1822: Existential Bug Reports

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Jump to: navigation, search
Existential Bug Reports
ISSUE: If we wait long enough, eventually the Earth will be consumed by the Sun. WORKAROUND: None.
Title text: ISSUE: If we wait long enough, eventually the Earth will be consumed by the Sun. WORKAROUND: None.


Megan is sitting at her desk, writing an error report. Her description of the issue is fairly standard, albeit somewhat vague: A recent software update has broken the support for hardware she needs for her job. Most likely, she is saying that her OS is now reporting a piece of hardware is no longer supported. This is self-evidently problematic for her, as described in her error report.

The humor in this strip comes from her own suggested workaround (a short-term method of working despite the problem), which is absurd as she proposes simply waiting for the Sun to consume the Earth when it turns into a red giant towards the end of its lifetime approximately 5 billion years from now.

While this would eliminate the issue, as both the hardware and software as well as Megan and her job would all cease to exist, this would not be helpful to Megan as it does not address the underlying problem of her being unable to work in the present. 5 billion years is also far in excess of the lifespan of humans[citation needed] and operating systems alike. Lastly, as it does not allow Megan to actually continue her work, it's not strictly speaking a workaround.

In the title text, Randall asks for a workaround from Megan's "workaround". He writes it down as another bug report, as though it were a software problem. The answer is that there is none. Randall in his crisis see no way to prevent Earth from being consumed by the Sun. However, one possible workaround could be evacuation of the Solar System, as if humanity still exists by the time the Earth's destruction occurs, we will likely have highly advanced technology. Maybe at that time it would even be possible to move the Earth, first further out to prevent both the engulfment and also the earlier evaporation of the oceans and later it could then be moved back in when the sun turns into a white dwarf. Known physics also allow various methods of reducing the Sun's mass to prevent it from becoming a red giant; these would require more energy than moving the Earth, but far less precision.

Megan has previously expressed such existential problems in 220: Philosophy, where Randall presented a solution for it. Similar she was depressed in 1111: Premiere, where it was the boiling away of the oceans, mentioned above, that was her concern.


[Megan is sitting in an office chair at her desk typing on her laptop. Above her are two light-gray frames with text. Above each frame is a bold header:]
Recent update broke support for hardware I need for my job.
If we wait long enough, the Earth will eventually be consumed by the Sun.

comment.png add a comment! ⋅ comment.png add a topic (use sparingly)! ⋅ Icons-mini-action refresh blue.gif refresh comments!


Could the crisis be tied to the fact that SUPPORT for the hardware is now broken, so the issue itself and the workaround may not get successfully submitted, recorded, seen, or addressed? --BigMal // 14:54, 10 April 2017 (UTC)

It may (or may not) be worthy of note that this mirrors 2016 Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson's workaround for global warming. When asked about it he said, "Should we take the long-term view when it comes to global warming? I think that we should. And the long-term view is that in billions of years, the sun is going to actually grow and encompass the Earth, right." -- 17:22, 10 April 2017 (UTC)

That was also the first thought I had reading this comics, though I couldn't remember the name of the candidate ^^'. This seems to me a caricature of this "workaround". -- 08:10, 11 April 2017 (UTC)

There are workarounds for Earth being devoured by the sun. Here's a few. Five and seven seem somewhat plausible. Also, we could leave the planet. A worse problem is the heat death of the universe. DanielLC (talk) 19:08, 10 April 2017 (UTC)

Put the link in the explanation, thanks. The time scale for the heath death is so much longer than the lifetime of the sun, even as a White dwarf, that the suns entire lifetime compared to the time scale of the heath death is twice as small as the suns lifetime compared to the timescale of the inflation period of the universe... So lets start by worrying about the oceans leaving in 1.1 billion years as the Sun gets too hot... ;-) --Kynde (talk) 20:34, 10 April 2017 (UTC)
Thanks for these infos and link. I asked Randall a year ago in 'What if', What would be the best way to enlarge Earth's orbit around the Sun in order to fight the effects of climate change? Now I got an answer from you guys. Thanks.-- 16:35, 11 April 2017 (UTC)

It's okay, I have a super soaker. ~AgentMuffin

The last panel of 220: Philosophy is even used on Wikipedia's xkcd article ;-) --Kynde (talk) 20:34, 10 April 2017 (UTC)

"5 billion years is also far in excess of the lifespan of humans[citation needed]", I swear, this site gets the funniest "citation needed"s.... I feel like somebody has the job of finding the most ridiculous things to require a citation for. This might beat my previous favourite, where the description declared that a baby couldn't plan or execute a heist, LOL! - NiceGuy1 06:17, 12 April 2017 (UTC) I finally signed up! This comment is mine. NiceGuy1 (talk) 05:42, 13 June 2017 (UTC)

I don't know, babies seem to be able to make just about anything disappear the moment the parents look away. If you get enough babies with inattentive parents together you might just be able to pull an Ocean's Eleven. OldCorps (talk) 16:23, 26 April 2017 (UTC)

Alternative workaround for the Sun issue: stop waiting[edit]

Reading the title text, I couldn't help myself from thinking "Workaround: stop waiting". This is reference to Ivan Kmínek's story "Živý jste byl lepší, pane" (You were better alive, sir) which revolves around the central theme of a computer ready to initiate nuclear inferno and just waiting for the order to do so. It has some basic AI and develops it further while talking with its - or his - operator. Being childishly curious and unaware of all the consequences, one day he just decides himself, without the order being issued, to stop waiting ... Sorry for the spoiler, however I doubt anyone outside Czechoslovakia would have any opportunity to read this short story (and not many Czechs know Kmínek anyways), which is a pity, because the way it is written I consider it a masterpiece that would perfectly fit, and shine in the better half or third, between some Ray Bradbury's collected stories (while everyone knows Bradbury, right?) -- 07:49, 11 April 2017 (UTC)

Spacefaring civs can manage this[edit]

I will point out that for a spacefaring civ with a population in the quadrillions, the Earth being consumed by the sun is both preventable, not going to happen, and not an issue.

Starlifting can be used to prolong the life of the sun to trillions of years.

Further still, if humanity is still around, Earth probably won't be consumed by the sun, because it will already have been consumed by our descendents or our robotic creations.

Furthermore, by the time we're worried about this, planets won't be places to live any more than rock quarries are. Nobody today says "I'm gonna go housify this cave." Space colonies will at some point be strongly preferable to planetary cities. Constant free solar energy is a big advantage, as is the lack of fixed geography. Don't like your current asteroid? Move your colony for pennies on the dollar to another one. Your neighbors are crazy? Move to their orbital antipode.

Living on planets is for people who can't efficiently mine or farm or manufacture in space. In a billion or 5 billion (or a couple hundred) years, this won't be us. Either we will be long since dead, or long since expanded into a spaceborne civilization. Us today worrying about stars dying is like the sugar ants in your kitchen worrying about you dying and running out of food.

While our technology develops, some things remains constant. Earth being consumed by the Sun would certainly be important topic for future equivalent of either EPA or Museum Association. They would need to hurry, as Sun is not going to wait for arbitrary notice periods those offices would establish. -- Hkmaly (talk) 02:18, 13 April 2017 (UTC)