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JournalistWe’re two reporters who just spent a year investigating prostitution and sex trafficking on New Orleans’ most famous tourist attraction: Bourbon Street. AMA!

Oct 23rd 2017 by NOLAnews • 44 Questions • 67 Points

You may know Zach from his comic, SMBC. You may have heard of Kelly from media about this super-creepy parasite she co-discovered.

Together, we wrote a book called "Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That'll Improve and/or Ruin Everything." It's a big nerd-out about a bunch of future tech, along with weird stories and fun facts. An NPR review said it "feels like a slightly drunken lecture by a couple of enthusiastic professors."

Ask us about the book, parasites, cartooning, or this one research project where they found that students will obey robots that come bearing cookies.

Zach will be answering as /u/MrWeiner. Kelly will be answering as /u/sciencegal.

Proof: https://www.reddit.com/user/MrWeiner/

Q:

I love that no one answered you because they can't defy you.

A:

Was it always going to be the Blue Man Group? Was there ever a discussion about being a different color?


Q:

What would you do differently if you had your time as PM over again?

A:

Is there any optimism in the research community about finding "islands of stability" higher up in the periodic chart? Or is that considered a dead-end?


Q:

Has podcast sponsorship given you guys a good ROI? How has it compared to returns on other forms of advertising/marketing?

A:

Will there ever be a revival of SMBC Theater?

Also, you're awesome!


Q:

Kevin: Hi, sorry it took me some time to get back to you.

To answer your question, this investigation started because of a study the city did on adult performance venues. It very quickly morphed into what you're describing, which was an investigation into underground sex trafficking throughout New Orleans and even beyond.

We interviewed State Police at one point, and I also met with a service provider in Baton Rouge. There was some thought that we might cover this as a statewide angle at one point, given Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards took a trip to Rome and was looking at a facility there that helps human trafficking victims. Both he and his wife have also spoken out about their concern about sex/human trafficking in the past.

There is no ploy here to shut down the legal sex industry. I received words of caution from people who study this issue and work directly with both victims and sex workers who are not trafficking victims, and because of that I constantly kept in mind that there is a legal way to do work associated with erotic themes. I fully acknowledge that women have a right to do certain sexually-themed work if they choose, and if this story was only about prostitution rather than trafficking I think the series would have taken on an entirely different approach.

But what we found involved women who through force, fraud or coercion were being forced into doing sexual labor. And they were not getting paid for it. In the case the victims who are quoted or referenced by name in my story, they were not receiving payment for the work they were performing. And I really question whether the trafficking victim who agreed to be interviewed for this series ever would have gone into sex work if her boyfriend-turned-pimp had not coerced her into it.

Hopefully that answers your question, but just to be clear: We do plan to cover this from a broader angle. It just made sense to focus this series on Bourbon Street and is in no way aimed at hurting a business that is operating safely and legally.


Q:

As I said just before, I'd be less trusting of some of the folks I worked with.

A:

Yeah, there is. There's a lot of work currently going on to try and find the island around neutron number 184, so that's work with flerovium (although the problem is we can't get the neutron count up). The other possible islands beyond that, say the 120 region, are theoretical at the moment, so we need to get the next few elements before we know.


Q:

(Jason) - We love podcasts. Its a captive audience. We try to buy them at an affordable rate (1200-2500). We are selective on the audience. We do well in a more liberal space (its seems like the audience is more comfortable with Taboo topics). Typically, we can put $1 in and get $1.20 back. Its also a guaranteed Brand Build.

A:

I will always appreciate how many people ask that question, but sadly no. None of us would have the time any more, and unfortunately SMBCT just never turned a profit.


Q:

I also work in the Baton Rouge area as a dancer. I've blacked out a lot of my personal info but here is a link to a picture of my dancers license there

A:

What's the meaning of life?


Q:

Hi Mr Rudd,

Do you think there should be a Royal Commission into the NBN debacle to hold those accountable?

Cheers

A:

What properties would be predicted for elements around that neutron number?


Q:

When your viral videos are released do you just sit back and watch the dollars roll in?

A:

Follow up: what is your smbc theater buddy James Ashby up to nowadays?


Q:

Kevin: I'm happy to speak to anyone who works in this industry and has concern about the series or would like to challenge what we reported. Feel free to email me at [email protected]. My phone number is also tagged on the stories.


Q:

Yes. Abbott and Turnbull have so far got away with blue murder on this. The cost to the taxpayer as a result has been beyond belief.

A:

It's not so much the properties of the element, but properties of the isotope of that element. You'd get much longer lived isotopes, so you could have an element that lasts years rather than seconds.

In terms of the properties of flerovium - that's something that nobody's really sure about at the moment. It looks pretty unreactive, but at this point in the periodic table you start getting huge relativistic effects. The most interesting upshot of that theorised so far is with element 118 - which might not have electron shells!


Q:

(bobby) Yes, I am actually answering from our shitty private jet.

A:

Traveling a bit and writing some lovely fiction that hasn't been released yet. We're working on putting out a comic book based on a beautiful script he wrote.


Q:

Why are there bans or restrictions on new hotels (since 1969), package liquor stores, food carts (other than Lucky Dog), and tattoo parlors on Bourbon Street but not strip clubs?

A:

Do you paint "other" things blue besides whats visible?


Q:

Hi Kevin, what suprised you most about life as PM and the roles it entailed?

A:

Left field question for you.

What is the standard banter at parties/events in your field?

When chatting with Yuri Oganessian (or similar) in a social setting, what percentage of the conversation is atoms & elements and what percentage is shooting the shit talking about sports or mayonnaise vs. mustard?


Q:

our shitty private jet

The Spruce Deuce

A:

Your comics steadily evolved from one panel single cell organisms into huge, monstrous megafauna. Now I feel like there's a great deal of genetic diversity in your comic ecosystem, though the megafauna of yesteryear is much less common. What personal thoughts do you have about your comic length? When did you decide to move from single panels to multipanel comics and how has your planning/layout process changed since then?


Q:

Kevin: There is currently a temporary zoning ordinance in place that requires new strip clubs to gain conditional use approval. The City Council will now have to decide whether to make that ban permanent because it expires next month.


Q:

The GFC. It meant we had to work 16 hour days just to survive.

A:

Probably 60% old friends seeing each other, 40% discussing who's doing what/interesting ideas/how work is going. It depends how long ago it was that they caught up with each other.

As the community is relatively small, there's a lot of business chat and deal making. In the cold war, the US/Russian teams were competing and not working together; today it's just not possible to do the research any other way.

That said, if it's a conference or something everyone's looking to unwind a little. Nuclear physicists discussing going to an escape room is great. Also scientists LOVE to talk about food.


Q:

(Carson) If we ever actually get a jet. Consider it named. That or Shitty McShitface.

A:

I did single panels for a long time just because that was a genre I enjoyed. After a while it felt very constraining, and the comics just started growing and growing as I experimented more.

Lately they've gotten a bit shorter (on average at least) in part due to time constraints. I'm also more interested in prose writing, so sometimes when I have an idea for a longer story I just write it down, with the intention to do the whole story when things have slowed down a bit over here.


Q:

Has conducting this investigation changed your opinion regarding the legality of prostitution?

A:

Can you share an inside joke that you guys have?


Q:

Hi Kevin.

Has your perspective on Australian politics changed from your recent time in the United States?

PS miss you!

A:

so what is it, mayonnaise or mustard?


Q:

Have you thought about marketing to pregnant women? I bought one while I was pregnant and it really helped with pregnancy "issues." I didn't end up with any hemorrhoids even after pushing my kid out for 3 hours! I'm recommending it to all my preggo friends.

My husband loves it too!

Edit: if we learned anything from this thread, it's that you should call your mom and tell her you love her.

A:

I'm a regular sized person but a huge fan of your comic. It's given me many laughs and had gotten me thinking about all manner of human things.

My questions are these:

Excluding your own work, what comic series or graphic novels do you enjoy most?

What is your favorite comfort snack? For me it's is Mac and Cheese Eggrolls© and almonds.


Q:

Emily here: The reporting led Kevin and I to people with a spectrum of opinions on the legality of prostitution. Some that we spoke to, like those with Woman with a Vision, and Professor Laura Murphy, were quite adamant that not all prostitutes are victims and especially, that not all exotic dancers are victims. Those sources cautioned us against rules or laws that they believe seek to moralize on behalf of women who are perfectly capable of making their own choices. However, other sources, like Jim Kelly, speak to the danger of strip clubs as a gateway to forced prostitution. While I refrain from describing my own opinion on the legality of prostitution, I can tell you that I found there were many valid points on all sides of the issue and those for and against the legalization had strongly held, genuine positions.


