Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Megan is paraphrasing a famous quote from the British applied mathematician, and fellow of the Royal Society, Horace Lamb, who famously stated in 1932:
- "I am an old man now, and when I die and go to heaven there are two matters on which I hope for enlightenment. One is quantum electrodynamics, and the other is the turbulent motion of fluids. And about the former I am rather optimistic."
This was referring to two phenomena in physics that, at the time, were poorly understood and difficult to explain. Lamb proved to be correct in his prediction that quantum electrodynamics (QED) was easier to explain; nowadays we have a much clearer understanding of QED, while our understanding of turbulence has improved little. Richard Feynman, who was himself largely responsible for explaining QED, famously described turbulence as "the most important unsolved problem of classical physics".
Cueball, in response, indicates that if he were to gain divine elucidation his question would relate to the widespread schoolyard rhyme "Miss Susie", which typically begins with the stanza:
- "Miss Susie had a steamboat
- The steamboat had a bell
- Miss Susie went to heaven
- The steamboat went to...
- Hell-o operator
- Please give me number nine
The rhyming scheme between the second and fourth lines, and implied contrast with "heaven," causes the listener to fill in the word "Hell" instead of the innocuous "Hello". Therefore, Cueball is wondering what a steamboat, an object lacking will, could have done to deserve divine punishment.
The title text is a reference to the 1930s pulp series "The Shadow", whose eponymous character is a psychic vigilante. The 1937 radio plays introduction began with the line "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!" Unfortunately, since a steamboat is not a person to begin with, let alone a man specifically, The Shadow would be unable to determine what heinous crimes the steamboat had committed to deserve damnation.
This comic, in particular the way Megan and Cueball are walking and its reference to theology, greatly resembles the later comic 1505: Ontological Argument.
- [Megan and Cueball walks together.]
- Megan: Horace Lamb said he would have two questions for God: why quantum mechanics, and why turbulence?
- Cueball: I'd have just one: What did Miss Susie's steamboat do?!
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Hey, Arnold! Greyson (talk) 13:51, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
The Shadow cannot provide an answer because steamboats--boats and ships specifically, and generally anything you ride on--are gendered as "women" in the English language. Kevin11 11 (talk) 14:30, 10 January 2014 (UTC)Kevin 11_11
- I think this is worth mentioning as a secondary possibility, but to me it doesn't work nearly as well as the simple "a steamboat isn't a person". Jkshapiro (talk) 03:32, 29 January 2016 (UTC)
- I read it as the poetic "man" which includes women as a subset, which is also a fairly common English construction. I am not familiar with The Shadow, but Wikipedia doesn't suggest that there's any particular genderful power to the phrase (in fact, the Shadow only has powers in the radio adaptations it seems out of necessity), so I'm going to assume that this is a coincidence. Hppavilion1 (talk) 02:35, 1 April 2017 (UTC)
The description of The Shadow is not quite right. The radio character had "the power to cloud men's minds so they cannot see him", but the pulp magazine character did not. He used his black cloak and slouch hat to blend into the shadows and he was a master of disguise. 220.127.116.11 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
Hi? As a Mathematician, I feel the Shadow should just program around quantum mechanics in general. Simplifies the problem. This is the algorithm now. 07:15, 12 January 2014 (UTC) -- Anomulus (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
I think Eric Laithwaite on gyroscopes unknowingly explained the behaviour of storms. Three tropical storms on the go simultaneously will on cyclosis resolve or devolve into a VEI event.
When they hit a continental shelf (thus causing cyclosis) the tilt causes a fundamental change in fluid dynamics and a change of state takes place as the energy moves underground.
In an as yet inexplicable paradox(?) there are NO tropical storms when a super-quake strikes. The base-line appears to be 5.6 M after a lull in medium sized quakes.I used Google News BEFORE it was clickbait 21:09, 9 January 2015 (UTC)