Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Cueball is relating some odd news items to Black Hat. A structure has been discovered that consists of large ring strung with superstrong mesh, a 260-mile long pole (420 km), and a gigantic winch. As Cueball outlines the particulars of the discovery, Black Hat responds vaguely to each detail, seeming preoccupied with his computer. Cueball quickly realizes that the pole, ring and net combination sounds like a butterfly net, but one of immense size. Given Black Hat's history of nefarious activities, Cueball infers and then accuses Black Hat of wanting to "catch" the International Space Station, which orbits about 260 miles above the earth, by winching the pole up so that the net aligns with the Space Station's orbit.
Black Hat does not deny the charge, but he dissimulates by saying it is not necessarily the ISS that he intends to catch just an international space station, implying that it could be some other one. However, it is transparently obvious which space station he is targeting. Hint: it is the only truly international space station, it is actually called the International Space Station, and it has an orbit that matches the length of the pole that was found.
The real buildings may belong to these structures:
- The giant ring from the first panel may be an allusion to the Tevatron, a former circular particle accelerator at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab), east of Batavia, near Chicago, Illinois. It is a 6.86 km (4.26 miles) long ring, giving it a diameter of almost 2,2 km (1.4 miles) leaving plenty of room to catch the ISS which is "only" 108.5 m (356 ft) in the longest direction.
- Similarly, the gigantic winch in St. Louis, may refer to the 630-foot (192 meters) high Gateway Arch monument. It is the tallest man-made monument in the United States.
The title text is a reference to how butterfly collections are usually presented. The insects are mounted in glass display cases, each skewered through the body with a pin, and labeled. The text is spoken by Black Hat, who again tries to imply that he is not to blame, as it may not be his collection of satellites. Perhaps he is just catching a space station for a friend.
- [Cueball is talking to Black Hat. Black Hat is using a laptop.]
- Cueball: They said on the news that they found a giant ring lying in a field outside Chicago. Strung with some kind of superstrong mesh.
- Black Hat: Mhm?
- Cueball: Then they found a 260 mile long shaft connected to the ring, running from Chicago to St. Louis. In St. Louis they found a gigantic winch.
- Black Hat: Did they.
- Cueball: It sounds kind of like...
- Cueball: ...a butterfly net.
- Cueball: ...are you planning on catching the International Space Station?
- Black Hat: I'm planning to catch an international space station. Not sayin' which.
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Incidentally, St. Louis is about 300 miles from Chicago, so the shaft would be 40 miles short.
- It depends on how large the giant ring is. 20 mile radius would put it adjacent. Also, "outside" Chicago is flexible.
- More importantly, Black Hat is such a jerk. He builds a freaking space elevator but only uses it for a particularly silly kind of evil. - Frankie (talk) 14:26, 26 July 2013 (UTC)
By the way, what is Black Hat sitting at? It looks like there is open laptop on desk, but he uses separate keyboard in a special shelf... --JakubNarebski (talk) 15:06, 26 July 2013 (UTC)
- It's entirely possible that he has exactly that. My mother uses an ergonomic keyboard instead of the crappy, built-in one on the laptop. Her desk has a keyboard shelf, so that's where the ergonomic one goes. 18.104.22.168 18:05, 26 July 2013 (UTC)
- I don't believe in ergonomic keyboards, but look at what laptops have instead of keyboard. I'm usually using standard keyboard instead of built-in one and I don't believe I'm alone. Also note that as a hacker, Black Hat probably needs lots of special symbols, which may be missing or on nonstandard positions on laptop keyboard (he is hacker, isn't he?). -- Hkmaly (talk) 11:51, 27 July 2013 (UTC)
- Regardless of whether or not you believe in them, ergonomic keyboards exist. 22.214.171.124 14:43, 27 July 2013 (UTC)
- Existence of keyboards which are CALLED ergonomic is fact. The bit I don't believe in is that they really are ergonomic, that is, significantly better to write on that standard keyboards. Which is subjective. On the other hand, I don't think that ANYONE would argue that the built-in laptop keyboards are better to write on that standard keyboards. -- Hkmaly (talk) 13:02, 22 March 2014 (UTC)
- Real giant ring observed over Chicago today.
A smoke ring from an exploded transformer.
I honestly think this could have inspired the comic.
on the news
126.96.36.199 11:31, 26 July 2013 (UTC)
Funny, I immediately flashed on the world's largest electromagnet, delivered today to the Fermilab facility in Batavia IL, which is just outside Chicago: http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2013/07/26/massive-electromagnet-completes-arduous-trip-to-fermilab/ Gardnertoo (talk) 20:15, 26 July 2013 (UTC)
If he would like to catch one of the other space stations he would probably not say he wants to catch an international station, because they are only national projects. 188.8.131.52 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
- I think that both "AN international space station" and "Not necessarily MY collection" is something he says to avoid blame. It is obvious that he's going to catch the ISS and put her in HIS collection, but he's not confessing to it. -- Hkmaly (talk) 13:02, 22 March 2014 (UTC)
Am I the only one who finds the connection to the Gateway Arch Momument and Tevatron dubious? There is no explanation of the type of winch, and the ring is specifically 'lying in a field'. Maybe the could be included as possibilities, but to say that the structures are 'probably' the ones referred to is false in my opinion.--Pudder (talk) 12:15, 18 December 2014 (UTC)
- I precisely agree. I will make the change now. 184.108.40.206 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)