# 12: Poisson

Poisson |

Title text: Poisson distributions have no value over negative numbers |

## Explanation

Cueball expresses himself as a Poisson distribution, which shows the probability of a given number of events occurring in a fixed interval of time or space. The X axis typically represents the "number of events" while the Y axis is a decimal representing the probability (e.g., 0.5 for 50% probability) a given number of events will occur in that fixed interval of time or space. It is commonly represented by a bar graph or a scatter graph (sometimes with a line connection to show a trend, even though there is no actual value for non-integers).

What's important to note for this comic is that this distribution only has data points on non-negative integers and is not continuous through decimal numbers or (as the image text tells us) negative numbers because events can't occur 0.3 of a time, or −2 times. After implying that the concept of a person being a mathematical distribution is irrational, Black Hat suggests he is "less than zero". Since the Poisson distribution doesn't exist or has no value at negative values, Cueball no longer exists to Black Hat and thus either leaves or disappears magically. Cueball repeating his claim may also be a reference to the fact that the Poisson point process is memoryless. Randall was still experimenting with character design, as Cueball has a face in the first two frames.

In the title text, as in some other early comics, Randall explains the joke rather than adding to it.

## Transcript

- [Cueball is talking to Black Hat. Cueball has his mouth wide open and has both of his arms up.]
- Cueball: I'm a poisson distribution!

- [Same scene, except Cueball has only one arm up.]
- Cueball: Still a Poisson distribution!
- Black Hat: what the hell, man. Why do you keep saying that?

- [Cueball's face is gone, and he is not holding any arms up.]
- Cueball: Because I'm totally a poisson distribution.
- Black Hat: I'm less than zero.

- [Cueball is gone. Black Hat is now whistling.]

## Trivia

- This comic and 5: Blown apart were posted for the first time on the first day of xkcd.com. Both of these comics were exclusively published on xkcd.com and were never shared on LiveJournal.
- This comic was released on a Sunday.

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# Discussion

Rikthoff (talk) The date of issue of this comic is off. Does anybody have the correct date? Does anybody know the song that BlackHat is singing in the last frame?

I always imagine the song is either the Bangles cover of "hazy shade of winter" from the movie Less than Zero though I have also imagined it to be "saved by zero" by the Fixx.

- Did anyone notice the pun on poison and Poisson? 108.162.254.174 18:39, 10 March 2014 (UTC)
- What pun? Replacing "Poisson" with "poison" anywhere doesn't produce any additional meaning. Zowayix (talk) 18:54, 29 April 2014 (UTC)
- On the other hand, "Poisson", in French, despite being the name of the discoverer of this distribution, also means "fish". thus maybe the "no memory" joke? 141.101.104.101 21:43, 27 April 2017 (UTC)

- What pun? Replacing "Poisson" with "poison" anywhere doesn't produce any additional meaning. Zowayix (talk) 18:54, 29 April 2014 (UTC)

Note that the 'h' in the word 'hell' looks like 'λ'. 141.101.64.35 20:03, 21 July 2014 (UTC)

Also note that the Poisson distribution is "memoryless" (like the exponential distribution) which explains why the Poisson is content to continue repeating this fact. 108.162.222.178 16:44, 21 April 2015 (UTC)

The coinflip distribution described in the second paragraph not a Poisson Distribution. Rather it is a binomial distribution (or a Bernoulli distribution for the single flip case). 108.162.229.163 11:11, 7 September 2015 (UTC)

- I deleted it. 173.245.50.154 12:25, 7 September 2015 (UTC)

The first three panels establish that Cueball is a Poisson distribution, that Black Hat finds him annoying and that both parties exist and can communicate with each other. In other words, Black Hat's value is compatible with a Poisson distribution. The implication of panel three seems to be that Black Hat isn't *stating* his value but is stating his *change* in value to "I'm less than zero." This is similar to the phrase, "I'm less than impressed." The change in value *causes* Cueball to vanish. In the fourth panel, Black Hat is whistling a happy tune; pleased at having removed an annoyance. --DP9000 (talk) 02:44, 22 February 2016 (UTC)

If Cueball only exists for non-negative integers, how can he be irrational?141.101.76.16 16:08, 3 January 2018 (UTC)

- fish red dwarf

honestly my first thought was Rimmers advanced theory on pourus circuits in his astro navigation exam in which he wrote i am a fish numerous times saluted and passed out but a hot second was 'i am a fish merchant'? -- Strawdog (talk) *(please sign your comments with ~~~~)*

Also trivial piece of trivia: one of the comics drawn on graph paper 172.71.26.64 (talk) 00:17, 13 April 2023 *(please sign your comments with ~~~~)*

- Covered by the Category:Checkered paper appended to the page... 172.70.85.67 00:23, 13 April 2023 (UTC)