Q:

Yes. What I see in the US, UK and Australia is the Murdoch empire harnessing the forces of the far right in every country. It is a national and international disgrace.

A:

My general recollection is that Russian food had a lot of mayo, so I'm going to go with that one.


Q:

(Carson) While it's not something we've explored fully, we're definitely looking to try out the pregnant women market more. We actually did a blog post featuring my wife who was utterly saved by the Squatty Potty during pregnancy. She also loves talking about poop so it worked out...

A:

Comics: I've really loved Guy DeLisle's traveling series.

Comfort Snack: I do a handmade pizza that's greasy and covered with pickled or brined vegetables, all of which my wife hates. The latter adds to the savor. Although, if I could eat anything all day, it'd be these.


Q:

Did you guys actually talk to any exotic dancers while investigating this? I work as a dancer in the quarter and while I have heard of girls being recruited by pimps in the clubs, it's usually from girls who have danced in Florida where they have a huge problem with this. Most dancers would laugh at any men that try to interfere with their money because the exotic dancing field give you the freedom to be financially independent as a woman and most women would never give that up once they receive it. As I said in my previous unanswered question, this is nothing but a ploy to pass vague legislature and use yellow journalism to hurt the legal sex industry. How about allowing sex workers to tell their own stories? Seriously someone that studied journalism in college I am really curious how many actual sex workers ESPECIALLY exotic dancers you spoke to, because they are mothers and young professionals and entrepreneurs and regular people.

A:

Aw no! I'm late to the party... and I know what the blue man group does to late arrivals. Think they'll notice?


Q:

Hi Mr Rudd,

Are you as disappointed with the state of current politics as we are? Where constant blame games are played instead of actual problem solving? Where each side picks on each other instead of focusing on policies? Thank you for taking the time to reach out to us btw!

A:

Were there any instances where they weren't able to successfully recreate the new element after making the claims?


Q:

Used mine this morning. Had it for a few months now, and I do think it's helping "get it out". Unfortunately, my lower bathroom times has led to less reading and Reddit time. Everything's gotta have a down side, doesn't it?

A:

Oh my goodness that looks delicious!

I work in a pizza shop. My favorite pie to make is pepperoni with pickled onions, pickles jalapeños, and pickled peppers. If you're ever in New Orleans, come by and we'll hook you up with all the pickles you want! We'll make /u/sciencegal gasp at the horrors of our many pickles!


Q:

Kevin here: Sorry again about the delay in getting back to all the questions.

I interviewed a total of six current or former dancers (I think that number's right -- I may be forgetting someone because I've been working on this for a year.) I also interviewed men who work in the industry, including four who are quoted in the story (three of which granted on-the-record interviews).

I agree with you that Florida also has a problem. I conducted a lengthy interview with a former dancer and trafficking victim who is now out of the industry. She was trafficked in Florida. We didn't feel like we could get into her story because she was not trafficked in clubs in Louisiana or New Orleans, but I can tell you that some of the stuff that happened to her was fairly consistent what we were seeing in Louisiana. That interview went a long way toward making confident that we were reporting on a problem that doesn't exist inside of a bubble, and if it came across that way, it wasn't intentional.

I agree with you that many dancers who are acting within the bounds of the law do not let men mess with their money. I had dancers tell me they don't do anything they aren't comfortable with and said they actually feel empowered by doing the work they do because their management backs them up on everything. For instance, they told me that if a man is disrespectful toward them and they tell management about it, management takes action, no questions asked. They told me they feel their job is very sex positive.

I realized in writing this story that it could be misinterpreted as an attack on the strip club industry. It is not intended as such. There are clubs in New Orleans that as far as I can tell are operating legally, and because of that, it would be hard to find a reason to shut them down. This story is simply pointing out gaps in enforcement that we found during the investigation.

If you have questions about the accuracy of the reporting I am happy to look into anything you want to bring up. But just know that we did make efforts to interview industry people wherever we could, and I met some really smart and savvy dancers in the process. Some of those conversations with people in the industry has continued beyond the publication of the series. Those dancers said they didn't understand why some women make the choices they do, and that they didn't feel like they were put into a position where they would have to commit an illegal act to earn money.

But there were other women who were in desperate situations, stuff going on at home with mom and dad, addiction, financial issues, where they were in a situation that made them vulnerable to exploitation. When a pimp sees an opportunity, I think my reporting shows that they act on it.


Q:

Yes. But the Murdoch media don't provide a fair platform for a policy debate on the future. Their interest is to conduct personal campaigns against individual labor politicians.

A:

Loads. There are some claims that have never been substantiated, for example the Israeli scientist Amnon Marinov claimed to discover element 112 in 1971 while working at CERN. His claim has never been endorsed. Element 102, Nobelium, was named by a Swedish team who claimed to have discovered the element (they hadn't).

Perhaps the most infamous example is Victor Ninov, who is alleged to have fabricated evidence to claim he had discovered element 118 in the late 90s at Berkeley.


Q:

(jason) think of all the extra yoga time you now have

A:

I may take you up on that one day...


Q:

As a woman, you should be ashamed.

A:

No one ever writes my name :(


Q:

Mr Rudd,

How deep does the rabbit hole go in terms of media moguls influencing policy?

Is there a reasonable solution to get the NBN back to a standard that Labor proposed and started, or are we going to be held back for another 10 years+?

A:

What would you say was the greatest site to visit, in your personal opinion?


Q:

Does this device do anything to help treat/prevent hemorrhoids?

A:

Damn it's been five years since I left home to study abroad in France (came back after a year and a half) and I had totally forgotten about Canellés. Fuck you


Q:

Kevin: I'm not going to get into my opinions because we are an objective source of news in this community, and we are really committed to that ethically. But I will say I encountered a variety of opinions around this issue as we reported this story, and I think there are people all over the spectrum whether or not they provide services to victims or study this issue.

It's really important to remember that Louisiana is a very conservative state and even passing something like medical marijuana was a huge lift for the Legislature. So I think it's unlikely that the law would change when it comes to prostitution. There are lots of tweaks to the law the Legislature could consider if they were so inclined. One thing that a researcher suggested to me in lieu of a legalization of prostitution, they could pass laws that would make it more difficult to prosecute a human trafficking victim if they came forward on their own volition about crimes that were occurring. Kind of like a "good Samaritan" law.


Q:

Murdoch's fox news network in the United States is one of the biggest reason for the emergence of Trump. Murdoch also campaigned in support of Brexit in Britain. Murdoch's control of 70% of the Newspapers in Australia is a major problem for us all.

A:

Oh, that's really hard! I loved them all for different reasons. RIKEN was amazing because the whole city is obsessed with discovering an element - there's bronze plaques of the periodic table leading to the lab. GSI was great too, because it's got a LINAC - the accelerator they use is about 100m long and it's awesome to walk around it.

I'd probably say Oak Ridge, though. It's set in the rolling Tennessee valleys, so it's beautiful, and the different labs are all incredible. I got to go to both the High Flux Isotope Reactor and its hot cells (radioactive cells where they isolate the elements from the reactor), and also visit the X-10 reactor: the world's first nuclear reactor. Standing in the place where history was made was a huge thrill.


Q:

(bobby) Those bunch of grapes are caused by straining to go. Squatty Potty reduces the straining. It essential un-kinks the garden hose "colon" so the poop can come out with less pushing.

A:

I live down the street from a bakery that makes them. $3 a piece and worth every penny.


Q:

The "community they serve" is New Orleans.

A:

Do you ever engage in promiscuity whilst still in makeup?

Asking for a friend.


Q:

Do you still hit up Yarralumla Turkish Pide when you are in the area?

A:

ORNL bonus points for radioactive frogs


Q:

I love you and I hate you for significantly degrading my pooping experience in the office or basically anywhere without my trusty squatty potty. Also will you please bring back the wooden teak model, it looks so much nicer. Why was it cancelled in the first place?

A:

SMBC is the most consistently good comic I've read, so thanks for making procrastinating so much easier! What is your favorite scientific field to make fun of, or which is the easiest?

Also side note, will we ever see pharmacology as a field show up in a comic?

Thanks you!!


