Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
A basilisk is a legendary creature reputed to have the power to kill with a single glance. In this comic, Cueball learns much to his dismay that the basilisk's power is fully compatible with the 21st century, and can kill you just with a smiley emoticon over instant messaging.
Cueball's request for A/S/L is a standard question when first meeting someone online; it asks for age, sex (gender) and location.
The title text mentions U+FDD0, which in reality is the code for a "non-character" in Unicode.
- [Cueball sits at computer, typing.]
- ~!~ Opening Chat with BSLSK05
- <NICKM> Hi!
- <NICKM> A/S/L?
- <BSLSK05> :)
- [Cueball looks stunned, flies backward.]
- [Two smaller frames focus in on BSLSK05's emoticon, implying rotation to show a smile and two open eyes.]
- [Cueball at computer slouches in chair, dead, crossbones above his head.]
- [At the remote computer a basilisk is looking at its screen.]
U+FDD0 did in fact kill at least one chat client at the time. Konversation in particular. (and presumably any other Qt-based chat clients using QTextDocument)
"basically u+fdd0 (eye of basilisk, the snake) is in a char range that's marked for interchange and illegal in utf-8"
"but qt's utf-8 encoder let it through anyway"
"but it just so happens that qt's qtextdocument uses u+fdd0 as text frame delimiter"
"so when you append it to a qtd, counters run wrong and eventually you crash"
"d-bus closes the connection and crashes the client when it encounters illegal utf-8, and kde's notification system works through d-bus"
The problem was fixed after the xkcd "report" and Konversation now handles unicode normally.
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This may also be a reference or allusion to David Langford's basilisks, which are computer-generated images (mostly fractals) that kill or otherwise incapacitate people by triggering faults or overloads common to human neuropathways. ...I think it's just about the humor in a mythological basilisk's power transferring via emoticons, though. JET73L (talk) 16:05, 8 February 2013 (UTC)
<BSLSK05> :) 220.127.116.11 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
Perhaps Cueball isn't dead, but petrified, because he saw the eyes indirectly? Like in Harry Potter. 18.104.22.168 21:10, 15 July 2013 (UTC)
- The X'd eyes and skull floating above Cueball indicates that the basilisk was, indeed, successful in its task. For those concerned about the paradox between "Cueball"'s untimely demise in this comic and his future appearances, consider this a parallel reality. Your brain is safe! Thokling (talk) 05:50, 22 September 2013 (UTC)
- Maybe a Poincaré recurrence time passes between this comic and the next one. 22.214.171.124 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
- ...or just consider that 'Cueball' is simply the name of the 'species' of stick figure here. Otherwise, the Cueball here would still be missing a hand, literally. Greyson (talk) 03:16, 16 December 2013 (UTC)
- Of course, there's no way we can tell it's not a prosthesis. --Alex (talk) 19:51, 17 May 2014 (UTC)
Is this the last comic with a CRT monitor? 126.96.36.199 20:57, 14 August 2013 (UTC)
- Good question, I did add a category for this so we can collect them.--Dgbrt (talk) 20:26, 21 August 2013 (UTC)
- The CTR category was deleted by Davidy so the puzzle is left unsolved Kynde (talk) 12:10, 16 May 2014 (UTC)
It would be extraordinarily like xkcd to include a reference to [Roko's Basilisk] and make it literal, in a manner similar to how other debates and ideas in computer science, mathematics, and other fields became actual battles. Consider [Pumpkin Carving] or [Principle of Explosion], where ideas from set theory and logic manifest directly in the world. Warning: some folk find the thought experiment of Roko's Basilisk disturbing. 188.8.131.52 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
- As noted above, the reference is more likely to Langford's basilisks (though the rest of your comment fits just as well). Though now I at least have an idea why is Roko's Basilisk named that... I kept wondering "why is this thought experiment in any way similar to a basilisk?" --184.108.40.206 06:37, 9 November 2015 (UTC)
- For that matter, this particular comic is early enough that it actually predates the Roko's Basilisk story. --220.127.116.11 15:24, 10 November 2015 (UTC)
- What's up with the explanation??
The explanation is super messy, can someone who understands it fix it? 18.104.22.168 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)