Friday, July 1, 2011

Mad Science

Dante, Inferno XXVII, The Logician Devil

He must come down among my menials;
the counsel that he gave was fraudulent;
since then, I've kept close track, to snatch his scalp;

one can't absolve a man who's not repented,
and no one can repent and will at once;
the law of contradiction won't allow it.'

O miserable me, for how I started
when he took hold of me and said: 'Perhaps
you did not think that I was a logician!'

A Prototype

"So much has been done — more, far more, will I achieve: treading in the steps already marked, I will pioneer a new way, explore unknown powers, and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation..." — Victor Frankenstein

James Whale, Frankenstein, 1931

"There is something at work in my soul which I do not understand. I am practically industrious — painstaking, a workman to execute with perseverance and labour..." (Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, 1818)

Fritz Kahn, Man as Industrial Palace, 1926

Boris Karloff as Dr. Jekyll (1953)

"If each, I told myself, could be housed in separate identities, life would be relieved of all that was unbearable..." - Henry Jekyll

Claude Rains as The Invisible Man (1933; dir. James Whale)

“Power, I said! Power to walk into the gold vaults of the nations, into the secrets of kings, into the Holy of Holies; power to make multitudes run squealing in terror at the touch of my little invisible finger. Even the moon’s frightened of me, frightened to death!”

John Frankenheimer, The Island Of Dr Moreau, 1996

Set in the year 2010, Dr. Moreau (Brando) has successfully combined human and animal DNA to make a crossbreed animal. Well, as usual, something goes wrong and David Thewlis must try to stop it before it is too late. Based on a story by H.G. Wells.

Frank-N-Furter unveils his creation — The brainless beauty Rocky Horror.

Joseph Green, The Brain That Wouldn't Die, 1962

Dr. Bill Cortner (Jason Evers) is a successful scientist with a beautiful fiancée named Jan Compton (Virginia Leith). After a horrible car accident decapitates Jan, Dr. Cortner collects her severed head and rushes it to his laboratory, where he revives it and manages to keep it alive in a liquid-filled tray. Cortner now decides to commit murder to obtain an attractive new body to attach to his fiancée's head...

Brigitte Helm as Maria in Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1926)

 Rudolf Klein-Rogge as Dr. Rotwang in Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1926)

Many aspects of Rotwang's appearance and character, particularly the black gloved "mechanical" hand, turn up in the title character of Dr. Strangelove (below). Rotwang was very influential in the iconography of the mad scientist archetype. His laboratory, with its profusion of Tesla coils and towering switch panels, baroque chemical equipment and pipework, became a stock feature of many later films, including many in the Frankenstein series. Like Victor Frankenstein, he attempts to "play God" by creating life, only to be defeated and destroyed in the end.

Peter Sellers as Dr. Strangelove in Stanley Kubrick's movie (1964)

President Merkin Muffley: How is it possible for this thing to be triggered automatically and at the same time impossible to untrigger?

Dr. Strangelove: Mr. President, it is not only possible, it is essential. That is the whole idea of this machine, you know. Deterrence is the art of producing in the mind of the enemy... the FEAR to attack. And so, because of the automated and irrevocable decision-making process which rules out human meddling, the Doomsday machine is terrifying and simple to understand... and completely credible and convincing.

Nikola Tesla

Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison

Chew, the eye manufacturer in Ridley Scott's Blade Runner (1982) 

Stanley Kubrick, A Clockwork Orange

Alex: You needn't take it any further, sir. You've proved to me that all this ultraviolence and killing is wrong, wrong, and terribly wrong. I've learned me lesson, sir. I've seen now what I've never seen before. I'm cured! Praise god!

Dr. Brodsky: You're not cured yet, boy.

Michaël Borremans, The Pupils, 2001

Jake & Dinos Chapman, Disasters of War No.72, 2000

Herbert Ploberger, Untitled, c. 1930

Herbert List via Fantomatik

Laurence Olivier as Dr. Szell in John Schlesinger's "Marathon Man" (1976)

Manny Coto, Dr. Giggles, 1992

In the quiet neighborhood of the fictional town of Moorehigh in 1957, a physician named Dr. Rendell seems like a nice enough man, but there is one problem: his patients keep disappearing...

Dieter Asmus, Frog Test (Dr. Rock), 1983

19th century engraving of Homunculus from Goethe's Faust part II

It flashes, see! Now truly we may hold
That if from substances a hundredfold,
Through mixture - for on mixture all depends-
Man's substance gently be consolidated,
In an alembic sealed and segregated,
And properly be cohobated,
In quiet and success the labour ends.
Goethe, Faust
Gösta Ekman as Faust in F.W. Murnau's  1926 movie

"What lies beyond doesn't worry me.
Suppose you break this world to bits, another may arise." 

