1487: Tornado

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Nearby, there were also no injuries when a multi-vortex tornado hit one of those spinning teacup rides.
Title text: Nearby, there were also no injuries when a multi-vortex tornado hit one of those spinning teacup rides.


A merry-go-round (or carousel) is an amusement ride consisting of a (usually) slowly rotating circular platform with seats for riders. These seats are traditionally wooden horses. Merry-go-rounds usually rotate slowly, as it is a children's ride.[citation needed] The implication is that a tornado have made a merry-go-round spin much faster, creating the "fun" and "awesome" experience described by the news commentator. In reality such an event would most likely destroy the merry-go-round or at least damage it in a way that would keep it from spinning, such as by breaking an axle or bearing. Barring damage to the merry-go-round itself, if the tornado caused it to spin much faster than normal, anyone riding it at the time would likely be thrown off and injured due to the increased centrifugal force.

The title text refers to the spinning teacup ride which consists of several circular units ("teacups") that seat several people each. They rotate around their center axis, while simultaneously orbiting the center of the entire ride, exposing people to acceleration in rapidly shifting, seemingly random directions. The second tornado system, as reported in the title text, had multiple vortices, similarly rotating around a common center, that attached themselves to each of the "teacups", also spinning them faster than normal operation of the ride would have. This is, of course, even less likely (to happen, and to result in no injuries if it did) than the single-vortex tornado on a merry-go-round.

Tornadoes are a recurring subject on xkcd. This setup is a variety of the news anchor category, but since Cueball is not in a studio it cannot be included in that category.


[Cueball is a news commentator holding a microphone while standing in front of a small village with three (intact) houses behind him.]
Cueball: The tornado touched down directly over a merry-go-round, in what victims are calling a "fun" and "awesome" disaster.

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Are we sure this is cueball? it seems like it might be just a generic newscaster cartoon. Reywas (talk) 07:41, 16 February 2015 (UTC)

Cueball is not a character; it's a name given to any featureless stick figure in XKCD. ImVeryAngryItsNotButter (talk) 15:14, 16 February 2015 (UTC)
Actually, while the blank figure is used throughout XKCD, at least on this wiki, cueball refers to the recurring character, who I don't think is the one here.Reywas (talk) 20:49, 16 February 2015 (UTC)
I just checked, ImVeryAngryItsNotButter is correct. Cueball is a name (or more accurately, a title) given to any featureless stickman. Cueball isn't a 'recurring character' because it's impossible to distinguish any instance from another by any way other than their personality (which has no clear rules to go by). Could you imagine how tough it would be to go through eg. 610 and name each one consistently with Cueballs from other comics? 04:24, 17 February 2015 (UTC)

Can a weather expert verify the claim that a tornado will destroy a merry-go-round? From what little I read and understood (Weather is confusing, and there was no graph!), a F0 or F1 tornado would not destroy it. From my estimations, a merry-go-round weighs 1350kg (2976.24054 lbs). Thanks, 08:53, 16 February 2015 (UTC)

The F scale is based on the amount of damage done, by definition an F0 does no damage and F5 Does vast amounts of damage, F1 would damage it but it may be repairable. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Another type of "merry-go-round" is a very common playground device, much simpler than the type with seats or horses. This https://smilekiddo.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/zipline_merry-go-round.jpg is what I envisioned from the comic, although it could refer to either type. The freely-rotating small platform, usually with bars for children to hold onto while standing, and rotated merely by people-power, is probably the most common type of merry-go-round in the US. They may weigh from 500 to 2000 lbs, or mass from about 15 to 60 slugs (I'll assume xkcd readers can convert to other mass units if desired.) Taibhse (talk) 09:24, 16 February 2015 (UTC)

My experience has been that Americans typically refer to the type with seats and horses as a Carousel, and a merry-go-round is just the simple spinning wheel with bars to hold onto. This article says that merry-go-round in reference to a Carousel is a term more often used in Europe: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carousel 17:26, 17 February 2015 (UTC)

I think tornado can destroy the merry-go-round of either type and STILL make it a fun ride. The part of "no injuries" is the suspicious one. -- Hkmaly (talk) 10:25, 16 February 2015 (UTC)

No injuries? Motorbike and merry-go-round

Wait, what I got from this comic is the classical mass media sensationalism joke, there is no tornado, they simply invented one by taking a merry go round as one, that's why the victims say "Fun and Awesome", they interviewed the kids as victims while they were just enjoying the ride. The title text does the same, with the difference they went further this time, as trying to pass a teacup ride as a multi-vortex tornado is even more hilarious. 11:29, 16 February 2015 (UTC)

I think that the tornado in question is caused by the merry-go-round because physics and similarly for the tea cup ride -- 18:05, 16 February 2015 (UTC)

Is there any point in including "like most amusement rides, it is for children"? I don't know about others but most of the amusement parks near me are for late teens-twenties. They all have a childrens section but it is pretty tiny. -- 14:29, 16 February 2015 (UTC)

I would like to point out that Centrifugal Force Does not exist. What you are describing is Tethered forward momentum. If the rider was not bolted to the Horse then the rider would fly forward as described by the feeling of being pushed away from the center. You can test this yourself by putting a bolt on a string, spin the string and let go. IF there was Centrifugal force then the bolt would keep on a curve. Instead it flies away in a line till gravity takes over. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Centrifugal force does actually exist. See comic 123. It may not be real in the sense that it exists in inertial reference frames, but it exists in the sense that it's a well-defined and useful way of arranging the math. 06:31, 17 February 2015 (UTC)

The most improbable fact is that the tornadoes would exactly stay centered around the axes of the merry-go-round, especially in the multi-vortex case. Sebastian -- 14:30, 17 February 2015 (UTC)

My first impression was that in the title-text (multi-vortex) case, there were no injuries because the vortices exactly counteracted the spinning of the ride, leaving the participants effectively standing still. The physics likely doesn't work at all if you dig into the details, but as an initial mental image, it was amusing. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)