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August 19 2008

Those dern academics are at it again! This year's call for papers on Whedonology by the Southwest/Texas Popular Culture/American Culture Association has a deadline for November 15th, with the annual meeting being held in February next year. This year, the Dr. Horrible phenomenon has been added to the suggested topics.

I expect all of you who enjoy writing papers to pick up your pencils immediately and get to work! The rest of us will be 'round back watching Dr. Horrible.

I wouldn't encourage academics to produce papers on Joss Whedon's works. It's way over their heads.
Consider yourself banned.
I await a brilliant mathematical model of some kind related to the Buffyverse. Other than vampire population growth-- that one was good, but over simplified.
I await a brilliant mathematical model of some kind related to the Buffyverse

I haven't read it yet but did "The Physics of the Buffyverse" by Jennifer Ouellette make any reference to a mathematical model?
I have no idea. Physics is actually an area I'm fairly weak in, to my utter chagrin, so I should probably read that sometime.
Yes me too. I actually saw it in one of the bookshops in Newark Airport and didn't buy it. Next time I'm there I will.
Maybe one of the six or more human beings that pretends to be the one Saje can answer you, Simon - I think he was dipped in maths and covered with a chocolate physics coating.

Or maybe I've got that backwards, I dunno. I am not at all fluent in these languages.
"The Physics of the Buffyverse" by Jennifer Ouellette

I have the book. Just haven't read it yet. So, I'm one step closer than some.

Saje's covered in chocolate? *thoughts going to bad bad place...*

Edit: had to because I accidently pasted in a link to something totally unrelated to any converstation on this board. Stupid multitasking.

[ edited by NYPinTA on 2008-08-20 22:53 ]
No no, he's covered in physics. But I hear it's just as messy as chocolate when it melts.

And yes, I think Quoter Gal is correct but I don't recall who specifically said they've read the book before. I just recall that Saje exudes physics in general. But here are some earlier comments on the book in question.

The conference looks rather humanities-focused though.
Have yet to read 'The Physics of the Buffyverse' either, but I keep planning to. It's popular science (which is, literally, my job :)) mixed with Jossness. I'd say win-win.

But yes, these things usually don't focuss on the exact sciences. While popular culture lends itself to popularising science in some cases, it's not of much use for actual scientific papers. The humanities, on the other hand, fit like a glove, most of the time. I, for one, am looking forward to what "those dern academics" have to say on our favorite mad scientist[1].

No no, he's covered in physics.

Isn't everything covered in physics? Or, did you mean Saje being covered in the mathematical expression of physics? With all kinds of equations and the likes? :). Because that'd be both cool and strange.

[1]no, not Dr. Steel
Consider yourself banned.

Were you kidding, Simon? I thought he was joking. If you were, I almost didn't catch it (hence my question). If you weren't, let's pretend I never brought this up.

How come chemistry never gets any love? Always physics & mathematics, but no chemistry. *pouts* We all know physics & chemistry skip hand-in-hand down the yellow road of mathematics. It needs more love.

I have a couple of the "dern academics" books at home, but I haven't finished them yet. There's so many! All with good points! It's like rich desert for my analytical belly... I could reflect & dissect Joss all night. *ponders wistfully for a moment* Hey, Saje, let's keep Joss in the basement for a while longer, 'kay? I want to delve into layers tonight.

I would really love to see an analysis of Dr. Horrible. It'd be too cool if they touch on topics I myself have imagined thought about. :)
I studied chemistry for a year, korkster, but in the end, physics is just more fundamental ;)

But, no, seriously, I do wonder why fewer chemistry stories make popular science journals, for instance. I'm guilty of that as well, by the way. I think I've written... exactly zero stories on chemistry (unless you count biochemistry/genetics or astrochemistry). But don't feel bad... mathematics gets almost no attention either and even (astro)physics is much less "sexy" than, say, biology or stories on the climate. I'm sure I could come up with a reason why (astrophysics has that nice mind-bending "sci-fi" quality, stories on the climate have political relevance, stories on mathematics are only interesting when talking about - for instance - train schedules and the like, biology is - on the whole - "easier" to understand, because it deals with concepts intuÔtively clearer, etcetera), but it's still pretty strange taken on the surface.

What were we talking about again? ;)
I wonder how long it would take me to work up a paper about using the Latin in Joss's work to support instruction in Latin composition classes.

I am probably the only person on earth interested in this as a topic, but it has really seized my imagination the past two days.
No chemistry papers? I'm shocked! Has no one pondered the chemistry behind band candy? Sure, physics is fundamental, but I don't see any physicists whipping up candy bars!

