829: Arsenic-Based Life
Title text: According to a new paper published in the journal Science, reporters are unable to thrive in an arsenic-rich environment.
Arsenic is a chemical element which is known to be poisonous to humans and most other life forms. In 2010 NASA announced the discovery of bacteria GFAJ-1 and claimed it to be able to sustain itself when starved of phosphorus, by substituting arsenic for a small percentage of its phosphorus. Like most other scientists Randall did not believe in this, and indeed it it was disproved in 2012. 
The scientists are worried that the press conference announcing their bacteria discovery may be seen as unexciting, especially with the reporters hoping for news of life on Saturn's largest moon, Titan. The researchers decide to try and make the event more exciting, but admit that they don't know how to throw a good party. This is probably a dig at scientists, who are often portrayed as being somewhat socially inept. As a result they turn to the internet for advice, and come up with a plan to serve cocktails and hors d'œuvres to fit the theme of the event.
The final panel shows the results of their plans, with the reporters dead or dying, and it becomes clear that in order to fit the theme the researchers have laced the food and drinks with arsenic. This is another joke on the perception that scientist may be extremely clever within their field, but sometimes lack common sense.
The words "hors d'oerves" at the comic are just a misspelling by Randall for "hors d'oeuvres" (in French "hors d'œuvre" both singular and plural). The English pronunciation of these words is awr-DURVZ /ɔrˈdɜrvz/, with the R before the V, not after, which explains the mistake. As opposed to the original French pronunciation, where the v and r keep the same order.
The girl with the curly ponytail in this comic is different from the character commonly referred to as Ponytail.
- [Three people, two women and a man, stand looking at a laptop screen, which is sitting on a desk. The woman with a ponytail is pointing at the screen.]
- Ponytail: Our arsenic-based DNA discovery is cool, but these reporters are expecting life on Titan! Our press conference will be such a letdown!
- [Ponytail turns around to face Megan.]
- Ponytail: Okay, we need to make it more exciting for them. How do you make an event entertaining?
- Megan: Dunno, I suck at parties. Music, I guess?
- [Ponytail girl turns back around and leans over to start typing on the computer, while the other two look on. Megan puts her hand to her chin.]
- Ponytail: WikiHow says you can "serve cocktails and hors d'oerves that fit the theme of your event."
- Megan: Easy enough!
- [Ponytail girl stands at a podium on a stage, the man stands amongst the audience with a tray. All the audience members are either dead or dying, having fallen onto the floor or slumped over in their seats.]
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