SMBC gets it right, as usual

By Phil Plait | September 26, 2010 7:00 am

smbc_sep252010As always, Zach Weiner is correct in his Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal comic; astronomy is the most romantic science. But then, it has to be when he includes me in the strip.

At least, I assume that’s me. It looks like me, it looks the way he’s drawn me before, and he’s met my wife, who has blond hair as does the woman to whom the astronomer in the strip is relaying the permutations of his love.

Plus I got quite a few tweets and emails saying it was me, too. So yeah, I’m going with it. And I’ll add, Zach, I love you more than there are stars in a cup.

Oh yeah: the comic is probably NSFW. That’s usually the way to bet with SMBC.

Related posts:

SMBC resolves the Fermi paradox
Comic Con 2: SMBC and me
Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, pandering
Strip of my dignity


Comments (33)


    A Love Letter* from a Mathematician:

    My Dear Love,

    Yesterday, I was passing by your rectangular house in trigonometric lane. There I saw you with your cute circular face, conical nose and spherical eyes, standing in your triangular garden. Before seeing you my heart was a null set, but when a vector of magnitude (likeness) from your eyes at a deviation of theta radians made a tangent to my heart, it differentiated.

    My love for you is a quadratic equation with real roots, which only you can solve by making good binary relation with me. The cosine of my love for you extends to infinity. I promise that I should not resolve you into partial functions, but if I do so, you can integrate me by applying the limits from zero to infinity.You are as essential to me as an element of a set. The geometry of my life revolves around your acute personality.

    My love, if you do not meet me at parabola restaurant on date 10 at sunset, when the sun is making an angle of 160 degrees, my heart would be like a solved polynomial of degree 10. With love from your higher order derivatives of maxima and minima, of an unknown function.

    Yours ever loving,


    *I found it on the Internet. 😛

  2. Ld Elon

    She was probably like ‘wow, your really smart’ you should go to uni to study, lol @ py, he and its romantic.

  3. Yep, when i saw it i said: that’s Phil Plait. Weiner has definitely choosen (the right) side. Now, he has made some… squishy enemies with this strip (yeah, i admit it; i’ve just read THAT blog)

  4. Messier Tidy Upper

    Am I alone here in finding something romantic, poetic and almost magical about many of the traditional star names?

    Astronomers look at many heavenly bodies! 😉
    Including :

    Larissa – looping around the azure Neptune.

    Carina – full of stellar wonders highlit by lucida* Canopus and Beta, Miaplacidus.

    Gemma in Corona Borealis aka Alphekka.

    Mimosa, Beta Crucis.

    Miranda spinning over the sideways planet.

    Phoebe circling Saturn’s outer realm & Helen, Pandora and Dione are Saturn’s moons too.

    Bellatrix the female warrior near the Belt stars Mintaka, Alnilam, Alnitak and the renowned horsehead faint beneath.

    Canis Major’s wonderful star names; Sirius, Mirzam, Wezen, Adhara, Aludra & more.

    (OTOH on the less romantic sounding side there’s Yed Posterior & Delta Gem’s Wasat moniker!)

    There’s a Peacock star, Alpha Pavonis, preening for the maiden’s Virgo and Andromeda of the galaxy’s fame and Queen Casseiopeia’s vainity seasonally turned upside down.

    There are so many stories of love placed in the sky from Zeus and Ganymede, Zeus and Europa, Zeus and Pollux and Castor fathered along with Clytemnestra and Helen in the guise of a swan thus an egg-laying queen seduced. There’s Bacchus and Ariadne – rejected by Theseus on his way home – linked in Corona Borealis.

    There’s the story of Coma Berenices, the hair of the flattered queen offered in promise of her husband’s return from war and placed in the sky so the courtier said.

    Eris ex “Buffy” the goddess of discord and offerer of the prize in the beauty contest that sparked the Trojan War.

    There’s Earth’s fiery twin Venus crossing paths with the seven sisters of Subaru, the Plieades; Alycone, Merope reflecting in her nebulosity, Maia, Electra, Caelano, Asterope and shell star Pleione.

    Yea. The heavens are crammed full to the brim with romance and poetry, names and allusions that are beautiful and worth remembering.

