1399: Chaos

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Although the oral exam for the doctorate was just 'can you do that weird laugh?'
Title text: Although the oral exam for the doctorate was just 'can you do that weird laugh?'


This comic pokes fun at the 1993 film Jurassic Park, which features a theme park filled with cloned dinosaurs. In the film, chaos ensues when all the dinosaurs escape and begin terrorizing their creators. The list of chaos topics, phase space, nonlinear equations, and strange attractors, comes directly from the movie, in which Dr. Ian Malcolm (portrayed by Jeff Goldblum), a mathematician and chaos theorist brought in to inspect the park prior to its grand opening, suggests that the dinosaurs' escaping could have been predicted based on mathematical chaos models.

Cueball explains that although he has also studied chaos theory, he has never seen where chaos models predict that dinosaurs would escape. Cueball's confusion highlights the contrast between the mathematical definition of chaos – shown in the graphs on the whiteboard – and its common meaning – a state of utter confusion or disorder (as illustrated in the film).

The whiteboard shows a bifurcation diagram of the logistic map (one of the simplest examples of the mathematical concept of chaos, also featured in what-if 105) and a dragon curve, which appeared on the section title pages of the novel Jurassic Park, upon which the film was based.

The title text references the scene in Jurassic Park in which Goldblum, as Malcolm, while making small talk with Drs. Alan Grant (portrayed by Sam Neill) and Ellie Sattler (portrayed by Laura Dern) during the helicopter ride to the park, responds to a remark with an odd-sounding laugh. The laugh has gained minor Internet notoriety after being used as the central sample in at least one remix.

The comic may be timely, as a remastered 3-D version of the film was released in April 2013, and the fourth installment (and the first of a new planned trilogy) of the Jurassic Park film series, Jurassic World, was released in June 2015.


[Cueball is staring at a whiteboard covered with equations and graphs.]
Cueball: For two decades, I've studied phase space, nonlinear equations, and strange attractors.
[Cueball keeps staring at a whiteboard covered with equations and graphs for two more panels before in the third panel he exclaims:]
Cueball: And there is nothing in here about dinosaurs escaping.

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Dr. Ian Malcolm: Dr. Sattler, Dr. Grant, you've heard of chaos theory? No? Non-linear equations? Strange attractions? Dr. Sattler, I refuse to believe that you aren't familiar with the concept of attraction.[1] 05:09, 25 July 2014 (UTC)

Dr. Ian Malcolm: See, here I'm now sitting by myself, uh, er, talking to myself. That's, that's chaos theory. [2] 05:12, 25 July 2014 (UTC)
Thanks for the quotes -- they really helped with writing the explanation! 06:07, 25 July 2014 (UTC)

Why write 'third sequel' instead of 'fourth film'? It's quite confusing as I initially misread it to be the third instalment instead of sequel. 06:43, 25 July 2014 (UTC)

No particular reason. I've changed it. 06:51, 25 July 2014 (UTC)

Reference URL for the remix cited in title text... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zXr9GLa0Jo108.162.216.84 06:44, 25 July 2014 (UTC)

Top-left in the in-comic diagram(s) appears to be a 'fern', another fractal construct which may also be an incidental reference to the native flora of the Jurassic (and non-Jurassic) eras of the dinosaurs. 08:49, 25 July 2014 (UTC)

"phase space, nonlinear equations, and strange attractors" is not a quote from the movie. The script contains:

Dr. Grant, Dr. Sattler -- you've heard of Chaos Theory?
(shaking her head)
No? Non-linear equations? Strange attractions?
(again, she shrugs)
Dr. Sattler, I refuse to believe that you are not familiar with the concept of attraction!

The book mentions all three terms, but not in order. Condor70 (talk)

It is from the book. The chapters are labeled iteration 1, 2, 3 etc... (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Can the most recent editor finish their sentence? 20:22, 7 February 2019 (UTC)