1052: Every Major's Terrible
|Every Major's Terrible|
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Title text: Someday I'll be the first to get a Ph. D in 'Undeclared'.
Randall has written a song called Every Major's Terrible and this comic illustrates the song. In this song the term Major refers to the US version of an academic major. The point of the song is that it makes no sense to pick any major since they are all terrible!
The header notes that the song is written to the tune of the satirical Major-General's Song from Gilbert and Sullivan's 1879 comic opera The Pirates of Penzance. The song satirizes the idea of the "modern" educated British Army officer of the latter 19th century. Major general is a military rank in the United Kingdom and many other countries. (As of August 2018, the title text has been changed to a link to the said song). The meter in the Major-General's Song is iambic octameter, which means that in each line there are eight iambs, where an iamb is two syllables in an unstressed-stressed pattern. Therefore, each line contains 16 syllables.
The panels show Randall's rewritten lyrics to the song. Below each of the three verses are described in detail (go to Verse 1, Verse 2 or Verse 3). Each verse ends with "Just put me down as 'Undecided' - Every Major's Terrible", which gives the song its name — and "Major's Terrible" is similar enough to "Major General", the corresponding lyrics in the original version, to serve as a callback. The last line of the first verse in each song goes as follows:
- Original: I am the very model of a modern Major-General
- Randall's: Just put me down as undecided- every major's terrible
The lyrics are commonly rewritten, the most famous rewrite likely being The Elements (song) by Tom Lehrer which is also mentioned below the main header. This song is also available on-line.
His last suggestion, "Supercalifragilisticexpialadocious", from Mary Poppins, is another fast-paced patter-song with a somewhat similar tune, though it doesn't fit quite so well, and the match falls apart at the end of the fourth line, when the "Um-diddly"s start up — still, it's better than nothing.
There are at least two performances of this xkcd song online where the transcription is shown to make it easier to understand the text:
- A video with each major acted out by the SFU Choir - Every Major's Terrible.
- A solo with piano: Every Major's Terrible' by Ben Miller.
- See also this article Xkcd's 'Every Major's Terrible' Is Now A Real Song.
Regarding the title text: "Undeclared" is sometimes called "General Studies". Most U.S. universities will not let you get a degree in this, let alone an advanced degree such as a Ph.D. Also, it should probably be noted that this song refers to U.S.-like university systems, in other countries, one will study little to nothing outside your major, making it more-or-less impossible to be undecided as to major.
It should also be noted that the title text fits the cadence of the first line of the song, possibly teasing a fourth verse. As to what that consists of, only Randall knows.
- Panel 1, Philosophy's just math sans rigor, sense, and practicality
- Cueball is posing as Rodin's The Thinker, a common symbol for philosophy. The equation in the background (two plus light bulb equals sailboat) is nonsense, hence "math sans rigor, sense or practicality" (sans meaning without).
- Panel 2, And math's just physics unconstrained by precepts of reality.
- A cannon is firing. However, instead of going in the normal parabolic arc (a precept of reality and thus physics), the cannonball splits and splits again, so that it looks like a bifurcation diagram from chaos theory. The dashed line indicates the cannonball's trajectory, which bifurcates twice, although the sum of the momentums of the four resulting (1/4 sized?) cannonballs is presumably mathematically identical to the original.
- Panel 3, A business major's just a thing you get so you can graduate
- Business is the most common major, often seen as a practical choice applicable to a wide variety of careers, or, as the comic illustrates, preferred by those who just want an easy way to graduate. Cueball gets his diploma and runs away from the dean on the podium while shedding both his robe and his square academic cap (or Mortarboard).
- Panel 4, And chemistry's for stamp collectors high on methylacetate.
- Stamp collecting refers to the famous quote by Ernest Rutherford, "All science is either physics or stamp collecting." Methyl acetate is a solvent that for instance can be used to remove stamps from their envelope (although water will do the same). The stamps in the background form the periodic table of the chemical elements. And since chemistry is not physics, according to the quote, chemists must be stamp collectors (as, the high on methylacetate, Ponytail wearing goggles and holding an Erlenmeyer flask).
