2702: What If 2 Gift Guide
|What If 2 Gift Guide|
Title text: BABIES OR LITERATURE BUT NOT BOTH: Baby shoes
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Then he also gives both direct and humorously indirect instructions of how to obtain the book for them, the latter method making a jocular (but not completely wrong) presumption that almost any text-input widget leads to some relevant search-engine result. Also the entire comic is a link to the What If? 2 page on xkcd that's included in the comic. As always, clicking anywhere on the image will take you there (including actually clicking on the link).
He also suggests some other tongue-in-cheek gift ideas for several other subtypes of gift-receiver, most of which are, in keeping with the What If ethos, somewhat dangerous or impractical. A number directly reference things previously mentioned or depicted by xkcd.
|Engineering||The platinum cylinder formerly used to define the kilogram||This is an object of historical relevance of which only six exist, making it a very expensive or illegal gift. With the redefinition of the SI base units in 2019, the kilogram is now defined using only natural constants rather than a physical standard. It took some time before this last SI unit was redefined, 3 years prior to this comic's release. The old prototypes are no longer as important as they were when they were actually used to define the kilogram. But they are still historical artifacts with enormous value, even apart from the value of a kilogram of platinum (about $32 000 at time of writing).|
|Biology||The genomes of the scientists who headed the human genome project||The "International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium," as the Human Genome Project team was known, involved scientists from twenty institutions in six countries. In the US, it was initially led by DNA structure co-discoverer James Watson who was succeeded by Francis Collins. In the UK, the project was led by John Sulston. The teams from other countries' institutions were less prominent and performed substantially less work on the initial sequencing. James Watson's genome was sequenced in 2007. The genome of Craig Venter, the CEO of Celera Genomics, was used as the exemplar for Celera’s sequence. While the “race” between Celera and NIH was declared a tie by then-President Clinton, in actuality, Celera had some 85+% coverage while NIH was about 50%.|
|Physics||A beam of neutrinos delivered through the earth by the LHC||Neutrinos interact very weakly with other particles, to the point that they almost always pass straight through matter completely unaffected. This means that particle accelerators (such as the Large Hadron Collider, or LHC) can send neutrinos to any other point on Earth by aiming the particle beam into the ground, and the neutrinos pass straight through the Earth. This point is referenced in the What-If article "Lethal Neutrinos". The low interactivity of neutrinos would also mean that the recipient would be unable to perceive their gift, making this a poor present for anyone except the small proportion of physics aficionados who already have a neutrino detector on-hand.|
|Animals||Surprise wildlife encounter (gift-wrapped box with a bobcat inside)||This is a reference to xkcd's rich history of mailing boxed bobcats to people. This gift would place the recipient in a perilous situation, and, although definitely a wildlife encounter, is not a good gift.|
|Law||A vacation to that area of Idaho where you can commit crimes with impunity due to a court district boundary error||This refers to the "Zone of Death", a 50-square-mile area of Yellowstone National Park that is in the physical boundaries of Idaho, but in the legal jurisdiction of Wyoming. Because a jury in the United States must be composed of residents of the same district and state in which the crime was committed, but no one lives in this small area of a National Park, anyone who committed a crime here could not (according to a legal theory not fully tested in the courts) receive a trial, and thus could not legally be punished for said crime in any circumstance. This is an interesting legal loophole, but going to this area does not provide any more value than hearing about it, and could scare your law-enthusiast friend.|
|Chemistry||A necklace of element samples whose symbols spell out the recipient's name (note: names like "Katherine" and "Brandon" may cause radiation accidents.)||Novelty necklaces are a common and innocuous gift. Using element symbols to replace letters in a name is a common gimmick (famously used in the title and credits of Breaking Bad). Using real samples of the given elements could be difficult, as elements can be expensive, highly reactive, or toxic. Reactivity and toxicity can be dealt with by containing them in well-sealed containers (which would also be necessary for elements that are liquid or gas at room temperature), but those elements that are radioactive could be dangerous, even if fully contained, and some have short enough half-lives that a sample wouldn't persist long enough to be used as a gift. "Katherine" would be made from Potassium (highly reactive), Astatine (rare, radioactive and has a short half-life), Hydrogen (gaseous at room temperature, flammable), Erbium, Iodine (sublimes into a gas at room temperature), and Neon (gaseous at room temperature). "Brandon" would be made from Boron, Radium (radioactive), Neodymium, Oxygen (gaseous at room temperature), and Nitrogen (gaseous at room temperature). The problems with element samples could be partially alleviated by allowing compounds rather than pure elements, but the radioactivity would still be a problem, and neon does not form compounds and as such is always gaseous. Additionally, the letters J and Q do not appear in the periodic table symbols, while M does not appear on its own (only followed by six other characters, with "o" as the only vowel amongst them), so a name like John, Quinn or Mike would be problematic.|
