|| This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Created by a FIRE-PROOF ORBITING SMORE-MAKING ROBOT. Please mention here why this explanation isn't complete. Do NOT delete this tag too soon.|
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This comic plays on the concept of the astronomic "habitable zone" applied at the scale of people sitting around a campfire.
The habitable zone for a star is the range of distances in which a planet might support liquid water, and hence life in the only form that we currently know of. Too close, and the amount of stellar radiation would be too great, causing water to boil. Too far, and the water would freeze. As an allusion to the "not too hot, not too cold, but just right" of the children's story, although the varying quality invoked in that is as likely to be saltiness/sweetness as temperature, it is also commonly known as the "Goldilocks Zone".
For liquid water to actually exist, the planet itself must also have the right mass (in order to maintain a life-compatible atmosphere) and meet other requirements. For our sun, the habitable zone is estimated to range from about 0.38 to 10 astronomical units, where 1.0 is the distance from the sun to the Earth.
Marshmallow toasting is a popular camping activity in which people place a marshmallow (a soft, sugary blob made of gelatin and covered in corn starch) on a stick near a fire. As it cooks, the middle becomes gooey while the outside becomes crispy and perhaps slightly charred (maybe even burned), making it tastier via caramelization and the Maillard reaction.
In the context of the campfire, a similar "habitable zone" is posited to exist: close enough to the fire that the person can comfortably toast marshmallows, presumably on a stick of reasonable length - the ones shown seem to be about 1.5 times an arm's normal reach; yet far enough that the person is not uncomfortably hot, or even burnt by either direct contact with the flames, or by exposure to the radiant heat of the fire.
In the comic, Ponytail is sitting in the left habitable zone (marked in green), and appears to be enjoyably toasting a marshmallow. Cueball is sitting half outside the right habitable zone, too close to the fire, and appears to be getting scorched on his arm due to this. Fires can really get hot (2012 degrees F / 1100 degrees C) at times! Megan is well outside the habitable zone on the right cool side. She is waving a marshmallow on a stick in vain, but presumably it will not toast, as it is too far from the fire, even farther from the fire than Cueball.
The title text introduces the concept of tidal locking. This is when one astronomical body synchronizes its rotation with its orbit around another, such that one side always faces the other body. The joke here is that if a marshmallow became tidally locked to the fire, then one side would become more and more cooked, perhaps burnt, while the other side never became toasted at all. This happens in real life, as in the case of Earth's moon, which always presents the same face to the Earth. The joke here may allude to the case of a marshmallow that has begun melting more than you realized and dripped down too far, so that it no longer responds when you rotate the roasting stick, and you'd better cut your losses and pull it out now before it drops into the fire pit.
- [A campfire is in the middle of the panel in a white area with two areas shaded green to the left and right of the fire. There are also two white areas outside of these green areas. Ponytail is sitting normally on the ground to the left of the fire, with her body fully inside the left green area. She is facing the fire and is holding a stick in both hands. The stick has a marshmallow on the tip and she is holding it over the top of the flames of the fire. Cueball is sitting to the right near the fire, only half inside the green are. He is sitting sideways leaning away from the fire, holding one hand to his head, while his other hand seems to be ready to support him as he is leaning further away from the fire. The arm closest to the fire and his head seems to be very hot as three small smoke-like lines rises from Cueball. Megan is crouching to the right of Cueball, far from the fire outside the right green area. She is supporting herself on one knee and one foot. She is also holding a stick in both hands with a marshmallow on it. She is holding the stick inside the green area to the right of Cueball far from the fire. Four small lines above and below indicates that she is waving the stick up and down. The camp fire is built up of several logs on top of each other, with big flames above it, with smaller flames hanging loose in the air above the main flames. A small dead tree is to the far left and small rocks/stones lie along the ground all the way from left to right interspersed with grass tufts. Below the scene there is a label from which two curved arrows point to the two green areas.]
- Label: Habitable zone
- [Caption below panel:]
- Astronomers define the Campfire Habitable Zone as the region where you're far enough not to be burned but close enough to roast marshmallows.
