Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
This comic is about a time vulture, which as far as I can tell is not a reference to anything, but something made up by Randall for the comic. A Time Vulture as explained in the 3rd frame is a type of vulture that can live for millennia and wait long enough for someone to die of natural causes. A vulture is a type of animal that preys on other animals (and humans) who are sick or dying.
Because the Time Vulture lives for so long, in its point of view, everyone says "But, I'm not about to die" right before they do. In our point of view it could be several years, but since the Time Vulture lives for so long, years are mere moments in its view.
In the image text, since all vultures wait for their prey to die, all vultures are Time Vultures, but time vultures are able to wait decades for their prey, whereas regular vultures do not have that kind of time.
- [A bird with apparently fractal wings hovers above a dude, standing with a friend.]
- Friend: Dude, you've got a Time Vulture.
- Dude: Holy crap! What is it?
- Friend: They're predators that use aging to kill prey.
- Dude: Huh? What do you mean?
- [The panel zooms in on the Friend's face. Dude comments from off-panel.]
- Friend: They live for millenia and use little energy. They can slow down their internal clocks so time speeds past. To hunt, they lock on to some prey, and when it stops moving, they eat it.
- Dude (off-panel): But what if the prey doesn't die?
- Friend: I don't think you quite understand.
- Dude: I mean, I'm not about to die...
- Friend: From the vulture's viewpoint, everyone says that moments before they do.
add a comment! ⋅ add a topic (use sparingly)! ⋅ refresh comments!
An obvious reference to death itself, which stalks everyone, usually for decades. This is a "memento mori". 184.108.40.206 17:33, 13 December 2012 (UTC)
- Is this a reference to Dr. Who's Weeping Angels, who also (in a different way) hunt by having their victims live to death? 220.127.116.11 04:01, 31 December 2012 (UTC)
- I doubt it. While there is definitely a similarity, it seems like too much of a stretch to have been intentional. 18.104.22.168 00:26, 25 April 2013 (UTC)
- While the idea of weeping angels seems pretty true on the surface, they get their 'food' from transporting something through time, but this animal doesn't eat time or anything, it just dramatically speeds up how quickly time passes for it- similar to how sometimes a night's sleep feels only like an hour or sometimes a year.
- Oh, I want those overnight feels like a year sleeps. I get less of them the older I get. Having a kid pretty much put a nail in that coffin. 22.214.171.124 14:09, 20 August 2014 (UTC)
126.96.36.199 16:01, 28 February 2014 (UTC)
- Does anyone know if Randell is a Who fan? 188.8.131.52 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
- I think he is, as there are some references to the Dr. in the comics. But I still think this would be a far stretch on the deep philosophy in this comic.--Kynde (talk) 21:06, 20 December 2015 (UTC)
From the vulture's viewpoint, the carcass will rot (or be buried) in seconds. Hope it can speed up its internal clock when needed. Mumiemonstret (talk) 10:10, 19 March 2015 (UTC)
The logical way to kill this off would be with a shotgun. Problem solved...? Unless the Time Vulture recognises shotguns as a threat. I am glad this thing doesn't exist. -- LuigiBrick (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
- I'm quite sure a bullet would just pass through it, since it doesn't follow normal time. Also I'm sure it can start speeding time up the instant the prey dies. Else they would never have evolved. Why do you say it doesn't exist. I have seen one over every living creature I know. Most people just call it the shadow of Death ;-) You have to squint and look at it the right way to realize that it looks like an eagle. People have this impression it looks like a skeleton, but as Terry Pratchett's Disc world death makes it clear, it is not Death or time vultures that kill people they are just there when it happens. (Whether it is guns, people, diseases, wars or old age that kill people depends on the time and the peoples luck ;-) --Kynde (talk) 21:06, 20 December 2015 (UTC)
There has been a community portal discussion of what to call Cueball and what to do in case with more than one Cueball. I have added this comic to the Category:Multiple Cueballs. In this comic it cannot be said clearly that any of them is more correctly called Cueball than the other. But typically the one named Cueball is either the protagonist or at least the one with the interesting parts and in this comic it would be the one with all the knowledge of time vultures. It may thus be OK to list him as Cueball. So when I changed most of this explanation, adding a ton more information, I also changed this so he would be the one referenced as Cueball (as it is easier to explain when one of them has a name). Then I also made a note that the other guy also looks like Cueball. --Kynde (talk) 21:11, 20 December 2015 (UTC)
The problem with the time vulture is that it'll have to move at very fast speeds - in its perspective - to keep up with its prey. Assuming Cueball will die right as the advent calendar ends in 1577: Advent, that means he will have 16800 days to live, or 1,451,520,000 seconds. If, from the vulture's perspective, it takes 5 seconds from this time for Cueball to die, the speed of time according to the vulture is 290,304,000 times ours. If the average human walks at 5 km/h, the vulture will see it as walking at 300 million times that speed, which is 1,451,520,000 km/h... So the vulture will have to fly at those speeds, not to mention accelerating that fast. Vince7778 (talk) 23:03, 5 January 2017 (UTC)