Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Title text: Telescopes and bathyscapes and sonar probes of Scottish lakes, Tacoma Narrows bridge collapse explained with abstract phase-space maps, some x-ray slides, a music score, Minard's Napoleonic war: the most exciting new frontier is charting what's already here.
This comic is making the point that there is a wonderful world waiting to be explored in the ocean. From above it seems so plain, endless, and boring. But underneath the surface lies the most unexplored area on the planet. This comic is a commentary on the need to head below the waves and start exploring.
The most important items from the title text are:
- A bathyscape is a deep sea submersible: a submarine for exploring the ocean floor.
- Some Scottish loch are very deep, especially those in the Great Glen. There may also be a reference to the famous Loch Ness.
- The Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapsed when wind blowing over the bridge caused it to oscillate wildly. When the oscillations changed from one mode to another, they grew in amplitude until the bridge failed dramatically.
- Charles Minard did a visualization of the losses incurred by Napoleons army in its attempt to conquer Russia.
- [Cueball sits writing in a diary on a desert island, only the sandy tip of which with a palm tree on it stands above the water. Beneath the surface is a kelp forest, some sharks, a stingray, a shipwreck, a submarine, several large jellyfish, a giant squid fighting a sperm whale, a crashed plane, some coral formations, a thermal vent emitting a plume of smoke surrounded by several annelids, and a snail.]
- Cueball: Day 44: Still stranded, with nothing but flat empty water as far as the eye can see.
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There's a shark, a manta ray, giant jellyfish, and a giant squid in the water. It's totally safe. And what the heck are those worms at the ocean bed? Davidy22[talk] 13:27, 18 February 2013 (UTC)
- Those worms are extremophiles feeding off of the nutrients emitted by the volcanic column... and from what I understand, they're completely harmless. Their entire ecology centers around the extreme heat and alternative chemical sources of energy provided by the center of the earth (vs sun-based photosynthetic life.) Oh, and I think Randall left off the "not to scale" attribute of the map, otherwise the ocean floor would only be a few hundred feet deep... -- IronyChef (talk) 15:50, 18 February 2013 (UTC)
The title text seems to be alluding to a song. No idea what it could be. --Qwach (talk) 18:27, 31 August 2013 (UTC)
In my mind, I hear the alt-text as lyrics to the Can-Can song, "Infernal Gallop". See if you agree! 126.96.36.199 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
I'm pretty sure it's meant to go with the Major-General's song from the Pirates of Penzance by Gilbert and Sullivan. The meter and rhyme works out, and Randall based comic 1052 (Every Major's Terrible) on it, showing that he knows and likes the song. 188.8.131.52 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
Also the title text is a poem since no one mentions it:
Telescopes and bathyscapes
and sonar probes of Scottish lakes,
Tacoma Narrows bridge collapse
explained with abstract phase-space maps,
some x-ray slides, a music score,
Minard's Napoleonic war:
the most exciting new frontier
is charting what's already here.
--7buergen (talk) 09:32, 13 February 2014 (UTC)
I think the point of the commentary is "there's more than meets the eye". 184.108.40.206 13:47, 21 February 2014 (UTC)
It's to the tune of "We Didn't Start the Fire"... 220.127.116.11 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
- I agree. It lines up perfectly, arguably better than Major General. 18.104.22.168 05:34, 14 July 2015 (UTC)
If "We Didn't Start the Fire" had been the original intended tune, then the "some" and "a" in line 5 should not be there; they are superfluous and do not fit the rhythm of "We Didn't Start the Fire". The most plausible conclusion is that those words were added or retained to make the text fit the meter of a different song. To my ear, "Infernal Gallop", as noted above, seems quite plausible, although it doesn't exactly account for "some". Being (to my shame) unfamiliar with Gilbert and Sullivan, I can't comment on the Modern Major-General theory. --5parrowhawk (talk) 10:18, 8 March 2016 (UTC)