interesting thing is, it was published anonymously because ladies shouldn't be writing, and they definitely shouldn't be contemplating some of the stuff that comes up in Frankenstein.

Robert Lamb: Yeah, when it first came out, it was apparently printed anonymously. And later, they started putting her name on it. And apparently, she had a hard time getting anybody to publish it, too. Everybody was just kind of like -

Allison Loudermilk: Great story.

Robert Lamb: Yeah. Like I said, how many things from 1818 are still making books fly off the shelves these days?

Allison Loudermilk: So Prometheus.

Robert Lamb: Yes, that's important. Before we even get into the plot of Frankenstein - and I think everybody's more or less familiar with the plot - let's talk about why she included Prometheus in the title. You don't do something like that unless it means something. Prometheus was a Titan.

Allison Loudermilk: Back in Greek mythology.

Robert Lamb: Yeah. The Titans were the elder gods. These were guys that used to run the show. And then the Olympian gods, like Zeus and company, they ended up taking over. In fact, Zeus' father was Cronus, who was a Titan. And so he overthrew his father and becomes the dude in charge. But the Titans, they all remain around. They're still kicking around dong their own thing while the Olympians are ruling. So along comes Prometheus.

Allison Loudermilk: Uh-oh, Prometheus.

Robert Lamb: And what does Prometheus do?

Allison Loudermilk: Prometheus was an old rabble-rouser. He was pretty daring, and he defied the gods by stealing the secret of fire from Zeus and sharing it with the human race. We've kept it ever since.

Robert Lamb: Yeah, we've kept it and it's been great, but Prometheus was totally busted.

Allison Loudermilk: Yeah, he was.

Robert Lamb: And his punishment -

Allison Loudermilk: The ultimate punishment.

Robert Lamb: And they're always such great punishments in mythology. He was chained to a rock and then every day what happens?

Allison Loudermilk: The eagle swoops down and eats his liver.

Robert Lamb: And then every night?

Allison Loudermilk: Liver grows back.

Robert Lamb: And then the next morning?

Allison Loudermilk: Still chained?

Robert Lamb: Yeah, eagle comes down and eats his liver again. Every day liver eating going on, and in torment forever because of this.

Allison Loudermilk: That is a big bummer. But we were grateful to Prometheus.

Robert Lamb: Yeah, and basically the knowledge of fire was forbidden knowledge, dangerous knowledge, that humans were not supposed to have.

Allison Loudermilk: So what's the obvious comparison here is the fruit.

Robert Lamb: Yeah, the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge.

Allison Loudermilk: The apple.

Robert Lamb: Yeah, the apple in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve, the book of Genesis. But while it's more a situation of Eve and Adam messing up and -

Allison Loudermilk: I like that you just put Adam in there. Thanks for doing that.

Robert Lamb: Well, like it or not, it's like a lot of people end up making that comparison that Eve's the one who really messed up by getting that apple. I don't agree with that, but -

Allison Loudermilk: See what you guys are getting? You're not just getting a podcast on science here, you're getting a podcast on Adam and Eve and Greek mythology and some of the fine mad scientists in literature. It's a smorgasbord.

Robert Lamb: The point is, though that, unlike the Adam and Eve situation, Prometheus is seen as a hero. He really did a noble thing and paid a horrendous price for it.

Allison Loudermilk: Right. Because he was trying to make life better for humanity.

Robert Lamb: Right. So it's not a situation where he did something evil and was punished for it. He did something the gods didn't like, helped humanity out, but had dire consequences for him. So let's start talking about that in terms of Frankenstein.

Allison Loudermilk: So a quick review here might be in order. In case you guys haven't read it, it's a pretty beautifully written tale with a "monster" you relate to. It has these cultural ponderings that are just as relevant today. When we're talking about things like Higgs Boson and Dolly the Sheep, as they were back in the ages of Darwin.

Robert Lamb: And it's important to - again, we're talking about the book here. And there have been some fine film adaptations, but they often differ from the original writing. For instance, in the book, Victor Frankenstein, the doctor, is not this hysterical madman. He's certainly acting from a very self-centered point of view.

Allison Loudermilk: Egotistical?

