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Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Brookhaven RHIC
"Buddy, you trying to pull something? I can't buy this gold--all the electrons are missing. I could face serious charges!"
Title text: "Buddy, you trying to pull something? I can't buy this gold--all the electrons are missing. I could face serious charges!"


Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Someone could probably calculate the revenue of this proposed project... And I think we need to mention a few other comics involving absurd research proposals. Do NOT delete this tag too soon.

The Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider is a particle accelerator designed to collide gold ions together at incredibly high speeds. This is normally done to study particle physics - the high-energy collisions allow us to learn more about how subatomic particles behave.

Randall proposes that, instead of using the beam of gold ions for particle collisions, it should be diverted and sold at cash-for-gold stores to make money. He proposed damaging part of the circular particle accelerator to add a diverter, so he can direct the gold ion beam to the three stores. It is unclear, however, how he would manage to transport the gold to the stores, as once it leaves the circular particle accelerator, parts of the beam are not in an enclosed space, and would likely collide with something. It would also cause problems once it reached the stores.

The joke is that because they are traveling at relativistic speeds, the mass of the particles being sold will be much more than the mass of the ions being supplied to the collider's input. However, it would be very difficult to sell a beam of charged particles[citation needed], and the amount of gold involved is below microscopic scales. That, and the fact that he is trying to misuse the particle accelerator for his own profit, is the reason why Brookhaven rejected Randall's proposal. Also, the energy used by the particle accelerator would cost more than the revenue from selling the gold.

Randall has done many comics describing impractical research proposals in the past.

The title text imagines the owner of the stores complaining about the sale, not because of impracticality, but because Randall tries to sell gold ions with the entire positively-charged nucleus of the gold atom with all 79 electrons stripped from it instead of normal, electrically neutral gold atoms. This is also a pun on the word "charges", which could refer to electric charge or to criminal charges.

This is an actual map of the area around Brookhaven National Laboratory, with east at the top. The cash for gold stores depicted in the comic are, from left to right:

  • New York Gold Center, 451 Glen Dr Ste D, Shirley NY 11967-1100
  • Cash for Gold, 969 Montauk Hwy, Shirley NY 11967-2111
  • Gold Traders Inc, 450 William Floyd Pkwy, Shirley, NY 11967-3480


Ambox notice.png This transcript is incomplete. Please help editing it! Thanks.
[A single panel contains a simplified overhead map view of the Brookhaven Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider and some of the surrounding area. The map is rotated 90°; north is to the left. The collider is located on the left hand side of the image as a yellow beam (representing the Gold ions) outlined in black. Parts of the collider are are labeled and there are light gray arrows indicating the direction of travel for the ions. At the bottom of the main accelerator ring there is a diverter that splits the ion beam and directs it towards a set of three Cash for Gold stores, passing through a more diverters along the way. Each Cash for Gold store is represented with a yellow burst and is marked with a Google maps style "store" locator pin. The following labels are written on the map.]
Brookhaven Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider
Gold Ion Source
Accelerator Ring
Gold Ion Beam
[There are arrows coming from this label pointing at each store]
Cash for Gold Stores
[Caption below the panel:]
Sadly, Brookhaven rejected my proposed experiment

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