I've always viewed the magic on Buffy as being more chemistry-related anyways -- there are always potions and incenses and things you burn and things you spit on and, er, well, so on.
And, didn't Willow actually use chemistry *shock face* on a couple of episodes? She said when whe was on recovery that you could tell it's chemsitry by "how damn slow it was taking"... or something to that effect. I always chuckle at that; it's true from undergraduate/graduate work, but industry wise... that's a whole new playing field.

cabri makes a good point though- relation of chemistry & magic on the Buffy.

And physics maybe more fundamental, GVH, but chemsitry is more fun. :P ;) Do you think anyone will draw inspiration our of the massive-long-Dr. Horrible Act III-thread we kept going? I still need to learn how to dissect the lyrics of Dr. Horrible... I think NPH's inflections & his incomplete "ever..., fee(t), comple(te), kin(g), sin(g)" in his last song could proove (how many O's?) the unfolding of Billy and the emergence of Dr. Horrible. Haven't committed anything to the black yet, but it's still swimming in my brain. Don't forget the lighting, twitch-markers, goggles, # songs/act, etc... that can also be picked out to aide in the writing of a brilliant paper. :)
Chem is evil, and not just because it's slower than magic. It's especially hard if you're colorblind and in charge of your group's titration lab...*shudder*

I'd think that Buffy is an interesting thing to write about for most science-related things. Obviously, there is a lot to talk about with physics--especially with the Scoobies defying so many of its laws. (I haven't read Physics of the Buffyverse either). Chem and magic definitely align, and season 4 especially would lend some interesting discussion for biology people.

And engineers can gawk and laugh at Glory's tower.

I'm kind of bummed that the submission deadline (and the conference itself) aren't after April, 'cause that's when my own Buffyverse paper will be done. OTOH, I'm way to busy to be hopping over the state line to New Mexico right now.
And I don't want to speed the process along; I'm still in the fun "pre-research" 1 stage before I actually have to start reading academic things.

Saje covered in chocolate? Maybe he's one of those biscuits that goes with tea. Now, if he is covered in physics, that seems like it would go better with a nice capucchino. And lots of valium.

1 Watching the episodes over and over and feigning deep thoughts
Willow compared chemistry to magic ("but with less newt!") early on, and to physics in "Get it Done." So it's both.

Whedon has talked about his own "math suckage," which is why certain aspects of his universe aren't internally consistent. But I think that Whedon has a lot of respect for science, even if it's not, according to him, his forte; the Initiative arc shows the dangers of science, yes, but mainly in the wrong hands, science as an affront to nature rather than science AS nature. "Firefly's" lack of sound in space and the obvious love for science nerds Willow and Fred are some examples of wanting to take science seriously. And other episodes are littered with references: quantum mechanics ("Out of Mind, Out of Sight"). The conservation of energy ("Get it Done"). "Entropy." "Supersymmetry." Lewis Carroll was a mathematician, so you could add the Pylea arc as well. By allowing actions to have consequences, the shows uphold Newton's laws (well, at least the third one); and I think the shows frequently use gravity in striking, often metaphorical ways. (Especially "The Gift," with Spike's and Buffy's falls from the tower, and the house collapsing in "Smashed"....)

Mathematically, the shows are full of symmetry and dark mirrors, and there is a definite structure to the episodes and the seasons and indeed the entire series that's beautiful from a mathematical perspective.

(Exercise: compare the finale and premiere of each season, especially ones where Joss wrote both. And with Buffy, check out how similar season two and season six's finales are, in some respects, as the second and second-last finales, and as signposts on Buffy's difficult journey of growing up. I sometimes see Buffy as almost palindromic, with seasons one and seven, two and six, and three and five reflecting bits of each other. But I also may just be getting carried away.)

I read a terrific essay by lunasea on the ATPOBTVS board a few years ago about understanding Whedon's shows as fractals: each season premiere contains the arc for the entire season, and then individual scenes of certain episodes contain the arc for the episode. Again, it's beautiful.

Oh, and before I forget: the structure (mathematically, if you will) in the lyrics of "Dr. Horrible" takes my breath away. Especially "Brand New Day," whose rap-like sections have a perfect anapaest tetrameter where the third accented beat consists of two syllables, and where each accented syllable is rhyming:

this apPEARED as a MORal diLEMMA 'cause at FIRST
it was WEIRD that i SWORE to eLIMInate the WORST
of the PLAGUE that deVOURed huMANITy it's TRUE
i was VAGUE on the HOW so now CAN IT be that YOU

And later:

all the TIMES that you BEAT me unCONSCIOUS Iíll forGIVE
all the CRIMES incomplETE, listen HONEStly Iíll LIVE
mr. CUTE, mr. RIGHT, mr. KNOW-IT-all is THROUGH
now my FUTureís so BRIGHT and i OWE IT all to YOU

I've tried to compose rhyme schemes like this. Believe me, it's not easy.
William, will you marry me?