Q:

Kevin: I would just add that Houston is a city that continues to come up. Port cities like Houston, New Orleans, New York, Boston and Baltimore have all struggled with this issue going back decades.


Q:

Not only do I visit for a kebab when I'm in town my son Marcus has been one of their biggest customers in history.


Q:

(Carson) The teak model never went away! Also, grab a porta-squatty for those travelling turds.

A:

Thanks!

I really enjoy economics humor, though I haven't done much lately for some reason.

Recommend me a good pharmacology book and I'll try to check it out!


Q:

How did you discover the story?

A:

What did you guys do with Gavin Free?


Q:

Hi Kevin,

What made you change your stance on marriage equality to a yes? How did it come about and who/what made the realisation real for you?

A:

Isn't X-10 the world's second nuclear reactor? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X-10_Graphite_Reactor

The X-10 Graphite Reactor at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, formerly known as the Clinton Pile and X-10 Pile, was the world's second artificial nuclear reactor (after Enrico Fermi's Chicago Pile-1), and the first designed and built for continuous operation. It was built during World War II as part of the Manhattan Project.


Q:

Do you still speak with your Shark Tank investor?

A:

Hey Zach, what do you think you'd be doing if SMBC hadn't taken off?


Q:

Kevin: The New Orleans City Council began showing a willingness to pursue tighter strip club regulation after a dancer, Jasilas Wright, was found dead on I-10. Her pimp was convicted in her death earlier this year.

They were also probably influenced by the "Trick or Treat" operation in October 2015, which the story says did more to expose illegal activity in clubs than perhaps any other enforcement action we know of.

I came into this story in the traditional journalistic watchdog sense: I just wanted to see if the alcohol regulatory agency was enforcing the consent orders they reached with the clubs cited during "Trick or Treat." I quickly realized that this was not a strip club story as much as it was a human trafficking story, and when I realized the FBI's prosecution of the Memphis pimps was connected to Bourbon Street, we narrowed our approach and focused on the French Quarter.

Let me be clear: Human trafficking is a problem across New Orleans and Louisiana in general. There's a lot more activity than what we documented in the French Quarter. Our focus was on the FQ because we realized that Bourbon Street had become a "track," and that it was unlike other "tracks" such as Chef Menteur Highway and Tulane Avenue where prostitution has previously been visible.


Q:

If you go to my website you will see a 3000+ word essay written in 2013 well before I returned to the Prime Ministership on why I had changed my position.

A:

The Chicago pile was never permanent, it was basically, well, a pile. so that's why I said X-10 was first.

But technically yes, Fermi got there first.


Q:

(Carson) Of course! We actually worked with Lori on the release of our latest video.

A:

Hard to say. SMBC lifted me out of a shitty job, then later got me out of finishing a science degree.

Honest best bet - I'd probably be a mediocre (but not unhappy) physicist, or maybe be a stay-at-home Dad writing fiction in his spare time.


Q:

Frankly? Here's the reason: sensationalism and money.

A:

What part of a show do you dread every night because it's uncomfortable, unpleasant, or whatever?


Q:

Why do you think the NBN, a $50B nation wide project, has barely been covered or properly discussed in the media?

A:

What is the best way to beat an Exodia Deck?


Q:
  1. What does the Squatty Potty do that a regular step stool would not?
  2. My husband is not on board the Squatty Potty train. Might a collapsible version be made in the future?
A:

Hey Zach, I love your comics.

Was it tough growing up with that last name though?


Q:

From Kevin: We knew we'd get negative comments regarding sensationalism. I think that happens every time you write about something that's connected to sexual crimes or sex. But that was not the intent.


Q:

Please read the transcript of my interview with Leigh Sales on Monday night.

A:

Black Lotus.


Q:

"Bobby" The Squatty Potty is definitely an improvement to a regular step stool. In fact it was created to replace my mothers "poop stool" which was a step stool from walmart. The Squatty Potty height, width angle and ability to hug the toilet give the pooper optimal squatting posture. I liken a regular stool to cutting a steak with a butter knife, yeah you can do it but when you switch to a steak knife (squatty potty) its much easier and quicker

A:

Well, I grew up hard and I grew up mean. My fists got hard and my wits got keen. So, it wasn't too bad.

The truth is Weiner is probably preferable to a name adjacent to Weiner, because all people can do is say "HEY WEINER." I imagine it'd be worse if it were pronounced like "whiner" and I had to defend the proper pronunciation over time.

Fortunately, I got married, and now have a nice dignified last name.


Q:

How about funding a strip club inspection/enforcement office based out of city hall and funded by strip club fees/licenses/taxes similar to how short-term rental enforcement is funded by taxes and licenses on short-term rentals?

A:

If you were to do a Blue Man Group movie....Who would be the lead actor?


Q:

Hi Kevin, In your opinion, what's the best decision you made as PM?

A:

Which element do you find to have the most unexpected properties?


Q:

It's much more comfortable, your legs are up to the sides, rather than directly in front of you. It also tucks away "underneath" the toilet so you don't trip over it when you run into the bathroom

Very handy

A:

Was the "red button" always a feature in the smbc website? If not, when did it start?


Q:

Kevin: I think that's one of many options that could be up for discussion. I think it remains to be seen what elected officials are going to act upon.


Q:

To intervene radically in 2008 to stop Australia from falling into a deep economic recession.

A:

Oganesson is really strange. It might not have any electron shells, and it's probably a solid at room temperature - which is mad considering it's in the noble gases!


Q:

(jason) - We designed the slim for that exact reason. We wanted to open the front so it would be easier to go (more foot room) https://www.squattypotty.com/shop/poop-better/slim-teak/

A:

Lonnng ago, we used to participate in these online voting sites, where you tried to climb ranks by getting people to click a button. As an inducement, I'd draw a bonus panel you saw after voting. Over time, it became a normal feature of the site, so that even after we stopped doing the voting site stuff, I felt like the panels needed to stay. HENCE, the red button. Also, hence, why longterm readers still sometimes call it the "votey" or "votey comic."


Q:

How about funding a strip club inspection/enforcement office based out of city hall and funded by strip club fees/licenses/taxes similar to how short-term rental enforcement is funded by taxes and licenses on short-term rentals?

A:

How can we cheer Phil up?


Q:

Kevin, What's your favourite flavour of meat pie? Love you heaps

  • Andy
A:

Really apologise to ask you such a silly question, but how does this have no electron shells? Amazing AMA btw!


Q:

Now that I am pooping better, what are you doing to ensure I will continue this path and that your next product will move me further towards my goal of pooping perfect?

A:

So how nihilistic/cynical are you in real life? Or is it all just theoretical?


Q:

Kevin: This is clearly an issue statewide given they have only 17 agents to look into whether 18,000 liquor license holders are complying with state law. I've received some indication that at least one legislator is interested in exploring this, but the issue of state funding is a constant -- and controversial -- discussion point in Baton Rouge.

We kept coming back to this issue of coordinated enforcement -- it's not just the liquor authorities who could enforce illegal activity, obviously. But there is no record of local police taking a larger role so far in policing the strip clubs. So that may end up being a discussion for the Legislature or the City Council. But that's up to them, ultimately.


Q:

4&20

A:

As someone writing for a chemistry mag, I know this is weird. Have a look at this link.


Q:

(Carson) Soon we'll be coming out with our brand new religion, Poostafarian. That should help you reach poo nirvana.

A:

This is pretty close to autobiographical: http://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/the-consolation-of-philosophy


Q:

How about funding a strip club inspection/enforcement office based out of city hall and funded by strip club fees/licenses/taxes similar to how short-term rental enforcement is funded by taxes and licenses on short-term rentals?

A:

Which one of you hooked up with my friend Amy in Reno like 10 years ago? Or is that one no longer in the group?


Q:

Kevin, why did you wait until your autobiography was being released before telling us what you really think about Murdoch's involvement with the LNP in ruining the NBN?

A:

Chocolate lab or black lab? My grandfather always had golden labs for hunting, but I prefer darker dogs. There's no particular reason I do, just aesthetics.

In your travel, which have you found to be better?


Q:

Why didn't you say "maybe you've tried our stool that helps you get your stool out easier"?

A:

Sorry to go off on a tangent here, but you linking an old comic brought this to mind. Zach, there's no good way to search the SMBC archives and it's really hampering my ability to quickly post "relevant SMBC" links for that glorious karma in order to spread awareness of your most excellent webcomic. Normally when I try to find a specific, half remembered comic, I end up spending half an hour on it until I either give up or find it but the offhand comment that sent me down the rabbit hole has long passed.

