1257: Monster

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It was finally destroyed with a nuclear weapon carrying the destructive energy of the Hiroshima bomb.
Title text: It was finally destroyed with a nuclear weapon carrying the destructive energy of the Hiroshima bomb.


In this comic, officials and police are evidently trying to describe the extraordinary qualities of a huge monster by comparing it with everyday objects instead of numbers, which seems to be a recurring theme on xkcd (see 526: Converting to Metric, 1047: Approximations) and also in the Blag article Dictionary of Numbers where Randall says that he doesn't "like large numbers without context."

This comic pokes fun at how common it is in the media to compare things of extraordinary qualities to a certain narrow set of well-known objects. The comic features people discussing a fictional monster which - apparently - can be only described by these overused comparisons. The three used by Megan, Cueball and Ponytail are:

  • The monster is as long as a football field. This is most likely an American football field (given the author is American). So the monster is about 120 yards/110 m long.
  • The monster runs as fast as a cheetah, at least 60 mph or 96 kmh.
    • The cheetah is famous for being the fastest land animal at full sprint. Like the monster, the cheetah is prone to comparisons: to cars, since 60 mph is a common highway speed limit. Unlike a cheetah, however, the monster's speed is almost certainly thanks to its large stride.
  • The monster is as heavy as a blue whale (about 180 tonnes).
    • Here is an example where the weight of a blue whale is used in two different comparison (something heavier and something lighter).
  • Finally it is stated that it has the intelligence of a two-year-old child. Comparing someone's intelligence to a child of a given age is very common.
    • Here is an example where a dog is compared to a two year old kid.
    • There is even an xkcd comic that is referring to this age IQ: 1364: Like I'm Five.

The caption below the panel names the monster the Frequently-Made Comparisons Monster, joking that the monster was created by comparing it to things, and continues the joke by comparing the number of killed people to those that could fill a (sports) stadium (of the order tens of thousands), and the area of devastation to the smallest state in the US Rhode Island (1,214 sq mi/3,140 km2) (a state Randall also used for comparison in the What if? Everybody Jump. In another What if? he uses a football stadium filled with ants as a comparison: Lethal Neutrinos.)

The title text takes the joke one step further by comparing the nuclear bomb used to destroy the monster to the bomb dropped on Hiroshima at the end of the Second World War, i.e. they dropped a relatively small nuclear bomb on it (nuclear weapons have advanced significantly since WWII). Here is an example from Wikipedia of such a comparison with the strength of a meteor strike.


[Four people are standing around a table-top crisis planning model. Cueball and Ponytail are wearing police-style hats; Megan holds a clipboard and Blondie has her hands on the table.]
Megan: It's as long as a football field. Runs as fast as a cheetah.
Cueball: Weighs as much as a blue whale.
Blondie: Can we negotiate with it?
Ponytail: No. It has the intelligence of a two-year-old child.
[Caption below the panel:]
By the time the Frequently-Made Comparisons Monster was finally defeated, it had eaten enough people to fill a stadium and devastated an area the size of Rhode Island.

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My first contribution, woo! I'm writing the transcript now. If there's an official one, please throw mine out and let me know :) Matega (talk) 06:13, 28 August 2013 (UTC)

I think it's done. Is it okay to refer to person 2 as Cueball and person 4 as Ponytail? As far as I know, Cueball is identified by not wearing anything... Matega (talk) 06:28, 28 August 2013 (UTC)

Official transcripts tend to be days behind us. And yeah, we usually follow that naming convention for characters. Davidy²²[talk] 06:49, 28 August 2013 (UTC)

This comic should be based on Pacific Rim(http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1663662/) and the dictionary of numbers(http://blog.xkcd.com/2013/05/15/dictionary-of-numbers/) Tianshuo (talk) 08:07, 28 August 2013 (UTC)

I've not seen Pacific Rim so I may be missing something obvious, but why? I don't see any obvious references to either. It's certainly in someways a continuation of the dictionary of numbers, but it looks at it from the other direction as a too often used cliche. 10:51, 28 August 2013 (UTC)
I don't know why the original edit was deleted. This is definitely the opening scene of the movie Pacific Rim. Tianshuo (talk) 01:04, 29 August 2013 (UTC)

I like to relate this to 1047: Approximations and 526: Converting to Metric Theo (talk) 12:43, 28 August 2013 (UTC)

Your links appear to be broken 12:48, 28 August 2013 (UTC)

I added the basic tautology reference, but really wanted to add more, bracketted, maybe like: "(Usually overwhelmingly large amounts of conventional explosives, meteorite explosions or other non-nuclear energy-producers are likened directly as single-Hiroshima equivalent, although nuclear (or non-nuclear) blasts that are multiple-Hiroshimas in size maybe so scaled.)" But that looks too wordy. Feel free to adapt/adopt/correct. 14:07, 28 August 2013 (UTC)

Perhaps is could be noted that the Hiroshima bomb was one of the smallest nuclear bombs ever used. Probably enough to kill most monsters less than several football fields in length, but only about seven times the strength of the Halifax explosion. 14:30, 28 August 2013 (UTC)
How is it a tautology? Do all nuclear weapons "carry the destructive energy of the Hiroshima bomb"? 19:33, 28 August 2013 (UTC)
Ok, it works better with the additional "huge non-nuclear energies are explained in terms of Hiroshima" bit appended, you tend to only explain nuclear blasts in terms of their multiple of this standard or (ironically, as with Hiroshima's 12-20 estimate) in megatonnes of TNT or boring old (kilo/whatever)Joule-units. I just read it as "the baseball was thrown at the speed of a little-league baseball", or similar. 13:37, 30 August 2013 (UTC)
It's not a tautology, since the reference to Hiroshima is, in fact, providing a reference point for its energy (especially since the Hiroshima bomb has a specific energy attributed), and not all nuclear bombs have that same destructive energy. --Canned Soul (talk) 05:40, 1 September 2013 (UTC)

How big was the nuclear explosion? "Oh, about as big as a small nuclear explosion." You don't think that's a weird and unhelpful way to explain something? 09:08, 4 February 2014 (UTC)

I do not think this is a reference to Pacific Rim, at least not any more than it is a reference to Godzilla, Mothra, King Kong, etc. Unless Pacific Rim was released the same week or something, it seems like a very arbitrary movie to select from the broader "monsters destroying things" genre. Bbruzzo (talk) 18:48, 2 September 2015 (UTC)

I like how the title text basically said, "We dropped a nuke on the thing that had the power of a nuke." 16:54, 29 August 2018 (UTC)