1543: Team Effort

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Team Effort
Given the role they play in every process in my body, really, they deserve this award more than me. Just gotta figure out how to give it to them. Maybe I can cut it into pieces to make it easier to swallow...
Title text: Given the role they play in every process in my body, really, they deserve this award more than me. Just gotta figure out how to give it to them. Maybe I can cut it into pieces to make it easier to swallow...

[edit] Explanation

Megan has won an award at a ceremony (presumably movie-related and possibly an Academy Award, as she mentions her director). When a person receives a major award, they give an acceptance speech which traditionally begins with the recipient thanking people who have helped them achieve the honour. Sometimes when a number of people are mentioned, the recipient will say that it was a team effort - a comment which elevates the "helpers" to virtually the same level as the recipient.

Megan's acceptance speech takes things a step further; she thanks not only her director, family, and friends, but also the bacteria that populate her gastrointestinal tract. As she states correctly, the number of bacterial cells inside a human body outnumber the number of human cells by as much as a factor of 10. While the bacteria in the gut make digestion possible, the ecosystem formed by bacteria in the urogenital tract and on the skin also protect human health. In short, without them Megan would die — and not be able to win the award. To thank her bacteria is comparable to thanking her parents: they did not really contribute to the movie, but without them there would not have been a Megan, and no award.

Recently, it has been shown that the gut bacteria has an effect on emotions, thoughts and mood. link

In the title text, Megan contemplates how to thank her microorganisms and considers to eat the trophy after having it cut in pieces. This is an extremely bad idea, because it might kill both her and the microorganisms.

A pint is a volume of about half a liter (specifically, the U.S. fluid version is 28 and 7/8 cu.in.).

[edit] Transcript

[Megan is on a stage receiving an award from Ponytail, the latter of whom is standing behind a lectern.]
Megan: I'd like to thank my director, my friends and family, and–of course–the writhing mass of gut bacteria inside me.
Megan: I mean, there's like one or two pints of them in here; their cells outnumber mine!
Megan: Anyway, this was a real team effort.

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Bah, my first draft was conflicted yet again! Here's my draft - anyone feel free to re-merge any or part herein.

When people receive a major award, like the Award (or an "Oscar"), they give an acceptance speech which traditionally begins with the recipient thanking people who have helped them achieve the honour. Sometimes when a number of people are mentioned, the recipient will say that it was a team effort - a comment which elevates the "helpers" to virtually the same level as the recipient.
This comic takes things one step further and attributes assistance in winning the award to a normal bodily function - the bacteria in short-haired-girls gut. This bacteria is largely what makes digestion possible, and without it she would die - and not be able to win the award.

Jarod997 (talk) 13:30, 26 June 2015 (UTC)

Please wait for the BOT dgbrtBOT to create and edit all the necessary content here. So please wait for the BOT and edit only existing pages. Since xkcd is running in a cloud it can happen that my BOT sees updates later than you. So please be patient. --Dgbrt (talk) 17:00, 26 June 2015 (UTC)

In the scenario suggested (already tending towards a hypothetical quantification, and not regulated by a Weights And Measures authority), I'm not sure about either the accuracy or precision points currently in th explanation. Randall/Megan may differ but, in my personal dialect, it's perfectly legitimate to say this for "one to two pints" with context suggesting whether this is some set (by whole/half/etc pints) or a continuity. And rarely would it mean to six significant figures (it would be lower precision, regardless of any implied discrete accuracy). The unvoiced error-margins in precision around a pint and a couple of pints (although not invoked here, see also 1070!) could quite eaily overlap, in this scenario, to smudge even the 'set of two' together, and to either side. IMO.

Also, I immediately saw (probably wrongly) an echo of recent strips 1541 and 1528, among others, with the scenario of a singled corpus being shared and thus influenced (willingly or otherwise!) by multiple entities. (If apparently-Randall does any more along these lines... well, maybe he's trying to tell us something!) 16:41, 27 June 2015 (UTC)

