Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Title text: If you must know, I'm currently researching how to save this emailed tax form as a regular PDF so I can print and sign it. Our work isn't a lock for the Nobel, but we're in the running.
Ponytail walks up to Megan, and makes the observation that when a scientific discovery is made, it then takes a while to publish it. She then goes on to note that there are probably research teams making "Nobel-Prize-worthy" discoveries that have simply not been published. She is obviously curious if Megan is working on something like this, and tries to see what Megan is working on, but Megan prevents her from seeing this by partly closing her laptop. Then Ponytail asks Megan what she is doing but Megan just tells her that she isn't the one working on a project like this and ask her to "Go bother someone else."
This is not the first time Ponytail asks Megan if she is working on some groundbreaking research project: Back in 1067: Pressures, Ponytail was probing Megan about her work, since, as hinted by the caption of that comic, Megan is a Swiss patent clerk just like Albert Einstein. Ponytail thus assumes she has the same potential to produce Nobel-Prize-worthy work as him. While there is no clear indication that this comic should be a continuation of that comic or that Megan is a patent clerk, Ponytail still assumes Megan is on her way to a Nobel Prize - but that Megan is just not yet ready to announce her discovery to the public for one reason or another.
In the first two panels, Ponytail is referring to the general issue that, to publish a discovery on a scientific topic, it can take a very long time, especially when the discovery is "Nobel-Prize-worthy". Obviously the first step is for the researcher to demonstrate rigor by more supporting experiments (see 397: Unscientific), plus summarize the discovery into the format accepted by the journal the paper is submitted too. The latter can take considerable time by itself, especially if the first journal the paper is submitted to declines publication. Because other journals chosen afterwards may have a completely different layout (for instance in physics, the journal with the greatest impact factor is Nature, then followed by for instance Science and then Physical Review Letters. All three have very different layouts regarding format and figures etc. Thus the paper may need to be submitted to various journals until one accepts, which may also take a few months, and even when accepted it can take anywhere from 25 days to 150+ days just for the paper to be processed through the publishing system due to various reasons, including the nature of the publishing process, assigning extra work as conditions for acceptance, or even formatting problems. This has prompted researchers to come up with some interesting work-arounds.
In the title text, Megan claims that she is actually just trying to convert an emailed tax form to a PDF. This could of course just be to ward of any further attempts by Ponytail to spy on her "real" Nobel-worthy work. Megan sarcastically states that her conversion of tax forms is in the running for a Nobel Prize, perhaps because she considers it an incredibly difficult task (even for these things that should not be hard - see 1349: Shouldn't Be Hard). While this could be true, this task is in no way connected to any kind of scientific endeavor, and as a result could never be considered for any kind of Nobel Prize. That the task is so difficult is though officially acknowledged by the IRS as they themselves note that saving and printing their Online tax forms could be tricky.
- Fill-In Tax Forms
- The IRS also offers Free Fillable Forms which allow you to save (and print) the information you’ve typed in online. The fill-in tax forms also require Adobe Acrobat Reader software. To save the data you’ve filled in, use the Adobe Reader’s “Save” function (not the web browser’s “Save” function). ...
The months and weeks before April 15th (this comic was released on March 1st), is the "tax season" in the US so Americans are in the process of completing their tax forms, which is why this comic is timely. Given the US tax code is complained by many to be too complex, it is possible for researchers to delay publication of their discoveries to deal with their tax returns first. This can cause people to "sit on their discovery" for a while, although hopefully not as long as the task of publishing itself.
- [Ponytail walks up to Megan, who is sitting in an office chair at a desk using her laptop.]
- Ponytail: When you make a big scientific discovery, it takes a while to get it published.
- Ponytail: Right?
- Megan: Mm hmm.
- [Zoom-in on Ponytail.]
- Ponytail: So there are probably several research teams out there who are sitting on Nobel-Prize-worthy discoveries, but haven't told the rest of us yet.
- Megan (off-panel): Makes sense.
- [Ponytail leans over the desk, trying to see Megan's laptop screen from behind it.]
- [Ponytail leans further. Megan pulls the screen down so Ponytail cannot see it.]
- Ponytail: Sooo... What are you working on?
- Megan: It isn't me!
- Ponytail: I promise I won't tell.
- Megan: Shoo! Go bother someone else.