|Puzzles||Two goats and a new car||This is a reference to the "Monty Hall problem", in which a game show contestant has to choose between three doors, two of which conceal goats and one of which conceals a car, and wins whatever prize is revealed. (See 1282: Monty Hall, for another cartoon inspired by this problem.) This gift places the recipient within a puzzle which is typically discussed hypothetically rather than happening in real life. Although many people would consider a new car a great gift, those who would appreciate a gift of goats are less common.|
|Technology||Cybiko® wireless handheld computer for teens (2000)||This is a direct callback to one of the previous week's comics, which humorously suggested that this device is a better option than most of the current popular communication technologies. While an interesting example of the history of communication technology and coming from a time when experimentation was common and standards were few, it isn't very useful now, because it is no longer supported, has a communication range of 100 meters (sending text messages via radio) and one can only use it to communicate with users of the same device. However, technology enthusiasts could find it interesting as a collectors' item, so by all means it is one of the most plausible gift ideas on this list.|
|Space||Webb telescope personal photoshoot|| The Webb telescope belongs to NASA, the ESA and the CSA, and is currently very far from Earth. It is designed to capture distant space objects in previously unseen detail. If the photoshoot implies photographing a nearby human, it is not designed to do this, even if the difficulties of sending a human about a million miles to its location could be overcome. On the other hand, if it means photographing the recipient on the earth's surface, Webb would have to point at the warm Earth and expose its optics to the Sun, permanently crippling the telescope (Which is forbidden by NASA.) and it would not have sufficient resolution to make out the subject in any case. These circumstances make it a highly impractical gift, to all intents and purposes to the point of impossibility.
On the other hand, a gift experience of being allowed to take your own snapshot of Webb in position, perhaps with a robotic telescope, might be an attractive gift to a space enthusiast! So might a chance to use the Webb telescope to take pictures of whatever celestial objects one chooses, as time on the Webb telescope is very carefully allocated.
|Literature||Stephen King's writing desk (he's still using it so you'll have to fight him)||Stephen King is an author lucky enough to have legendary status while still alive. The desk of a famous author who has died would become an object of historic significance and would likely be either kept for exhibition or auctioned by their respective estate, but as Stephen King is still alive, he would probably object to his desk being subjected to the same.|
|Philosophy||Out-of-control trolley||This is another gift that places the recipient in the situations that they like discussing hypothetically. The trolley problem is a thought experiment in which one is asked to decide between allowing a trolley to kill five people or taking an action that causes it to kill one. Presenting someone with such a hypothetical problem may or may not be not a good gift, but forcing them to live through it in real life is a terrible gift. (See 1455: Trolley Problem for another cartoon inspired by this problem.)|
|Psychology||A nice gift with a note saying you don't expect anything in return||This is perhaps the most viable option on this list. This kind of gift giving could induce the Benjamin Franklin effect, causing the gift giver to like the recipient more. It could also be used to manipulate the recipient by increasing pressure to reciprocate. This would cause them stress, making it a bad gift, but a psychologist would hopefully understand it to be a joke. A psychologist could also think about the psychology of gift-giving and reciprocation, perhaps to their enjoyment.|
|(Title text) Babies or literature but not both||Baby shoes||This is a reference to the six-word story For sale: baby shoes, never worn, often attributed to Ernest Hemingway. Someone involved with babies, such as expecting or new parents, would find baby shoes a valuable gift for their child. Someone interested in literature would see the reference to a famous work. But someone who understands the reference and also enjoys babies might be sad, since the story implies the seller was expecting a baby but something went tragically wrong.|
|This transcript is incomplete. Please help editing it! Thanks.|
What If? 2 Gift Guide
What if? 2 makes a good gift for anyone who's into science, absurd ideas, or just the universe in general. To order, go to xkcd.com/whatif2, or just type "what if 2" into some random box on your device; it will probably work.
Here are some other gift ideas for hard-to-shop-for science enthusiasts:
Interest - Gift Idea
Engineering - The platinum cylinder formerly used to define the kilogram
Biology - The genomes of the scientists who headed the human genome project
Physics - A beam of neutrinos delivered through the earth by the LHC
Animals - Surprise wildlife encounter (gift-wrapped box with a bobcat inside)
Law - A vacation to that area of Idaho where you can commit crimes with impunity due to a court district boundary error
Chemistry - A necklace of element samples whose symbols spell out the recipient's name (note: names like "Katherine" and "Brandon" may cause radiation accidents.)
Puzzles - Two goats and a new car
Technology - Cybiko® Wireless Handheld Computer for Teens (2000)
Space - Webb telescope personal photoshoot
Literature - Stephen King's writing desk (he's still using it so you'll have to fight him)
Philosophy - Out-of-control trolley
Psychology - A nice gift with a note saying you don't expect anything in return.
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