The Letters Page: Editor's Note 30
An Editor's Note all about us being bad at Science!
Run Time: 1:24:11
Here's the upcoming schedule!
- Tuesday, June 4th: Episode #112 - Void Guard Follow-Up
- Tuesday, June 11th: Episode #113 - The New Slaughterhouse Six
- Tuesday, June 18th: Editor’s Note #31
- Tuesday, June 25th: Episode #114 - Create a Thing: LIVE!
After only about 5 minutes of light goofs and scheduling, we get into your questions, which are mostly the very "well actuallies" we asked for. But we do have a secret surprise guest appearance in the second half of this Editor's Note! You'll just have to listen to find out more!
- Dr. Medico
- La Comodora
- Plague Rat
- Fright Train
- Jansa vi Dero
- Bloodsworn Entity
- Blood Countess Bathory
- Captain Cosmic
- Argent Adept
- Pool Shark
- The video game adaptation of the OblivAeon game has unique dialog for each hero/variant that enters play, did you have trouble coming up with appropriate material for anybody as they prepare for the epic battle? Did you have trouble balancing seriousness and humor? Any favorites? Fun fact: Christopher didn’t actually write most of them - he did a bunch and laid the groundwork for how things should go, but most of the individual lines were a collaborative effort of users broccoli and Braithwhite. Handelabra needed the lines and Christopher was just very busy, but he knows these two and that they care about/understand the characters (and that they disagree on stuff, which is surprisingly good for the creative process) and so after a sit-down with the two of them where they went through the process he let them loose. He tweaked things at the end as appropriate (which occasionally meant throwing out their submission to write it himself), but most of the heavy lifting was them. It’s an exciting point to have reached where other people get the characters enough that somebody other than Christopher and Adam can be part of the creative process to this extent (the first time for writing whereas Adam’s been dealing with other people doing art for RPG materials for a while now). They haven’t actually had much time to play the video game version of OblivAeon to the point where Adam doesn’t really know any of the lines, but Christopher likes Luminary’s. The non-OblivAeon opening dialog for the new characters was also part of this process and Christopher also likes the Matriarch/Harpy interaction where the latter retorts with “Quoth the Harpy: Nevermore.”
- You said that Dr. Medico could restore the ability of a pancreas to produce insulin (and therefore cure diabetes), but also that he can’t repair tissue that couldn’t heal naturally to some extent (so no regrowing a lost limb from a stump) - this latter would mean that he should not be able to cure fully-developed type I diabetes as it’s essentially an autoimmune disorder where the immune system attacks/destroys the beta cell clusters within the pancreas that are responsible for insulin production. The onset of type I diabetes is when these cells have all been destroyed and it seems unlikely that Dr. Medico would be able to restore something that is no longer there. However, the statement made that he could moderate autoimmune disorders means that he could possibly make a difference if he starts treating somebody who’s in the onset stages of the disorder before all of the cells have died. Without getting into the weeds too much with the details, it’s worth noting that type II diabetes is a very different disorder and is likely something Medico could handle (and “cure” obesity in the process). Between this and preventing androgenic alopecia (i.e. male-pattern baldness) he stands to make a fortune in the cosmetic “surgery” market if he had a mind to.
- Of course what they meant to say was that he could cure type II diabetes. That’s obviously what they meant to say and they aren’t backpedaling right now. [They do this “Of course that’s what we meant” bit a few more times in later letters, but I’ll ignore ones that don’t go much beyond that to provide something interesting.]
- More Medico stuff! You said that Dr. Medico could make it so that a organ transplant is fully accepted by the recipient. In reality, the recipient’s immune system recognizes the donated organ as foreign material and would attack it if not for the lifetime regimen of immunosuppressants that such patients adhere to to prevent it, so it’s very unlikely that Medico would be able to prevent rejection unless he somehow changed the cellular makeup of the donated tissue (or their antigenic presentation, which is how the immune system would recognize it as foreign to begin with). As a doctor, I’d still likely recommend the immunosuppressants as a precautionary measure regardless.
