2941: Cell Organelles

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Cell Organelles
It's believed that Golgi was originally an independent organism who was eventually absorbed into our cells, where he began work on his Apparatus.
Title text: It's believed that Golgi was originally an independent organism who was eventually absorbed into our cells, where he began work on his Apparatus.


Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Created by a GOLGI ENDOPLASMIC RETICULUM. Do NOT delete this tag too soon.
If you can address this issue, please edit the page! Thanks.

This comic shows a biological cell diagram with a mix of real and fictional organelles, giving both accurate cell biology terms and humorous ones. Actual cell components include the nucleus, mitochondria, and Golgi apparatus, while unrelated concepts come from geology, engineering, anitvirus software, and even Star Wars. Labels like "evil endoplasmic reticulum" and "sticky endoplasmic reticulum" are variations of real cellular organelles. Other labels like "pith," "mantle," and "Vitreous humor," are borrowed from other types of circular cross-sectional diagrams (e.g., of fruit, planets, and eyeballs).

The title text is a fictional backstory to the Golgi apparatus, an essential cell organelle involved in processing and packaging proteins. It suggests that Camillo Golgi, the scientist who discovered the Golgi apparatus, was originally an independent organism that was supposedly absorbed into our cells, where it then started working on what is now known as the Golgi apparatus. The joke is a satirical take on endosymbiotic theory, which posits that certain organelles within eukaryotic cells, like mitochondria and chloroplasts, originated from independent symbiotic prokaryotic organisms that were absorbed by a host germ cell. Golgi is drawn in the comic as a cute little alien.

