Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
In this comic, Megan's friends, including our old friend Black Hat take the phrase "Can anyone tell me what's wrong with this picture?" literally and are critiquing the style and composition of the picture and not the subject. Megan is hoping that they have any insight to why her car was on fire this morning and not a photography critique. The alt-text reveals what she was looking for; one of them really did set her car on fire.
[Person 1 stands in front of a projection of a car, with an audience of 3 people. One of the people is the Black Hat Man.]
Person 1: Attention Please. This is a photo of my car as of two weeks ago.
[Same person in front of a new projection of the same car engulfed in flames]
Person 1: And *this* is my car as I found it this morning. Can anyone tell me what's wrong with this picture?
[The audience ponders]
Person 2: The white balance, for one.
Person 3: Focus is a bit too close.
Black Hat Man: The chromatic abberation suggests you bought your camera because it had "The most megapixels".
Person 1: THE CAR IS ON FIRE!
comment from audience: Maybe you should use the insurance money to get a better camera.
comment from different person: yeah
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From what I can see of the picture, it is a little over-saturated. The colors look a little too pastelly too. At least decent cameras are cheaper than they used to be. Davidy22[talk] 13:11, 18 February 2013 (UTC)
Does this seem like it might be political commentary? A subtle dig at certain legislative bodies which, when confronted with an urgent problem like "the economy is burning," choose to dicker about the quality of the photograph? Just a thought... 126.96.36.199 05:10, 13 September 2013 (UTC)
I disagree with the apparent majority view that the critics are disingenuous. This might be a satire on camera nerds in particular but also on overspecialized individuals in general. What if the critics are sincere, but just... overfocussed on picture issues, and simply see the world through that lens at all times? Isn't that consistent with the general themes of xkcd? 188.8.131.52 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
I feel like the explanation is incomplete, but I don't know what the standard is here. What is "chromatic aberration", "white balance", and what is the significance of "the most megapixels"? 184.108.40.206 04:54, 8 February 2014 (UTC)
- Also. "The title text reveals what she was looking for; one of them really did set her car on fire." How? It seems ambiguous. 220.127.116.11 14:53, 8 February 2014 (UTC)
- 'chromatic aberration' is when different colors in the source are mapped to slightly different locations in the image. A bright white point of light like a star might show up in a photo as a slightly smeared point with a rainbow-like quality in the smearing. Refractive lenses nowadays have coatings to reduce this effect, but they don't eliminate it altogether; there is a similar small effect due to diffraction as well. 'white balance' refers to adjusting the overall color spectrum of the image to compensate for not-perfectly-white source light; imagine if you looked at the same person in 'warm' candlelight versus 'cold, harsh' hospital flourescents. If you are there in person, your eyes quite brilliantly do a little computation to compensate for the difference in source light so that they look human; if you just have a little unbalanced photo in your hand and don't /see/ a roomful of source light for your eye to use as reference background, one of the pictures looks like a zombie and the other might look like your friend is quite flushed. You can use various forms of processing to adjust the 'color temperature' and other details to make the picture look natural, this is white balancing. Note that you might not want to white-balance all photographs, for example you might want to capture the orangey quality of a candlelit scene.
- 'the most megapixels' refers to the size of the camera's images in megapixels. More megapixels is in some sense good, it means the camera is commiting more details to memory; the accusation here is that the photographer bought the camera on the basis of the easily-advertised number of pixels instead of a sensible balance of many important qualities. It is relatively easily to make a camera that has "lots of megapixels" and it looks good in ads, but without a good lens, for example, those extra megapixels are just recording lots and lots of blur. Buying on 'number of megapixels' alone is considered naive, it would be like looking at computer ads and buying a system on "how many gigabytes does it have" without looking at any other quality. 18.104.22.168 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
- Thanks for your statements here. This comic is marked as incomplete and a first attempt on the details is done.--Dgbrt (talk) 15:48, 8 February 2014 (UTC)
The title text is written as if from the point of view of somebody who was there watching the presentation, since they're talking about getting the shot, and "we'll set your car on fire AGAIN" implies that they did it the first time. 22.214.171.124 09:51, 25 February 2014 (UTC)
- I am not convinced. "again" might simply mean 'for a second time, regardless of who did it the first time' - that is, the event they are offering to make happen again is 'the car being on fire' not 'us setting the car on fire' 126.96.36.199 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
I think the three of them might be genuinely raising the photographic concerns, possibly out of ignorance of the problem of a car being on fire or lack of concern for Megan's (possibly) "trivial matter". This wouldn't be the first time xkcd characters have strange priorities. LockmanCapulet I plead the third! 19:07, 26 March 2014 (UTC)
This seems to be a tribute to Magritte's 'Ceci n'est pas un pipe' (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Treachery_of_Images
). It is reminiscent of the unfortunate triumph of appearance over reality (as in TornadoGuard - http://www.explainxkcd.com/wiki/index.php/937:_TornadoGuard