1212: Interstellar Memes

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Interstellar Memes
The strongest incentive we have to develop faster-than-light travel is that it would let us apologize in advance.
Title text: The strongest incentive we have to develop faster-than-light travel is that it would let us apologize in advance.


Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Some talk about the speed of light and the transcript would be good too.
If you can address this issue, please edit the page! Thanks.
Meme Star Origin Year
Yabba dabba doo! Castor Flintstones 1960
You've got to ask yourself one question: "Do I feel lucky?" Lambda Aurigae Dirty Harry 1971
Where's the beef? HR 1614 Slogan for Wendy's
And now for something completely different. Capella Monty Python 1969
Here's lookin' at you, kid. Kappa Reticuli Casablanca 1942
My spoon is too big! Kapteyn's Star Rejected
May the force be with you. Delta Trianguli Star Wars 1977
Peanut butter jelly time! Luyten's Star Peanut butter jelly time
Rosebud. Alpha Hydri Citizen Kane 1941
Oh my god, they killed Kenny! - You bastards! Ad Leonis South Park
...God kills a kitten! - A what? Procyon
I still can't believe Bellatrix- - Dude, get over it. Sirius Harry Potter
Ninjas fight all the time! Epsilon Eridani
D'oh! HR 753 Simpsons
Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition! Beta Virginis Monty Python 1970
All your base are belong to us. Tau Ceti Zero Wing
Take me to your leader! - No, Steve. Caph
Chuck Norris doesn't sleep. He waits. Wolf 359 Chuck Norris jokes
Numa numa Lalande 21185 Numa Numa song
I can haz? Luhman 16 Lolcats
Internets! Gliese 65 George W. Bush 2000
Look at the tiny dancing Earth mammals! Gliese 1 Hampsterdance?
Wasssuup!?! Van Maanen's Star Budweiser Beer Advertising Campaign
Yippie-ki-yay, motherfucker. Beta Hydri Die Hard 1988
I pity the fool! Groombridge 1830 Mr T
The cake is a lie! Alpha Centauri A/B Portal 2007
Never gonna give you up Alpha Centauri A/B Never Gonna Give You Up (Rick Astley) / Rickroll 1987 / 2007
I'm on a boat! Proxima Centauri The Lonely Island
Chocolate Raaaiiin Barnard's Star Chocolate Rain video (Tay Zonday) 2007
Leave Britney alone! Barnard's Star LEAVE BRITNEY ALONE! (Chris Crocker) 2007
You're the man now, dog! Epsilon Indi Finding Forrester 2000
More cowbell! Kruger 60 Saturday Night Live
Hasta la vista, baby. Gliese 892 Terminator 1984
Let's get ready to ruuumble! Zeta Tucanae Michael Buffer (Wrestling & Boxing Ring Announcer)
You talkin' to me? Arcturus Taxi Driver 1976
Welcome to Good Burger, home of the good burger. - What's a burger? - I don't know. 70 Ophiuchi Good Burger 1997
Badger badger badger badger Ross 154 Badger Badger Badger (The Badger Song)
Live long and prosper. HD 211415 Star Trek (Vulcan Salute)
Name's Bond. James Bond. 51 Pegasi James Bond
Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn. Alpha Serpentis Gone with the Wind 1939
Mr. T ate my balls! Altair
I want the truth. - You can't handle the truth! Delta Pavonis A Few Good Men 1992
I'm going to make him an offer he can't refuse. Beta Trianguli Australis The Godfather 1972
Resistance is futile. Vega Star Trek (The Borg)
Oh... My... Gaawd Sigma Draconis Friends (Janice Goralnik) 1994
Ehh, what's up, Doc? Gienah Bugs Bunny
EXTERMINATE! Alderamin Doctor Who (The Daleks) 1963


If other star systems are listening in on our pop culture, these are the jokes and catchphrases they just learned about and are currently repeating way too much:
  • List of stars and catchphrases, see above*

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I'm surprised ponies didn't make the list given how massively and completely they took over the Internet in recent years. Then again, xkcd hasn't made any mention of the phenomenon, which is pretty nice, I guess. 04:35, 15 May 2013 (UTC)

