Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Cueball is presumably experiencing a common dream subject, flying or floating. As in many varieties of such a dream, the ability to fly, float or glide only gradually manifests, going from longer and longer jumps to a sort of flight or hovering. In Cueball's case, his jumps become longer and 'lighter' until at last he is gliding just above the surface of the Earth. He has apparently had such a dream before, with just such a flight mechanic manifesting itself, as he indicates that he 'loves' these dreams.
In his presumed dream, Cueball finally achieves his gliding flight just as he reaches the shoreline, and his gliding carries him over the water's edge and out to sea. After a moment's reflection, he realizes that if he were really gliding out to sea without any real apparent means of control, his situation would presumably be rather perilous — death by starvation or thirst, gradually slowing down and becoming 'stuck' over the water with no way to land, the loss of his gliding ability as suddenly as it came, etc, all suggest themselves as possible perils he would now be subject to if, in fact, his 'dream' were actual reality. Thus he eventually indicates that he hopes it is a dream, in contrast to his feeling at the comic's opening.
The title text adds a further worry not immediately apparent unless one considers the possibility that Cueball's 'gliding' will continue in a straight line in relation to the Earth's surface. In that case he would continue moving straight while the Earth's surface would curve away beneath him, sending him out into space instead of the relatively preferable scenario of merely floating across the ocean to the opposite shore. After all, if the laws of physics had changed to permit hovering/flying, consequences would be unpredictable — i.e. there'd be no assurance one would maintain a constant hovering height rather than take leave of the planet as one flies forth. One thing about miracles is that all bets are off!
Also note that this situation is similar to the case of Newton's cannonball. However, that is actually in very-low-earth-orbit — and you would need to be going 7,300 m/s, or about 16,000 mph (26,000 km/h) to stay in orbit. At that speed, or course, air friction would quickly destroy the cannonball or person. This is clearly not the case in the dream.
Getting weightless and drifting around was a fantasy in 226: Swingset.
- [In the first panel Cueball is seen as a stop motion cartoon jumping down a small hill — jumping longer and longer between sentences. Jump is written over the head of Cueball that perform the jump until he floats.]
- Cueball: I love these dreams
- Cueball: Each jump is a little longer
- Cueball: Each push off the ground a little softer
- Cueball: Until I
- g l i d e
- [In the second panel Cueball glides over a fence and the dunes before the beach — then he glides out over the sea.]
- [In the third panel Cueball glides across the open sea — birds circling, a fish splashing beneath the second.]
- Cueball: ...I hope this is a dream.
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- The comic 417: The Man Who Fell Sideways has some resemblance to this one.
- The title text for this comic originally read "I hope I'm at least following the curve of the Earth around to land..." but later it was changed to "Or that I'm at least following the curve of the Earth around to land..."
