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Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Number of Computers
They try to pad their numbers in the annual reports by counting Galileo's redundant systems as multiple computers, but they're falling behind badly either way.
Title text: They try to pad their numbers in the annual reports by counting Galileo's redundant systems as multiple computers, but they're falling behind badly either way.

Explanation

Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Rough draft, needs better phrasing and transcript

In this comic is a graph of all computers in the world, on a log scale. Also on the page is a graph representing all computers destroyed by throwing them into Jupiter.

Space probes sent to Jupiter are typically scheduled to deorbit and fall into Jupiter's atmosphere. There are multiple reasons for this, including avoiding contaminating Europa with Earth pathogens, never mind the huge gravity well that would have to be overcome for such a probe to return to Earth.

The caption below the comic humorously implies that NASA's reasons for causing the probes to deorbit is merely to destroy computers for the sake of destroying computers (and failing horribly, given they have destroyed three computers out of >100 billion).

Transcript

[A graph with two red lines. The X-axis is a time-line with eight ticks with every second tick labeled below the axis, ranging from around 1940 to 2030. The Y-axis is a logarithmic count ranging from one to 100 billion. There are 12 ticks with the first and then every third tick after that larger than the two ticks in between. All the large ticks are labeled, but only the first two of the small ticks are similarly labeled. Labels are written to the left of the axis. All labels on both axes are written in gray. The first red line is a straight line (thus exponentially growing), starting close to the bottom left corner eventually reaching the upper right edge of the graph. The other red line begins around 1990 and has three straight steps. Each step is labeled with gray text, the last part of the line (after the present 2016), is dotted. Both of the red lines have an arrow pointing to them with a label above the arrow.]
Left red line: Number of computers created
Right red line: Number of computers destroyed by hurling them into Jupiter
Labels on right red line:
Galileo probe
Galileo orbiter
Juno (scheduled)
Y-axis:
1 billion
1 million
1,000
100
10
1
X-axis: 1960 1980 2000 2020
[Caption below the panel:]
NASA needs to pick up the pace if they ever want to finish the job.


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