Given that the closest one, "I'm on a boat," predates the first episode of MLP:FiM by more than a year (the brony phenomenon by even more), it's safe to say that ponies have not reached the nearest star yet. -- 04:42, 15 May 2013 (UTC)
Agreed. MLP:FIM premiered in October 2010. The show will hit the Alpha Centauri system early 2015. Frijole (talk) 16:28, 15 May 2013 (UTC)
I didn't have the date/distance chart at the time of posting, and indeed didn't realize how much time had past since some of these became popular. I feel much older with that in perspective. 04:03, 17 May 2013 (UTC)
As of this writing, the MLP premiere would now be at Luhman 16... and this very comic would be at Proxima Centauri. 00:17, 2 December 2017 (UTC)

It would be great to have the distances (in light years) of the stars as a fourth column. This would also provide a chronological order. -- 08:06, 15 May 2013 (UTC)

If I look at the page source, there is no transcript this time... Kaa-ching (talk) 08:41, 15 May 2013 (UTC)

anyone else notice Sirius is getting the Bellatrix one? Xseo (talk) 08:49, 15 May 2013 (UTC)

Yeah, it was funny :D Zakator (talk) 10:55, 15 May 2013 (UTC)
Should this reference be mentioned? On the one hand, it is a spoiler, but on the other hand, a) we *are* here to explain the jokes, and b) the book is almost a decade old, so I'm pretty sure there's a statute of limitations involved here. Curtmack (talk) 14:56, 15 May 2013 (UTC)
It's also funny that Sirius is a character in Harry Potter books/films. Double joke? --Dangerkeith3000 (talk) 15:21, 15 May 2013 (UTC)
Sorta, but it's Rowling's joke, not Randall's. The entire Black family (except for Narcissa, who was named before her family ties were established) is named after objects in the sky. Sirius is the only one in range. Of the ones I can remember, Regulus is 77 ly away, Bellatrix is roughly 250 ly away, and Andromeda is an entirely separate galaxy. --Druid816 (talk) 21:43, 16 May 2013 (UTC)

If any civilization have nothing better to do that repeating our memes, there is no need to apologize to them: they will obviously be glad they have at least something. How many people on our planet are repeating memes from other civilizations? None. (The circles in crop doesn't count, they are not send by radio.) -- Hkmaly (talk) 08:51, 15 May 2013 (UTC)

Given that the Rick Astley one is on the same star as Portal, which came out in 2007, it's probably meant to refer to rickrolling (and thus the date should also be 2007 for that one). Zakator (talk) 10:55, 15 May 2013 (UTC)

All your base are belong to us didn't start as a meme in the 1970. I don't have precise data right now but I'm pretty sure it was 1997-99 when it first appeared on the internet. Also, what is the Sun doing? 11:14, 15 May 2013 (UTC)

1998 according to knowyourmeme. And I think the Sun is probably sending out all those radio waves for the aliens to listen to, or something? But I couldn't find an accurate way to portray it, so I just left it at that. Zakator (talk) 11:18, 15 May 2013 (UTC)
The map only shows stars, or rather star systems. We live in the sol system, where all these memes originate from, hence the sun is shown as the origin of the "radio waves". In the same fashion, these supposed aliens don't actually live on the stars themselves, but rather on planets (or maybe moons?) around the stars. --Buggz (talk) 11:49, 15 May 2013 (UTC)

In "Take me to your leader! - No, Steve", what is the "No, Steve" part referencing? The link currently is just for the "take me to your leader" part. 15:14, 15 May 2013 (UTC)

I thought that the "No, Steve" made it into an explicit reference to Newsboys album/song (Steve Taylor wrote the lyrics for it). But then, that's a song fron 1996, and it would not be consistent with distance, while 1953 makes more sense... 15:49, 15 May 2013 (UTC)
"Steve" is an alien. "Take me to your leader," is a meme which "Steve" has been repeating. It helps if you read it with a somewhat exasparated inflection.-- 18:47, 16 May 2013 (UTC)

If you order the list by distance, further stars should get memes from earlier times, but this is not always the case. I think that some of the memes deserve more investigation, namely: "Internets!", "You're the man now, dog" and "All your base are belong to us!". Sort the list by distance and it becomes immediately apparent what I mean. 15:54, 15 May 2013 (UTC)

