2411: 1/10,000th Scale World

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1/10,000th Scale World
OCEAN PLAY AREA RULES: No running, no horseplay, no megatsunamis, and no trying to pry the wreck of the Titanic off the bottom.
Title text: OCEAN PLAY AREA RULES: No running, no horseplay, no megatsunamis, and no trying to pry the wreck of the Titanic off the bottom.


This comic is the first in the Scale World series.

Large objects (cars, airplanes, etc.) are often reproduced as scale models, which are proportionally smaller physical models of the original objects. The scale of such a model is typically expressed as the ratio of the size of the model (the first number) to the size of the original object (the second number). For example, a 1/10,000th scale model means that 1 meter in the model represents 10,000 meters in the original object. The same applies to maps and globes. What Randall has here, though, is neither a map nor a model but a seemingly complete copy of Earth, at a 1:10,000 scale. Various features and warnings are labeled.

Miniature parks, also known as model villages, are tourist attractions around the world of a scale between 1:9 and 1:72. For example, the finale of the movie Hot Fuzz features a battle amongst a miniature of the streets and buildings seen so far in the film. Normally a miniature park would feature a representation of one geographical location rather than a geologically/technologically accurate depiction of our current planet. Whether or not Randall is aware of it, the reputed largest outdoor relief map in the world is set out at a horizontal scale of 1:10,000.

Real-world phenomena are reproduced at scale, for humorous effect. A real 1/10,000th scale "Earth" would have a diameter of less than a mile, and a surface area of around 2 square miles, the approximate dimensions of a medium-sized asteroid. On such an object, constrained by known physics, there would be no air, standing water, weather, or large magma bodies, and any sort of rough-housing would irrecoverably catapult the visitor into space.

Normally in a miniature model, most warnings try to prevent the visitors from accidentally doing something cataclysmic to the model. Likewise, the "ocean play area rules" in the title text tell visitors not to create any megatsunamis, which could conceivably be induced by a cannonball dive. But as digging seems to be discouraged mainly where it causes volcanoes to break out, the visitors seem to be given far greater freedom than usual.

Visitors are also instructed not to try to pry the model of the wreck of the Titanic off the ocean floor. In our world, the wreck is at a depth of 12,500 feet, which would be 1 foot and 3 inches in Randall's model world. The Titanic was over 882 feet long, but the ship split in half as she sank, and now lies in two pieces about a third of a mile apart. Randall's model would have two pieces about a half-inch in size separated by about two inches. If the models are rusted and sunk in mud just like the real wreck is, trying to pry them loose would certainly damage them, but all of Randall's other rules seem to be about preventing harm to guests, not preventing damage to the model, so maybe he just doesn't want guests bending over and exerting themselves in the water where they could slip, submerge their faces, and be at risk of drowning.

Scale models, and the problems with them, were the subject of 878: Model Rail. In general, illustrating relative scale is a recurring subject on xkcd. This comic is also somewhat reminiscent of 941: Depth Perception.

