Title text: It's turtles all the way down.
NOTE: The above is only a zoomed out version of the this interactive comic. For a collection of images that appear when zooming in on this comic, see 1416: Pixels/Images.
| This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Individual panels need explanations|
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This interactive comic begins with a panel where Cueball is stacking turtles. This is a reference to the idiom "turtles all the way down," which refers to the problem of infinite recursion: if everything in the universe is "on top of" something else, so to speak, there must be a "bottom." A joking solution to the paradoxical nature of such a bottom is the proposition that the world rests on a semi-infinite stack of turtles.
The origins of the turtle story are uncertain. It has been recorded since the mid 19th century, and may possibly date to the 18th. One recent version appears in Stephen Hawking's 1988 book A Brief History of Time, which starts:
A well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell) once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy. At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: "What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise." The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, "What is the tortoise standing on?" "You're very clever, young man, very clever," said the old lady. "But it's turtles all the way down!"
As can be read you should "scroll to zoom". This can be done by placing the cursor inside the panel of the comic. When scrolling up (using the mouse wheel) the picture zooms in until the pixels are visible. When you continue to scroll on each pixel then resolves into another comic picture, with black-on-white comic panels making up the white pixels and white-on-black panels making up the black pixels. Scrolling on until you can see the pixels of the comic picture you are now zooming into the process is repeated again and will be so for all subsequent sets of comic panels. Not all white and all black panels are the same; some sets involve more than two different panels, but all involve repetitive tiling.
- Below are all the themes relevant to cover all the images found when zooming in.
- They are sorted in the same order as in the gallery: 1416: Pixels/Images.
- Open the gallery in another window - zoom out and then you can see the pictures in this window as you read about them here below:
Apart from the first image there are two more with a single turtle in them. In one of these the turtle thinks "I am a turtle". This is a reference to 889: Turtles. It may say so to the Cueball that is seen standing all alone in another picture.
There is a picture of the What If? book, large enough that all of the text is visible on the front cover. But there is also another version where the author's name is crossed out and replaced with Stephen King, the word "Spooky" has been added above the title, and the word "xkcd" below has been struck and replaced with "being afraid".
This comic was released on September 3rd, 2014, the day after Randall's book What If was launched. The book is shown and referred to in a number of frames; for example, it is literally launched as a part of an
rocket up goer built by Cueball. There is also a picture with Cueball holding his book, while being excited about the launch.
The model up goer is made of Rocket Parts from KSP. KSP is the Kerbal Space Program, a spaceflight simulator which was also part of the latest interactive comic 1350: Lorenz. Perhaps xkcd's "parts" refers to KSP's large community of mod developers who contribute 'parts' to the game, although it was likely intended as nothing more than the humorous supposition that one could purchase physical rocket parts from a simulator. The frames showing the book launch use URLs that include the text "upgoer" in reference to the Up Goer Five comic.
In the end the up goer leaves the Earth after one orbit and then flies through space.
Needs More Struts
Struts are structural members in engineering, and are one of the components used in Kerbal Space Program to construct rockets. "Needs More Struts" is a meme amongst players of Kerbal Space Program along the lines of "when in doubt, overengineer"; it stems from a time when the ragdoll physics in the Unity engine underying KSP was unstable enough to necessitate their overuse. Megan deems Cueball's rocket to be insufficiently structurally sound, and declares that it "Needs More Struts".
The Only Copy
Cueball & Megan turn to each other having just launched the What-If book rocket into space (construction and launch are seen in other panels). Perhaps Megan realizes they may have misunderstood the term "book launch", and that they may have just lost the only copy of the book.
There are both the Moon, the Sun, Saturn and two images just with stars.
In four pictures Cueball and Megan are sitting below the stars. In the second the following conversation takes place:
- Cueball: Someone once told me the great kings of the past look down on us...
- Megan: From the stars?
- Cueball: Just in general.