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Notice that a new what if? - Toaster vs. Freezer was released yesterday, the day before this comic was released. Less than three weeks between releases this time. --Kynde (talk) 18:40, 1 March 2017 (UTC)
This is my first time writing an explanation. It's still just a stub. Waterhorse800 (talk) 17:02, 1 March 2017 (UTC)
- You are welcome. But it's too descriptive. The pun is that Ponytail talks about science while Megan is working on a profane computer task like printing an email. --Dgbrt (talk) 17:18, 1 March 2017 (UTC)
- Great you are contributing. I think the description is fine, as I (probably disagree here with Dgbrt) think that it is great to start an explanation be mentioning the characters in the comic, as people coming here rarely only to check a comic the few times they are in doubt, may not use/know our invented names for the characters. Of course the real explanation of the concepts should then be added, but your contribution should in my opinion not be deleted. --Kynde (talk) 18:40, 1 March 2017 (UTC)
- Since Kynde mentions me here is my opinion on this -- nevertheless every contribution is welcome and helpful:
- Readers here looking for an explanation on the pun -- the names of the characters are irrelevant in this case.
- This comic is a good example because people reading the original comic often without recognizing the title text. And sadly still only a few of them looking afterwards here.
- If readers can read here only that what they've already seen they won't come back. And if they are overwhelmed by suspicious explanations they probably won't too.
- So everybody is welcome to contribute, but this isn't a writers wiki -- it's for the readers.--Dgbrt (talk) 21:14, 1 March 2017 (UTC)
- I believe that people will not go away because there is two lines setting up the names used here for the characters in the rest of the explanation. People should be able to understand the names if they only come here very rarely. And as long as the main points of the comic is explained, then further possible subtleties on Randall's part (weather real or though up) is exactly what needs to be here. It is for the users, and if the users wish to find out something specific it should be possible by listing possible interpretations here. --Kynde (talk) 13:47, 11 March 2017 (UTC)
According to Online tax forms saving and printing could be tricky:
Fill-In Tax Forms
... To save the data you’ve filled in, use the Adobe Reader’s “Save” function (not the web browser’s “Save” function). ...
--Dgbrt (talk) 18:34, 1 March 2017 (UTC)
I took the title text to imply that Megan was preparing for the possibility of receiving a tax form related to receiving the Nobel Prize and needing to print it out to submit to the IRS when filing her taxes. Rtanenbaum (talk) 19:06, 1 March 2017 (UTC)
What about recent news on SHA-1 collision for two pdf documents? May this be related? --126.96.36.199 20:49, 1 March 2017 (UTC)
- With or without salt?--Dgbrt (talk) 21:23, 1 March 2017 (UTC)
Virtual discoveries, like virtual particles, are discoveries that exist for such a short time that they go undetected. Might be unpublished research, or just fleeting thoughts. 188.8.131.52 10:33, 2 March 2017 (UTC)
Whoo boy.... This seems like one of those entries where overthinking it has introduced confusion where there was none. Yikes! "This is one of those comics where the reading of the title text is mandatory for understanding the entire pun.". This is positively, absolutely untrue. I had initially though this was referring to the comic's title - to which I was going to say that I always forget to read the title until after, and I understood the joke fine. Then I realized this is referring to the mouse-over text. Well, still true. I read this on an iPad, there's no mouse-over on the iPad, so I can only see this text when I come here to the Explain site, which I do after reading the comic (I like going in "pure", taking in the comic unassisted first). This is NOT part of the joke, as has often happened before this is taking the joke in a new direction, giving a second punchline. In the comic, Megan clearly DOES have such an unpublished scientific paper on her computer, as suggested by her tilting her screen away and the comedic cliche/rule of convenient conversational timing. Then Randall, as he is wont to do, uses the title text to take the joke in a new direction, giving another scenario where she might want to keep her computer screen private.
Also, the current Incomplete text, "What does the title "Unpublished Discoveries" mean to science", seems rather unnecessary, Ponytail answers this question pretty concisely in the comic itself. Maybe this is a call for more clarity on WHY someone would wait to publish - as I understand it, it's in order to do more research and analysis, so as to have something more solid and complete before publishing, and that the whole thing is a balance between completeness and publishing first - but as worded this question seems pre-answered. - NiceGuy1 184.108.40.206 04:03, 3 March 2017 (UTC) I finally signed up! This comment is mine. NiceGuy1 (talk) 04:19, 13 June 2017 (UTC)
There appear to be several very different ways to interpret the tagline, a short list:
- The funny part in the actual comic is that Megan is actually (just) working on a way to print a tax form as PDF (as suggested by Waterhorse800 or Dgbrt ?)
