A Miracle of Science

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 "When you're a recovering mad scientist, you're always afraid you'll lose control and wake up some morning with a half-built time machine in the living room and a plan to go back in time and pants Hitler."

A Miracle of Science is a science fiction Web Comic written by Jon Kilgannon and drawn by Mark Sachs. It ran from 2002 to 2007 and was set in the year 2148, when humanity has spread across the solar system from Venus to Ganymede, and robotics and artificial intelligence are well developed, advanced sciences. Also of note is the science of memetics, which can be used to treat (or cause) psychological issues. Of key importance in the story is one specific meme, Science-Related Memetic Disorder (or, more colloquially, mad science).

Key characters include Benjamin Prester, a field agent of the Vorstellen Police, a law-enforcement agency specializing in SRMD; Caprice Quevillion, a Martian forensic psychiatrist assigned as his partner; and Virgil Haas, the Mad Scientist they attempt to capture. The story opens not long after Mars, a utopian group intelligence, has ended a century of self-imposed isolation.

Given its Mad Scientist motif, one should expect that a significant number of tropes appear as important plot points in the comic. In fact, given the science of memetics, the characters themselves use tropes (common examples being the Chase Scene and the Denouement) as psychological aids when dealing with mad scientists.

Kilgannon and Sachs went on to collaborate on a second webcomic, titled Afterlife Blues.


A Miracle of Science is the Trope Namer for:
Tropes used in A Miracle of Science include:

Chaucer: Rrrg! I told Doctor Haas he shouldn't make you Pindars so smart.
Pindar-Two: I'm going to take that as a compliment.

  • Genius Loci: The Martian people form a collective consciousness.

Caprice: Mars likes you.
Benjamin: That's like saying "Brazil has decided you're cute."

  • Genre Savvy: The entire science of memetics relies on this. The Vorstellen Police catches mad scientists by knowing exactly how they will react to certain situations.
    • Virgil also appears to have read The Evil Overlord List and avoids falling into several of the pitfalls outlined in it.
  • A God Am I: Averted; Mars is quick to point out that it isn't omnipotent; merely extremely powerful.
  • Good Cop, Bad Cop: Caprice being the good cop to Benjamin's bad cop. Lampshaded.
  • Good Hair, Evil Hair: In addition to his glasses as noted below, one sign that Haas has developed Science-Related Memetic Disorder is that his bangs suddenly jut up and out, managing to look like horns, or perhaps broken antennae.
    • Benjamin also has a different hairstyle when he's in mad science mode. Notably, he messes his hair back into this style when he relapses.
      • Maybe everyone has "normal" hair and "Mad Science" hair
  • Graceful Loser: Most mad scientists end up being pretty relieved that they're stopped.
  • Ground-Shattering Landing: When Benjamin and Caprice crash into the surface of Mars from orbit.
  • Guns Do Not Work That Way: Robots can be seen firing entire rounds, as opposed to just the bullet. The case stays in the weapon until extracted in real guns.
  • Hive Mind: Mars again, if you couldn't tell.
    • Mars however works differently from most in that all members are their own individuals. They relay information to each other, and there is a distinct unified "Mars" meta-personality that can take posession when appropriate, but all information is not immediately shared; the hive mind is divided in two, like the hemispheres of the brain. The Martians' greatest fear is that if both hemispheres were totally connected, the entire planet would become collectively susceptible to SRMD -- with the safety redundancies removed, a single case could spread rapidly through the population.
    • Haas also has built an army of information-gathering robots that function on a simpler level like this.
  • Honest Advisor: Chaucer. Dr. Haas complains that Chaucer's always picking holes in his plans; Chaucer's response is that he's trying to help, and merely being a yes man isn't helpful.
  • Hot Scientist: Dr. Juruna
  • Human Cannonball: Suborbital Express variant. A one-man pod is shot into space with a giant cannon, design courtesy of a Mad Scientist. When it fails, Ludicrous Gibs result. Fortunately the failure rate isn't very big...
  • Hypocritical Humor: A background character here says "no one who is in favor of eugenics should be allowed to reproduce".
  • Imagine Spot: Used in the explanation of the benefits of an AI Hive Mind. Apparently, unlinked computers think about socks.
  • Insistent Terminology: It is a thing mad scientists do. Special mention, though, goes to Beatriz "That's Doctor" Juruna.
    • Also of note: Benjamin Prester insists on not being called Ben.
  • Instant AI, Just Add Water: "Any device complex enough to detect Martians is going to eventually become self-aware."
    • Though this may be an intentional ploy on the Martians' part, since they built the machine in the first place. And Caprice does admit that they had to do a bit of bribery to make sure all the parts got installed.
  • Lens Flare: Used in the epilogue here and here.
  • Lightning Bruiser: The Pindars.
  • Mad Scientist: Dr. Haas, Dr. Juruna, and Ben Prester.
  • Magical Girl: Caprice arguably qualifies as a superscience version of this, of the Cute Witch variety.
  • Mama Bear / Papa Wolf: Mars is very protective of its people.: That link is full of implicit spoilers, by the way.
  • Mental Fusion: See Hive Mind, above.
  • Nanomachines: The main source of the Martians' advanced technology.
  • People's Republic of Tyranny: The People's Republic of the Moon, a drab-looking lunar colony that's heavily implied to be a Communist state (USSR imitation), at least at the time of flashback. It's mentioned that they've got a picture of Beria, head of Stalin's Secret Police, on at least one denomination of their money, which suggests something about what they value.
  • Plot Technology: subverted. When mad scientists are captured, their inventions and research are used for the benefit of society as a whole.
  • The Rant: Reading Jon and Mark's columns is strictly optional, but they offer a bit more insight into the comic's world and also occasional scientific lectures.
  • Redheaded Hero: Benjamin.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Fabula and Syuzhet, color-coded little ball-shaped robots from the Martian Constabulary -- or rather, AIs seen operating a swarm of color-coded robots.

Prester: Um... which one of you guys is Fabula?
Six red robots: Officer Fabula, at your service.
Prester: And which is Syuzhet?
Six blue robots: Yo.
Prester: I've been on Mars for five minutes, and already my brain hurts.

 [Ben:: somewhat hysterically "He shot my gun! He shot my gun! Why are you negotiating with the man who shot my gun?!"