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).

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Comic 975: The Non-Event Horizon

Well, the masses are empowering me to be a lazy bum and not write my own reviews. Works for me, I guess. This one was submitted by one "anon."

Title: Occulting Telescope; alt-text: Type II Kardashev civilizations eventually completely enclose their planetary system in a Dyson sphere because space is way too big to look at all the time.

Simply put, this strip is just plain stupid. There's nothing insightful or witty about the presented situation. So there's a guy who wants to block stars from being seen with a telescope. Why doesn't he just put a lid on the telescope? No, instead he invents an elaborate system where the telescope inserts small discs between the lens and the stars. How quirky and idiosyncratic!

Now that we are here, why not have a microscope that prevents seeing bacteria? Or a rocket that does not move? Oh, how hilarious that would have been!

This cartoon is like a shaggy dog story except it finishes before getting past the first step and there's no joke. Randall didn't even bother to think how the discs could really block the stars. In fact, it's almost like he didn't understand at all how telescopes work. Unfunny, uninspiring. Clumsy writing, too. "I thought the Point was to image extrasolar planets." […] "He has a Point…". And there's no joke.

The idea suggested in the alt-text, that a planetary civilization might be so advanced that it has blocked others from seeing them, could've been a more amusing scenario. But no, Randall chose to depict the less interesting idea and mention the better one in passing. Although no doubt he would have messed that too.


P.S. from Gamer_2k4

Explain xkcd actually came in handy this time around. It doesn't actually help the fact that the comic is completely retarded, though. As the alt-text demonstrates, the punch line "stars freak me out" is interchangeable with many, many setups. The fact that Randall chose a slow, unnecessarily complicated one just shows what a hack he is (not to mention that "I'm scared of stars" is a really, really lousy joke).

Maybe, with a little comedic timing, this could work. Maybe if it was told in person instead of in a webcomic, the slow buildup to the punchline could have some merit. But, Randall isn't a stand-up comic (thank God). He uses drawings for his humor. And he uses them poorly.


  1. I made this comment in the other 'sucks' blog, too. But when I first read this xkcd strip, it seemed to me that Randall must have recently discovered that Isaac Asimov wrote a story in 1941 called "Nightfall".

  2. "The idea suggested in the alt-text, that a planetary civilization might be so advanced that it has blocked others from seeing them"

    I think the alt-text suggests the opposite idea, actually: that such an advanced civilization would block themselves from seeing the universe because they think it's too big to look at.

    Note that a Dyson Sphere, which is a series of collectors around a star to harness its energy, doesn't actually accomplish this as it doesn't fully enclose the star system. What Randall refers to is actually a Dyson Shell (an idea which even Dyson himself dismissed as being ludicrous, because it would require so much material to build that to be able to construct one, a society would have to have FTL to get materials from other solar systems, and if they could do that they wouldn't need the shell anymore; Niven style Ringworlds are only slightly less absurd).

    Confusing a Dyson Sphere with a Dyson Shell is a common mistake. Even Star Trek made this error in the episode Relics.

  3. Got my edit made... I also posted the review I had sent in but wasn't posted... this review is much better then mine was.

  4. I liked this one because I am also afraid of stars, so GOOMHR, I guess.

    It made me think of Nightfall, too. I like Nightfall because I want to live on the planet from the story, where it's never night except like once every thousand years or whatever it was, since I'm also afraid of the dark and just generally hate everything about night.

  5. Do you even have a sense of humor? or reading comprehension?

    and have you ever sat through an astronomy lab and considered how dauntingly impossible the idea of even getting good look at every star out there is, let alone cataloging them or making any real progress towards finding all the planets (which are much harder to see) around those stars? The point wasn't that stars "freak you out", it was that the immensity of space is impossible for the human mind to really comprehend.

    And of course blocking out star's light is a ridiculous idea. but you know what? so is a talking stuffed cat, but that doesn't stop you from reading Calvin and Hobbes. It was a humorous sarcastic statement, not an idea about something that should be done. Do you really read comic strips for the realism?

    I'm just saying, it seems realllllllly silly to devote an entire blog to criticizing a comic strip that many many people find very funny, unless you have some sort of strong ideological difference that you are trying to get across.

    Also, just try to argue that the artwork in Calvin and Hobbes is more aesthetically pleasing. I really don't think you read funny comics for the stunning visual effect. and if you do, you should maybe get to a museum once in a while.

  6. if it sucks, why you see it??!!