- You kept referring to the molten rock present in Magmaria as “lava”, but this term is specific to molten rock that has actually reached the surface so surely the correct term here would have been “magma”.
- [Trajector writes in a letter that also points out the fact that type I diabetes is an autoimmune disorder as Dr. Scott did in the first Well Actually… letter above.]
- You said that the universe has negative curvature, but then used the food analogy of pancakes as how they’re stacked on top of one another and pancakes are flat - a much better negatively-curved food analogy would have been a stack of Kale leaves.
- Christopher likes this one as it would allow points of contact between realities without having them everywhere. Adam counters with just having a stack of non-like foods like a kale leaf, then a pancake, then an orange, etc. Another possibility would be to take a can of Todito’s popular snack crisps, Shmringles [[Vindication!](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSTN3mHEAOA)] as they have good curvature, but then put them back in the can with alternating orientation so that they don’t stack so neatly.
- In the Temporal Targets episode you mentioned that a universe lousy with black holes was what was used to trap the Evil Guise. This question requires some context: Edwin Hubble’s discovery of cosmological redshift gave credence to the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe [as opposed to the prior Steady State model]. Additionally, the laws of thermodynamics [colloquially explained as: there is a game, you can’t win, you can’t break even, and you can’t stop playing it] lead to a few end-states of the universe. One in which the universe’s expansion outpaces gravity and eventually we reach a thermodynamic equilibrium where no more energy is available to do work (i.e. the “Big Freeze” model, also known as the “Heat Death of the Universe”) and another where gravity is dominant and eventually a “reverse Big Bang” happens as all matter and energy in the universe collapses down into another singularity (i.e. the “Big Crunch” model). In this latter example, it’s possible that this new singularity could eventually arise to another Big Bang event. Now to the actual question: if the universe that is trapping the Evil Guise has so many black holes, it seems likely that that universe is on its way to a Big Crunch. If so, would an eventual Big Bang event in some way have Guise imprinted on the new reality that forms? It seems possible considering that his consciousness seems to be intact within the singularity prison he’s currently in, so why not have it survive just having more of the same inflicted on it?
- That’s a fun mental exercise to think about everything in that new universe having a little bit of Guise in it. Adam says that he’s heard of a “God Particle” and that the equivalent here could be the Guise Particle [note: “God Particle” is a nickname applied to the Higgs Boson that comes from the title of a book written about trying to discover it. It’s funny because the author wanted to call it the “Goddamn Particle” given the difficulties in doing so, but his publisher objected.] Also, it’s worth specifying that while the Big Crunch is likely in that specific universe, that doesn’t mean that it or the Big Freeze are the only/likely possible end-states of any given reality in the Multiverse of Sentinel Comics.
- You said that Tachyon’s top speed was faster than light (as her namesake particle would imply), but here we go with more physics! According to Relativity, the velocity of an object with mass is given by: v = γmc^(2) where v is the velocity, γ [lower-case gamma, Christopher calls it a y] is the Lorentz factor (which is variable in this case), m is the object’s mass, and c is the speed of light (299,792,458 meters per second). [I’m going to jump in here as the equation as read doesn’t work, but the rest of the question works if we make an adjustment - velocity is part of the definition of the Lorentz factor and is the only variable in the equation if we assume that Tachyon’s mass is a constant - γ = 1/sqrt(1-(v(2)/c(2))) - so it can’t also be on the left side. Instead, we should probably be looking at a more complete version of Einstein’s energy-mass equivalence: E = γmc^(2).] If v = 0, that brings γ to 1 and we get the more familiar energy-mass equivalence E = mc^(2). Assuming that Tachyon’s resting mass is positive and constant, for her to be able to accelerate to c, as her velocity increases, so does the Lorentz factor and thus the energy required to cause this acceleration. As v approaches c, the energy required to do so approaches infinity, which given the laws of thermodynamics is unavailable. How does Tachyon tap into some hitherto unknown energy source that would allow her to so accelerate?
- How does she get past this “infinite energy” problem? That’s the question she’s been trying to answer ever since the accident that gave her powers.
