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You can read a brief introduction about this wiki at [[explain xkcd]]. Feel free to sign up for an account and contribute to the wiki! We need explanations for comics, characters, themes, memes and everything in between. If it is referenced in an [[xkcd]] web comic, it should be here.
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Don't be a jerk. There are a lot of comics that don't have set in stone explanations; feel free to put multiple interpretations in the wiki page for each comic.
  
 
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Revision as of 01:59, 30 October 2013

Welcome to the explain xkcd wiki!
We have an explanation for all 1 xkcd comics, and only 0 (0%) are incomplete. Help us finish them!

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Go to this comic explanation

Proofs
Next, let's assume the decision of whether to take the Axiom of Choice is made by a deterministic process ...
Title text: Next, let's assume the decision of whether to take the Axiom of Choice is made by a deterministic process ...

Explanation

Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: More on the match, especially the title text.

Miss Lenhart is back teaching a math class. She begins a proof when one of her students (Cueball) interrupts her asking if this is one of those Dark Magic proofs. She denies that but it soon turns out that it will be, and Cueball exclaims that he just knew it would be one of those.

If this actually refers to the proof being magical, or just to the fact that many students often feel like the resulting proof just appeared without any reason, i.e. either the teacher did not do it clearly, or the student is not up to the task of understanding proofs of that complexity, is not clear.

The proof she starts setting up resembles a proof by contradiction. These often involve making an assumption that there exists some formula or figure that fulfills the requirements given and plucking that answer out of abstract mathematics, much like summoning of demons is associated with black magic. This is usually done by relying on knowledge of the constraints of the form (for example, having the square root of 2 be a/b where a and b are both integers and have no common factors when proving that the square root of 2 is irrational). This common usage is then shown to be not the case in the comic as the proof then goes to claim that the answer will be written in a specific place (though this could be taken as indicating that the result is finite or has a simple algorithm for continuing it).

In the title text the decision of whether to take the axiom of choice is made by a deterministic process. The axiom of determinacy is incompatible with the axiom of choice, which is the continuation of the joke of these dark magic proofs. The axiom of choice was mentioned earlier in 804: Pumpkin Carving.

Although Miss Lenhart did retire a year ago after 1519: Venus, she seems to have returned here for a math course at university level, but continues the trend she finished with in the her undergraduate class...

Transcript

[Miss Lenhart is standing facing left in front of a whiteboard writing on it. Eleven left aligned lines of writing is shown as unreadable scribbles. A voice interrupts her from off-panel right.]
Miss Lenhart: ... Let's assume there exists some function F(a,b,c...) which produces the correct answer-
Cueball (off-panel): Hang on.
[In a frame-less panel Cueball is sitting on a chair at a desk with a pen in his hand taking notes.]
Cueball: This is going to be one of those weird, dark magic proofs, isn't it? I can tell.
[Miss Lenhart has turned right towards Cueball, who is again speaking off-panel. The white board is also off-panel.]
Miss Lenhart: What? No, no, it's a perfectly sensible chain of reasoning.
Cueball (off-panel): All right...
[Miss Lenhart is facing the whiteboard again writing more scribbles behind some of the lines from before (the first line has disappeared). The lines that have more text added are now number three and five (four and six before). Cueball again speaks off-panel.]
Miss Lenhart: Now, let's assume that the correct answer will eventually be written on the board at the coordinates (x, y). If we-
Cueball (off-panel): I knew it!


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Lots of people contribute to make this wiki a success. Many of the recent contributors, listed above, have just joined. You can do it too! Create your account here.

You can read a brief introduction about this wiki at explain xkcd. Feel free to sign up for an account and contribute to the wiki! We need explanations for comics, characters, themes, memes and everything in between. If it is referenced in an xkcd web comic, it should be here.

  • List of all comics contains a table of most recent xkcd comics and links to the rest, and the corresponding explanations. There are incomplete explanations listed here. Feel free to help out by expanding them!
  • If you see that a new comic hasn't been explained yet, you can create it: Here's how.
  • We sell advertising space to pay for our server costs. To learn more, go here.

Rules

Don't be a jerk. There are a lot of comics that don't have set in stone explanations; feel free to put multiple interpretations in the wiki page for each comic.

If you want to talk about a specific comic, use its discussion page.

Please only submit material directly related to —and helping everyone better understand— xkcd... and of course only submit material that can legally be posted (and freely edited). Off-topic or other inappropriate content is subject to removal or modification at admin discretion, and users who repeatedly post such content will be blocked.

If you need assistance from an admin, post a message to the Admin requests board.

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