Difference between revisions of "1350: Lorenz"

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(Walking: Hairy alone in silhouette.)
Line 409: Line 409:
***It seems that this image only appears before Hairy's alone walk (?).
***It seems that this image only appears before Hairy's alone walk (?).
**There are '''still-missing examples''' of him walking alone without this image first.
**There are '''still-missing examples''' of him walking alone without this image first.
***There is a '''still-missing''' example with the silhouette images of Hairy alone.
***An [https://xkcd.com/1350/#p:0cec96b0-bb15-11e3-8004-002590d77bdd example] with the silhouette images of Hairy alone.

Revision as of 21:57, 6 September 2021

Every choice, no matter how small, begins a new story
Title text: Every choice, no matter how small, begins a new story
  • NOTE: The above is the first panel of an interactive comic.
    • To actually experience the interactive content you need to go to this comic on xkcd (click on the date above the comic, which, as always, takes you to the xkcd comic)
    • For a collection of images that appear in this comic, see 1350: Lorenz/Images.
      • These will also be described below under themes.
    • Also note that the order of the options are random.
      • By adding that there is a fifth option
        • Let's see if BSD is any easier to install nowadays.
      • Where only four can be shown - this means there are 5*4*3*2 = 120 different permutations of the way the options can be arranged only in this first image.
    • So the above image will only appear with these four options in this order in less than 1% of the cases!
      • Of course when you choose an option it is immaterial what the order of the other options was.


This was the fifth April fools' comic released by Randall. The previous April fools' comic was 1193: Externalities from Monday April 1st 2013. The next was 1506: xkcloud released on Wednesday April 1st 2015. This comic was posted a day earlier than normal (on Tuesday instead of Wednesday) to honor April Fools' Day of 2014.

This is an interactive and dynamic comic similar to the Choose Your Own Adventure series, where players flip to different pages based on the option they chose. The first picture shown on top of this page is the start of this comic, with a possible combination of text options to choose from (see above). The picture is always the same but the order of the four sentences (and the sentences themselves) is chosen randomly (and there can be more than four). The result of all the interactions by the readers led to the generation of crowd-sourced content.

The title 'Lorenz' is referring to Edward Norton Lorenz who, among other subjects, was famous for Chaos theory and the Butterfly effect (mentioned later in the title text of 1519: Venus). This comic is an example of a Choose Your Own Adventure story, as mentioned in the title text.

The title text is also a reference to how the storyline of this comic will be chaotic by nature, since it includes all of the user submitted dialogue and updates over time based on statistics of user clicks. In this manner, it is a reference to the butterfly effect: a phrase coined by Edward Lorenz to describe how a small initial change can lead to wide variations in outcome in a chaotic system.

Every time a story comes to a point where the user can either choose something or contribute when asked to Suggest a line, a link will appear by hovering the mouse over the bottom right corner of the last image. This is named a permalink, as it is a link that will recreate this particular story up to the point, making it permanent. It will not save the options listed below that image (i.e. the order of these will change, new options may appear, either because more than four are already present or new options will be added and some options may even disappear). An option is thus only saved by choosing it and then saving the next permalink — see more below.

The best way to enjoy this comic is to try it yourself! If you didn't do that already, reading any below will spoil you from truly enjoying the comic, and maybe make some interesting discoveries yourself! So here is a spoiler alert if you read on. If you do, then see also the section below about Functionality and bugs.

Any particular storyline will typically only have one or two of the many themes possible in the comic, but some very long stories may have several: see the Record section below. Several of the themes refer to previous comics or generally recurring themes in xkcd. (Most obviously is the blowtorch theme which is a reference to the previous comic 1349: Shouldn't Be Hard, where the last comment is I'll find a blowtorch as a response to Cueball's frustration over his problems.)

Because it is not always ending as "well" as with a burnt PC, they might instead end up in a shark infested ocean — see the Ocean theme, which is a reference to 349: Success: a comic that came exactly 1000 comics before the other one referenced in the same computer problem theme. In that comic, the sharks had not appeared yet; but here there may be several (and sharks are also a recurring topic in xkcd).

These issues with computers is generally a reference to the computer problem themes that precedes both the burning of the laptop and the ocean storylines, as Knit Cap tries to install BSD; and when it fails, she takes her friend Hairy with her in the fall, the water, space or into a Pokémon fight (as they are the two main character of this comic). Also Cueball (as a politician vs. another politician with hair) and White Hat have small appearances, but only in a small sections of particular storyline. Only few others interact directly with the main characters in the rest of the possible stories.

