If Doc Brown Were a REAL Scientist

If Doc Brown Were a REAL Scientist

One last attempt to rewrite “Back to the Future” for scientific accuracy. Also, it’s a webcomic, now.



Well, I just couldn’t help myself.  After my Über-GedankenTM experimental ramblings last week on some scientific caveats to time travel, I got to thinking–er–OverThinkingTM how the scientific process itself would play out after such a monumental discovery.  After all, while most people–even scientists themselves–see science as the abstract pursuit of truth, the elucidation of the workings of the universe, in reality it’s also a business.

Some thoughts and an original webcomic, after the jump…

While I’ve been a so-called “professional scientist” for a few years now (at least, that’s what I call myself to make “terminal grad student” sound more palatable), my recent return to Back to the Future marks the first time I’ve seen this film since being so-employed.  And, despite the soul-hollowing pleas uttered by whatever vestigial bits of my youth are still hanging around in my head*, I found that my adult response to Act 1 of BTTF1 was so dramatically different from my reaction as a youth that I was stymied.  Is this the hindsight of wisdom?  The professional corruption of my soul?  Maybe a little of column-A, a little of column-B…

Anyway, as a public service –a window in the scientists’ collective hive-mind, if you will–I present below my own rendition of what would immediately follow the first ever demonstration of time-travel.  Please enjoy.  Or be terrified.  Actually, again it’s probably safer to go a little of column-A, a little of column-B:

OTI makes the leap into web comics. Somehow I don't think the "Penny Arcade" guys are scared.

OTI makes the leap into web comics. Somehow I don't think the "Penny Arcade" guys are scared.

*-no, I don’t hear voices in my head.**

**-I mean, most of the time, I don’t.

Like it?  Hate it?  Want a T-shirt of it?  Wanna hear me ramble incoherently about the internal politics that biologists resort to when it comes time to list authors’ names on papers?  Sound off in the comments!

7 Comments on “If Doc Brown Were a REAL Scientist”

  1. Gab #

    I myself am not a scientist, but I assisted in a psychology research study that is going to be published, and oh my GOD the drama about the order of the names was rigoddamndiculous. Threats of lawyers and such. What is the most common way for biologists to settle it? Rock-paper-scissors, right? Or do you flip a coin?


  2. Johann #

    Wow, being a “professional scientist” myself, I laughed out loud and salute your humor!
    Also, I am going to use my school’s resources and print this comic out on the color printer and hang it on my office door. ‘Cause that’s just what us scientists do.


  3. lee OTI Staff #

    Was the use of a Watchmen-esque font for “Overthinking It Proudly Presents” intentional?


  4. ekey #

    Wow! I am not a scientist… I am not even in the scientist industry… er, yeah. But I know what byline order means when it comes to journalists in a newsroom — I have seen grown men get into fist fights over whose name should come first on a story. I can only imagine what that means in the scientist world. I wanna hear it! Hypothesis: Flaming poo bags at the front door of Dr. Biologist.


  5. Rob #

    Unfortunately, a competitor read Doc Brown’s landmark paper and built his own time machine, then collected similar data and submitted to the same journal five years prior.
    The upshot is that Doc Brown was scooped and lost his funding, thereby preventing him from performing the experiments in his landmark paper and preventing his competitor from getting the ideas to scoop him; and the whole universe disappeared in a cataclysm of causality.


  6. Jim #

    Here’s a last scrap to throw on the BTTF overthink pile.

    End of BTTF3. Doc and Clara show up in the time-traveling locomotive and introduce their sons… Jules and Verne. Aww, touching. A tribute to Doc’s favorite author, Jules Verne, who inspired the whole time-hoppin’ mess we just watched.

    Wait a minute. Vern?

    Vern Brown?

    Who, thanks to the demonstrated capabilities of Doc’s technology, could have “been born” anytime, anywhere, from the POV of people around him? Like, say, in Germany in 1912?

    I wonder if growing up with a scientist dad gave VERN BROWN an interest in, I dunno, rocketry.

    I’m just sayin’.


  7. Matthew Wrather #


    That is really a brilliant observation. Let me add to it that Doc himself mentions to Marty that his family name was “Von Braun” before it was Anglicized.


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