Hey Christmas-celebrators! If you’d like to get the SFP graphic novel, a set of buttons, or a cute t-shirt in time for the 25th, you should order by Thursday of this week!

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  • John Smith

    Silly Mega-Girl; anyone can study robotics!

  • Markus

    This might just be a bad day, but I really think Paladin is just an angry person.

    • Hawk

      Wouldn’t you be?

    • Moddey Dhoo

      I mean, it’s possible that’s true. Being a hero did emotionally cripple most of the other people who tried it. But she did mention that this one experiment was the culmination of months of work and it just destroyed itself in a matter of seconds as part of the single most glorious joke I think robot-kind could ever hope to achieve.

    • Brent

      Not really my read. She is obviously upset but she really just strikes me as a committed person with a narrow focus who is momentarily irritated that things aren’t going the way she hoped. As a software developer I can attest that thats a fairly normative personality trait among people who develop technology of any kind. Its not pathological in other words.

      • Can’t say it is not pathological, just that it’s a pathology that is attracted to, and useful in, a certain kind of work.

        • Brent

          Well I suppose that really depends upon how one defines pathological. What is “normal” after all? A timeless question to be sure and essentially the question that underlies the entire field of psychology.

          My point is really more that irritation over the spectacular failure of a long term project doesn’t really tell us anything too significant about a person’s general psychological disposition. Its behavior I see exhibited pretty regularly by people who no one would describe generally as overly prone to anger.

    • NCD

      Well, Paladin is way, WAY smarter than almost everyone else in the world, but not quite brilliant enough to solve the one problem she cares most about. That strikes me as being an incredibly frustrating way to live. Being constantly vexed doesn’t make someone an “angry person,” but it might tend to make one a little grouchy from time to time.

  • Arnaldo Iggi Roman

    Woah, that is a potentially intrusive question, wow.

    • S.I. Rosenbaum

      they’ve been talking for a while, she was polite about it, and it’s a question based on observation rather than an assumption. Most PwD I know wouldn’t mind it.

      • Arnaldo Iggi Roman

        It would have been more interesting and more realistic on my timeline if this point in the conversation highlighted the difference between their two types of powers and highlighted feelings of vulnerability and personal boundaries.

        It would have given her genius some emotional depth if she was a little taken aback by some one invulnerable asking about the inner workings of her super powered mind.

        I poop this kind of knowledge. It’s not even rare. Only an extremely insulated non-dynamic would miss my point. But thank you for reminding me that there are opposing views to even the most agreeable statement and there are bodies willing to be the channels for those opposing views.

        You trolled me hard.

        I even said poop.

  • Ryan Thompson

    Ok everyone, comedy/breakdancing show is over. Back to “Saving the World 101”.

  • Adrienne Herbst

    Your AIs would probably like a little bit of guidance, too, Lisa.

    • Markus

      Are you the alter ego for Furnace? Because that was a sick burn.

  • Ross Van Loan

    Robotpuncher for a crashing cyborg with anger issues? Make sure that goes on the resumé!

  • Ack, there’s that gadgeteer/technomancy logic. Most superhero-novel universes seem to use it these days, and while it does avoid the “Reed Richards is Useless” paradox, it is kind of emasculating for the gadgeteers, and undercuts the whole subgenre’s pretensions towards SF if all superscience technology is merely sufficiently advanced magic.

    Although the SFP universe seems to be satisfactorily lacking in aliens so far, which really clashes with the “technomancy” concept whenever someone tries to blend the two.

    • Ryan Thompson

      Well, that’s just Alison talking. For all we know, Lisa will come back next page with “What are you, crazy? Of course it’s teachable.”

      • Moddey Dhoo

        Which she did. Good call.

    • Moddey Dhoo

      I’m pretty sure Lisa is classified as an innate, which is basically just a person who’s good at things other people could be doing if they weren’t so busy not being as good at it as she is.
      She’s good at robots. She’s supernaturally good at robots, but she’s not good at supernatural robots.

    • I understand this, I was pretty much born able to read and write English (and probably other languages had I been exposed to them at an early enough age). For other people this requires years of education, and I have basically no idea of how I got the information. I have learned over the years how other people learn to read (and used it to teach my kids reading almost as soon as they could use sentences) but to this day I have no idea how I learned how to read. My mother said I just picked up books and started reading them. I did notice that my vocabulary was highly dependent on the vocabulary of the adults around me, that I did not know words not used frequently by adults in my life. Also a 3 YO reading Reader’s Digest Condensed books tends to freak out people when you spell out a word and ask what it means.

      • Children are born with a natural cognitive plasticity that facilitates rapid linguistic learning, it sounds like yours was just unusually efficient. They usually lose this overdrive learning capacity as they mature – thus the phenomenon of the child-savant, few of whom grow up into Mozarts, no matter how striking their early accomplishments. Did you retain any of that rapid-fire learning as a teenager or adult?

  • Tadpole7

    I wonder if she might actually have a narrow focused enhanced intellect? Her works on robotics might be teachable but she might not be good at teaching others and/or the rest of the scientific community might need a few decades to catch up to where she’s at in in robotics.

    Also some scientific advances can take decades or longer to become wide spread.

