Dyman & Associates Publishing Book Review: The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage

Sydney Padua's delight-filled comic is one of the best comics on computing and mathematics. She transforms one of the most powerful scientific collaborations into an entertaining series of adventures. It's filled with deviation, anachronisms and sketch portrayals of famous Victorians, all divided through with an exuberant goofiness. It's also the modern world through a Padua prism, with jokes about Twitter and Venn diagrams sprinkled into the dialogue.

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1. The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage

Sydney Padua's delight-filled comic is one of the best comics on computing and mathematics. She transforms one of the most powerful scientific collaborations into an entertaining series of adventures. It's filled with deviation, anachronisms and sketch portrayals of famous Victorians, all divided through with an exuberant goofiness. It's also the modern world through a Padua prism, with jokes about Twitter and Venn diagrams sprinkled into the dialogue.

 

To begin with, Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace are Victorian London's most enthusiastic duo.

 

Charles Babbage was a 19th-century peculiar genius who designed but never built two clear precursors to the computer: the "difference engine" and the "analytical engine."

 

Ada, Countess of Lovelace — often referred to as Ada Lovelace — was the daughter of poet Lord Byron, and a mathematical prodigy. Two decades younger, she collaborated with Babbage on what would become an influential paper.

 

When Lovelace translated a description of Babbage's plans for a huge mechanical calculating machine in 1842, she added annotations three times longer than the original work. Her footnotes included the first appearance of the general computing theory, a hundred years before an actual computer was built. Unfortunately, Lovelace died of cancer a decade after publishing the paper, and Babbage never built Book any of his machines.

 

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage presents an energetic alternate reality in which Lovelace and Babbage do build the Difference Engine and then use it to build runaway economic models, battle the scourge of spelling errors, explore the wilder realms of mathematics, and, of course, fight crime—for the sake of both London and science.

 

Complete with extensive footnotes that rival those written by Lovelace herself, historical curiosities, and never-before-seen diagrams of Babbage's mechanical, steam-powered computer, The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage is wonderfully whimsical, utterly unusual, and, above all, entirely irresistible.

 

The novel is also made up of almost equal parts of dramatic, slap-happy black-and-white comic panels, in which Lovelace and Babbage take on the powers of minor superheroes, and footnotes review and endnotes for historical background. Also, a 12-page appendix diagrams how the analytical engine would have looked.

 

The structure works better than one might think. The comics are intellectually wild and emotionally intense. The notes ground them in reality.

 

This is an amusing, fanciful version of the true story, set in a fantasy steampunk version of the world.

 

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