Label Meaning Real? Cell organelle? Explanation
Smooth endoplasmic reticulum A network of tubular membranes within the cytoplasm of the cell, involved in the transport of materials. Yes Yes A standard term for the smooth (i.e., not ribosome-covered) portion of the endoplasmic reticulum.
Lithosphere The rigid outer part of the earth, consisting of the crust and upper mantle. Yes No Term from geology; part of the Earth's crust. Labeled cross-sectional diagrams of cells and of the layers of the Earth are commonly found in science textbooks.
O-ring A mechanical gasket in the shape of a torus; used to seal connections. Yes No Engineering term. Both the o-ring and pith are drawn connected to the inner cell membrane. Made famous in pop culture for being the root cause of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.
Pith The central tissue in plants, used for nutrient transport. Yes No Botanical term. Most people think of pith as the layer of soft tissue between the skin and the flesh of citrus fruit, which explains its position in the diagram. Both the pith and o-ring are drawn connected to the inner cell membrane. A layer of pith was recently seen only 101 comics ago, in 2840: Earth Layers.
Nucleus The central and most important part of an object, forming the basis for its activity and growth. Yes Yes The cell nucleus is an actual cell organelle which houses DNA.
Nucleolus A small dense spherical structure in the nucleus of a cell during interphase. Yes Yes Actual cell organelle, involved in ribosome production.
Nucleoloulous Not a real term. No No A humorous continuation of the terms "nucleus" and "nucleolus." The nucleolus does have internal components, such as the fibrillar center, but none of them go by the name "Nucleoloulous"
Nucleons Protons and neutrons in the nucleus of an atom. Yes No While cells contain nucleons, the depicted circles are far larger than actual nucleons.
Drain plug A stopper for a drain. Yes No A plumbing term, which could refer to a porosome. Even small, temporary damage to the integrity of the cell membrane puts the cell at immediate and great risk of death.
Evil endoplasmic reticulum Not a real term. No No The rough endoplasmic reticulum is covered in ribosomes; the "evil" endoplasmic reticulum in the comic is covered in small spikes, making it evil.
Hypoallergenic filling Materials that cause relatively fewer allergic reactions. Yes Technically not incorrect Consumer product term, used e.g. for pillows and mattresses. If the cytoplasm doesn't cause allergic reactions within the cell, it is hypoallergenic.
Weak spot A vulnerable point. Yes Conceivably Cell membrane surfaces do indeed vary in strength, often due to the presence of organelles such as ion channel pores or porosomes, both of which can be leveraged by viruses to enter cells.
Mitochondria Organelles that generate energy for the cell. Yes Yes Actual cell organelles. Mitochondria are widely known as the "powerhouse of the cell," a phrase originally coined in 1957 by biologist Philip Siekevitz[1] which came to prominence online in the mid-2010s.[actual citation needed]
Midichlorians Fictional microorganisms in the Star Wars universe, which confer Force sensitivity and thereby associated Jedi (and Sith) powers. No Fictional It's unclear whether George Lucas intended for "midi-chlorians" to be endosymbiotic organelles or internal symbionts.
Chloroplasts if you're lucky Organelles in plant cells responsible for photosynthesis. Yes Yes, but in plants and plantlike organisms Actual cell organelles, found in plant cells and those of several different lineages of non-plant microorganisms and seaweeds. The phrase "if you're lucky" alludes to the good fortune that an organism, be it plant, animal, or microbe, gains by being able to photosynthesize, getting energy from sunlight, rather than have to run around all the time chasing energy. This benefit makes chloroplasts worth stealing. Experiments have been conducted to transplant components of chloroplasts into mammal cells to slow disease. See also Zonker Harris.
Human skin The outer covering of the human body. Yes No Skin is a tissue (multicellular structure). The idea that a complex tissue can be wrapped around a single cell, as if it were a cell wall, or outer cell membrane, or extracellular matrix, is patently, and humorously, absurd. This may be referencing the common factoid that house dust is mostly human skin, implying that the cell is covered in a layer of dust.
Carbonation Carbon dioxide dissolved in a liquid. Yes No Carbonation causes soda pop and similar liquids to bubble, fizz, foam, and effervesce. The little dots depicted in the comic look like carbonation bubbles.
Golgi Camillo Golgi (1843–1926) was an Italian biologist and pathologist who discovered the Golgi apparatus; known also for his works on the central nervous system. Yes No The real Golgi was not and is not a tiny alien being who merged with our cells, as the comic and title text imply. While the mitochondria and chloroplast may have been evolved in such a manner (through being consumed by a host cell), the golgi apparatus wasn't absorbed in such a manner, and Golgi was most likely not an alien.
Golgi apparatus A complex of vesicles and folded membranes involved in secretion and intracellular transport. Yes Yes Actual cell organelle, which takes polypeptide chains from the rough endoplasmic reticulum via transport vesicles and processes them into their protein structure before sending them (again via vesicles) to their destination such as an organelle or outside of the cell.
Norton AntiVirus A software product designed to protect computers from malware. Yes No Viruses do attempt to insert themselves into cells, and many cell types do have antiviral mechanisms (notably the CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) DNA sequences in prokaryotes, which resist viral (bacteriophage) infection - however, the cell shown is not prokaryotic, since it contains a nucleus). A system designed to protect against computer viruses is unlikely to be helpful, though, since biological viruses are completely different, and cells have not been architected to support such software.
Sticky endoplasmic reticulum Not a real term, although parts of the reticula have sticky pockets.[2] No No Another humorous twist on the actual types of endoplasmic reticula.
Pleiades A cluster of stars in the constellation Taurus. Yes No Even a single star is far too big to fit in a cell.[citation needed] The labeled cluster in the comic looks like the actual constellation, as if this were a depiction of the night sky.
Natural flavor Flavoring derived from natural sources. Yes Conceivably A common ingredient on food labels (and sometimes cosmetics, etc.), usually meaning any substance to add flavor, aroma, or both, other than synthetic chemicals which are referred to as artificial flavors.
Cellophane A thin, transparent sheet made of regenerated cellulose. Yes No A type of packaging material. A cell wall is indeed made of cellulose, though not in the form of cellophane. Also, this drawing looks more like an animal cell (albeit a very odd one), which unlike plants and fungi, do not usually have a cell wall.
Rough endoplasmic reticulum Endoplasmic reticulum with ribosomes attached, involved in protein synthesis. Yes Yes Actual cell organelle. "Rough" refers to the presence of ribosomes covering its membrane, which translate messenger RNA into polypeptide chains. Normally the endoplasmic reticulum would wrap around the cell nucleus.
Ventricle A chamber of the heart that pumps blood out. Yes No Ventricles are actually part of the body, and they are composed of many cells. Possibly a pun on vesicle (or vacuole), a small membrane-enclosed vessel, such as the transport vesicles that carry polypeptides from the rough endoplasmic reticulum to the Golgi apparatus for processing.
Mantle The layer of the earth between the crust and the core. Yes No Misplaced geological term with many other meanings. Labeled cross-sectional diagrams of the layers of the Earth are commonly found in science textbooks.
Slime A moist, soft, and slippery substance, or a brand name for a goopy substance sold as a toy. Yes No Could refer to the slimy texture and appearance of cytoplasm, but not specific to cells. Slime was a frequent appearance on the Nickelodeon TV kids channel during Randall's youth in the 90s (a signature aspect of the network, it was introduced when Nickelodeon became the American home of the Canadian kids' show You Can't Do That on Television, which had a running gag of dumping green slime on anyone who said "I don't know").
Vitreous humour The clear gel that fills the space between the lens and the retina in the eyeball. Yes No The vitreous humour is in the eyes' extracellular matrix, not inside cells. Labeled cross-sectional diagrams of eyes are also commonly found in science textbooks.
Seeds Plant embryos used for reproduction. Yes No Seeds are multicellular, and sometimes contain small proportions of non-cellular tissue. Cells are found in seeds, not the other way around. Seeds would be labeled on a cross-sectional diagram of a fruit, not a cell.