Other themes that are recurring in xkcd are Politics, Pokémon, Boomerangs and Dinosaurs. Dinosaurs enter the comic in the form of the green talking T-rex from Dinosaur Comics: a clip-art-based webcomic that uses the same artwork with different captions for every strip. This particular Dinosaur Comics has a title text that actually refer to Randall and xkcd, and the comic has previously appeared on xkcd in 145: Parody Week: Dinosaur Comics.

A way to combine more than one storyline is to let characters wake up from a dream or a nightmare, as can be see in the Dreams theme (and dreams are also a recurring topic). Here, it can even get recursive, so there can be dreams within dreams. One of the way to wake from a dream is, of course, by encountering a dinosaur that tries to step on your house (with you inside). Another is in reference to the possible rocket trip that may take the characters into space: see the Space theme (another recurring topic).

There are a few other topics that are covered by Randall himself, but many others will be referenced in the text in the comic. However, since most of the options the users have is in itself created by user input (including naming the characters different names), any reference made by the text is not considered part of Randall's work and thus only sporadically be mentioned below under the themes section and not be included as a category. Here is an example with a permalink where the last comment, in the ocean with a shark, references Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 that disappeared less than a month before this comic was released [and has still to been found years later]. But this is a user input, not Randall's.

Some of the idea of this comic was used again in the next year's April Fools' comic 1506: xkcloud, where user input also generated a very complex comic and the concept of permalink was used again.

This comic was the first time that Knit Cap Girl has a main part to play, and since this comic she has been given a category as a supporting character in xkcd. But it is really only in this comic she is seen as a woman. And the name knit cap for her hat has also been debated.


[This transcript only transcribes what can be seen in the picture shown at the top of the explanation here.]
[The comic starts with two panels. In the top panel we see Knit Cap sitting at a desk in front of his laptop typing. There is a speech line up to a gray but empty speech bubble.]
[The second panel below has the same gray background as the empty speech bubble above. Here is presented four options to what Knit Cap could be saying. They are marked a, b, c and d written in small white rectangles next to the text. There is a small arrow at the top pointing to the first panel:]
a Hurry! We're in talks with Facebook.
b These stupid tiles... I'll just play one more game.
c Refresh... No new email... Refresh... No new tweets... Refresh...
d Oh. Hey. There's some kind of political thing going on.
[Once the reader chooses one of the options, the text will appear in the speech bubble where the gray area is replaced with the usual white background. The lower gray panel disappears. Now the comic really begins.]
[A new panel is shown after the selection, again with one to four options to choose from in the new gray panel below. This will continue until it comes to an end where the reader finally only has the choice to suggest the next line.]
[The order of the up to four options are random, and changes every time you begin again (or even go back to a previous frame). This means that the a–d in the transcript is not the same next time. In some few panels there are even more than four options. To see the fifth you have to reload, then you may find this fifth option next time. The first panel is one of those with five options.]
[The fifth not shown above is: Let's see if BSD is any easier to install nowadays. (see image with this option in the trivia section).]
[In the first days of the comic, when it developed quickly, new options appeared only to later disappear. Gravity. Lots of it. is one of those lost options from the first panel. At one time there was also, by mistake, two versions of one of the other five mentioned above. This was later deleted. Below in the trivia section there are permalinks to all the different starting options, including the now lost gravity story.]
[Although it may be impossible to finish (?), there has been an attempt to make a complete interactive transcript.]

Functionality and bugs

The reader is initially presented with only one panel, where Knit Cap is sitting in front of his computer. The reader is given multiple choices concerning what exactly Knit Cap is thinking. Upon choosing any option, the chosen text will appear where his gray speech bubble was (which will disappear), and then a second panel appears to the right to give continuity to the story. Each new panel may have a new set of options, or just the button "Continue", to see the next panel without making any choice in particular. Eventually, one reaches a dead end in which the story is interrupted, and the reader is presented with a text box to suggest how it should continue. Some of the suggestions given should eventually become available as new options.

Number of options

Normally, there are a total of 4 options to make: a/b/c/d. Their order changes constantly. Sometimes, there are 3 or fewer options, with the text box to suggest an alternative option. Sometimes, a given panel actually has 5 or more available options, although even in this case only 4 options appear at a time. Refreshing the comic changes randomly which of the available options are visible and which are hidden. As of late April 2014, the existence of 5 options seems to occur only in a few rare cases, including the first panel itself. There seem to be no longer any panels that have six options.

Easy navigation

Instead of clicking with the mouse, you can move more quickly through the panels using the keyboard:

  • Up/Down — navigate options
  • Enter/Right/Spacebar — choose option after navigating with Up/Down
  • Left — go back one panel
  • a/b/c/d — choose any option directly

New panels

It appeared that new panels were generated by Randall in near real time, as user suggestions to dialog were submitted around the release of the comic.