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Amazingly how similar my aborted (edit-conflicted) edit matched what I found had gazumped me within the prior few minutes. Almost paragraph-for-paragraph on the same topic, with very similar details. Great minds think alike! (Fools never differ...) 22.214.171.124 01:58, 23 July 2020 (UTC)
- Same thing happened to me. This was my first time trying to submit the main explanation. Barmar (talk) 02:11, 23 July 2020 (UTC)
Since the marshmallow's axis of rotation (i.e. the stick) is parallel rather than perpendicular to its orbital plane, it cannot be tidally locked in terms of its rotation. However, for the same reason, one side of the marshmallow, that which is closest to the end of the stick, does always face the campfire. 126.96.36.199 02:43, 23 July 2020 (UTC)
Take note of how Ponytail is toasting the Marshmallow above the fire with the stick nearly horizontal. In this orientation, the marshmallow typically becomes too gooey inside to maintain traction on a skewer or smooth stick. Rotating the skewer/stick becomes futile as the marshmallow spins relative to the skewer/stick but remains in the same direction relative to the fire, which will be with the heaviest part down due to the earth's gravity. In maintaining the analogy, the more massive side of the marshmallow is attracted to the fire... it has become tidally locked and cannot escape, preventing even toasting of the marshmallow. Dodgo (talk) 04:14, 23 July 2020 (UTC)
- you cannot toast marshmallows on a single tip skewer, you need to use a marshmallow fork (which for linguistic reasons that escape me is called a fork despite having only two prongs). Care still must be exercised that the insides don’t become so gooey that the marshmallow falls off, but with a fork you can rotate and brown all sides evenly.188.8.131.52 04:20, 23 July 2020 (UTC)
- (A fork in the road has only two 'tines', or is liable to puncture a tyre if it was just a joke set-up. Four-pronged forks for general dining only became common in the early 1800s, and all kinds of contemporary forks, for given purposes, have three or two tines. The earliest forks were indeed just two-forked, as they do the basic job of doubly-impaling, whereas modern ones have to partly act as 'shovel', or even 'rake', so need more prongs. Though rarely >4.) 184.108.40.206 12:01, 23 July 2020 (UTC)
- Tuning forks also only have two tines.220.127.116.11 12:02, 24 July 2020 (UTC)
How long a stick would we need to roast marshmallows with the sun? Probably not Douglas Hofstadter (talk) 06:25, 23 July 2020 (UTC)
- Don't know about marshmallows, but from a recent radio show (first item) I learnt that a (cylindrical, so marshmallow-shaped) burrito should be placed 60 million km sunwards. Assuming "no additional equipment", but plenty of other caveats. No discussion of how you get your snack back to you while still only cooked and before it cools down. Obviously marshmallows (on sticks, solving one issue) are a different prospect, but maybe start with that and experiment a few times? 18.104.22.168 12:23, 23 July 2020 (UTC)
- Maybe this question could revive "What If?" and in addition to tackling "roasting" the marshmallow it could address how fast you'd have to retrieve it before it radiated away enough heat to no longer be "gooey"22.214.171.124 12:30, 23 July 2020 (UTC)
Am I the only person thinking that Cueball left the habitable zone because Megan, trying to get her marshmallow to toast, has just poked him in the face with her stick? Angel (talk) 09:03, 23 July 2020 (UTC)
According to my research, not all campfires possess a habitable zone. A few are too small to roast marshmallows; some are large enough that you cannot comfortably stand within marshmallow-roasting distance; and others just had some of that colored-fire gunk thrown in them and you don't want to roast food over whatever that gives off. GreatWyrmGold (talk) 13:39, 23 July 2020 (UTC)
- I doubt that. Since you can roast a marshmallow on a candle flame just fine I can't imagine a campfire(!) being too small for that. And as for the problem with too big fires it all depends on the length of the stick you are using. But again, we are talking about campfires - these are generally meant to be used for cooking. If you want to actually eat that marshmallow is indeed dependent on the stuff you are burning, on that I agree. Elektrizikekswerk (talk) 13:54, 23 July 2020 (UTC)
I've found that the habitable zone can get compromised by the smoke direction. 126.96.36.199 16:32, 23 July 2020 (UTC)
Is it too far fetched to think that "Campfire habitable zone" is a much more direct 1:1 reference on the term "Circumstellar habitable zone". According to the Wikipedia article the first scientific definition of habitable zone from Dole (1964) was the range of 0.72 A.U. to 1.24 A.U. If the same horizontal scaling is applied to the green zones in the comic, then the position of Ponytail pretty precisely corresponds to the distance of planet Earth, the position of Cueball pretty precisely corresponds to the position of Planet Venus and Meghans position quite well corresponds to the position of Planet Mars? Farnsworth (talk) 20:12, 23 July 2020 (UTC)
-- I think it's rather related to this https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/07/solar-images-reveal-campfires-sun 188.8.131.52 16:25, 27 July 2020 (UTC)
Please note: There may be a misspelling in this panel. See the claimed distinction between "marshmallow" (in the panel) and "marshmallow." https://www.askdifference.com/marshmellow-vs-marshmallow/ JDAddelston (talk) 14:36, 24 July 2020 (UTC) JDAddelston
- I have looked at the current page, the image, and some way back in page history, and I only see "marshmellow" (noted within as incorrect) in that URL you give. Maybe I have missed the point, or it has changed without my noticing, in which case maybe you perhaps should clarify. (I also noted, while checking this, that one historic edit was for a couple of "-ise"->"-ize" changes. But I could point out other changes where international/anglicised usages could be americanized, if this is at all important.) 184.108.40.206 19:47, 24 July 2020 (UTC)
Can we delete the incomplete tag now? I think we have explained everything.--Some user (talk) 00:25, 26 July 2020 (UTC)
Some amateurish Googling indicates that the more craters on the far side of the moon are not because it’s tidally locked, but because volcanoes on the near side obliterated many. I’m removing the “as a consequence, the far side of the moon has many more craters caused by impacts“ assertion, but noting it here in case I’m wrong ... Miamiclay (talk) 14:57, 26 July 2020 (UTC)220.127.116.11 14:49, 26 July 2020 (UTC)