1278: Giraffes

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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If you fund my Kickstarter...
Title text: If you fund my Kickstarter...


Genetic engineering is the scientific approach towards altering and modifying the genome of organisms. In the process, DNA material is extracted from a source organism and then inserted into the genome of a host organism. It is thus possible to create hybrids between species that would not crossbreed naturally. The technique is also applied in order to expedite the sometimes lengthy process of selective breeding.

The comic suggests the creation of genetically modified giraffes. Following the recurring theme in the comics that dinosaurs and dinosaur-like traits make life more interesting, Randall expresses his desire to see genetic engineers insert DNA from extinct sauropods into the giraffe's genome, resulting in giraffes with very large and thick tails. Randall has previously shown great interest in dinosaurs and their integration into the modern age. It is possible that Randall wishes to combine the two due to the fact that they'd look very "cool" together as they are both seemingly weird animals. Giraffes are distinctive for their extremely long neck and sauropods have extremely long tails; the drawing would indicate that the giraffe's neck and sauropod's tail are of equal height/length, thus creating a bizarrely satisfying sense of symmetry.

The idea of extracting and reproducing DNA material of dinosaurs appears most prominently in the 1993 motion picture Jurassic Park. The concept is regarded by scientists as rather implausible because DNA disintegrates soon after the death of the organism (read: around 500 years) and would not be preserved in fossils.

Furthermore, the science of genetic engineering is not yet able to accomplish major alterations in complex genomes. While mice and other small vertebrates have successfully been modified for research purposes, the daily use of genetic engineering is limited to plants and monads. That besides, the less closely related the starting species are to each other, the more difficult it would be to successfully combine them. So while the field of genetic engineering is always advancing, combining the body of a modern-day mammal with the tail of a dinosaur will remain a pipe dream for a long time yet. (Also, there are no known cases of preserved non-avian dinosaur DNA being discovered, and current chemistry knowledge indicates that no DNA can survive over 1 million years.)

In general, genetic engineering is a highly controversial topic with regards to the responsibility of science. While some praise the scientific progress and welcome the possibilities it brings, others fear that genetic science might enable man to alter the ways of nature and to presume the role of an almighty creator. The creation of hybrid animals (so called Chimeras) is often regarded as the ultimate hubris and the climax of moral decay. Some countries have therefore installed strong legal restrictions for the modification of genetic material extracted from humans and animals.

The title text refers to Kickstarter, a funding platform for creative projects. Any person who wants to start a creative project, but lacks the resources to do so, can create a Kickstarter campaign where donors can contribute donations. Usually, the owner of the Kickstarter promises exclusive benefits to donors of certain tiers. For example, the title text could well be finished to say If you fund my Kickstarter with a donation of $20 or more, I will give you exclusive access to my weekly blog on the development stages of the giraffosaurus. If you donate $100 or more, you can receive a life-sized cardboard cut-out of the giraffosaurus. Donations of $10,000 or more will earn your name in a raffle for ownership of the first three giraffosauruses. This may also be a reference to 1055: Kickstarter. While dinosaurs are a recurring trope since the beginning of xkcd, giraffes have been featured in some what-if articles as a measurement of height.

Interestingly enough, there seems to have been a species of sauropod dinosaur that bore a certain likeness to the modern giraffe and has therefore been christened Giraffatitan.


My Hobby:
[Silhouette of a giraffe with a sauropod's tail.]
Convincing genetic engineers that giraffes would look better if they had sauropod tails

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Woohoo! I made an explain xkcd article. This one wasn't that confusing, nor did it require much extra information. I am still a little new to the formatting, so please let me know what I need to improve.

The hardest parts were the date format and the transcript format. I also am unsure of how formal my explanation has to be. All of the other explanations sound so formal, and it is weird to be contributing to a community with such high standards.

Perhaps a link should be provided to say this is an allusion to Jurassic park? Perhaps? Crossing of frogs with dinosaur DNA?

Any feedback would be appreciated. (This is soo cool!)

Zyxuvius (talk) 04:59, 16 October 2013 (UTC)

I'd think that'd be a giraffopod, wouldn't it? *(~.^)
Perhaps the recurring theme of giraffes could be mentioned (not as much in the comic as in the what-if).
Kupiakos (talk) 07:23, 16 October 2013 (UTC)
Not sure "utopical" is a good word choice. Maybe "exotic" would be better? --B. P. (talk) 23:21, 17 October 2013 (UTC)

Where does the joke about Pi come in? I don't think it's in there. I think the "joke" is just that giraffes would look amazing with dinosaur tails. --Grimertop90 (talk) 15:17, 16 October 2013 (UTC)

I think there was a kickstarter some time ago for a glowing plant of some kind. The alt-text might be referencing that. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)