- Panels 5 and 6, Why anyone who wants a job would study lit's a mystery, Unless their only other choice were something like art history.
- These lines, both sung by Cueball, refer to subjects where a majority of graduates will end up unemployed or eventually working in a field outside their majors. Topics such as Literature or Art History are often and historically said to be in this category — although from actual statistics, it is clear that there are far worse majors these days.
- Panels 7 and 8, A BA in communications guarantees that you'll achieve, A little less than if you'd learned to underwater basket-weave
- Here Cueball first has a major in Communications and next he is seen underwater with a basket. Underwater basket weaving is a commonly used metaphor for any college major that is easy and/or worthless. "Communications" is a major chosen by people interested in news broadcasting or other media. Note that, if following the original music exactly, the line "A little less than if you'd learned to underwater basket-weave." will be repeated three times by the chorus after these panels.
- Panel 9, I'd rather eat a Fowler's toad than major in biology,
- We see Cueball holding a frog out in front of him while taking his hand to his head (in disgust?). A Fowler's toad is a relatively common toad in the eastern US, and a stereotype of studying biology is a frog dissection, which is likely part of the reference, albeit oblique. Fowler's Toad emits a noxious secretion that irritates skin and thus probably also the mucous membranes in the mouth. It would thus be rather painful to eat, making it very bad for Cueball to major in biology since he would rather eat such a toad.
- Panel 10, And social psych is worse than either psych or sociology.
- Social psychology is compared to sociology (study of humans in society) and psychology (study of human minds). Psychology is represented by a serial killer with a chainsaw, and sociology is represented by a zombie. These are to the left of Megan. To her right is a zombie serial killer with chainsaw. She is standing between them undecided as to take one, the other or both. They are all terrible options...
- Panels 11 and 12, The thought of picking any one of these is too unbearable, Just put me down as "Undecided"—Every major's terrible.
- End of the first verse where Cueball tells his academic advisor that he is undecided as every major's terrible. He even throws away his study guide. Every verse ends with some variation of this couplet, and in the original tune, each of these couplets are repeated by the chorus afterwards.
- Unbearable and terrible rhyme for people who have the Mary-merry merger.
- Panel 13, Now, if you can't prognosticate, that's OK in seismology,
- Prognosticate means "to predict". This refers to the inability of seismology to reliably predict catastrophic earthquakes, even after centuries of extensive research. The panel shows seismic waves from a seismograph. The seismograph chart has four traces and about halfway across one trace begins oscillating vigorously indicating an earthquake. Five months after this comic was published several seismologists in Italy were convicted of crimes that effectively stemmed from an inability to predict an earthquake. This does not go down well for the message of this panel... Their conviction was overturned on appeal in 2014.
- Panel 14, But if your hindsight's weak as well, you'd best stick to theology.
- The bearded theologist represents Theology by stating the formal logic proposition shown in the illustration: "X ∴ ∃X". This says "I can describe this thing called X, therefore X exists". This is what Anselm’s ontological argument for God boils down to. Briefly, it asks you to imagine the best possible deity, which, by definition, would be God. A God which exists in both reality and theory would be greater than one who exists in merely the latter. Therefore, this proposition concludes that God exists. The fatal flaw of this argument is that it can be used to prove the existence of anything (e.g. a vacuum cleaner which exists in both reality and theory is greater than one which exists merely in theory). Just because a perfect God would exist does not mean he does. Thus it has been largely rejected. (See 1505: Ontological Argument.)
- Panel 15, CS will make each day a quest to find a missing close-paren.
- "CS" is short for "Computer Science." Most programming languages use parentheses as part of their syntax, and often have multiply-nested parenthetical expressions. This is especially true of Lisp. It is often difficult for a programmer to determine where the unbalanced parenthesis begins or ends when the code and parentheses are not properly formatted and indented. In the panel there is one more left "(" parenthesis (13) than right ")" or close-paren (12).
