, where representatives of different fields, in this case, physics, biology, and chemistry, explain why their fields are best and why to get a degree in the field. The title "Degree-Off" is a portmanteau of "
", a direct confrontation between two people or groups.
Hair Bun Girl, the representative for biology goes next, showing that through their efforts, biology has helped reduce disease ("slaying" Pestilence). She accuses physics of creating a new weapon of destruction from gathering in the desert (likely referring to the Manhattan Project, conducted in the New Mexico desert).
In the title text the biologist mocks the physicist for not being "harder", referring to the concepts of hard and soft sciences and how physicists sometimes label all other sciences as "soft" and demean them. In 435: Purity, the only subject presented as "harder" or "purer" than physics is mathematics.
Isn't this the debut of the dark hair-bun girl? Is this trivia section worthy? 22.214.171.124 22:49, 4 May 2015 (UTC)BK201
- The hair bun girl has appeared a few times since it's inception in 378: Real Programmers. --Forrest (talk)01:05, 05 May 2015 (UTC)
- But this one has bangs, and visibly darker hair. Isn't it possible it's a different character? Or am I splitting hairs? 126.96.36.199 20:23, 5 May 2015 (UTC)BK201
- Yes your are splitting hair. Because in xkcd most characters are just generic and can be any person they need to be. The characteristic of the hair bun has been used only a few times, 8 with this one. Sometimes the figure even represents a real person. I agree that she is drawn a little different, but in the page for Hair Bun Girl it is mentioned that she also sometimes have glasses. It is though interesting that he has used her several times sine passing comic 1500. --Kynde (talk) 11:43, 7 May 2015 (UTC)
- After having spotted the recurrence of Science Girl for whom I just made a category I realized that the hair bun Bio "girl" here is just her as a (young) adult woman. I have included her and revised the explanation accordingly. So I disagree with my own comment above now ;-) --Kynde (talk) 18:47, 22 July 2016 (UTC)
I assume "Your field gathered in the desert to create a new one." refers to the Manhattan Project? 188.8.131.52 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
- Yes Jachra (talk) 06:52, 4 May 2015 (UTC)
So, no one has really brought up the topic of biological WMD. There are manmade plagues out there far more horrible than any natural disease and arguably more terrible than a nuclear bomb.
Chem wants absolutely no part of this conversation. Jachra (talk) 06:52, 4 May 2015 (UTC)
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are: Conquest, War, Famine, and Death. Is she claiming that her heros have conquered death? Capncanuck (talk) 06:58, 4 May 2015 (UTC)
- Yeah I didn't get that either. The description as it stands now seems to be implying one of the four horsemen is pestilence, but that's not what my Google search turned up… --Zagorath (talk) 15:15, 4 May 2015 (UTC)
- Pestilence 184.108.40.206 07:10, 4 May 2015 (UTC)
- In Terry Pratchett's book the fourth horsemen is Pestilence. See also Pestilence. It was new to me that it was originally Conquest instead of Pestilence which can be read on wiki: Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Since Randall is a big fan of Terry Pratchett it is very likely that he refers to "his" version of the four Horsemen. (It is not Terry's invention, but he made it popular amongst people like Randall). As I disagree with the Death version of the title text, I'm not sure that Terry is directly refereed to in this comic, but I'm sure the Bilologist refers to them killing of pestilence (or plauge). --Kynde (talk) 17:23, 4 May 2015 (UTC)
- There are no humanities on stage, so I think bio can get away with this one.--220.127.116.11 17:50, 4 May 2015 (UTC)
- Maybe it referred to famine. Though that'd be a bit odd. Halfhat (talk) 19:05, 4 May 2015 (UTC)
- Perhaps the reason why pestilence isn't a real Horseman is because its death by biology retroactively altered the prophecy ("Yes, you've had it for ages. But did you have it for ages 30 minutes ago?" - Rincewind, The Last Continent).```` 18.104.22.168 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
- If we're assuming that the comic is using Pratchett's version of the Horsemen, and that Bio has killed Pestilence... then we know that Pestilence was replaced with Pollution. So it might be a reference to the atomic waste and fallout of the testing itself. 22.214.171.124 00:43, 27 August 2016 (UTC)