"Internets" was from George W Bush but in 2004. internets meme-- 16:08, 15 May 2013 (UTC)
"You're the man now, dog" refers to a web site launched in 2001 which fits to the approx. 12 Lj.--Dgbrt (talk) 18:29, 15 May 2013 (UTC)
"All your base are belong to us!" should also belong to 2001. I found this wired.com which explains that the internet meme probably began in 2001. But I am not sure.--Dgbrt (talk) 18:37, 15 May 2013 (UTC)

Wouldn't "I'm on a boat!", as a popular and well-known meme known to the wider public, refer to the Old Spice commercial, rather than a song by the The Lonely Island? None of the few I spoke with had ever heard of the group, but all credited the quote to "the Old Spice guy". 17:56, 15 May 2013 (UTC)

I thought about this also before. But "I'm on a boat!" is the meme published by "The Lonely Island".--Dgbrt (talk) 18:02, 15 May 2013 (UTC)
pick one Xseo (talk) 21:36, 15 May 2013 (UTC)
Old Spice Guy says "You're on a boat", and finishes with "I'm on a horse"[1]... "I'm on a boat" isn't quite right for OSG. --SurturZ (talk) 03:45, 16 May 2013 (UTC)
I sit corrected. 16:18, 16 May 2013 (UTC)

Title text: "The strongest incentive we have to develop faster-than-light travel is that it would let us apologize in advance." Is this an error by Randall? Faster-than-light would work if that travel did start at the time of transmission of those memes. Actually all messages had arrive at their targets so only Time-Travel would help. Nevertheless both ideas are impossible.--Dgbrt (talk) 18:51, 16 May 2013 (UTC)

It's too late to apologize to the stars on this comic, but we could apologize to the ones farther out who have yet to be annoyed by us. --Druid816 (talk) 21:45, 16 May 2013 (UTC)
No, it is possible. That's relativity! With faster than light travel we can still reach them. (Effect is similar as time travel!) Sebastian -- 04:59, 17 May 2013 (UTC)
Actually, depending on the reference frame (speed and movement direction of the observer) the notion of simultaneity does not hold for objects being spaciously apart. Sebastian -- 13:14, 17 May 2013 (UTC)
We can also apologize for newer memes. 04:03, 17 May 2013 (UTC)

I guess I'm not too surprised that residents circling Beta Virginis are still doing the Spanish Inquisition schtick 7+ years later. But they got Holy Grail over two years ago. So I assume they're also pretending to be Knights Who Say Ni by now. Opusthepenguin (talk) 16:34, 14 June 2013 (UTC)

It's worth mentioning that Randall debunks this idea of an interstellar audience in http://what-if.xkcd.com/47/. 23:53, 18 May 2014 (UTC)

The problem, though, with the older memes here, i.e. Gone With the Wind, Casablanca and Bugs Bunny, is that they were released to the public in film. They would have to wait until television broadcast in the '50s and '60s to be exported interstellarly. Most the other movies too, only they wouldn't have to wait so long. But we certainly wouldn't have stars 70 light-years away imitating us because that content hasn't gotten there yet. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

A clever point, yet disputable. One can imagine that the catchphrases of those days were repeated in radio. Similarly, "The cake is a lie" will probably not be observed from space due to its occurrence in a video game but from the subsequent repetition of the phrase in ether media. Mumiemonstret (talk) 15:39, 23 March 2015 (UTC)

http://abstrusegoose.com/163 is a similar concept -- 09:55, 9 January 2015 (UTC)

Fixed the transcript. This is my first time editing. Please help my fixing any mistakes I made. Thanks.Dontknow (talk) 05:20, 2 March 2017 (UTC)

The first public radio broadcast in 1910 would have reached 109 Piscium not too long ago. 02:54, 2 December 2017 (UTC)

Hi aliens from Barnard’s Star! (It’s like Hi Youtube)! 13:40, 30 October 2019 (UTC)

I didn't expect the spanish inquisition [citation needed] 07:08, 29 October 2021 (UTC)