2893: Sphere Tastiness

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Sphere Tastiness
Baseballs do present a challenge to this theory, but I'm convinced we just haven't found the right seasoning.
Title text: Baseballs do present a challenge to this theory, but I'm convinced we just haven't found the right seasoning.


This comic graphs the tastiness vs. the size of four roughly spherical objects: melons, grapes, Earth and the Moon. Based on the fact that melons and grapes are (in this context) relatively small and tasty to most people, and that planetary scale bodies are relatively large and made mostly of rocks and metals generally considered not remotely tasty,[citation needed] Randall postulates the existence of an intermediate body, one which is approximately 800 meters in diameter and "tastes okay".

This is the second comic in a row to feature fruit, graphs and predictions (after 2892: Banana Prices), and continues the theme of a logarithmic axis scale to facilitate plotting a linear regression. Here the line is interpolated between known data, rather than extrapolated beyond it. Such interpolation is quite common in scientific analysis, and is often useful, but this example clearly leads to a ludicrous conclusion. Using such ridiculous analyses to show the dangers of flawed and/or sloppy methodology is a common theme in xkcd.

There are multiple ways in which this analysis is flawed, and therefore why the conclusion is unsupportable:

  • there are only four data points, which is insufficient to interpolate from.
  • these clusters represent entirely different sub-classes of spherical object (fruit vs. astronomical bodies) while other subclasses are not represented at all (the title text mentions this flaw).
  • as tight clusters of similarly sourced data, it effectively reduces the data down to two useful data points. This also makes the choice of log-median interpolation unjustified.
  • the 'tastiness' scale has no indication of what assessment (subjective or objective) it records. Nor does it even have graduations, making it unknown if the graph is linear-log or log-log (or otherwise), changing the implied meaning behind the choice of straight-line interpolation.
  • according to astronaut John Young, who visited the Moon's surface during the Apollo 16 mission, "moondust doesn't taste half bad". (Although other Apollo astronauts likened its smell and taste to burnt gunpowder, so make of that what you will.)

The title text points out that baseballs seem to refute this theory since they're not usually thought of as tasty, but they're between the sizes of grapes and melons, which would place them in the bottom left of the graph, way off the fit line. Baseballs are typically made of a combination of a rubber or cork center wrapped in yarn, and covered by either horsehide, cowhide or synthetic leather. In point of fact, there are many, many common round objects that completely fail to conform to this graph, but rather than acknowledge that this analysis is fatally flawed, Randall uses special pleading to justify its exclusion from the graph, suggesting that the problem is that we lack "the right seasonings". While seasonings can improve the taste of foods, it's implausible that the inedible components of baseballs would be rendered "tasty" with any conceivable combination of seasonings. Even if they could, there's no evidence that such would give them the proper level of 'tastiness' to conform to the graph. This argument lampoons the use of "cherry picking" and motivated reasoning, in which researchers include only data points which fit their hypothesis and make up reasons to exclude those which don't. This is obviously very poor science, but less exaggerated versions are all too common in scientific studies.

The comic refers to this plot as research. This is an exaggeration, since two clusters of paired points are rarely considered sufficient for research purposes. But plotting a justifiably sufficient quantity of data points on a logarithmic plot, and then drawing a line through them, is a common way to visualize an actual exponential relationship more comprehensibly. An example of that is the Gutenberg–Richter law where the magnitude of earthquakes (an intrinsically logarithmic scale) in a particular region is plotted together with the frequency of occurrence, typically resulting in a statistically significant straight line.

Other fruit opinions have previously been mentioned in 388: Fuck Grapefruit, but it is unknown what the line would be like if Randall included grapefruit.

Other absurd uses of linear regression are seen in 605: Extrapolating and 1204: Detail.


[Graph with Y axis using an arrow indicating tastiness from "Not Tasty" to "Tasty" and X axis labeled "Sphere Diameter (meters)" with a logarithmic scale running from 10-5 to around 108 (with 10-3, 100, 103 and 106 labeled).]
[The graph contains two points for "Grapes" and "Melons" at the "Tasty" end of the Y axis, between 10-2 and 10-1 meters, and two points for "The Earth" and "The Moon" at the "Not Tasty" end, both around 107 meters. A straight dashed line shows a linear interpolation between the points. There's a circle with a question mark about halfway between them.]
[Caption below the panel:]
My research suggests the existence of an 800-meter sphere that tastes okay.

