1904: Research Risks
Title text: The 1919 Great Boston Molasses Flood remained the deadliest confectionery containment accident until the Canadian Space Agency's 2031 orbital maple syrup delivery disaster.
| This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: First draft. Add percentages on the table, elaborate on the explanations. Do NOT delete this tag too soon.|
If you can address this issue, please edit the page! Thanks.
This is a comparison of the possibility of the subjects of various sciences being a threat to humanity. It can either be an autonomous threat to the local population (i.e. by escape from a lab), or as part of a supervillain's scheme to rule the world. 
The title text is related to the Molasses Storage entry at the bottom left of the chart, and references the Great Molasses Flood, also known as the Great Boston Molasses Flood. It occurred on January 15, 1919 in the North End neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts (the state in which Randall lives). A large molasses storage tank burst and a wave of molasses rushed through the streets at an estimated 35 mph (56 km/h), killing 21 and injuring 150. The joke in the title text is that in 2031 (14 years after the release of this comic) the Canadian Space Agency has an even more serious disaster, which will be known as the orbital maple syrup delivery disaster. The title text claims that this disaster then became the deadliest confectionery containment accident, thus killing more than 21 people...
|Risk of Breaking Free||Risk of Supervillain||Research field||Research Risks||Comments|
|very low||very high||Prosthetics||Cyborgs||A large number of villains in media have had augmentative and non-augmentative prosthetics for various reasons.|
|very low||high||Laser Optics||Something like Laser Weapon System. Or a powerful laser could be used to cut the hero in two as in Goldfinger.||See Directed-energy weapon.|
|low||high||Materials Science||New materials used for villainous purposes||Adamantium, Vibranium, Kryptonite, etc.|
|low||medium high||Sociology||Sociological research may help in becoming a tyrant and then lead nation to war.|
|very low||medium high||History||Ministry of Truth, using methods of previous successful dictators and learning from the errors of unsuccessful attempted dictators||History is mere data and records, which does not "break free". A particular subject of history, however, can be of use to a supervillain.|
|medium low||medium high||Psychology||Ministry of Truth, Hannibal Lecter||Unlike history, psychology contains the subject of "memetic hazards" which could "break out" into the local population.|
|high||very high||Robotics||Villains: Robot minions. Escape: robots gaining sentience and killing everything, or nanobots going rogue and devouring everything in their path.||Robots are minions of villains in many occasions, and research on it could be used to further power them up.|
|very high||very high||Genetic Engineering||Villains: Modify troops to make super powered minions. Escape: Modified life could cause havoc||See Gene drive|
|medium high||high||Chemistry||Explosives, corrosives, fast oxidation||General, dangerous things, normally used for destruction, like Nitroglycerin or chlorine trifluoride.|
|very high||high||Microbiology||Lethal diseases||See for instance 12 Monkeys|
|very low||medium low||Geology||Golems, Earthquake machines||Study of rocks. Scores below average on the supervillain scale despite Lex Luthor's plan in the 1978 Superman movie hinging on setting off the San Andreas Fault.|
|very low||medium low||Linguistics||1984 Newspeak|
|low||low||Paleontology||Reviving dinosaurs and other such prehistoric creatures.||Study of fossils. Reviving dinosaurs isn't exactly good for human survival.|
|very low||very low||Astronomy||Asteroid impact||A villain could divert an asteroid towards Earth.|
|medium low||very low||Molasses Storage||Breaking free chance is medium low as molasses did "escape" at least once in history.||See Great Molasses Flood, as referenced in the title text|
|very low||very low||Dentistry||Torture/Interrogation (see for instance Marathon Man)|
|high||medium low||Botany||Audrey II, Triffids||Plants are commonly used in horror films where they mutate and eat everything.|
|very high||medium low||Entomology||Insects are small and can often escape through even small cracks, and are known for carrying diseases. They could also mutate into terrifying threats - see for example the movie Empire_of_the_Ants_(film)||Study of insects.|
|medium high||low||Mycology||Fungi cannot move, but their spores could easily spread, therefore, escape probability has been deemed medium high. However the risk of mycology being used for evil has raised strongly with the release of Star Trek Discovery.||Mycology is the study of fungi.|
|very high||low||Marine Biology||Sharknado, Jaws, Cthulhu.||Villains may keep a tank of sharks in order to dispose of opposition; strangely, despite the popularity this is not considered useful for a villain to conquer the world (perhaps because the use of sharks over, say, lions or spikes is purely for semantic reasons).|
|high||very low||Ornithology||Flying is a useful escape mechanism. Villains may sometimes keep a bird of prey as a pet.||Study of birds.|
- [A chart with two crossing lines with double arrows. Each arrow is labeled:]
- Y axis top: High
- Y axis bottom: Low
- X axis left: Low
- X axis right: High
- [Near each of the "high" ends of the two axis there is a label written in gray, with a line pointing to the relevant axis:]
- Y axis: Risk of your research being used by a supervillain for world domination
- X axis: Risk of the thing you're studying breaking free from your facility and threatening the local population
- [The following points are on the charts upper left quadrant (in reading order):]
- Laser Optics
- Materials Science
- [The following points are on the charts upper right quadrant (in reading order):]
- Genetic Engineering
- [The following points are on the charts lower left quadrant (in reading order):]
- Molasses Storage
- [The following points are on the charts lower right quadrant (in reading order):]
- Marine Biology
- The comic initially had the erroneous spelling "Entymology" (possibly a mistaken mix-up between etymology and entomology, similar to 1012: Wrong Superhero). This was later changed to the correct "Entomology".
- The SSL-Certificate of xkcd expired while this comic was online, causing a non-reachability of the site.
add a comment! ⋅ add a topic (use sparingly)! ⋅ refresh comments!