The second panel is a reference to Disney's The Lion King. Early in the film, Mufasa tells Simba that the great kings of the past look down on them from the stars. Later on, Simba recalls this to his companions, Timon and Pumba (who don't take him seriously). In the film, the kings of the past literally look down on--and watch over--the characters, which is how Megan interprets Cueball's initial statement. Cueball's reply that they just look down on us in general shows that he means the kings of the past figuratively look down on us (they view us as inferior or beneath them).
In the next image a shooting star is seen above them. The final picture looks to identical to the first?
A series of 8 images are called Mario. The first is called entry, and has a picture of a TV on a low stand. The next four has Megan in front of said TV, holding a video game controller. The cable is connected to something inside the stand. She first sits on her knees, then on her butt. In the third picture she is lying down. What follows is a picture which is an inverse of the sitting picture. The last three images seem to depict a level from one of the Super Mario Bros. games. In the upper right one can see the iconic bricks which Mario can smash, two clouds appear stationary in the background, and a crude depiction of Mario is standing in the lower left. Over the course of the three images, a galaxy rises into the sky. It does not look like the Milky Way would from anywhere on Earth, suggesting that Mario is somewhere outside our galaxy, or that it is not the Milky Way at all. The shape also seems to be a mix of spiral and ellipse. The rise of the galaxy could be meant to show how much time Megan spends playing the game, and this might also be why Cueball wishes to throw water on the server.
Shut Down the Server
Cueball tells an offscreen character that he is going to shut down the server, while carrying a bucket of water.
Usually shutting down a server is done via the operating system or software. Directly turning it off or pulling the power plug also would technically work though not recommended for obvious reasons. But in this case it appears that Cueball is going to attempt to shut off the server by dousing it with water. This will likely result in serious water damage to the hardware, thus forcing it off as it no longer is able to function.
In five pictures Megan is floating in the clouds. Only two pictures with Megan, two only with clouds and one only with birds as seen from a distance.
In two images Cueball and Megan are seen walking. One normal black on white close up, and one inverse seen from afar. These may be relevant to the two next (#Time Turners and #Stockholm Syndrome) where they are seen talking while walking.
The time turner is a device from the Harry Potter series of novels by JK Rowling. It allows the user to re-live a period of time over again. In the third novel Hermione is given the time-turner to allow her to take extra classes, however it is eventually used to spare Buckbeak the hippogryph from execution. This prompted many questions regarding why time-turners weren’t used on other occasions to save people's lives (among other things).
While J.K Rowling has “solved the problem to her own satisfaction” she admits that she entered into the subject of time-travel too lightly.
This panel jokes that if the real life JK Rowling had a fictional time-turner which worked, she would have gone back and removed the time-turner plotline from the book, saving her all the hassle of dealing with the resulting time-travel questions. This act would result in a time-travel paradox.
Stockholm syndrome is the name for a psychological phenomenon, in which hostages develop sympathy, empathy and/or positive feelings towards their captors. These feelings are usually seen as irrational, seeing as the hostage is held against their wishes, usually with the threat of physical harm or death.
This panel asks "How do we know anyone really wants to live in Stockholm?", questioning whether everyone who lives in the city of Stockholm is in fact held hostage there and only stays because they have developed to like life there (due to Stockholm Syndrome).
Black Hat appears to have managed to replace the usual water supply to the fire hydrant with actual fire. Thus when the hydrant is used, the result is, quite literally, fire (or oil with possibly flint and steel contraptions to cause fire). In Black Hat's logic, a hydrant which delivers water should be called a water hydrant.
Megan hears a very long stretched EEEEEEEEEEEEE sound which goes over 6 images. It turns out it is a large letter E that shouts EEEEEEE!!!. In total there are 64 small E emanating from the big one. There is also a picture with two big white E on black background. Those E are larger than the E that shouts.