- Panel 16, Virology will guarantee you'll never get a hug again.
- Virology is the study of infectious diseases. The green symbol above the central figure is the biohazard symbol, implying that people who study infectious diseases, and are therefore located near them at some points in time, will be shunned like the plague, because they're probably carrying it. Thus no hugs to Megan as three Cueballs and Ponytail lean back away from her.
- Panel 17, I.T. prepares you for a life of fighting with PCs nonstop.
- "I.T." is short for "Information Technology", a degree for people who maintain computer systems. If there is a need for an I.T. position (in which I.T. professionals are employed) there are computers which need fixing — hence the I.T. Professional is always fixing (or fighting) computers, which may or may not have been "broken" by users. In the panel Megan, wielding an axe, is in a real fight with a PC.
- Panel 18, As Pratchett said, "Geography's just physics slowed with trees on top."
- This is a slightly amended quote from Discworld author Terry Pratchett, from his book "Feet of Clay". The actual quote is "Geography is just physics slowed down, with a couple of trees stuck in it." But the meaning is the same, that physics also describes geography - a similar quote to the one about physics vs. stamp collections mentioned under panel 4.
- Panel 19, Though physics seems to promise you a Richard Feynman-like career,
- Richard Feynman was a 20th-century Nobel-laureate physicist known for his great sense of humor, including being photographed for one of his books while holding a bongo drum. Here he is depicted with the drum and with both a blond woman and Megan looking admiringly upon him. Feynman made physics seem cool, and many a young fan might choose the subject in the hope of obtaining a Feynman-like career. This is, however, very unlikely for most people as is also shown in the next panel.
- Panel 20, The wiki page for "Physics major" redirects to "Engineer."
- A redirect on Wikipedia is a page which immediately sends the visitor to a different page. This implies that the title of the first is either a synonym or a sub-topic of the second. Physics majors usually learn to code, and the standard joke is that they invariably get hired as computer programmers after graduation, but here in this comic they get hired as engineers. This relates back to the previous panel, as it is here shown that most of those that major in physics end up as engineers and not like Feynman. The Wikipedia page physics major didn't actually exist when this comic was published. It was created the same day, but as a redirect to physics education. It is such a redirect page that is shown in the panel. In the subsequent days, there were dozens of instances of people changing it to redirect to engineer, usually reverted within minutes. The redirect page was fully protected and locked for editing. As with the underwater basket-weaving line in the first verse, after the soloist sings this, the line would be repeated three times by the chorus.
- Panels 21 and 22, They say to study history or find yourself repeating it, But all that it prepares you for is forty years of teaching it.
- This uses a version of a quote by George Santayana (although often attributed to others as well), Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it as a reason to study history — only to be followed by an indication that by studying history as a major, you will only be prepared to become a history teacher, and you will then spend the rest of your life teaching history. The first panel shows a flow chart that will lead you to repeat your sad past if you cannot remember it, and only move on to happier times if you can. In the next panel we see a Hairbun as a history teacher, with glasses and her gray hair tied up in a bun, standing in front of a green blackboard with three important years for her current history class.
- One connection between these years could be pivotal points in Jewish history concerning the formation of nationality: the Nurenberg Laws of 1935 removing citizenship from Jews in Germany, Israel's claims on Jerusalem, and the UN Security Council's condemnation of the treatment of Palestines by Israel.
- A more lighthearted connection, more in line with the message of learning from history, is the collapse of three notable communications towers: the wooden radio tower in Langenberg in 1935 (by tornado), a TV mast at Emley Moor in 1969 (due to ice build-up), and the Warsaw radio mast in 1991 (due to construction errors). This demonstrates various attempts and failures to learn from engineering mistakes from the past, connecting this with the earlier mentioning of physicists becoming engineers, and perhaps not taking real-world practical considerations into account (such as storms or ice build-up).
- Of course, in practice, with a narrow enough subject, there are likely to be many more examples fitting these three years. The two examples above were from general world history.
