587: Crime Scene

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Jump to: navigation, search
Crime Scene
I think I see a Mandelbrot set! No, that's just blood spatters. Golly.
Title text: I think I see a Mandelbrot set! No, that's just blood spatters. Golly.

[edit] Explanation

Mathnet was a segment on the children's television show "Square One Television", where police mathematicians solved crimes and other mysteries by math. This comic plays on that by implying that Mathnet was a real department of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), and, when the show was cancelled, the department was shut down, forcing the mathematicians to become regular detectives.

Here, George Frankly, one of the two lead detectives on the show, tries to glean some sort of mathematical meaning out of the murders scene looking for mathematical patterns. His fellow officer, knowing him, tries to tell him off by saying that it is just two dead bodies. But this only makes George state that "two" is the third Fibonacci number. These are a set of numbers where the generators are the two first ones and, after that each subsequent number is the sum of the previous two: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8... (making 2 the third number). Since most of the small numbers are in the Fibonacci sequence, the fact that the number of bodies is one of these numbers is not the least interesting. Again his fellow officer tries to shut him down, and not continue this unhelpful line of thought.

The title text shows that this did not help since George now thinks he can see a Mandelbrot set. But again his fellow officer tries to explain that this is only something he imagines seeing in the blood spatters from the victims. The Mandelbrot set is a formula used to create certain kinds of fractals that you might imagine seeing in the something like blood spatters. The last word Golly is written after the other officers sentence. It may by unclear who of the two uses this version of Gosh as an exclamation, but it is probably George's exclamation because he just realized he is seeing blood spatters - something he probably never did before on the children show...

The second comic in a row (and third in 16 comics) where a man is drawn only with hair around his neck.

[edit] Transcript

[A crime scene is surrounded by tape wound around four pins. A large black pool is on the ground, with splashes around it, and a hammer lying in one of these splashes. A man with black hair around his neck, and a police officer with a police cap are standing outside the tape.]
Policeman: Looks like a murder-suicide.
George: Any interesting mathematical patterns?
Policeman: No, George, just two dead bodies and a lot of blood.
George: Two... that's the third Fibonacci number!
Policeman: Not now, George.
[Caption below the frame:]
When Mathnet shut down, the
officers had trouble reintegrating
into the regular L.A.P.D.

comment.png add a comment! ⋅ Icons-mini-action refresh blue.gif refresh comments!


That officer is a fool. I'd say it'd be much more likely to relate to the first prime number (assuming you ignore 1, as apparently you're supposed to) than the third Fibonacci one, barring any prior incidents that might or might not be attributed to the same killer. Of course, we'd perhaps have to wait until three crime-scenes later to work out which of these patterns our Malevolently Mathematical Mastermind of Murder has memetically manipulated for us... Holy Torii, Batman! (And no wonder the policemen like both donuts and coffee cups... They're the same...) 00:20, 24 May 2013 (UTC)

The first prime number is -1!!! (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

" a man (presumably a former Mathnet member" - Not just anyone, the officer calls him George. George Frankly was the main character on the show. Just putting it out there. --Alcatraz ii (talk) 22:43, 6 June 2013 (UTC)

You know, this being a wiki and all, you could have added that yourself. Never mind, I've done it for you. 20:42, 20 August 2013 (UTC)

The original Fibonacci problem was formulated about the count of multiplying pairs of rabbits, starting with one pair. So 2 is definitely the 3rd number, not 4th, in that formulation. 22:21, 31 January 2014 (UTC)

off topic:i think this is a homage to this show 09:04, 22 February 2015 (UTC)

I am unsure, but could the use of the word 'Golly' in the title text be a reference to the popular program to run Conway's game of life which goes by the same name? 16:53, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

There was a week-long series of Mathnet wherein the Fibonacci series was the focus and a recurring theme, including columns of tiles and artwork, and a parrot who'd call out "Eureka!" The mystery was of the "I inherited a clue about a key..." type. 13:46, 18 September 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?