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

Cell Organelles

[A cell is shown with the following structures and areas labeled, counter-clockwise from upper left:]

  • Smooth endoplasmic reticulum
  • Lithosphere
  • O-Ring
  • Pith
  • Nucleus
  • Nucleolus
  • Nucleoloulous
  • Nucleons
  • Drain plug
  • Evil endoplasmic reticulum
  • Hypoallergenic filling
  • Weak spot
  • Mitochondria
  • Midichlorians
  • Chloroplasts if you're lucky
  • Human skin
  • Carbonation
  • Golgi
  • Golgi apparatus
  • Norton AntiVirus
  • Sticky endoplasmic reticulum
  • Pleiades
  • Natural flavor
  • Cellophane
  • Rough endoplasmic reticulum

[These labels are inside the cell:]

  • Ventricle
  • Mantle
  • Slime
  • Vitreous humour
  • Seeds

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I'm a little disappointed there isn't a continuous endoplasmic reticulum with a zigzag in it. Rogue mathematician away 19:20, 3 June 2024 (UTC)

Sorry about the edit conflicts, attempting to fix.... 20:12, 3 June 2024 (UTC)

Re [3] is LLM use forbidden? I recall we have several ChatGPT-authored explanations, and had an ongoing discussion back when it was new. In any case, I've proofread and vouch for it, so I'm replacing the text. I encourage anyone who's bothered by it to paraphrase instead of delete. 21:22, 3 June 2024 (UTC)

