485: Depth

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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The Planck length is another thousand or two pixels below the comic.
Title text: The Planck length is another thousand or two pixels below the comic.


The comic is a companion piece to 482: Height, which explored a logarithmic scale from the edge of the observable universe down to the Earth's surface. Depth continues the process, viewing logarithmically smaller scales from Earth's atmosphere down to the interior of a single proton. This combination is reminiscent of Charles and Ray Eames' 1977 short film Powers of Ten.

Starting from the Earth's surface, the view descends into a house, a tower PC, its CPU, and eventually a proton inside a silicon atom, with various humorous incongruities.

What should be a computer mouse is an actual rodent, yet still somehow plugged into the PS/2 (6-pin mini-DIN) connector that is clearly labelled.

From a possibly punning connection between a chip's connector pin to the pin of "how many angels can dance on the head of..?" fame, we are given a joke based upon a 2's-complement overflow/rollover condition, changing from maxint (greatest positive) to minint (greatest negative). A negative angel might well be a demon. Another version of this joke appears in 571: Can't Sleep.

A blood-sucking insect appears to be 'leeching' a torrent.

There is a suggestion that the computer concerned is being Rick-rolled, seeing that it contains the observation (at probably the scale of memory address storing circuitry in the CPU's cache) that there is at least one pixel's-worth of Rick Astley's image being stored at the moment but, one imagines, probably enough for the current video frame.

A "fork();" command points at one of several unlabeled spermatazoa. Both the 'fork' function (mostly in various C-family programming languages) and the spermatazoon (after joining with an ovum, one of which is labelled slightly higher up in a position appropriate to its corresponding size) are capable of spawning 'child processes'.

Peter Norton is famous for being the person behind Norton Antivirus , who is therefore appropriately attacking a virus. Though in this case a bacteriophage, rather than informatic malware.

Showing the relative scale of carbon nanotubes, the suggestion is that these then lead on to a more megastructural Space Elevator, for which carbon nanotubes are often cited as a suitably strong component needed for the cable.

In the electron cloud, the squiggles made out of arrows are Feynman diagrams.

Such a diagram, in the shape of a stick figure, is saying "Sup?", which may reference both the "Wassuuup..!" meme and the "Sup" particle (supersymmetric partner 'squark' to the Up quark).

An 'iPod Femto' is shown (presumably at the femtometre level of scale), as a pun on the 'iPod Nano' (which, despite its name, is not mere nanometres in size).

Brian Greene is a theoretical physicist and pop scientist who discusses the nature of the universe. The picture of him knitting is a pun on his book and PBS miniseries, The Fabric of the Cosmos.

The Planck length is the smallest theoretically measurable distance, due to the Uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics. Planck length is vastly smaller than any known particle, and modern physics is a long way from being able investigate such a scale.

1162: Log Scale and 482: Height are other comics about the use of log scales.


Sizes Accurate on a vertical log scale
[Series of images of characters doing various things. The things they are doing are listed in left to right order.]
Cueball and Megan playing in a ball pen
Megan using witchcraft to ban vista "Out, Vista!"
Ponytail and Megan play Rock Band
Man and woman are having "fun" on a shaking bed.
[Below this series of images, an image of a man on the computer.]
Cueball is on a computer and the image expands as it goes down. Here are the labels from left to right, up to down:
North Bridge
Mouse (a physical mouse)
CPU Socket Pin
32,767 Angels Dancing (one more and they'd roll over and become 32,768 Devils), Rice, Torrent (a bug), CPU, upcoming segfault
dust mite
Data (a pixel on Rick Astley's shoulder), rust mite, fork();
Peter Norton fighting a baxteriophage
carbon nanotubes
space elevator
a line of silicon (Si), Electron Cloud, a man made out of arrows saying "sup?"
silicon nucleus
IPod femto
Brian Greene knitting furiously clank, clunk

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Discussion 01:39, 3 September 2013 (UTC) Is the bed actually shaking or are the people/person under the sheet just moving on their own? The squiggle lines doesn't show. PS Oh, yeeeaaah! That's what being the first poster feels like, especially on an old comic that hasn't been touched for five years. Until now: at 4:38 am and 50 seconds, 2013/03/09. (GMT).

Three bugs:

1. In the explanation, someone forgot to mention how many stories high the apartment building is. I'd say it's at least two stories tall; possibly more, but if so, the upper stories are all obscured by foreshortening.
2. Still in the explanation, I disagree that the person at the computer on the second floor (between the Guitar Hero players & the bed) is our protagonist Cueball; he's on the first floor, under the Guitar Hero folks, sitting at his computer.
3. In the transcript, that person at the computer on the second floor is omitted. 06:34, 13 March 2014 (UTC)

It looks like the comment on Brian Greene may also refer to Noam Chomsky's "Colorless green ideas sleep furiously" -adamaustin (talk) 21:28, 13 March 2014 (UTC)