- [Additional note - if we look at the definition of the Lorentz factor we can see that it takes quite large velocities for it to start really making a difference because it’s comparing the square of the velocity we care about to the square of the already very-large speed of light. If the velocity is low (like in every-day human experience), the Lorentz factor remains essentially 1 and has negligible effect in the Energy equation. It’s only when the velocity begins to approach c that it begins making a major impact in the energy requirements - it is only equal to 2 after the velocity is at approximately 86.6% of c and is still less than 23 once the velocity is 99.9% of c. It’s that last little bit where we’re approaching v=c that the value of γ, and therefore the energy of the system, explodes to infinity.]
- Keeping all of that in mind, we also know that objects traveling at relativistic velocities also experience time at a slower rate than an observer “at rest” [also scaled by the Lorentz factor], which could handily help explain Tachyon’s reaction times when going that fast, but it does cross over into weird time-travel stuff once we exceed c. Has this ever caused any kinds of time travel shenanigans in the comics?
- Probably, but not anything substantial. Her stories aren’t “time travel stories”. That falls into “science fiction” and her whole deal is science fact (despite the fact that she’s a science-fictiony character). Christopher does get the idea that it’s likely that there was some La Comodora story where we see Tachyon speed by through the timestream or something and Chrono-Ranger wonders what it is. “Oh that’s just Tachyon. She doesn’t know it, but she’s bending time whenever she does this.”
- Granting that Tachyon has access to infinite energy and that she has positive mass, how does she get around the infinite amounts of friction she encounters (every energy transfer is lossy, so to move she’s losing energy to the environment, but she’s dealing with infinite amounts of energy, so that’s a lot of energy entering the system from nowhere)?
- Part of her power must also be to internalize and mitigate this process. Instead of the energy escaping into the environment, it must be turned inward somehow (which could explain what’s going on when she goes fast enough to harm herself - she’s outpacing her power’s ability to deal with this friction).
- Mindwanderer calls them to task for the whole slew of reasons that anything with (positive) mass can’t reach, let alone exceed the speed of light. He goes so far as to point out that even science-fiction FTL technology often comes up with some explanation for how things can get from A to B faster than light without actually accelerating to/past that speed themselves. [I would point out one exception I can think of offhand - the inertialess drive from E. E. “Doc” Smith’s Lensman series which gets away with it without resorting to hyperspace, wormholes, or any of the other standard workarounds. A fun side effect of the way it works is that the ultimate speed limit of a FTL ship is due to the friction with interstellar dust/gas, so the classic streamlined look for spaceships is still there for a reason.] Even things approaching the speed of light would cause problems: see this explanation of what happens with a baseball thrown at .9c (spoiler: the batter would be ruled “hit by pitch” and could advance to first base if either the batter or first base still existed). Traveling faster than light comes with its own time-travel weirdness - one thought experiment is even called the Tachyon Murder Paradox [the one I’m familiar with is actually the Tachyon Telephone Paradox but it’s a similar deal]. As for how can she move faster than the eye can see if she’s not moving faster than light, that’s simple due to the fact that human perception pretty slow (think about how movies trick us into believing that many still frames shown in quick succession are actually showing moving objects).
- More stuff to throw on the pile of “that’s why she can’t figure out how her own powers work”. We’re dealing with Super Science and the complications you point out are just more things for her to chew on.
- Trajector with possibly the shortest letter they’ve ever done coming in at about 33:20: “Raptor-bot should have feathers.”
- Adam: “No.” Christopher: [laughs in the background] - it’s just the perfect amount of trolling and “well, actually…” Adam then goes on to remind us that Insula Primalis dinosaurs work by Jurassic Park rules as the dinosaurs there evolved in such a way over the millions of years to lose their feathers and whatnot. [Somebody in Discord chat points out a while later in the episode that there is a shorter one out there: “Haka smash?”]
- Brian Jewett starts us off with a question at 35:55 (requested to be read in a Captain Kirk vocal style) full of technobabble boiling down to if they should do some complicated rerouting of stuff or just whack the thing with something (and if the latter if a wooden or metal bat would be preferred). They recommend the not-whacking option, but if you must whack to use a Nerf^(TM) bat.