I'm actually still trying to find one you did a while ago where some characters are arguing about the distinction between something that is alive and not alive, then the punch line is about how God thought it would be funny to creat a universe where all meaningful distinctions are arbitrary. That one comes up surprisingly often and I still can't find the damn thing.


Q:

Kevin: I don't think there would be any constitutional/legal issues with finding a funding stream for this.


Q:

I have said this many times before publicly. It's just, surprise surprise, the Murdoch media weren't keen on printing it.

A:

They're all good dogs, brooks.


Q:

(Jason) - Hilarious. We had a team of writers. There were so many one liners that didn't make the cut. One day, I would love to do a short film that is longer. Edit: word

A:

Yeah, sorry, we need to fix that. Meantime, you can always ask https://www.reddit.com/r/SMBCComics/


Q:

What ever happened to the Lady Trieu massage parlor investigations?

A:

Who is the most vocal of your group?


Q:

I still have my Kevin 07 tshirt. Can we be real life best friends?

A:

Hello, my father was a chemist for 30 years and still is really into chemistry news and stuff. Your journey and book sound super interesting and I would love to share it with him, only issue is that he doesn't read English fluently. Do you know if your book will be published in other languages (French in particular) by any chance?


Q:

Do you have any nursing homes which you sell to in bulk? What is some of the most surprising or best results that you have observed or reported by someone who suffered from colon cancer for example.

A:

Zach, I’ve been reading SMBC for years and years now so I appreciate all the laughs. How do you stay productive when feeling unmotivated?


Q:

Kevin: I don't have any reportable information on investigations into New Orleans massage parlors. The New Orleans bureau of the Baton Rouge Advocate did some reporting in this area a couple of years ago.

http://www.theadvocate.com/new_orleans/news/article_58cb00af-2447-54cb-bb45-3628347813cc.html

I can tell you that we did do some initial research into this area before we committed to a story focusing on the French Quarter, but we didn't do enough reporting on the massage parlors to produce a story in similar depth to the stories linked above.


Q:

Absolutely. I'm thinking of printing more T-shirts.

A:

I hope so! It's certainly going to be available worldwide.


Q:

(jason) - We have received multiple reports from respected research groups, all give it amazing reviews. We tread lightly on promising any major medical fixes. But 2/3rds of the world squat to poop (asia- india- turkey). We know that squatting aides posture, reduces pressure, and improves elimination and comfort while eliminating

A:

It helps that comics pay for food and shelter.

I also have a daily schedule I'm pretty strict about. When working from home, keeping disciplined can be pretty tough. There's an extent to which it's a skill you have to practice. In terms of staying productive on "creative" work, I suggest you think deeply about what you were doing at times when you felt most able to make good work. For me, it involves reading difficult books, being a bit stressed out, and having at least lead a few books that same week.


Q:

What ever happened to the Lady Trieu massage parlor investigations?

A:

Can we tell poop stories on here?


Q:

Is Abbott as awful in person as he is on TV?

A:

Why?


Q:

Can only humans use it?

A:

Do you still see Screech regularly?


Q:

Kevin: I replied to a similar query above. Trafficking in New Orleans is overwhelmingly a problem that affects women, but there are instances of gay and transgender victims here as well.


Q:

About the same.

A:

I take a hands-on approach to research. Sure, I could read the theoretical papers, but it doesn't tell you the vibe of the place, or the behind-the-scenes stories, or what a nuclear reactor smells like.

The only way I could write a book that told the whole story, in a fair way, was to be there, speak with the people that did it, and see it with my own eyes.

It's the most amazing adventure I've had in my life.


Q:

(Carson) I'm genuinely curious what you're wanting to use it for now.

A:

I refuse to get this joke.


Q:

Talking about how aggressive enforcement of this and new regulations has the potential of negatively effecting economic generators like Southern Decadence which is a highly sex focused event that generates Millions. Not how traffic is impacting gay men directly.

A:

Who is taking these photos and how do I get that job?


Q:

What are your thoughts on Canada? Friend or Foe?

A:

How did you pay for 36,000 miles of travel ?


Q:

Will you create an adjustable squatty potty?

A:

We meet up with him at The Max pretty regularly.


Q:

Kevin: If there are hospitality workers who are concerned about this issue, I think advocates would say it would be helpful if they made their voices heard. Labor trafficking often shows up in hotels, for instance. It's important to remember that human trafficking encompasses both labor and sex trafficking.


Q:

BFF's

A:

A book advance. :)


Q:

(Jason) We offer the 2.0 Squatty Potty.. It comes with a 7" base and a topper that increases to 9". Cheers Bill

A:

ಠ_ಠ


Q:

That wasn't the question. Your answer made it look like you haven't given much thought to the gay scene and gay sex trafficking. The question wasn't "Is there gay sex trafficking?" The question was, "How are you going to stop sex trafficking enforcement from being used to oppress members of the gay community and gay events?" Morality laws have a long history of being used to prosecute LGBT people. That's what this question is about.

A:

How do you do your quick changes?


Q:

KRudd, big fan of your cats Mei Mei and Qing Qing on instagram. What do you say to all those cat haters out there who think dogs are the superior pet?

A:

The concept of creating new elements is insane to me and extremely interesting! What did the people you met consider to be the hardest or most abstract concept when it came to discovering or creating these new elements? Another question to go along is what is the general process and techniques needed to find these elements?


Q:

Did you ever think you'd be doing an AMA while someone is writing to you while using your product? Cause that's me, I am doing that right now. Thank you, my partner in poop.

Ps I use your unicorn video whenever I try to pitch clients on making something hysterical and powerful

A:

The philosophy in your comic seems pretty broad and insightful to my cretin mind. What do you read/watch/smell/eat for inspiration?


Q:

I understand your point, but I'm not sure how to answer it. Because this issue affects mostly women in our reporting (I think the number of trafficked men in the total number of victims at Covenant House was less than 10 percent), what was going on with trafficked women consumed a lot of our time and attention.

By design, enforcement is supposed to be used as a tool to ensure safety of all of the vulnerable in the community, whether they are LGBTQ or not. This story exists because of the gaps we found in enforcement.


Q:

The truth is we have almost always had dogs and cats together, and if they can get on together, surely cat lovers and dog lovers can get on together.

A:

The big problem is that you have to shoot your projectile into a target with enough energy to overcome the natural repulsion of the nucleus (otherwise it bounces off), but not enough energy for it to undergo nuclear fission (which breaks it apart). That means you have to be really creative - it's not just about picking two elements whose numbers add up to what you want. We've got pretty good ideas how to get to elements 119 and 120. After that... nobody really knows. We had a really amazing projectile (Calcium-48, a very neutron-rich isotope), but we had to stop using it as we can't produce enough of the target materials!

The other challenge is actually detecting what you've done. Again, incredibly hard, especially as these elements aren't around very long. Today we're using machines so sensitive that, for example, if you used it to weigh a 747 airplane, you could tell if you left a penny on one of the seats.

I liken it to shooting at a needle in a haystack, the bullet hitting the needle and fusing into something new, and then catching that bullet-needle as it flies out before it hits the ground.


Q:

(Carson) That's the only place to be when asking the Squatty Potty team a question. It allows you to channel your inner poop.

A:

I try to read everything. Lately, I've been reading all of Nevil Shute, in part because it's a busy time and I find Shute very relaxing.

I haven't had as much time for philosophy and science lately, but am hoping to get back into it more once our kids are a bit older.


Q:

That wasn't the question. Your answer made it look like you haven't given much thought to the gay scene and gay sex trafficking. The question wasn't "Is there gay sex trafficking?" The question was, "How are you going to stop sex trafficking enforcement from being used to oppress members of the gay community and gay events?" Morality laws have a long history of being used to prosecute LGBT people. That's what this question is about.

A:

How did you get to our planet and what do you want from us?


Q:

What do you think is the way forward for the ALP and central-left politics in Australia and other western nations?

A:

I went looking for more information on Calcium-48 and found https://www.sciencealert.com/the-calcium-52-isotope-might-have-just-lost-its-magic-status which says that Calcium-52 was momentarily thought to also be a magic-number nucleus, but then was found to probably not be as its nucleus-radius is larger than theory predicted. Has theory caught up yet for why this is so?


Q:

What would you most like to tell us that no one has asked about?