Let's see if this sticks; I'm testing people to see how well they can negotiate contextual common sense when critically applied to neurotic debate over minutia. Regarding: the explanation in the 15:40 27 June 2015 revision, even though it has been edited out, but because there's a fascinating bit of didactic assertion that doesn't appear to pay heed to standard practice in speaking, and a full postmodern style deconstruction is something I'm in a ridiculously misplaced mood to go about doing. In the interest of being needlessly pedantic in an anonymous online discussion, I feel it sensible to point out that "one to two" (of something) to indicate a continuously differentiable value range, is rarely if ever used in colloquial English, (especially when the something in question, here being "pints" which is almost always referring to fluid volume, is readily divisible and not necessarily allotted in integer amounts.) In spoken English, the parsing "[x amount] to [y amount]," is usually only utilized when those amounts differ by greater than one. For example, "ideally we would have a team of four to eight people working on this project." One might use the phrase, "I would like it if two or three people could help me move this couch," to mean exactly two or exactly three people, and it scans this way primarily because people, as a unit of measurement, cannot be sensibly subdivided. Contrarily, when the parsing "[n] or [n+1]" is coupled to a unit that is readily divisible, common usage will scan to most speakers in a way that could more precisely be stated as, "a range centered on [n+0.5] [units] with a standard deviation slightly greater than [1 unit]."

For example I might say, "there are like, three or four dozen geese over there," and I would be daft to expect someone to interpret that to mean, "I estimate there are exactly 36 or exactly 48 geese over there," but have every expectation that most people might (however generally) hear that to mean something close to, "I have made a quick ballpark estimate of between 36 and 48 geese from my imprecise observations, and would not be surprised if the exactly value were as low as 32 or as high as 52." (I cannot rapidly count geese in quantities larger than about a dozen, and for each additional dozen of geese beyond the first, I expect my ability to make rapid estimations, in the same span of time it would otherwise take me to count a dozen geese, quickly deteriorates with at best a linear increase in margin of error and likely much worse than that. Which is to say, if I am able to wholly observe a number of geese (such that they are all within my field of view and none are obstructed by obstacles or other geese) between, say, 50 and 200, any estimates made in the same amount of time it would take me to individually count up to twelve of those geese, would probably be faulty to an order of several dozen geese. I don't know to what particular extent this is true; it would be a curious thing to test. I do however anticipate that a similar faultiness of measurement would exist for the average person estimating fluid volumes in the range of whole pints, especially in non-standard containers (for example, the human gut.))

All of this is further supported by the syntactical parsing of Megan's statement. The stated value distribution, "one or two pints," is immediately preceded by, "I mean, there's like." The phrase, "there's like," concisely indicates a vague or hasty approximation will follow, while the preamble, "I mean," has become trendy in informal speech to prime listeners for upcoming dialogue with a tone indicative of range of qualifiers potentially including personal bias, wide margins of error, unsubstantiated or inflated sense of certainty, but overall a sense that exacting precision will be less semantically relevant to the content than the relational posturing of the salient concepts. In a tautological sense, this is quite literally stated; "I mean," clearly indicates that what one will be explicating on has to do directly with meaning, rather than measurement, hypothetical abstraction or inquisitive positing, vague social hints, or any of a range of things one might attempt to convey linguistically. The listener is then ready to grapple with Megan's summary, "their cells outnumber mine," in a way that directs their apprehension to the contextual significance of the phrase, rather than the isolated absolute value of it. This allows the listener to link the practical value of the whole sentence to the preceding one. Since Megan opens by thanking a list of people which could be seen as comprising individuals, it makes sense to interpret the second sentence as denoting a significance in the sum of bacteria as individuals, and that there is a remarkable (hence her remarking on it) meaning in the concept of there being more individual bacteria encompassed within Megan's person than she has in total parts (for some interpretations of the concept of "parts.")

The summary conceptual meaning of Megan's statements (punctuated entirely by the concise notion of "team effort,") renders fully moot any utility in determining the precise volume of bacteria, and urges the use of the most efficient uttering possible to indicate the volume without being wholly arbitrary; whatever the exact amount, it is likely to be within an order of magnitude of a pint, a pint is an intuitively imaginable (and for many beer drinkers and Ben and Jerry's ice cream eaters, personally poignant) volumetric unit of measurement, a pint of anything that is usually functionally invisible has immediate sensational potency, and that all amounts to a very large number of bacteria and indicates little if anything important about how much of a space that number of bacteria fit into. (How Randall came up with a volume figure for gut bacteria is beyond me; any quick searches I've done seem to indicate information about bacteria in terms of quantity or weight, and conversions to volume seem tremendously speculative and subject to conditional factors.) 10:07, 27 June 2015 (UTC) (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

http://www.nature.com/news/scientists-bust-myth-that-our-bodies-have-more-bacteria-than-human-cells-1.19136 02:36, 6 March 2016 (UTC)

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