Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
In this comic, Science Girl and another girl have just completed a tire swing: A common makeshift swing is created by hanging a car tire from a length of rope, typically tied to the branch of a tree as in the comic. The other girl might at first look like she has hair like Megan but not quite as she is revealed upon zoom in to have curly hair. That they are rather small kids can be seen from the size of the tire compared to them. (They could be the same as the girls in the last pane of 1580: Travel Ghost).
In the second panel of this comic Science Girl muses that there are huge tire dumps filled with nothing but old tires that have no use. In the last panel, Science Girl continues that maybe they should use a tire from such a dump next time they make a tire swing. The presumption is that perhaps they used a brand new tire, or a tire from some other source. This is confirmed by the other girl's response (and also by the title text, see below) which makes it clear that the tire they used was in fact stolen from a guy's vehicle. The last reply from Science Girl suggests the victim put up a fight and they had to take the tire by force. So these two small girls actually fought an adult man over his truck and won the fight.
Vehicle tires have a limited lifespan. The natural end of their life is when the pattern of raised treads on the circumference of the tire, which promote traction on wet roads, are worn down to a point where they are no longer effective enough, or after 6-10 years (sunlight causes the rubber to degrade, so the tire becomes prone to cracking and unsafe, even if it appears to be in good condition). Tires can also become damaged in other ways, such as puncture.
Used tires are a notable ecological problem for a number of reasons (e.g. their size, the quantity produced, their relatively short lifespan, and the fact that they are difficult and slow to break down and contain a number of components that are ecologically problematic). A tire swing represents a functional use for otherwise useless old tires. The amount of tires (it is estimated that 259 million tires are discarded annually) makes them attractive targets for recycling. More than half of used tires are ultimately simply burned for their fuel value (which prevents them from sitting in landfills indefinitely, but this may even be worse as it releases otherwise locked up carbon thus releasing this into the atmosphere and making global warming even worse).
The comic is thus clearly Randall's attempt to draw attention to this huge ecological problem, as he so often before has done with other climate change/global warming related comics. (Climate change, especially global warming, is a recurring theme in xkcd). So while this is not the joke of the comic, it could be the point of it.
He also suggests another way to use old tires. It should be noted that used tires are not necessarily safe to use as a kids' toy as they could become sharp/frayed along the edges and stones and other hard/sharp objects may have become stuck in the tires (even going all the way through), during its life span, or worn thin enough to tear apart mid-swing (when the stresses on the swing material would be at their peak). So tires bought for use as a swing may even be made from a new tire, but not necessarily of the same solid type as those used for cars. Used tires reused for a swing should be inspected for the problems mentioned above.
The title text goes further, suggesting that they actually stole the victim's entire truck - possibly just to harvest the tire needed for the swing - and that he unsuccessfully attempted to recover the truck, so they probably did fight him. He put up enough of a fight that they do not wish to fight him again (so he at least survived). Further, since the girls expect him to try again (maybe recovering the truck with only three tires), they apparently still have the truck. One of the girls suggests that if they could find one of these tire dumps, then they could take a tire from there, make a new swing, and then just walk or run away from the truck when the guy comes back, letting him have it if he really wants it so bad.
The reason Science Girl made this swing could be that she wishes to become a cosmologist as a reference back her meeting a cosmologist on a tire swing in 1352: Cosmologist on a Tire Swing.
Note that Calvin and Hobbes which have often been referenced in xkcd has done the same to Calvin's father as the girls did to the guy (though without the violence) in a similar comic.
This was the first of two Wednesday's in a row where Randall used two children to make a reference to an environmental issue, the second being 1662: Jack and Jill about fracking also with Science Girl.
- [Science Girl and a girl with long curly hair, are standing under a large leafless tree as Science Girl adjusts a tire swing hanging from the largest of the branches of the tree. The tire hangs so high that the small girls only reach up to just above the center of the tire which has a diameter of more than half the height of the girls.]
- Science Girl: OK, looks good.
- [Zoom in on the girls so only the tire swing can be seen, and nothing of the tree. They both look at the tire.]
- Science Girl: I read that there are these huge dumps everywhere full of millions of old tires that no one knows what to do with.
- [Same setting but Science Girl looks up at the tree (outside the frame).]
- Science Girl: We should use one of those next time.
- Curly haired girl: Yeah. That guy was real mad.
- Science Girl: I would not want to fight him again.
add a comment! ⋅ add a topic (use sparingly)! ⋅ refresh comments!
my explanation of the comic, which was sort-of obsoleted by someones edit:
Girl1 and Girls2 just finished making a tire swing. They did not use a discarded tire but rather stole one, even fighting the rightful owner turning the theft into a robbery.
the women do not look like Megan and Hair Bun Girl to me, are they new?
sorry for commenting here, but I do not have rights to create a new page, which seems to be necessary for posting the fire comment. Will move once the comment section is created.
