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Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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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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Revision as of 17:59, 4 March 2014

Welcome to the explain xkcd wiki!
We have an explanation for all 1398 xkcd comics, and only 49 (4%) are incomplete. Help us finish them!

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Chaos
Although the oral exam for the doctorate was just 'can you do that weird laugh?'
Title text: Although the oral exam for the doctorate was just 'can you do that weird laugh?'

Explanation

This comic pokes fun at the 1993 film Jurassic Park, which features a theme park filled with cloned dinosaurs. In the film, chaos ensues when all the dinosaurs escape and begin terrorizing their creators. The reference to "phase space, nonlinear equations, and strange attractors" is a direct quotation from the movie, in which Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), a mathematician and chaos theorist brought in to inspect the park prior to its grand opening, suggests that the dinosaurs' escaping could have been predicted based on mathematical chaos models.

Cueball explains that although he is as much of an expert on chaos theory as Malcolm, he has never been able to find where chaos models predict that dinosaurs would escape. Cueball's confusion highlights the contrast between the mathematical definition of chaos – shown in the graphs on the whiteboard – and its common meaning – a state of utter confusion or disorder (as illustrated in the film).

The whiteboard shows a bifurcation diagram of the logistic map (one of the simplest examples of the mathematical concept of chaos, also featured in what-if 105) and a dragon curve, which appeared on the section title pages of the Jurassic Park book.

The title text references the scene in Jurassic Park in which Goldblum, as Malcolm, while making small talk with Drs. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) during the helicopter ride to the park, responds to a remark with an odd-sounding laugh [1]. The laugh has gained minor internet notoriety after being used as the central sample in at least one remix [2].

The comic may be timely, as a fourth film in the Jurassic Park franchise is scheduled for release in June 2015.

Transcript

[Cueball is staring at a whiteboard covered with equations and graphs. The dragon curve and a schematic of the bifurcation diagram of the logistic map (both famous figures from chaos theory) are visible.]
Cueball: For two decades, I've studied phase space, nonlinear equations, and strange attractors.
Cueball: And there is nothing in here about dinosaurs escaping.

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