Robert Lamb: Yeah, he's very egotistical. He wants to do this thing because it's going to be awesome and he's going to be well known for it and it's never been done before. It's like climbing Mount Everest.

Allison Loudermilk: So maybe he's not a mad scientist.

Robert Lamb: Well, maybe he's more realistically mad.

Allison Loudermilk: Okay.

Robert Lamb: And not just loony TV-mo

vie-of-the-week mad. Because he's also really earnest. He's a solitary idealist.

Allison Loudermilk: Let's hear from Victor.

Robert Lamb: Yeah, I have a Victor quote. This is from the book. He said, "Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through and pour a torrent of light into our dark world."

Allison Loudermilk: Kind of like Prometheus with his fire, huh?

Robert Lamb: Yeah, we're talking about Promethean fire here. He wants to take forbidden knowledge, take something man has never been able to do - which is going to be create life - and make the world a better place somehow through it. Improve the human condition by doing this. Now the monster in the book is not this rampaging half-wit. He's not mute.

Allison Loudermilk: He's intelligent and articulate. He wants to be more human. That in itself causes the problem. He wants to be part of the society that he's confronted with. But then he has his parents to contend with.

Robert Lamb: Yeah. Victor wanted to make, apparently, a pretty monster. Despite the fact that he's building it out of corpses and animal parts, apparently - I'm not sure what Victor thought he was going to get. I think he went into this a little bold, you know?

Allison Loudermilk: And the monster is of course eight feet tall and pretty hideous.

Robert Lamb: Yeah. And he ends up abandoning the monster. He abandons his creation right after he makes it. And so this hideous monster finds himself in human society, completely shunned as a monster. Because again, he's eight feet tall and ugly as heck.

Allison Loudermilk: So let's hear from the monster, shall we?

Robert Lamb: Yeah. The monster is this great - he's really the star of the show. And the monster, of course, is not named Frankenstein. We've gotten to the point where we refer to the monster as Frankenstein, but he's just the monster. I think occasionally Victor refers to him as a demon or something, but here's a quote from the monster. "Did I request thee, maker, from my clay to mold me? Man, did I solicit thee from darkness to promote me?" Because that's the monster's whole deal. "I didn't ask to be made, but you made me and then just abandoned me and now I have to deal with all of this stuff."

Allison Loudermilk: Yeah, he's tormented and lonely.

Robert Lamb: Yeah, in a way the monster's -

Allison Loudermilk: He wants a mate. That's what he wants.

Robert Lamb: Yeah, that's what he comes to ask for. And again, we're mirroring Adam and Eve, too. He wants his mate so he's not alone in the world.

Allison Loudermilk: And so Victor complies, right?

Robert Lamb: Yeah, he starts to comply. He's like, "All right. I'll do it and then we're splits. We're even." Then he's thinking, "If I make another" - the monster wanted another monster. He knew if he made something beautiful and more human then it wouldn't accept him.

Allison Loudermilk: I don't think the monster had heard of the Beauty and the Beast. If only Disney had been around back then.

Robert Lamb: Yeah, if only he'd read that. Maybe he realized that was unrealistic. He'd already tried. He is the monster and nobody's falling for him. So he needs another monster to fall for him.

Allison Loudermilk: And he just needed time.

Robert Lamb: Maybe. But he wanted a mate now, so Vict

or started to put one together and the process was moving along. But then he was like, "Oh, my goodness. These two are going to mate and there are going to be more monsters. And this will just be a new race of monsters."

Allison Loudermilk: Exponential monsters.

Robert Lamb: So he freaked out and destroyed it. And as you can imagine, things got progressively worse from there.

Allison Loudermilk: And it all winds up - I really don't want to give the ending in case there's somebody out there who actually is going to read it and hasn't read it.

Robert Lamb: Yeah, or hasn't had it spoiled by movies. Just know that things get worse. Things get vengeful on both sides, and the ending is -

Allison Loudermilk: Loved ones are lost, etcetera. So let's talk about the meaning.

Robert Lamb: So the great thing about the book is you end up sympathizing with both characters. It's not a mad scientist creates sympathetic monster situation completely. It's also not a human creates monster and monster ruins human's life situation. There's a little bit of both. Victor asks for it by abandoning this creature and not doing much to try and fix the situation beyond killing the creature. And the monster, even though he comes from a very relatable point and he's molded by the society that he's thrust into, he also becomes vengeful and murderous and becomes the monster that society thinks he is.

