Comic 1298: Exoplanet Neighborhood
Well, let's start with the good. Randall get an A+ for the algorithm that makes the circles spaced out evenly. That kinda neat, and it must have been fun to do. Everything else on the other hand.
D for graphic design. This is basic stuff here. Don't depict planets as dirty brown discs. He has made this mistake before in 1071. Speaking of 1071, it's hard to see how that isn't a rehash of that comic. There are more planets, for one thing. The shape of the comic is rectangular rather than circular.
So what's the difference? Is it meant to show how more planets have been discovered since that comic was made. No. Read the text carefully: "Constructed from statistical data on typical planet sizes and orbits."
Oh, so they're not even real planets. It's just based on what we think might be out there. Yeah, I'm betting this comic will end up looking really dated in a few years when higher resolution telescopes prove that there are far more planets than this F for using damned lies and statistics in lieu of data.
Our models of planet formation are flawed. They don't even properly explain the origin of our own solar system. So applying that logic to other stars is flawed at best. Bear in mind that there is an observer bias in favour of large planets, because large planets are easier to spot. Small planets will probably be found to vastly outnumber gas giants when we get higher resolution telescopes. If our own solar system is anything to go by, then most gas giants will also have planet-sized moons.
So to sum up, F- for general scientific dickery.
F-- for being a poster. He probably made the background white to save on ink costs. Stingy bastard. Just look at how much better it looks with a black background. And all I did was invert the colours (and correct one of the spellings).
Oh, and F--- for forgetting to include an alt text, then hastily adding an alt-text-for-the-sake-of-an-alt-text a few hours later. Don't think I didn't notice.
B for referencing a current event. Not everyone has heard of Comet Ison, but the comic is just about readable without that knowledge, so A- for standalone value.
Does the time scale used in the comic bug you? Because it bugs me. Most comets have orbital periods in the hundreds of years, if not thousands. Certainly it would take at least that long to reach the Oort Cloud.
Fun fact: the Oort Cloud is far away, like really far. If it take light 4 hours to reach Neptune, what we traditionally regard as the 'edge' of the solar system, then you'd be looking at at least 4 months to reach the Oort Cloud. And since the comic does nothing to even imply this vast distance, that's a big fat F for having no sense of scale.
This sounds like nitpicking, but think about this. It would not have hurt the comic at all if there was a '3000 years later' caption between the 2nd and 3rd panels. It would have actually improved the joke somewhat. The idea of two friendly comets picking up a conversation after 3000 years is a funny one. F- for missed opportunity.
Now it's time for the nitpicks. D for failing to show motion, and D- for the stilted dialog.
This is another clear-cut case of comic that he should have run by an editor, because it was actually a good idea, but good execution would have really enabled it to shine like a dying comet in the sun's corona.
Comic 1296: Git Commit
We get it, Randall sucks at programming. This is not how you are supposed to program. As Ars Technica (the wise old sage of tech journalism) will tell you, you are supposed to write code that other people can understand.
F for making a joke out of 'I suck at programming.' But wait. There's more to it than that. It's a great big GOOMH* moment to Xkcd readers who are also programmers. In fact, I imagine it's the sort of thing that pgrogrammers encounter all the time when they make small incremental edits to their code. It's probably stating the bloody bleeding obvious to these people, so no joke. F** for stating the obvious, but they'll still appreciate the GOOMH anyway, because it's Xkcd.
C- for standalone value, as half the comic's readership will probably be scratching their heads and wondering what a 'Git Commit' is, if it's not obvious from the context (it isn't).
Comic 1295: New Study
Of course, we all know that Randall wishes that everyone would get their science news by reading the science-themed Xkcds, then googling some of the terms they mention so they can understand the punchlines. If Randall got his way, he'd replace science news with science homework. Fuck you, Randall.
*In case you're a new reader, it stands for 'Get out of my head'.
**It's not asterisks. It's two stars, you fuckers.