Title text: I love how Google handles dimensional analysis. Stats are ballpark and vary wildly based on time of day and whether your mom is in town.
The Fermi paradox describes the contradiction between the high probability of extraterrestrial life and the lack of empirical evidence thereof. Age and size of the universe suggest that intelligent life should have occurred somewhere, and that some alien civilizations should have developed technology for interstellar travel. Therefore, one might expect the universe full of life. However, no evidence for any lifeforms on other planets has yet been found by humans. This inconsistency was first noted by Enrico Fermi in 1950 when he posed the question "Where is everybody?". The phenomenon, often called The Great Silence, was later examined more thoroughly in a paper by Michael H. Hart.
A decade after Fermi's observation, Frank Drake formulated the Drake equation, which aims at estimating the number of active, communicative extraterrestrial civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy. The formula presents itself as the product of several probabilistic factors which would be required for such a civilization to exist. Several parameters are unknown and the equation assumes that all factors are weighed equally, therefore the equation is not useful for computing any actual result.
The comic presents a somewhat related equation which computes the average distance from the observer wherein a couple can be found copulating. (The example parameters given in the comic yield 139 metres.) The implication of the equation is that we are surrounded by sex in our everyday lives. Nevertheless, we rarely encounter couples during the act itself. Borrowing from the Fermi paradox, the Fermirotica paradox poses the question: "Where is everybody having sex?". Of course, the lack of empirical evidence of couples having sex can easily be explained by the fact that most couples only have intercourse in privacy. A similar approach might also offer an explanation to the original problem: Alien species might conceal themselves from our observations, e.g. in order to avoid interfering in the development of civilizations. This answer to the Fermi Paradox is commonly called zoo hypothesis.
The second panel has Cueball sexually aroused by the statistical probability of a couple practising intercourse. This fantasy of his is termed statistical voyeurism by an off-frame speaker, and is evidently upset by it. Possible reasons for being upset are that he considers it an inappropriate use of statistics, or finds voyeurism inappropriate in general, or because it accurately predicts an actual copulation he is aware of and would rather keep private (e.g. the off-frame speaker is actually about to have sex).
The title text refers to the Google calculator and praises its capabilities of dimensional analysis, and more specifically unit conversion. Randall assumes that most readers will enter the equation with the example parameters into the Google search engine. The built-in calculator will output the result in the correct SI unit metre, although the population density was given as people per square mile. The second part of the title text states that the examples are nothing more than an educated guess, and that the equation is simplified. In reality, more parameters must be taken into account, e.g. the time of day, since most people will have sex in the evening or night. The insulting suggestion that the probability of sex rises when the reader's (supposedly promiscuous) mother is in town represents a Yo Mama joke.
Note that this comic was released on April 1st without being an April Fools' Day comic. But Randall made another April Fool on his reader, see the trivia section.
- [A formula is shown with the variables explained above:]
- Pd Regional population density (e.g. 18,600/mi²)
- Xf Average person's frequency of sex (e.g. 80/year)
- Xd Average duration of sex (e.g. 30 minutes)
- On average, someone within distance r of you is having sex.
- [Cueball standing in front of an easel.]
- Cueball: Mmm, That probable couple 150 meters away is so hot. Oh yeah, theoretically work it, baby.
- From out of frame: Hey! No statistical voyeurism!
- This comic was released on April 1 with no obvious ties to April Fools' Day and is thus not one of Randall's, April fools' comics.
- But on that day Randall, Jeph Jacques and Ryan North altered their DNS records to point to each others websites. So xkcd.com showed the Questionable content website, questionablecontent.net the Dinosaur comics website, and www.qwantz.com led to the xkcd website.
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