1556: The Sky

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The Sky
The other half has some cool shipwrecks, rocks, and snakes, but if you move those out of the way, it also has more sky.
Title text: The other half has some cool shipwrecks, rocks, and snakes, but if you move those out of the way, it also has more sky.


In this comic Cueball and Megan admire a majestic sky on a beautiful day.

This is one of the few comics where the scenery is drawn entirely in color, adding to the feeling of awe and natural wonder. The lighting on the clouds and the night sky in the upper corner suggest that this is either at sunset or sunrise, with the sun at the horizon outside the left part of the image. The picture is drawn to show the ever changing beauty of the many different stages of the sky rather than to be 100% realistic, as it would not be possible to see stars as clearly as shown, if the sun is still illuminating the clouds in front of them. When the sun sets or rises the light produces many different colors which can often be breathtaking to witness. The pouch shaped cloud formations are called mammatus clouds and are usually associated with nearing of bad weather.

The comic, however, already start in a small panel, with uniform sky colored light blue background, above the large drawing described above. In this image Cueball says to Megan that he likes the sky and Megan agrees. Megan first elaborates on her feelings in the large image where the zoom out is so large that they have both become small and insignificant characters in the bottom left corner, dwarfed by the sky and cloudscape, with the ground a broad dark band beneath them.

Megan makes a statement about the sky: It's one of my favorite halves. She thus indicates that she has more than one favorite halves. As there are only two halves this thus implies that Megan likes both halves, i.e. she likes everything. Her statement is thus a tautology because it implies that the other half is also a favorite and there are no other segments that would not be among her favorites. There are several xkcd comics about tautology, e.g. 703: Honor Societies, 870: Advertising and 1310: Goldbach Conjectures.

In 1368: One Of The one of is also used in a similar way as there is really no other that that one in that comic, whereas here there are no other that has not be included. A very similar sentence is also used in the title text of 1524: Dimensions where the sentence, I would say time is definitely one of my top three favorite dimensions. This also makes very little sense as there are four dimensions with time, and the other three are indistinguishable as they are just three randomly chosen but orthogonal directions in space.

Taken at face value, given that the image depicts half open sky and half clouds, the other half could be taken to mean the clouds covering half of the sky. Or it could be the sky and the dark Earth, the other half beneath their feet. That it is the latter becomes evident in the title text.

In the title text Megan continues her comment as she states that her other favorite half has some cool objects in it. She then lists three types of objects:

From this it is thus clear that it is not the clouds vs. the sky she's referring to but rather the sky vs. something down on Earth. Weather the clouds are considered part of the sky or just blocking the sky could be something Megan and Cueball would disagree about. See below.

Based on these three items the other half could either be the entire Earth, just the solid ground or only the oceans. All three mentioned objects can be found both on land and in the oceans. Shipwrecks may be associate with oceans, but they are also often stranded on the shore. Snakes are mainly associated with land, but there are several snakes that live in the ocean. But the last part of the title text takes both the ground and the sea out of the equation, as it states that if those three objects where moved out of the way the other half would also have more sky. As Earth is round (and made from rock, most of them melted in the outer core) then if you "moved all those rocks out of the way" you would see the sky below on the other side.

This leads to the realization that the two halves are indeed the Sky and the Earth (or Heaven and Earth). The title text is thus a subversion as it may be switching the readers focus of what the other half may be, as seen from only the large image (clouds, stars or the ground).

Beyond the blue sky above there is just the dark night sky of outer space. If it where not for the Earth the blue sky would not exists as it is formed by the air following the gravity and curvature of the earth. So if you would moved the entire Earth out of the way you would also move the blue sky with it and you would only see a similar dark night sky, with lots of stars like those in the top left corner. Of course if it was not the entire Earth, but just those rocks directly beneath Megan that was moved, then in principle she would be able to see the blue sky on the other side of Earth, But as she is saying moved all those away, it indicates that Megan really means the entire Earth.

This last part of the title text thus shows that Megan may be thinking rather of the night sky, and given that there are also stars visible in the top right corner, she could have assumed Cueball also referred to the sky like this rather than the majestic display of clouds and colors. Of course that would be weird, but that's where the comedy occurs because that was unexpected, and it would be typical Megan and/or Randall.