I think they are Thelma and Louise (from the movie) given the looks of their hair -- Chichak (talk) March 23, 2016 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
I think they're children Mikemk (talk) 15:33, 23 March 2016 (UTC)
- The first one certainly looks like Hair Bun, but the second one (which in in the explanation is presented as Megan) has a somewhat curly hair. Could she be another character, perhaps? 126.96.36.199 17:05, 23 March 2016 (UTC)
- As the tire comes from a truck and it's diameter is more than half the height of these small girls they are definitely kids (not that Randall could not have made adults make a swing as like in 150). Also this makes it much more funny that they both stole a car and beat up an angry adult. And now they are going all environmental after wards. So they are not Megan (which looks nothing like a curly haired girl) and also not Hair Bun Girl as it is defined that these characters are adults. There are many stories using kids and they will never represent Cueball, Megan or Ponytail etc. Those with hats are for instance never drawn small! Have thus corrected the explanation. But it still seems to miss much more on the environmental issue which is the subject/point of the comic if not the joke --Kynde (talk) 17:19, 23 March 2016 (UTC)
- She looks like the girl in #1058, who is also a child. I feel like she's been in multiple strips but I didn't see a tag for her anywhere. 188.8.131.52 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
- The girl in 1058: Old-Timers has two buns compared to only one for most other "girl" or women with any hair buns. So in that respect the is not quite like the one here or the one in 1352: Cosmologist on a Tire Swing mentioned already below (and now in the explanation). There are several comics with kids, but so far there have been no category for neither kids nor any specific kids. Maybe there should be? --Kynde (talk) 10:58, 25 March 2016 (UTC)
Maybe they got the truck from Black Hat's garage? Mikemk (talk) 15:34, 23 March 2016 (UTC)
- Then they would have lost the fight: 433: Journal 5! --Kynde (talk) 17:22, 23 March 2016 (UTC)
I have yet to use a tire swing that was made from a worn tire (worn by the road not by swinging). From my experience, expired tires used by automobiles typically have sharp metal protruding from the rubber. This would make a dangerous tire swing. I thought landscaping (rubber mulch) and playgrounds was the preferred recycling method for used tires?--R0hrshach (talk) 15:35, 23 March 2016 (UTC)
- I think you are correct. We have one for our kids (though it sucked and we took it down again) and that was a brand new tire, but not one I think would be suitable for any car though. --Kynde (talk) 17:22, 23 March 2016 (UTC)
- Not sure how that's relevant, would you explain for me? Mikemk (talk) 00:42, 24 March 2016 (UTC)
- I think it's relevant because the previous post was about whether tire swings were made out of used tires. You can make them out of used tires if you use good ones. 184.108.40.206 04:44, 24 March 2016 (UTC)
- interesting, I have never seen a tire swing made from a new tire! The steel at the bead can wear through, you just don't use one of those for your swing. I question the part of the explanation about the tire being weak. Tires have very strong bands in them, that's why they don't decompose. The rope for your swing will rot away 10 times, and the tree will grow old and die, before the tire gives out and breaks. Miamiclay (talk) 05:53, 24 March 2016 (UTC)
- Have reworded so it is not stated that it is always a new tire. But the one we bought was, and would probably bot be useful as a tire for a car. --Kynde (talk) 10:51, 25 March 2016 (UTC)
It is debatable which is better for the environment given global warming: leaving the tire to sit in a landfill, thus locking up the carbon in it for the lifespan of the rubber (certainly hundreds if not thousands of years in a landfill) vs burning it, thus releasing the carbon into the atmosphere and making global warming worse.Seebert (talk) 14:30, 24 March 2016 (UTC)
- Put this in the explanation. --Kynde (talk) 10:51, 25 March 2016 (UTC)
- Similarity to Calvin and Hobbes
A very similar Calvin and Hobbes cartoon came up on gocomics.com just last week. I don't think Randall would have copied it intentionally, but I suspect some chain of suggestion led to re-use of this idea. Foobarbecue (talk) 15:02, 24 March 2016 (UTC)
- Great thanks have put it in the explanation --Kynde (talk) 10:49, 25 March 2016 (UTC)
Looks to me like the same girls as we saw in 1352: Cosmologist on a Tire Swing. But I'm not sure what, if anything, the significance of that is. -- (xtifr) 220.127.116.11 08:39, 25 March 2016 (UTC)
- Well only one girl in that comic, but she looks like the girl with the hair bun The cosmologist is clearly adult and is also correctly listed as Megan. But great with the ref, thanks, have put it in the explanation --Kynde (talk) 10:49, 25 March 2016 (UTC)
- Hair Bun Girl now called Hairbun
There have for some time been an attempt to make a debate regarding the name of Hair Bun Girl, as a user wished to drop the girl and change to simply Hairbun along the lines of the name of Ponytail. After his comic was released the user decided to change the name, and this is why she now goes by the name Hairbun. If anyone has any feelings towards this (also positive) please add to the debate, which never really got started. I put this comment here, as this was the last comic released at the time of the change (and Hair Bun Girls name had even been used in the explanation though she is not part of the comic, which would be the last time before the change occurred). --Kynde (talk) 11:04, 25 March 2016 (UTC)
Used tires are not a good choice for making swings as they're highly toxic and cancerogen. Former ideas of making tables, shoe-soles or swings out of them are highly discouraged. 18.104.22.168