2752: Salt Dome

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Salt Dome
The US uses hollowed-out salt domes to store the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and non-hollowed-out ones to store the Strategic Salt Reserve.
Title text: The US uses hollowed-out salt domes to store the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and non-hollowed-out ones to store the Strategic Salt Reserve.


This comic refers to how downwards pressure in one area of the world can cause upwards pressure in another, causing geologic structures, like salt domes, to rise up.

In the comic, Beret Guy and Ponytail are sitting at a table and eating dinner alongside Cueball, who is presumably a geologist. When asked to "pass the salt," Cueball, with his extensive knowledge of the Earth's crust and its interactions with the surface, is aware of this pressure phenomenon, and as such is stomping on his chair in order to create downward pressure on the ground beneath. This apparently works exactly as intended, as a salt dome has risen out of the floor and even begun to break through the dinner table. The caption humorously remarks that this is what will happen if you ask any geologist to "pass the salt," which conventionally means to simply hand a salt shaker or dispenser to another diner who cannot reach it. A salt shaker, presumably containing the salt intended to be passed, can be seen on their table. "The general problem" of passing salt and other condiments is discussed in comic 974: The General Problem.

Cueball mentions overburden pressure, a geological term referring to the pressure that outer layers of rock exert on inner layers. This is what usually causes the rising of salt domes; however Cueball's stomping on his chair would not produce sufficient overburden pressure to raise a salt dome.[citation needed] Interestingly, this is exactly the kind of strange powers Beret Guy, who is also present at the table, usually displays (see 1388: Subduction License).

The title text mentions the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, a United States government reserve of oil for use in emergencies. Randall observes the true fact that artificial caves within hollowed-out salt domes create the spaces for storage of this oil; in fact, naturally-occurring petroleum is often found under salt domes. The joke in the title text is Randall's claim that salt domes that are not yet hollow are used to store the US salt reserve. Of course this could be seen as true, but this salt is not put there by humans, but by nature, and is thus not stored there by any government. Further, the use of the term "salt dome" in the title text plays on the ambiguity between geological salt domes and the monolithic dome structures commonly used to store reserves of road salt, which also are commonly referred to as "salt domes".

Ordinary salt is available in abundance throughout the U.S.[1] so there is no need for a national strategic salt reserve.[citation needed] However, the UK does maintain an Emergency Salt Reserve[2] as part of a Strategic Salt Protocol[3] to ensure highways can be salted during prolonged wintry weather, just as most communities throughout the world regularly using salt on roads stockpile it for such purposes.


[This comic is drawn on a gray background, with the segment beneath the floor in dark gray. This is to make the white part of the comic stand out as very white. In the comic Cueball, Beret Guy and Ponytail are dining at a long table, with Cueball and Ponytail far from each other at the either end of the table. Beret Guy sits close to Cueball, facing towards the reader, and he is quite far away from Ponytail. Beret Guy and Ponytail are sitting down in their chairs, Ponytail with her hands in her lap, Beret Guy with his arms on the table. Their chairs are quite high, neither of them are even close to reaching the floor with their feet. Cueball, on the other hand, is standing on his chair and is loudly stomping on the chair. This has caused the floor beneath the chairs legs to be dented slightly down. And a white column of salt has burst through the ground and is rising up under the table clearly bending the table up in the process, and the table surface is cracking up in several places. The white dome, the only white part of the image, is broader at the top than where it breaks through the floor, but widens out beneath the floor. The white salt has several small black spots on it, to indicate a rough surface. On the table there are three dining plates with food, a bowl and a plate with food, about to slide down the domed table surface, and two wine glasses, one of which has fallen over due to the deformation of the table. It has fallen over near Ponytail releasing the liquid out on the table, where it runs out over the side. Between Cueball and Beret Guy there stands a salt shaker, that could have been passed to Ponytail.]
Cueball: Just a little more overburden pressure...
Cueball: The dome is almost through the table...
Cueball stomping: Stomp stomp
[Caption below the panel:]
Never ask a geologist to pass the salt.

