24: Godel, Escher, Kurt Halsey

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
(Difference between revisions)
Jump to: navigation, search
(Explanation: NASA, Halsey)
m (incomplete)
Line 8: Line 8:
{{incomplete|the bubbles, expanding text, shreds & ending are not yet explained.}}
Before starting xkcd, [[Randall]] worked on robotics at {{w|NASA}}'s Langley Center. This drawing was apparently made during that period, while attending a talk that he didn't like.
Before starting xkcd, [[Randall]] worked on robotics at {{w|NASA}}'s Langley Center. This drawing was apparently made during that period, while attending a talk that he didn't like.

Revision as of 18:08, 5 May 2014

Godel, Escher, Kurt Halsey
I love the idea here, though of course it's not a great-quality drawing or scan.
Title text: I love the idea here, though of course it's not a great-quality drawing or scan.


Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: the bubbles, expanding text, shreds & ending are not yet explained.
If you can address this issue, please edit the page! Thanks.

Before starting xkcd, Randall worked on robotics at NASA's Langley Center. This drawing was apparently made during that period, while attending a talk that he didn't like.

The name of the comic is a portmanteau-like play on the following:

  • Gödel, Escher, Bach is a book about "strange loops", self-reference, and recurring patterns, partially shown through the works of the three people in its title:
    • Kurt Gödel was a 20th century mathematician most famous for proving that in our commonly used axiomatic systems, there are true propositions that cannot be proved from the axioms. His proof used a self-referential paradox.
    • M. C. Escher was a 20th century artist most famous for mathematically-inspired engravings of tessellated animals, impossible scenes, distorted images that contained themselves, and so on.
    • Johann Sebastian Bach was a German composer and musician from the Baroque Period, famous for numerous works such as the Brandenburg Concerto.
  • Kurt Halsey is a comic artist from Oregon. His work often contains introspective philosophical musings.

In the first part of the comic, two people discuss the difficulty of comparing past and present generations, since the person making the comparison invariably belongs to one of the two groups.

It's unclear whether the hatted guy is Black Hat, because Randall hadn't standardized his character designs yet. The sarcastic comment suggests that it is.


Drawn during an unending NASA lecture.
[Two people are talking, one in a hat.]
Cueball: it's just so hard to compare kids now with kids in the past. you can't help but to belong to one group or the other.
Cueball: and of course every generation seems awful to the one before it. look at quotes from throughout history.
Hatted: yeah, and it sure would be nice to have some perspective on some of this stuff. I just don't know what to make of it.
[Circles are appearing--maybe snow?]
Cueball: i guess you do what you can to help the people around you and hope it turns out okay.
Cueball: in the end, what else can you do?
Hatted: lead a crusade?
[We can no longer see the people, just the circles.]
it's presentism, man. the idea that historical context is irrelevant, that we understand it
all that we need take no warnings from the follies of the past. that we're facing something new.
socrates couldn't imagine the internet. but people don't change.
[We can start to see the corner of a darker circle in the lower right.]
(The borders between the three panels on this line are cracking.)
have you seen those collections of historical pornography? talk about historical context.
did you know the first porn photo was bestial in.
[inside a circle:] nature?
at least that stuff was out of the mainstream
[each word in one circle:]
(the three panels have merged into one on each row.)
i don't know about you, but
[circled] I
[uncircled] never
even once seen
[The circles are highly variable in size now, and pressed up against a larger one on the right side.]
[There is mass of circles of different sizes, with some dark fissures in between, against the side of a large circle which we can see part of in the right half of the panel. They look like cells. There's a tiny square in the center of the giant cell.]
[We see only the tiny square, centered. It has a few marks inside it.]
[Closer, the square is divided into rectangles of different sizes, each of which has text in it.]
[Much closer, we can see fragments of the text. Some are sideways, some are cut off, some are too small to read.]
machine language translated by principles of isomorphism it is a consequence of the Church-Turing thesis that ...
but how do you select the channel you wish to se-
thou ... shou ... palin ... stri ... it is a ... crab ...
[Closer still, we can just see a huge sideways s and h.]
[Those letters are faded and mixed with a faded version of the next panel.]
girls take boys away ...
never be further than a phone call and a goosebumped shiver away ...
drove all night listening to mix tapes ...
the past is just practice
[There is a heart at the bottom and, in the lower left, the name Kurt.]
[The same as the previous panel, but with the words blurred out to scribbles.]
[Jagged, shaded shapes and strands start to fall. Faint panel borders appear again. There is a person on the far right.]
(Back to three panels per row.)
[Cueball and Megan are standing amid the fragments.]
Man: There's too much. And so little feels important.
[The jagged edge of the shaded area is encroaching on the sides of the panel.]
What do you do?
[We see them from farther away through a rough hole in the shaded area. Bits continue to fall around them.]
[They are holding hands.]