Allison Loudermilk: So what does this say about society and what was going on with science at the time? Well, let's talk about what was happening. You have things like Charles Darwin's voyage to the Galapagos Islands back in 1831. You have James Cook who was hooking up around the world.

Robert Lamb: Yeah, back in 1768. So those were two examples that stuff was getting done scientifically. People were traveling like they'd never traveled before. They were figuring out things about where we came from and how life worked.

Allison Loudermilk: They were even checking out death a little bit. There was some grave robbing. I'm not sure that was all in the name of science necessarily.

Robert Lamb: A lot of it was, though. As anybody who's read Mary Roach - we interviewed her in a previous podcast. In her book, Stiff, she goes into the corpse robbing that went on to give medical students and scientists things to experiment upon.

Allison Loudermilk: Oh, yes. That's right.

Robert Lamb: So that was pretty big. And specifically, Shelley was inspired by this guy named Luigi Galvani. He would electrocute frog legs to study how bioelectricity works. So it's kind of like science has been for a while. There's so many exciting things and it seems like we're always on the cusp of figuring out something that's really game changing.

Allison Loudermilk: Like synthetic biology, for example.

Robert Lamb: Yeah. Synthetic biology, cloning, figuring out what's going on inside minute particles, the very structure of the universe - we're always trying to answer these questions. And you can't help but wonder, "What if we answer them? And if we answer them, what if we use that information in a way that's unethical or irresponsible?" Because like I said, Victor ends up creating so much more death than he creates life. And it's because of society, because of the decisions he makes in bringing this thing into the world. So you can ask similar questions about pretty much any scientific discovery that we've made.

You learn how to release the power of the atom, there's a monster for you right there. So much potential, and certainly a lot of great things have come of it, but also tremendous horror.

Allison Loudermilk: Right. Definitely. As a society, we're capable of warping these discoveries.

Robert Lamb: Promethean fire - it can illuminate. It can heat your house. But it can also burn you up.

Allison Loudermilk: Moving on to The Fly.

Robert Lamb: We were talking about favorite mad scientists. And my -

Allison Loudermilk: You mention Jeff Goldblum a lot, so I'm not really surprised that he comes up.

Robert Lamb: Yeah, Goldblum's a great actor. And in the The Fly he's just amazing. And I'm also a Cronenberg fan. And this is one of those mad scientist films that -

Allison Loudermilk: I didn't realize that was Cronenberg.

Robert Lamb: Yeah, yeah. This was his most mainstream film.

Allison Loudermilk: Okay.

Robert Lamb: But we did a previous podcast about science fiction and why science fiction matters. And one of the things we mentioned is that science fiction is always most interesting in what it tells you about the time period in which it was created, not about the future that it envisions or the place that it thinks technology will go. And this movie came out in 1986, so it's firmly implanted in the '80s in its mindset. We're not talking about fashion, but Geena Davis has some pretty '80s hair going on at times.

Allison Loudermilk: Love Geena Davis.

Robert Lamb: She's great in this.

Allison Loudermilk: She's also in Tootsie.

Robert Lamb: She was. I forgot about that.

Allison Loudermilk: Yeah, she was.

Robert Lamb: At the time they made this, Goldblum and her were an item apparently.

Allison Loudermilk: Yeah, that's some good scoop, Robert.

Robert Lamb: Oh, and here's some extra fun. So this was a Cronenberg remake of a 1958 Vincent Price film.

Allison Loudermilk: Vincent Price of Thriller? Isn't that the guy -

Robert Lamb: Yeah, yeah. He does the voiceover. But it was based on a script by James Clavell, who later went on to write Shogun and all those different books about Japan and Japanese culture. And that screenplay was based on a short story by this guy named George Langelaan, who never really did anything else.

Allison Loudermilk: Which appeared in Playboy.

Robert Lamb: Right. 1957 issue of Playboy. Yep.

Allison Loudermilk: You love all that stuff.

Robert Lamb: And again, we're saying the film that came out in '86 was very much a product of its time even though it was based on previous -

Allison Loudermilk: Variations. Sure. But like any good remake, it embodied the fears and ideas of 1986. So what was going on then?