Joseph Wright of Derby, The Alchemist in Search of the Philosophers Stone, 1771

Paul Wegener and Lya de Putti in The Golem, 1920

The Golem is based on an old Jewish legend about rabbi Löw, who formed an immensely strong man out of clay to protect the getto of Prague. The protagonist Athanasius Pernath wanders through the distorted slums of the getto in a nightmare, restlessly in search of the golem. Finally he encounters the creature in a liberating vision as a doppelgänger in the labyrinth of his own soul.

Wernher von Braun, Inventor of the V1 Rocket, standing behind Heinrich Himmler

"Science does not have a moral dimension. It is like a knife. If you give it to a surgeon or a murderer, each will use it differently." - Wernher von Braun

Anonymous (Germany), Who is an Aryan?, 1933

Adam Cvijanovic, Love Poem (10 minutes after the end of gravity), 2005

Thomas Pynchon's "Gravity Rainbow" (1973) split the Pulitzer board to the extent that no award was given in 1974. American GI Tyrone Slothrop is hunted by a wing of British Scientists, media men, military personnel and lunatics called The White Visitation, after it comes to light that every time he has sex with a British woman, a V2 rocket hits the house within days and that his erections may be able to predict V2 attacks on London. 

Vincent Price in Tim Burton's Edward Scissorhands

Vincent Price in Edward Scissorhands might just be the kindliest Mad Scientist ever. His second-most-impressive creation (after Edward) is a giant cookie-making machine.

Johnny Depp as Edward Scissorhands

Peter Lorre as Dr. Gogol in Karl Freund's Mad Love (1935)

 Raoul Hausmann, Dada (Collage for the First International Dada Fair in Berlin), 1920

Artificial hand, from Ambroise Paré's Instrumenta chyrurgiae et icones anathomicae, Paris, 1564

Reeducation of mutilés de guerres at the Maison blanche reeducation camp for agricultural workers, January 8, 1919. Reproduced in Surrealist Masculinités.

DARPA prosthetic arms

DARPA, the US Government's official program to fund Mad Science. Their only mission is "radical innovation". They fund all sorts of seemingly off the wall projects. Among their successes are night-vision goggles, GPS, and a little thing called the Internet...

Micro Air Vehicle

Micro Air Vehicle by the Bionik Department of Berlin Technical University - Inspired by Ernst Jünger's novel "Glass Bees": Zapparoni, a brilliant businessman, has turned his advanced understanding of technology, and strategic command of the information and entertainment industries, into a discrete, and seemingly benign, form of global domination. But Zapparoni is worried that the scientists he depends on might take his secrets to a rival. He needs a chief of security, and Richard, a veteran and war hero who has fallen on hard times, is ready.


Béla Lugosi as Dr. Paul Carruthers in  The Devil Bat (1940) 

Dr. Paul Carruthers is a cosmetic company chemist who is upset at his wealthy employers, because he feels they have denied him his due share of company success. To get revenge, he breeds giant bats. He then conditions them to kill those wearing a special after-shave lotion he has concocted. He cleverly distributes the lotion to his enemies as a "test" product.

Jack Arnold, Tatantula, 1958

Professor Gerald Deemer, who is trying to prevent the food shortages is working on a nutrient which results in gigantic animals but turns humans into lumpy-faced mutants. One of his human experiments attacks him and tries to destroy his laboratory and, although the resulting fire means the death of a giant guinea pig, a monstrous tarantula manages to escape into the desert...

Kurt Neumann, The Fly, 1958

Scientist Andre Delambre is found dead with his head and arm crushed in a hydraulic press. His wife Helene confesses to the crime. She is obsessed with flies, particularly a white-headed fly...

Woody Allen, Everything You Wanted To Know About Sex... (1972)

Sure, there’s the giant boob attack and Dr. Bernado (Gene Wilder)  a mad sex analyst whose experiments include measuring premature ejaculation on a hippopotamus and building a 400-foot diaphragm. ("Contraception for the entire nation at once!") , but there is no other scene we could possibly love more than one where Woody Allen plays a neurotic sperm being fired out of a penis.

