482: Height

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Interestingly, on a true vertical log plot, I think the Eiffel Tower's sides would really be straight lines.
Title text: Interestingly, on a true vertical log plot, I think the Eiffel Tower's sides would really be straight lines.

[edit] Explanation

Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Lots of the little references aren't even mentioned, e.g. Human Altitude record, the space elevator, and I just added an explanation for "All Hail Discordia!" This is nearly there, but not yet.
If you can address this issue, please edit the page! Thanks.

The comic is a companion piece to 485: Depth, which explores a logarithmic scale from Earth's atmosphere down to the interior of a single proton. Height begins this process by viewing logarithmically smaller scales showing several objects in the universe, both real and fictional, from farthest (top) to closest (bottom). The comic starts with Black Hat throwing a cat off the edge of the universe, probably a reference to Schrodinger's cat (as since it is outside the observable universe (for us), it exists in a super-position of both living and dead until we actually 'observe' it and force it to be in one of the states). It may also refer to the common myth that a cat will always land on its feet, a myth Black Hat appears to be testing to the extreme. The top of the universe is shown as the distance from which the oldest rays of light reach Earth.

Displaying height logarithmically while displaying width linearly noticeably distorts the shapes of the terrestrial objects. The title text notes that this distortion would approximately cancel out the curve of the Eiffel Tower's profile, and speculates that the cancellation might in fact be exact enough to convert its silhouette to a straight-edged triangle.

The age of the universe is currently stated as 13.8 billion years. But the Observable universe is about 14.0 billion parsecs or 46 billion light years, as shown on the top of the image.

[edit] Fictional Objects

  • Cat on a keyboard in space.
  • Ford Prefect, character from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, shown near his home star; Betelgeuse.
  • The Romulan Neutral Zone, marking the edge of the Star Trek Federation.
  • Federation Sector 0-0-1, the sector of space assigned to Earth in Star Trek.
  • "missing WMDs", a reference to the controversy about Iraq and weapons of mass destruction.
  • Bupkis is Yiddish for "nothing". Only a handful of objects are known to orbit between the outer edge of the Kuiper Belt and the inner edge of the Oort Cloud, hence "Bupkis".
  • A comet scheduled to hit earth in 2063, to coincide with the latest date for a supposed Biblically prophesized end of the world.
  • Life on the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, which may or may not exist.
    • The arrows most likely points to the following moons:
    • Jupiter's moon Europa which may be covered by a deep ocean of water - which is again covered by layer of ice many kilometers thick. In such an ocean life could have formed.
    • Saturn's moon Titan is the only known moon to have an atmosphere - although nothing like the one on earth. There may be oceans on the moon, but not filled with water but with liquid methane and ethane. It is way too cold for liquid water. Still in such oceans life could also have formed.
    • For either moon the oceans cannot be viewed from earth either due to thick ice or opaque atmosphere.
  • The little spaceship from Asteroids (video game).
  • The Discovery One from 2001: A Space Odyssey, referring to the quote "open the pod bay door, HAL."
  • The spaceplane is most likely the Planet Express from Futurama, where Fry once discussed "a big heaping bowl of salt." However, it could conceivably refer to these instead:
  • A lunar lander with someone inside proclaiming "In retrospect, they shouldn't have sent a poet. I have no idea how to land". The goal of Lunar Lander (arcade game) is to land the vehicle without crashing it. The quote is a reference to Contact (1997 film) where the main character Ellie Arroway after witnessing a celestial light show up close says "Poetry! They should've sent a poet.". The actual vehicle in the movie was round and not shaped like a lunar lander.
  • Cory Doctorow's balloon. (first referenced in 239.)
  • Cueball, who is apparently still using Python as shown in comic 353.
  • A Space elevator is a proposed method of transporting cargo or people into orbit, consisting of a large mass beyond geosynchronous orbit, a station at the geosynchronous point, a cable connecting it to the Earth, and a climber that can scale the cable. No space elevator has been built to date, but according to the comic, one will be deployed "one of these days, promise!"
  • Black Hat throwing a cat off the top of the comic, presumably to determine whether it will land on its feet.
  • Snoop Dogg, a rapper notorious for smoking marijuana, is shown as having the second-highest altitude record, a reference to slang for ingesting marijuana being "getting high". Someone who has ingested marijuana may also be described as "high".
  • The person in the tree saying, "Hey, squirrels!" is a reference to 167.