  • This is the sixth comic originally posted on livejournal. The previous was 1: Barrel - Part 1. The next was 13: Canyon. View archive here.
  • [Original title]: "Strip series"
  • [Original Randall quote]: "One of a series of strips I drew during a long and boring NASA lecture. It careens wildly from intellectual to chaotic to Godel, Escher, Bach to Kurt Halsey to chaotic and sappy." This might suggest that the image on LiveJournal was only part of this strip. Unfortunately, the image link on LiveJournal is broken.
comment.png add a comment!


I have been told during editing comic 287 that the trivia should be below the transcript. But can see here that this is not always the case. As I have stated in the talk on that comic it would make so much more sense to have the interesting trivia above the (in most cases) uninteresting transcript. I only look into the last if I cannot easily read the text. But the trivia info is always interesting to me. And often the transcript is long enough that I would not notice a trivia entry below. I may now know better, but new users may overlook interesting bits of info. If there is a "rule" I would suggest it was changed to the format that this comic had when I wrote this entry. Trivia before transcript. (Written here only because it is todays Incomplete Explanation of the Day). Kynde (talk) 14:07, 14 March 2014 (UTC)

The trivia section doesn't belong to any explanation. Like other wikis do, it's at the bottom of the page. If there is important content belonging to the explain section it has to be moved. Trivia means triviality and contains only some sidesteps to some similar issues or even more. --Dgbrt (talk) 21:54, 14 March 2014 (UTC)
Agree but the trivia header makes that clear. The transcript is not a normal part of wikis so could have been at the bottom. That is just my opinion. I will not move any trivia sections! And I can see you have corrected the error here so the trivia is now at the bottom. Kynde (talk) 10:59, 16 March 2014 (UTC)
This layout isn't an invention by me. But I think that it's correct to show some remarks, but if it doesn't explain the comic it belongs to a special section at the bottom. --Dgbrt (talk) 20:07, 16 March 2014 (UTC)

This comic is on the "incomplete explanation of the day" like twice a week these days. Is everyone just like me and literally helpless? Because we didn't have this problem when the two Online Communities were undergoing rewrites 18:51, 3 May 2014 (UTC)

I think it's sill to require a 'complete' explanation of a somewhat abstract comic. Any 'explanation' is only someone's interpretation. ~~Bob 14:34, 13 May 2014
There are so many elements of this to be explained. I hope there is some hope of recovering some lost details of the NSA lecture. What a masterpiece of using the medium for abstract expression. So, I'm so thankful for a loose interpretation for 'incomplete explanation of the day' that brought the strip back to my attention. Eternal golden booger (talk) 17:30, 24 August 2014 (UTC)

I had a sudden and strong urge to s/Godel/Gödel/g when I loaded this page. Maybe I'll leave editing it to someone less tired than I am. lcarsos_a (talk) 05:31, 14 August 2014 (UTC)

I think the zooming in section is a reference to Powers of Ten ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Powers_of_Ten_%28film%29 ) 09:23, 27 August 2014 (UTC)
Personal 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?