207: What xkcd Means
|What xkcd Means
Title text: It means shuffling quickly past nuns on the street with ketchup in your palms, pretending you're hiding stigmata.
This comic purports to finally answer the question, "What does 'xkcd' mean?" However, instead of giving an answer as to what the letters actually mean (according to Randall, it's literally "just a word with no phonetic pronunciation"), he offers five quirky behaviors. This is reminiscent of TV commercials that ask, "What does [brand name] mean? It means [happy activity]!".
The first panel shows a driver, marked by a red line, making a right turn at a red light, a U-turn on the connecting road, and then another right turn, returning them to their original direction presumably faster than waiting for the light. Right turns at red lights and U-turns are legal in all 50 states, but some intersections do not allow them (and turning at a red light is illegal everywhere in Europe, except for if the traffic lights have been fitted with an auxilliary green arrow which indicates such an allowance during a road junction's sequence). Hence, this complicated maneuver is "questionably legal". However, under certain circumstances in the US state of Oregon, it appears that this is actually legal.
The second panel shows Cueball searching for his mobile phone by having his friend call it to locate the ringtone, only to hear a ring from inside of his dog's stomach, possibly a reference to Jurassic Park III. This, by the way, is a weird depiction. Usually this is done by someone with or close to you. Because if Cueball didn't have his phone, then how could he get someone outside the house to call it? Having someone you meet call your phone, presumably to find it, is used in 2900: Call My Cell, although it turned out it was not really about finding the phone, rather, Black Hat showing his inner classhole.
The third panel discusses calling an Ackermann function using Graham's number as input arguments to horrify mathematicians, where Graham's number is a (very) large number (once celebrated as the largest number ever used in a proof, although it is no longer the record holder), and the Ackermann function is a (very) fast-growing function, thus the function's output must be insanely large. (In fact, A(g64, g64) is actually smaller than g65.)
The fourth panel describes how walking in a specific pattern on a tile floor based on arbitrary rules related to the position of the black and white tiles will cause someone to be unable to walk normally on a tile floor ever again. This is further referenced in 245: Floor Tiles.
The title text refers to stigmata, marks corresponding to Jesus' crucifixion wounds. They are also sometimes reported to bleed periodically. Using ketchup to cover up stigmata wouldn't be a very good idea, as from afar people would think that you actually are bleeding from your (supposed) stigmata. Devout Catholics have claimed to have spontaneously developed stigmata.
- [Caption above the panels:]
- What does xkcd mean?
- [Two cars sitting at a red light at a multi-lane intersection; one of them makes a right turn, then shifts over to the left lane and makes a U-turn across the dividing line to go back the way it came. It then shifts back to the right lane and makes another right turn, continuing down the road past the traffic light. This is shown with a red arrow.]
- It means saving a few seconds at a long red light via elaborate and questionably legal maneuvers.
- [In an inset circle in the panel, someone is on a cell phone. In the panel itself, a second person is looking at a dog.]
- It means having someone call your cell phone to figure out where it is.
- Dog's stomach: Ring
- [The mathematical function "A(g64, g64)=" appears in the panel. Next to the equal sign stands a mathematician, clutching his head.]
- It means calling the Ackermann function with Graham's number as the arguments just to horrify mathematicians.
- Mathematician: AUGHHH
- [An approximately 8 by 8 square of floor tiles is shown. Each black tile has 2 tiles between itself and another on all sides, starting at the bottom left. A guy and girl are shown next to it, walking on what is presumed to be the same pattern of floor tiles.]
- It means instinctively constructing rules for which floor tiles it's okay to step on and then walking funny ever after.
- [Line indicating the uppermost right black tile: Black tiles okay.]
- [Line indicating tile directly below it: White tiles directly between black tiles okay.]
- [Line indicating a white tile in the last column over: Not okay.]
- In his Google-speech, Randall said that xkcd originated as a previously unused random 4 letter string which he used, e.g., as his account name on various internet services.
- See more on this wiki page for Meaning of xkcd.
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