Robert Lamb: Well, as always there's scientific upheaval going on. New advances in technology - but more importantly we have a slowly thawing Cold War.

Allison Loudermilk: Glasnost.

Robert Lamb: Yeah. And AIDS continues to be a big problem today, but at the time there was -

Allison Loudermilk: That was when it really started to surface.

Robert Lamb: Yeah. People were concerned about it. It was a huge social issue. Don't get me wrong, it's still a huge social issue. But at the time, it was even more prevalent in the media.

Allison Loudermilk: Yeah, that's when it started to creep into our consciousness and become a reality. So basic setup for the movie.

Robert Lamb: So you have this guy named Seth Brundle, played by Goldblum. And he's a brilliant scientist, of course.

Allison Loudermilk: Does he have a ponytail in that movie. I can't recall. I think he might've. Did he have a ponytail?

Robert Lamb: No, I don't think he had a ponytail. He had big hair going on and he was really ripped because he was naked a lot in it. There's a lot of sex in the film, which is actually important when dealing with the contextual stuff we're talking about here. But he's a scientist working on teleportation - which we have an article about teleportation on the site.

Allison Loudermilk: We do, yeah. Geena Davis features as a journalist.

Robert Lamb: Yep. She's here to do a story about his teleportation research.

Allison Loudermilk: Yeah, he has a telepod.

Robert Lamb: He has two telepods. They're kind of like big fancy futuristic black phone booths. And the idea is that a person would be able to enter one of them and then they will be digitized, turned into energy, and streamed across the room to another telepod which will then reassemble the digital information and you walk out of the second pod.

Allison Loudermilk: I wonder if they knew about entanglement back in the day.

Robert Lamb: Well, something like entanglement happens. Because the plot is just as it was in the previous versions of this. His DNA ends up scrambled with that of a housefly. He finally figures out how it works -

Allison Loudermilk: That's a bummer. You're doing all this important work and teleportation -

Robert Lamb: But then he gets careless. He jumps in there and it's the middle of the night and he's like, "All right." He takes his clothes off and climbs in the telepod. He doesn't see that a fly goes in with him and really doesn't realize it for a while. Because he comes out the other end and feels great.

Allison Loudermilk: He feels stronger, more like a man.

Robert Lamb: It ends up being a little more amorous.

Allison Loudermilk: Okay. And then he starts getting sick.

Robert Lamb: Yeah. Body parts start falling off, his body continues to change.

Allison Loudermilk: He thinks he's dying.

Robert Lamb: Yeah, and then he realizes that his body is changing into that of some grotesque fly human hybrid. And it's extra disturbing because, as critics have pointed out, the first chunk of the film feels like a romantic comedy. Goldblum's character is likeable. He's a little eccentric, but you like him. And Julia Roberts, she's lovely and you really want it to work out.

Allison Loudermilk: It's not Julia Roberts.

Robert Lamb: It's Geena Davis. Sorry.

Allison Loudermilk: Don't put Julia in The Fly.

Robert Lamb: No, Geena's better. So you really want it to work out for these two lovebirds. And then genetic chaos ensues.

Allison Loudermilk: Let's hear from Seth Brundle.

Robert Lamb: Oh, yeah. There are a lot of great Brundle quotes in this. And I won't be able to do it justice, but -

Allison Loudermilk: Give it a shot, Robert.

Robert Lamb: - there's a part where's he's rambling and he's like, "The disease has just revealed its purpose. We don't have to worry about contagion anymore. I know what the disease wants. It wants to turn me into something else. That's not too terrible, is it? Most people would give anything to be turned into something else." So imagine that with a much more Goldblumy craziness to it. But it's about the dude finding out that his body's betraying him.

Allison Loudermilk: And it mirrors a lot of things that were going in the '80s, specifically some high profile reminders of death in the '80s. So there's the euphoria of drug addiction mirrored in The Fly. And the middle of the night terrors that the cancer patient - and lastly, the hopelessness and the need of an AIDS victim.

Robert Lamb: Yeah, these points were made by Terrance Rafferty who was a New York Times film citric.

Allison Loudermilk: Back in the day.