    Really I think there is a lot of appeal in the mythologies, the language, the poetry that are aspects of astronomy too. This goes even better with the science and its understanding of the astronomical marvels that makes the specks in the sky even more superluminously magnificent.


    * Lucida means brightest star in a constellation. The Alpha star isn’t always the brightest one – it usually is but there are many exceptions.

  5. DrFlimmer

    NSFW?? Is “sperm” not safe for work? Hm. Sounds like crying Jehovah and getting stoned for that! 😀

  6. Aaron

    Physics is somewhere in the middle:

    I love you in more ways than there are probable position eigenstates of a free particle with a well defined momentum.

  7. Jeff

    watch out- told you you were getting as famous as Carl Sagan.

  8. Gary Ansorge

    Old joke from my days as a computer field engineer with Univac(you know, the company that actually built the first electronic computers).

    As a hotel clerk walked past the open transoms from three rooms he heard:

    1) a computer software engineer telling his new wife how great things were.
    2) a computer salesman telling his new wife how great things were going to be.
    3) a computer field engineer telling his new wife “It’ll be up in a minute.”

    I love when my “computer” is up and running.

    Gary 7

  9. Gary Ansorge

    Oops! Double post.

  10. Trebuchet

    @ #5 MTU: “Buffy”??? Surely you meant “Xena”.

    Is it just me, or do others also hope that someday Zach makes enough money cartooning to buy a shirt?

  11. Jearley

    I think that he third guy should have been drawn to look like Seth.

  12. Cindy

    I loved whenever I tell people that I used a telescope for my Ph.D. thesis and they would reply “Observing sounds so romantic”. I would disappoint them by saying “Not really. Staying up all night, drinking cold tea, and staring at a computer screen isn’t terribly romantic.”

    I have always wanted to go on observing run with Phil because I’m sure he’d have me laughing so hard from his funny stories and commentary.

  13. Brian

    Wacky scientists. =P

  14. Douglas Troy

    Computer Science

    I love you in more ways than there are 0’s and 1’s on the internet.

  15. Daniel J. Andrews

    Biology is very romantic. A friend of mine complained her old boyfriend treated her like pond scum. My reply was, “Date a biologist. We know that pond scum is very interesting stuff and valuable products have been processed from pond scum”. So she did date a biologist, and he treated her like pond scum…and so far, we’re both living happily ever after. :)

  16. Tribeca Mike

    “You are incorrigibly meddlesome, Doctor, but we’ve always felt that your hearts are in the right places.”

    — Unnamed Time Lord, in “Terror of the Autons”

  17. #5 MTU:
    Unfortunately, many star names are a lot less “romantic”, when you consider their translations – especially the Arabic ones, which are often just descriptions of their positions in the constellation figures. e.g. Betelgeuse means “The giant’s armpit”! :-)

  18. The Scientist’s Love Song ( I didn’t make it up, honest! )

    She sings:
    First you must tell me, what makes the stars shine?
    What makes the ivy around the tree twine?
    Next you must tell me, what makes the sky blue?
    Then finally tell me, why should I love you?

    He sings:
    It’s nuclear fusion that makes the stars shine.
    The process of tropism makes ivy twine.
    Scattering of light in the Earth’s atmosphere makes the sky blue, you see,
    And a good dose of pheromones would make you love me!

  19. Coty T.

    Economists: I am incapable of feeling!


  20. We biologists tend to be more creative than “sperm in a cup of semen”. Perhaps “bacteria in a human gut”, or “species of insect on this planet”, or “all the fish there used to be in the sea before we fished them out”…

  21. Charles Sullivan

    I’d advise against putting the words “my wife” “strip” and “blond hair” all in the same sentence.

  22. JB of Brisbane

    “She was one in a million… one in a trillion… one in a googalplex…”
    – Doc Emmet Brown, Hill Valley, 1885.

  23. Pete Jackson

    Are the second and third panels also well-known scientists in the media, along with their wives? I don’t recognize them, but maybe some of you do.

  24. Messier Tidy Upper

    @11. Trebuchet Says:

    @ #5 MTU: “Buffy”??? Surely you meant “Xena”.

    Oops! Er .. yes. I did indeed.

