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Latest revision as of 17:52, 5 June 2018

Welcome to the explain xkcd wiki!
We have an explanation for all 2010 xkcd comics, and only 21 (1%) are incomplete. Help us finish them!

Latest comic

Go to this comic explanation

Newton's Trajectories
With just one extra line, he could have anticipated the 2003 film The Core, but some things are too audacious for even the greatest visionaries.
Title text: With just one extra line, he could have anticipated the 2003 film The Core, but some things are too audacious for even the greatest visionaries.

Explanation

Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Created by a cannonball - Please change this comment when editing this page. Do NOT delete this tag too soon.

The comic shows the Earth, with three apparent spaceships on separate trajectories. One set is released with sufficient velocity to remain in a stable orbit, while the other two fall towards the Earth. This is a slight modification of Newton's cannonball, a thought experiment demonstrating the planetary effects of gravity.

1669780A-D3EE-43E7-BD94-DD34B224BFF4.gif

Here, Newton's cannonball is used both to observe humanity’s technological future (interstellar travel, availability of advanced technology to the masses, and constant scientific improvement, or nuclear desolation and the extinction of our species) and to underscore that argument by pointing out the inherent metaphor in the experiment: the cannonball can only escape the atmosphere by achieving high velocity (i.e. escape velocity). Similarly, technological progress will only deliver us from nuclear extinction if it happens quickly; otherwise, mankind will destroy itself.

The phrase "slip the bonds of Earth" comes from the sonnet "High Flight" written in 1941 by John Gillespie Magee Jr., an American pilot in the Second World War. Portions of this poem appear on the headstones of many interred in Arlington National Cemetery, particularly aviators and astronauts.

The title text alludes to the unfortunate film The Core, involving, obviously, drilling to the center of the Earth. Apparently not even Newton could predict such a disaster.

Transcript

Ambox notice.png This transcript is incomplete. Please help editing it! Thanks.


Is this out of date? Clicking here will fix that.

New here?

Last 7 days (Top 10)

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 and everything in between. If it is referenced in an xkcd web comic, it should be here.

  • 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.