Difference between revisions of "1520: Degree-Off"

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The host asks Cueball to go first. He lightheartedly tells a story about {{w|Richard Feynman}}, finishing with a quote. The quote "all science is either physics or stamp collecting." was said by {{w|Ernest Rutherford}}, not Richard Feynman, implying either [[Cueball]] misattributes the quote, or that his story is quite long. During the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos, Richard Feymann got bored because of the isolation and started learning lock picking on the secret documents safes. Using these new skills, he played lots of pranks on his colleagues, like leaving notes and spooking them into believing there was a spy among them (which, of course, {{w|Klaus_Fuchs|there was}}). The reference to stamp collecting is the abstract idea that all other sciences are aggregates of physics and what they study are simply interesting instances of complex behavior derived from basic physics.
 
The host asks Cueball to go first. He lightheartedly tells a story about {{w|Richard Feynman}}, finishing with a quote. The quote "all science is either physics or stamp collecting." was said by {{w|Ernest Rutherford}}, not Richard Feynman, implying either [[Cueball]] misattributes the quote, or that his story is quite long. During the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos, Richard Feymann got bored because of the isolation and started learning lock picking on the secret documents safes. Using these new skills, he played lots of pranks on his colleagues, like leaving notes and spooking them into believing there was a spy among them (which, of course, {{w|Klaus_Fuchs|there was}}). The reference to stamp collecting is the abstract idea that all other sciences are aggregates of physics and what they study are simply interesting instances of complex behavior derived from basic physics.
  
Hair Bun Girl, the representative for biology goes next, showing that through their efforts, biology has helped reduce disease ("slaying" {{w|Four_Horsemen_of_the_Apocalypse#As_infectious_disease|Pestilence}}). She accuses physics of creating a new weapon of destruction from gathering in the desert (likely referring to the {{w| Manhattan Project}}, conducted in the {{w|New Mexico desert}}), insisting that biologists are the true heroes. Physics is taken aback, having believed it would be a fun activity, which Biology refutes, saying he must have been thinking of Stamp Collecting, which was mentioned in the earlier quote. Megan, the representative for chemistry, does not speak during the comic.
+
Hair Bun Girl, the representative for biology goes next, showing that through their efforts, biology has helped reduce disease ("slaying" {{w|Four_Horsemen_of_the_Apocalypse#As_infectious_disease|Pestilence}}). She accuses physics of creating a new weapon of destruction from gathering in the desert (likely referring to the {{w| Manhattan Project}}, conducted in the {{w|New Mexico desert}}).
  
 
<div class="toccolours mw-collapsible mw-collapsed">
 
<div class="toccolours mw-collapsible mw-collapsed">
This graph shows the death rate from infectious disease in USA, similar to that shown in the comic presented by Hair Bun Girl, as both have the range of 1900-2000. It probably served as inspiration to Randall.
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This graph shows the death rate from infectious disease in USA, similar to that shown in the comic presented by Hair Bun Girl, as both have the range of 1900-2000.
 
<div class="mw-collapsible-content">[[File:Crude_Infectious_Disease_Mortality_Rate_in_the_United_States_from_1900_Through_1996.gif]]</div>
 
<div class="mw-collapsible-content">[[File:Crude_Infectious_Disease_Mortality_Rate_in_the_United_States_from_1900_Through_1996.gif]]</div>
 
</div>
 
</div>
  
Continuing on the Four Horsemen theme, the title text in {{w|all caps}} possibly refers to the mode of speech of {{w|Terry Pratchett}}'s character {{w|Death_(Discworld)|Death}}. He mocks physics and physicists for not being harder. Referring to the fact that physicists sometimes see their science as being the most {{w|hard science}} of sciences and demean other sciences for being soft sciences (as in [[435: Purity]]) or "squishy". By calling the physicist squishy, Death might be referring to the fragility of the human body which led to his death, or the state of that body once death has had time to set in. According to [[435: Purity]], the only subject harder or purer than physics is mathematics.
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In the title text the biologist mocks the physicist for not being "harder", referring to the concepts of {{w|hard and soft science}}s and how physicists sometimes label all other sciences as "soft" and demean them. In [[435: Purity]], the only subject presented as "harder" or "purer" than physics is mathematics.
 
 
The relatively more simple and obvious explanation of the title text would be that it is spoken by the biologist, mocking the physicists.
 
  
 
==Transcript==
 
==Transcript==

Revision as of 17:13, 4 May 2015

Degree-Off
I'M SORRY, FROM YOUR YEARS OF CONDESCENDING TOWARD THE 'SQUISHY SCIENCES', I ASSUMED YOU'D BE A LITTLE HARDER.
Title text: I'M SORRY, FROM YOUR YEARS OF CONDESCENDING TOWARD THE 'SQUISHY SCIENCES', I ASSUMED YOU'D BE A LITTLE HARDER.

