[Originally written in Dec. 2002 for Freshman Comp]
Mad scientists have known notoriety for many years now. They have been portrayed in fiction for several decades, and yet little is known about how it is exactly that they set out on their career path. Many people simply assume that they go off the handle and try to take over the world because they're crazy. While this is, to a large extent, true, it isn't the whole story. (Mad science doesn't necessarily deserve some of the unfair treatment it gets in movies. Surprisingly, it is an equal-opportunity career path. Mad scientists can be successful at what they do regardless of gender or ethnicity.) Often, one's personal walk on the road to world conquest is very specific to that individual, but there are some aspects that are common to all members of the industry.
Sadly, there has been in recent years a noticeable decline in interest in this profession. With the immense technological and economic expansions of the 80s and 90s, many potential students have been drawn away from mad science by the lure of lucrative returns in private enterprise. Many potential students of mad science are being offered well paying jobs from research and development firms. But for those who continue on the road to world domination, there is still hope. Be forewarned, however, that mad science is not a career to betaken lightly, nor is it for those without ambition. Being an effective mad scientist requires years of study, a penchant for creativity/eccentricity, and an unyielding desire to succeed. Nothing saddens me more than seeing some young hopeful become overwhelmed by the job because he didn't have what it takes. Assuming, then, that you've got the guts to go through with it, you can contend with the material aspects of the job.
Of course, the first, most pressing issue that an aspiring mad scientist must face is that of funding. You'll need to accumulate a large amount of working capital at the outset, as with any other enterprise. Probably about a million dollars will do for a run-of-the-mill operation. If you don't already have this kind of money, there are ways of getting -- extortion, blackmail, robbery, selling insurance, etc.-- but these methods have only limited potential for success. Consequently, mad science is often most successfully implemented by those with lots of money and not much to do. International bankers, for instance. Once you've secured the funds, you can move on to the next phase.
The goal of nearly all mad scientists is world domination. They attempt to achieve this most often by holding the world hostage and attempting to ransom power from the leaders of powerful nations. To do this, you need something extremely threatening, something so destructive and technologically superior to those from which you would seize power, that they would have no choice but surrendering their sovereignty, lest they face certain destruction. What you need is a Doomsday Device. Space-based weapons, flying assassin drones, and something to stop the rotation of the Earth all fit into this category. However, in order to set yourself apart from other mad scientists, you need to be creative. Don't be afraid of a little flair or panache. Don't just put a satellite in space with a bomb on it. Stick a giant mirror on that thing so it reflects the sun's rays and cooks any point on the surface of the planet that you choose. Make volcanoes spontaneously erupt...in the middle of Kansas! Have some fun with it!
Another thing you'll need is a base of operations -- commonly referred to as a secret lair -- from which you can issue orders, make demands of world leaders, etc. Good locations for a lair are places that are hard to get to, such as at the bottom of the ocean, set into a volcano on a Pacific island, or in a craggy, mountainous area. Once you've picked out a spot, you'll need to begin construction of the main complex, set up a defense perimeter, and establish communication links with various world leaders, among other things. It is important that you not draw attention to yourself at this time, as this is the most vulnerable stage for a young mad science operation. No one wants secret agent types sticking their noses into anything just yet. The defense perimeter, ideally, will utilize many different means of repelling intruders. This requires effective deployment of personnel to patrol the grounds, state-of-the-art automated defense mechanism (e.g. automatic gun turrets), and awareness of certain advantages of the terrain of your given locale.
And of course, no secret lair would be complete without one vital ingredient: traps. And lots of them. In the process of taking over the world, one tends to run into the sort of people who don't quite understand your mission. These people have an incorrigible tendency to bust into your operations center and start shooting up the place. To prevent this, you need to have a way of dealing with these interlopers. Don't worry too much about what traps to use; just about anything will do, as long as you have enough of them. Go ahead, be creative about. You might try something along the lines of: killer kung fu robots with buzzsaws for hands; a giant underground maze with trap-doors into pits of lava for those who take the wrong turn (this one also helps weed out incompetent underlings); or perhaps the pool of man eating sharks with lasers attached to their heads. Really, you can just make something up. Incidentally, I've seen enough Bond movies to know that strapping someone to a table and having a laser slowly cut him in half over the period of an hour just doesn't work. No matter how devious your traps, or how insidious your methods of torture are, something could always go wrong. This is why you must always keep some sure-fire way of dealing with trespassers that cannot fail. Something like a 9mm should do.
Well, that about sums up the basics. Money - doomsday - lair - traps. With this template, you should be able to establish a modest place in the mad science industry. In conclusion, I'd like to remind the aspiring mad scientist to be patient. Success will not come overnight, only to those who persevere. Also, always study hard, work hard, and never be bland or unoriginal. Such is the nature of the mad scientist.