A:

On The Beach is one of the most engaging books I have read. I have never had as much trouble grocery shopping as I did during reading that book. I mean, what’s the point? We are all going to die.


Q:

From Emily: (Still wordy, but here's my crack at your challenge) Pimps tend to recruit prostitutes who are vulnerable, some of them who have been subject to sexual abuse or other abuse in their past, so that they can better control them. While many women in the sexual labor industry start out working for a pimp on their own free will, they can become manipulated into what is legally considered sex trafficking: being coerced, forced or tricked into having sex for money, often times turning over part of all of their earnings to the pimp. Some say French Quarter strip clubs have been used by pimps as places to recruit girls and for women who work for pimps to find customers. Sometimes the illegal sex work occurs inside the clubs.


Q:

The capitalist project has to be adjusted in order to provide a bigger slice of national income to lower and middle income Australians.

A:

Not sure, to be honest. I know that we're not really looking at Ca beams, even for island of stability. I'll ask and find out, though.


Q:

(Carson) No one asked how my poop was this morning. It was great!

A:

It's a great book, but I'm more fond of Pied Piper and Requiem for a Wren. On the Beach is not very characteristic of Shute, though it's still excellent.


Q:

Where are the federal agencies like the FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the DOJ, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Marshals Service, or the Secret Service, in all of this? When strip club owners and strip club managers condone and even promote sexual trafficking and prostitution on their properties, doesn't this level of criminal behavior raise issues like RICO violations, conspiracy to commit federal crimes, and other serious crimes?

A:

Should Pete Rose be in the Hall of Fame?


Q:

Nearly ten years on from your Sorry speech, what do you feel has changed for Indigenous Australians over that time? How do we get to constitutional recognition?

A:

Why do the Russian team JINR have so much success in creating the synthetic elements? Are they getting the base elements drunk so that the impacting elements have an easier time hitting them?


Q:

How frustrating was it to get Kathy Griffin for a funny commercial, only to have her create a controversy and subsequently no longer use that advertisement?

A:

I tried making some puerco pibil for my family and it didn't turn out well. The meat was very tender but it was way too sour

Could you please cheer me up? I'm sad


Q:

Kevin: I think if the FBI felt like they could act on information indicating that strip clubs were involved in the trafficking, they would. The FBI told me they consider prosecuting businesses involved in this crime the gold standard. They prosecuted a motel owner in New Orleans last year for his involvement with the Memphis pimps mentioned in the story.

The difficulty with that type of prosecution is that investigators need to prove intent, which is difficult.

ETA: Homeland Security Investigations also does significant and aggressive work enforcing trafficking. They frequently partner with the FBI, but they are also engaged with state and local law enforcement. We were asked not to identify the HSI agent who worked on the Memphis pimps case because of safety concerns.


Q:

Aboriginal education has improved in many areas, and we now have many young Aboriginal kids at our universities.

A:

Well, JINR does produce its own brand of vodka (I have a bottle)...


Q:

(bobby) It sucked. I am actually a Kathy fan and support her right to demonstrate her feelings toward a president she feels threatened by. The problem we had is that we just want to help people poop better and not get all political about it. When our spokesperson went there, we decided to just drop the campaign and go back to magical unicorns and awesome dragons who don't give a shit about who is in office.

A:

Cheer up - one day you'll be dead and then you'll stop doing so many things wrong.


Q:

What generally happens to the industry during major disasters? Do they migrate to particular adjacent locales?

A:

What do you guys think of Redman?


Q:

Why did you cop out of taking an ETS to a double dissolution election when you were killing it in the polls?

A:

If someone find a new element, can they name it after themselfs?


Q:

My son has a birthday coming up. Can we hire the unicorn for entertainment and dessert?

A:

that helps, I suppose

Thanks


Q:

Kevin: Several people told me they thought the French Quarter trafficking issue worsened after Hurricane Katrina. They told me that there used to be strict enforcement, but that it lessened after the storm. They also told me that the average age of the women who work in strip clubs has trended younger, and that pimps have become more aggressive and violent than they remember.


Q:

We had already had our ETS legislation knocked over in the senate twice by then. By the time Gillard and Swan had conducted their coup in June 2010, there was still time to call a DD. Gillard had opposed one from the get go.

A:

Yes. The IUPAC rules say you can name an element after:

1) A place

2) A mythical creature

3) A property of the element

4) A mineral

5) A scientist

To be honest, IUPAC would probably reject the name unless you'd done something really noteworthy. Only two scientists directly involved in element discovery have had elements named after them: Glenn Seaborg (seaborgium, 106) and Yuri Oganessian (oganesson, 118).

Sort of. Gallium is a bit of an odd one, and Fermi got his Nobel for element discovery, although he isn't credited with discovering one.


Q:

"Bobby" Dookie is incredibly busy. I'll ask his agent for you.

A:

Also, tonight's failed dinner is tomorrow's pie.


Q:

When you're right in the middle of it, do you have the urge to try to rescue the women yourselves?

A:

What can you agree on as your favorite soup?


Q:

Hi Kevin. Who's idea was the Kevin 07 campaign? It was absolutely brilliant in design!

A:

Check out the list of elements discovered by the UC Berkeley Rad Lab or Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. Wonderfully self-referencing.

Things like Californium and Lawrencium.


Q:

Who came up with the unicorn poop idea? Is there a story behind it?

A:

Given how long SMBC has been going, do you ever accidentally get an idea for a comic that you've already done? Do you have to go back and check your previous comics to make sure you don't repeat? Or are you just clever/insane enough that no joke enters your brain twice?


Q:

Kevin here: Thanks for this question. It gives me an opportunity to talk about the difficulty of reporting on sensitive topics, including victims.

A "rescue" is not as simple as you might think. For example, I never spoke to victims while they were being trafficked. That's really law enforcement's job and service providers like Covenant House.

In most cases, when I came across victims they were either in recovery or nearing the end of their recovery process. And even getting those interviews was extremely difficult.

At the start of this investigation, I knew it was extremely important to actually talk to victims. So that was where the major effort focused in the first few months of the reporting process. In two cases, I had identified victims willing to be interviewed, but they ended up deciding to return to "the life" before I had the chance to set up the interview.

In a third case, I interviewed a victim who returned to the life. She is quoted in the story. Covenant House has not been able to reach her.

Having personally met this woman, and knowing her story, it took a huge emotional toll knowing that she was no longer safe. But you learn as you report on human trafficking that service providers develop coping skills that allow them to do good work while also constantly being disappointed that they weren't able to help someone. But especially where this crime is concerned, the fact that there's not a lot of success stories doesn't mean they are deterred from continuing to provide the help.

I learned a lot from Covenant House and other service providers in that respect.


Q:

A combination of Tim Gartrell, the then national secretary of the ALP, and the late Neil Lawrence.

A:

The New Yorker magazine actually complained that they didn't name the elements Universium Ofium Berkelium Californium.

Also it's not named after the labs, but the towns. Lawrencium was after Ernest Lawrence.


Q:

(Carson) We actually did a video about it. The choice to go with the unicorn pooping ice cream was a fairly big risk to our business that paid off massively.

A:

Yeah. A few times I've actually drawn the same idea twice. What's really weird is how similar they end up being.


Q:

Have you considered all of the women and their families you are hurting by doing this? So many women make a living through the dancing industry. Your attack on strip clubs is going to cost many women their jobs as well as a means to provide for their family. Strict regulations on strip clubs only forces sex work to go underground. You will be putting more women into unsafe situations. Do you honestly care about sex workers?

A:

Do you guys have any other interests, aside from being blue?


Q:

I have to ask, how much do you miss The Chasers?

A:

Would you say that different countries\labs come up with different ways to approach discovering new elements, or do labs follow somewhat standard protocol with few additions here and there?


Q:

Is there any movement towards a portable Squatty Potty?

A:

Do you maintain a buffer of comics that are ready but unpublished in case shit happens and you can't finish on time? How many days could you update without actually making any new comics, if you had to?


Q:

Kevin: I thought about the safety of workers in the sex industry constantly in reporting this story.


Q:

Quite a lot. With no Chasers and the loss of John Clarke there's a big hole in Australian political satire.

A:

The basic principle is the same, but there are differences depending on which beams/targets to use, and also things like how you detect the elements (setting up separators and magnets etc).

The big difference was really in the 1970s/80s. GSI discovered their elements through the 'cold fusion' technique, which used heavier beams than ever before. But this gives you a really small cross section so can't be used anymore.