also a possible reference to: https://xkcd.com/435/ ? 126.96.36.199 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
The stamp collecting quote is from Ernest Rutherford, not Richard Feynman. 188.8.131.52 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
1052 also compares degrees --184.108.40.206 08:36, 4 May 2015 (UTC)
My assumption was that Cueball was giving a long and possibly rambling talk about physics starting with an anecdote about Feynman and ending with one about Rutherford. I didn't consider the quote to be wrongly attributed therefore. 220.127.116.11 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
Please be aware that the proper way to link to wikipedia is to use Template:w.--Forrest (talk)10:01, 04 May 2015 (UTC)
This may be Randall's indirect way of saying what he thinks of the anti-vaxxers. --RenniePet (talk) 10:49, 4 May 2015 (UTC)
Does the "killing Pestilence" thing also refer to Good Omens (co-authored by Pratchett), where Pestilence retired in 1936 "mumbling something about penicillin"? Homusubi
Isn't the comment about vaccines kinda reaching? I don't really see any evidence, even implied, that this comic is referencing the anti-vaccine movement in any way. --Zagorath (talk) 13:23, 4 May 2015 (UTC)
- I agree that the anti-vaxer comments are out of place. I don't think they should be included as part of the explanation. Bmmarti3 (talk)
Isn't the biologist talking in the title text? And isn't biology considered a squishy science? I think the title is directed at the physicist, telling him to get harder skin because he's so easily hurt emotionally. Yourlifeisalie (talk) 14:13, 4 May 2015 (UTC)
- Was I the only one to see the title text as a dirty joke? 18.104.22.168 16:33, 24 August 2016 (UTC)
I rather doubt that the CAPS in the title text are referring to Pratchett's figure DEATH. In my opinion, the talking-in-CAPS is just meant to infer (further) SHOUTING on the part of the biologist, since she is shouting in the last panel as well. There is no indication whatsoever that the title text should be spoken by anyone other than the biologist herself.22.214.171.124 14:20, 4 May 2015 (UTC)thd
Do chemistry and physics represent a helium atom with biology as the nucleus? It would also explain her hair. Mikemk (talk) 15:18, 4 May 2015 (UTC)
- I don't see any reason for it to make any sense. It is quite a long shot to think so. However, what explains her hair? 126.96.36.199 17:50, 4 May 2015 (UTC)BK201
Might there also be a reference to https://xkcd.com/520/, praising biology just in case. Tzwenn (talk) 15:22, 4 May 2015 (UTC)
What is the giant bump in infectious diseases around 1925? It seems like it must have been a mayor effect, but I don't know how to google for it.188.8.131.52 17:43, 4 May 2015 (UTC)
- The planet-wide superflu of 1919, which happened because millions decided to go to Europe, camp in filthy trenches for months and then decided to all go back home simultaneously for some reason. 184.108.40.206 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
- Actually, it happened for other reasons, and it was mostly in 1918. Many people arrived at that camp bringing the superflu with them, actually, and the drop-off happened around when the bulk of them went home. Most of the fatalities may actually have been due to cytokine storms, AKA your immune system deciding that you ought to die horribly and now. What you actually got at the camp is the discovery that, if your feet are continuously wet for sufficiently long periods of time, they'll rot. That said, infectious diseases are on their way back, because antibiotic resistance is going up. There's already a confirmed case of TB resistant to all current antibiotics, and truly new ones becoming less and less frequent. (Most of the obvious routes we've exploited and adaptation is destroying, and many of the remaining obvious routes are insufficiently easy to distinguish from chemical warfare.) 220.127.116.11 22:46, 4 May 2015 (UTC)
moved the most important comment to the top. TheJonyMyster (talk) 00:25, 5 May 2015 (UTC)
Uhm lockpicking != safecracking. Feynman was exploiting a bad design in the safes (you didn't have to dial the exact number) combined with people being lousy at choosing their codes. Poizan42 (talk) 09:45, 5 May 2015 (UTC)
- A numpad safe still contains a lock. It locks items inside. --Forrest (talk)11:27, 05 May 2015 (UTC)