The March of Progress image is a famous and instantly recognisable image showing the stages of human evolution by way of a series of primate figures as if marching in a line. The panel parodies the March of Progress image, with 5 ducklings following an adult duck. In this case, rather than portraying selected individuals millions of years apart, the March shows evolution in action on a human timescale, the mother taking care of her ducklings. The comic has some resemblance to 537: Ducklings.
Four ropes cross diagonally across this black picture. Looks good when there are many of them in the same place.
Chess and Cantor Set Fractals
There are two chess boards on black and white background with smaller chessboards drawn upon them in a Fractal pattern.
One panel contains a number of lines and dots, which are in fact a depiction of the first 5 steps of a Cantor Ternary Set, mirrored about the horizontal centreline (see reference image). The Cantor ternary set is constructed by repeatedly deleting the open middle thirds of a set of line segments.
The Cantor Set is one of the canonical examples of a fractal, a shape whose individual parts resemble the whole. The use of the Cantor Set in this comic is self-referential, in that the comic, itself, is composed of parts of the same shape as the whole.
There is a picture of a Bohr Model atom with point electrons surrounding a nucleus of protons and neutrons. The atom is a Carbon atom which is essential for all living matter and therefore essential for evolution. There is also a picture of what is probably a vibrating cosmic string fragment (a concept in string theory). Despite the Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, getting down to the string does not mean that the cartoon viewer has reached the "bottom" of zooming in on pixels - zooming in on the loop will show a picture of string.
Holism, Reductionism, Mu
These three words refer to "A MU offering", an essay by Douglas Hofstatder in his book Godel, Escher, Bach (which was referenced by Randall in 24: Godel, Escher, Kurt Halsey). It includes a similar multiple level drawing: the word MU is composed of copies of the words HOLISM and REDUCTIONISM, each of which are in turn made of smaller copies of the other, which are in turn made of tiny copies of the word MU.
These panels can be found inside panels with Megan.
~$ du -s video/ 4170882256
This is a command that shows how large all the files are in this user's "video" directory - presumably where they store their personal videos. The units of the result is probably kilobytes (depending on settings)
This number is clearly large and difficult to parse, and the units are not clear (to a bystander). More appropriate units would be gigabytes rather than bytes. The du command offers an option to display units in "human readable format", which will adapt to use kilobytes, megabytes, gigabytes, terabytes, etc. as appropriate. The next command purports to request the same result in more human-readable form.
~$ du -hs video/ A lot. ~$
It seems that the computer, rather than giving a specific answer, simply says that the size of the video directory is "A lot."
The final line indicates the computer is now ready to accept a new command.
- [Cueball is stacking turtles, and is about to put the fourth turtle on his pile. At the bottom right there is a small panel. Inside this is written:]
- Scroll to zoom
- [When zooming in there will be several panels with text. The transcript of these may not be possible to complete - but add the transcript of these panels here: interactive transcript]
This google sheet describes all possible images, their associated codes, and what possible images can be used as sub-images for each zoom level: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1nldKAkeVcK606CY12KI9bah9rDmK9E7CZOyinsEj2Lo/edit?usp=sharing
Image scraping script
This gist recursively downloads all possible images: https://gist.github.com/Aaron1011/d3b56325881cd639506a
- Doesn't seem to work properly in all browsers (e.g. Firefox and Safari on MacOSX), giving "TypeError: this.data is null" in line 173 of zoom.js: "var item = this.data.get(dims)"
- Firefox on Lubuntu 14.04 (presumably other Ubuntu/Linux distros as well) will allow zooming in, and then freeze when each pixel is about 1/3 of the pane.
- Doesn't seem to work in IE8, comic is blank, but title text works.
- Does not work on xkcd.org neither www.xkcd.org in Firefox and Chrome. Currently you should visit http://xkcd.com for this comic to work properly.
- Also, it doesn't work on HTTPS.
- Very slow and consumes a ridiculous amount of memory (>4GB) in Firefox.
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