The current race is really between Japan and Russia, and they are using different beams and targets and pretty different equipment.


A:

Normally yes, but it's been tough now that we had kids. Right now I'm a few weeks ahead, since we're starting our book tour.


Q:

No. You didn't. At all.

A:

Is Joe Flacco an elite quarterback?


Q:

G'day! Politics aside, what's your favourite thing about Australia?

A:

Nice, you were literally just up the street from me here in Darmstadt, Wixhausen.

How do you feel about the repeated snub of not naming an element Wixhausium? A lot of Germans feel strongly about it as "Wix" is also slang for masturbate.


Q:

Anything compact enough to fit in a backpack? Maybe even in two pieces, one for each foot. Something for students or frequent travellers.

A:

If you could genetically modify your offspring, what changes would you make to them?


Q:

Emily here: Kevin may be better suited to speak to this, but Jim Kelly with the Covenant House, who was an integral part of the reporting on this topic, suggests crackdown on private rooms could be an efficient way to put an end to prostitution or other technically illegal behavior inside the clubs. He has noted that the laws against touching customers and the requirement for 18" stage make an argument that private rooms don't allow for dancers to entertain in a legal manner. Lap dances are technically illegal...ATC has said they don't have the means to enforce that -- but closing private rooms could potentially be one way to explore enforcing that.


Q:

The beaches. Just extraordinary. Best in the world.

A:

I passed through Wixhausen on Wednesday. It's not very large, so I can understand why they went for Hesse and Darmstadt. Some great pizza, though.

And I wasn't aware of the slang... that's a bit awkward. I do know that the Americans used to propose rude slang for some of the elements as a joke - and even picked Pu for plutonium because of 'obvious reasons', which I take to mean it says 'poo'. So it wouldn't be totally random.


Q:

(Carson) The Porta Squatty can actually fit in a decent sized purse. It'll easily fit in most backpacks.

A:

Despite stereotypes, higher IQ is associated with pretty much universally positive effects, so I'd go with that. I say that not without reservations about genetically upgrading babies.


Q:

Have you ever considered Blue Man ASMR? Y'all are so good with sounds already, I'm sure you could put something weird and wonderful together.

A:

Much has been made of the alleged story of the NBN being dreamed up on the back of an envelope. How did Senator Conroy & others actually communicate the concept to yourself and have it signed off?


Q:

What do you do for fun?

A:

Should have called it the Pop-A-Squat.


Q:

Your comic has one of the most diverse casts of characters within it. Was this a conscious decision of yours to do?


Q:

The envelope story is bullshit. The NBN was the recommendation of a committee of senior Commonwealth Treasury officials after 6 months examining all the financial, economic and technical options.

A:

I play a loooooot of computer games.

Currently blasting my way through Bolivia in Ghost Recon: Wildlands. It's...eh, it's OK. After that I'll probably revisit Witcher 3 (favourite game) or Fallout: New Vegas with some graphics mods.


Q:

(Carson) During father’s day we typically do a post about Bill, one of our founders. We lovingly refer to him as “Poppa-Squat” since he’s the father of Squatty Potty.

A:

It was, maybe around 2010 or so. It's not something I try to call attention to, because it seems to me to be more in the category of decency than goodness, if that makes sense.

To this very day I get accused of virtue signalling, and every time that happens it warms my little heart.


Q:

Does the carpet match the drapes??

A:

G'day kev, are you aware that in schools all around this great country of ours you are viewed as a handball god? How do you feel about this and do you have intentions to hit the squares again any time soon???


Q:

Do you like tactics/strategy games like XCOM? Or tabletop RPGs like DnD?

A:

do you think you'll expand to working with food products that make things more... regular?


Q:

I've always liked to pretend that you make the comic with just blank characters and then use a randomizer to determine gender/race at the end. True or False?


Q:

Yes I know I am seen as the handball champ of the Southern Hemisphere. In fact I have challenged one of our local schools here in Brisbane to a match on Monday.

A:

Yeah, one of my childhood favourites was UFO: Enemy Unknown and I love the new XCOM. Haven't got Chosen expansion for 2 yet; waiting until there's a Longwar mod.


Q:

(Carson) While I don't know if we'll ever get into food products, we're planning on working with some chefs and bloggers to create recipes that help you poop with ease. We'll probably post those on our blog and Facebook pages.

A:

No randomizer. Just, try to keep things various.


Q:

Hi Kevin,

During the Howard years, the ALP struggled quite awhile in opposition. What do you believe were the reasons the ALP weren't able to return to office sooner?

A:

Which lab was your favorite and why?

And where there big differences between the labs? I mean, was there a lab which was huge and had super expensive stuff while there were others that were like a classroom or something?


Q:

Hi guys, fantastic product and advertising. Poop is weird and the word is funny for everyone, and with your unicorn...you made it weirder and funnier.
Can we see what your prototype looked like?

A:

I mean, what possible reason could you have for having a diverse cast except to make people say "wow, that guy is a really virtuous dude"

Why would any character be non-white and/or non-straight unless those factors are required for the joke, I just cannot get my tiny brain around it.

(That's sarcasm, if it wasn't obvious)


Q:

As I mention in my book, "Not For the Faint-hearted", Howard was a master of the politics of fear - fear of refugees, fear of muslims, fear of deficit. We weren't able to counter those arguments effectively.

A:

Some labs have funding. Others don't. So I went from somewhere like Oak Ridge, which has an operating budget of billions, to somewhere like JINR, which has some labs (JINR has several different labs, all looking at different things) with buildings abandoned and boarded up for decades because they were less successful.

Funding is the name of the game, here. Funding and beam time.


Q:

(Carson) We actually made this video private, but I think it'll be fun for people to see how far we've come. This was the first video we made. It shows our original stool design (that we've since changed massively) and also shows how much better our new commercials are!

A:

Similarly, the only reason I bathe is to hygiene signal.


Q:

Do, aliens exist? I mean honestly, what's the harm. Less and less people are religious these days, you've got to know something. We all know that some debriefing said if you let the people know, that your secret service will make it very hard for you but seriously, we've got to know. lol

A:

As an element collector, most of us will never have anything above element 92 in our collections (for the most part). Did you come across any cool novelties that one might use in a collection to represent the superheavy elements?


Q:

Which Shark were you most afraid of?

A:

My pre-ordered-from-April Soonish copy arrived to my neighbor and I nearly had a stroke. Is there a medical condition for anxiety from misdirected internet orders of geeky books or do we have to wait for ICD-11/DSM 6 for that?

Second question: typing Soonish into my Amazon app I get Spanish book recommendations. What will your next book misdirect to?


Q:

Do aliens exist? Haven't you met Tony Abbott.

A:

I have lapel pins for 116 and 117, a 114/116 discovery medal, a 112-branded LED cube, and some element-branded pens.

Also I've got a periodic table signed by everyone I spoke with, including Yuri Oganessian, which is unique (nobody else has someone from every lab, including the lead discoverers of 107+). I'm planning to auction that for a children's charity.


Q:

(Carson) There's that one cookie cutter shark that can supposedly cut holes in submarines. Absolutely terrifying.

A:

re: anxiety - we can fix it with CRISPR

re Spanish - damn. I wish it would just direct you to my other books. Preferably one of the more expensive ones.


Q:

Mr Rudd, how important is it we re-think our relationship with the US in its 'pivot towards Asia'? And should we be aiming to form an alliance with China at the expense of ours with the US?

A:

Has any work gone into the detection of man-made elements in atmospheres of other planets?


Q:

Who was your biggest inspiration in creating this glorious masterpiece?

A:

Lots of your longer comics (like the one about the moon colony populated by prize winners) take a hypothetical scientific advancement or political decision and explores the consequences for humour. Have you ever considered fleshing out a comic idea into a longer-form comic book? I'd totally buy something like that if you made it.


Q:

We need to wait out the Trump administration and see what the next administration does. This guy is right out there.

A:

Not too much in terms of exoplanets etc, but there is work trying to determine if superheavy elements (which are the man-made ones) exist in nature. One way to do that is to look at olivine crystals in meteorites - if your meteorite has been floating around space for a billion or so years, you can look at what smashed into it a long time ago by the traces left in the olivine.