Seriously, that was some serious intellectual rockage, and my brain is now very happy. Even if I do have The Walrus and the Carpenter stuck in my head thanks to your mentioning the good Mr. Babbage. Oh, and I second you on the not easy to create such rhyme schemes. Then again, Joss is a genius and could probably write a kick-ass sestina in his sleep.

Ah, off to take a bubble bath and read Sandman, then to sleep in until at least 9:30. It's so sad that school starts on Monday...
Wow! WilliamTheB, it may not be easy, but you make it look easy. :) That's very cool with the Dr. Horrible-ness there. Now how about that last song... ;)

You see palindromic with Buffy's season finales (& I totally see it), but I see groups on the periodic table:

Season 1 (Li's, +1)- young & full of energy, which can easily be taken away, but holds a core group (He) that supports Buffy when her electron goes beserk (she dies, becomes He, & is revived to Li again)

Season 2 (Be's group, +2)- gaining experience, still easily influenced and bouncing with energy; more grounded though (hence alkaline earth metals, ha!), and cannot be paired up with just anyone (Angel ring a bell?)

Season 3 (B's group, +3)- ah, has reached the peak of positiveness, and realized that there are more trials to endure (end of s-orbitals, beginning of p orbitals); starts to ponder on what her position is in the world (am I a metal, or do I possess qualities of the non-metallic sort?)

Season 4 (C's group, +/-4)- this is the apex of Buffy's identity; she can either return to her roots (+ side), or venture into the unknown and grow (- side); from what seems weak at first, hides a strength & love that allows the ability to help others in need (see either side of Periodic Table)

Season 5 (N's group, -3)- Buffy's really started to take hold of her person & make it her own. I would argue this is where Buffy is strongest as a slayer (hence N-N's triple bond strength); she starts to take back the power she had given freely before (no longer under Watcher's nose- they now report to her); finds it difficult to connect to those unlike herself, and shares links with strong, enraged with power women (H-types like Glory & Dawn)

Season 6 (O's group, -2)- with a breath of life (O2), she's alive again, but not as free as she was before; she's more selective on her relationships, and feels the need to be with people who can provide support (even negative) of some kind; she hooks up with Spike (let's call him Fe, which has +2, +3 capability) and immediately shifts the relatioship from sharing (co-valent) to taking (ionic); this leads to the rusting (Fe2O3) of something beautiful, and although they have changed on their surface, they're still the same underneath.

Season 7 (F's group, -1)- a very strong year for Buffy (hence her strongest ionic strength yet); she's powerful & a leader; others follow her because her journey has brought her so much closer to bliss (Ne- complete electron orbitals); she's a general, though, and knows & accepts that lives will be sacrificed (other potentials +1 characters); she's reactive & proactive, and packs a big punch (take a look at Sunnydale's "inny"); after the chain of events (reaction), she starts to move into the stage of happiness (Ne, 0)

And then Season 8 rolls along, and we start over with a new row. This time, however, the rules have changed & now there's d orbitals to deal with... they play their own game. Hey, it kind of explains Willow's ability to time-travel, or live as long as she did- she has enough electrons to stuff them anywhere, and if she chooses to appear at a stage a particular electron appears, she could even jump dimensions. :)

Note: Not all may be right. It's late here & I've got work to do, but I'm just musing/playing my fantasy game of Buffy=chemistry.

ETA: Well, it made sense when I was writing it. :-/

[ edited by korkster on 2008-08-21 06:21 ]
Ha, thanks for the kind words, BoB. Re: marriage, I'll decide when I see the ring :P. And korkster, I never would have thought of the periodic table, but that's very apt. I couldn't really imagine Whedon et al. deciding to break down the seasons according to the table, but that might be just my failure of imagination of the level of geekitude of those guys, at least in the science area. But it works pretty well, doesn't it? I think what this has in common with the palindrome theory of mine is that season four is the turning point, the neutral ground, which I think most people agree about; it's the season between the "high school is hell" and the "young adulthood is hell" years, with college (not quite a universal experience, but an important one) as the transition. College really is a lot like high school, as Buffy says in "The Freshman," even if it's completely different.

I wonder if there's a way to justify fully the idea of early season Buffy as metal and late season Buffy as non-metal. Metals alone generally share electrons in an electron sea, with no atom really "holding" them. Metals and other metals don't really form chemical bonds when formed into alloys; it's more of a physical change, though with chemical properties. They are often unstable and form ionic compounds in which they lose a part of themselves and their electrons. It's as if in high school and in one's youth, one never truly has an identity (electron); it's borrowed and shared, and very precarious. On the other hand, non-metals can form covalent bonds in which neither element "loses" anything, and both elements can be complete; this is much more the aim of a young adult, more sure of herself Buffy. The danger, then, becomes to form ionic compounds, in which she (and her friends) take rather than give. When she was a metal, Angel(us) took from Buffy, and now she (somewhat) "takes" from Spike; metal Willow is regularly taken for granted, but bends the world to her whim as a non-metal. Season seven Buffy falls into the same traps of forming only ionic compounds, and using other people and degrading them (as General Buffy, to the potentials), before finally sharing with the others, which, yes, leads her and her friends off to the sunset as (heroic) noble gases.

