Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
This is another of Randall's jabs at modern news networks. The joke is twofold: 1. news organizations often repeat press releases on scientific studies without fact checking; 2. the study being reported by the news organization in the comic is presumably itself invented and would not stand up to fact checking.
Some examples of how true this can be:
- A July 2011 hoax study correlated Intelligence Quotient (IQ) and Browser Usage, specifically asserting that Microsoft Internet Explorer users had a significantly lower I.Q. than other users. The study was reported by over 30 news outlets including NPR, Forbes, CBS News, San Francisco Chronicle, The Inquirer, and CNN. The perpetrator made little effort to conceal the deception by publishing it on a freshly created domain name with a parking lot as the corporate address, and was surprised that so many reputable outlets did no fact checking.
- Samsung pays $1bn USD fine to Apple with 20 billion 5 cent coins: a spoof article that was widely re-reported on news networks in November 2013 despite being demonstrably impossible (there are barely that many nickels in circulation, for a start).
- Even many low-tier scientific journals don't do proper checking. Over a hundred of them accepted a fake, error-ridden cancer study for publication in a spoof organized by Science magazine, as reported by National Geographic: Fake Cancer Study Spotlights Bogus Science Journals.
The title text refers to an issue with publication timing. Sometimes, scientists (or their press departments) issue press releases about studies before they are published in a peer-reviewed journal. News organizations often publish stories based on the press release, even though the full details are not available. In some cases, another story (or an update) is also published when the journal article comes out. However, some readers may find this duplicative.
- "87% of statistics are made up on the spot" (which is itself completely fictitious). This joke has most famously been referenced by the May 8, 2008 Dilbert comic strip. It was also (with a more precise figure of 88.2%) the punchline of a television advertisement for Guinness in 1997, where it was attributed to the comedian Vic Reeves. ()
- "64 percent of all the world's statistics are made up right there on the spot, 82.4 percent of people believe 'em whether they're accurate statistics or not" - Statistician's Blues, by Todd Snider (lyrics; video).
- 83% is the made-up statistics number that How I Met Your Mother character Barney Stinson uses to charm ladies.
Side note: People making the substitutions in a comic posted two weeks before this one will read this comic as one about Tumblr posts.
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- [A news anchor with a perfect news-anchor-hair-helmet.]
- Anchor:..and in science news, according to a new study, 85% of news organizations repeat "new study" press releases without checking whether they're real.
There was a joke in Czech Republic a few years ago: American scientists discovered, that 80% Europeans believe in everything that starts with: "American scientists discovered". Jiří Dobrý (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
The main reason why the Browser Usage hoax was so successful is that it's very plausible. Especially regarding the old versions of Internet Explorer. How can people still be using crap like IE 6.0?
- Because 86% of people just use computers as a tool that comes as-is, without wanting to understand how it works and/or could be modified.Ralfoide (talk) 15:11, 25 November 2013 (UTC)
- "How can people still be using crap like IE 6.0?" That's like asking how people could still be using crap like a single-flux nonwidget carburetor. Don't they realize that's so out of date? Answer, of course not. To the VAST majority of people aren't, and don't need to be, aware of what version of a browser they use any more than teh vast majority of people don't know (or need to) what components are under the hood of their car. 188.8.131.52 17:37, 25 November 2013 (UTC)
- But when the mechanic has a single-flux non-widget carburetor, there's a problem somewhere. I can personally vouch that all of Radioshack's POS computers run on Windows XP and use IE 6 for all operations except ringing up purchases and taking credit card payments. 184.108.40.206 01:20, 26 November 2013 (UTC)
- IE6 or IE8? IE8, I could understand, being the highest level of IE normally installable upon XP (and, apart from the looming 'desupporting' date for XP, a solid enough platform for things that already work well on it). Although I could also understand IE6 if it involves some legacy proprietry scripting code that doesn't run well on IE>6, etc. 220.127.116.11 03:59, 26 November 2013 (UTC)
- This is the epitome of "if it ain't broke". The last stable release of IE6 was five years ago. For applications like POS computers, any large business would be foolish to the point of actual irresponsibility if they went round changing their hardware and software on a five year cycle. Doing that is hard, complicated, expensive and time-consuming. If your POS (or any other) computer works, and does everything you need it to, you don't change it. There are process control computers running the chemical plant I work on that have been in more or less continuous operation since the 1970s. They'll be replaced when they fail. 18.104.22.168 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
- I specifically mentioned PEOPLE. For applications like POS computers, IE6 might still suffice (they ARE on closed network, I hope). But live people browsing internet should NOTICE that sites are looking weird or don't work. Lot of services are already complaining if you use obsolete browser to access them (with links to download newer one). Also, every car needs technical inspection every few years (at least in EU it's law requirement). One would expect it's not so hard to understand that computers, too, need some inspection regularly - and that person who will do it would check at least security updates and browser. Five years without updates, in hand of person knowing nothing about computers? It must have half of disc filled with malware! And third, didn't Microsoft done even some ads in TVs for the browser update? Really, hard to understand. -- Hkmaly (talk) 10:39, 27 November 2013 (UTC)
Note that I find hard to believe this was created due to something happening in 2011. While related, I would assume there was some other, more recent study this reacts to.  ? -- Hkmaly (talk) 11:01, 25 November 2013 (UTC)
New to editing. Trying to add this line and it isn't showing up. I believe this is the event he's referring to. * [http://eldeforma.com/2012/08/27/samsung-paga-multa-de-1-billon-de-dolares-a-apple-en-monedas-de-5-centavos/#axzz2lfjwKjjt Samsung pays $1bn USD fine to Apple with 20 billion 5 cent coins]: widely reported on news networks in November 2013 22.214.171.124 15:47, 25 November 2013 (UTC)Eastwood
- But that story has nothing to do with a "new study" (or any "study," for that matter). Elsbree (talk) 19:47, 25 November 2013 (UTC)
Nevermind... figured it out. 126.96.36.199 15:49, 25 November 2013 (UTC)Eastwood
I think the title text of this comic is particularly clever...in that it infers that that the news being reported in the comic IS the study itself, creating an infinite loop. This should absolutely be reflected in the explanation!!! Can someone add it? Rmyere (talk) 04:27, 26 November 2013 (UTC)
The TV reporter seems to have an impressive head of hair. Is it supposed to be a toupee? Wwoods
) 21:32, 25 November 2013 (UTC)