2600: Rejected Question Categories
|Rejected Question Categories
Title text: You can click to preorder to get a copy of What If? 2 when it comes out 9/13, assuming we all make it past the spider situation(?) on Tuesday(?).
Randall recently announced, in 2575: What If? 2, that he is publishing a new What If? book based on reader-submitted questions. This comic is another promotion of the book, and the entire comic is a link to his what if? 2 page on xkcd.
This comic shows the categories of questions he claims to have received, but rejected to use in his book, giving an example question for each category. In typical xkcd fashion, these begin out by being plausible, although often unlikely to have been submitted as a what if? question, moving in to more and more absurd types of questions, especially with the last question, that appears to be a combination of all previous categories and is therefore marked "?????"
The title text refers to the launch date of the book September 13, rendered in the American style 9/13. This format can be confusing to non-Americans, although usually not when the date is larger than 12, since it would then appear to reference the 9th day of the 13th month. This "13th month" was, however, referenced in the first comic about the book: 2575: What If? 2. See also Randall's take on the date format, ISO 8601, in 1179: ISO 8601.
Randall then continues the title text by referencing the second to last category with vague ominous questions. The example question here asks if there is need to worry about spiders after Tuesday. So Randall notes that the release date, 5.5 months after the release of this comic, is of course assuming anyone will survive past next Tuesday (2022-04-05).
Tuesday has been notably referenced in 277: Long Light, 564: Crossbows, 1099: Tuesdays and most notably in 1245: 10-Day Forecast, where it seems that the last day ever will be a Tuesday. Tuesday is the second day of the week, and notably, the Tuesday of the week following the publication of this cartoon (April 5th, 2022) was the Day of the Spiders.
"Spaceships and Soup" is a reference to the first chapter of What If? 2, where Randall looks into filling the Solar System with soup.
|People cheating on homework
|What if I made a pendulum by hanging a rock on a 2.75 meter string? What would its period be in seconds? (Show your work!)
|This appears to be a physics student trying to get out of doing their work by presenting the question for Randall to answer in What If (which is a common occurrence on question-and-answer sites such as Stack Overflow). Most school homework requires the student to "show their work", i.e. write out their process of solving the question. Making students show their work serves two purposes: it allows students to score partial credit on an incorrect answer if they show the right methodology and basic understanding even if they make a wrong turn along the way; it also prevents students from simply cheating by looking up the right answer without showing how they got that answer — the student including this caveat in their email is a giveaway as to their tactic (along with the boring nature of their inquiry).
|What if you got a scratch and the next day your hand looked like this [📎 attachment]? Should you see a doctor or what?
|Randall is not a physician, is not qualified to give medical advice, and will not answer medical questions. This was a problem on early Wikipedia which, for a time, required all articles covering medical topics to point to a Medical Disclaimer. This was also an issue covered in the 1st what if? book, under Weird and Worrying Questions from the Inbox, where a reader asks about the effects of a toxin on the excretory system. If your body is not behaving in the way you expect, consulting with a medical professional is, in general, a good idea.
|Why don't the squirrels in my yard like me???
|Randall has no way of knowing why the wildlife in a given area dislike a specific person, especially if this hints at a specific animosity/belligerence and not just general avoidance of humans as a perceived threat. These kind of questions are common on sites like reddit, and are usually covered by general explanation of animal behaviors unless the asker supplies more information in the comments. However, the choice of squirrels are likely not random since Squirrels are a recurring theme on xkcd and has often been used in what if? (sometimes as placeholder for a potentially horrible image).
|Do you want to meet lonely singles in your area tonight?
|This is a common online popup advertisement and is generally considered undesirable. An unavoidable side effect of Randall having an email address published where the public can find it is that spammers have just as much access to it. Most people do not respond to spam emails, and Randall is no exception.
|Have you recently been the victim of phishing? To check, log in to your account by clicking here.
|Again, because Randall's What-If email is publicly available, phishers have access to it and can probe the recipient for information. Randall is experienced enough to recognize a phishing attempt and ignore it. This type of phishing scam, in which the scammer requests your personal data for the purported purpose of checking if it has been "stolen" thereby "stealing" it himself, has become more common as people have become aware of phishing, and phishers have thus embraced the possibility of exploiting a new niche in the layers of naivete.
|Requests for help with a crime
|Using modern science, what would be the fastest way to get through this bank vault door? [📎 blueprints]
|No, Randall is not going to help a criminal commit breaking and entering or robbery, thank you very much. A common problem with heist movies is that they show a believable method for breaking in to a vault which people then try to replicate in real life. Such movies often portray an expert in some other field being "smart enough" to craft the plan, sometimes unwittingly.
|Why am I me and not someone else
| There is a lot in this question that could be unpacked, and Randall doesn't want to touch on any of it.
At face value the question is asking about Philosophy of mind, a branch of philosophy with many questions that are unanswerable due to our own imperfect understanding of mind. The asker is inquiring as to what process is responsible for designating that their consciousness be tied to the body in which they currently reside, as opposed to another body presumed to have consciousness; furthermore, they likely wish to know the mechanics behind how this process works. There is as yet insufficient data for a meaningful answer.
It's also quite possible the asker is feeling melancholic and unsatisfied with their life. Randall doesn't feel qualified to try diagnosing or treating someone's existential depression.
|What is going to happen? (Be specific)
|Some humor is derived from the request for specificity in the question, which completely lacks any sort of specificity of its own.
|Vague and ominous
|Will I have to start worrying about spiders after Tuesday?
|This implies some event that occurs on a (possibly next?) Tuesday. This event may relate to spiders in some way, and cause those who do not currently worry about spiders to do so. If you do not currently worry about spiders, this question does not give enough specifics for Randall to intelligently answer whether or not you should start.
|Hi, we're lonely singles in your area, and we're wondering what would happen if we shot a nuclear bomb into a volcano! Click here to log in and tell us ...
| If nothing else, this entry is clearly made up by Randall, as it appears to be a combination of as many prior categories as he has room for, specifically Spam, Phishing, and an already-answered question, before getting cut off by the bottom of the panel.
"Would it be possible to stop a volcano eruption by placing a bomb (thermobaric or nuclear) underneath the surface?" was a question featured in the first what if book. Randall answered with an emphatic "No!"
In What If? 2 (xkcd.com/whatif2), I answer ridiculous questions sent in by readers about everything from volcanoes to spaceships to soup.
Here are a few of the common types of question that I did not answer:
[In separate boxes for each category]
[In row 1:]
People cheating on homework: What if I made a pendulum by hanging a rock on a 2.75 meter string? What would its period be in seconds? (Show your work!)
Medical advice: What if you got a scratch and the next day your hand looks like this [📎 attachment]? Should you see a doctor or what?
Personal: Why don't the squirrels in my yard like me???
[In row 2:]
Spam: Do you want to meet lonely singles in your area tonight?
Phishing: Have you recently been the victim of phishing? To check, log in to your account by clicking here.
Requests for help with a crime: Using modern science, what would be the fastest way to get through this bank vault door? [📎 blueprints]
[In row 3:]
Unanswerable: Why am I me and not someone else
Vague: What is going to happen? (Be specific)
Vague+Ominous: Will I have to start worrying about spiders after Tuesday?
?????: Hi, we're lonely singles in your area, and we're wondering what would happen if we shot a nuclear bomb into a volcano! [partially cut off horizontally:] Click here to log in and tell us
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