- Panels 23 and 24, I recognize my four-year plan's at this point not repairable, But put me down as "Undecided"—Every major's terrible.
- End of the second verse where Cueball again talks to his academic advisor saying that he is undecided. In the last of the two panel he says almost the same as at the end of the first verse. In the first, however, he mentioned his "four-year plan" which is the list of all the courses a student plans to include in their degree program. If you change majors every semester, or do not decide on one until too late, this list gets really difficult to turn into any one degree. Again these lines would be repeated by the chorus afterwards.
- Panel 25, Astronomers all cringe when they hear "supermoon" or "zodiac".
- Supermoon is a term invented by astrologers in the 1970s, with no significance in astronomy other than being the co-occurrence of orbital perigee and full-moon. But it comes up often in the press, linked to supernatural behavior. That also Randall dislikes seems realistic and he also "mocked" the term soon after in 1080: Visual Field and then finally confirmed what he thought about the term directly when he published 1394: Superm*n. This was the first comic referencing supermoon, here is a list of all such comics. The zodiac is the circular band in the sky containing the apparent path of the sun, moon and planets. Most often when people talk about it, they're referring to astrology and horoscopes and other pseudo-scientific notions which often lead to conversations which are frustrating to astronomers, like the bearded one from the panel.
- Panel 26, Agronomy's a no-go; I'm a huge agorophobiac.
- Agronomy is the science of farming, while agoraphobia is the fear of wide open spaces. Fields, where most farming happens, are wide open spaces. In the panel an anxious Cueball is standing near a fence on an open field with a tractor. Presumably he may be OK inside the tractor, but once he gets outside he becomes anxious.
- Panel 27, I'm too ophiophobic to consider herpetology,
- Herpetology is the study of reptiles and amphibians, while ophiophobia is the fear of snakes (a reptile). The panel shows sweating Cueball holding his hands to his mouth while looking at a green snake asking for his love? It is possible that Cueball is afraid of the snake, who is harmless and just wants to be friends.
- Panel 28, And I can't stomach any part of gastroenterology.
- As the pun suggests, gastroenterology is the study of the human digestive system and the image shows the human stomach. To not be able to stomach something means you can't stand or tolerate this thing.
- Panel 29, While pre-med gives you twitchy-eyed obsession with your GPA,
- Pre-med (pre-medical) is a major chosen by students hoping to go on to medical school to study medicine and eventually become doctors. Medical school is extremely competitive and usually requires a very high undergraduate GPA for prospective students. Hence we see a pre-med student holding all his grades.
- Panel 30, a poetry degree bespeaks bewildering naïveté.
- The text is in all lower-case, a different font and strangely laid out compared to the text in all the other panels. All-lower-case and "free" layout are both associated with 20th century "Modernist" poetry, especially the works of E. E. Cummings. Ponytail is actually reciting this line of the song.
- Panels 31 and 32, TV's behind the rush into forensic criminology, (Or so claims meta-academic epidemiology).
- This refers to how forensic-criminology shows, specifically CSI: Miami (Crime Scene Investigation: Miami) as shown on the TV screen in both panels, often dramatize, exaggerate or otherwise confuse the science behind forensics; this gives people unrealistically glamorous views of the career, thus encouraging them to join it. Epidemiology is the study of causes and effects of events and trends. We see a pipe smoking epidemiologist standing with Ponytail and watching CSI - presumably making wild claims on cause and effect based only on what they see on TV. This is, again, the point where the chorus joins in three times, as in the previous two verses.
- Panels 33 and 34, By dubbing econ "dismal science" adherents exaggerate; The "dismal"'s fine - it's "science" where they patently prevaricate.
- "Econ" is short for "economics". Thomas Carlyle declared economics "the dismal science" in the Victorian era as a derogatory alternative name. Economists often claim that economics is a science like any other; however, as the predictive powers of all economic theories are exceedingly weak compared to those of any science, this is disputed by those outside the field at times. It is of course also disputed by this song, in which Cueball "clearly" (see below) states that economics should not call itself a science - that is the dismal science is not derogatory enough for him.