- We know that Legacy’s powers are genetic, but how do his powers actually manifest? Like, most things who have inherited a genetic ability to fly have wings to accomplish that, which he lacks, so what’s going on with how his powers work rather than why he has them to begin with? It’s all ultimately being drawn from the cosmic power of Wellspring. Christopher: “He flings himself into the air using his massive strength and then he stays in the air by sheer force of will.” [laughs] Seriously, though, they equate it to a kind of involuntary telekinesis ability (like, he just knows that he can fly, he’s not thinking about it in terms of telekinetic powers in general). Like, how do you move your arm? You just do it, you’re not consciously thinking about the individual muscle fibers and motor neurons.
- Tachyon’s our speedster in-residence, but does she get frustrated with the internet as she is limited by the bandwidth of the network connection in how fast she can actually pull up information on it? You’re right - the bandwidth has been a problem in the past, but nowadays she works around that somewhat by just having a bunch of tabs open across several monitors. She’ll get a bunch of things open, will finish one tab and click over to the next. While that browser is performing the actual transition to the new tab (which is fast, but not as fast as she’d like) she can focus over on another screen that already has an unread tab visible. Back in the old days when web-rings were a thing she’d instead have to do this with multiple computers to help spread the traffic around - of course, in that era she would have been more reliant on print media for her scientific information consumption and more of her research time would have been spent in libraries.
- After hearing the origin story of Plague Rat and how it lines up with what we learned later about Isoflux Alpha, it made me wonder - is he an Omega? No, all of the drugs and other drugs that weren’t just stuff like Über-meth were things that could mess with gene expression and recombining his DNA with the rats in the same environment (plus the sewage and probably radioactive sludge from somewhere) , so his transformation into a rat beast while living in a sewer like a rat is unrelated to the process by which Isoflux Alpha keys into the nature of a person when granting powers.
- Who else is an Omega (besides Mainstay, Dr. Medico, Rockstar, and the majority of Southwest Sentinels villains)? Choke is (with Chokepoint having additional nonsense on top of that, but she’s kind of a SS villain too). Nobody else that they have in mind as an Omega is somebody that they are willing to state publicly as being such at this time. They don’t have many.
- If Luminary uses his Terralunar Translocator to clear away a Hostage Situation, Targeting Innocents, and a Plummeting Monorail, are those people ok? Probably not if you’re using it to drop chunks of the moon on stuff, but Adam brings up the good point that the essence of this device is to create a portal, and that can probably be used to do things other than dropping chunks of the moon on stuff if pointed out to him.
- I could see him doing so to the Paparazzi, though, even with Legacy looking over his shoulder. Eh… probably not. He’s not that malicious in general. He’s not the type to off somebody just because they’re taking pictures of him.
- If Luminary was on another planet, would he still be dropping in chunks of Earth’s moon? Does that take extra power? Again, it’s intended to do moon-related stuff by his design/preference, but they’re pretty versatile portals and it’s just a matter of calibration. He could probably use them to cover those vast distances without extra energy and if he’s going to Dok’Thorath he may as well work out the specs for still having it connect to Earth’s moon as something to do on the way there.
- Did having him drop a small mountain of moon rock onto Earth help out researchers after the fact? Yes.
- It looks like Luminary had been originally planning on using the OG Impulsion Beam to drop the whole moon on OblivAeon before being talked out of it - would that have actually worked? If you read the flavor text on the relevant card you’d know that it totally would have worked. Do you not believe him? Of course, while it likely would have done a lot of damage to OblivAeon, it also likely would have wound up killing all of humanity, so then where would that leave us?
- Has there been any research into the genetics of superheroes to see if there’s some underlying commonality between everybody with powers regardless of catalyst? That’s like 90% of what the genetics-wing of RevoCorp is working on. The results of that research is why Setback (well, the Legacy-lite stuff), Ambuscade, and Fright Train have powers. It’s all shady human trials that most people wouldn’t volunteer for, so it’s slow going.
