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== Latest comic ==
 
== Latest comic ==

Revision as of 21:23, 18 June 2013

Welcome to the explain xkcd wiki!

We have collaboratively explained 4 xkcd comics, and we've explained ALL THE COMICS! Great work everyone! There's still work to do, so please help extend incomplete descriptions!

Latest comic

Go to this comic explanation

Russell's Teapot
Unfortunately, NASA regulations state that Bertrand Russell-related payloads can only be launched within launch vehicles which do not launch themselves.
Title text: Unfortunately, NASA regulations state that Bertrand Russell-related payloads can only be launched within launch vehicles which do not launch themselves.

Explanation

Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect:

Russell's Teapot is a philosophical argument that reflects on the difficulty of trying to prove a negative. It involves a hypothetical teapot orbiting a heavenly body, whose existence hasn't been proven, and states that it cannot be disproven (Somebody put it there secretly?). It is very often used in atheistic arguments. Russell's Teapot is an analogy which Bertrand Russell devised "to illustrate that the philosophic burden of proof lies upon a person making unfalsifiable claims, rather than shifting the burden of disproof to others."

"He wrote that if he were to assert, without offering proof, that a teapot orbits the Sun somewhere in space between the Earth and Mars, he could not expect anyone to believe him solely because his assertion could not be proven wrong." (Wikipedia)

Cueball is trying to settle the teapot argument by actually launching a teapot into space via a crowdfunding campaign.

The title-text refers to Russell's paradox, also formulated by Bertrand Russell. Russell's paradox was a flaw found in naïve set theory where one could consider "the set of all sets that do not contain themselves" (a "set" roughly meaning "list"). The paradox arises with whether this set, in turn, contains itself: if it does, then it cannot; if it doesn't, then it must. Similarly, like in the barber paradox, the vehicle which launches only vehicles which do not launch themselves is impossible: if the vehicle takes off, it must launch itself as well as the teapot, and thus can never be launched (without violating alleged NASA regulations, at least).

Transcript

[Cueball is standing in front of a blueprint labeled "CubeSat-Based Design", containing a satellite with a teapot in the top.]
[Caption below the panel:]
I'm crowdfunding a project to launch a teapot into orbit around the sun to settle the Russell thing once and for all.


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