- The sentences uttered by Cueball in these two panels are extremely difficult English for non-native English speakers.
- Here is some help in understanding the sentences:
- Dubbing something means giving it a nickname.
- Dismal science means (in this context) the disappointingly inadequate science.
- Adherents means supporters.
- Patently means in a clear and unambiguous manner
- Prevaricate means to evade the truth.
- Using these meanings of the words the two sentences can be re-written as:
- By giving economics the nickname "the inadequate science" the supporters [of economics] exaggerate;
- The "inadequate" is fine - it's "science" where they evade the truth in a clear and unambiguous manner.
- That is, Cueball is saying that "inadequate science" is too nice of a term for economics, he thinks it's not even science at all.
- Panel 35, In terms of choices, I'd say only Sophie's was comparable.
- Panel 36, Just put me down as "Undecided"—Every major's terrible!
- End of the third verse, with yet another variant on the closing couplet. Choosing a major is compared to Sophie's Choice, which is any dilemma where choosing one cherished person or thing over the other will result in the death or destruction of the other, derived from the theme of the novel of the same name, which has also been turned into a romantic drama film. So Cueball tells the academic advisor that choosing any of the majors over any other is as horrible as to have to choose which cherished person should die to save the other. Although in his case, it is the other way around, since he thinks all choices suck. Again these lines would be repeated by the chorus.
- [The entire comic is a 4 by 9 grid. Left-justified headings above the 36 panels:]
- Every Major's Terrible
- to the tune of Gilbert & Sullivan's
- Modern Major-General Song
- (Which you may know from Tom Lehrer's Elements.
- If not, just hum Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.)
- [To make it easier to read the lyrics, the lyrics text is double indented. If no one says the line it is just written after the description. Unless otherwise stated, the text is inside the frame of the panel above the drawing. If any other text is present it will be written after the lyrics.]
- [Panel 1: Cueball sitting with his chin on fist on a square, gray rock. Next to him is a mathematical expression "2 + a picture of yellow glowing light bulb = picture of Cueball in sailboat on a blue sea".]
- Philosophy's just math sans rigor, sense, and practicality
- Expression: 2+[lightbulb]=[sailboat]
- [Panel 2: A black and brown cannon standing on a green hill fires and a dashed line indicates the cannonball's trajectory. The line splits in two twice ending up at 4 cannonballs.]
- And math's just physics unconstrained by precepts of reality.
- [Panel 3: A student in robes and square academic cap receives a diploma from a dean on a brown podium, while Cueball, diploma in hand, runs away on the green lawn, arms in the air, shedding both robe and cap.]
- A business major's just a thing you get so you can graduate
- [Panel 4: Ponytail wearing goggles and holding a flask with the periodic table in the background. Three stars and circle lines around her head indicates that she is dizzy.]
- And chemistry's for stamp collectors high on methylacetate.
- [Panel 5: Cueball holds up his hands questioningly, in a shrugging pose.]
- Cueball: Why anyone who wants a job would study lit's a mystery
- [Panel 6: Cueball holding his chin.]
- Cueball: Unless their only other choice were something like art history.
- [Panel 7: The text is above this panels frame, which is only about two third of the other frames. In the frame is a close-up of Cueball as a graduate wearing yellow embroidered robe and yellow tasseled mortarboard.]
- A BA in communications guarantees that you'll achieve
- [Panel 8: The text is above this panels frame, which is only about two third of the other frames. In the frame is the same Cueball graduate, only now he is submerged in blue water. A wicker basket flows to the left, where air bubbles escape from Cueball. To the right are two black fish.]
- A little less than if you'd learned to underwater basket-weave
- [Panel 9: Cueball holding a gray frog at arm's length.]