- Does Tachyon have a “law” or particle named after her (well, besides tachyons themselves - insert joke about how they arrive before they leave here)? There is a “Stinson’s equation” that’s far too complicated to go into here. [They’ve actually gone back and forth on the timeline of when the name “tachyon” shows up in Sentinel Comics - an early episode mentioned that she pre-dated the paper that first applied that term to a hypothetical FTL particle, but then another episode pushed her later before the actual timeline project pushed her creation far enough back to have solidly predated the paper again, so we’re all good now.]
- Can you at least tell us what Stinson’s Equation is about/used for? Nope, because they’re not scientists or mathematicians. Maybe something about “variable constants”?
- Could they have used the Impulsion Beam to have thrown OblivAeon into the moon rather than the other way around? In his third form, sure, but that’s not a great idea as unless you’ve found a way to lock him down he can pretty much go anywhere he likes. If you throw him at the moon (i.e. outside of whatever containment you’ve set up to hold him), then he could just blip back to Earth or whatever.
Bonus Section About Prime War with the Lore Forge Games Team
- Why didn’t the heroes of the Vertex timeline try to find a Mist Portal to continue the fight with OblivAeon in the interim period between when the timeline split happened and when Voss cut Universe 1 off from the Multiverse? They didn’t know - at the time of the split the portals didn’t exist yet. From a meta perspective, the whole deal with the timeline split wasn’t apparent until the Vertex line itself started up which was years after the fact.
- So, once the Timelines are Unshattered and realities are more or less sealed off from one another again, how do the non-Singular Entity Prime Aspects manage reality hopping during Prime War? Was there some agreement to level the playing field for Jansa and the Bloodsworn Entity? Does the Mist Storm make things easier somehow? “Prime Aspects” is a new concept that wasn’t a thing before and becoming one represents a significant power boost over what they were before. So, while those 2 aren’t Singular Entities, they do still manage to acquire the reality hopping power necessary to participate and it’s actually pretty hard for a mortal being to really distinguish them from a Singular Entity on a power scale. There are “gaps” in the fabric of reality in the situation we find the Multiverse in at the close of the SotM timeline that allows Jansa and the Bloodsworn force to take up power to “ascend” to the station of Prime Aspect and become somewhat detached from reality in the process. It’s not just something that they could have done on their own prior to that.
- You have said that Prime Aspects don’t mess with the past of timelines and only concern themselves with the “present”, but from a vantage point outside of time and space, aren’t distinctions between times irrelevant? Do they just agree that 2025 is the year that counts as the “present” for their little competition? It’s important to note that they still understand the concept of time. You can be in your house and then leave your house, but you still understand what your house is while you’re outside of it. They know when “now” is from their perspective and can see where it is that various realities touch that time and when we say that they don’t mess with history, that’s all it is - they are aware of when “now” is and don’t reach further back. However, keep in mind that realities don’t always line up in their chronology, so that “now” for these outside observers might be in the past or future from what we recognize. From a meta-perspective, remember that this is comic book storytelling and it still has to make sense in that way.
- They took characters from the Vertex universe because it was ending and there were no futures for those people, but wouldn’t taking recruits from other non-ending realities cause problems in those realities? Yes, yes it would if those also weren’t timelines that were ending. What OblivAeon (and to some extent Voss) did caused ongoing residual damage to timelines and so all of the recruits are from similarly doomed realities. Prime War is in large part about this ongoing cataclysm (in addition to the realities that OblivAeon just straight up succeeded in destroying).
- Does the Bloodsworn force have a physical form? There will be a visual representation, but they wouldn’t go so far as to call it a “physical form”. From a comic-book perspective it would be difficult to have a player that’s not visible and it can manifest itself in a way that’s visible (plus the other Prime Aspects can just “see” it given their higher state of consciousness or whatever).
- Can you give a ballpark figure on how “done” Prime War is? Yes. [walks away from the mic] It’s come along very well. They haven’t had to make any major changes in the last few months, which tends to be a good sign, but who knows what playtesters are going to find?
- Who would win in a pun-fight, Christopher, Arn, or Pseudo? One, Christopher is above such things. Two, he does collaborative things so why a pun-fight?
- Will you [Lore Forge] be at Origins or Gen Con? They’ll be at Gen Con and PAX Unplugged, but not Origins.
