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Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Turnabout
Whenever I miss a shot with a sci-fi weapon, I say 'Apollo retroreflector' really fast, just in case.
Title text: Whenever I miss a shot with a sci-fi weapon, I say 'Apollo retroreflector' really fast, just in case.

Explanation

In the comic, two people are engaging in a battle with laser guns. One appears to gain the upper hand as he jumps on an obstacle, as the other's shot goes wide. He delivers the classic line "Any last words?" and is answered with the confusing phrase "Apollo retroreflectors". The earlier wild shot, reflected off the moon, promptly lances down from space and hits him in the back.

A retroreflector is a device or surface that reflects light back at its source. The Apollo 11, 14 and 15 moon missions placed several such devices on the surface of the Moon to help scientists on Earth measure the distance between the two bodies using laser ranging, as did some of the Russian landers. The likelihood of the wild shot being aimed at the moon is fairly low in itself, and the probability of accidentally hitting a retroreflector on the moon is lower still. Even if it did, it is highly unlikely that a pistol-sized generator could produce a beam coherent enough to inflict damage after traveling to the moon and back, as lasers built for the purpose of hitting retroreflectors on the moon typically get a return around one quadrillionth of the original beam.

The title text mentions that you would need to say "Apollo retroreflector" really fast, because from Earth you would only have about 2.5 seconds before the light is reflected back to its source.

Randall discussed the effect of hitting the moon with lasers in What If: Laser Pointer and the likelihood of hitting a celestial object with a laser in What If: Into the Blue.

Transcript

[Two people engage in battle using handheld laser guns.]

[Person 2's shot misses, Person 1 jumps on a desk.]

Person 1: Any last words?

Person 2: "Apollo retroreflectors"

Person 1: What?

[Person 1 is hit in the back by the reflected shot.]

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