468: Fetishes

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Revision as of 21:17, 27 October 2013 by (talk) (there appears to be a real Katharine Gates)
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They eventually resolved this self-reference, but Cantor's 'everything-in-the-fetish-book-twice' parties finally sunk the idea.
Title text: They eventually resolved this self-reference, but Cantor's 'everything-in-the-fetish-book-twice' parties finally sunk the idea.


Bertrand Russell and Alfred North Whitehead co-wrote the Principia Mathematica, with the intention of cataloging all of mathematics and ridding it of contradiction and self-reference. Kurt Gödel later showed that such a system is impossible, and that any system of axioms (complex enough to represent arithmetic) is incomplete.

Here, Russel and Whitehead are perusing a more salacious, but no less comprehensive, task: compiling a list of all sexual fetishes. When Gödel says he likes "anything not on your list," Russel and Whitehead have no way to complete their list. Whatever they leave off should be on the list, as long as it's off the list. This paradox is essentially the same as the one that doomed the Principia.

In the title text, Georg Cantor is the inventor of set theory. If you have a fetish for doing everything in the book twice, than that belongs in the book, which you then have to do once more, which adds another item to the book ad infinitum. Russel and Whitehead finally acknowledge their defeat.

Katharine Gates is a fake name, but Jennifer Katharine Gates is the daughter of Bill and Melinda Gates. (There is, however, a fetish roadmap by a Katharine Gates[1] )


Author Katharine Gates recently attempted to make a chart of all sexual fetishes.
Little did she know that Russel and Whitehead had already failed at this same task.
[Russel and Whitehead are standing with Gödel, Russel holding a clipboard and smoking a pipe.]
Russel: Hey, Gödel — we're compiling a comprehensive list of fetishes. What turns you on?
Gödel: Anything not on your list.
Russel: Uh…hm.

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I should point out that [2] is "The set of all sets that do not contain themselves"- if it does not contain itself, then it must contain itself; but since it now contains itself, it cannot. Although this doesn't seem to have an obvious parallel in the comic, Russell probably should've known better than to create a comprehensive list of anything. --Someone Else 37 (talk) 04:17, 14 January 2014 (UTC)