Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Title text: We all remember those famous first words spoken by an astronaut on the surface of Mars: "That's one small step fo- HOLY SHIT LOOK OUT IT'S GOT SOME KIND OF DRILL! Get back to the ... [unintelligible] ... [signal lost]"
This comic is talking about the robotic science platform Opportunity. On January 25, 2004, the Opportunity rover landed on the surface of Mars for the purpose of gathering data about the surface of Mars. Opportunity has proven remarkably robust, and the comic extrapolates the rover's resilience to absurdity for comedic effect. As of 2017, the Opportunity rover is still alive and moving.
The comic depicts the two scientists Ponytail and Hairbun at ground control being amazed at this fact already in 2010, and (maybe the same two) scientists continue to debate this in 2015 in the second panel.
They mention another Martian rover, Spirit that was also sent to Mars on the same date as Opportunity. Unfortunately, it became stuck and a sand storm covered its solar panels. On March 22, 2010, it was thought that Spirit's batteries finally ran out, marking the end of its mission. This was covered in 695: Spirit, in which the Spirit rover is also portrayed with an anthropomorphic personality.
In 2023, Opportunity is still moving despite having supposedly no power source. It also became aggressive and deactivated the rover sent in 2020. Cueball and Megan can't explain how it moves, but investigating is now too dangerous. This evolution is similar to the stories of HAL 9000 (from 2001: A Space Odyssey) and V'Ger (from Star Trek: The Motion Picture), both of which became dangerous to human beings.
By 2450, humans have colonized and terraformed Mars. Maybe it is the 2023 Cueball and Megan's descendants that are looking out over their huge "kingdom" from the capital on Mars. However Opportunity is by now dominating half of the planet and will not allow humans to enter its dark reign.
"Everything the light touches" is a reference to a line by Mufasa in The Lion King. Mufasa's son Simba then asks "What about that shadowy place?" and Mufasa tells him "That is beyond our borders. You must never go there". This was used again in 1608: Hoverboard, where Cueball tells the same line to Ponytail in the left part of the world. In what-if xkcd, concerning the end of the sun shining on the British Empire, Cueball tells a child that everything the light touches is their kingdom, except for France, (which is covered in shadows,) to which Cueball replies, "That's France. We'll get it one of these days."
The title text forecasts the first words of the first astronauts on the surface of Mars. At first, the astronaut copies the first words of Neil Armstrong on the Moon ("That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind") but it is interrupted by the Opportunity rover. Opportunity has a drill to collect Martian rock samples, but here it is heavily suggested that the drill is being used as a weapon against the astronaut.
- [The year (or year and first sentence) for each panel is written in a small frame at the top of each panel. It breaks the top frame of the panels.]
- [Ponytail is sitting at a computer, facing left. Hairbun stands behind her.]
- Ponytail: After six years, Spirit is down, but Opportunity is still going strong.
- Hairbun: Tough little rover!
- [Opportunity traveling on Mars. Text is written in frames with zigzag lines]
- Off-screen: Eleven years, wow.
- Off-screen 2: Wasn't the original mission 90 days?
- Off-screen: This is starting to get weird.
- [Cueball and Megan sitting at a computer, facing right.]
- Cueball: The battery is totally disconnected. How can it still be moving??
- Megan: Given what it did to the Mars 2020 rover, we may never know.
- [Two Martian inhabitants looking like Cueball and Megan stands on a cliff edge pointing towards a dark, mountainous region. Behind them are a tower and a hover car]
- 2450, terraformed Mars, Martian imperial capital:
- Martian Cueball: Everything the light touches is our kingdom.
- Martian Megan: What's that dark area?
- Martian Cueball: That is Opportunity's half of the planet. We must never go there.