If Megan is also interested in astronomy then she would prefer a dark cloudless sky with stars. And by focusing on the fact that if the Earth was removed there would only be dark sky (empty space) around her on all sides, this may be one of her other often seen strange preferences. (Those are often used by one of the characters in Randall's comics). It is well know from xkcd that Randall really loves astronomy and looking at the night sky. So seen from this perspective, there would still be plenty of sky even if the Earth where removed completely. However, there would not be any clouds or nice colors or any humans or other lifeforms around to admire those astronomical objects.

The title text also indicates that although the other half also is one of Megan's favorites, it is mainly the shipwrecks (the oceans) and the snakes (life forms) that she considers when thinking of this half. The rest is just rocks (the Earth). Taking into account how many different things that are on "that other half", why did Randall then choose to mention those two? Only he will know, but maybe indeed to focus on the oceans and their life forms or any life.


[Cueball and Megan are standing looking upward with in a small frame a light blue background.]
Cueball: I like the sky.
Megan: Yeah.
[Zooms out to show a blue evening sky, the sun must be setting to the left and a streak of yellow and orange clouds goes from top left to bottom right. The sky/clouds get darker further to the right and several stars are visible behind the clouds on the indigo blue sky in the top right corner. There are also some gray clouds low over the horizon. Cueball and Megan standing to the far left Below them and the sky from the horizon and down there is a thick a black slab taking up about a sixth of the frame height.]
Megan: It's one of my favorite halves.

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Typical, I think nobody's actually going to try to explain this, and I get Save Conflicted. My (wordier) version. In case any of it is useful.

The sky is ever changing, and can often give interesting views such as that illustrated in the comic. Cueball and Megan seem to be agreeing about this, and its pleasing nature.
As (ignoring particularly unusual viewpoints, severe topography and obscuring vegetation/architecture) the sky is pretty much the upper hemisphere of any external view, it is inded a "half". It would seem to be redundant to say it is "one of my favourite halves", as that indicates both a list of at least two items to choose from and more than one 'favourite'. Being in 'the top two of a list of two' actually means nothing. But the other half could be the ground or the sea, or a composite of the two, so conceivably there might be more than two 'halves' to choose from in this case. Not that the statement makes much more sense.
The title-text acknowledges the fact that the other half can have snakes (the land), shipwrecks (the sea) and rocks (either), in a manner that sounds like justifications for any non-sky 'halves' being interesting too, to the kind of people Cueball and Megan seem to be. But it also suggests that by removing all of these you'd be seeing sky, below, that people on the other side of the 'rocks' (the whole Earth) had been seeing as their own 'sky above'. At least until the effects of entirely removing the substance of the planet start to show, of course.

...for what it's worth. 11:57, 27 July 2015 (UTC)

Maybe, maybe the comic is a slight refference to the recent observetory of plutos athmosphere. ẞ qwertz (talk) 12:55, 27 July 2015 (UTC)

Maybe this comic is related to comic 1368? Gartenzaun (talk) 13:16, 27 July 2015 (UTC)

Or this 1524: Dimensions. Regarding the favourite of a small set.-Kynde (talk) 13:52, 27 July 2015 (UTC)I do
I do not agree with 1368: One Of The as it has nothing to do with the way this sentence is used here. I have removed it from the explanation.--Kynde (talk) 19:24, 29 July 2015 (UTC)

I can't defend this position properly (other than by appealing to shipwrecks) but I'm pretty sure "the other half" is the ocean (or water in general) and that this is a callback to something in early XKCD (the halves thing.) I don't care enough to find the reference though, so FFTI. 13:18, 27 July 2015 (UTC)

My read on the "halves" bit is the Biblical Genesis bit where the world was split into sky and sea, "And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day." - 14:36, 27 July 2015 (UTC)

Agreed, this appears to be a biblical reference - [this version] explains it pretty clearly. 14:41, 27 July 2015 (UTC)
Thus taking "halves" as a verb. Nice. 23:33, 27 July 2015 (UTC)

I can't tell if the sky is a photograph with a digital filter or a painting. Smperron (talk) 14:49, 27 July 2015 (UTC)

