1405: Meteor

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No, only LAVA is called 'magma' while underground. Any other object underground is called 'lava'.
Title text: No, only LAVA is called 'magma' while underground. Any other object underground is called 'lava'.


This is one of Randall's My Hobby comics. The author makes semantically incorrect statements to frustrate pedantic people who know the correct word, and confuse people who don't know the precise word so they can go on using the wrong word; see also 1429: Data. Since Randall is normally personified by Cueball, it makes most sense to call the one with the hobby Cueball in the explanation below.

Cueball's friend (who also looks like Cueball) walks up to Cueball and tells him that he has found a piece of a "meteor". Cueball corrects him by telling him that what he found is called magma, and that the phrase "a piece of a meteor" would be correct if the object was in the air, once it hits the ground it is called magma. In doing so he attempts to confuse or annoy his friend. In truth, meteorite is the expression for a piece of a meteoroid that has landed; meteor is the term for the streak of light caused by the meteoroid while it falls through the atmosphere. Thus the first statement by him is a (partly) true correction, but the second one is wrong.

The word "pedantic" means being overly concerned with being precise. It is usually a pejorative term used to refer to someone who is overly fussy and corrects someone's word choice even when the more ambiguous or slightly incorrect term they used was fine for informal communication. One would tend to believe a pedant, as they would usually know what they are pedantic about. So when Cueball is making wrong statements that seem pedantic, he may make people believe him. A volcano that would be the bane of such a pedantic person was depicted in the last panel of 1714: Volcano Types, as a direct reference to this comic.

The title text expands on the joke, as if the conversation had continued with a confused friend responding that he thought magma was underground. Cueball attempts to confuse him further by talking about lava which indeed is the expression for magma that has reached the surface. But it's ridiculous to suggest that all other things are called lava when underground. In the sentence he also continues to imply that magma could also be found above ground.

The two sentences thus follow the same pattern with one true but pedantic part to begin with, and then a false statement to confuse the victim.

Meteor & Magma[edit]

Here is a list of the terminology that is being muddled:

  • The descent of a small solid body from space:
    • A meteoroid is a small solid body traveling through space outside the atmosphere.
    • A meteor is a streak of light produced by a meteoroid as it burns up in the atmosphere.
    • A meteorite is a piece of a meteoroid remaining after it strikes the ground.
  • Molten rock:
    • Magma flows underground.
    • Lava has been extruded to a planet's surface, as through volcanic eruption.

A nice English mnemonic helps: In the void, meteoroid. On the site, meteorite. Neither/Nor: meteor.


[Cueballs friend walks toward Cueball while holding a rock.]
Friend: Check it out - I got a piece of a meteor!
Cueball: Actually, it's only called that while falling. Once it lands, it's called magma.
[Below the panel:]
My Hobby: Mixing pedantic terms

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If meteors fall, then what is a meteoric rise? Rfvtg (talk) 04:54, 8 August 2014 (UTC)

Fast. 08:12, 8 August 2014 (UTC)
See 1115 for explanation Spongebog (talk) 11:19, 8 August 2014 (UTC)

The legend of this comic might refer to pedology, the study of soil. 06:56, 8 August 2014 (UTC)

But the sky is blue. It is a desaturated blue with a center wavelength of 474 to 476 nm. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diffuse_sky_radiation The statement that the sky is "anything but blue" is wrong.ExternalMonolog (talk) 08:34, 8 August 2014 (UTC)ExternalMonolog

does anyone else find the capitalization variation of LAVA vs lava funny? In all seriousness that would make them two different programming variables... However it is hard to notice and isn't clear on what the difference in meaning should be. This is one of the reason for using Object mObject instead of Object object in java. Mr.Smiley (talk) 10:28, 8 August 2014 (UTC)

I think it might just be for emphasis. The pedantic Cueball is becoming exasperated with the person who's getting it 'wrong'. 11:30, 8 August 2014 (UTC)

And to everybody who is't a pedantic nerd, it's a rock.Seebert (talk) 13:37, 8 August 2014 (UTC)

Is my transcription incomplete? I feel like it is because I published it really early and I have not done many transcriptions here. InAndOutLand (talk) 15:02, 8 August 2014 (UTC)

What has more nutritional value, a small rock in space or a small rock falling from space onto the Earth?
A small rock falling from space onto the Earth because it is a little meatier(meteor) 06:24, 9 August 2014 (UTC)

A meteor (follow the link!) is not an intermediate stage in the lifespan of a chunk of rock between a meteoroid and a meteorite; it is the streak of light produced by a meteoroid during its descent through the atmosphere. It spoils the joke if we're not pedantic about the pedantry! —TobyBartels (talk) 08:35, 9 August 2014 (UTC)

Nice. A lot of meteorites on the earths surface today come from broken apart, differentiated asteroidal parent bodies so they were magma once. The rocky planets have grown through accretion of meteorites so all of the earths magma used to be elsewhere in the solarsystem at the very start. Plus, with temps so high under the crust, anything found down there would be molten and dissolved in the magma anyway and called such. Mark.Squirreltape (talk) 15:49, 13 August 2014 (UTC)

Mnemonic: In the void, meteoroid. On the site, meteorite. Neither/Nor: meteor. -- CoderLass (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Great. I didn't know this maybe because I'm German. But this is worth for the explain section so I will add this. --Dgbrt (talk) 22:04, 5 November 2014 (UTC)

There is a community portal discussion of what to call Cueball and what to do in case with more than one Cueball. I have added this comic to the new Category:Multiple Cueballs. Since Randall is the one with the hobby and also the one that Cueball represents I have changed the reference to Cueball in this explanation and transcript to represent this fact. I have also made a note of this fact and the fact that the friend looks like Cueball.--Kynde (talk) 14:55, 15 March 2015 (UTC)