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"Everything the light touches is our kingdom" are Mufasa words from 'The Lion King' (1994) --JakubNarebski (talk) 08:39, 27 March 2015 (UTC)
- The "You must never go there" line is also from Lion King. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0110357/quotes?item=qt0371437 Drmouse (talk) 11:40, 27 March 2015 (UTC)
May someone make this Transcritpt better? 126.96.36.199 08:58, 27 March 2015 (UTC)
Hey, thanks to whoever tidied up my explanation 188.8.131.52 11:01, 27 March 2015 (UTC)
I think the second line ("We must never go there") is from the same scene in The Lion King as the first line, not a reference to Space Odyssey . See [] from 0:52 to 1:23. 184.108.40.206 11:04, 27 March 2015 (UTC)
It seems to me to be common currency that the 'missing' word in "one small step" is "a", not "this" (whether as a fluffed line, in the moment, or a temporary radio drop-out over that bare syllable). Also, while it's highly suggested, there's no certainty in the title-text that the new Mars-landing quote necessarily ended in fatality. 220.127.116.11 14:31, 27 March 2015 (UTC) (Someone seems to have edited the text that inspired these comments, now... so you may now ignore me. 18.104.22.168 22:41, 27 March 2015 (UTC))
I just don't get how the rover could gain more power. It is after all, isolated on mars. All it could do is get weaker. Maybe it was already strong enough to control half of mars. The Goyim speaks (talk) 15:05, 27 March 2015 (UTC)
- My take was that even without batteries, it was still getting enough power from the solar panels (and maybe it somehow became sentient enough to reconfigure to create additional solar power arrays sufficient for its needs, like some suggestions for 'builder' robots on the Moon, perhaps mixed in with Von Neumann machine ideas). Which makes the "dark part of Mars, don't go there!" even more intruiging. (Have we done to Opportunity what 'we' tried to do to the Matrix's machine-civilisation? Darken the environment? And thus how is it still dangerous? The same reason as the Matrix machines are still powered on that world? Or has it raised the cloud of darkness itself; Because It Can, to delineate its territory or as an actual terraforming effort of its own, more suited to its own current needs and 'desires'? And how many more questions can I raise?) 22.214.171.124 22:41, 27 March 2015 (UTC)
- The reason is because this is a joke. A little light-hearted confusion generating narrative which hinges on the unlikelihood of the Opportunity rover not only surviving far beyond it's projected time-period, extrapolated into the absurdity of it somehow taking over half the planet. -Pennpenn 126.96.36.199 00:09, 30 March 2015 (UTC)
I'm surely not the only person who read the title text and thought, "Well, that's more work for the Death of Being Ground by a Mars Rover Rock Abrasion Tool." 188.8.131.52 18:01, 27 March 2015 (UTC)
- I just wanted to say pretty much the same thing, so no, you're not the only. 184.108.40.206 09:12, 28 March 2015 (UTC)
Did something happen to inspire this? Mikemk (talk) 19:28, 27 March 2015 (UTC)
On March 20 Opportunity completed a reformat of its flash memory and started accumulating more data. On March 24 it logged 26.219 miles (42.195 km) in the 11 years and 2 months since it landed, the length of a marathon.
NASA JPL press releases: http://mars.nasa.gov/mer/newsroom/pressreleases/20150323a.html http://mars.nasa.gov/mer/newsroom/pressreleases/20150324a.html The Dining Logician (talk) 22:59, 27 March 2015 (UTC)
What citations does this explanation require?--17jiangz1 (talk) 11:39, 28 March 2015 (UTC)
What does the transcript require for it to be complete? As far as I can tell, it is complete. --Zbee talk git (talk) 17:16, 28 March 2015 (UTC)
- I think the transcript is incorrect, rather than incomplete. In the 2450 panel Meghan-M and Cueball-M appear to be standing in daylight. In that case it would be wrong to say they are "pointing in the dark". It would be better to say they are "pointing towards a dark, mountainous region". Someone feel free to edit the transcript if you agree.These Are Not The Coments You Are Looking For (talk) 19:21, 28 March 2015 (UTC)
- I hadn't caught that before; I've changed it and think it is good now.--Zbee talk git 20:02, 28 March 2015 (UTC)
"[...] and will not allow humans to enter his dark reign." Shouldn't it be "it's dark reign."? 220.127.116.11 23:35, 14 December 2015 (UTC)
- There, fixed. This is an open wiki, if you see an issue you think should be sorted out, do so. If you screw up and don't notice, someone else can fix it. -Pennpenn 18.104.22.168 01:49, 25 January 2016 (UTC)
I got rid of the apostrophe in "it's dark reign". It should be "it's…".Saspic45 (talk) 03:13, 26 February 2016 (UTC)