856: Trochee Fixation
Title text: If you Huffman-coded all the 'random' things everyone on the internet has said over the years, you'd wind up with, like, 30 or 40 bytes *tops*.
Trochees are two syllable words with an accent on the first like the comic says.
However, there is a reference to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers TV shows in the bottom left frame. Additionally, there is a reference to sci/fi author Neal Stephenson who has written Snow Crash, Anathem and many other books.
When the experiment fails, the last comment is "someone get a brick". They are going to smash the brick into the patient's head to try to cure the Trochee Fixation.
Huffman coding is a lossless data compression algorithm. What Randall is trying to say by “30 or 40 bytes *tops*” is that there’s really not much truly random stuff out there on the internet - internet memes are all repeats of the same seemingly random stuff.
- Girl: Robot ninja! Pirate doctor laser monkey! Narwhal zombie badger hobo bacon kitty captain penguin raptor jesus!
- Megan: We'd been seeing this brain damage for years, but only recently did our linguists identify the pattern behind it.
- Megan: The patients fixate on animals and types of people whose names are trochees (two syllables, with the accent on the first).
- The malfunction causes a rush of dopamine whenever these trocheese are heard or spoken.
- [Chart shows "internet" and "brain," with arrows marked "trochees" traveling both ways between them. An arrow marked "dopamine" loops from the brain back to the brain.]
- The warning signs appear in childhood:
- [Child sits in front of TV.]
- Child: Yeah! Mighty teenage morphin' ninja power mutant turtle rangers!
- Social reinforcement focuses the fixation on a few dozen words.
- Cueball (off-panel): Is there a cure?
- [Girl is reclining under a big machine pointed at her face.]
- Megan: We're about to try a radical trocheeotomy.
- Cueball: Rip out her vocal chords? I'm in favor.
- Megan: No, we're modifying her vocabulary* to erase the words she's fixated on.
- Digitoneurolinguistic hacking! It's totally real! Ask Neal Stephenson.
- Megan: Either the gap will be filled by normal words, or she'll just generate a new set of trochees.
- Megan: Here goes.
- [She pulls the lever on a large panel.]
- kachunk bzzzZZZZZZ
- [Girl is waking up.]
- Girl: ... GzZhRmPh ...
- Girl ... banjo turtle!
- Girl: Jetpack ferret pizza lawyer! Dentist hamster wombat plumber turkey jester hindu cowboy hooker bobcat scrapple!
- Megan (off-panel): Sigh.
- Megan: Time for plan B.
- Megan: Someone get a brick.