Title text: Hang on, I just remembered another thing I'm right about. See...
| This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: More on White Hat's new theory from the last panel. The abstraction of the particle idea not explained.|
If you can address this issue, please edit the page! Thanks.
All objects on Earth are matter, meaning they are made of atoms, which are specifically not made up of antimatter. Atoms, while once (when they were named) believed to be the smallest unit of matter, are now known to be made up of protons, neutrons and electrons. Protons and neutrons are in turn made up of quarks. Quarks come in six different "flavors" (up, down, top, bottom, charm, and strange), with protons and neutrons being made of the first two types. Each flavour also has a corresponding flavour of the quark's antiparticle, an antiquark, which would make up antiprotons and antineutrons.
White Hat and Megan appear to be discussing the topics of antimatter and subatomic particles. White Hat makes the assertion that we (referring to people and objects) are made partially of antimatter, because, as he claims, a proton (one of the particles which makes up all matter) is made of two quarks and an antiquark. In fact, protons are made up of two up quarks and a down quark. He is making the simple mistake of mixing up the difference between "up" and "down" flavors of quarks (which in some ways are "opposite" flavours of quarks) with the difference between particles and antiparticles. He continues to elaborate on his idea by mentioning neutrons, which are made of two down quarks and an up quark (which he incorrectly reasons as two antiquarks and a quark).
(White Hat may have incorrectly remembered that, while the valence quarks in a proton are all matter, quantum field theory says that protons also contain an indefinite number of "virtual" anti-quarks, quarks, and gluons. See this video What are Quarks? about this. His final comment could be referring to the ontological debate over whether virtual particles are in some sense real or only an artifact of perturbation theory.)
When Megan (accurately) doubts his claim, White Hat takes out his smartphone to look it up, in order to show Megan that he is correct. However, upon researching online, he realizes that he was, in fact, wrong (hence the title of the comic). Not wanting to admit being incorrect or yield his position in the discussion, he convinces himself that he wasn't actually wrong, as depicted by his mentally erasing the realization that he was wrong. Instead, he completely changes the topic to try and re-frame it so that he is not wrong. In this case, he circles back and criticises the entire scientific concept of "particles". Presumably he will go on to explain how scientists are wrong and how he remains correct that humans are made up, in part, of anti-matter.
It is rather common to be unwilling to admit fault (the whole topic of this comic) and to instead try to maintain an air of infallibility and intelligence. Some people are just too prideful to admit that they are inherently fallible. White Hat is one of those people, as depicted in several of his earlier appearances (see trivia section). Randall uses this comic to criticize people who are unable to put aside their ego and re-assess what they know in the face of empirical data. Such thinking flies directly against scientific rigor (adding an extra layer of irony to the situation, since White Hat and Megan are discussing a scientific topic). This method had already been called wrong in 803: Airfoil.
White Hat's new topic, where he can be right, includes the Quantum field theory, a very complicated field, which it is likely Megan is not well versed in (inferred by the fact that she was not quite sure about the anti-quarks). So he may be raising the topic because he believes she will not understand it sufficiently to refute his correctness. Megan, however, recognizes exactly what he is trying to do, and can only sigh in response to his failed efforts. In QFT particles are often described as resonances or excited states of the underlying physical field, in the same way as photons may be thought of as excitations in the electromagnetic field; in this way White Hat appears to be dismissing his earlier errors by implying that particles are merely an effect of something more complex, of which he can demonstrate his knowledge.
In the title text, White Hat just remembers another thing he's right about. This shows that he is not interested in a discussion on the merits of a topic, but instead is seeking only recognition and validation for being right. This bears some similarity to 386: Duty Calls, in which Cueball stays up late correcting someone on the Internet.
- [White Hat is walking beside Megan, index finger extended]
- White Hat: Really, we're all made of antimatter. A proton consists of two quarks and an antiquark.
- Megan: ...I don't think that's right.
- [White Hat stops to take out his smartphone tapping on it. Megan stops and turns towards him.]
- White Hat: Sure it is. Neutrons are, too.
- Megan: Do you mean "up" and "down" quarks? I think antiquarks are a different thing.
- White Hat: No, let me show you...
- [Zooming in on White Hat's head, while he is holding his phone up looking at it. He is thinking as shown with a bubbly thought bubble.]
- White Hat (thinking): I'm...wrong?
- [White Hat has lowered the phone. He is still thinking the same but the text has been scribbled out.]
- White Hat (thinking): I'm...wrong?
- [White Hat purges the thought from his mind]
- White Hat (thinking): ...
- [Similar setting as in the first panel, but in a full row wide panel, and White Hat is still holding his smartphone]
- White Hat: Really, the whole idea of "particles" is inaccurate. These are abstractions arising from quantum field theory, but what most people don't realize is...
- Megan: *Sigh*
- This comic could be seen as a follow up to 1605: DNA. Going back through the last White Hat appearances it turns out that DNA, 13 White Hat comics back, is actually the last where White Hat has been the fall guy. For instance he has the opposite role in 1640: Super Bowl Context, and he is not "the stupid guy" in the comics between that and this one, but often just another guy than Cueball. Further back in 1255: Columbus he was again the fall guy, and again it reminds a bit about this comic. Actually Megan even begins that comic with a *sigh* like she finished this one.
- Quarks are also referenced in 1418: Horse, 1621: Fixion and the first time they were mentioned, in 474: Turn-On, all six flavors were also mentioned.
- Antimatter is also referenced in 683: Science Montage, 826: Guest Week: Zach Weiner (SMBC) and 1621: Fixion as well as being the subject of the what if? Antimatter. It was also mentioned in another what if?: Lake Tea.
- A similar thought process where earlier thoughts are scribbled out was used by Cueball in 1650: Baby, but for different reasons.
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