[edit] Real Objects

  • Hubble Deep Field, a long-exposure photograph of extremely distant galaxies.
  • Great Attractor, an unusual concentration of intergalactic mass.
  • Antennae Galaxies, a pair of colliding galaxies.
  • Andromeda Galaxy, a sibling to our Milky Way.
  • Magellanic Clouds, a pair of nearby dwarf galaxies.
  • Crab Nebula, Orion Nebula, and Horsehead Nebula, supernova remnants.
  • Pleiades, Rigel, and Betelgeuse, stars. The Pleiades also have a derogatory remark, as per 66: Abusive Astronomy
  • The distance that human radio transmissions have traveled so far. See Contact (1997 film) for a depiction of this. This is also referenced in 1212.
  • Pollux, Arcturus, Sirius, Alpha Centauri, and Barnard's Star, nearby stars.
  • Oort cloud, a halo of ice balls surrounding our solar system, but missing the Kupier belt between Neptune and the Oort cloud.
  • Pioneer 10 and Voyager 1, two early probes headed out of the solar system.
  • Eris and Pluto, a pair of TNOs now classified as dwarf planets. The "All hail Discordia!" after Eris is a reference to Discordianism, a somewhat tongue-in-cheek religion based around the goddess Eris.
  • Neptune, Uranus, Saturn, and Jupiter, giant gas planets at our solar system.
  • The Asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
  • Mars, Venus, and Mercury, our neighboring inner planets. Note that Venus and Mars are shown with looping paths, reflecting the fact that their distances from Earth vary as the planets move in their orbits (this is true for all planets, but more noticeable for these two because the ratio of smallest to greatest distance is particularly large).
  • The Sun and the Moon.
  • Hot air balloons typically only hover at 2,500 feet (760 meters), thought the altitude record is 90,000 feet (27.4 kilometers).
  • Kite string is commonly sold in large spools; a nice thick spool will probably hold 500 feet, or 150 meters.
  • A "pop fly" refers to Baseball. Specifically, it's when the batter hits the baseball, but the baseball follows a tall arc deep into the infield where it's easy picking for the other team to catch on its way down. The highest recorded pop fly, not including those that landed in foul territory, was 172 meters.
  • The Burj Khalifa, formerly known as the Burj Dubai, is the tallest building in the world.
  • The Eiffel Tower is a famous landmark in Paris, France.
  • The Great Pyramid of Giza is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It is located in Egypt.
  • The tallest stilts recorded by the Guinness Book of World Records (as of November 2006) were 16.4 meters, or nearly 54 feet.

[edit] Transcript

[Map of the universe from observable universe to Earth. Each area of item is labelled.]
[Labels left to right, up to down:]
[Black Hat is standing on top, throwing a black kitty down.]
Black Cat: mrowl!
Top of Observable Universe
46 Billion Light Years Up
Hubble Deep Field Objects
-One Billion Light Years-
Great Attractor
Antennae Galaxies (Colliding)
Holy Crap Lots of Space
-One Million Light Years-
Magellanic Clouds
Edge of Galaxy
Galactic Center
Crab Nebula
Orion Nebula
Horsehead Nebula
Romulan Neutral Zone
Ford Prefect
-Expanding Shell of Radio Transmissions [Arrows are pointing up.]-
Edge of Federation Sector 0-0-1
Missing WMDs
Alpha Centauri
Barnard's Star
-One Parsec-
-One Light Year-
Oort Cloud (?)
Comet which will destroy Earth in late 2063
Pioneer 10
Eris (All hail Discordia!)
Voyager I
Pluto (Not a planet. Neener neener.)
Aircraft: Hey a heaping bowl of salt!
"Open the fridge door, Hal."
Human Altitude Record (Apollo 13)
2nd Place: Snoop Dogg
Space Elevator - One of these days, promise!
-Geosynchronous Orbit-
GPS Satellites
Lunar lander: In retrospect, they shouldn't have sent a poet. I have no idea how to land
International Space Station
Space Junk
-Official Edge of Space (100 km)-
-1/10 ATM-
High Altitude Balloons
-1/2 ATM-
Cory Doctrow
Shuttle Columbia Lost
Cueball: Woo Python!
[vertical scale along right side of image, starting at 1 km and getting progressivly smaller and smaller.]
-800 m-
Burj Dubai (~800 m)
Eiffel Tower (325 m)
Great Pyramid (140 m)
Redwood (115 m)
Pop Fly
Oak (20 m)
"Hey Squirrels!"
Tallest Stilts
Brachiosaur (13 m)
Giraffe (8 m)
[Megan and Cueball.] Folks
The Observable Universe, from Top to Bottom ~On a log scale~
Sizes are not to scale, but heights above the Earth's surface are accurate on a log scale (that is, each step up is double the height.)
comment.png add a comment!


Are you sure it reads "missing winds"? It looks like "missing WMDs" to me, which would suggest a political reference to the US engagement of 2003 in Iraq. 02:48, 22 May 2013 (UTC)

Yeah. Agreed. Changed. PinkAmpersand (talk) 11:23, 23 May 2013 (UTC)
"The comic starts with Black Hat throwing a cat off the edge of the universe, probably a reference to Schrodinger's cat" 
Has the editor here never heard of the "cats always land on their feet" myth? Black Hat would appear to be testing this from the extreme. Anonymous 01:43, 4 December 2013 (UTC) (and yes, that would be WMDs)
If I am not mistaken, this is a wiki; there is no set editor. If you have a suggestion for how to improve a page, it would be apt to edit it yourself. The discussion tends to be a forum for matters that may be tangentially related to the comic, or uncertain suggestions for improving the article. Davidy²²[talk] 03:18, 4 December 2013 (UTC)
Sorry, I wasn't aware of the proper terminology. I'll add my line shortly. Anonymous 05:13, 13 December 2013 (UTC)

Why is there a "(?)" in "Oort Cloud"? 02:10, 15 December 2013 (UTC)

Because it's not known if this cloud really does exist. Many objects are assumed to be there at that vast distance to the sun, but that distance is also the reason they could not be detected from earth. Voyager 1, the farthest humanmade object from Earth, will reach that region in many thousand years. --Dgbrt (talk) 21:37, 15 December 2013 (UTC)

Why is Snoop Dogg in space? (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Because he's high as shit, man--he's so high, he's the second-furthest any person's ever been from the earth. 10:12, 6 February 2014 (UTC)
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