I love the idea of season five as N2, as well, because nitrogen gas is very stable...but is not as much as a noble gas, and so since it can be broken apart, one could argue it's a false stability. And season five seems to me a season that sets up everyone's fall a season later, but subtly; look at the way Spike is so good, but still falls off the tower, Xander declares his love for Anya but freezes when asked to choose between her and Willow, and Buffy can't process the possibility of living without Dawn.

Also: note also that Buffy's general attitude towards herself and the world seems very optimistic in seasons 1-3, and rather pessimistic in seasons 5-7. Oh, and, on top of everything, season four is in part about the battle between the natural and the synthetic. It's Carbon (IV) vs. Silicon (IV), baby!
Thank you for the fractals and the rhyme scheming, WilliamTheB!
(Link to lunasea's essay, if anyone pleases?)
OK, so it's actually by Diana, who may in fact also be lunasea...I know I was reading a lot on the board archives in one night, and may have gotten names mixed up. (SORRY!) It's terrific, anyway. Search for "Prophecy Girl: The bird takes flight (Intro)" on the following page:
Blimey, how did I miss this thread wherein i'm (one of me anyway ;) apparently covered in physical chocolate ? And why haven't I noticed before now ? And why do my fingernails taste of keratin (which as we all know is more like chicken) instead of chocolatey goodness ?

I read 'The Physics of the Buffyverse' and thought it was OK as these things go, great for interested non-physicsy Buffy fans that maybe haven't read many of these 'Physics of...' books before (think there was some nice stuff on leverage, momentum etc. using Buffy's martial artistry as the jumping off point for instance). Some of the connections were very thin though (whatever lip-service is paid to physics by Willow, magic in the Buffyverse doesn't follow its laws and you need to contort a fair bit to claim it does - that said, the bit on entropy is also pretty decent, based on a baseless quote though it may be ;).

And there aren't any game changing mathematical models in it as far as I remember (we've all already figured out the precise formula for untold wealth and happiness, right ?).

I really like that fractal idea BTW though it's maybe just part of the mechanics of writing serial TV (just as a pilot has the entire show within it in a sense, so maybe does each season opener have the entire season ? - thematically at least, if not plot-wise). And the chemistry (of season 6 especially) nicely done (i'm surprised that didn't cause more of a reaction. See what I did there ? Eh ? ;) though most of it went right over my head.

(and biscuit wise in my wildest dreams i'm either a half-covered chocolate digestive or a HobNob but in reality i'm probably more of a Fig Roll)
Heh, was wondering if Saje would ever turn up in this thread ;). Welcome, welcome. You're just in time for of-the-front-page-dropage ;)
Well, I came back, GVH, only to be blown away as WilliamTheB takes my meager whimsies of "periodic table of Buffy" and really fleshes it out to make me feel as if I knew what I was talking about last night. It's like one of those really good nights that you don't remember but everyone tells you it was amazing and you were totally cool. ;) Your comments on the "giving" & "taking" were in my head last night, but I just didn't have the right words. I really liked your touch with N2... false securities/stabilities, until something else comes along.

Oh! And their attitudes as they come along in the series... the more power they gain, the more of a negative attitude they obtain.
*sighs* Between the physicky chocolate of this thread and the pork and apple sausaginess of the other, Saje is now my delicioussest member of the day. ;)
Hmm, pork, apple and chocolate sausages - there has to be a market for those surely ? Now if we can just find some way to add physics to sausages ...
... and some math.

"Just a little bit of math in everything...
From the number of your toes
to the arc of a swing
and even in the length of a yo-yo string
there's a little bit of math in everything
one plus one is two
and two plus two is four..."

Saje, since when did you taste like pork & apples? Please direct, so I can have a taste. ;)

Math is the glue that keeps chemistry & physics together, QuoterGal.

Think about the angles you bite down on the sausage, and the acceleration of the sausage as it travels down your esophagus versus the decceleration it takes for you to not feel hunger anymore.

Plus the parabola of time we're satisfied with chocolate, pork, & apples. Mmmmm.
I'm glad to see somebody else posted so I didn't have to try and bend the rules about self-postage (wait, where am I mailing myself? Egad, this envelope is small). Loved reading through these lines on possible scientific approaches -- yes, we are Humanities based, but we like our (mad) scientists, too. C'mon, you know you want to come to New Mexico....

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