1779: 2017

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This page refers to the comic named "2017". For comic #2017, see 2017: Stargazing 2.
Things are looking good for the eclipse--Nate Silver says Earth will almost definitely still have a moon in August.
Title text: Things are looking good for the eclipse--Nate Silver says Earth will almost definitely still have a moon in August.


In this New Year comic, Cueball and Megan share some of their (or Randall's) thoughts about the ending 2016 and the new year 2017 (hence the title). 2016 was a year which many people eagerly awaited the end of because of its increased turmoil (terrorist attacks, controversial political events in numerous countries including the election of Donald Trump for president in the United States and the United Kingdom voting for Brexit) as well as the deaths of an unusually large number of well-known and beloved celebrities (several of these died in the first few days after Christmas).

Instead of simply condemning 2016 as a terrible year and expecting 2017 to be significantly better, Megan observes that much of what made 2016 bad is the effect that it will have upon future years rather than the actual events themselves (for instance, a divisive U.S. presidential election has caused significant controversy in 2016, but President Donald Trump actually took office and began to affect the world as President in 2017). Megan specifically states that 2016 was bad was because of the things it sent us into 2017 without. As it is known that Randall is a Hillary Clinton supporter (as shown in the 1756: I'm With Her comic), an additional reading of that line could be that we are headed into 2017 "without" a Hillary Clinton presidency. It can also refer to the many dead celebrities passing in 2016, (at least three famous musicians/actors so recent that they died after Christmas Eve), as we would be without all of them in 2017.

Cueball claims that they should still have hope for the future, but Megan states that people had claimed that many of the bad things that did happen in 2016, could not happen (for instance Trump and Brexit). And as these things did happen, she foresees even worse events occurring in 2017, that we did not even think would be possible.

However, Randall also offers a glimpse of hope in the last few panels when Cueball observes that, just as all of the bad things in 2016 were unexpected, good things in 2017 that are unexpected could also happen, which should make us less sure what good may come of 2017. As such, he argues that we should hold on to our hope even though things seem difficult right now.

As the conversation unfolds, Megan and Cueball encounter an uprooted tree and cross it like a balance beam. This is a visual metaphor; the dead tree represents the end of the old year, while the crossing represents the transition into the new year. This is similar to the magical toboggan from Calvin and Hobbes that serves as a metaphor for their conversations, mentioned in 529: Sledding Discussion and 409: Electric Skateboard (Double Comic).

In the last panel Cueball mentioned that 2017 will also have a cool eclipse, going through the central parts of North America. This may also serve as a reminder that the Earth continues to spin on despite all of the human turmoil going on on its surface. This is literally true, as the eclipse Randall is excited about is caused by the orbits of three celestial bodies lining up just right (the Sun, the Earth, and the Moon).

Cueball then also notes that 2017 is a prime number and states that prime-numbered years (prime years) have always been good to him. He thus illustrates the positive attitude that people can choose to take in order to see all that which is good and to spread a little bit more cheerfulness, and Megan is ready to take this positive view, although she may not totally buy in to it. This could also be a pun referencing the saying "being in his prime years".

It should be noted that Cueball is working with a relatively small sample size. If Cueball is roughly the same age as Randall Munroe, prime-numbered years he was alive in would include 1987, 1993, 1997, 1999, 2003, and 2011. Prime years are always uneven, and therefore never feature US presidential elections, or the Olympic Games (although if the COVID pandemic had occured four years prior, the "2016 Olympics" might have also actually occured in a prime-numbered year, just as the 2020 Tokyo games were delayed and held in the year 2021, itself only the semiprime of 43x47).

The title text is a reference to Nate Silver who is well-known (in the United States) as an election polling analyst on FiveThirtyEight. His model allowed for a higher chance that Donald Trump would win the presidency compared to other similar models — though the fact that he still favored a Clinton win may be contributing to getting humor from the idea that he may be "wrong" again, and the Moon could possibly vanish in 2017, making the year definitely worse than 2016. (Earth and Moon are so close in the space order of things, that any event affecting Moon orbit seriously will almost certainly end our civilization too.) This is accentuated by the qualifier "almost definitely", which is of humorously low confidence for presenting a fact as certain as the Moon not somehow disappearing within the next year.

In the background of the first few panels of this comic, we see a fallen tree, but a sapling growing in its place. This may be a subtle message by Randall that there is still hope, and that things will be alright in the end.

Randall previously mentioned his excitement for the 2017 eclipse exactly three years earlier in 1302: Year in Review, where Megan complains about not having seen an aurora during 2013, and she really hopes they don't cancel the 2017 eclipse. So this comic is the second time Randall has expressed concern that he will miss the eclipse. Leading up to and after the eclipse Randall released six more comics on the subject: 1868: Eclipse Flights, 1876: Eclipse Searches, 1877: Eclipse Science, 1878: Earth Orbital Diagram, 1879: Eclipse Birds, and 1880: Eclipse Review.

There have been three previous New Year's comics with only the year used as the title: 998: 2012 in 2012, 1311: 2014 in 2014 and 1624: 2016 in 2016. This is the first odd-numbered year (and thus of course the first prime year) using only the new year as the title.