    Although there is also an ice dwarf planet nick-named ‘Buffy’ too :


    “Buffy” or 2004 XR190 – the ice dwarf with the most “tilted” or highly inclined object travelling more “up & down” than “left to right” with its inclination of 47 degrees – but in an unusually circular orbit. A scattered or detached disk object discovered in Dec. 2004 “Buffy” is the 6th most distant object so far known after Eris, Sedna and some unnamed TNO’s with an orbital range of 52 -62 AU currently its about 58 AU from our Sun.

    Source : Wikipedia, various old astronomy magazine news items.


    @18. Neil Haggath Says:

    #5 MTU: Unfortunately, many star names are a lot less “romantic”, when you consider their translations – especially the Arabic ones, which are often just descriptions of their positions in the constellation figures. e.g. Betelgeuse means “The giant’s armpit”!

    I know – although they still sound good. Also, I gather the names have evolved and “been corrupted” chinese whisper style over time so literal meanings they aren’t really anymore.

    @21. Bipedal Tetrapod :

    One phrase that springs to mind here is the evocative line from the HG Wells ‘War of the Worlds’ or at least the musical version of it :

    ” .. like all the creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.”

    The number of those would be, well, astronomical! 😉

  25. The line from the book is: “…that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.”
    ( )

  26. Chris A.

    @Gary Ansorge (#9):
    “Old joke from my days as a computer field engineer with Univac(you know, the company that actually built the first electronic computers).”

    OT, I’m afraid, but as an alumni of Iowa State University I am compelled to point out that Univac (founded by Eckert and Mauchly, the inventors of the ENIAC computer) did NOT build the first electronic computers! By a 1973 ruling of a U.S. District judge, that honor belongs to John Atanasoff and Cliff Berry:–Berry_Computer

    Said ruling stated that “ENIAC derived many basic ideas from the Atanasoff–Berry Computer” and “Eckert and Mauchly did not themselves first invent the automatic electronic digital computer, but instead derived that subject matter from one Dr. John Vincent Atanasoff.”

    As someone whose grad student office sat adjacent to the damp corner of the physics building basement where the ABC once stood (hallowed ground for computer geeks), I had to represent, yo! :)

  27. Messier Tidy Upper

    @26. Bipedal Tetrapod : Thanks. :-)

    ‘The War of the Worlds’ is one of my favourite novels – I’ve got a copy of my own too but I did first learn about it via audio tape cassette version of the Jeff Wayne’s Musical version back in high school.

  28. mike burkhart

    How about a prize to whoever can figure out how many stars there are in the universe.My guess the number is infinte Also I like War of the worlds I have a copy that has War of the worlds and the Time Machine in the same book

  29. mike burkhart

    To figure the number of stars in the universe we would need to:1know the number of galaxys in the universe 2the number of stars in each galaxy including globular clusters witch lie just outside galaxys ,this number varys 3number of protostars forming in each galaxy again varys after caculating all that you have the number of stars in the universe. Or think of something I once read :The number of stars in the universe is equal to the number of sand grainds on every beach and desert on Earth

  30. Chris A.

    @mike burkhart (#30):
    “I once read :The number of stars in the universe is equal to the number of sand grainds (sic) on every beach and desert on Earth”

    Depending on who’s making the estimates, it’s usually stated that the number of stars is comparable to the number of grains of sand on every beach (deserts excluded). When you throw the deserts in, it’s harder to get a number that’s similar to the estimates for the number of stars.

  31. Messier Tidy Upper

    “Cosmology also tells us that there are perhaps 100 billion galaxies in the universe and that each contains roughly 100 billion stars. By a curious co-incidence, 100 billion is also the approximate number of cells in a human brain.”
    – Page 237, ‘StarGazer’, Dr Fred Watson, Allen & Unwin, 2004.


    “…about 40 supernovae are exploding somewhere in the universe every second. However, light from most of these events won’t reach Earth for billions of years, if ever.”
    – Page 73, “Ask Astro” column in ‘Astronomy’ magazine October 2008.

    But still :

    “If you put three grains of sand inside a vast cathedral, that cathedral will be more densely packed with grains of sand than stars are found apart in space.”
    – Page 28, ‘Skywatching’, David H. Levy, Ken Fin Books, 1995.


    Just on the off-chance that somebody is still reading this & is interested. :-)


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