If you've got the time to check AI-generated content properly and agree that it's what you would have written, you've got time to write it from scratch exactly how you'd have written it. And you get dangerously close to just putting in AI-content without checking at all, which right now is remains foolhardy.
But, most of all, anything anyone submits can be changed by anyone else, and I don't know who picked up on it being AI and dealt with it the way they did, but only consensus can truly resolve where any attempt to impose an edit leads. 22:36, 3 June 2024 (UTC)
I almost completely agree with you for Wikipedia (I'd just change 'would' to 'could') and similar wikis, but it's undeniable that ExplainXkcd is different in some very substantial and obvious ways, many of which bear on whether to utilize AI. In particular, I would accept pretty much anything that helps explain the comic whether authored by human, machine, animal, or alien, but not hesitate for a second to, as the text below the Summary text input box says, edit it "mercilessly" whether I thought it was LLM-generated or not. But I wouldn't delete an even barely serviceable explanation just because I thought it came from an LLM, even if it was objectively low quality. I would try to improve it, which almost never means starting over from scratch. I'm not sure I believe the same is true for humans, who often insert, e.g., vandalism, trolling, or extremely undue and/or fringe topic passages. If an LLM is doing that, there's probably a human behind it. 00:21, 4 June 2024 (UTC)
I must call you out on "If you have time to check it, you have time to write it". That is vastly untrue, I'm appalled to think anyone could actually believe that. Personally, when I write anything (including this comment) I write it carefully, then when I'm done I go back and reread, acting as my own editor, checking if I didn't skip words or punctuation, I made all my points. With AI text that'd be starting at my second step. Even someone who is less meticulous and doesn't have an editing step in their own writing like I do, editing afterwards is faster than writing, with editing it's all or mostly there, it's just polishing it to make sure it's clear and concise and accurate. As an explanation, the writing is even more complex and time consuming. An explanation here is even more so. Sorry, starting with AI then editing it would be a huge time saver, it's not even close to the same amount of time. With this stuff I suspect AI would bring up things that humans might neglect, forget, or skip. NiceGuy1 (talk) 04:38, 9 June 2024 (UTC)
Those who write quickly and well have an interest in preventing others from acquiring those skills cheaply. Those skilled at the abacus probably felt the same way about the invention and widespread use of pen and paper. On the other hand, maybe they'd read J.G. Ballard. 06:11, 9 June 2024 (UTC)
Both the paragraphs and the table have been edited far enough from what ChatGPT pretty obviously came up with (almost all of which I would say merit inclusion unaltered, looking at the initial edits; although there is evidence that the LLM output was copyedited and wikilinked in a way that it would probably not do, i.e., we use the {{w}} template here which is not at all a Mediawiki standard, the Wikimedia wikis having a different form [[w:...]]) so that whatever deleterious LLM contamination they had has surely been beat out of them at this stage. Perhaps the GenAI deletionist is trying to encourage others to not fall prey to reliance on LLMs? A worthy goal, but I agree paraphrasing is far superior. 01:57, 4 June 2024 (UTC)

Re: the chloroplasts explanation: how do we know that this is an animal cell? (Would be good to say why...) -- Dtgriscom (talk) 22:18, 3 June 2024 (UTC)

The cell has a membrane instead of a wall. 22:24, 3 June 2024 (UTC)
NO!!! ALL cells have membranes. Cell Walls are exterior to plasma (cell) membrane (from a real biologist) (talk) 19:21, 5 June 2024 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
No, that’s human skin. Usb-rave (talk) 00:48, 4 June 2024 (UTC)
There are lots of organisms out there that have plastids (chloroplasts) and do not have cell walls ... that, in fact, do not fit the common conception of either 'plant' or 'animal'. Euglena might still be the most famous example - Euglena is more closely related to the protozoa that cause trypanosomiasis than to either plants or animals - but there are many others, and it's a deep rabbit hole. 18:52, 4 June 2024 (UTC)
And speaking of "lucky to have them", did you know that plastids are worth stealing? 21:14, 4 June 2024 (UTC)
Yeah, the rule of thumb is of course a generalization worthy of chemistry "rules" -- the bone cell being perhaps the most obvious uncategorizable corner case of several. 02:12, 4 June 2024 (UTC)

Why does Golgi look like an alien, he's so little and cute. Wtf. Psychoticpotato (talk) 23:11, 3 June 2024 (UTC)

