Title text: Protip: You can win every exchange just by being one level more precise than whoever talked last. Eventually, you'll defeat all conversational opponents and stand alone.
| This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: The article seems plentiful in detail, but maybe things could get a little better structured.|
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- The picture is designed to have us thinking about a planet (presumably Earth), such that when we read the first speaker's comment, we interpret it as "The Earth is flat", which was the earliest view of the planet. (The speaker does not explicitly state their subject, however, which leads to the comic's punchline.)
- The second speaker explains that the Earth is actually a sphere, tracking the progression of knowledge of the Earth's shape.
- The third speaker provides further detail on the shape, that rather than being spherical, the Earth is actually an oblate spheroid. On Earth, this occurs because a rotating body tends to bulge at the equator (where the matter experiences greater centrifugal forces - analogous to experiencing more force at the outside of a round-a-bout rather than at the centre), and is known as the equatorial bulge.
- A more accurate description is the Earth Gravitational Model 1996 which provided a detailed map of Earth's gravitational field. This therefore refines the oblate spheroid model even further.
- The next speaker notes that this is still a very high level model of the planet (necessary because of the sizes involved) and that the true shape of the planet is given by the actual local topography (i.e., mountains, hills, valleys, etc.) which can be thought as overlaid on the planet wide models.
- Changing tack, the remaining speaker notes that our planet sits in a curved space-time, where our planet's gravity, as well as all other objects, bends the space and time around them. On the largest scale, this has the potential to lead to a curvature of the four dimensional space-time of the universe, hence "universe that is curved". Such a universe can either be "open" or "closed", depending on how much mass and energy there is. In a "closed" universe, if you drew a large enough triangle in space, you would find that the angles did add up to more than 180 degrees (just like if it was drawn on the surface of a balloon - in this case, the angles would add up to more than 180 degrees). In an "open" universe, the sum of the angles would be less than 180 degrees.
- Finally, the first speaker comments again, and we now interpret this as referring not to the planet but to the universe itself - current observations suggest that the balance of matter and energy in the universe is such that the universe is, in fact, flat on the largest scales. (Whether this is coincidence or reflective of underlying laws is currently unknown.)
- The arguments could continue around the circle, now referring to the universe. They aren't generally applicable but going round the circle a second time suggests that some similar truth may apply at the scale of the universe, which in turn is again embedded in something else (a kind of meta-universe). The circular layout of the comics invites to continue without end, a nice example of meta-humor.
- The comic may be a reference to "The Relativity of Wrong," an essay by Isaac Asimov which uses the Earth's shape as a central example of the role of models in science.
The pun of the title text lies in the ambiguity of the last sentence. "Eventually, you'll defeat all conversational opponents and stand alone" can literally be interpreted as 'winning' all the debates and standing alone as a sole champion, which would seem to be a flattering thing, but the other interpretation, arguably more likely to occur, suggests that the speaker is going to drive away all conversational partners by being an insufferable nitpick and end up alone, with no-one wanting to speak to them.
- An example of closed geometry is spherical geometry, where the sum of the angles of a triangle is π < A + B + C < 3π http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spherical_trigonometry
|This transcript is incomplete. Please help editing it! Thanks.|
- [Six people are standing upon a white circle as if it were a miniature planet. Each person is facing the reader and says something to the person on their right. All texts are displayed as a near-continuous stream over their heads to form one circle that encloses the whole picture.]
- [From topmost, going clockwise.]
- Cueball: Actually, measurements suggest it's flat.
- Ponytail: Actually, it's a sphere.
- White Hat: Actually, it's an oblate spheroid.
- Megan: Actually, it's a sphere defined by the EGM96 coefficients.
- Hairy 1: Actually, it's that plus local topography.
- Hairy 2: Actually, it's embedded in a universe that's curved.
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