Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
This comic is about the fact that much of the way we see the world is subjective. From space the directions up and down appear subjective, as gravity can not be strongly felt. Also since the vestibular system (the balance glands in the ear) does not strongly impact equilibrioception (the sense of balance) and the sense of balances is often based on vision, which uses subjective clues to determine what is the up and down, up and down can seem arbitrary at times. For example, people can convince them selves (accidentally or deliberately) that up is down and down is up or be confused about their orientation (dizzy). Forcing yourself to think in a different perspective changes a lot of things that are usually thought of as mundanities.
Beret Guy convinces himself that down is toward the sky. Megan witnesses and asks him why he is clinging to the ground. He responds that he is holding on to the ground so that he does not fall into the sky. Megan at first dismisses this but later looks up, gets scared and is found by Ponytail, clinging to a mailbox afraid of falling up.
The title text continues this idea, where Megan "drops" a bird into the sky, and never hears it hit the "bottom". As birds can fly, and captured birds often fly away when released, its flight appeared to Megan as the bird falling upward. "didn't hear it hit bottom" would normally mean that, after you throw a rock into a pit, it takes too long to hit bottom, or the sound couldn't even make it to the thrower.
- [Megan approaches Beret Guy, who appears to be doing a handstand on the lawn.]
- Megan: What are you doing?
- Beret Guy: Clinging to the ceiling of a bottomless abyss.
- [Megan walks past him.]
- Megan: You are very odd.
- [Megan towards a mailbox.]
- [As she passes the mailbox, she looks up.]
- [This panel appears to be upside down. Megan is clinging to the mailbox, and Ponytail approaches her.]
- Ponytail: What's wrong?
- Megan: I looked down.
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- This comic's official transcript actually refers to Ponytail as Ponytail.
As anyone who read Ender's Game know, "The enemy's gate is down". t must be noted that mentioned gate was in a zero-gravity environment so the usual definition of down being the direction gravitation is pulling us was not applicable. -- Hkmaly (talk) 08:09, 5 October 2012 (UTC)
The enemy's gate is down.
Also in Ender's Game, Ender makes reference to himself clinging to the earth just before he leaves it for the first time.
- you could also now say that the movie made a small reference to that concept, though the middle half of the book was reduced to a 4 or 5 minute montage of battle scenes and Ender and his army being woken up a few times... sigh... how could I have expected it to be better :-( Brettpeirce (talk) 13:19, 8 August 2014 (UTC)
Furthermore, the last panel might be a reference to Nietzsche's quote: "When you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back at you".
Additionally, it might also allude to the law of gravity, as it operates in the realm of Cartoon physics. This interpretation would seem to match the 'perspective inversion' theme of the entire comic.18.104.22.168 08:14, 5 October 2012 (UTC)
I think the comment about a bottomless hole is misleading but I am not certain. the mass of the walls of the hole as well as surrounding matter would create a definite gravitational force, as would any gases or liquids that fill the hole. There would be a point (or possibly surface or line) depending on the composition and shape of whatever the bottomless hole is in as well as the contents and shape of the hole itself where the net gravitational force is zero, with all areas surrounding this point (surface or line) having gravitational forces pointing in the direction of the point/surface/line, unless the hole is in a body that extends in one direction off into infinity, in which case the mass of the entire system would be continually collapsing into a black hole as the mass of the body is infinite.
- yuuuuup Brettpeirce (talk) 13:21, 8 August 2014 (UTC)
The comic also encapsulates a feeling about the sky. If you lie down in a flat area like the american southwest, all you can see is sky. All you can see is sky. All of the sudden, it feels like one little push could send you flying. You get the feeling that you are laying on a round, small surface, and are enveloped by a huge blue sky. In "Death comes for the Archbishop" There is a one line description of this feeling.
"The sky was as full of motion and change as the desert beneath it was monotonous and still, — and there was so much sky, more than at sea, more than anywhere else in the world. The plain was there, under one's feet, but what one saw when one looked about was that brilliant blue world of stinging air and moving cloud. Even the mountains were mere ant-hills under it. Elsewhere the sky is the roof of the world; but here the earth was the floor of the sky. The landscape one longed for when one was away, the thing all about one, the world one actually lived in, was the sky, the sky! --Death Comes to the Archbishop, Book VII, Ch. 4" [ http://www.en.wikibooks.org/wiki/American_Literature/20th_Century/Willa_Cather link title]
This comic seeks to describe that feeling of "The earth being the floor of the sky"
--22.214.171.124 00:41, 10 October 2012 (UTC)
Shouldn't his beret be shown on the ground? Xyz (talk) 19:34, 22 May 2013 (UTC)
- Staples. Squornshellous Beta (talk) 14:53, 28 July 2013 (UTC)
- What Squornshellous Beta said. Brettpeirce (talk) 13:24, 8 August 2014 (UTC)
Anyone else reminded of the Stone Tower Temple from Majora's Mask? 126.96.36.199 08:41, 12 November 2013 (UTC)
- Add this to the incomplete explanations list
There's no coverage on the title text. 188.8.131.52 02:52, 30 May 2014 (UTC)
- Done. --Dgbrt (talk) 19:42, 30 May 2014 (UTC)
I added an explanation on the title text. Anyone can feel free to correct it as they see fit. Codefreak5 (talk) 13:08, 28 July 2014 (UTC)
Maybe it's a reference to Patema Inverted or Upside Down? 184.108.40.206 06:49, 30 July 2014 (UTC)
There may be another theme here, too: That a seemingly bizarre and unintuitive but irrefutable interpretation of reality may become the accepted interpretation, with implications that overturn our world view. We already saw this with General Relativity and the Grand Unified Theory. Maybe Beret Guy has hit on a Theory of Everything? 220.127.116.11 13:33, 30 July 2014 (UTC)
I think this is a simpler conception of the above theorist's. In cartoons, knowledge about gravity can be ignored until it's pointed out. We have endless scenes of the coyote chasing the road runner off a precipice, whereupon he sees the road runner's sign telling him to look down. He does this, and only then plummets to the ground. So Beret Guy "infects" Megan with his conception of "down," but it takes until she looks "down" to succumb to his interpretation of reality, causing her to cling to her mailbox for dear life. The final frame is from her perspective, though it doesn't affect Ponytail (yet!). Tquid (talk) 21:44, 31 July 2014 (UTC)
- rewrite the explanation
there are plenty dictionary definitions and physics of the term "down" -- https://www.google.com/search?q=define+down&oq=define+down&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l5.1959j0j7&sourceid=chrome&es_sm=122&ie=UTF-8&qscrl=1 -- generally speaking "down" is in the direction you move from a higher point (of energy) to a lower point (of energy) -- so the explanation as it stand saying that "there is no set rule for what is down" is plainly wrong, and as the opening and defining argument of the explanation it warrant the entire explanation to be re-visited and re-written. Spongebog (talk) 17:40, 31 July 2014 (UTC)
If I could fall into the sky, do you think time would pass me by? ImVeryAngryItsNotButter (talk) 16:23, 8 August 2014 (UTC)
I kind of experience this too, but with tall buildings that have only one floor... Basically halls. Looking upwards in there can get me dizzy and give me fear of height. I feel like I might fall down there. The hall has to be well lighted and without a lot of things standing on the floor though, that ruins it. Sinni800 (talk) 00:04, 12 August 2014 (UTC)