You know what I would like to see from AI? A tiny white Grey Golgi alien working in the cytoplasm to build his apparatus. Please see below. 03:50, 4 June 2024 (UTC)
What if you animated it? Destroy all Plagiarized Information Synthesis Systems. (P.I.S.S.) Psychoticpotato (talk) 21:26, 5 June 2024 (UTC)
I think the Golgi alien is supposed to look a little like Grogu, the true name of Baby Yoda from The Mandalorian. The names are similar. Barmar (talk) 20:04, 10 June 2024 (UTC)

Should 2732: Bursa of Fabricius be referenced? It feels like the Golgi Apparatus is making a similar joke, if somewhat inverted. Dkfenger (talk) 01:19, 4 June 2024 (UTC)

To me, 'Drain plug' is an engine oil-drain plug. Yes it is a bolt, rarely used in biological systems. But a cell and an engine are normally full of fluid, while plumbing sinks are normally empty. --PRR (talk) 02:10, 4 June 2024 (UTC)

To me it's about as often something you would find in a kitchen or bathroom sink, especially if the plumbing was from the 1970s or earlier. Honestly I'm too young to know when sink plugs fell out of favor to levers. In any case, an actual hole in the cell membrane is almost always a potentially mortal wound, and few cells have any means of repairing all but the smallest tears. 02:47, 4 June 2024 (UTC)
To the average public, anyone who isn't a car mechanic, "drain plug" is that thing you stick in a kitchen sink or bathtub to stop the water from going down the drain, to collect water, for washing dishes/yourself/whatever. :) NiceGuy1 (talk) 05:28, 9 June 2024 (UTC)

Hello there! 👋 I think you guys mixed up midichlorian and mitochondria explanations. 👋 You surely will want to fix that. 👋 Also, you want to make me a sandwich. 05:13, 4 June 2024 (UTC)

LGTM. 09:29, 4 June 2024 (UTC)

I'm a little bit disappointed that there's no Sulawesi hidden in there. This is the sort of comci you'd expect it in. Elektrizikekswerk (talk) 06:48, 4 June 2024 (UTC)

I'm disappointed that, alongside the drain plug, there isn't a pain drug. 12:52, 4 June 2024 (UTC)
It would have had to have been a generic. 03:21, 5 June 2024 (UTC)
Generic, or genetic? 09:40, 5 June 2024 (UTC)
Generic, as in "not fancy". 13:20, 5 June 2024 (UTC)
I thought that was a pharmaceutical reference... Oh well. 16:35, 5 June 2024 (UTC)
It was. A generic is a plain drug, compared to its fancy siblings that are still under copyright. 20:02, 5 June 2024 (UTC)

I dislike that this table is in alphabetical order instead of the top-down order they were meant to be read. 10:08, 4 June 2024 (UTC)

"Fixed." Click the column heading to return to alphabetical order. 17:19, 4 June 2024 (UTC)
Yeah, usually lists and tables are in some kind of visual order as they appear in the comic. Not sure why someone would go through the effort of alphabetizing them in code when that's not the standard anyway... NiceGuy1 (talk) 06:18, 9 June 2024 (UTC)

I'm going to fail my Biology exam tomorrow because of this :( (talk) 11:52, 4 June 2024 (UTC)

Just wanted to leave a message to the person who added the 'citation needed' footnote to the remark that Golgi was not and is not an alien in our cells: Your, dear person, made my day. Thanks a ton! 08:31, 5 June 2024 (UTC) c-schroed

Wouldn't "Nucleololus" be a better continuation to "Nucleus" and "Nucleolus", with each term getting one more "ol" between "e" and the second "u"? 08:04, 4 June 2024 (UTC)

Lol! I did almost exactly the same thing about a quarter century ago while still in school. I'd been tasked with explaining the parts of a paramecium in our biology class but totally forgot to prepare - at all. However, I'd never let anybody call me a coward, least of all that young female teacher who had just started her career that year, so I unflinchingly went to the front and gave everyone at least five minutes of complete rubbish I made up on the spot, like how the paramecium has just eaten a fried egg as well as the comb for all its hair and that it secretly dreams of taking over the world's leaders' brains together with its buddies and how we can never be sure that hasn't already happened... Got an "E" instead of an "F" for my efforts, thereby proving the old adage that if you can't win her over with your merits you might still score by being entertaining. ;) PaulEberhardt (talk) 06:51, 12 June 2024 (UTC)

Golgi by AI art contest[edit]

Survey questions: (1) Which of these do you like the best? https://ibb.co/album/68tCSn Can you do better?