Fritz Kahn, The Male Erection System, 1937

Jake & Dinos Chapman, Disasters of War No.77, 2000


What happens when you take 76 images of blowjobs (as in fellatio, as in oral sex), and mathematically average them? What you get is a blurry fuzzy picture. This usage of math in art is by Jason Salavon. He aptly calls it 76 Blowjobs.

Gender Studies, Stanford 1958

Thomas Ruff, Nudes ru05, 2000

Hegel, Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences (1830), Introduction §5

Everybody allows that to make a shoe you must have learned and practised the craft of the shoemaker, though every man has a model in his own foot, and possesses in his hands the natural endowments for the operations required. For philosophy alone, it seems to be imagined, such study, care, and application are not in the least requisite. This comfortable view of what is required for a philosopher has recently received corroboration through the theory of immediate or intuitive knowledge.

Robert Rodriguez, Sin City, 2005

When you want to activate a Weapon Of Mass Destruction, a Mad Scientist's invention, an electricity-based method of execution (especially an electric chair), you have two options. One of them is the Big Red Button, and the other is the old-fashioned electric switch with a huge handle, which sends sparks flying when activated.

Martin Miller, "The Gadget", (Trinity Atomic Bomb), 1945

"Once ze rockets are up, who cares vhere zey come down? 

Zat's not my department," says Wernher von Braun."
Tom Lehrer, "Wernher von Braun"

Martin Miller, Minuteman II ICBM Launch Control Center Delta-01, 1965
"World Wide Delivery In 30 Minutes Or Less"

 Gerd Ludwig, Life Endures. Pripyat, Chernobyl Zone, Ukraine, 2005

BRL Nuclear Weapon Effects Computer (ca. 1960)

The Nuclear Weapons Effects Computer No. 1 was manufactured by Blundell Rules Limited of Weymouth England. Its purpose is to predict a variety of consequences of a nuclear explosion. The magnitude of the burst is specified (in kilotons or megatons) and the calculator estimates, for various distances from ground zero, the damage to buildings, the crater dimensions, the percent of the population killed, trapped, and seriously injured.

General McChrystal: “When we understand that slide, we’ll have won the war”

William Hogarth, The Reward Of Cruelty, 1799

Paul Ronard, The dissection of a young, beautiful woman, 1864

A Fine Childhood
by Gottfried Benn

The mouth of a girl who had long lain in the reeds
looked so chewed up.
When we broke open the torso, the esophagus was so full of holes.
Finally in a bower under the diaphragm
we found a nest of young rats.
One little sister rat lay dead.
The others were living off liver and kidney,
drinking the cold blood and enjoying
a fine childhood.
And fine and fast was their death too:
we threw the whole bunch into water.
Oh, how those little snouts squeaked!

Gabriel von Max, The Anatomist, 1869

Take off all your clothing,
We've only just begun.
We have no anaesthesia,
It's 1841!

Emilie Autumn, "Miss Lucy Had Some Leeches"

Georges Chicotot, The First Attempt to Treat Cancer with X-Rays, 1907

Dana Schutz, How we cured the plague, 2007

Dr. Barber: Hmmm...good news. You have the plague. 
Patient: Why is that good news? 
Dr. Barber: Because now I get to conduct medical experiments! 

The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack

Franz Sedlacek, Beim Moulagenmacher (Moulage Studio), 1932

Moulage is the art of applying mock injuries for the purpose of training Emergency Response Teams and other medical and military personnel. Moulage may be as simple as applying pre-made rubber or latex "wounds" to a healthy "patient's" limbs, chest, head, etc., or as complex as using complicated makeup and theatre techniques to provide elements of realism (such as blood, vomitus, open fractures, etc.) to the training simulation.

Buckminster Fuller

Buckminster Fuller  invented many things, few of which saw much use. He made up words by dicing up other words and sticking the parts together. He slept two hours a day, spread across four 30-minute naps, for two years. He kept a diary of his entire life, updating it every 15 minutes and including a family history, newspaper clippings, sketches, and copies of all bills and correspondence. From 1915 to 1983 he was still very influential, however.

New Math

Some of you who have small children may have perhaps been put in the embarrassing position of being unable to do your child's arithmetic homework because of the current revolution in mathematics teaching known as the New Math. 

Power of Mathematics

"Strange as it may sound, the power of mathematics rests on its evasion of all unnecessary thought" - Ernst Mach

Grey Villet, Tiny squirrel monkey strapped into capsule for space travel, 1958

Henry Stacy Marks, Science is Measurement

Gabriel von Max, Affe vor Skelett, c. 1890

Alfred Kubin, Science, 1901