- Cueball: I'd rather eat a Fowler's toad than major in biology,
- Frog: Ribbit
- [Panel 10: Megan indicating to the left a scruffy individual and an individual holding a chainsaw, and to the right a single scruffy individual holding a chainsaw.]
- Megan: And social psych is worse than either psych or sociology.
- [Panel 11: Cueball stands in front of a brown desk holding a gray course catalog. Behind the desk sits a man with glasses and hair at the back of his head. He sits on his gray office chair. There is a stack of papers on the desk.]
- Cueball: The thought of picking any one of these is too unbearable.
- [Panel 12: Same picture as panel 11, only now Cueball tosses the course catalog over his shoulder.]
- Cueball: Just put me down as "Undecided"—Every major's terrible.
- [Panel 13: The text is above this panels frame, which is only about two third of the other frames. In the frame is a seismograph chart with four traces; about halfway across one trace begins oscillating vigorously.]
- Now, if you can't prognosticate, that's OK in seismology,
- [Panel 14: A bearded man with white hair states a formula with his left arm lifted.]
- But if your hindsight's weak as well, you'd best stick to theology.
- Bearded man: X ∴ ∃X
- [Panel 15: Two lines with gray parenthesis.]
- CS will make each day a quest to find a missing close-paren.
- [Panel 16: Megan with a green biohazard symbol floating above her head stands alone; to the left and right three Cueball-like guys and Ponytail shun her.]
- Virology will guarantee you'll never get a hug again.
- [Panel 17: Megan running at a PC on a brown table at the left of the frame, with a brown and black axe raised over her head.]
- I.T. prepares you for a life of fighting with PCs nonstop.
- [Panel 18: The frame is a little smaller than the other frames. Above the frame is the first part of the text. In the frame is an image of a bearded man with glasses who says the rest of the text. ]
- As Pratchett said,
- Pratchett: "Geography's just physics slowed with trees on top."
- [Panel 19: A man with black hair plays on brown bongo drums while Blondie and Megan lean into the frame and look at him from left and right respectively.]
- Though physics seems to promise you a Richard Feynman-like career,
- [Panel 20: The text is above this panels frame, which is only about two third of the other frames. In the frame is screenshot of a wiki redirect page. Below the title is the normal text for such a page. This is unreadable though, although it is possible to imagine it is possible to read the first line which would say: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. But not the other line which would be Redirect page. Below this line is an arrow down to the page the redirect points to. This is written in blue underlined letters.]
- The wiki page for "Physics major" redirects to "Engineer."
- Wiki page:
- Physics major
- [Panel 21: Flowchart: a gray-brown box with a sad face chains to a decision diamond reading simply "?"; the "yes" branch leads to a yellow happy-face box while the "no" branch loops back to the initial sad face.]
- They say to study history or find yourself repeating it,
- Flow chart:
- [Panel 22: The text is above this panels frame, which is only about two third of the other frames. In the frame is Hairbun as a teacher with boxy spectacles and a bun in front of a green chalkboard with three years in white. She is holding a rod and using it to point at the board.]
- But all that it prepares you for is forty years of teaching it.
- [Panel 23: Cueball at his adviser's desk again as in panel 12, but now without any catalog and holding his arms down.]
- Cueball: I recognize my four-year plan's at this point not repairable,
- [Panel 24: Same as panel 23 except Cueball has raised a first and the adviser has his hand to his mouth.]
- Cueball: But put me down as "Undecided"—Every major's terrible.
- [Panel 25: Image of a bald man with beard and glasses. He raised both hands one as a fist the other pointing up. There are lines out from his head to the left and lightning lines out from his head to the right.]
- Astronomers all cringe when they hear "supermoon" or "zodiac".
- [Panel 26: Silhouette of Cueball, agitated, in an open field near a fence and a tractor.]
- Agronomy's a no-go; I'm a huge agorophobiac.
- [Panel 27: Cueball looking aghast at a green snake on the ground, both hands at his mouth and sweat jumping from his head. The snake is "saying" a red heart with a black question mark next to it.]