I'm not sure what is the biologists arguing about. Physics creating new horseman of apocalypse is definitely bigger achievement than biologists almost removing one. On the other hand, both fields are capable of making humans extinct by mistake. (Also, seriously, the idea of degree-off is flawed: we need experts in both (or rather all) fields.) -- Hkmaly (talk) 12:09, 5 May 2015 (UTC)
- I disagree. Penicillin is a much more important discovery - helping so many people. Killing people is a lot easier than curing them! --Kynde (talk) 11:40, 7 May 2015 (UTC)
I think that Civil Engineering should get half the credit. It wouldn't make for as good a cartoon though. Why was the graph of infectious disease rates lightly doctored to reduce the 1918 flu pandemic? My guess is to increase the visual impact. 18.104.22.168 18:11, 5 May 2015 (UTC)
Biology: Aren't many theoretical developments reliant on chemistry and/or physics? And even more practical developments use tools which rely on chemistry/physics? Example: brain mapping, drug synthesis, etc.? --22.214.171.124 02:28, 6 May 2015 (UTC)
- No, this would be as circuitous as saying that physics is entirely reliant on biology, because it's conducted using human brains, hands, eyes, etc. Or hey - theology. How would physics have gotten it's start without funding from churches and kings? The whole line of discussion is more than a little ludicrous. 126.96.36.199 08:01, 8 May 2015 (UTC)
- No, what I mean is that physics and chemistry are necessary in order to understand biology and perform research, while the reverse is not true. Cellular/molecular biology, in particular, is dependent on an understanding of chemistry and physics.
- Just take for example electron transport chains, which depends on quantum mechanics. Or the behavior of neurotransmitters, hormones, etc., which are all connected with organic chemistry.
- A good understanding of chemistry and physics is also essential in advancing science in general. A good understanding of biology could be useful for the creation of biologically inspired materials in engineering, but biology is not a fundamental building block in any of the harder sciences.
- Regarding biology and theology: No science's knowledge is taken from, or builds off of, theological teachings. Physics is not dependent on biology, because it does not involve the study of our brains, merely the existence of them. Biology's knowledge is directly dependent on physics.
- In terms of practical implications, I think biology affects our health more, and physics and chemistry affects our technology more. But it's undeniable that physics and chemistry are more fundamental and essential to all science, than biology.
- What is your opinion?
- --188.8.131.52 03:24, 10 May 2015 (UTC)
Any ideas as to why Hair Bun Girl's bun disappears in the fourth frame? As in anything more interesting than it being forgotten to be drawn in. JRVeale (talk) 11:12, 6 May 2015 (UTC)
- I think she just has turned her head so the bun is behind it. Thus not forgotten, and not really interesting either! --Kynde (talk) 11:40, 7 May 2015 (UTC)
The discussion about the new horseman of the apocalypse being radiation poisoning, and the linking of it all to Pratchet, reads very very strangely, I think it is a major overreach. It's very common for Pestilence to be listed as one of the four horsemen, and even with Randall being a Terry Pratchett fan, it seems unlikely this had any influence on it. It's stock-standard in pop culture for them to be listed as War, Famine, Death, Pestilence, even if they don't appear that way in the Bible, just as it is stock-standard for the devil to be portrayed as a red horned guy with cloven feet (which also doesn't appear anywhere in the Bible). It seems like the development of the atomic bomb is what Hair Bun Girl is referring to as the new horseman. I don't see why an overly specific and convoluted connection to "radiation poisoning" is included. - 184.108.40.206 08:08, 8 May 2015 (UTC)
I don't think that's science girl. That's not science girl's usual hairstyle, and science girl is a child. Sensorfire (talk) 18:03, 26 October 2016 (UTC)
- Is the girl representing chemistry Science Girl?
It doesn't seem to be Science Girl to me. I think Hairbun would be better used. Also related, I think Science Girl should be renamed Jill, as per [1662: Jack and Jill] Sensorfire (talk) 18:42, 1 November 2016 (UTC)