Died in a Blogging Accident has lived up to its name and died... in a blogging accident. That is to say it has concluded. You can still re-live the magic by clicking here to start at chapter 1. For genuine criticism of XKCD, please click the top link to the right (XKCD Isn't Funny).

Friday, September 23, 2011

Comic 955: Someone is Wrong on the Internet

Title: Neutrinos; alt-text: I can't speak to the paper's scientific merits, but it's really cool how on page 10 you can see that their reference GPS beacon is sensitive enough to pick up continential drift under the detector (interrupted halfway through by an earthquake).

What do you mean, you can't speak to the paper's scientific merits? Surely someone well-versed in something as pure as math should have no trouble with the "softer" studies, right?

Oh. Wrong. Because Randall's not actually well-versed in math.

Anyway! In concept (that is, in a perfect world), this idea makes some degree of sense. It's win-win: a good gamble. But of course, we don't live in a perfect world, so like most of Randall's strips, the comic fails because of its flawed premise.

First of all, if we're to believe the second panel, these arguments are all with people on the internet. How is either going to make good on the bet? Paypal?

Second, even if this was in real life, I would expect that the kind of people who follow articles like this are generally going to be skeptical. It's not like your mom is just going to say, "Hey, did you see this morning's CNN? Apparently neutrinos can travel faster than light!" No, that's the sort of article that you only find if you're looking for it.

Finally, and probably most importantly, why does the guy need cash? I don't see any kids in the strip, so shouldn't he be rolling in the Benjamins?

In short, it's the kind of idea that would be good if it worked, but it doesn't. Surprise, surprise.

P.S. "Have you seen our budget? We couldn't begin to afford our own thought police," is a really stupid thing to say. Have you seen our budget? Congress doesn't care about spending trillions of dollars they don't have! We could "afford" all kinds of thought police. Not that that's the sort of thing that would show up on a national budget, anyway...


  1. By "we" he means the scientific community. Grants are hard to come by now-a-days, and every dollar is precious.

    If only we could sell 40 dollar polo shirts.

  2. You probably could. Randall doesn't have the copy right claims of stick figures and raptors. Sell it under the company name "eckskayseedee".

  3. Actually, the faster than light thing has been getting pretty good headline placing. Everybody is aware that going faster than light is a significant thing, so eyes are drawn to it regardless of whether you know what a neutrino is or not. I'm sure it will end up appearing on morning talk shows this week as an interest piece.

    Unfortunately, the articles I've actually read on it have been quite clear about the scientists involved believing it to be a problem with data interpretation, so I don't think many people are likely to take this bet unless it gets drummed up a little more.

  4. I'm not going to lie- I chuckled a bit at this one. It's not nearly as bad as others and in my opinion a little bit clever. Is it a flawed premise? Sure. But it still was enough to get me to chuckle.

  5. Why was there no comment about the massive wall of text and the unreadable text on the second panel? This comic goes in my "piece of crap" pile simply because I couldn't read it.

  6. I guess this amount of text just seemed "light" for xkcd. =P

  7. Comic: shit, mainly because of fucking unnatural dialogue.

    Congress spending trillions they don't have: though they may not have it *right now*, they are confident they will be able to pay the debts in the future. They always have paid their debts, so this confidence is well-placed. By your reasoning most people would be unable to buy houses.

    This is how finance works, and has been for decades. Please try another Tea Party argument, this one is on a par with creationist's non-understanding of science.

  8. "Have you seen our budget?" is just an attempt at recreating an inane internet argument, where someone is saying that not enough money is spent on science. I can't speak for the USA, but I do believe that science is sorely underfunded in the UK.

  9. are you seriously questioning the premise of a comic strip? I bet you're fun at parties.

  10. Worst criticism I have ever seen. Your points are all either invalid or wrong, at least in this (955) strip.

    Point #1: Randal says "I do not understand" You say: "He's smart, he should. Except that he isn't, so he does not" I say: "WTF? You just agreed with him. If you tried to say there is no justification for his trying to disprove it, A. there is, for everyone, B. this isn't Randal in the comic, It's Cueball (one of his characters)" POINT POINTLESS (OR WRONG, I HAVEN'T UNDERSTOOD YOU FULLY)
    Point #2: Cueball uses a computer to argue over science You: "He can't bet through the web!" Me: "Partially correct. Unless either A. Cueball bets with people he knows or B. this strip does not have to make perfect sense. It is used for comic relief (and a little insight) only! Here, both A and B arefully correct" POINT INVALID
    Point #3 Randal displays unskeptical people talking about science. You propose that this advanced a science attracts skeptical people. I note that you cannot find a group of people (exluding the one defined "group of skeptical people") which is solely skeptical, and that I've known many people who are interested in sciences they barely know the (very simplistic) concept of. POINT WRONG
    Point #4 Randal shows someone who needs money You assume (for no known reason, rather stupidly and offensively) that, since you SEE no KIDS, the person has to be rich I agree, that comic (with the cars) is a bit offensive too, but you (almost straight out) say that A. a parent (even of a teen) always has kids around him, and has to always take care of them actively (offensive) B. everyone with no kids has cash (ever heard of poverty? of a standard job and high rent? of just wanting some cash? this is stupid) how about a guy in collage? Must he have an icome of $1M/month (after taxes) to exist? POINT WRONG, INVALID AND OFFENSIVE
    Point #5 Cueball says: "We cannot afford a 'thought police'" You say something about the congress and that the national budget wouldn't give it a thought. What do they have to do with this?! By we, Cueball either means him, who obviously can't afford it, especially since it is impossible to make up such an organization without conditioning the society of the whole world for about a hundred years before effects show. POINT UNCLEAR AND IRELLEVANT

    Sorry, but this is just sad. You do not have to fight anything you do not like, especially XKCD, a harmless non-intrusive COMIC STRIP, for all things, especially to the extent of gathirng FALSE, MISLEADING arguements. This is ridiculous.