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base balls are delicious after boiling and peeling172.68.64.212 00:19, 13 February 2024 (UTC)

You seem to be confusing baseballs with eggs. Barmar (talk)
And who the hell calls baseballs “bAsE bAlLs”. 42.book.addict (talk) 02:40, 13 February 2024 (UTC)

who's the authority on whether or not the earth and the moon are "not tasty"????, i think the moon would be pretty delicious actually 00:26, 13 February 2024 (UTC)GR8GH

Some Apollo astronauts reported that moondust tastes and smells like gunpowder. Barmar (talk) 00:28, 13 February 2024 (UTC)
Yum! 42.book.addict (talk) 02:41, 13 February 2024 (UTC)
Sounds delicious to me. 11:09, 13 February 2024 (UTC)
My favorite! L-Space Traveler (talk) 12:56, 15 February 2024 (UTC)
Sure, if you like green cheese! 03:26, 13 February 2024 (UTC)
I actually quite like a good blue cheese, and had a blue (red) leicester only yesterday. But some actual sage derby would fulfil the role of a green one quite tastily. 04:56, 13 February 2024 (UTC)
Green_cheese can be perfectly tasty - it's just a young unaged cheese. 11:13, 13 February 2024 (UTC)
"Not like any cheese I've ever tasted"-Wallace172.70.127.43 21:30, 14 February 2024 (UTC)

In Fuck Grapefruits, watermelons were just slightly tasty. Does he like other melons so much that the average melon is as tasty as grapes? Or has he learned how delicious watermelon actually is? Barmar (talk) 00:42, 13 February 2024 (UTC)

I think that he probably just learned how delicious watermelon is. 42.book.addict (talk) 02:41, 13 February 2024 (UTC)
Watermelon is different genus (albeit in the same family) to most melons, so I'd assume watermelon is excluded here. 11:19, 13 February 2024 (UTC)
Of course silly discussion but the melons is listed below grapes on the tasty scale. And if that scale is also log then they could be deemed to taste much less nice than grapes even with this slight difference. Maybe even grape fruit would be close to this line? But also melons does not mean water melons! --Kynde (talk) 06:33, 14 February 2024 (UTC)

This comic is begging for another of his four-corner plots, not a line graph. Ball bearings: lower left. Bowling balls: middle bottom. Tapioca: upper left. Cheese balls: upper middle. 03:26, 13 February 2024 (UTC)

My first thought was that he clearly isn't accounting for frequency, because I'm pretty sure there's a lot more oranges than baseballs...
ProphetZarquon (talk) 05:06, 13 February 2024 (UTC)
Where do you place eyeballs in that graph? (Don't need to eat them to taste them... Only lick) 08:25, 27 February 2024 (UTC)
(But that means you're missing the best bit... Would you just lick an egg? Or even a scotch egg?) 15:18, 27 February 2024 (UTC)

It's a linear interpolation, Michael. How big could the error be? 10%? 03:51, 13 February 2024 (UTC)

Grapes are spherical? I guess some varieties. Nitpicking (talk) 04:12, 13 February 2024 (UTC)

With a logarithmic x axis and an unlabelled y axis, I find calling it “linear interpolation” without further explanation disingenious. 08:08, 13 February 2024 (UTC)

I think we have to give serious consideration as to how untasty the Sun is, and the possibility of subatomic particles being absolutely delicious. 10:07, 13 February 2024 (UTC)

Can't we just ask whoever tasted quarks to figure out the different flavours? 11:22, 13 February 2024 (UTC)

Baseballs aren't the only questionable object for this theory..... think of the marbles!!!-- 12:41, 13 February 2024 (UTC)

Marbles are tasteless. SDSpivey (talk) 14:44, 14 February 2024 (UTC)

In looking for something else that might fulfil the 800m sphere criteria I stumbled across this :o(| I'll make no comment on potential tastiness. 12:58, 13 February 2024 (UTC)

Soylent Green meatball. Barmar (talk) 16:31, 13 February 2024 (UTC)

Galactus would totally disagree with this graph. 16:24, 13 February 2024 (UTC)