Things in 2016 that could be described as bad[edit]

Obviously, anything in this list is controversial so the section title is hedged. Also, this was written in 2024, so everything seems not so bad compared to 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

  • The World Health Organization announced an outbreak of the Zika virus.
  • An earthquake of magnitude 6.6 struck southern Taiwan, killing 117 people.
  • North Korea launched a reconnaissance satellite that was condemned internationally as a long-range ballistic missile test.
  • Suicide bombing attacks at Brussels' Zaventem airport and Maalbeek metro station kill 35 people and injure 300 more.
  • A 7.8 earthquake struck northwestern Ecuador killing 676 people and injuring over 6,000.
  • EgyptAir Flight 804 crashes into the Mediterranean Sea en route from Paris to Cairo, killing all 66 people on board.
  • Gorilla Harambe was shot and killed at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden in an incident involving a child leading to a global meme.
  • A gunman claiming allegiance to the Islamic State opened fire at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, killing 49 people and injuring 53 others.
  • The United Kingdom voted in a referendum to leave the European Union.
  • 86 people were killed and more than 400 others injured in a truck attack in Nice, France, during Bastille Day celebrations.
  • In Turkey, an unsuccessful coup against resulted in the deaths of at least 240 people.
  • A 6.2 earthquake hit central Italy, killing 299 people.
  • The government of North Korea conducted its fifth and reportedly biggest nuclear test.
  • Global CO2 levels exceeded 400 ppm at the time of year normally associated with minimum levels.
  • U.S. intelligence agencies publicly accused the Russian government of using computer hacking to interfere with the U.S. election process.
  • The Washington Post released a videotape showing candidate Donald Trump privately bragging about sexual improprieties.
  • WikiLeaks released thousands of private emails from inside the political campaign of candidate Hillary Clinton.
  • Donald Trump was elected the 45th President of the United States. (Let's not start on this; at least some people consider it bad)
  • LaMia Flight 2933 crashed into a mountain, killing 71 of the 77 people on board.
  • A Tupolev Tu-154 jetliner crashed into the Black Sea shortly after taking off. All 92 people on board were killed.
  • The term ghost kitchen is coined to describe deceptive alternate names for restaurants on food delivery apps to garner more orders.

Things in 2017 that could be described as good[edit]

A disclaimer that not everyone will consider all of these things as positive.

  • Millions of people worldwide join the Women's March becoming the largest single-day protest in American history.
  • An annular solar eclipse was visible from Pacific, Chile, Argentina, Atlantic, Africa.
  • Nintendo released the Switch worldwide.
  • The Eurovision Song Contest took place in Kyiv, Ukraine.
  • Montenegro joined NATO as the 29th member.
  • The 2017 World Expo opened in Astana, Kazakhstan.
  • The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was voted for by 122 states.
  • The first observation of a collision of two neutron stars occurred with both gravitational and electromagnetic waves from the event detected.
  • The Great American Eclipse was visible within across the entire contiguous United States of America.
  • The International Olympic Committee awarded Paris and Los Angeles the right to host the 2024 and 2028 Summer Olympics, respectively.
  • Cassini–Huygens ended its 13-year mission by plunging into Saturn, becoming the first spacecraft to enter the planet's atmosphere.
  • A new species of orangutan was identified, becoming the third known species of orangutan and the first great ape discovered in almost a century.
  • A paper was published recognizing a high-velocity asteroid as originating from outside the Solar System, the first known interstellar object.
  • The Walt Disney Company announced that it would acquire most of 21st Century Fox.


[Cueball and Megan walking outdoors]
Cueball: Can't wait for this stupid year to be over.
[The two approach a fallen tree]
Megan: I can. This year made the future scarier. So much of why 2016 was bad was because of the things it sent us into 2017 without.
[Megan has hopped up onto the tree trunk and begins to walk along it]
Cueball: You gotta have hope, though.
Megan: You say that, but you also said all this awful stuff couldn't happen, and it did. You're as clueless as the rest of us.
[Cueball also walks along the tree trunk as Megan stops and turns to look at him]
Cueball: Well, if we're wrong about which bad things can happen, it's got to make us at least a little less sure about which good things can't.
[Closeup of Megan hopping down from the tree]
Megan: I guess.
[A distant shot of Megan and Cueball walking along again]
Cueball: Plus, 2017 has a cool eclipse in it.
Megan: Ooh, yeah!
Cueball: And it's prime. Prime years have always been good for me.
Megan: Sure, I'll take it.

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Well, we're ending the year off with an optimistic XKCD comic. Here's to another year! GranadalandDreamer (talk) 23:07, 30 December 2016 (UTC)

What is five thirty eight? From the context I get it's most likely a TV-Show, but I believe some background information would help here. -- 07:14, 31 December 2016 (UTC)

It's a website. You can click on the link to get more information about it as it links to FiveThirtyEight's Wikipedia article. -- 10:00, 31 December 2016 (UTC)

Title text also can be reference to Seveneves by Neal Stephenson. Magras (talk) 15:52, 31 December 2016 (UTC)

Is there some significance to the fallen tree that they are walking over? Or is it just a visual aid to give them something to do? (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Note: in the Russian language words "prime (number)" and "easy" can in be translated to the same word "простой". 07:39, 2 January 2017 (UTC)

" This is the first odd-numbered years (and thus of course the first prime year)[...] " I know xkcd didn't exist in the year 2 but the "thus of course the first prime year" still makes me uncomfortable 09:10, 7 January 2017 (UTC)

Hmmm ... wouldn't vanishing of Moon be problem itself? Disappearance of tides might cause all sorts of climatic problems ... -- Hkmaly (talk) 06:51, 9 January 2017 (UTC)

For the record, 1933 ([1]) was also prime, and also contained a solar eclipse. The eclipse seems to have not passed over Germany though -- so maybe this year won't turn out as bad for Trumpland as that one did for Germany. 21:16, 6 February 2017 (UTC)