520: Cuttlefish

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
(Redirected from 520)
Jump to: navigation, search
Unless the CS students finish the robot revolution before you finish the cephalopod one.
Title text: Unless the CS students finish the robot revolution before you finish the cephalopod one.

[edit] Explanation

It appears that Cueball and Megan are physicists visiting a biology lab. Their guide, a biologist looking like Cueball, gives them a description of the humble cuttlefish that is both accurate and makes them sound like other-worldly creatures with highly advanced capabilities.

The scene takes an unusual turn when the scientist implies that the cuttlefish have been easily trained to improve their capabilities. He then demonstrates this by giving a simple command, whereupon the cuttlefish rises out of the water only to attack and kill both Cueball and Megan, demonstrating an ability to fly, talk and discharge lethal electric shocks in the process. (See also 35: Sheep).

This is all revealed to be a dream, but it has given Cueball a warning not to underestimate the biologists. Apparently, they can be just as crazy and dangerous as any other kind of scientist. Cueball (that represent Randall as it is xkcd that salutes in the final panel) offers a toast to all biologists everywhere and plans an alliance with them against the chemists, hoping to prevent further attacks on physicists. He is then shown drinking from a laboratory flask, something which any scientist would be wary of.

In the past, Randall has been somewhat dismissive of the non-math/non-physics scientific disciplines, so this comic may be trying to mend some bridges with biologists. But not with chemists.

In the title text, CS stands for Computer Science. The "robot revolution" references events in film and literature, wherein robots, having become commonplace in the workforce, achieve independent thought and declare war on humanity, like in The Terminator, The Matrix, or the movie I, Robot. Randall implies that the physicists will switch sides if the robot revolution arrives first. Cephalopod is the class of animals that encompasses cuttlefish as well as squids and octopuses.

[edit] Transcript

[A scientist (looking like Cueball) is pointing into an aquarium tank with two small animals floating in the water. He explains that they are cuttlefish to Cueball and Megan who are on the other side of the tank looking into it, Cueball with a hand to his mouth. Above them there is a frame inside the panel with a caption:]
We visit a bio lab:
Scientist: These are cuttlefish.
[Very detailed drawing of a cuttlefish, with it's special W shaped pupils, all eight arms and two longer tentacles, and the striped body with waving parts shown waving down each side. The scientist tells about the animal with text above and below.]
Scientist (off-panel): They're frighteningly smart, have manipulating arms and tentacles, have ink jets, can dart backwards and see the polarization of light through their w-shaped pupils.
Scientist (off-panel): And their sides are 200 dpi display screens which they use for camouflage and communication.
[Back to the original setting where the scientist stand a little further back from the tank with his arms down. Cueball and Megan has also moved further back and are even leaning away from the tank]
Scientist: When we realized how intelligent they were, we began to teach them.
Scientist: They've advanced quickly.
Scientist: Cuttlefish: GO.
[The two cuttlefish float straight out of the tank (lines indicating they movement water splashing at the surface of the tank). The scientist looks down at them, while Cueball and Megan holding hands and leans further back and Cueball takes his hand back to his mouth.]
[Pan to only the scientist, standing with one arm bend in front of him and the other holding a finger up to his mouth, and the tank from where the cuttlefish now flies towards Cueball and Megan who are now off-panel. Lines behind the cuttlefish shows they fly right but bobbing up and down. The cuttlefish talks in a strange way where the letters are alternately up and down.]
[Pan to Megan and Cueball, with the tank almost inside the left frame. Both cuttlefish is surrounded by their own zigzag line, which then extends from them in a thin line to encompass either Cueball or Megan. Cueball was running away from them, when this happens, legs bend at the knees and arms out and one bend. Megan has fallen lying face down arms out.]
[In this panel with faint gray shading Cueball is waking up in bed from the dream rising up to sitting position suddenly as indicated with two movement lines behind his head. One arm is supporting him on the bed next to the pillow, and the other is pulling his sheet down away from his torso. The first sentence is maybe still part of the dream as there is no line from Cueball to the sentence, and it is written high up. There is a line to the second sentence.]
Cueball: Oh god.
Cueball: I knew it.
[This panel is divided into five segments. At the top there is a large caption in two lines. The there are three drawings following each other from left to right. First a bottle is pouring liquid into a an Erlenmeyer flask (a conical laboratory flask) which is half full. Then Cueball takes the flask and holds it up as a salute. Finally he drinks from it leaning his head way back. Below there is more text.]
Salutes Bio Majors
If we join you against the chemists, will you train your fleshy minions to leave us alive?

comment.png add a comment! ⋅ comment.png add a topic (use sparingly)! ⋅ Icons-mini-action refresh blue.gif refresh comments!


I dispute the idea of "memes." I don't remember my 2008/2009 Internet culture too well, but I certainly don't think cephalopods ever became much of a meme. This needs some revision. --Quicksilver (talk) 02:07, 21 August 2013 (UTC)

Personally I think that "themes" works better, have edited accordingly, feel free to change it back though Whiskey07 (talk) 14:42, 19 November 2013 (UTC)

I added a comment that The Battle for Wesnoth may have added Cuttlefish as a result of this comic. I am not certain on that, if I'm wrong, please correct me. Kyt (talk) 01:41, 4 January 2014 (UTC)

I found a forum entry (http://forums.wesnoth.org/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=11168) that refers to the Wesnoth cuttlefish in May 2006 (more than two years before this comic came out) so I have edited the explanation accordingly. Also, non-accordingly. 18:38, 10 January 2014 (UTC)

While the evolution of cuttlefish attacking with electricity is probably what Randall meant, I am an avid fan of Dungeons and Dragons and I'd like to think that this is the beginning stages of what is known as an illithid. Cueball and Megan aren't killed by electricity but by the psionic abilities of the newly created illithids. - vegeto18 2014-02-18 03:14 PM

The robots don't revolt in Asimov's "I, Robot." They obey the three laws of robotics, unless programmed with modifications. As far as I understand, the plot of the film does not follow the novel. 02:52, 1 August 2014 (UTC)

I was going to comment just this, but after seeing that I was not the only one who thought this, I have decided to edit the page. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
You are correct, the movie does not follow the plot of the book, as that would be impossible. The book is a collection of short stories about robots, some positive and some negative. As such, saying that the film doesn't follow the novel is unfair. The movie took the themes of the book and concepts from the stories to produce a quite good film. 22:14, 3 June 2016 (UTC)

The cuttlefish and their method of killing the physicists resemble the Ood from Doctor Who, introduced in the 2006 episode "The Impossible Planet", in which the Ood became possessed by the Beast and began killing off scientists on the colony. The Ood were revisited in early 2008 in " Planet of the Ood", where they electrocuted the individuals who had enslaved them. 23:53, 5 August 2014 (UTC)

IF I MUST TEAR YOU APART, SHEPARD I WILL108.162.216.110 11:07, 23 March 2015 (UTC)

In a way, Reapers symbolize a culmination of all science made apocalyptic revolutions implied here, being giant space-faring robots that look like giant squid (and I will never forgive Mass Effect 3 for not having a Reaper kill be part of the final battle scenes, or letting us conclusively kill Harbinger). -Pennpenn 04:04, 8 May 2015 (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?