1457: Feedback

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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A new study finds that if you give rats a cell phone and a lever they can push to improve the signal, the rats will chew on the cell phone until it breaks and your research supervisors will start to ask some questions about your grant money.
Title text: A new study finds that if you give rats a cell phone and a lever they can push to improve the signal, the rats will chew on the cell phone until it breaks and your research supervisors will start to ask some questions about your grant money.


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Often when connecting to unfamiliar wi-fi networks, the signal displayed by the connecting device varies wildly, especially as distance increases. In this case, to improve the signal, Cueball has likely tried a variety of methods, and has ended up holding a pineapple while standing on top of a chair in order to get a perceived better signal. Standing on the chair might help (especially if the router is on a different floor of the building, although getting laterally closer to the router would undoubtedly help more), but it is almost inconceivable that the pineapple could have any effect on the signal. Megan questions his ridiculous behavior, but it seems Cueball has been driven nearly to madness due to the inconsistent signal strength.

Another possible interpretation is that, in his desperation, Cueball has tried increasingly unlikely methods to increase his signal. When the signal increased (probably at random) while he was standing on a chair holding a pineapple, he erroneously concluded that his standing on the chair with the pineapple caused the signal strength increase. This is related to the idea in comic 552.

The title text refers to a new study that apparently examined the behavior of rats in response to signal strength on a cellphone. It is a reference to Olds and Milner's ground-breaking 1950s neuroscience research, in which rats were given access to a lever which stimulated the pleasure centre of their brains. (Spoiler: it does not end well for the rats.) In this new experiment the rats naturally could not understand the concept of signal strength, so they chewed up the cellphone, leading to the research supervisors questioning the validity of the study and questioning whether the grant money for the study was well used. The research team have perhaps focused their research not on the rats' behavior under the conditions of the experiment, but on the behavior of research supervisors.


Megan: Why are you standing on a chair holding a pineapple?
Cueball: I wasn't getting good reception, but now I am!
The erratic feedback from a randomly-varying wireless signal can make you crazy.

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Could the pineapple here have any relation to the wi-fi pineapple? 05:27, 8 December 2014 (UTC)

Oh, it might as well be an obscure Psych reference. Please stop looking for extraobscure references.-- 17:57, 8 December 2014 (UTC)
I agree, in the context I really don't see how the Wi-Fi pineapple has any relevance. --Pudder (talk) 18:52, 8 December 2014


Cueball could be acting on being told that he could access an unknown Wifi using a pineapple. JamesCurran (talk) 16:45, 8 January 2015 (UTC)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sm3_qEMTdc4 06:35, 8 December 2014 (UTC) 06:37, 8 December 2014 (UTC)

I think the comic also refers to another experiment where pigeons received a snack from a dispenser at totally random times. The pigeons, thinking that whatever it is they did last helped trigger the release of food would develop a complex ritual dance to receive food. (http://psychclassics.yorku.ca/Skinner/Pigeon/) (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

The intro to Mr. Nobody references this. It's what I immediately thought of when I saw this comic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YGcEy_W48Kc (the explanation starts around 1 minute in) (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

The title text may also be a reminder that despite signal strength being important enough to some humans to act in an insanity-suggesting manner, it is not an essential need of a living organism, as the rats visibly demonstrate. --Koveras (talk) 08:47, 8 December 2014 (UTC)

I thought 'reception' and 'wireless signal' referred to the cellular signal. That caused a lot of issues with the iphone and others. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Agreed. I don't think the comic has anything to do with wifi. The alt text seems to bolster this view. SeanAhern (talk) 15:09, 8 December 2014 (UTC)
Me too. In my house, cellular signal varies more than WiFi signal for small movements. 03:42, 3 December 2015 (UTC)

Was it Mythbusters who tin-foiled an entire room to see whether it acted as a make-shift antenna? --Pudder (talk) 15:23, 8 December 2014 (UTC)

What if the pineapple is actually where the signal is coming from, but it's a directional pineapple... greptalk18:32, 08 December 2014 (UTC)

Don't be silly. Everyone knows pineapples are omnidirectional... Of course, given the decreasing power away from the plane, if the pineapple is being held high up due to you being on a chair, if you're holding your phone up as well you probably also need to not be on the chair for your phone to get the very best signal from it... Obviously. 19:48, 8 December 2014 (UTC)

The first thing this comic made me think of was the belief in some people that if you hold a car key fob up to your chin and press a button, the signal from the fob will be more strongly focused (presumably by your skull) and thus able to reach your car from a greater distance. I wonder if there's any relationship? KieferSkunk (talk) 07:24, 9 December 2014 (UTC)

It's not really a believe: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Uqf71muwWc -- 12:07, 9 December 2014 (UTC)
I have a few issues with that video, even though it SEEMs to be an established video series with mostly competent people doing the stuff in them. The experiment shown was far from exhaustive and there were several things I would have challenged the demonstrator to try, especially given the claims made as to how the range was increased... if you're interested, hit me up on my talk page and I'll try to explain. -- Brettpeirce (talk) 13:33, 12 December 2014 (UTC)
As he says in the video, don't prejudge, simply do the experiment yourself. I have, and it very clearly works. Miamiclay (talk) 22:25, 17 December 2014 (UTC)

I bet Woz loved this strip. He did a similar trick in college: http://archive.woz.org/letters/pirates/24.html -- 22:07, 20 December 2014 (UTC)

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