This text can (now) be found under the official transcript at xkcd:

This April Fools' Day comic has a dynamic panel structure along the lines of a choose-your-own-adventure format - the viewer is presented with up to 4 options for each bit of dialogue, with each choice opening up a new subtree of potential options for the next bit of dialog, and new panel images are chosen semi-randomly based on a graph of potential panel transitions. Readers were also invited to submit dialog options for trees where there were not yet 4 fixed options, thus growing the potential story space. As such there is no fixed transcript for this comic.

The dialog options could be based on click-through rates, and hence will change over time based on which choices are clicked most using A/B measurement techniques. This will mean that the most popular choices for dialog lines will prevail as the statistics build up. In some cases, dialog line options do not depend on the continuity of the storyline followed, suggesting that some parts of the story are planned. For example, several of the story lines involve one of the two main characters waking up and, for instance, telling the other character, "I had the strangest dream..." or even reliving the dream. This may be due to common submissions across story lines. Of course, there is the other option that Randall has used the first week of April to look though some input and choose himself. These possibilities are not mutually exclusive. Some of the options that were there very early were in quite poor English. Later, the same idea was still there, but in a more refined sentence. However, after the first week or two, no new panels seemed to appear, which suggests that some were drawn to match the story's progression.


A "permalink" is a portmanteau of "permanent-link". Each panel has a "permalink" button which generates a unique URL for all the choices made by the reader — so a reader can save the chosen choices to compare them to other ways going through the selections. The permalinks do only save the chosen options, not the order or the visible options in the image where the permalink is recorded, so it is not possible to save a copy where the options are only in the same order as they are in the 1/120 version shown at the top. Also, if you go back in the story from a permalink, you can risk that when passing back through a panel with five options, the option you just got back from is no longer available; as it is the option randomly not shown this time.

Suggest a line

Sometimes it is possible to add your own suggestions in a panel where there are still other choices, but, if not before, the story will always reach a "final" panel (dead-end) where the reader only has the option left to "suggest a line..." By doing so, and pressing enter, this text is then shown in the speech bubble — but these suggestions can't be saved, as there are no permalink buttons after this. The reader has to do a screenshot in order to save their own remark. After a few weeks had progressed, there were probably so few new suggestions that Randall stopped changing the comic. A few images have been found months (or even more than a year) after the release, but there has been little to no reason to believe that Randall continued to make new panels after the first few weeks of April. Maybe he returned occasionally to do one once in a while; but, for certain, the options and text continue to evolve.


Since this interactive comic relies on many servers in the background to provide the response to the reader's actions, there are some problems reported here:

  • Cookies and Javascript are required to see this page properly. Without cookies, the next panel will not render; attempting to load the page in the UNIXKCD terminal or loading the page without Javascript will just get you the previous comic.
  • In the first week after the comic was released, if a response led to a panel where two characters speak at the same time, it was impossible to proceed past the first speech bubble. This was subsequently fixed.

As a consequence of these bugs, many readers had trouble understanding how this interactive comic worked.


Ambox notice.png Preferably there should be permalinks that shows all the possible images below, but sadly this can not the case, as many images are no longer accessible by "playing" the comic game. Only if someone saved a permalink in the beginning of the comics "life" will it be possible to see examples of all images in a story line. If you do have some of these old permalinks saved, please fill in for any missing images here below. There are also notices in the relevant sections which have not all been streamlined, so they are built up in the same way and with as many permalinks as are available at the moment.
  • The 17 themes below have been split up after what type of images appear in the comic.
    • As of April 2016 there are 149 different images, which are all described here below.
    • To see all images, go to 1350: Lorenz/Images.
  • Below, several images have been used in more than one theme, and there will thus be more than 149 images displayed in the tables below.
    • To avoid this section becoming extremely long, all the tables under each section has been collapsed, and can be opened by clicking the link [show].
  • Permalinks have been provided (where possible) to storylines that includes all the images shown in a given section.
    • As the story may continue to evolve, there may eventually be added more images, although there is reason to believe that this will no longer happen.
    • If any are discovered, please include them in the table below with a permalink.
  • In general, only little mention will be of the user contributed text.
    • But if a story seems to revolve around the choices, this may be mentioned.
    • Try only to make reference to anything that can be backed up with a permalink.

The beginning

Computer problems



Political debate


Leaving the building


Ambox notice.png Does anyone have permalinks for the image where Hairy is walking alone in silhouette, and maybe a situation where he walks alone without the meanwhile image first (maybe because of arguing, see below)? Please help by posting them in the table below: