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__NOTOC__{{DISPLAYTITLE:explain xkcd}}
 
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<font size=5px>''Welcome to the '''explain [[xkcd]]''' wiki!''</font>
 
  
We have an explanation for all [[:Category:Comics|'''{{#expr:{{PAGESINCAT:Comics|R}}-10}}''' xkcd comics]],
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<font size=5px>''Welcome to the '''explain [[xkcd]]''' wiki!''</font><br>
<!-- Note: the -10 in the calculation above is to discount subcategories (there are 8 of them as of 2013-02-27),
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We have an explanation for all [[:Category:Comics|'''{{#expr:{{PAGESINCAT:Comics|R}}-13}}''' xkcd comics]],
     as well as [[List of all comics]] and [[List of unexplained comics]], which are obviously not comic pages. -->
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and only {{PAGESINCAT:Incomplete articles|R}}
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     as well as [[List of all comics]] and the pages it has been split across, which are obviously not comic pages.
({{#expr: {{PAGESINCAT:Incomplete articles|R}} / {{LATESTCOMIC}} * 100 round 0}}%) [[:Category:Incomplete articles|are incomplete]]. Help us finish them!
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    The extra one difference corresponds to 404, which is not really a comic, even though we've categorised it so.
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-->
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and only {{PAGESINCAT:Incomplete explanations|R}}
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({{#expr: {{PAGESINCAT:Incomplete explanations|R}} / {{LATESTCOMIC}} * 100 round 0}}%) [[:Category:Incomplete explanations|are incomplete]]. Help us finish them!
 
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== Latest comic ==
 
== Latest comic ==
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<div style="float:right; margin: 0 0 1em 1em">{{Special:ContributionScores/10/7/nosort,notools}}<div style="font-size:0.85em; width:25em; font-style:italic">[[Special:ContributionScores|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 [[Special:UserLogin/signup|here]].</div></div>
 
<div style="float:right; margin: 0 0 1em 1em">{{Special:ContributionScores/10/7/nosort,notools}}<div style="font-size:0.85em; width:25em; font-style:italic">[[Special:ContributionScores|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 [[Special:UserLogin/signup|here]].</div></div>
  
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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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.
  
* If you're new to wikis like this, take a look at these help pages describing [[mw:Help:Navigation|how to navigate]] the wiki, and [[mw:Help:Editing pages|how to edit]] pages.
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*If you're new to wikis like this, take a look at these help pages describing [[mw:Help:Navigation|how to navigate]] the wiki, and [[mw:Help:Editing pages|how to edit]] pages.
  
* Discussion about various parts of the wiki is going on at [[Explain XKCD:Community portal]]. Share your 2¢!
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*Discussion about various parts of the wiki is going on at the [[explain xkcd:Community portal|Community portal]]. Share your 2¢!
  
* [[List of all comics]] contains a complete table of all xkcd comics so far and the corresponding explanations. The missing explanations are listed [[List of unexplained comics|here]]. Feel free to help out by creating them! '''[[Help:How to add a new comic explanation|Here's how]]'''.
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*[[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 [[:Category:Incomplete explanations|here]]. Feel free to help out by expanding them!
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*We sell advertising space to pay for our server costs. To learn more, go [[explain xkcd:Advertise Here|here]].
  
 
== Rules ==
 
== Rules ==
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If you want to talk about a specific comic, use its discussion page.
 
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.
+
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 [[explain xkcd:Administrators|admin]], post a message to the [[explain xkcd:Community portal/Admin requests|Admin requests]] board.
 
If you need assistance from an [[explain xkcd:Administrators|admin]], post a message to the [[explain xkcd:Community portal/Admin requests|Admin requests]] board.
  
 
[[Category:Root category]]
 
[[Category:Root category]]

Revision as of 17:59, 4 March 2014

Welcome to the explain xkcd wiki!
We have an explanation for all 1439 xkcd comics, and only 37 (3%) are incomplete. Help us finish them!

Latest comic

Go to this comic explanation

Geese
Anyway, that's a common misconception. Geese live for a long time; all the ones we can see will probably keep flying around for billions of years before they explode.
Title text: Anyway, that's a common misconception. Geese live for a long time; all the ones we can see will probably keep flying around for billions of years before they explode.

Explanation

Megan is commenting on a flock of geese passing overhead and says the light from the geese reaching their eyes now could have come from hundreds of years ago. This is a fact for the light from stars. Cueball points out the absurdity of Megan's statement by pointing out that the geese are only a few hundred yards away rather than a few hundred light years. She continues along the same lines when she implies to Cueball that he is observing a past version of her, despite them being only a few feet apart. (Technically he is viewing a past version of her, but not one from "long ago"; if someone is two feet away from you, you are seeing them as they were roughly 2 nanoseconds ago.)

In the title-text Megan continues to treat the geese as if they were stars, which "live" for a few billion years before exploding. Most stars visible with naked eye are within a thousand light-years of Earth, (as discussed in 1342: Ancient Stars), and it's unlikely that any star Megan currently sees actually exploded within the relatively short span of last few thousand years.

Megan's statement "You're hearing how they once sounded." is somewhat more justified -- sound from "a few hundred yards away" would take about one second to be heard (depending on the exact distance and the prevailing atmospheric conditions (which affect the speed of sound)). That said, the sound of a goose isn't likely to change enough over the course of a second or two to make this distinction particularly significant.

The strip may also take inspiration from Gamow's "Mr Tompkins" stories which were designed to help laymen understand some of the consequences of relativity and quantum mechanics. In one of the stories Mr Tompkins visits a town where the speed of light is 30 miles per hour. For the light to have taken hundreds of years to go from the geese to Megan and Cueball, the speed of light in this strip would have to be much slower than in Gamow's story.

Transcript

[Geese fly in V-formation. Megan and Cueball are lying on the ground, watching them.]
Megan: To think... we're seeing light that left those geese centuries ago.
Megan: By now, they could be long dead.
Cueball: ... What? They're a few hundred yards away. I hear them honking.
Megan: Ah, yes. You're hearing how they once sounded.
Cueball: You're very weird.
Megan: Or I was, long ago...

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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.

  • Discussion about various parts of the wiki is going on at the Community portal. Share your 2¢!
  • 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!
  • 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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