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Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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     as well as [[List of all comics]], which is obviously not a comic page. -->
 
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remain. '''[[Help:How to add a new comic explanation|Add yours]]''' while there's a chance!
 
remain. '''[[Help:How to add a new comic explanation|Add yours]]''' while there's a chance!
 
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Revision as of 15:36, 20 March 2013

Welcome to the explain xkcd wiki!

We have collaboratively explained 5 xkcd comics, and only 1696 (100%) remain. Add yours while there's a chance!

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Speed and Danger
NASCAR removed the passenger seats because drivers hated how astronauts kept riding along with them and loudly announcing "Ahh, what a nice and relaxing drive."
Title text: NASCAR removed the passenger seats because drivers hated how astronauts kept riding along with them and loudly announcing "Ahh, what a nice and relaxing drive."

Explanation

Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: More on the speed of sport cars and the race cars. How much faster does it feel for a human to see a regular sports car on a high way and then a formula one car. More on why a rocket seems slow?

In this scatter plot Randall plots the speed of several vehicles (including people on foot for "normal sports") and how disastrous a crash would be. The punchline is that space rockets travel so dangerously fast, and crashes are so utterly catastrophic, that it pushes literally every other kind of crash to the "slow and safe" corner by comparison.

With the plot Randall makes the observation that the danger of a crash is greatly influenced by its speed and highlights the concept of relativity between what we perceive as 'fast', normal sports and two different types of racing cars, vs. a much faster vehicle, a rocket during launch. A rocket may appear to ascend slowly (and of course it begins its ascent slowly), but on the way to orbit it ends up moving very fast. But before it reaches the more extreme speed regime it will be far away from the ground (and the casual observer), where there is nothing to compare this speed to as opposed to a race car speeding by a spectator during a race. (Of course rockets are slow compared to the speed of light...)

Apart from the high speed, there is also the altitude to take into account for the rocket launch, and the vast amount of fuel needed to get into orbit, and any sort of failure is almost certainly fatal.

Racing cars are often involved in crashes, but at that speed it is possible to construct them so even serious crashes may not be fatal. Although rockets are also made as safe as possible, it is a completely different regime of speed and danger, and the risk of something going wrong during a take off is much higher, and it is impossible to prevent a lethal disaster if the launch fails during the ascent. This results in a much higher mortality rate for each crashed rocket (probably 100%) vs. crashed sports/race cars.

Rocket launches is compared to "normal sports" (presumably meaning people running approximately 15 mph, and possibly also polo horses galloping approximately 25 mph), NASCAR (which reaches speeds of 320 km/h (200 mph)), and Formula One, where the fastest race cars go 380 km/h (240 mph).

A rockets launched to reach the ISS needs to eventually match the speed of the space station which moves at 27,600 km/h (17,100 mph), and a rocket that needs to escape from Earth (like in going to the Mars) needs to reach 40,270 km/h (25,020 mph). The lowest of these speeds divided by the highest of the cars is still more than 70 times as fast...

The title text serves to further emphasize the point, as an astronaut (used to the several G's of acceleration during takeoff and overall much higher speeds) would likely find a NASCAR car moving at ~200mph paltry compared to what they're acclimated to and has supposedly aggravated NASCAR drivers by making a point of saying so. And thus this is used to explain why there is no passenger seats in NASCARS, to prevent astronauts in joining the drivers for a nice slow ride.

Of the many charts in xkcd this one is notable for containing the fewest samples of point of any scatter plots in xkcd.

Transcript

[A two-axis diagram with two double headed arrows centered in the middle of the panel. Each arrow is labeled. There are four large dots in the diagram, three close together in the top left corner and one in the bottom right corner. Each dot is labeled.]
[Y axis:]
Top: Crashes are safe
Bottom: Crashes are dangerous
[X axis:]
Left: Slow
Right: Fast
[Dots from top left to bottom right:]
Normal sports
NASCAR
Formula One
Rocket launches


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