Rule Reason Notes
Watch out for airliners cruising near shoulder level Unintentional catastrophic damage to air traffic. The damage likely wouldn't be reciprocal: actual airplane speed is very similar to the speed at which a bullet is fired [1], but 1/10,000 of that is quite slow, on the order of 10 inches / 25 cm per second - which is fortunate because the aircraft would weigh about half a milligram (1/50000 oz) or more. At this scale, the lowest airliner cruising altitude would be 3 ft or 0.9 m [2], shoulder height for a 5-year-old [3]. Scaling the height of the highest plane to ever fly [4] puts it at 9 ft, which would put it just over the head of the tallest person who ever lived [5]
Trip hazard: Appalachian Mountains At half a foot tall, the Appalachians could trip visitors who are not being careful. 6684 ft ≈ 0.67 ft in the model world
Do not stand or climb on Mt. Everest One may destroy the model. Also, Everest appears to be rather pointy. Also still a bit steep, so visitors may fall down and hurt themselves.
Caution: Hydro-thermal vents underfoot Hydrothermal vents are extremely hot, which could cause burns to the feet of the viewers Underwater volcanoes and stuff
Children must be supervised while in the ocean, especially near trenches They might drown. The Challenger Deep is 36,200 feet below the surface; this equates to 3.62 feet in the model world, a depth which small children could conceivably drown in.
Danger: positive lightning! Do not touch cloud tops The cumulonimbus cloud is an electrocution hazard, as Megan is learning the hard way Getting too close to the positive cloud tops risks causing lightning to arc into you down to the negative ground.
Avoid hypoxia by regularly sitting to bring your lungs below the death zone The scale world even has a scale atmosphere, and visitors are cautioned to regularly sit down so they can breathe below the death zone, which is approximately two and a half feet above the surface. The death zone is approximately 8,000 meters above the ground, equating to 0.8 meters or 2.62 feet in the model world. There is also a what-if on the subject [6].
Do not dig near Yellowstone Digging up the Yellowstone Caldera could potentially reactivate the supervolcano there.
Please do not smack weather balloons Smacking balloons around can be a fun activity, mostly done by children, but it would be very unfriendly if done to weather balloons. Weather balloons can reach 20 ft in diameter before bursting, corresponding to a 0.6 mm small object at this scale. The idea of smacking research data raises a sense of how advanced the idea of a physics-complete model of the world is, next to possible comparative banality of academic research.
Be careful not to step on cities with especially pointy towers, like Toronto, Seattle, and Dubai The CN Tower, the Space Needle and the Burj Khalifa are much taller than they are wide, thus, "pointy." The Burj Khalifa, the tallest of the three, would stand at 3.2 inches (8.3 cm) at this scale, making it possible to impale one's foot on it when walking
This seems to be exclusively for the visitors' benefit, rather than that of the cities.


[At the top of the image, inside the panel, a large title is floating in the air.]
For visitors to my 1/10,000th scale world
1 meter = 10 km 1 ft = 10,000 ft ~ 2 miles
[Each of the following rules is written near a character or point of interest on the map.]
[Two small dots with thin lines coming out of them horizontally are in the air near Cueball, who is brushing them off.]
Watch out for airliners cruising near shoulder level
[Small mountains are seen near the left edge of the screen, by Cueball's feet.]
Trip hazard: Appalachian Mountains
[A young Hairy is climbing on mountains reaching approximately Cueball's waist.]
Do not stand or climb on Mt. Everest
[Under the water, a small bump in the ground expels bubbles.]
Caution: Hydro-thermal vents underfoot
[Jill stands shoulder-deep in the ocean, peering down into the trench below.]
Children must be supervised while in the ocean, especially near trenches
[Megan's hand is extended, and lightning from the cloud is jumping to her hand.]
Danger: positive lightning! Do not touch cloud tops
[Ponytail sits near some mountains, with a dotted line in the air stretching across her forehead.]
Avoid hypoxia by regularly sitting to bring your lungs below the death zone
[A blob-shaped thing with wiggly grey texture lines drawn all over is underground.]
Do not dig near Yellowstone
[A second Cueball is jumping in the air, a hand reached back, in position to smack a weather balloon.]
Please do not smack weather balloons
[Some very tiny vertical lines extend from the ground.]
Be careful not to step on cities with especially pointy towers, like Toronto, Seattle, and Dubai


Megan, who is touching the top of a cloud, appears to be standing on top of the ocean, but as other characters are visibly either in front of hills and mountains or standing upon their slopes, it is likely that she is stood upon the ground (at an imperceptible height above 'local' sea-level) on or just beyond a shoreline located in the almost mythical third dimension.

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This sounds like a cool theme for a game jam. Bwisey (talk) 07:30, 14 January 2021 (UTC)

The comment about airplanes being close to the speed of a bullet in the explanation wouldn't be relevant due to the scale, so they wouldn't be fast compared to the scale of the people here, and with some rough calculations, I think it would take multiple seconds to pass through the thickness of a human body, so if the people were normal properties and the plane moving at its speed being proportional to its scale (thus making its speed seem normal from the perspective of someone shrunk down and on the plane looking at the rate at which it travels compared to its own length or looking at the model surroundings rather than the giant person), it shouldn't cause significant injury. Granted, as such speeds it wouldn't be able to fly, but the same sort of concerns apply to a lot else here, like the thundercloud and the rate the atmosphere gets thinner at altitude.-- 07:54, 14 January 2021 (UTC)