I'm pretty sure it's a digital painting. For one thing, there's a little artistic license in the transition from sunset at the left to evening stars at the top right. FourViolas (talk) 14:58, 27 July 2015 (UTC)
I don't see it -- has the picture changed? Spongebog (talk) 16:31, 27 July 2015 (UTC)
I didn't notice the stars at the top right until FourViolas pointed it out. Smperron (talk) 16:37, 27 July 2015 (UTC)
It's almost definitely a digital painting. As far as I know, Randall has never used photographs in his comics; I'd be surprised if he suddenly changed that. Moreover, the point of this comics seems to be mostly to showcase Randall's digital artwork (see also 1024: Error Code, which admittedly had slightly more surrounding humor) than to make a particular joke. 02:54, 29 July 2015 (UTC)

I think it's important that Megan says the sky is ONE of her favorite halves, and that the explanation "at least at their present location...the ground is dark, flat, and otherwise boring" is thus too simplistic. The ground where they are standing is in silhouette (it's presumably sunrise or sunset), but I think the implication is that C. and M. (who are obviously not finding words adequate to express how they feel about what they're seeing), are awed by the beauty of Nature, regardless of whether it's sky, sea (shipwrecks), land (rocks) or living things (snakes).Jv (talk) 15:01, 27 July 2015 (UTC)

The general idea here seems most reasonable to me. The sky is great (see also 1117: My Sky), but so is the Earth. I find all this debate over possible implications of "one of the" almost absurd. 02:44, 29 July 2015 (UTC)

Is it possible that the meaning of Megan's statement is that there are other binary sets where she prefers one over the other? For example, her favorites might include (in addition to sky) female, light, and loud. Smperron (talk) 16:43, 27 July 2015 (UTC)

Perhaps Megan is a reporter https://xkcd.com/1368/ Xquestion (talk) 16:51, 27 July 2015 (UTC)

What i understand under "favorite halves" is not about the mentioned tautology but about other things you can differentiate two halves and you like one more than the other. My personal favorite halves in this sense would be; Sky(vs Earth), women(vs men), low alcohol drinks(vs liquors), etc 17:11, 27 July 2015 (UTC) Bkack

There are multiple ways to split the earth into halves, so I don't think having one favorite way makes any tautology. For example, you can split North/South, East/West, sky/earth, water/earth, day/night. DMiller 18:28, 27 July 2015 (UTC)

I don't think it is a "tautology": a trivially true fact, eg "all red shoes are red". If anything it is an oxymoron (as it implies both halves are favourite, and so neither is). Zeimusu (talk) 18:58, 27 July 2015 (UTC)

Am I the only one who sees a possible (additional) visual joke in the second panel? (The drawing is divided along the diagonal: One half is mainly cloudy, another mostly clear sky.) 19:37, 27 July 2015 (UTC)

In terms of two halves, should we mention https://xkcd.com/731/ "Desert Island?" It seems to be relevant in this situation, but I want someone else's opinion first. Also, mobile sucks for that kind of stuff, so... 20:45, 27 July 2015 (UTC)

"Mathematically, stating one of my favorites it must imply that there must be at least one other favorite" - Not mathematically, but intuitively (unless you can prove the implication). Mathematically, this just says that "Sky" is a member of the set "Favorite Halves", which may or may not include more elements. Intuitively, we don't talk like that unless there is another favorite.- 21:38, 27 July 2015 (UTC)

This could be a reference to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Half_the_Sky 04:06, 28 July 2015 (UTC)

I'm not so sure that the sky being one of Megan's favourite halves is either tautological or an oxymoron. It could simply mean that, of any given pair that can be described as two halves, she always has a preference for one over the other. Thus, of "earth / sky", "sky" is her favourite half, whereas perhaps of "Bonnie / Clyde", "Bonnie" might be her favourite half. In this way one could have many favourite halves. -- 08:02, 28 July 2015 (UTC)

this ties in well with the recently popular theme of sets with the same number of elements being similar. (So even as Characters can't tell the dwarves from the days of the week, they also separate all pairs into 'favorite' and 'meh' piles.) This made more sense in my head, huh? 14:06, 28 July 2015 (UTC)

I don't think "one of my favourite halves" needs to be a tautology. It only is if we consider it one of the favourite halves of the same whole, but the set of favourite halves could easily be something like [the sky, yolk, front meant, dark side of the Moon,...], that is, favourite halves of various things. Of course, it would be rather quirky to keep track of favourite halves like that, but I think it is not beyond xkcd. Jaalenja (talk) 15:07, 28 July 2015 (UTC)

