2600: Rejected Question Categories

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Rejected Question Categories
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(?).
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(?).

Explanation[edit]

Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Created by a HANGING ROCK OF MASS DESTRUCTION LAUNCHED AT A VOLCANO BY HOT SINGLES IN YOUR AREA- Please change this comment when editing this page. Do NOT delete this tag too soon.
If you can address this issue, please edit the page! Thanks.
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.

Question categories[edit]

Category Question Explanation
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).
Medical advice What if you got a scratch and the next day your hand looked like this [๐Ÿ“Ž 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.
Personal 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).
Spam 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.
Phishing 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? [๐Ÿ“Ž 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[citation needed] 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.
Unanswerable 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.

Vague 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.

Possibly a red spiders reference. Could also be a reference to 1688: Map Age Guide where some dangerous event involving spiders is set to happen in 2022.

 ????? 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!"

Transcript[edit]

Ambox notice.png This transcript is incomplete. Please help editing it! Thanks.

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 [๐Ÿ“Ž 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? [๐Ÿ“Ž 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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Discussion

I added the transcript, but I'm not sure if it's appropriate to use an emoji for the paperclip symbol. Especially since the emoji paperclip leans to the left, but the icon in the comic leans to the right. Barmar (talk) 20:07, 30 March 2022 (UTC)

I wonder why there's no question mark at the end of the unanswerable question. Barmar (talk) 20:07, 30 March 2022 (UTC)

I think that it is because the question likely continues on, beyond the bounds of the comic (hence why the text is partially cut off), so there's not a question mark there because it isn't actually the end of the question. --Carrera (talk) 20:12, 30 March 2022 (UTC)
  I think that he was referring to the one that was labelled the unanswerable question. <-- Yes, and because the one Randall did has no question mark, the one in the explanation should have no question mark. 108.162.216.201 09:36, 31 March 2022 (UTC)

I wonder if the spider thing is a reference to 1688:_Map_Age_Guide, more specifically, the part about Colorado becoming a radioactive exclusion zone by 2022, with the "spiders" being mentioned after 2023. It is currently 2022, after all... --Carrera (talk) 20:12, 30 March 2022 (UTC)

Note to Randall: if you do a red spiders comic on Tuesday of next week, I will double my current Patreon level of support for you. (I love callbacks.) Nitpicking (talk) 01:34, 31 March 2022 (UTC)
I figured it was a reference to the invasive Joro spider on the USA east coast108.162.246.154 13:50, 31 March 2022 (UTC)

I wonder if Randall's going to include any more weird non-questions in this volume. You know, like that one about the chair. GreatWyrmGold (talk) 20:39, 30 March 2022 (UTC)

The ninth day of Jancember (or, in mortal human terms, the 9th of January 2023) will occur on Monday... a day before Tuesday! We may only have one day to enjoy the book before the spiders come! --141.101.98.225 21:31, 30 March 2022 (UTC)


Sorry, does this mean that April 5th is the apocalypse? What's this about "last day of the last week ever?"

The last day of the last week ... briefly. Because then there will be another week. It's a weird joke, but I think that's what the idea behind it is. Nitpicking (talk) 01:34, 31 March 2022 (UTC)
As I found it, someone had left it as "...of the last week." Which nearly prompted me to add an {{Actual citation needed}}. But I instead decided to add the "Briefly." for either the above reason or because we wouldn't have much time to appreciate it. We don't know which yet, but future readers (if any!) can make up their own minds.
...You're welcome! :P 172.70.162.77 02:48, 31 March 2022 (UTC)

The Volcano/Nuke question sounds a lot like Scientology (am I allowed to mention them?). Didn't they stack millions of aliens around Earth's ancient volcanos before blowing them all up, thereby creating alien ghosts who attached themselves to humans? Beechmere (talk) 23:36, 30 March 2022 (UTC)Beechmere

I realize this isn't the case in France (for example), but in the US, Tuesday is the THIRD day of the week. 172.70.207.8 01:58, 31 March 2022 (UTC)

This depends on when you "start" the week. I would consider Tuesday the 2nd day of the "work week", and others consider Monday the 1st day of the week to have the weekend (Saturday and Sunday) together. 172.69.33.181 03:32, 31 March 2022 (UTC)

2^(2^(2+(2/2))+2+(2/2))+2^(2^(2+(2/2))+(2/2))+2^(2^2+(2/2))+2^(2+(2/2)) comics GcGYSF(asterisk)P(vertical line)e (talk) 04:44, 31 March 2022 (UTC)

"Hundreds of the greatest scientific minds are unable to answer" the question about why I'm me. Really? To me that seems like one of those questions that just pretends to be very deep and complex while it's actually just a matter of linguistics. By the very definition of the words I can't be anyone but me. If I were to switch with my younger brother, I'd be a younger brother, but again I'd be me and now have an older brother. Bischoff (talk) 06:28, 31 March 2022 (UTC)

The spiders thing does in fact appear to be about Map Age Guide, which was published, if the date listed and the online calendar I used are correct, on a Wednesday, right after a Tuesday. You see where this is headed.