"Also, airplane speed very similar to the speed at which a bullet is fired" - That is true for real world aircraft; it is not at all given for the 1/10000th scale world. (It depends on if time is scaled or just spatial dimensions) 09:59, 14 January 2021 (UTC)

The rant about private vs public research seems a tad coat-racky. Yngvadottir (talk) 12:08, 14 January 2021 (UTC)

I agree, so I removed it. There's no indication that Randall meant anything more by it than the usually fun activity of playing with balloons would be harmful if done to weather balloons. Bischoff (talk) 13:45, 14 January 2021 (UTC)

Do disasters in the model have consequences in the real Earth, like in the first row of xkcd #1515? Not being allowed to create megatsunamis or trigger the Yellowstone Supervolcano would support this, but being allowed to step on cities that do not have especially pointy towers would oppose it. 14:07, 14 January 2021 (UTC)

This, ladies, gents, and variations thereupon, is the xkcd I know and love. Lightcaller (talk) 14:34, 14 January 2021 (UTC)

I would really like this on a poster. 16:12, 14 January 2021 (UTC)

That'd be good. In large format. (Though, if it's a 10,000:1 scale printing I see a couple of problems.) 21:16, 14 January 2021 (UTC)

Wouldn't an airplane be to the people about twice the speed of a garden snail? Sarah the Pie(yes, the food) (talk)

A model Airbus A380 would be about 7.3 mmm long but the scale factor for its volume and mass (assuming it has the same overall density as a full size one) would be 1:1,000,000,000,000 so its mass would be about half a milligramme! I'm not sure where 'half a kilogram' came from.
I thought comparisons of scale were an oft-revisited theme for xkcd, so was disappointed not to find a category for them; though I tried to list some of them, I didn't find nearly as many of them as I thought there ought to be. Only just noticed the reference in discussion here to 1515, which kind of supports my suspicion that there are lots I didn't find. --Pi one (talk) 17:06, 14 January 2021 (UTC)

I like how the curvature of the world is drawn to scale as well. IE: imperceptibly curved. 17:13, 14 January 2021 (UTC)

Probably not actually related to the comic, but the notes in the explanation about how "earth on this scale would be the size of an asteroid" made me think of the Little Prince, which Randall is known to be fond of. -MeZimm 18:26, 14 January 2021 (UTC)

For comparison the Queen's Museum model of NY City is at a scale of 1:1,200. 1:10,000 maps of many areas are available, so you could lay out a county or so in your living room. Not as good as a model but still interesting. 22:33, 14 January 2021 (UTC)

As recently added to the explanation, but in case anyone missed it and yet would finds it of interest: http://www.mapascotland.org/ 22:41, 14 January 2021 (UTC)

This reminds me of the planet Dwarf Terrace-9 from Rick and Morty. Possible reference? 23:59, 14 January 2021 (UTC)

A fun bit of trivia I noticed is that the Kármán line (the "edge of spaaaace") would be a little below the height of a typical utility pole (10.67 m). 00:36, 15 January 2021 (UTC)

Usual models are fragile ; however, I wonder if Randalls scaled copy of Earth, apparently with enough gravity to have atmosphere and with planes capable of flight despite being very slow, would somehow be more sturdy and feature cities which you wouldn't be able to damage by stepping on them. THAT may be the reason why the rules are mostly for protection of the guests: airplanes and weather balloons may be only things they can damage directly, however the tsunami and volcanoes are still dangerous. -- Hkmaly (talk) 11:00, 15 January 2021 (UTC)

Imagine the cities being made of LEGO bricks. Not like the buildings built from LEGO bricks but that single LEGO bricks (or other LEGO pieces) ARE the builidngs. Ever stepped on a LEGO brick barefooted? It hurts AF... Elektrizikekswerk (talk) 12:13, 15 January 2021 (UTC)

Could the scale aircraft imply that Randall has created 1:10000 humans to fly them? These Are Not The Comments You Are Looking For (talk) 04:47, 17 January 2021 (UTC)

Am I the only one who thinks this genuinely sounds like a fun exhibit/theme park? Or is that part of the intention of the comic?