Explanation

Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Needs to be reorganized, flows very badly
If you can address this issue, please edit the page! Thanks.
Cueball, Hair Bun Girl, and Megan appear to be on a talk show called Degree-Off, hosted by Hairy, where representatives of different fields, in this case, physics, biology, and chemistry, explain why their fields are best and why to get a degree in the field. The title "Degree-Off" is a portmanteau of "degree", as in the recognized completion of studies at a school or university, and "face-off", a direct confrontation between two people or groups.

The host asks Cueball to go first. He lightheartedly tells a story about Richard Feynman, finishing with a quote. The quote "all science is either physics or stamp collecting." was said by Ernest Rutherford, not Richard Feynman, implying either Cueball misattributes the quote, or that his story is quite long. During the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos, Richard Feymann got bored because of the isolation and started learning lock picking on the secret documents safes. Using these new skills, he played lots of pranks on his colleagues, like leaving notes and spooking them into believing there was a spy among them (which, of course, there was). The reference to stamp collecting is the abstract idea that all other sciences are aggregates of physics and what they study are simply interesting instances of complex behavior derived from basic physics.

Hair Bun Girl, the representative for biology goes next, showing that through their efforts, biology has helped reduce disease ("slaying" Pestilence). She accuses physics of creating a new weapon of destruction from gathering in the desert (likely referring to the Manhattan Project, conducted in the New Mexico desert).

This graph shows the death rate from infectious disease in USA, similar to that shown in the comic presented by Hair Bun Girl, as both have the range of 1900-2000.

In the title text the biologist mocks the physicist for not being "harder", referring to the concepts of hard and soft sciences and how physicists sometimes label all other sciences as "soft" and demean them. In 435: Purity, the only subject presented as "harder" or "purer" than physics is mathematics.

Transcript

[Hairy is acting as the host of a TV talk show, Degree-Off. Cueball, Hair Bun Girl, and Megan are acting as representatives of Phys (Physics), Bio (Biology), and Chem (Chemistry) respectively. They each stand behind their own Lectern with the respective subject label.]
Hairy: Welcome to the Degree-Off, where we determine which field is the best! Physics, wanna go first?
Cueball: Sure! I'd like to tell the story of Richard Feynman's Manhattan project lockpicking pranks...
Cueball: ...and as he said, "all science is either physics or stamp collecting."
Cueball: Thank you.
Hairy: Great! Bio, you wanna go next?
Hair Bun Girl: Okay.
[A graph labeled "Per 100,000 is shown above Hair Bun Girl]
Hair Bun Girl: This is a graph of the death rate from infectious disease in this country.
[Hair Bun Girl raising her left hand]
Hair Bun Girl: The heroes of my field have slain one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse.
[Hair Bun Girl pointing at Cueball]
Hair Bun Girl: While the heroes of your field gathered in the desert to create a new one.
Cueball: ...Jeez, what the hell? I thought this was supposed to be fun and lighthearted!
Hair Bun Girl: You must have been thinking of stamp collecting.

See also


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Discussion

Isn't this the debut of the dark hair-bun girl? Is this trivia section worthy? 173.245.50.88 22:49, 4 May 2015 (UTC)BK201

The hair bun girl has appeared a few times since it's inception in 378: Real Programmers. --Forrest (talk)01:05, 05 May 2015 (UTC)
But this one has bangs, and visibly darker hair. Isn't it possible it's a different character? Or am I splitting hairs? 173.245.50.88 20:23, 5 May 2015 (UTC)BK201
Yes your are splitting hair. Because in xkcd most characters are just generic and can be any person they need to be. The characteristic of the hair bun has been used only a few times, 8 with this one. Sometimes the figure even represents a real person. I agree that she is drawn a little different, but in the page for Hair Bun Girl it is mentioned that she also sometimes have glasses. It is though interesting that he has used her several times sine passing comic 1500. --Kynde (talk) 11:43, 7 May 2015 (UTC)
After having spotted the recurrence of Science Girl for whom I just made a category I realized that the hair bun Bio "girl" here is just her as a (young) adult woman. I have included her and revised the explanation accordingly. So I disagree with my own comment above now ;-) --Kynde (talk) 18:47, 22 July 2016 (UTC)

I assume "Your field gathered in the desert to create a new one." refers to the Manhattan Project? 173.245.50.74 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Yes Jachra (talk) 06:52, 4 May 2015 (UTC)

Chem wants absolutely no part of this conversation. Jachra (talk) 06:52, 4 May 2015 (UTC)

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are: Conquest, War, Famine, and Death. Is she claiming that her heros have conquered death? Capncanuck (talk) 06:58, 4 May 2015 (UTC)

