Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
According to Wikipedia, Paul Erdős (26 March 1913 – 20 September 1996) was a Hungarian mathematician who published more papers than any other mathematician in history, working with hundreds of collaborators. In the strip, we see the characters frantically writing a mathematics paper and getting everyone to put their name on it as co-author, before also getting the resurrected Paul Erdős to put his name on the paper. The ALT text mentions Kevin Bacon, a reference to the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon meme, so this strip plays on the idea that all mathematicians are six degrees away from Erdős. The characters are securing low "Erdős numbers" for themselves by co-authoring a paper with him.
- [Scene of meteors showering the earth.]
- Beret Guy: The apocalypse! The skies burn, the seas turn to blood, and the dead walk the earth!
- [Cueball and Beret Guy.]
- Cueball: The dead what?
- Beret Guy: Walk the earth!
- [Cueball running.]
- Cueball: I have to go.
- [Cueball scribbling at a table. Mathematical symbols and equations are above Cueball's head.]
- Scribble scribble
- [Cueball running, paper in hand.]
- [Cueball opening door labelled "Math dept."]
- Cueball: The dead return!
- Cueball: Everyone, quick, get your names on here!
- [People lining up.]
- Woman: At last!
- Mathematician: I hope there's still time!
- [Cueball running.]
- [Cueball at a cemetery.]
- Rising dead: Hurrghhh
- [Cueball finds a man rising from his grave.]
- Cueball: Paul Erdős?
- Erdős: Yes?
- Cueball: We need you to sign this.
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Imagine the result if the ressurected Erdős also appears in that proposed short film with Bacon. They'd both immediately get Erdős–Bacon numbers of 1, for themselves, and then every traditionally Erdős-numbered person and every single Bacon-numbered person would be guaranteed to end up with an Erdős–Bacon number of no more than their existing (Erdős|Bacon) number plus one! It would make a mockery of the entire system!!! ...and that's why the end of the world is a Bad ThingTM 184.108.40.206 18:42, 23 May 2013 (UTC)
(Because there are pedants out there, I wish to immediately acknowledge the intrinsic error in such a statement... Anyone who hasn't acted XOR hasn't co-authored a paper can't get a finite Bacon||Erdős number to add to their finite Erdős||Bacon number, and someone who co-authored a paper with someone who acted with a second Baconised person cannot count that particular link as part of either chain, unless otherwise qualified, and therefore would count for both... Although the intermediary person might get a chance to connect to both if the original guy gets Erdős-connected by a different route. But way to ruin my own joke.)
((Oh, and my Bacon number is no more than 3, by way of an uncredited film appearance alongside Ian McKellan. I haven't checked to see if anyone else that's relevent has less than his presumed value of 2, but I'm not Erdőlised at all yet. Maybe that's my next goal in life. I know someone with an E-number of <=3, but obviously that's not enough to be worthy of geting an EB# of 7 or less for myself. 220.127.116.11 19:15, 23 May 2013 (UTC) ))
Without the title text it could be seen as a reference to Erdös' signature. Erdős used to sign things pgom (poor great old man) then ld (living dead) then ad (archaeological discovery) then ld again (legally dead) then cd (counts dead) so it could be them trying to see if he'd sign living dead. FlyingPiggy