As would Unicron... and Dormammu...
ProphetZarquon (talk) 17:57, 13 February 2024 (UTC)
. . . Omnipotus . . . L-Space Traveler (talk) 12:56, 15 February 2024 (UTC)

Here's a link to a mile-long hotdog miles-of-hotdog, while technically not a single hotdog nor a sphere it's a mile's worth of hotdogs. I recall there once being created a mile-long submarine / hoagie / po-boy sandwich, but couldn't find it on a quick google search. That also is not remotely spherical. Rtanenbaum (talk) 16:41, 13 February 2024 (UTC)

The moon is made of delicious cheese, isn't it? That would put it in the upper right corner. 16:53, 13 February 2024 (UTC)

Giant peaches?

Am I reading this wrong, or is the mark for grapes just slightly to the left of the tick for 10^-1 m? Which suggests that grapes are about 8 cm wide? 19:21, 13 February 2024 (UTC)

Looks to me like it's about 2/3 the way between 10^-2 and 10^-1. So call it between 10^-1.3 and 10^-1.4. Which is between 4cm and 5cm. Still a rather large grape, but perhaps more plausible if he's measuring across its widest dimension. 10^-1.6 (2.5cm) would perhaps give a more representative grape length, or maybe 10^-1.7 (2cm) if he normalised the measurements to account for their spheroid(ish) nature. But we'd also have to get in to the question of when is a grape a grape? There will be lots of grapes that will never reach more than a few mm, but not ones that we would normally eat. His melon looks to be about 10^-0.7, or 20cm, which again seems rather large for an average dimension (though proportionately less so than the grape). 09:57, 14 February 2024 (UTC)

I wonder if this is a reference to James and the Giant Peach 21:04, 13 February 2024 (UTC)

IDK how you'd define "tastes okay", but I bet you could find an 800m comet that's about 50% ice & 50% dust. Snuffysam (talk) 21:29, 13 February 2024 (UTC)

I think you would need less than 50% of dust for "taste OK". Still, you may be on right track - there should be some comet consisting of mostly ice which would taste OK. -- Hkmaly (talk) 04:15, 14 February 2024 (UTC)
Or one that was 50% dust and 50% ice cream. 09:39, 14 February 2024 (UTC)

Why and how did John Young taste the moon? I heard moon dust is cancerous, far more jagged than earth sand, and even if it WAS just earth sand, it would be awful to put anywhere near your mouth. 09:16, 14 February 2024 (UTC)

I've heard it had some pretty nasty effects on Cave Johnson. 11:13, 14 February 2024 (UTC)
SPAAAAAAACEEEE!!!! Elektrizikekswerk (talk) 12:34, 14 February 2024 (UTC)
I'm sure that when they removed their helmets back in the capsule, some of the dust was airborne. SDSpivey (talk) 14:44, 14 February 2024 (UTC)

Anyone else notice that the Earth is slightly more tasty than the Moon? Weslar (talk) 16:40, 14 February 2024 (UTC)Weslar

This was mentioned, for some time (I even rephrased the original prose about it), but it seems to have been excised during a subsequent edit. The thoughts were that this is because there were known tasty bits in it. I refined that to "on the surface", or similar wording. 17:28, 14 February 2024 (UTC)

Maybe the 800-meter sphere that tastes okay would be humans? 03:29, 16 February 2024 (UTC)

Probably best candidate for the 800 m sphere that tastes ok would be some kind of fungus. 16:54, 16 February 2024 (UTC)

Cheese. A big wheel of cheese. (Maybe blue cheese, for anyone still liking the idea of fungus...) 18:46, 16 February 2024 (UTC) -- addendum: no, wait, that'd be absolutely delicious, not "tastes ok". At least if it's actual proper cheese and not squeezy stuff or hamburger-slice stuff.

Jumon (the “j” pronounced like the “s” in “measure”), desert treat from India, perfectly spherical, between grapes and tangerines in size, and spiked upward off the scale for tastiness, also breaks this correlation. 21:42, 16 February 2024 (UTC)

Is it worth mentioning that in "What if? 2" Randall says that stars (roughly spherical) taste overwhelmingly sour? Nitpicking (talk) 17:31, 19 February 2024 (UTC)