(2) Does anyone know how to make AI animations like those? 03:49, 4 June 2024 (UTC)

Does anyone know how to animate? No asking an algorithm, that's cheating :) Psychoticpotato (talk) 21:35, 5 June 2024 (UTC)
I'd just use GIMP, save layers of the necessary art as an animated .gif (other related formats are available). The art bit is the difficult bit for me, I'm better at retouching what's already there. Probably loads of more specialised onion-skinning animation apps around, too, but I know what I like. (You could also program your own transformation algorithms, to arbitrary degrees, but I reckon that either of you could do good things with the stretch/skew matrices without having to delve into that business.) 22:34, 5 June 2024 (UTC)
A few months ago someone had to alert me to the idea that there are people who take issue with AI-generated content, and why. EVERY comment of yours here indicates you're one such person. I must say, it perplexes me. I've been told the reason is to not take business/work away from professionals. Well, just look where you've taken this particular stand: Golgi art (I haven't looked, but I presume it's Alien Golgi). You need to realize that no, nobody knows how to animate, in general, statistically, if you look at the percentages. Silly question. People who do are an extreme minority. Unanimated, static images, the number is higher, but still on average not that many people can draw well enough to bother/dare sharing, never mind do so at a level relevant to this topic. So that leaves getting someone else to do it, said work/business. You think in the time before AI people would commission this? Would pay for such art of alien Golgi? NO! This is a silly concept that we'd like to see depicted, but it's not worth that. We'd just be satisfied with our imaginations. Anybody with an artistically capable friend might ask them, but this is a bit too petty to be bugging someone to do, and if they're anywhere close to a professional level they may not be willing to do it for free. THIS is what AI is good for, silly things which aren't for profit/business purposes. And it's not terribly feasible to sell AI art, or use it where you'd commission something, it often has silly errors and is instantly recognizable for what it is, it would appear unprofessional to use AI art in any professional context. For the most part, any art which would make sense to commission, will be commissioned. No worries. NiceGuy1 (talk) 06:18, 9 June 2024 (UTC)
I mean, I'd animate it if I had the time. Maybe in a couple weeks when my schedule's free. I hate finals. Psychoticpotato (talk) 15:35, 11 June 2024 (UTC)

Green Slime References[edit]

https://markrobinsonwrites.com/the-music-that-makes-me-dance/2017/5/2/green-slime-and-you-cant-do-that-on-television https://nickelodeon.fandom.com/wiki/Slime "Slime is a (usually) green semi-viscous substance that has been synonymous with Nickelodeon since its introduction on You Can't Do That On Television. It is typically dumped on a person's head in an act of either humiliation or celebration, referred to as being slimed." 15:45, 7 June 2024 (UTC)

Asking for a citation there seemed a bit silly to me, I didn't think there would be anything to link saying that slime is a signature of Nickelodeon, everything seems to just treat it as Known that Nickelodeon is synonymous with slime. Unless that person wanted proof that Randall likes Nick shows? THAT I'm sure there's no proof link, it's just something noticeable for anyone who has read a lot of XKCD. I checked the Wikipedia page for Nickelodeon, it only uses the word for slime-themed names (I think there was a SlimeFest listed, for example?). I've never seen/had that channel, but the concept always seemed ripped off from You Can't Do That On Television, it's a Canadian show I enjoyed as a teen that I know later got picked up by Nick, so I checked their Wikipedia, which says flat-out that Nickelodeon adopted their slime gag, so I just linked that. NiceGuy1 (talk) 05:49, 9 June 2024 (UTC)