Q:

(Jason) - The Squatty Potty was originally a garage idea made to help Mom Poop better. After 7 kids, she had developed severe constipation and was using clunky books and weird poop stools. We studied the natural squat, added a hill to toe pitch and the U shape to get it out the way when not in use. Then the magic started happen. Hard work and luck have been good to us. Mom and Dad, raised 7 kids and found this success in their late 60's its a dream story thanks to all of friends and media folks. We are just so thankful to everyone and hope that the inventions continues to improve the natural elimination we all desire.

A:

It's a goal of mine during the next five years.


Q:

You are a notable proponent of a Big Australia. What do you say to people who claim that extremely high population growth has lead to the housing affordability crisis and stagnant wages within a growing economy?

A:

Hello, great AMA! Just wondering what is the average stability time for some of the newly discovered elements?


Q:

I used the Squatty Potty for a couple months, and I found that simply leaning forward helped just as much as the Squatty Potty, and I found it more comfortable too. What do you have to say about this?

A:

Hey Zach, I'm a really big fan of your work and can't wait to read Soonish. Now that you've finished Soonish, what's your next Big Project?


Q:

Our government had a housing policy to reduce the cost of housing and to boost the supply of social housing. This government doesn't even have a housing minister.

A:

The heaviest, Og, is about 7 ms. Others are a few seconds, until you get to the actinides (103 and lower), where you start getting hours, days etc.

Edit: I am a fool and out by a thousand. I mean 7 milliseconds. Corrected.


Q:

You are a freak of nature "bobby"

A:

Likely order of operations:

1) New SMBC book, with a new abridged minibook

2) Pro-immigration non-fic graphic novel with Bryan Caplan

3) SOMETHING ELSE ENTIRELY?!

Aspirationally, I'd also like to do some serious fiction writing, some books for little kids, and maybe some young adult fiction. But, time is limited, and unfortunately I have a very happy family who like spending time with me.


Q:

Neoliberalism is looking increasingly out of favour in many parts of the world, and both the UK and New Zealand labour parties have recently become much more critical of capitalism.

Do you think the Australian Labor Party should join them?

A:

1)What are the chances of discovering a new element that is stable enough for the proton numbers to be registered?

2)How were the researchers able to identify certain particles as new elements while they have extremely short half lives?


Q:

I bought one of these after seeing an ad on Facebook and it has significantly improved the way that I poop. No matter where I am now that's not my home bowl, I need to find something to prop my feet up on, whether it's the garbage can, my backpack, or some other make shift squatter.

I keep insisting to my girlfriend that it's amazing, but she keeps insisting that it's just in the way and that she keeps scraping her ankles on it (I have no idea how, I never do). Can you tell her how wrong she is so I can show her later and gloriously bask in the triumphant victory?

A:

Thanks for the answer, I'd really like to read some serious fiction writing from you! Good luck with all those projects!


Q:

Read the article I wrote on this in the monthly over one decade ago. My views on this have not changed.

A:

1) For 119 and 120, pretty good. We have a good way to get to them, so I expect them to be discovered in the next five years.

2) There's a few ways. You can detect fission, you can detect radioactive decay, you can do mass measurements. The sensitivity of the detectors is astonishing.


Q:

(Carson) Yo Rizface’s girlfriend, you’re wrong.

A:

I'm sure I'll do it eventually. Just a matter of time...


Q:

Dear Mr. Rudd,

I admire you overall because you are one of the few Western leaders who can actually speak in fluent Mandarin and understand Chinese culture. I wanted to ask you: with the rise of China in the world stage, as well as the election of Donald Trump as President of the US, what can we expect in the next 10 years as China moves on to be more prominent?

A:

What are you having for lunch?


Q:

I loved that you guys introduced a more aesthetically pleasing slim teak version of the Squatty Potty and ordered it. I was super not enthused that it had the image of a squatting person and your logo huge across the top of it. At $90 (I see now, the price has gone down to $60), it was also not cheap for me to have to spend an hour sanding it all off. Can you offer a version that has more discreet branding (like maybe the underside of the top?), even if you have to charge more for it? Because I and a lot of other people would buy more of them.

A:

Hi Zach! Have you ever considered compiling a book of all the hate mail you get? Like a "best of" kind of thing. It would only make sense, considering how much you openly invite the stuff.


Q:

The Chinese president has said he wants to shape the new international system with much greater Chinese input. The key challenge for all of us, is to ensure we still have a global rules-based system. And we need America to re-engage the world.

A:

I had fish and chips (I'm in the UK). Mushy peas on the side.


Q:

(Carson) That’s a good question! I’ll bring it up to our product development team and see what they think.

A:

I'm afraid I really get very little hatemail. Ages ago I used to do a lot of creationism jokes, and then I got a bit more. I think as the comic has gotten nerdier I get less hate and more "this is slightly incorrect, sir."


Q:

whaling. How come Austrailia does not pressure Japan about their illegal "research" whaling in the antarctic?

A:

Who is the coolest scientist you have met and why?


Q:

Any amazing testimonials as a result of your product?

A:

Will there be a Starpocalypse Season Two?
— Somebody who bought Starpocalypse Season One, and wants to buy Starpocalypse Season Two.


Q:

Good question. I took them to court. We won the case in the international court of justice. Turnbull has done bugger all since.

A:

I had a BBQ and a beer with George Smoot. He was really funny - told me a lot about working on the Big Bang Theory and winning Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?. That was a pretty chill evening.


Q:

"bobby"

My favorite is this Haiku

Amazon Review 5.0 out of 5 starsLove this thing! ByWm. Jonathan Bradshawon September 23, 2015 Verified Purchase ---- Oh Squatty Potty, You fill me with endless joy, Yet leave me empty.

A:

I'm afraid there almost certainly won't be. Video is quite expensive and difficult, and the video stuff never quite turned a profit. Thank you, though!


Q:

Kevin,

Do you feel that covert Chinese intervention through its citizen's in Australia, prominently through curricular groups within our Unis is a legitimate concern? And is it emblematic of the broader approach that the Chinese take to foreign affairs? Is China utterly uncompromising or do you think we can establish a truly effective and productive working relationship?

A:

Some strange elements tend to have properties that make them extremely difficult to study. For example, Copernicium has a half-life of only 29 seconds, and Francium would probably explode upon contacting the moisture in the air. How do you guys deal with it?


Q:

What is the likelihood that standard, automotive battery packs will be developed so that service stations can just swap out depleted units?

A:

Not really. But we should ban all foreign donations to political parties like I tried to do in 2009. The Libs opposed.


Q:

With timing, the answer is 'very quickly'. Equipment is set up as close to the target as possible, down the beamline, so you extract the new atom and it goes straight into your experiment. You can do basic experiments (like running it along a temperature gradient, seeing if it forms compounds with things).

Also the more you produce, the more you can experiment on. Known decay chains mean that you can predict when an element will decay (alpha radiation, so losing a helium), meaning you can plan accordingly. 114 becomes 112 etc. That also gives you options.

A:

This is a book about more mediumterm and longterm technologies, so we don't get into things like self-driving cars, ecars, solar panels, etc. Plus, those things are amply covered in other books.

So, we're not particularly well-read on that topic. Personally, I'd be in favor of energy beaming for electric cars. If we had that and autonomous cars, I'd just live in a trailer that never stopped moving.


Q:

How long do you give Turnbull and why?

A:

Undergraduate student here. How did you get into academic journalism? I really want to pursue a career as a science researcher and journalist, but was wondering what launched you into the field in the first place?


Q:

How do you feel knowing you've taken so much money from me? I have monocles, Augie, Sciences and bibles, now soonish, at least one choose your own adventure in physical format plus the rest in digital??? I hope awesome, cause I enjoyed it all and hope to continue enjoying it! Thanks for everything!

A:

Mid 2018. That's because the Liberals as a political beast do not have a history of being sentimental towards leaders about to take them over a cliff.


Q:

Got bored, wrote an article for my trade mag. They gave me money. I liked money.

Seriously, the best way to get into it is to start writing. Make a blog, get on social media. Start engaging with other science communicators (there are loads of great ones out there). It spirals from there.

A:

Feels good man.

(for real though, thanks - people like you make the weirder projects possible)


Q:

Kevin, I'm a member of the ALP, and want to enter politics (NSW). Any suggestions?

A:

What are the differences in labs across the world ? And also can you name all the countries please ?


Q:

Would you be willing to do a strip (or series of strips) with Randall Munroe of XKCD fame? If so, what kind of format would they have? i.e. he writes, you draw/you write, he draws/you tell one story but each stick to your normal format /something else entirely..?