I guess the "G L I D E" could be a reference to Fight Club scene. The one with the Penguin during one of Tylor's support groups. 126.96.36.199 09:03, 2 June 2014 (UTC)
>In Fight Club, it's "Slide", though.188.8.131.52 09:54, 8 June 2014 (UTC)
The statement someone added, saying that if gravity had ceased he'd leave the earth's orbit due to the lack of the Sun's gravity, is incorrect; the Sun's gravitational force at the Earth is far lower than the Earth's gravity, so the loss would not be noticeable until well after he'd ended up in space. As such, I removed that statement. 184.108.40.206 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
I have always wondered why flying/gliding dreams seem to be universal for humans, not to mention all those dreams where you are viewing the world from an elevated position, I.e. near the ceiling or up in a cloud. After all, people do not fly, none of us have ever flown, none of our ancestors have ever flown, so whence all these flying dreams? Not sure if our arboreal ancestors were ever nimble enough to "fly" through the trees, but it would have been a long way back. 220.127.116.11 12:24, 2 June 2014 (UTC)
- In the last century a lot of us have flown (assisted). Of course, our obsession with the idea of flying is much older than our actual taking to the skies, by several millennia. (Unless, "Aliens!") But, could it simply be because all that there was to see at night was the sky? If you woke up in the middle of the night, stared at the stars for a few minutes and went back to sleep, would that make you want to travel upwards towards them in your dreams? 18.104.22.168 05:51, 3 June 2014 (UTC)
- Our ancestors may not be able to fly, but they certainly known a lot about elevated positions. They might envied the birds for long time. -- Hkmaly (talk) 10:31, 4 June 2014 (UTC)
Why is "GLIDE" in all-caps in the transcript? The whole comic is in all-caps. 22.214.171.124 12:32, 2 June 2014 (UTC)
- perhaps because the letters are separated out(?)... it would look a little weird to me for them not to be all caps - all XKCD comics are in all caps (it's the font), so that's not a differentiating factor -- Brettpeirce (talk) 13:11, 2 June 2014 (UTC)
- Correct - since it is not a single word but individual words they should all be capital. All sentences here in the transcripts are written with capital letters - so as these letters each represents an individual sentence they should begin with a capital letter. Kynde (talk) 13:54, 2 June 2014 (UTC)
It's a dream of every wolfenstein enemy-territory player ;-) Theres a bug where you can get a lot of speed be running and jumping around.
126.96.36.199 15:02, 2 June 2014 (UTC)
If Cueball isn't following the Earth's curvature, he could end up in Valinor (if he's travelling westward). —TobyBartels (talk) 19:59, 2 June 2014 (UTC)
I'm not sure what's happening at the "Recent Changes" link in the left sidebar, but it stalls halfway thru loading and then locks up 105% of my Mac's CPU. Could it be a super super long amount of data, and the sysops need to snip that to a more manageable level? Jimmbo (talk) 20:22, 2 June 2014 (UTC)
Is it relevant to talk about Newton's ludicrously high mountain experiment (>1000 km) => 7300 m/s? Why not simply state that you have to go around 7900 m/s at sea level to maintain orbit (if no other forces are acting on you) 188.8.131.52 21:30, 3 June 2014 (UTC)
- Everybody knows that this slow gliding would only work in a dream. The correct speed at sea level would be 7.91 km/s and this comic isn't talking about this high velocities anyway. --Dgbrt (talk) 22:22, 3 June 2014 (UTC)
- True enough 184.108.40.206 10:11, 4 June 2014 (UTC)
- Yes it makes no sence and has nothing to do with the explain - so I have deleted the paragraph. Kynde (talk) 20:24, 9 June 2014 (UTC)
There are similarities to the story of flying Robert http://www.sagen.at/texte/maerchen/maerchen_deutschland/hoffmann/fliegender_robert_1.html , a story from "der Struwwelpeter", german classic for children. 220.127.116.11 07:08, 4 June 2014 (UTC)
I used to have trouble landing the first few times too, but I got better soon. 18.104.22.168 09:47, 4 June 2014 (UTC)
A minor thing, but I think that "...unless one considers the possibility that Cueball's 'gliding' will continue in a straight line in relation to the Earth's surface." would be better re-written using the term "tangent". And would help later on in the explanation (regarding the Earth's surface bending away, etc). 22.214.171.124 02:29, 5 June 2014 (UTC)
- PS, for the record my "flying dreams" are different, being more the "feet pressing/thrusting against the air" kind, trajectory controllable by leaning backwards and forwards, as if on an 'invisible airworthy Segway', and altitude by using more or less 'push'. Well, it makes sense to me when I'm dreaming, when I'm quite adept at it. 126.96.36.199 02:35, 5 June 2014 (UTC)
FTR, the first slide immediately reminded me of "Muž, který dovedl lítat" (The Man Who Knew How To Fly) by Karel Čapek (1938). Just go DuckDuck (or Google if you prefer), there are even (at least) two animated cartoons inspired by that. --kavol, 188.8.131.52
07:53, 5 June 2014 (UTC)