Yeah I didn't get that either. The description as it stands now seems to be implying one of the four horsemen is pestilence, but that's not what my Google search turned up… --Zagorath (talk) 15:15, 4 May 2015 (UTC)
Pestilence 173.245.56.176 07:10, 4 May 2015 (UTC)
In Terry Pratchett's book the fourth horsemen is Pestilence. See also Pestilence. It was new to me that it was originally Conquest instead of Pestilence which can be read on wiki: Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Since Randall is a big fan of Terry Pratchett it is very likely that he refers to "his" version of the four Horsemen. (It is not Terry's invention, but he made it popular amongst people like Randall). As I disagree with the Death version of the title text, I'm not sure that Terry is directly refereed to in this comic, but I'm sure the Bilologist refers to them killing of pestilence (or plauge). --Kynde (talk) 17:23, 4 May 2015 (UTC)
There are no humanities on stage, so I think bio can get away with this one.--108.162.218.23 17:50, 4 May 2015 (UTC)
Maybe it referred to famine. Though that'd be a bit odd. Halfhat (talk) 19:05, 4 May 2015 (UTC)
Perhaps the reason why pestilence isn't a real Horseman is because its death by biology retroactively altered the prophecy ("Yes, you've had it for ages. But did you have it for ages 30 minutes ago?" - Rincewind, The Last Continent).```` 108.162.219.144 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
If we're assuming that the comic is using Pratchett's version of the Horsemen, and that Bio has killed Pestilence... then we know that Pestilence was replaced with Pollution. So it might be a reference to the atomic waste and fallout of the testing itself. 173.245.56.29 00:43, 27 August 2016 (UTC)

also a possible reference to: https://xkcd.com/435/ ? 141.101.75.101 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

The stamp collecting quote is from Ernest Rutherford, not Richard Feynman. 141.101.70.43 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

1052 also compares degrees --141.101.104.12 08:36, 4 May 2015 (UTC)

My assumption was that Cueball was giving a long and possibly rambling talk about physics starting with an anecdote about Feynman and ending with one about Rutherford. I didn't consider the quote to be wrongly attributed therefore. 141.101.99.71 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Please be aware that the proper way to link to wikipedia is to use Template:w.--Forrest (talk)10:01, 04 May 2015 (UTC)

This may be Randall's indirect way of saying what he thinks of the anti-vaxxers. --RenniePet (talk) 10:49, 4 May 2015 (UTC)

Does the "killing Pestilence" thing also refer to Good Omens (co-authored by Pratchett), where Pestilence retired in 1936 "mumbling something about penicillin"? Homusubi

Isn't the comment about vaccines kinda reaching? I don't really see any evidence, even implied, that this comic is referencing the anti-vaccine movement in any way. --Zagorath (talk) 13:23, 4 May 2015 (UTC)

I agree that the anti-vaxer comments are out of place. I don't think they should be included as part of the explanation. Bmmarti3 (talk)

Isn't the biologist talking in the title text? And isn't biology considered a squishy science? I think the title is directed at the physicist, telling him to get harder skin because he's so easily hurt emotionally. Yourlifeisalie (talk) 14:13, 4 May 2015 (UTC)

Was I the only one to see the title text as a dirty joke? 173.245.50.65 16:33, 24 August 2016 (UTC)

I rather doubt that the CAPS in the title text are referring to Pratchett's figure DEATH. In my opinion, the talking-in-CAPS is just meant to infer (further) SHOUTING on the part of the biologist, since she is shouting in the last panel as well. There is no indication whatsoever that the title text should be spoken by anyone other than the biologist herself.141.101.104.180 14:20, 4 May 2015 (UTC)thd

Do chemistry and physics represent a helium atom with biology as the nucleus? It would also explain her hair. Mikemk (talk) 15:18, 4 May 2015 (UTC)

I don't see any reason for it to make any sense. It is quite a long shot to think so. However, what explains her hair? 173.245.50.88 17:50, 4 May 2015 (UTC)BK201

Might there also be a reference to https://xkcd.com/520/, praising biology just in case. Tzwenn (talk) 15:22, 4 May 2015 (UTC)

What is the giant bump in infectious diseases around 1925? It seems like it must have been a mayor effect, but I don't know how to google for it.141.101.104.99 17:43, 4 May 2015 (UTC)

The planet-wide superflu of 1919, which happened because millions decided to go to Europe, camp in filthy trenches for months and then decided to all go back home simultaneously for some reason. 199.27.133.44 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
Actually, it happened for other reasons, and it was mostly in 1918. Many people arrived at that camp bringing the superflu with them, actually, and the drop-off happened around when the bulk of them went home. Most of the fatalities may actually have been due to cytokine storms, AKA your immune system deciding that you ought to die horribly and now. What you actually got at the camp is the discovery that, if your feet are continuously wet for sufficiently long periods of time, they'll rot. That said, infectious diseases are on their way back, because antibiotic resistance is going up. There's already a confirmed case of TB resistant to all current antibiotics, and truly new ones becoming less and less frequent. (Most of the obvious routes we've exploited and adaptation is destroying, and many of the remaining obvious routes are insufficiently easy to distinguish from chemical warfare.) 108.162.237.182 22:46, 4 May 2015 (UTC)


moved the most important comment to the top. TheJonyMyster (talk) 00:25, 5 May 2015 (UTC)