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Made a guess. By me. (talk) 22:39, 20 March 2023 (UTC)

Odd that Beret Guy’s not the one doing it. We’ve seen White Hat act a normal extra character before, but having Beret Guy in a comic not doing anything strange feels wrong. Intara (talk) 04:09, 21 March 2023 (UTC)

Agree. Elektrizikekswerk (talk) 08:37, 21 March 2023 (UTC)
I have just mentioned this in the explanation and compared Cueball's power with Beret Guys strange powers. --Kynde (talk) 09:39, 21 March 2023 (UTC)
My reading of it is that Beret Guy does strange things because he doesn't truly understand how things work (the way that scientific consensus understands, c.f. Vacuum Energy). This geologist is doing a strange thing because he is just so good at the regular science he knows. Success through hypercompetancy, not hypernaïvity, in modulating pressure-waves (like a phased-array transmitter?) from the four chair-leg points sent through theoretically knowable layers of floor and bedrock.
It's a stretch, but given the changes needed to put Beret Guy into protagonist position (it'd be just "don't ask this guy...", not a geologist) then I think it's a perfectly valid compositional choice on behalf of Randall. (Who can do as he likes, without my trying to be apologist for him, but I'll explain my conclusions anyway.) 10:28, 21 March 2023 (UTC)

The text mentions the UK Salt reserve, used to prevent black ice on roads. I assume that US states that get sufficient snowfall also maintain reserves of salt and grit to keep their roads open. Or does it simply get too cold for ice to be of any use? -- Arachrah (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Yes, states and municipalities in the US definitely maintain reserves of salt for use in treating roads during winter weather. Such reserves are commonly stored in dome-shaped structures (often seen near highway interchanges), which I assume is part of the allusion in the title text. I don't believe this statement in the current explanation is completely accurate: "Ordinary salt is also available in abundance throughout the U.S. so there is no need for any kind of salt reserves, strategic or otherwise." This may be true at a Federal level, but having grown up in the northeastern U.S., I recall hearing of some of the smaller municipalities running low on/out of salt during especially harsh winters. CarLuva (talk) 14:25, 21 March 2023 (UTC)
Agreed and fixed. Can you find a photograph of such dome structures? I've lived in areas dependent on road salting most of my life without ever having any idea what the stockpiles look like. 14:40, 21 March 2023 (UTC)
Much better, thanks! A quick Google image search for "road salt dome" yields plenty of photos of them. 16:01, 21 March 2023 (UTC)
Given that selection of images, I question the link specifically to "monolithic dome" in the explanation (and the hatnote on The Other Wiki's "salt dome" page) - many of those photos are clearly of structures assembled from multiple parts; some appear to be gridshells, others possibly fabricated as a set of tall of segments. - IMSoP (talk) 17:20, 21 March 2023 (UTC)
Woah, my cousin told me those were for alfalfa and silage. Huh! 16:01, 22 March 2023 (UTC)
The same structures can be used for both. If you see them by a stockyard, think silage. By roads, think salt. 17:54, 23 March 2023 (UTC)
Covered salt piles are relatively new. Prior to 2000, or there abouts, salt was stored uncovered piled on bare earth. Some would be lost due to rain and runoff. But salt was cheaper than salt barns. However excess salt causes environmental problems and storage losses were unnecessary. There was some gnashing of teeth when regulations mandated covered salt barns. 04:03, 22 March 2023 (UTC)

Hmmm, I also see a somewhat indecent connotation between passing the salt and passing a kidney stone, in particular that the salt in the picture is being extruded through an orifice in the ground... -- 09:55, 21 March 2023 (UTC)

Maybe Beret guy lended his powers to a geologist.

It was Toph tier XD haha, get it? Toph! 05:29, 22 March 2023 (UTC)

How long would it take for the salt to be pushed up to the surface? 42.book.addict (talk) 18:17, 3 February 2024 (UTC)