Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
In this comic Ponytail has set Megan's car on fire, possibly by crashing it.
Oxidation refers to a whole class of chemical reactions. Any chemical reaction that involves the loss of electrons is called "oxidation" (since a lot of these involve oxygen). One oxidation reaction is rusting, the reaction of iron atoms in the steel of the car with oxygen and moisture to produce iron oxide hydrate. Rusting is extremely difficult to prevent, and all cars are rusting slowly. Oxidation was also mentioned in the title text of 1426: Reduce Your Payments, where the main joke was about the opposite reaction i.e. reduction.
Another oxidation reaction is combustion, an exothermic reaction, such as the violently rapid reaction of flammable parts of the car with oxygen to produce a whole load of nasty gases and particulates, as well as a lot of heat. Vehicle fires can burn very quickly and destroy a vehicle within minutes.
From the most detached viewpoint, these are both oxidation reactions (although they occur in different places: rusting normally happens to the car chassis while fires are usually isolated to the engine) and Ponytail argues that as all cars oxidize, the fire that she has caused has only accelerated the inevitable destruction of the vehicle.
This idea was already explored in the what if? Burning Pollen, where the second image shows a burning car and the text above mentions the difference between rusting and burning cars: Lots of materials oxidize when exposed to air. Bananas go bad, copper turns green, iron rusts. Fire is another kind of oxidation reaction. In other words, our cars are always oxidizing; we just try to keep it from happening suddenly. The title text of the image even mentions the fact that it is different parts that burns than those that rust: Although the parts that oxidize during a car fire and the parts that rust aren’t usually the same.
The comic by extension mocks arguments that ignore or trivialize quantitative differences. Such arguments are commonly employed to attack climate change: the Earth has been warming since the glacial period ten thousand years ago, it's just happening faster since the introduction of large quantities of greenhouse gases.
In the title text the small arthropods (invertebrates that have jointed bodies and exoskeletons) are referencing microscopic mites – tiny creatures that can live on the human body without normally causing any harm (you probably have eyelash mites, for instance).
Presumably as a form of revenge, Megan has caused Ponytail to become covered in much larger arthropods - most probably spiders, judging by Randall's fixation with them, but it could be any combination of these often feared animal: spiders, scorpions, insects, crabs, centipedes, millipedes etc. As contrasted with the harmless mites mentioned above, other parasitic arthropods (such as the Crab louse, an insect known in slang as "crabs") are notorious as a sexually transmitted infection, and Megan could have been referring to these as those Ponytail already had as a further means of degrading her after the car fire incidence.
Megan's car also caught fire in 1014: Car Problems, but there she did not at first know for sure who did it. Not a direct relation, but Megan seems to be unlucky with her cars.
This comic was referenced in the title text of 1732: Earth Temperature Timeline
- [Ponytail is holding a finger up in front of Megan while gray smoke and heat waves pours in to the frame from off-panel left.]
- Ponytail: In my defense, your car has been oxidizing since you got it.
- Ponytail: It's just happening a lot faster now.
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The white balance is off in this comic. Mikemk (talk) 04:39, 13 June 2016 (UTC)
- Where? I checked it in gimp and the white balance is fine. In fact, the .png file for this comic uses the greyscale colour mode.184.108.40.206 09:57, 13 June 2016 (UTC)
- Reference to 1014: Car Problems 220.127.116.11 18:47, 13 June 2016 (UTC)
Maybe Randall drew this one on paper, which had already started oxidizing before it was scanned. ;D
18.104.22.168 08:36, 13 June 2016 (UTC)
I thought the arthropods mentioned were meant to be a reference to pubic lice (crabs). 22.214.171.124 06:11, 13 June 2016 (UTC)
Okay, who else had immediately thought of Skitter? 126.96.36.199 09:52, 13 June 2016 (UTC)
- I can't say that I did, but I like this reference. 188.8.131.52 12:55, 14 June 2016 (UTC)
There's no reason to think the Title Text is from Megan to Pony tail. It could just as easily be the other way around. 184.108.40.206 12:30, 13 June 2016 (UTC)
- Yes there is reason to think so. Ponytail tries to downplay the fact that she has crashed Megans car and made it burn, and then Megan downplay her revenge of covering Ponytail in spiders etc. --Kynde (talk) 09:19, 15 June 2016 (UTC)
- Or Ponytail, who has just demonstrated her tendency to downplay quantitative differences, is just continuing on in the same vein. It could easily go either way, though I like the revenge scenario.Geek Prophet (talk) 19:30, 15 June 2016 (UTC)
- Yes it is true that Ponytail has done it once. But I'm quite sure she is just trying to remove the blame from herself. Not like she would be talking like this all the time. It fits so much better with Megans revenge. --Kynde (talk) 08:26, 16 June 2016 (UTC)
Could this be a prequel to 1014: Car Problems? Luc (talk) 15:33, 13 June 2016 (UTC)
- No I do not see that. Here it is clear that it is Ponytail that has caused the fire, and also she is not among the people looking at Megan's picture, and it is clear that she obviously suspects one of them to have caused the fire. But it is interesting enough to include that Megan has some troubles with her cars. And someone already did. --Kynde (talk) 08:26, 16 June 2016 (UTC)
Possibly inspired by What If #97? Randall talks about oxidation and mentions car rusting vs. car combustion. Meareaperson (talk) 18:05, 13 June 2016 (UTC)
- For sure, thanks, I will put a link to it in the explanation --Kynde (talk) 09:19, 15 June 2016 (UTC)
Possibly the title text is a reference to the theory, that higher concentration of oxygen (this comic being about oxidation, which obviously requires oxygen) in the air would result in larger insects?    220.127.116.11 11:14, 14 June 2016 (UTC)
- Oxidation does not require oxygen. It is simply a term used to describe a reaction with a loss of electrons. There's a mnemonic to remember this, "OIL RIG; Oxidation Is Loss, Reduction Is Gain" and a few others as well. It is called oxidation because diatomic oxygen was the first recognized oxidizing agent.Lackadaisical (talk) 13:26, 14 June 2016 (UTC)
I believe it might have been a missed opportunity that the author didn't go for a variation of "We're all dying slowly anyway" in the title text. 18.104.22.168 16:02, 14 June 2016 (UTC)
I believe the oxidation Ponytail is referring to is the controlled combustion of the internal combustion engine, this is merely a difference in scale in her opinion.22.214.171.124 11:41, 15 June 2016 (UTC)
- I believe you are wrong. Because Ponytail states that the car has been oxidizing since she got it, and she has not been running the cars engine ever since she got it. But the rusting begins even before the car is finished... --Kynde (talk) 08:26, 16 June 2016 (UTC)
- I see your point, but I can truthfully say I've been living in my house since I moved in, even if it is a technically discontinuous period of time because I leave the premises at some point for work, school, etc.126.96.36.199 09:42, 16 June 2016 (UTC)
They should add "Ponytail vs. Megan" as a category and put this comic, along with "Herpetology", "Nachos" and a few others I can't remember right now. 188.8.131.52 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
- I second this. Having at least three(?) qualifies to be a category. 184.108.40.206 22:48, 16 June 2016 (UTC)BK201
- Please don't. There are probably other pairs of characters that are in direct conflict three or more times; they just don't happen to be the two main female characters. 220.127.116.11 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)