Might the fact(?) that the cloud is a mamatis cloud be relevant? 20:40, 29 July 2015 (UTC)

Looks to me like the stars in the upper right are almost but not quite in the pattern of the Pleiades. Taibhse (talk) 10:20, 30 July 2015 (UTC)

Isn't it possible that this is a reference to the famous proclamation by Mao Zedong that "women hold up half the sky"? There are books, organizations, and more that use this "half the sky" reference in this sense. - Dravecky (talk) 06:08, 31 July 2015 (UTC)

I've reinserted this explanation. It's no more far-fetched than the existing explanation, and Randall has occasionally involved himself in sociopolitical analysis before. A Google search for "half the sky" turns up plenty of related material, and it's not a common-enough phrase to be able to believe that it hasn't been deliberately chosen as a reference here. Pookybot (talk) 07:29, 31 July 2015 (UTC)

Often, I hear "better half" being used as almost a nickname for your significant other. I think we're looking into it too much- Megan might be saying that the sky is one of her "favorite halves", with Cueball being the other "favorite half". After all, this is one of the comics that isn't supposed to be humorous. 04:30, 9 August 2015 (UTC)

Tom Petty has a song 'Circus' with lyrics "Half of me is ocean, half of me is sky" - http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/tompettyandtheheartbreakers/wallscircus.html 03:40, 12 August 2015 (UTC)

What If entry "Jupiter submarine" seems to indicate that the oceans are suppoed to be the other half: Air and water are different. This seems straightforward enough, but they're also the same in a lot of ways. They're both "fluids," and some of the same rules apply to each. In some sense, when you look up at the sky, you're looking up from the bottom of a deep sea of air. 11:25, 17 August 2015 (UTC)

Umm why does the article talks of the other half as the ocean? I would call earth the other half. It IS the other half of our vision if we are on open fields like they are... Only because of the shipwrecks I think it is far streched that it is only meant for the ocean. The snake part suggests the earth more then seasnakes. 10:48, 16 October 2015 (UTC)

I think 915 is in effect here, and I disagree that this isn't a humorous comic. As I see it, it's an experience shared by a lot of people being described in a geeky way, which is also a common theme in xkcd. Also, but I believe this one less, there could be humor in the fact that the sky is preferred over the other half, as the other half is more important to sustain life. Sure, we need air to breathe, but it's kinda there, we virtually don't have to do anything with it to use it. 23:12, 19 January 2016 (UTC)

Still incomplete?

I think the little dialogues is sufficiently explained, and the picture itself is also described in enough detail. What is still missing? The incomplete tag is very outdated, with he mentioned "poorly written, misspelled version" having been written several edits ago, and if I'm any judge the current version is written well enough. The only reason why I am writing this instead of just removing the tag is because it has already been done and undone twice. Seriously, if someone feels this page still needs something, at least update the tag! Jaalenja (talk) 08:11, 29 July 2016 (UTC)

When I edited it I left the incomplete tag so the rest of the site could review it and decide if it was sufficient. I still don't feel comfortable removing the tag myself because I am one of the last ones to edit it. The two reverts you see were reverts of an editor who marked many incomplete articles as complete and thereby interfering with the work of this site. If you feel that the explanation is now complete enough you may remove the tag with a quick explanation for why. Lackadaisical (talk) 12:46, 29 July 2016 (UTC)
I believe that it was no way near complete, because someone deleted almost all of the exploitation and he was not logged in. When I came here it was marked as complete but I highly disagree. And have tried to rewrite the original explanation that where deleted, hopefully making it a better job, and then including the few bits that where added since the major deletion. As it was already completed and I think I improved it, I will leave it complete and let other decide if it should be changed. --Kynde (talk) 15:17, 30 January 2017 (UTC)
Thank you Kynde, while I think it's a rather wordy explanation I respect the content and that some users may want to know more about the types of clouds depicted. I have no desire to edit this further but your edits certainly provide a more complete explanation. I did not realize how much had been deleted in previous edits. --Lackadaisical (talk) 18:40, 22 May 2017 (UTC)