385: How it Works

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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How It Works
It's pi plus C, of course.
Title text: It's pi plus C, of course.


The comic reveals discriminative jargon against women when doing a task. When a guy does something wrong, it's his own mistake. When a girl does something wrong, it is taken as a confirmation that girls are inferior.

The mathematics displayed is neither semantically nor syntactically correct. To begin with, there should be a dx after x2. (That's easy enough to forget.) Now we have an indefinite integral on the left hand side. The given answer π s just plain nonsensical. What we want is a function, whose derivative is x2. Now, x3/3 satisfies this condition. However, since adding a constant to a function does not change its derivative, the full answer is (any function on the form) x3/3 + C, where C is any fixed number. The "plus a constant"-part is very easy to forget, and might even be omitted by a (sloppy) professional mathematician. So if someone really gave the answer π, "you forgot to add a constant" would be a pretty funny remark, cause in one way it's true, but on the other hand it wouldn't quite be the main thing to worry about.

Congratulations, now you can also get this classical joke!


[Cueball and an friend stand at a blackboard. The friend is writing, in standard mathematical notation, that the integral of x squared equals pi. No differential or bounds are given for the integral.]
Cueball: Wow, you suck at math.
[The same scene, except the writer is Megan.]
Cueball: Wow, girls suck at math.
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I will admit, after I finished Calc 1, I came across this yet again via the random button, and kind of rolled my eyes. Then I read the title text, and this became one of my favorite comics. -- 00:19, 20 March 2013 (UTC)

This type of generalization also has a special name called "Stereotype threat". Research shows that women/girls who are good at math (identify as good at math) will do worse on hard math questions when they think (consciously or unconsciously) that her own personal failings will reflect on the negative stereotype. (Real example: a group of professors asked SAT testing body to ask for demographic questions (gender/race) after the test instead of before.) 04:15, 18 June 2014 (UTC)

I don't really think that pi + C is different from just C. Pi is a constant anyway! (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
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