Robert Lamb: Yeah. And there's a guy named Edward Guerrero of the University of Delaware who wrote an excellent piece titled AIDS as Monster in Science Fiction and Horror Cinema. And this is pretty much the only -

Allison Loudermilk: Academic study of The Fly?

Robert Lamb: Well, no. I've seen some other academic papers that mention The Fly, but this is the only academic paper I've seen that mentions the movie, Lifeforce, which is the naked vampire film that Tobe Hooper directed.

Allison Loudermilk: Right.

Robert Lamb: But let's get back to The Fly. Guerrero argued that the whole film is ultimately about society's fears about AIDS, but in particular about single sexual liberation and it's pathological consequences. Again, the first part of the movie's like a romantic comedy. These two lovebirds dig each other and then they have sexual encounters a lot in the film. It's not for kids. And it takes up a lot of screen time. His sexual appetite's increasing, and then all the bad stuff starts happening. So he says that it's ultimately about the idea that you had a generation that was moving away from traditional family values.

Allison Loudermilk: Into a more promiscuous lifestyle.

Robert Lamb: Which leads to hypersexuality, which leads to disease and ultimately death.

Allison Loudermilk: That's a bummer.

Robert Lamb: Yeah. So that was his read. I think Cronenberg's a little more ambiguous when he's been asked about it in interviews. But that's the thing about great art. You can look at it in the context of its time and you can just go wild with figuring out what it means, the different meanings to it.

Allison Loudermilk: So let's get back to what it says about science, or at least what we think it might say about science. On the one level, there's this typical mad science sense that reckless powerful science destroys. It turns you into a fly.

Robert Lamb: Yeah. It's forbidden knowledge. You weren't meant to tamper in God's domain and now you have fly eyes.

Allison Loudermilk: Would fly eyes really be so bad? They'd be big, but they could see and do all sorts of cool stuff.

Robert Lamb: Well, that's the thing. He could do really cool stuff for a while in the picture, but then it just got worse and worse.

Allison Loudermilk: But there's also this sense that, despite all of our scientific and technological achievements, humans are still tragically mortal and susceptible to morbidity and mortality. MMWR.

Robert Lamb: Totally. You can send a dude across the room as a stream of digital data or energy or something, but we still get sick. We still die. And that's something that we're always - well, I don't know about always - but for the foreseeable future, we're going to be pondering that. But not to end it on a completely negative note. I'm going to mention one last mad scientist, that's also one of my favorites. And that's Dr. Kurt Leopold in the movie Zaat. And this was also known as The Blood Waters of Dr. Z. Because that's what it was titled when Mystery Science Theater did a send-up of it.

But this a really cheap film that takes place in Florida. And this mad scientist turns himself into a giant catfish in an attempt to take over the world. And it's just so awkward and he seems so lonely. And it's a really bad film, but I can't help but like it.

Allison Loudermilk: I think if I were meant to take over the world, I'm not sure I would pick being a catfish.

Robert Lamb: Yeah, I'm not sure how he thought of it. He's just like, "I'm going to become a giant catfish. That's step one. And then step two, take over the world."

Allison Loudermilk: Yeah. How about that? So those are two of our favorite mad scientists. Who are yours? Tell us about them.

Robert Lamb: Yeah, let us know.

Allison Loudermilk: Send us an email at sciencestuff@howstuffworks.com.

Robert Lamb: Oh, and I have a quick listener mail here for us from Eric, who's writing to us from Sweden. And he says, "Hi. I just wanted to give you a tip for a series of really awesome novels in relation to your discussion of the history of science. In the latest podcast about the scientific method and its history, you commented on Sir Isaac Newton and his work for science, and also his interest in alchemy. A great series of novels where this is a big part is The Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson. It's for nerds, that I admit. But if you don't mind the length, I assure you that you won't be disappointed. Regards, Eric from Sweden."

Allison Loudermilk: Thanks, Eric.

Robert Lamb: I've only read one book by Neal Stephenson. I think it was Snow Crash, but I've been tempted to read his other gigantic novels.

Allison Loudermilk: Indeed. If you guys have anything you want to share with us, do connect with us on Facebook, we're Stuff from the Science Lab. We're on Twitter, too. We're @LabStuff. So that's all we've got today. Thanks for listening.

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