    • Moddey Dhoo

      I bet she’s one of those people who is extraordinarily good at seeing things, but bad at showing other people what it is she sees. The evolutionary biologist Ronald Fisher, for example, would occasionally say that something was easy to see without explaining it, but it would take years for everyone else to figure out what he meant.

  • Some guy

    I totally called it!

  • Ryan Thompson

    Unteachable knowledge is an oxymoron to me. If I can’t explain something to someone else, then I don’t actually know it.

    • Brent

      I dig that. I don’t entirely disagree but I would say that we humans tend to “know” a lot of things that are, at the very least, very difficult to explain. Language features, particularly idioms for instance, are very difficult to explain to anyone else. Indeed, a lot of language can really only be learned by immersion.

      Another example is particular types of sports intelligence. I mean, a good point guard knows how to read defenses but how well can they really explain something like court vision or how to time a cross court pass to someone else?

      I do think there are certain types of highly developed skills that are very difficult to teach to other people because their brains are not really wired to understand it in the same way.

  • Arthur Frayn

    I just noticed that Lisa’s a lame smith, like Hephaestus or Weyland. Bronze Age smiths were suffering from chronic arsenic exposure (which made them lame), but Iron Age smiths were deliberately crippled to keep their intellectual property from traveling. The latter is similar to her legal troubles with Templar, which keep her from proliferating her own work.

    Alison and Lisa could profitably work together investigating who’s controlling the Menace network, or freeing her from the Templar contract. Or something leading to who or what is manipulating the whole biodynamic situation. Any of those would make a good independent project.

    • Ryan Thompson

      No, investigating a conspiracy that only Alison and Patrick know about, and whose public disclosure would likely lead to severe reprisals, would not make a good independent study project. At least, not directly. On the other hand, a carefully innocuously-worded independent study project plan (e.g. “biodynamics in charity organizations”) could provide a good cover for such investigating.

      • Gryphonic

        I very, very much want to see the second! In-character, not only does it cover those investigations, but it’s also a topic close to Alison’s heart, and good publicity for Lisa’s company. Plot-wise, it also give us another angle on how the emergence of biodynamism has affected society and sense of community outside of the high-profile heroes vs. villains struggle. We’re also likely to run into Brad and others like him, and I’m curious how they’re getting along in the world.

        (Panel three: I think that was a hint, Alison. Lisa is in a bad mood at the moment, and has already said she’s not really a teacher but a researcher.)

    • Mystery girl

      Up to your first comma, I thought you were being insulting(sorry!), but once I hit Hephaestus, I got what you were meaning. Darn slang terms!

  • Elaine Lee

    Viktoria Modesta’s prosthetic leg looks a little like Lisa might have designed it!


  • Ryan Thompson

    Yeah, that’s a good point. I guess I’m mostly talking about intellectual knowledge (like the example at hand, robotics). Certainly some kinds of are essentially not transferable by teaching, and the only way to acquire them is by training your brain with lots of practice. Playing a musical instrument is another excellent example. I guess the broad, if somewhat inaccurate, term for this stuff is “muscle memory“.

    • Caravelle

      I think the broad, more up-to-date term for it is “procedural memory”. (looking at your Wikipedia link it looks like it’s what you were actually thinking of, and “muscle memory” is the subset of procedural memory that applies to movements)

  • Adrienne Herbst

    Ugh. Reread this and the way she’s yelling at the little bots at the top (and Alison, and the construction guys a few pages back) for not performing to her standards just makes me sad. For someone who talks about the honor of being a battery person, she sure does treat her minions like shit.

  • Jonathon Side

    I’m guessing the limp is what Alison noticed a few pages back, not necessarily the sound of foot on floor.

  • zarawesome

    Explain how you process oxygen.

    • Ryan Thompson

      That explanation would not fit well into the comment form on a web comic, and I’m typing this on a phone. But the short version is that I use it to generate energy by reacting it exothermically with organic compounds. Consult your local biochemistry textbook or Wikipedia for more details.

  • Markus

    I think it’s more that there are enough things that’re abstracted out to the intuitive for her that it would take formal naming of a lot of complex terms and computational or other assistance for the average person to get it. Think of if someone tried to explain differential Calculus to the Greeks without them knowing the basic proofs or introductory cases well.

    • Ryan Thompson

      Yes, I’m definitely not suggesting that Alison is prepared for an advanced robotics course.

  • S.I. Rosenbaum

    the knowledge can be taught, but that doesn’t mean she knows how to teach it.

  • Keith

    She created sentient life, and when it committed suicide her reaction was to be angry, refer to the being as “it”, and plunder what was valuable while gesturing dismissively. Not gonna lie, that does sound a bit “mad scientist”.

  • EveryZig

    Some forms of mad/super tinkering work more like instinct than knowledge, which is not necessarily teachable because much of it isn’t known on a conscious level.

  • Iarei

    Something is amiss. A robot that isn’t even Third Law enabled? She seems a lot more competent than that. That, and the fact that this feels like a production, even down to the fake rage no grammar bit. . . Is this all a smoke and mirrors bit for Alison’s benefit? Is she hiding something more sinister? How paranoid am I being on a scale of one to tinfoil hat?