- I'm too ophiophobic to consider herpetology,
- Snake: ♥ ?
- [Panel 28: Anatomical image of a stomach in pink and red.]
- And I can't stomach any part of gastroenterology.
- [Panel 29: A man with wild hair, glasses askew, clutching folders and papers (green, blue and white), and dropping several.]
- While pre-med gives you twitchy-eyed obsession with your GPA,
- [Panel 30: Ponytail reciting poetry; her poem is this panel's line, in a lighter, lower-case font.]
- Ponytail: a poetry degree bespeaks bewildering naïveté.
- [Panel 31: The text is above this panels frame, which is only about two third of the other frames. The frame is a TV screen with the CSI: Miami logo, CSI in yellow.]
- TV's behind the rush into forensic criminology
- TV screen:
- [Panel 32: A balding man wearing glasses and holding a smoking pipe together with Ponytail holding a notebook watch a wall-mounted flat-screen TV on which the CSI: Miami logo from the previous panel is showing.]
- (Or so claims meta-academic epidemiology).
- TV screen:
- [Panel 33: Cueball is talking with his left arm raised, palm up.]
- Cueball: By dubbing econ "dismal science" adherents exaggerate;
- [Panel 34: Close-up on Cueball with right arm up and one finger in the air.]
- Cueball: The "dismal"'s fine—it's "science" where they patently prevaricate.
- [Panel 35: As panel 23 with Cueball at his adviser's desk once more though with both hands held out in front of him. The adviser is holding his hand to the side of his head.]
- Cueball:In terms of choices, I'd say only Sophie's was comparable.
- [Panel 36: Same as panel 35 except that Cueball makes a final dramatic flair spreading both arms out.]
- Cueball:Just put me down as "Undecided"—Every major's terrible!
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I think Iambic Octameter has a stressed-unstressed pattern, not the other way around as this explanation says. 220.127.116.11 02:56, 10 April 2017 (UTC)
- No, the explanation is correct, I misread the Wikipedia article. 18.104.22.168 13:41, 16 April 2017 (UTC)
Panel 1's cueball is in the same pose as Rodin's "The Thinker"
Panel 4 background is the periodic table of elements.
Panel 5, Fowler's Toad emits a noxious secretion that irritates skin and mucous membranes (it was previously thought to cause warts)
Panel 6, Psychology = a serial killer with a chainsaw, Sociology = hobo; Social Psych = hobo serial killer with chainsaw.
Panel 15, LISP, Scheme, and other computer languages with an excess of parentheses.
Panel 16, biohazard symbol
Panel 19, bongos were played by Richard Feynman
Panel 27, fear of snakes, study of reptiles
Panel 28, a picture of a stomach, pun on "stomach" being slang for "tolerate"
Panel 30, words in all lowercase like e.e.cummings
-- 22.214.171.124 22:04, 7 December 2012
- Hobo serial killer with chainsaw? Social psych sounds awesome!
