587: Crime Scene

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Jump to: navigation, search
Crime Scene
I think I see a Mandelbrot set! No, that's just blood spatters. Golly.
Title text: I think I see a Mandelbrot set! No, that's just blood spatters. Golly.

Explanation[edit]

Mathnet was a segment on the children's television show "Square One Television", where police mathematicians solved crimes and other mysteries by math. It parodies the Dragnet TV show (and earlier radio drama) about the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). This comic plays on that by implying that Mathnet was a real department of the LAPD, and that when the show was cancelled and the department was shut down its mathematicians were forced to become regular detectives.

Here, George Frankly, one of the two lead detectives on the show (a parody of Dragnet character Frank Smith), observes a murder scene along with another officer. His fellow officer, knowing him, tries to tell him off by saying that it is just two dead bodies. As a mathematician, George is constantly looking for potential patterns in the data. However, in this instance there are no obvious mathematical patterns, yet George nonetheless tries to look for one and observes that "two" is the third Fibonacci number. Since several small numbers are in the Fibonacci sequence, the fact that the number of bodies is one of these numbers is not the least interesting. The other officer tries to shut him down, discouraging this unhelpful line of thought.

The title text shows that this may not have helped since George now thinks he can see a Mandelbrot set, but he does quickly realizes that it was just blood splatters. The Mandelbrot set is a formula used to create certain kinds of fractals that you might imagine seeing in the something like blood spatters. The last word Golly is in response to George realizing he is seeing blood spatters - something he probably never did before on the children show.

The second comic in a row (and third in 16 comics) where a man is drawn with hair only on the sides of his head.

Transcript[edit]

[A crime scene is surrounded by tape wound around several pins four of which are inside this panel. A large black pool is on the ground, with splashes around it, and a hammer lying in one of these splashes. Two people are standing outside the tape; a police officer with a peaked cap with a white emblem is standing closest and to his left is a man with male pattern baldness, who we learn is called George.]
Policeman: Looks like a murder-suicide.
George: Any interesting mathematical patterns?
Policeman: No, George, just two dead bodies and a lot of blood.
George: Two... That's the third Fibonacci number!
Policeman: Not now, George.
[Caption below the frame:]
When Mathnet shut down, the officers had trouble reintegrating into the regular L.A.P.D.


comment.png add a comment! ⋅ comment.png add a topic (use sparingly)! ⋅ Icons-mini-action refresh blue.gif refresh comments!

Discussion

That officer is a fool. I'd say it'd be much more likely to relate to the first prime number (assuming you ignore 1, as apparently you're supposed to) than the third Fibonacci one, barring any prior incidents that might or might not be attributed to the same killer. Of course, we'd perhaps have to wait until three crime-scenes later to work out which of these patterns our Malevolently Mathematical Mastermind of Murder has memetically manipulated for us... Holy Torii, Batman! (And no wonder the policemen like both donuts and coffee cups... They're the same...) 178.105.100.250 00:20, 24 May 2013 (UTC)

The first prime number is -1!!! 141.101.104.20 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

" a man (presumably a former Mathnet member" - Not just anyone, the officer calls him George. George Frankly was the main character on the show. Just putting it out there. --Alcatraz ii (talk) 22:43, 6 June 2013 (UTC)

You know, this being a wiki and all, you could have added that yourself. Never mind, I've done it for you. 71.201.53.130 20:42, 20 August 2013 (UTC)

The original Fibonacci problem was formulated about the count of multiplying pairs of rabbits, starting with one pair. So 2 is definitely the 3rd number, not 4th, in that formulation. 108.162.246.5 22:21, 31 January 2014 (UTC)

off topic:i think this is a homage to this show 103.22.200.222 09:04, 22 February 2015 (UTC)

obviously inspired by The Da Vinci Code...162.158.165.16 10:58, 5 January 2018 (UTC)

I am unsure, but could the use of the word 'Golly' in the title text be a reference to the popular program to run Conway's game of life which goes by the same name? 141.101.99.105 16:53, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

There was a week-long series of Mathnet wherein the Fibonacci series was the focus and a recurring theme, including columns of tiles and artwork, and a parrot who'd call out "Eureka!" The mystery was of the "I inherited a clue about a key..." type. 108.162.216.163 13:46, 18 September 2015 (UTC)

The man with the hair around his neck

The man has male pattern baldness. It is not around his neck. Lackadaisical (talk) 02:56, 25 July 2016 (UTC)