- Will there be a Kickstarter? TBD - they go back and forth on that. As soon as a definite decision is made they’ll announce it.
- These characters used by the Prime Aspects are only from destroyed universes? Eh… They’re refugees from their timelines in one way or another and are therefore “up for grabs”. For example, Haka is from the main universe rather than a destroyed one. People stranded due to the Mist Gates closing are also potentials.
- I demand Barzakh backstory! Not a question, but given that you’re in the Discord chat, you know how to go about making that happen.
- Are there other things besides the Parsons family that Wellspring had worked on? Interesting that you phrased it that way. Wellspring isn’t the type to get in there and “work on” a project, instead preferring to just kickstart a process and then see how things develop from there. Instead of setting up a chain of dominoes Wellspring’s the type notice a set of them set up already and then maybe adjust one’s placement slightly to do something differently and then wait to see what happens. As for the broader question of important stuff that it was responsible for… not much, really. Wellspring stepping up and doing stuff as a Prime Aspect is a major shift in behavior. As a being of Progress or Progression it’s generally going to stand back and allow things to progress on their own, only acting if there’s something actively impeding that progress or to save things from entropy (like, a series of events has reached what could be considered a “fail state” and adjusting things so that instead of that being the end it’s an opportunity for a new beginning).
- Do you want to get into what Malavox had been involved in during the Multiverse Era now? Not now. They would like to do a Singular Entity episode as they get closer to Prime War being done (it will also require more research on Christopher and Adam’s end to refresh exactly what they’ve decided and/or stated in the past regarding that stuff).
- So, F.I.L.T.E.R. was a shady organization that was around for basically the whole Multiverse Era and in theory they had a lot of agents out in various realities when they lost access to the Block and all of the OblivAeon stuff went down - could somebody go around re-recruiting these people and effectively reboot the organization? Not in Universe 1, obviously, but in theory they could if they had access to the Block. There could be a Disparation version of F.I.L.T.E.R. out there that could be semi-recognizable, but they’d have to have had their own version of the Block (or a non-Block thing that would allow them a similar level of connection to other realities).
- What characters are you [the Lore Forge team] most excited for in Prime War? What co-op scenarios are there? How will the vs. matches depict the story of Prime War? Apostate - they were given a fairly vague description of how he should play and they’re really proud of the way they made a deceiver character who doesn’t care much about his physical body plays and am excited about the PVP stuff that goes beyond just “knock out the other team’s characters” with the objectives they’ve added to things. Parse - continues to be a favorite in this iteration as she was in the card game, but will keep thoughts on the scenarios a secret as his favorite thing is best as a reveal. Sky-Scraper - a superfan of the character and wants so much to make sure that she works and how she changes size and moves around the map feels right and will also remain vague, but notes that if all of the scenario names he’s submitted wind up used you’ll all hate him. Adam loves Blood Countess. Christopher of course waffles on a favorite, but mentions Captain Cosmic, Argent Adept, and Man-Grove as he likes battlefield control.
- What are the possibilities that multiple versions of the same character wind up involved (whether on the same team or on different teams)? Team K.N.Y.F.E.? Well, we saw that team K.N.Y.F.E. wound up poorly for all of them, but the chance for multiple versions of one “person” is possible. Even if they’re the same person they can wind up vastly different from one another, so that could be interesting to explore. Or two who are the same character but different people.
- Is Bal’Taranerach powerful enough to be a Singular Entity? Powerful enough maybe, but in the wrong place. A closer parallel would be GloomWeaver in temperament.
- [One of the Lore Forge guys calls out during wrap up:] Pool Shark for Prime War? He’s in the wrong reality, but maybe some other version? A villain version who’s an actual shark?
- Adam had said that he sends out treats for good questions and that anybody who hasn’t gotten treats should know the reason why, but then said he was lying about that - so who’s been sending me these treats? While they can’t really answer this question, they’re going to kind of give an answer in the slanted half-response they do sometimes: don’t eat those treats. If you’re getting treats ostensibly from them (or just from random people), don’t eat them.