- Megan is preparing to receive a tax form related to receiving the nobel prize (as suggested by Rtanenbaum, but personally I don't get this one)
- In the comic Megan is simply working on something that would in fact be nobel prize winning which she tries to hide and deny because it is not published yet, and the tagline is a separate joke that reveals what the author is currently working on, and how he hopes to win the nobel prize by his efforts because it is so difficult to print tax forms (as suggested by NiceGuy1 and me, Testrider)
Testrider (talk) 07:26, 3 March 2017 (UTC)
- I agree that reading the title text is not mandatory, but I disagree that Megan necessarily has something unpublished on her screen. There can be all sorts of other reasons she do not wish Ponytail to see what she is (wasting her time on) working on... Will remove the mandatory part of the explanation at least! --Kynde (talk) 13:47, 11 March 2017 (UTC)
- All changes by Kynde from today (in red): Revision 9 March 2017 vs. 11 March 2017. This explanation was completely rewritten. For the first the importance of the title text should be better expressed because many people reading the comic often do not recognize this. And there are also much too many external links -- here even too much for a trivia section.--Dgbrt (talk) 19:19, 11 March 2017 (UTC)
- Holy crap. That is so ridiculous. You keep attacking anything I do. If you had actually read the differences you would have realized that because I deleted the first paragraph about mandatory title text, then all paragraphs are no longer aligned, and that is why everything is in red. Yes I did change several things but it was not rewriting everything. I have nothing to do with the external links except the one you posted here in the discussion about tax which I think is relevant. And as always the title text should not be explained before the main comic! I haven't looked at all your changes since I was here two days ago, but it seems that you have some edits to post for anything I do. Although I have also seen that you have just undone someones else edit with the reason Do not edit each comic you read. Well if there is something to add to an explanation then you should edit. This is a wiki! And of course you can disagree with what other people writes or edits, but always writing negative about it is really tire-ring. And in this case here you are creating FAKE NEWS to make me look bad (intentionally or not it is just not OK!) Read it before you complain! And what is this with a personal insult because I have forgotten a "]" in a link! I usually do read it through but sometimes I miss a bit. Better to write something and then let others do a copy edit than not write. I have seen yourself stating that you are not native English speaker and people should help correct typos for that reason. And yes of course it is bad to leave a link open, but hey it is a wiki, so people can fix it without getting personal. I have just had a look at your own major contribution list from 11th March, and without checking up on all your individual edits from that day, it seems to me that you have gone through all pages that I also edited and changed something on almost all the pages I just edited. Maybe they are OK edits? But it seems to me that you are following every contribution I have and keep following up on them complaining about them. But I have had enough long ago of the way you write to me and others and how you edit. So I have complained about this to the admins! Because it seems we cannot manage this conflict on our own. :-( --Kynde (talk) 16:09, 13 March 2017 (UTC)
- Please talk to me at my talk page, if you want. And you can be sure I've noticed your monologue at david's talk page. But this is off topic here and I won't reply.--Dgbrt (talk) 22:40, 13 March 2017 (UTC)
- So I was correct about you checking up on all my edits... Sad! So it is not OK I reply here, but it is OK that you write something not true and generally behaves unpleasant towards me every time you disagree with what I think this wiki should be. What gives you the right to say you know what is best. As you can see in the subject where I wrote to Davidy he acknowledges that I do a lot of god here, and states he has had problems with you before. I tried to talk to him so no one else would see it, but you just kept getting worse in your actions towards anything I do here. I haven't even been back to see or edit anything since I wrote the above, because you are killing any fun there was in editing here, because it feels like you just undo or trash anything I edit. And I have made the most changes here in the last three years, so why all of a sudden should you be the one to decide that all that is mainly bad because it doesn't live up to the standards you wish here? --Kynde (talk) 19:12, 14 March 2017 (UTC)
- I'm checking all changes here, not only yours. So again: Please talk to me at my talk page, if you want. It's off topic here.--Dgbrt (talk) 21:30, 14 March 2017 (UTC)
- But you talk to me like this in the talk pages, so why should I only go to your talk page? And only five comics later you did it once more here Talk:1810: Chat Systems and once more you did not look at my actual changes only on the red which is not my changes but changed number of paragraphs! There I list what I DID NOT CHANGE! Which was almost all that you believed was changed. --Kynde (talk) 14:15, 19 March 2017 (UTC)
I think we've finished the explanation, but I'm not sure if we need to add anything. It looks fine, so I've removed the incomplete explanation tag, but could someone double check this? Herobrine (talk) 08:37, 4 February 2018 (UTC)