Title text: If you draw a diagonal line from lower left to upper right, that's the ICP 'Miracles' axis.
The comic depicts a relationship between how philosophically exciting the questions in a field of study are, versus how many years are required to understand the answers. For example, special relativity poses very intriguing philosophical questions, such as "can the temporal ordering of spatially separated events depend on the observer?", or "can time run at different rates for differerent observers?". But it doesn't take a lot of mathematical knowledge to understand the answers - that when objects move very close to the speed of light, time slows down and their lengths contract: the key Lorentz transformations ultimately involve little more than high-school algebra. Hence, Special Relativity is very high up on the y-axis but not very far on the x-axis. Basic physics is not very philosophically interesting but also not very complicated. Fluid dynamics, as captured by the Navier–Stokes equations is very complicated, but it's concerned with a very specific topic - how water or other fluids flow around - so it doesn't lead to big philosophical questions.
The "danger zone" in the top right of the chart is when a field of study is wide-ranging enough to pose broad philosophical questions, and also so complicated that most people can't answer those questions. Quantum mechanics deals with some very strange concepts that readily lend themselves to philosophical questions, such as the idea that merely observing something can change it, or the idea that something can be both a wave and a particle at the same time. However, the explanation for those phenomena is a very complicated piece of math, notably the Schrödinger equation, which means that most people don't have accurate answers to those questions. Randall suggests that this is the reason why so many people have "weird ideas" about quantum mechanics.
1240: Quantum Mechanics also discusses weird ideas that people have about quantum mechanics.
General relativity also presupposes considerable mathematical sophistication to understand the Einstein field equations. However, the main contribution of GR – the explanation of gravity in terms of a curved spacetime – does not seem to induce a lot of philosophical novelty beyond that already seen in special relativity, possibly with the exception of black holes.
The title text references the Insane Clown Posse (ICP) song "Miracles", made memetic by the lyric "Fucking magnets, how do they work?" An axis is the direction on a graph in which some quantity is increasing or decreasing. So things that are far along the "miracle" axis are presumably more miraculous. As you move from bottom-left to top-right on the graph, items become both more philosophically interesting and harder to understand. It would be fair to describe something that's hard to understand and raises big philosophical questions as a "miracle". The ICP "Miracles" axis would also intersect the topic "magnets" infamously mentioned in the song.
- [A chart with the Y-axis titled "How Philosophically Exciting the Questions Are to a Novice Student" and the X-axis titled "How Many Years of Math are Needed to Understand the Answers". The upper-right portion of the chart is labeled "Danger Zone". The following topics are charted as follows:
- Basic Physics: low excitement, low prerequisites
- Fluid Dynamics: low excitement, high prerequisites
- Magnets: medium excitement, medium prerequisites
- General Relativity: medium excitement, high prerequisites (on the border to the "Danger Zone")
- Special Relativity: high excitement, low prerequisites
- Quantum Mechanics: high excitement, high prerequisites (in the "Danger Zone")]
- [Caption below the panel:]
- Why so many people have weird ideas about Quantum Mechanics
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