- 126.96.36.199 22:42, 22 October 2013 (UTC)
In panel 22 (History), what's the theme connecting the years 1935, 1969, and 1991? Wwoods (talk) 15:40, 21 May 2013 (UTC)
- 1935 is certainly related to some event that lead to the WWII (a quick look at the Wikipedia page for 1935 show that was the year Hitler rearmed Germany), which paved the way to the Cold War. 1969 was Apollo 11, a high moment of the Cold War, as the USA essentially won the race to the Moon. And 1991 was the year that the USSR dissolved, officially ending the Cold War. Sir labreck (talk) 18:37, 11 August 2015 (UTC)
- 1935, Harlem race riot; 1969, race riot in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; 1991, Rodney King race riots... 2014-2016??? 188.8.131.52 03:33, 13 December 2015 (UTC)
- Although the race riot dates match, I think war related is more likely. 1935 (WWII), 1969 (Vietnam), 1991 (Gulf War) I'm not sure what the common thread is, though, and 'war' is too broad 184.108.40.206 20:37, 30 September 2018 (UTC)
- WWII began in 1939. The Vietnam War was 1955-1975 and Gulf War is ambiguous. Just sayin... --Dgbrt (talk) 20:34, 1 October 2018 (UTC)
This explanation is very small for that big comic. I am starting to add the transcript and after that I will do more investigations to that opera. This should be the key to explain all the panels.--Dgbrt (talk) 19:13, 21 May 2013 (UTC)
- The answer won't lie in the song, trust me. Pirates of Penzance is probably my favorite comic opera out there. Plus Randall gives that the lie in saying you can use the tune from the elements song (a well-known parody) or even Marry Poppins (similar tune, but not exactly the same). I think each panel is just a reference to the words, I don't think that Randall is actually involving The Pirates of Penzance in any way other than the tune. 220.127.116.11 20:53, 9 December 2013 (UTC)
Feynman was also known for being a ladies' man, so the two girls in panel 19 are significant IMHO. --18.104.22.168 13:51, 25 December 2013 (UTC)
Needs explanation what does it mean to choose a major, and what major is in this context. Note every reader is from U.S.A.; different countries have different higher education systems. --JakubNarebski (talk) 10:56, 9 January 2014 (UTC)
- True that. 'Graduation' in Brazil means 'Undergraduation' in the US. 22.214.171.124 03:51, 1 February 2014 (UTC)
"Math's just physics unconstrained by precepts of reality" - that isn't a binary tree, its a bifurcation diagram from chaos theory. And, sorry, it has nothing to do with the Banach–Tarski paradox - that's just mindless name-dropping. Davidbak (talk) 20:54, 10 February 2014 (UTC)
- Are you sure it is not just an illustration of Banach-Tarski, arguably the most famous example where mathematical reality and (physical) intuition diverge? Why would the verse be illustrated by a bifurcation diagram (which I think, and I might be a bit ignorant here, is a concept pretty much only found in the "applied side" of mathematics, which is constrained by precepts of reality)? And even if it were a bifurcation diagram, why would the mass of the balls change? (again, I am perhaps showcasing my ignorance; if so, please be gentle) Finally, i would deem the bifurcation explanation a bit too obscure to be the real deal - a panel which is only understood by somewhat specialized mathematicians seems strange to me, especially given that all other frames contain understandable references. 126.96.36.199 13:38, 9 October 2015 (UTC)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pRexBMPeRToHalfhat (talk) 18:59, 3 April 2014 (UTC)
- That is distinctly a bifurcation diagram. Banach Tarski doesn't factor into this at all. Disagree-P 15:39, 20 Nov, 2020
Panel 30: possibly iambic septameter188.8.131.52
--- I think that the reason for not getting hugs in panel 16 is more to do with the fact that as a virus researcher you would be aware of how easy it is to get a virus/disease and so you would keep away from people and be worried about hugs because of that. (Sorry if I've done something wrong this is my first comment!) Yxquillio (talk) 08:24, 3 January 2016 (UTC)
Another song I guess could provide a good match is "Can You Stop the Calvary?" by Jona Lewie (or "Where's the Modding API" if you're a YOGSCAST fan like me. :)) --JayRulesXKCD (talk) 11:50, 20 September 2016 (UTC)
"End of the first verse where Cueball tells his academic advisor that he is undecided as every major's terrible. He even throws away his study guide." Are you sure it's not a course catalog? 184.108.40.206 10:33, 19 June 2017 (UTC)
I think I should add that Pratchett used that quote to prove that geography was not a boring science, as it is physics, which is exciting, with some trees on it. Just a thought.MrBookBoy (talk) 01:30, 22 May 2018 (UTC)
Hey, the cs parens are missing a close paren. Like literally. Lol. Sarah the Pie(yes, the food) (talk) 15:00, 22 May 2021 (UTC)
It should be noted that in panel 35, they're referring to "Sophie's Choice." A movie in which the protagonist has to decide which of her two children to save, and which one to kill. --220.127.116.11 16:36, 11 October 2021 (UTC)
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