Uhm lockpicking != safecracking. Feynman was exploiting a bad design in the safes (you didn't have to dial the exact number) combined with people being lousy at choosing their codes. Poizan42 (talk) 09:45, 5 May 2015 (UTC)

A numpad safe still contains a lock. It locks items inside. --Forrest (talk)11:27, 05 May 2015 (UTC)

I'm not sure what is the biologists arguing about. Physics creating new horseman of apocalypse is definitely bigger achievement than biologists almost removing one. On the other hand, both fields are capable of making humans extinct by mistake. (Also, seriously, the idea of degree-off is flawed: we need experts in both (or rather all) fields.) -- Hkmaly (talk) 12:09, 5 May 2015 (UTC)

I disagree. Penicillin is a much more important discovery - helping so many people. Killing people is a lot easier than curing them! --Kynde (talk) 11:40, 7 May 2015 (UTC)

I think that Civil Engineering should get half the credit. It wouldn't make for as good a cartoon though. Why was the graph of infectious disease rates lightly doctored to reduce the 1918 flu pandemic? My guess is to increase the visual impact. 108.162.238.188 18:11, 5 May 2015 (UTC)

Biology: Aren't many theoretical developments reliant on chemistry and/or physics? And even more practical developments use tools which rely on chemistry/physics? Example: brain mapping, drug synthesis, etc.? --108.162.215.178 02:28, 6 May 2015 (UTC)

No, this would be as circuitous as saying that physics is entirely reliant on biology, because it's conducted using human brains, hands, eyes, etc. Or hey - theology. How would physics have gotten it's start without funding from churches and kings? The whole line of discussion is more than a little ludicrous. 108.162.249.170 08:01, 8 May 2015 (UTC)
No, what I mean is that physics and chemistry are necessary in order to understand biology and perform research, while the reverse is not true. Cellular/molecular biology, in particular, is dependent on an understanding of chemistry and physics.
Just take for example electron transport chains, which depends on quantum mechanics. Or the behavior of neurotransmitters, hormones, etc., which are all connected with organic chemistry.
A good understanding of chemistry and physics is also essential in advancing science in general. A good understanding of biology could be useful for the creation of biologically inspired materials in engineering, but biology is not a fundamental building block in any of the harder sciences.
Regarding biology and theology: No science's knowledge is taken from, or builds off of, theological teachings. Physics is not dependent on biology, because it does not involve the study of our brains, merely the existence of them. Biology's knowledge is directly dependent on physics.
In terms of practical implications, I think biology affects our health more, and physics and chemistry affects our technology more. But it's undeniable that physics and chemistry are more fundamental and essential to all science, than biology.
What is your opinion?
--108.162.215.178 03:24, 10 May 2015 (UTC)


Any ideas as to why Hair Bun Girl's bun disappears in the fourth frame? As in anything more interesting than it being forgotten to be drawn in. JRVeale (talk) 11:12, 6 May 2015 (UTC)

I think she just has turned her head so the bun is behind it. Thus not forgotten, and not really interesting either! --Kynde (talk) 11:40, 7 May 2015 (UTC)

The discussion about the new horseman of the apocalypse being radiation poisoning, and the linking of it all to Pratchet, reads very very strangely, I think it is a major overreach. It's very common for Pestilence to be listed as one of the four horsemen, and even with Randall being a Terry Pratchett fan, it seems unlikely this had any influence on it. It's stock-standard in pop culture for them to be listed as War, Famine, Death, Pestilence, even if they don't appear that way in the Bible, just as it is stock-standard for the devil to be portrayed as a red horned guy with cloven feet (which also doesn't appear anywhere in the Bible). It seems like the development of the atomic bomb is what Hair Bun Girl is referring to as the new horseman. I don't see why an overly specific and convoluted connection to "radiation poisoning" is included. - 108.162.249.170 08:08, 8 May 2015 (UTC)

I don't think that's science girl. That's not science girl's usual hairstyle, and science girl is a child. Sensorfire (talk) 18:03, 26 October 2016 (UTC)

Is the girl representing chemistry Science Girl?

It doesn't seem to be Science Girl to me. I think Hairbun would be better used. Also related, I think Science Girl should be renamed Jill, as per [1662: Jack and Jill] Sensorfire (talk) 18:42, 1 November 2016 (UTC)