2879: Like This One

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Like This One
A lot of sentences undergo startling shifts in mood if you add 'like this one' to the end, but high on the list is 'I'm a neurologist studying dreams.'
Title text: A lot of sentences undergo startling shifts in mood if you add 'like this one' to the end, but high on the list is 'I'm a neurologist studying dreams.'


In this comic, Megan is asking Ponytail what she does, presumably in a professional context. Ponytail responds with "I'm a researcher studying gas molecules like this one" and then she indicates the air above her outstretched hand, or possibly pointing with a finger, which, indeed, does contain or point to gas molecules. However, it would not be at all clear which one molecule she was supposed to be identifying, since they are too small for human sight to distinguish. Identifying a specific gas molecule in this way does not provide the listener with any useful information.

The caption under the comic lists further examples of things that researchers study and are, by necessity, around them either all the time, or at any time they are talking to another person, making the researchers truthfully able to respond "...like this one" when asked about their research, despite the fact that such a statement doesn't tangibly identify anything to the other person.

  • Gas molecules: Gas molecules generally share a few basic physical characteristics simply because they're in a gaseous state. A researcher would thus be able to make reference to their study of (any particular kinds of) gas molecules as, unless they happen to be researching something incredibly exotic, the gas molecules they were studying would probably share at least something with the gas molecules found in the atmosphere. A more restrictive interpretation would be that the researcher is, in fact, studying particular kinds of gas molecules that are in the atmosphere.
  • Gravitational fields: Every object with mass has a gravitational field that extends, however weakly, throughout the universe.
  • Planetary magnetospheres: The Earth has a magnetic field, which covers the entire planet and any conversations taking place there.
  • Sound waves: Most in-person conversations are mediated with sound waves created by human vocal cords, and those that are not (text or sign languages) are almost certainly in the presence of background noise.
  • Habitable worlds: As of 2024, all humans converse on or near the habitable world of Earth.[citation needed] Depending on your definition of 'world', any environment in which a human could survive (and therefore hold a conversation) could be considered a 'habitable world'.
  • Languages: Conversations such as this one are possible only if one or more languages are involved.
  • Social interactions: Any conversation constitutes a social interaction.
  • Skin microbes: For better or worse, a wide variety of microbial organisms live on the skin of any outstretched hand.

The title text moves into inverse cases, where it would be highly unusual or potentially disconcerting for an example of the research subject to be present at the time of the conversation. In the example given, for a neurologist to say "I'm a neurologist studying dreams like this one", would imply that your conversation with them (or your entire consciousness) is itself a dream.


[Megan and Cueball are facing Ponytail, who holds her hand out palm up.]
Megan: So what do you do?
Ponytail: I'm a researcher studying gas molecules like this one.
[Below the panel there is an explanation of the comics idea.]
Fields of research where you can add "...like this one" after you say what you study:
[Bulleted list of various separate fields of study.]
Gas molecules
Gravitational fields
Planetary magnetospheres
Sound waves
Habitable worlds
Social interactions
Skin microbes

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i'm very confused what "this gas molecule" or "this skin microbe" is meant to be; it doesn't seem like there would contextually be an obvious specific instance of either of those classes? looking forward to seeing the conjecture given in the explanation when it settles down - Vaedez (talk) 02:48, 11 January 2024 (UTC)

I believe it's referring to her holding her hand out to signify a (large number of) gas molecules. -- 02:55, 11 January 2024 (UTC)
ahh, what she meant was "like these ones"--ok, I understand what both would mean now. - Vaedez (talk) 03:02, 11 January 2024 (UTC)
She's pointing at one molecule. Just because you can't pick it out of the mass doesn't change that. Nitpicking (talk) 03:55, 11 January 2024 (UTC)
Indeed. And one wouldn't want to get the wrong idea about which molecule she might study. Obviously, there are a lot of N2 ones, and a few O2s, but they're not necessarily of interest. The odd noble gas atom (if that counts as a molecule-of-one) or CO2 would probably be the more useful, along with SO2 / O3 / other trace ones as what she might be indicating. 05:34, 11 January 2024 (UTC)
In my head-canon, she's using her stick-figure hand to point out an exceedingly long nitrogen nanotube that she's manufactured. Could be interpreted as a threatening gesture, I suppose?
ProphetZarquon (talk) 16:00, 11 January 2024 (UTC)
I think that's the whole joke - such statements are inevitably true, but at the same time essentially meaningless. 16:49, 11 January 2024 (UTC)

