Title text: On the other hand, physicists like to say physics is to math as sex is to masturbation.
Mathematics is the abstract study of topics encompassing quantity, structure, space, change, and others. Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through space and time, along with related concepts such as energy and force. They do this using mathematics. Chemistry is the science of matter, especially its chemical reactions, but also its composition, structure and properties. That is, they study a subset of physics, using a subset of physics. Biology is the subset of chemistry that is concerned with the study of life and living organisms, including their structure, function, growth, origin, evolution, distribution, and taxonomy. Psychology is the study of mental functions and behaviors, why living things do what they do individually, which makes it a subset of Biology. Sociology is the study of society, or, the study of groups of people and their interactions, which sounds an awful lot like taking the skills of psychology and applying them to a large group of people.
Now, mathematics has the classifications Pure mathematics (the maths you learned in school, and the subject of the field of maths,) and Applied mathematics (physics, chem, and so on.) Taking this to its logical extreme, the comic arranges the six scientific fields according to the Hierarchy of science, represented by a person on a chart of purity, saying that a field is 'more pure', than the fields depending on it. This is a topic often used in jokes between scientists of various fields as to who is more important. The physicist, Cueball, of which everyone else's work is based upon, feels that he is at the top... but is ultimately upstaged by the mathematician, Blondie, whose field is so pure that ultimately everything else could be seen as derived from it. After all, physics could not exist without math, thus ultimately everything can be expressed using mathematical equations. Thus, the mathematician snobbishly says that she didn't even see any of the other fields standing so far over to the left on the graph. Alternatively she is not snobby - she is just so far detached from the real world - that she doesn't even understand that there could be a comparison between her field and other fields. That is if she even knows about these other fields (what are you doing over there...)
The title text indicates physicists like to repeat the following quote attributed to Richard Feynman: “Physics is to math what sex is to masturbation.”
This ties the title of the comic, "Purity", to tie between various fields, to the topic of sex, as measured by the Purity Test."
- [Six characters are standing on a line with small ticks under each person. Above the two persons most central in the comic is an arrow pointing right. There are labels both above and below the arrow. Beneath each tick is a label. All the labels are listed here in order]
- Fields arranged by purity
- More pure
- [Above each of the six tick there is a person. The last person to the right is the mathematician, she stands at the far right edge of the comic, with much further distance between her and the second last person going right. The first four spaces between the first five persons are of equal distance. Except for the least pure sociologist they all say something addressed to the less pure person(s) on their left. The first mute person above the Sociologists tick is Megan. The second person above the Psychologists tick is a bald man with glasses and goatee beard holding a book under one arm. The third person above the Biologists tick is a Cueball-like guy with a squirming octopus in his hand. The fourth person above the Chemists tick is Ponytail holding up a test tube with bubbles coming out of the top. The fifth person above the Physicists tick is Cueball standing with his hands in his sides. Farthest out the final and sixth person above the Mathematicians tick is Blondie. She waves to the other five.]
- Psychologist: Sociology is just applied psychology.
- Biologist: Psychology is just applied biology.
- Chemist: Biology is just applied chemistry
- Physicist: Which is just applied physics. It's nice to be on top.
- Mathematician: Oh, hey, I didn't see you guys all the way over there.
- Blondie appearing as the mathematician could mean she is supposed to represent Miss Lenhart, but since Lenhart is defined as a teacher, which she can not clearly be said to be here, it is uncertain.
- Later a similar setup was used in 2057: Internal Monologues, although here the different science fields are not ranked against each other, and only the physicist is represented in both comics (although as Cueball in both).
- This comic is available as a signed print in the xkcd store.
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