678: Researcher Translation

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
(Redirected from 678)
Jump to: navigation, search
Researcher Translation
A technology that is '20 years away' will be 20 years away indefinitely.
Title text: A technology that is '20 years away' will be 20 years away indefinitely.

[edit] Explanation

This comic suggests a translation from the statements of the researcher of a potential new technology. These statements might be found in, for example, an article in a popular science magazine which highlights some cutting-edge research. It reflects the idea that researchers tend to be too optimistic about the future of their research project.

"The fourth quarter of next year": Even if a technological development seems very close to completion, it could still be canceled by some authority other than the lead researcher. This might be due to poor management, or a poor business plan, or even a poor scientific basis which the researcher is hiding or ignoring.

"Five years": The researcher has solved the interesting scientific problems, and assumes that the concept could be picked up by a business, developed to be usable outside of a research lab, designed into a prototype, have a manufacturing process, marketed, and made available to consumers, in only five years. In reality, a lot of exciting-sounding technology may not reach consumers for many years because of difficulties in the business side of things.

"Ten years": Not only does the researcher assume that the business end of things will go smoothly, he also assumes that the rest of his research will go smoothly. In reality, a lot of unforeseen problems could arise during research.

"25+ years": The researcher further assumes that this technological application is scientifically possible.

"We're not really looking at market applications right now.": In contrast to the above chain of assumptions, in this case the researcher has a working technology but wants to keep it to himself.

Title text: "20 years away indefinitely": Sometimes the technological or engineering challenges for a certain application seem like they could be overcome in 20 years, but in reality the challenges are very difficult. The more the challenges are studied, the harder they are found to be, although there is always hope that a few more advances will do it. An example is fusion power, which has been conceptualized since at least 1946 as a potentially unlimited source of clean energy, but remained an elusive achievement despite projects such as the National Ignition Facility and ITER. The first commercial plant is still indefinitely 20 years away.

[edit] Transcript

If a researcher says a cool
new technology should be
available to consumers in...
What they mean is...
The fourth quarter
of next year
The project will be
canceled in six months.
Five years I've solved the interesting
research problems. The rest is
just business, which is easy, right?
Ten years We haven't finished inventing it
yet, but when we do, it'll be awesome.
25+ years It has not been conclusively
proven impossible.
We're not really
looking at market
applications right now.
I like being the only
one with a hovercar.
comment.png add a comment! ⋅ Icons-mini-action refresh blue.gif refresh comments!

Discussion

This does explain a lot, doesn't it? --Jolbucley (talk) 03:40, 29 January 2014 (UTC)
Personal tools
Namespaces

Variants
Actions
Navigation
Tools

It seems you are using noscript, which is stopping our project wonderful ads from working. Explain xkcd uses ads to pay for bandwidth, and we manually approve all our advertisers, and our ads are restricted to unobtrusive images and slow animated GIFs. If you found this site helpful, please consider whitelisting us.

Want to advertise with us, or donate to us with Paypal or Bitcoin?