1378: Turbine

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Revision as of 14:06, 9 June 2014 by (talk) (Explanation: Corrected a typo.)
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Ok, plan B: Fly a kite into the blades, with a rock in a sling dangling below it, and create the world's largest trebuchet.
Title text: Ok, plan B: Fly a kite into the blades, with a rock in a sling dangling below it, and create the world's largest trebuchet.


In this comic, Megan is speaking to a wind turbine which in real life would have no ability to respond to her (an example of anthropomorphism - attributing the qualities of human beings to animals or objects).

A wind turbine is a mechanical device that generates power via the mechanical work produced from the turning of its blades by the wind, and converts it into electricity. A wind turbine is visually very similar to a fan, whose fan blades spin via electrical (or other) power in order to move air (i.e. create wind) to provide a cooling effect. In this way, a fan is essentially the opposite of a wind turbine.

The punchline of this comic is a pun which plays on a second meaning of the word "fan" as a colloquial short form for "fanatic" - someone who is a supporter of something (e.g. a football team, a band, an idea etc.).

Megan suggests that the wind turbine blow air at her so that she can use a kite to lift off the ground. When Megan asks what the turbine thinks of the idea, the turbine's response is both literal (it is a turbine, not a huge fan, and therefore can't blow air) and colloquial (the expression "I'm not a huge fan" is an example of understatement, commonly used to mean one actually does not like something).

Wind turbines have been used in earlier comics: In 556: Alternative Energy Revolution the wind turbines are also alive, but somewhat more dangerous than just being ironic. In 1119: Undoing, Cueball highlights the differences between a wind turbine and a fan.

The title text contains an alternative suggestion: to build a makeshift trebuchet, a type of catapult. The idea is that when the kite's string gets tangled in the turbine's blades, the kite will be spun around and it will fling the attached rock. The setup seems similar to a traction trebuchet, rather than the more common counterweight trebuchet.

Trebuchets has been the subject of the comics 382: Trebuchet and 1160: Drop Those Pounds, and they were also part of the story in 1190: Time.


[Megan is talking to a giant wind turbine.]
Megan: I'll hold up a big kite, and you blow air at me until I lift off!
Megan: What do you think of that idea?
Wind turbine: I'm not a huge fan.

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Why is it "horrible, horrible"? Do you really, really not like it? It's not like it's a shaggy dog cartoon which you wasted several minutes on... Oh, wait... 05:51, 6 June 2014 (UTC)

For me, it just sucks that Randall chose to end the week on a lame pun. On Mondays/Wednesdays, the "suckiness" of something like this would be offset by a good "what-if?" on Tuesday. 06:00, 6 June 2014 (UTC)

From what I've seen, Friday comics tend to be more "wacky" than the rest. 23:22, 6 June 2014 (UTC)

While I agree it isn't the best xkcd could be, let's try and keep these pages objective, and leave the opinions in the comments. Mrmakeit (talk) 06:22, 6 June 2014 (UTC)

"I'm not a huge fan" is a catchphrase of Elon Musk, his opinion on patents, which was in the news a couple of days ago. Lift-off alludes to Musk's SpaceX. Wind turbine alludes to Musk's renewable energy company Solarcity. Tww (talk) 07:36, 6 June 2014 (UTC)

What's funny to me is that a turbine really is a giant fan. You'd just have to pump a whole ton of power (at the right voltage and sync rate) into it and possibly give it a kickstart of some kind to get it to turn. You could say the same about pretty much anything that generates power from rotational motion; it's a generator, but in the opposite direction, it's also a motor. 11:25, 6 June 2014 (UTC)

I laughed at this comic, I thought it was great. As for the explanation, though, should it really be marked "complete" already? It reads like a first draft to me, and the comic is about a wind turbine, not a windmill. I'm gonna go fix that now. Enchantedsleeper (talk) 11:28, 6 June 2014 (UTC)

I also liked this one. Great pun. As Enchantedsleeper may have found out windmill is the old mills for grain. But in some languages a wind turbine is called the same as a windmill! Kynde (talk) 17:57, 6 June 2014 (UTC)

'apostrophe' is more of an oratorical device, for the benefit of an audience. In this case Megan is treating the turbine as if it were human - anthropomorphism - but this isn't really a central part of the comic, and doesn't need much explanation - Seanybabes (talk) 08:59, 9 June 2014 (UTC)

I just got the punchline today. My punnery organs evidently need a workout. --Okofish (talk) 22:01, 9 June 2014 (UTC)

WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY????????????? SilverMagpie (talk) 21:52, 13 June 2017 (UTC)