Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Title text: I can't speak to the paper's scientific merits, but it's really cool how on page 10 you can see that their reference GPS beacon is sensitive enough to pick up continential drift under the detector (interrupted halfway through by an earthquake).
The "Neutrino exceed the speed of light issue" was an actual story from the day before the comic was posted. Neutrinos move faster than the speed of light!
In short, there was a CERN experiment where they shot a stream of neutrinos from CERN in Switzerland to a receiving station at the INFN laboratories of Gran Sasso in Italy (LNGS). The initial findings from the experiment were that the detector did detect them before the neutrinos could have ever gotten to Italy if they followed the cosmic speed limit.
Cueball decides instead of arguing with people about the result and preaching caution, he takes money from them in the form of a bet. Cueballs comment is, that most of these papers that are supposed to turn the world upside down end up falling apart after further investigation.
Later it was found that this was just an error. Neutrinos are not faster than light, the data was probably wrong due to an incorrectly synchronized clock or caused by some broken wiring on the receiving end.
- [Megan and Cueball are talking.]
- Megan: Did you see the neutrino speed of light thing?
- Cueball: Yup! Good news; I need the cash.
- Megan: Huh? Cash?
- (Text above half-sized panel.)
- Yeah. When there's a news story about a study overturning all of physics, I used to urge caution, remind people that experts aren't all stupid, and end up in pointless arguments about Galileo.
- (Half-height panel.)
- [Cueball sitting on chair, looking down at laptop in his lap. Books and things are on a desk in front of him.]
- Cueball: No, this isn't about whether relativity exists. If it didn't, your GPS wouldn't work. -- What do you mean, "science thought police"? Have you seen our budget? We couldn't begin to afford our own thought police.
- [Megan and Cueball talking again.]
- Megan: That sounds miserable and unfulfilling.
- Cueball: Yup. So I gave up, and now I just find excited believers and bet them $200 each that the new result won't pan out.
- [Same as last panel.]
- Megan: That's mean.
- Cueball: It provides a good income, and if I'm ever wrong, I'll be too excited about the new physics to notice the loss.
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When the news about the neutrino speed thing first came out, all these people I knew were asking if everything they knew was wrong because of the new discovery, and panning me for not believing the word of god that is the scientific journal. I don't know how these people get through life blindly believing everything that they're told. Davidy²²[talk]
- It actually isn't too hard to live like that. Fortunately for me, though, I didn't have all these people I know asking if everything they knew was wrong. Inversion? --Quicksilver (talk) 18:34, 17 August 2013 (UTC)
"...arguing with people and preaching caution is futile. Cueball realizes that it is more satisfying and profitable to place bets with them instead." Does anyone else notice the similarity between this sentiment and mortgage security? Instead of preaching caution in lending and trying to convince people that they shouldn't be taking on loans, hedge funds were created - much more satisfying and profitable. Sorry if this has nothing to do with the comic, it was just an observation that struck me. -naginalf188.8.131.52 19:58, 11 March 2014 (UTC) 184.108.40.206 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
The discussion on this page is incorrect. Relativity does not say that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light, it says that objects with mass cannot travel at the speed of light. Massive objects can either travel below or above the speed of light. 220.127.116.11 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
- Not as I read the wiki page on this: Upper limit on speeds. Maybe if you could have negative mass could you travel faster than c. But according to the page, nothing with zero mass or any finite (positive) mass can move faster than c. And yes if it has mass, then the speed will have to be sharply smaller than c. (But can get as close to c as you like by pouring in more energy).--Kynde (talk) 14:15, 30 September 2015 (UTC)
It is actually that you can't accelerate to the speed of light if you're already going faster you won't automatically have a immeasurable speed that is almost C you will keep going at that speed theoretically. 18.104.22.168 07:38, 22 September 2016 (UTC)