660: Sympathy

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Jump to: navigation, search
Sympathy
Excellent recovery:... which we could try to use to somehow save your original brother!
Title text: Excellent recovery:... which we could try to use to somehow save your original brother!

[edit] Explanation

This comic plays at the lack of social skills physicists and other people in heavily scientific disciplines are stereotypically believed to have. The example displayed is a case of condolence, in which the appropriate behaviour would of course be to express compassion with the bereaved, as shown in the second panel

In the third panel, the physicist fails to display the endorsed demeanour. Instead, he takes a scientific approach towards the statement of his friend. He points out that the transmission of the pain the latter believes to have felt, is in fact limited by the speed of light and could therefore not have been 'instant'. By saying so, he betrays an absence of feeling towards his friend, as well as his inability to understand the figurative sense of the words.

In the last panel, the physicist takes the previous to a bizarre extreme and reflects on the consequences that would follow if the statement of his friend were indeed literally true. According to special relativity, any object travelling faster than at the speed of light would in fact move backwards in time. The physicist therefore plans to utilise this effect in order to construct a tachyonic antitelephone, a device that allows sending information to the past. To confirm the initial condition, he makes the utterly inappropriate proposal to start a series of measurements with other family members of his friend.

A correction of the misdemeanour is suggested in the title text: The antitelephone might be used to change causality and save the original brother from dying in the first place. Of course, saying the latter would not be of much help in the given scenario, although it does serve a noticeable improvement over the last two panels.

[edit] Transcript

Sympathy Tips for Physicists
[Cueball and friend are talking.]
Friend: The moment my brother died, I felt a searing pain in my heart.
Right:
[Cueball places his hand on the friend's shoulder.]
Cueball: I'm so sorry.
Wrong:
Cueball: Was it instant, or was there a speed-of-light delay?
Very Wrong:
[Cueball thoughtfully puts his hand on his chin.]
Cueball: If it was instant, with the right arrangement of moving reference frames, we could use this to send signals back in time and violate causality! How many remaining siblings do you have?
comment.png add a comment! ⋅ Icons-mini-action refresh blue.gif refresh comments!

Discussion

No comments yet.
Personal tools
Namespaces

Variants
Actions
Navigation
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 or Bitcoin?