883: Pain Rating
Title text: If it were a two or above I wouldn't be able to answer because it would mean a pause in the screaming.
In medical examinations, a doctor will sometimes ask the patient to assess their pain, to give the doctor a rough idea of the patient's condition. Cueball is asked by doctor Ponytail to compare the pain in his arm with the worst pain that he can imagine; however, a one-to-ten scale is not useful for Cueball because in his imagination the worst possible pain reduces him to a huddled ball, makes him forget his injured arm (which he somehow is able to bend without screaming), and rescales his current pain to a 1. Apparently, he has the capacity to imagine pain so intense that it dwarfs any possible real-world pain, thus skewing the scale, and this is what his friend Megan refers to when Ponytail asks what is wrong with his imagination. (According to the official transcript Megan is the patient's friend, and Ponytail is a doctor).
The title text further emphasizes that idea: If the pain was higher than one on his pain scale, it would already be so high that he would be reduced to uncontrollable, unending screaming. It is possible that the title text is implying that any break in the screaming whatsoever-- even to breathe-- would be impossible. If this is the case, then Cueball must be supplying his body with oxygen some other way. If the energy contained within the pain impulses in his nerves was being converted directly into oxygen via mass-energy conversion, then that would mean Cueball would, at just pain level two, be experiencing 1.3*10^19 pain impulses per second. There are only about 7 trillion (7*10^12) nerves in the human body, so Cueball would be experiencing the amount of pain that 1.85 million people would experience if every single nerve ending in their body was firing a pain signal. We here at explainxkcd shiver to think what Cueball could be envisioning.
A similar doctor Ponytail is shown in 996: Making Things Difficult with Megan and again in 1713: 50 ccs along with both Cueball and Megan. In 647: Scary Cueball (as Rob) also ends up in such a huddled up position.
- [Ponytail in a doctor's coat is carrying a clipboard and consulting with Cueball, who's sitting on a high medical table one arm down the other holding on to this arm at the inside of the elbow.]
- Ponytail: Any pain?
- Cueball: My arm really hurts.
- [Zoom out of same scene to include Megan is standing behind Ponytail.]
- Ponytail: How would you rate the pain, from one to ten, where ten is the worst pain you can imagine?
- [This frame-less panel zooms in on Cueball sitting on the table.]
- Cueball: The worst pain I can imagine?
- [Zoom in on the top of Cueball who ponders this, raising a thoughtful hand to his jaw.]
- [Same image but Cueball appears to be shocked having taken both hands in front of his mouth, four small lines coming out from the top of his head.]
- [Zoom out again as Cueball huddles up on the table, legs all the way up to his chin, arms tightly folded around the knees. Ponytail leans back towards Megan, both whispering as indicated with smaller font.]
- Cueball: One.
- Ponytail: ...What the hell is wrong with his imagination?
- Megan: It's not a normal place.
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