I thought Ponytail probably studies the CO2 content of the atmosphere to track and predict climate change, but does not want to discuss it in a situation where people usually ask a question like "So what do you do?" (like a party). So she obscures the answer and makes her study field sound so mundane that Megan and Cueball will probably change the topic; whether they pick up the cue that when someone answers like that, they probably don't want to talk more about it, or whether they're bored out of asking more about some everyday gas molecules. Transgalactic (talk) 00:56, 19 January 2024 (UTC)

Other possible instances would include "Hominids" and "False vacuums". I was sure it was going to end with, "Cartoons like this one." Nitpicking (talk) 03:55, 11 January 2024 (UTC)

Also, neutrinos would go on the list 10:25, 11 January 2024 (UTC)

"I'm a researcher studying potential apocalyptic events..." 09:40, 11 January 2024 (UTC)

Hmm. I’m a criminologist studying the behavior patterns of psychopaths.

But wait, is the 'this one' referring to you, or me...? 16:04, 11 January 2024 (UTC)

"I'm a researcher studying computer simulations…" (sadly, not actually the kind we are (maybe) living in but close enough) Brycemw (talk) 14:17, 11 January 2024 (UTC)

"I'm a researcher studying research topics..." Barmar (talk) 15:35, 11 January 2024 (UTC)

"I study logical paradoxes..." (¿"...like this one"?) 15:45, 11 January 2024 (UTC)

"I study self-referential statements..." Dextrous Fred (talk) 17:09, 12 January 2024 (UTC)

"I'm a biologist studying key turning points in human evolution... like this one!" "Man - that is the worst pick-up line..." 16:20, 11 January 2024 (UTC)

"I study mathematical integers... like this 1." -boB (talk) 20:44, 11 January 2024 (UTC)

I am not the judge of this contest, but if I were, you win! Terdragontra (talk) 20:03, 13 January 2024 (UTC) Word!!! Transgalactic (talk) 01:00, 19 January 2024 (UTC)

"I study human comments..." --Anonymous

"I study traditional pub signs, like The Swan" 09:32, 12 January 2024 (UTC)

Is ‘The Swan’ perhaps owned by Gnome Ann (at least in this hypothetical)? 14:59, 12 January 2024 (UTC)

"Skin microbes" seems a bit (intentionally?) obscure, especially since, it seems to me, the closest a modern microbiologist gets to an actual bacterium is its Illumina lane. "Skin lesions", however (warts, moles, calluses, liver spots, eczema/psoriasis, melanoma, yada) ... Of course, this might only occur to audiences of [ahem] a certain age (cue Rod Stewart's/Bob Dylan's "Forever Young" ...) 21:51, 11 January 2024 (UTC)

”I’m a linguist studying languages”, and “I’m a student studying fictional works” also are kinda funny. 15:01, 12 January 2024 (UTC)

Do we really want to break down each bullet point?[edit]

We could probably do well to simplify it to just something saying the list contains things immediately surrounding the characters, part of their bodies, or intangible ideas commonly employed during normal conversation. It probably doesn't need to explain what sound waves are, for instance --Raviolio (talk) 15:34, 11 January 2024 (UTC)

If breaking them all down, perhaps better a simple table rather than each 'hanging off' a bullet-point. But then we're more committed to breaking them all down (including Title Text) with potentially several paragraphs per 'explanation column cell'. (My preference, this moment, would be to restore the simple bullet-list then follow with the "air molecules" expansion below in regular prose, perhaps briefly zoom through the others in a single para to follow that, if not just wikilink those and leave to be checked at will. But that's just based upon what the current text might best be formatted as.) 15:45, 11 January 2024 (UTC)
The long exploration of exactly what interpretation of 'like' should be placed on Ponytail's remark that's currently attached to the bullet point seems rather peripheral to the joke. If anything ought to be explained, it's why each thing would (a) always be present (or at least, with rare exceptions like being in a spacecraft in deep space), but also (b) not be usefully identified by the remark. 16:43, 11 January 2024 (UTC)

Dreams like this one[edit]

I don’t think “I study dreams like this one” necessarily implies that the conversation itself is a dream. It probably shall mean that the neurologist thinks they are in a dream, which would irritate other participants who don’t feel like they are part of a dream.

It could also imply that the neurologist is able to “show” a dream. They could point towards an optical hallucination, being aware that it is not real, but not respecting the inability of the other participants to see it.

If I was the neurologist, it would just mean that I am currently dreaming while having this conversation in reality. “This one” would mean “the current one”. BTW how is it called if you dream while awake, separate/parallel to the reality? -- 08:25, 13 January 2024 (UTC)

Daydream? These Are Not The Comments You Are Looking For (talk) 01:25, 16 January 2024 (UTC)