1476: Ceres

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Earth clearly hasn't been inspected, since it's definitely contaminated with salmonella.
Title text: Earth clearly hasn't been inspected, since it's definitely contaminated with salmonella.


Ceres is the largest known asteroid and the smallest known dwarf planet. Megan sits at her computer and tells Cueball how exciting it will be when Dawn will discover what is the cause of the "stupid white dot" on Ceres.

Dawn is a probe sent by NASA in 2007 to examine the asteroid belt. Having already visited the protoplanet Vesta in 2012, Dawn is now scheduled to arrive at Ceres on March 6, 2015. Dawn's initial images of Ceres were released two days before this comic, quickly inspiring questions about the white spot. The spot was first noticed in photographs taken by the Hubble Space Telescope.

"Inspected By No. 6" refers to a series of quality assurance stickers used by US clothing manufacturers. Individual inspectors, each assigned a number, randomly sample products for workmanship. Accepted items are marked with that inspector's sticker. The presumed joke is that the white spot is a large sticker indicating that Ceres has passed inspection.

CERES (Certification of Environmental Standards) is also the name of a food inspection company based in Germany. Both the food inspection company and the dwarf planet are named for Ceres, the ancient Roman harvest goddess from whom English derives the word "cereal."

The title text extends the joke to the planet Earth, where salmonella can be found. Salmonella are harmful microorganisms that are sometimes found in food products subject to improper handling or overlong storage. Mixing the realms of astronomical objects and food once more, the title text concludes that the planet Earth clearly hasn't been tested by CERES since salmonella can be found on it.

The Dawn mission is mentioned in 1532: New Horizons.


[Megan sitting in front of her laptop talks to Cueball who stand behind her.]
Megan: Dawn has almost reached Ceres.
Megan: I'm excited that we'll finally learn what that stupid white dot is.
[Current version of Dawn's best picture of Ceres and the white spot is shown.]
[As Dawn get's closer the pictures improve and in the second version the white spot shows to have black markings.]
[In the last zoom in on Ceres, the white dot resolves to a badge with clear black text:]
Inspected by No. 6

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I'm not sure about Number 6 being a reference to The Prisoner. there's no other context in the comic to suggest that reference. ‎ (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Number 6 could be a Battlestar galactica reference as well, which is again a reference to The Prisoner http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Number_Six_%28Battlestar_Galactica%29 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

The novel The WindWalkers (in French "La Horde du Contrevent") from Alain Damasio is the story of the 34th team of people walking against the wind to go past the end of the known world. A group is sent every generation from a starting point and they walk over decades as far as they can go. The team leader is called Golgoth and is the 9th descendant of his family leading a team. He is obsessed with the idea of getting farther than his father (Golgoth 8) and the others Golgoth before them. At one point, while the team thought having been farther than any other, Golgoth 9 finds a sign let by Golgoth 6 (whose team had been thought lost) that demonstrates they were not the first ones reaching this point. Maybe the comics does not make reference to this event in the novel, but readers of the novel will likely think about it. Marou (talk) 08:42, 21 January 2015 (UTC)

Wikipedia has a list of characters in books and/or films named Number 6, so unless there is a clear reference, I suggest we stick to assuming that Number 6 is simply the identifying number of un-named CERES employee. --Pudder (talk) 11:16, 21 January 2015 (UTC)

Maybe include a picture of Ceres (the dwarf planet) to show the real white spot (not the inspection sticker) sirKitKat (talk) 09:14, 21 January 2015 (UTC)

Or a ref to an image/animation sirKitKat (talk) 09:16, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
This image shows it really good: [1] (Images from the Hubble Space Telescope in 2004 of Ceres. Credit: NASA/Hubble) -- 09:29, 21 January 2015 (UTC)

Ceres is also a brand of vegetable fat manufactured by BELUŠA FOODS s.r.o. (no english version, sorry). Salmonela in this kind of Ceres would be very interesting but I doubt that Randal refers to this Ceres. Jkotek (talk) 09:31, 21 January 2015 (UTC)

Earth the planet contains salmonella. -- 09:45, 21 January 2015 (UTC)

I agree, in that sense the joke is much funnier and more closely related to the rest of the comic (since (dwarf)planets are tested). -- Linuspogo (talk) 09:55, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
German? Number Nein

Unless this German company puts round inspection stickers onto products, in English, then Randall is referring to these stickers, which were used by US clothing manufacturers in the mid-to-late 20th century. -- Frankie (talk) 12:52, 21 January 2015 (UTC)

I would tend to agree on the stickers themselves, but the mention of salmonella and the fact that CERES is indeed a company which provides certification of agricultural processes and related inspection services across the EU, some sort of link seems patent, and I think a mention of the relationship should remain in some form. -- Brettpeirce (talk) 13:26, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
It's Debbie Slade: [2] [3] -- 14:49, 21 January 2015 (UTC)

I wonder where the high resolution detail came from. I imagine the frames of the animation could be used as sub-sampled images and hence combined to obtain higher resolution, but I should imagine that, had this been done, such images would also appear on the various science sites. So: did Randall one-up the mission handlers, did he fill in some other image or did I simply fail to find the source? 13:53, 21 January 2015 (UTC)

I had wondered that too. My guess was that he took an available higher res image of the moon or similar, then added the shadows and bright patches from the low res Ceres image. I can tell from the pixels and from seeing quite a few shops in my time. --Pudder (talk) 14:02, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
I see what you did there. (xkcd#331). 05:47, 22 January 2015 (UTC)BK201
I'm pretty sure Randall just took from that one image of six frying pan bottoms. 17:08, 21 January 2015 (UTC)

I think people are trying too hard to assign meaning to "inspected by number 6" I really think 6 was just an arbitrary number and not a reference to The Prisoner or Battlestar or even Debbie Slade. The lines trying too hard to make "number 6" a reference to something should probably be removed. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I feel that this happens quite a lot here. Not every word and image has to be a reference to something. Even if two things do bear some similarity, it could always be a coincidence caused by a shared culture producing similar ideas. 15:11, 22 January 2015 (UTC)
Especially when the thing in question is a low value integer. Those things pop up all over the place. -Pennpenn108.162.249.205 22:33, 22 January 2015 (UTC)

What about Futurama? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lethal_Inspection ¬¬¬¬ (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

That's what I thought of when I say it and it is a pop culture reference that Randall would surely know, I hope. However, saying that I agree with the Pennpenn and other replies about trying too hard to find a link between subject matter and outside sources. Every time I went into English, people were always trying to find these obscure references and ideas which I'm sure the author/s never intended. -Drcrazy102--Drcrazy102 (talk) 00:00, 23 January 2015 (UTC)

What if...temperature did cause deflategate. If the footballs started at 12.5 psi at 72 degrees F...I get negative 13 degrees F to bring pressure down to 10.5 psi. Using ideal gas law. Amiright? Shine (talk) 00:03, 23 January 2015 (UTC)

Looks like we know more about Ceres since Dawn actually got there: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bright_spots_on_CeresMetalpotato (talk) 15:40, 5 January 2017 (UTC)