584: Unsatisfied

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(the transcript was wrong, I replaced it with the one provided by the comic itself, edited with the names Cueball, Megan and Ponytail; no need for quotes around the title text; simplified the use of {{w|...}} for links to Wikipedia)
m (fix date according to http://www.xkcd.com/archive/)
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{{comic
 
{{comic
 
| number    = 584
 
| number    = 584
| date      = May 15, 2008
+
| date      = May 15, 2009
 
| title    = Unsatisfied
 
| title    = Unsatisfied
 
| image    = unsatisfied.png
 
| image    = unsatisfied.png

Revision as of 19:37, 23 February 2013

Unsatisfied
Forever comparing, never evaluating on any external scale.  If you were a sort function, you'd never break the nlogn barrier.
Title text: Forever comparing, never evaluating on any external scale. If you were a sort function, you'd never break the nlogn barrier.

Explanation

In this comic Cueball is trying to decide if he wants to stay with Ponytail who he is currently dating or leave her and have a relationship with Megan. The comic suggests that no matter which one he chooses he will never truly achieve happiness because of his longing for the option he chose not to take. In a sense this is a no-win situation.

The title text is referring to a concept in computer science, all comparison based sorting algorithms are incapable of sorting an arbitrary set of n values faster then an order of n*log(n)*k where k is an arbitrary constant and n is the number of values to compare.

If Cueball was capable of establishing an external scale he could use use bucket sort or different order n sorting algorithm, but as he does not know what the best thing for him is he can't establish limits and thus he can't achieve this.

Transcript

[A blonde, Ponytail, and a man, Cueball, are holding hands, looking at another woman with black hair, Megan.]
[Two arrows direct the comic into a pair of different paths.]
(Left path) [Cueball is holding hands with Ponytail, but he is thinking about Megan.]
(Right path) [Cueball approaches Megan. He is thinking about Ponytail.]]
(Left path) [Cueball is performing oral sex on Ponytail, and still thinking about Megan.]]
(Right path) [Cueball and Megan have sex on the arm of a chair. The man is thinking about Ponytail.]]
(Left path) [Cueball and Ponytail are drawing something together, and the man is thinking about Megan.]]
(Right path) [Cueball and Megan are hiking together. The man is thinking about Ponytail.]]
(Left path) [Cueball and Ponytail are holding hands, and the man is thinking of Megan.]]
(Right path) [Cueball and Megan are holding hands, and the man is thinking of Ponytail.]]
[The path unites again.]
[Two gravestones are next to each other. One of them is thinking about a third gravestone.]:
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Discussion

I interpreted the right-most column as Megan fantasising about being with Cueball, but finding her fantasy dissatisfactory as she imagines Cueball will continue to long for Ponytail. ‎139.222.236.222 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)


I think the title text points to Cueball going through both hypothetical lives. Yuriy206

Last panel
What happens in the last panel? I understand that at least two of the three are dead, and I assume that it's Cueball who continues to dream post mortem, but who is in the other tomb? Is it whatever girl he didn't choose? And the corresponding dream is that the girl he chose didn't even exist (only one tomb in the dream)? (talk) 12:59, 3 September 2014 (UTC)
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