In the first part, an apple falls from a tree and hits Isaac Newton on the head. Isaac Newton's first reaction is pain, and his second reaction is, "what force causes objects to fall?" Isaac Newton's discovery of gravitational force after this apple-tree accident is a famous legend in science.
In the following parts, similar (but more implausible) legends are formulated about how other famous discoveries were made. Someone threw a ball at Lise Meitner's porcelain (model) atom collection, and Meitner discovered a way to split the atom.
Some of Charles Darwin's children had beaks, which made them less able to drink soda. This is a reference to Darwin's initial findings on the RMS Beagle on how Galapagos finches with differently shaped beaks are better suited for specific types of food, and therefore are better selected for in environments where those foods are available. (The alt-text furthers this with a description of how beaks rather than mouths are more useful when the foods have shells that need to be cracked open.)
Albert Einstein remarks to a man that it's annoying that the man's twin brother keeps flashing a light from a train when Einstein is trying to check his clock. He then comes to a sudden revelation. This references several of Einstein's (separate--it makes little sense together in this manner) thought experiments on special relativity, such as the twin paradox (the twin on the train should be younger after decelerating to a stop), the time between separate flashes of light, and the time dilation experienced by the observer in the moving reference frame.
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Needs to explain who Lise Meitner is - I'd never heard of her, she's not on a level with the others in public consciousness. 184.108.40.206 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
- Using Marie Skłodowska Curie (instead of Lise Meitner) would be more understandable - both of them made groundbreaking discoveries in radioactivity research and Ms Curie is definitely more famous than Ms Meitner. But the author probably did not want to join everyone else in using Ms Curie as "the only one token lady scientist" - as discussed in 896: Marie Curie, where Lise Meitner (as well as Emmy Noether) is mentioned.--220.127.116.11 07:52, 30 September 2015 (UTC)
- Never let it be said that XKCD doesn't educate! (I think it's a good thing to have used Lise as the example. If everyone knows just about Marie Curie but few people know Lise Meitner, having read the comic they now know two influential women in physics, twice as many as before! Compare and contrast others such as Florence Nightingale and Rosalind Franklin. Ada Lovelace and Dame Stephanie 'Steve' Shirley.) Also, can anyone think of an observation that Marie could have made that wasn't what she did anyway, i.e. the ability of an electrometer to measure radiation, or that pitchblende is more radioactive than uranium.
- Reading the wiki article about Dame Stephanie 'Steve' Shirley, I suspect that being woman in man-dominated field was her only notable accomplishment. Not comparable with Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, who was at worst second programmer ever and discovered first computer bug. -- Hkmaly (talk) 11:45, 30 September 2015 (UTC)
- But I assume you'd probably not heard of her, before just now, so it works as the example I was trying to give as a comparison to the fame of Lord Byron's daughter. I was actually tempted to use Joan Clarke, but doubtless everyone here has seen The Imitation Game if they didn't know about her already. And then there's Grace Hopper, if you want to talk about the term "computer bug". (Meanwhile Sophie Wilson is probably also probably just too niche, and British, to be worth a mention if you didn't think Steve was good enough.) 18.104.22.168 15:15, 30 September 2015 (UTC)
- Anyway, who do you think element 109 was named after? ;) 22.214.171.124 10:05, 30 September 2015 (UTC)
Does anyone know who "John and Mildred" might be?
--Lou Crazy (talk) 09:13, 30 September 2015 (UTC)
- May Mildred be Mildred Lager? An "american pioneer of natural foods and health food", but there's no mention of "John" in this article. 126.96.36.199 11:19, 30 September 2015 (UTC)
- I doubt it since Mildred Larger was born after Darwin's death. I was wondering too who they might be, but I'm coming up empty. Djbrasier (talk) 12:47, 30 September 2015 (UTC)
I'd like to point out that Newton really was inspired by watching apple fall, that isn't a myth. The myth is that he was actually hit by the apple. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_Newton#Apple_incident KingSupernova (talk) 12:17, 30 September 2015 (UTC)
according to the german wikipedia, today's the tenth birthday of xkcd. i wonder if there's a connection between that and this strip's title... 188.8.131.52 14:43, 30 September 2015 (UTC)
This comic seems to be about our desire to have neat stories that explain scientific discoveries. Each panel has an increasingly ridiculous story that explains a "Moment of Inspiration". Bartash (talk) 16:27, 30 September 2015 (UTC)
The phrase "Hey Lise" seems like a possible Simpsons reference? 184.108.40.206 18:03, 30 September 2015 (UTC)
- Since she is called Lisa Simpson not Lise, and since Meitner is called Lise I do not see this at all...--Kynde (talk) 17:41, 7 October 2015 (UTC)
This comic may or may not be inspired by SMBC http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2353 220.127.116.11 19:52, 1 October 2015 (UTC)
The explanation says Darwin had understood Mendel's work on genetics. I understand that there is no evidence he read Mendel's work, or understood the implications it had for the theory of evolution. I know some have claimed he had some version of Mendel's work in his papers when he died, but this appears to be disputed and I have never seen any evidence. Considering the profound implications Medelian inheritance would have on the theory I'd have thought Darwin would have mentioned it if he was aware...Magdalen (talk) 19:25, 2 October 2015 (UTC)
Reference for the Darwin Mendel situation: http://members.shaw.ca/mcfetridge/darwin.html Magdalen (talk) 19:41, 2 October 2015 (UTC)
- Yes I agree that this is also what can be read on the wiki page for Mendel (at the bottom of this paragraph on Gregor_Mendel#Experiments_on_plant_hybridization. I will alter the explanation. But it is though correct that he worried about inbreeding according to the page on Darwins children. --Kynde (talk) 18:51, 7 October 2015 (UTC)