A:

My key piece of advice is, as I write in my book Not for the Faint-hearted, what the country needs is people of deep experience, professional knowledge and judgement before they stick their hand up to be an MP. All the best.


Q:

Sure! US, Japan, Germany and Russia are the main four. I've also been talking to labs in Switzerland, Poland, the UK, Australia and New Zealand.

The labs are all very reflective of their countries. The US are very laid back, the German lab is really hard to find but very cool (they've modernised the new building with glass sides); the Japanese lab is very close to Wako City, so it's got an electric vibe, although it was ridiculously hot when I was there. The Russian lab is cold, and very much as you'd expect for a lab that was built during the 1950s.

A:

I did a guest comic once! https://xkcd.com/826/

I'm always happy to work with anyone awesome, though I haven't had much time for full-on collaboration lately.


Q:

Was it easy to get permission for entry into all the labs ?

A:

Do you get mistaken for Randall Munroe (aka that xkcd guy) a lot? If so, how does it make you feel?


Q:

Some were easier than others. Some I just asked, a few I had to submit all kinds of details beforehand to do security. And of course international visas for journalism, which can take a bit of paperwork.

A:

I don't, actually. It's just a dumb joke :)


Q:

Which lab do you think was unlikeliest to discover and which one felt like it was inevitable? Why?

A:

Really enjoying the comics but there is one fatal flaw on the website and that is the navigation. Its basically impossible to watch old comics that are not the oldest without skipping through 100 pages. Maybe having a 6 month interval-led counter could help. Without the random function its a bell curve of inaccessibility basically where the oldest and newest are accessible but the rest isnt. Could this be changed?


Q:

Inevitable is hard to say, but the best chance is between RIKEN in Japan and JINR in Russia. The Japanese team starts in a month, the Russians a bit later, but the Russian approach might have the better chance. The Japanese team won't stop until they discover a new element though, so I wouldn't rule them out!

A:

We're working on a way to sort by subject. Maybe we could add timespan as well!


Q:

If you're a science journalist then can you tell us how important Rick & Morty is to the field of science?

A:

Hi Zach,

I don't think I really have a question, but your comic with the guy dressed in Victorian garb being banned from the Ren Faire still makes me laugh. I have it up in my office.

So, question.... Uh.... Make more history jokes?


Q:

They brought back that damn sauce, didn't they?

A:

I dooo need to do that. Haven't had as much time to read history lately.


Q:

Wow! great to see Super Heavy is getting some coverage! Can you share some cherished moments you had when talking to the scientists?

A:

What is your inspiration to make comics about the more obscure subjects?


Q:

Some of the stories they have are crazy. Transporting giant magnets through war zones, being bugged by the KGB, trying to ship this highly radioactive material via commercial airliners and it ending up going back and forth over the Atlantic several times.

I think it's the small stuff, though. Once I was going out of a building in Berkeley, and a tour guide was talking about Glenn Seaborg (one of the most famous element creators), and was saying in this wonderful Californian accent 'So, like, this guy Seaborg? His name is an anagram of "Go bears!"'. It's moments like that you can't script - why you need to go and visit people and see the world.

And I guess sports are a big deal at UCB. :D

A:

I mostly write in response to what I'm currently reading. So, if the topic is obscure, it's probably because I was reading some weird book recently.


Q:

Any advice for aspiring journalists/ science journalists? (How do you find stories, how worthwhile is grad school, and how likely am I to be able to find a job in science communication upon graduating college?)

And how long have you had to research and write the book?

A:

Hey! Just wanted to say I'm a huge fan. Loved the earlier comics in all their geekery but I have to wonder if you've given much thought to smaller social structures like polyamorous relationships and such.

But the real question: how much of the earlier strips dealing with raising kids do you find yourselves seriously tempted to do?


Q:

I'm still researching. Ask me when I'm done!

Advice... start doing sci comm now. A lot of countries have competitions, meet ups, tweet-ups. Get involved as soon as you can. The UK has Fame Lab and Bright Club, for example.

Also start a blog. Get writing. Talk about what interests you. Build a community. That kind of social interaction is invaluable to learn good writing, particularly in science, and in impressing potential employers.

A:

I've occasionally done jokes about poly couples, but I'm not exactly sure how much humor potential there is there?

It's funny - I was told after having kids that jokes about being mean to children seem less funny. I've had the exact opposite experience.


Q:

Could heavy elements 118 and higher be created during kilonovas like the one that happened earlier this week? I read that elements like gold, platinum and uranium were created during this event. would it even be possible to detect them if they were created?

A:

For your viewing pleasure

r/childrenfallingover


Q:

Yeah, that was really cool as I was at GSI the day after the event (and of course we've just had the Nobel prizes for gravitational waves).

Not sure if that particular event would produce superheavies, but in terms of detection, the best hope is actually looking at meteorites. Traces in olivine crystals and the like showing impacts of elements from billions of years ago can be measured, showing you the mass of what hit - and from the mass you can prove if a superheavy element existed before it decayed.

A:

I am SO already there.


Q:

What's your favorite element and why?

A:

I've always wondered, why is God in SMBC represented as a golden disk/pizza?


Q:

Before this, it used to be boron. Boron is weird.

Now, I'd probably say oganesson. It's really weird to personally know someone who has an element named after them on the periodic table (indeed, the only person alive with an element named after them). Yuri is also just a wonderful guy - really friendly and very generous with his time.

This is my first feature on him.

A:

Mostly because I wanted God to be abstract. He's loosely based on the way they drew halos in Baroque art.


Q:

How generous is he with his vodka?

A:

What saith you to the very likely, and all but proven, accusation that you are, in actual fact, a robot? The world needs to know.


Q:

Very. We had a good night, and they gave me a bottle to take home.

A:

01001000 01101111 01110111 00100000 01100100 01100001 01110010 01100101 00100000 01111001 01101111 01110101


Q:

Did you go to Cornwall where titanium (manaccanite) was discovered?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=POphxfF7S0E

A:

Will rated: "Not as in depth as I would have liked. And the jokes are weak."

What would you say to Will? (*I am not Will)


Q:

No, I'm only writing about man-made elements (except technetium and promethium). I've been to Cornwall before, though.

A:

Depth: Most people have actually said we're more in-depth than typical pop-sci. Given then we're covering each area in 10k words or fewer, I don't think we really could go more in depth without having stacks of equations or something. But, if Will wants more depth, there's what one reviewer called a "gratifyingly large" bibliography.

As for the jokes - Will is scientifically incorrect. The jokes contain references to both poo and butts.


Q:

Is Bob Lazar right about this?

A:

If there was a Zachy-treat (or Kellyy-treat), like a small piece of food one could use to teach you tricks, what would it be?


Q:

Have you ever been to CERN? I'm going there on a school trip in March and would love to know more about it.

A:

No, it's on my list. I've been to JINR, the Russian answer to CERN.


Q:

Can a highly socially awkward and shy person become a (sports) journalist? Do you have colleagues who are? Tell us about them.

A:

Yes, anyone can become a journalist. Social awkwardness and shyness are not boundaries, although most of the jobs do require attending press conferences. You just have to take a deep breath, pluck up some courage and ask.

One of the best shy journos I know is a numbers dork, so she does a lot of freedom of information requests and data journalism, ploughing through the stats to find the story. She's amazing at it, so her skills are really in demand. No awkward social bits required.


Q:

What chemical cocktail (if any) would Dr. Jekyll have to drink to turn into Mr. Hyde in real life?

A:

Russell Crowe's salty accented tears.


Q:

Are you excited for the search for element 119 starting in December?

A:

Tentatively. I'm not sure it's going to be immediate, so I'll be more excited when the first ping happens. Personally I expect to see more progress in 2019 than the first RIKEN run.


Q:

Since 1945? You must be very old.

A:

I was frozen in a vault along with my wife and infant son. One day I'll get to MIT.


Q:

Would you walk 500 more, just to be the man who discovered just one more?

A:

Sure. I'd name it proclaimium.


Q:

I belong in a co-ed chemistry Fraternity and one of my (dead) brothers is Glenn T Seaborg, can you tell me something interesting about element 106 Seaborgium?

A:

Seaborgium is pretty interesting because we've started actually looking at its chemistry. There's a neat video on it here.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the element is that its naming was in the middle of the 'transfermium wars' - arguments between the US and Russians as to who discovered which element, and what elements could be called. It was almost called rutherfordium - which is now element 104, which was almost called kurchatovium. The whole naming of the element is an amazing story.