1426: Reduce Your Payments

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Reduce Your Payments
I tried oxidizing them, but your bank uses some really weird paper and it wouldn't light.
Title text: I tried oxidizing them, but your bank uses some really weird paper and it wouldn't light.


Black Hat walks into a room where Cueball sits in an armchair. Black Hat says to Cueball that he can reduce his mortgage payments, while holding a docket of paper, presumably Cueball's payment check, that looks like it has been dipped into a liquid of some kind. Black Hat uses the same formulation many Internet advertisements use: "Discover this (strange/new/amazing...) trick to (lose weight/reduce your mortgage payments/meet amazing women...)" known as clickbait. Cueball wants to know how and Black Hat responds by mentioning sodium borohydride (NaBH4). Since Cueball fell for Black Hat's bait he exclaims, "I hate you."

Sodium borohydride is a strong reducing agent, meaning in a chemical reaction it will "reduce" another substance. It is in fact used during the manufacture of paper, in order to bleach the natural color from the pulp and improve the resulting paper's brightness, opacity, ink-absorption, and strength (among other properties).

This comic is a typical switcharound pun. Cueball expects the value on a bill paid to be reduced, while Black Hat uses the chemical meaning of reducing, which would result at a minimum in the bleaching of all ink from the bill therefore making it unreadable.

The complementary chemical reaction to reduction is oxidation (mentioned in 1693: Oxidation), which is what happens if the paper mortgage payment is burned, as referred to in the title text. They go together in redox reactions, which generally involve electron transfer from the chemical species which is oxidized to the one which is reduced. In that case, the pun about light (to start a fire) is that a reduced financial weight may seem light (not heavy). However, some forms of paper - particularly those used for things like receipts - possess a slight coating that limits their flammability. Cueball's statements appear to be made with such a paper, thus preventing Black Hat from burning the statements.


[Cueball sits on a sofa and Blackhat walks into the frame from behind.]
Blackhat: I discovered this weird trick for reducing your mortgage payments!
Cueball: What?
Blackhat: Sodium borohydride.
Cueball: ...I hate you.

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It's a chemical reduction. Here's the wiki link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reducing_agent199.27.133.109 04:25, 26 September 2014 (UTC)

This needs more help by a professional chemist... And I need to go to work... So if anyone continues clarification work - thanks, else I'll do a little more after work/afterwardsTier666 (talk) 05:21, 26 September 2014 (UTC)

I tried to clear up some things, but I am not a chemestry expert either.. --Flai (talk) 06:31, 26 September 2014 (UTC)

Hints (just looked into lit a little bit): NaBH4 would not really reduce the paper (make it vanish by reducing the cellulose to something like http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sorbitol ) but may reduce (and so "vanishing") the ink: http://www.jeb.co.in/journal_issues/200911_nov09/paper_05.pdf http://www.deepdyve.com/lp/de-gruyter/degradation-of-cellulose-by-sodium-borohydride-b1EI17tyhs --> You can use a little bit of NaBH4 to make whiter paperTier666 (talk) 08:15, 26 September 2014 (UTC)

Google Sodium Borohydride + Paper and the majority of results are based on its use to bleach the pulp during manufacture. A quick search doesn't yield any obvious results on the effects on printed paper. --Pudder (talk) 09:10, 26 September 2014 (UTC)

Look at that! My chemistry degree comes in handy for once! NaBH4 is used for lots of reductions in organic synthesis. The fact that he is using it on paper (an organic substance) doesn't seem to add to the comic in my opinion. NaBH4 is one of the strongest reducers, so I think it's more of an archetypal reference rather than a specific reference. My two cents. Also I fixed the explanation of reduction. 09:18, 26 September 2014 (UTC)

If Black Hat is having trouble oxidizing the bill, might I suggest chlorine trifluoride? (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Or you can try the infamous Dioxygen Diflouride... [1] (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Can someone explain more explicitly what "improve the resulting paper's properties" means? What properties are changed and how does that change represent an improvement (sturdier, whiter, easier to fold, easier to get ink to bind to it, etc.)? Djbrasier (talk) 20:54, 26 September 2014 (UTC)

Generally for reductive bleaching for improved brightness in the pulp and paper industry. Often used but not as a rule after a peroxide (oxidative) bleaching step to get several more ISO points of brightness by reducing chromophores. Datasheet from one manufacturer: http://www.montchem.com/MontBrite1240.pdf (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Wouldn't Mr. Pedantic suggest Black Hat's question to be "... REDUCING YOUR MORTGAGE BILL."? Would've made more sense to him given Black Hat's explanation. NerillDP (talk) 00:25, 30 September 2014 (UTC)

Not necessarily. The payment appears to take the form of a paper check, checks are usually issued by a bank(1), and the paper on which they're printed is controlled by the company contracted to produce the checks (not necessarily the bank, but saying "your bank uses some really weird paper [for printing your checks]" is a reasonable thing to say). (1) To be super-pedantic, you can technically write a valid check on pretty much anything that will accept permanent writing, but getting a bank to accept it might be a little tricky. 23:15, 18 October 2014 (UTC)
See the negotiable cow/getting HM Revenue and Customs to accept it as payment 18:05, 27 December 2014 (UTC)

This is one of those jokes that would be extremely hard to translate to different languages. Translating "Reduce" a mortgage bill in Russian, for example, would result in a direct translation to "restore" = "восстановление" (as a redox reaction part). Having your mortgage payments restored to full would hurt more than reducing them with NaBH4. 11:37, 26 October 2023 (UTC)