1778: Interest Timescales

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Revision as of 08:48, 30 December 2016 by (talk) (Explanation)
Jump to: navigation, search
Interest Timescales
Sometimes, parts of a slowly-rising mountain suddenly rises REALLY fast, which is extra interesting.
Title text: Sometimes, parts of a slowly-rising mountain suddenly rises REALLY fast, which is extra interesting.


Randall's sharing a bit about himself and the things that interest him, in one of his strange but still funny graphs.

The caption reads: "Most of my interests fall under 'things rising up from the ground, hanging in the air, and then drifting away on the breeze,' just on very different timescales." The four examples fit this as follows:

In the case of a fireworks display, the fireworks fire up into the air, explode, and then the glowing embers drift away on the breeze in the course of a few seconds.

In the case of a rocket launch, the rocket launches from the ground into space, leaving a large plume of smoke that slowly dissipates over many minutes. The rocket remains in space for a time, and then later it re-enters the atmosphere and reaches the ground—in the case of a typical parachute-descent system, it literally drifts through the air. A typical timespan for such an event is several days or weeks.

In the case of a tree, it grows from the ground upwards, remains there until autumn comes, then drops its leaves, which drift on the breeze. This process takes months. Entire trees like the one shown typically last several decades or even centuries before they die - if not felled by humans, most are eventually toppled by the wind as well. The breeze needed for that can be measured on the Beaufort scale, likely above 5.

Finally, in the case of a mountain, typically mountains rise from the ground due to movement of tectonic plates which result in volcanic activity. The mountains are then very slowly broken down by natural erosion forces, and the stone particles disperse on the wind. These events are much slower than the others, typically taking tens of millions of years to completely erode away a mountain.

Additionally, some humor stems from the fact that, while on the tree and mountain, although it takes thousands or millions of years for any change to be made noticeable to humans, Cueball acts like it is a roller coaster.

The title text refers to the dramatic event in which a mountain suddenly rises much higher due to a massive earthquake or volcanic eruption. Such events are rare and potentially deadly to living things. Calling it "extra interesting" is an understatement. Another explanation of the title text would be that it refers to the volcanic eruption itself.


Ambox notice.png This transcript is incomplete. Please help editing it! Thanks.

From left to right:

Cueball watches a fireworks display: "Ooooh"

Cueball watches a rocket launch: "Wow!"

Cueball climbs a tree: "Zoom!"

Cueball stands atop a mountain: "Wheeeee!"

Below: A graph axis, from 'fast' (left) to 'slow' (right).

Caption: Most of my interests fall under "things rising up from the ground, hanging in the air, and then drifting away on the breeze," just on very different timescales.

comment.png add a comment! ⋅ comment.png add a topic (use sparingly)! ⋅ Icons-mini-action refresh blue.gif refresh comments!


I think the parts of the mountain that suddenly rise(s) refers to lava, smoke, ash, etc. 07:53, 28 December 2016 (UTC)

Looks to me that Randall got the chart wrong. Rockets go much faster than fireworks. Very large fireworks can go faster than the speed of sound on the order of a couple hundred miles per hour, https://www.fireworkscrazy.co.uk/blog/how-fast-are-fireworks/ But in order for rockets to go into orbit they have to reach speed in the thousands of miles per hour, http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/shuttle/reference/basics/launch.html So the rocket ship should be to the left of the fireworks. Unless the initial acceleration of the firework is faster than the rocket. In other words for the first hundred or so feet, does the firework go faster than the rocket? Does anyone know that? Rtanenbaum (talk) 15:23, 28 December 2016 (UTC)

Looking again, it seems that Randall is not talking about how fast the object rises, but how much time it takes to rise, hang and drift away. In other words how fast is the experience? In that case fireworks do follow the process of rising and hanging and drifting faster than a rocket does. So the experience takes less time (seconds) even though the rocket travels faster the whole process takes longer (minutes for blastoff and hours or days to return). Rtanenbaum (talk) 15:35, 28 December 2016 (UTC)

I can't help but feel the explanation of the trees is a bit wrong. A tree will take anywhere from months to centuries to grow before it dies depending on the species. If the interest were in leaves the current description of them falling in Autumn would apply, but in that case the image of the tree would probably be something more specific to leaves. In fact, overall I think we might be over-reading the text about the majority of things Randall is interested in being things which rise up and drift in the wind. It's hard to say that is true of mountains, except in the most extreme cases. (Signed: Random anonymous coward. December 28, 2016)

Did anyone notice Randall’s mistake in subject‐verb agreement? “...parts of a slowly‐rising mountain suddenly rises.” It should be “parts...suddenly rise”. I don’t know if it’s worth mentioning in the article. 19:04, 28 December 2016 (UTC)

Yes, it probably is worth mentioning.Mulan15262 (talk) 14:53, 29 December 2016 (UTC)
I emailed him about that and he corrected it. The article should be changed to account for that (and probably a bit of trivia mentioning how it was corrected). 13:31, 3 May 2017 (UTC)
I updated the title text in the comic accordingly and added a note in the explanation section for the title text fix. However, I'm new to this wiki and don't yet know how to add a trivia section for it. Can someone else help me out with that? --Ianrbibtitlht (talk) 14:52, 6 June 2017 (UTC)
It's now moved to a new trivia section. Just for editors: The trivia section is below the transcript but above the {{comic discussion}} tag. Every part starts with an asterisk at the beginning of the line (list-item) but please avoid nested lists like it's often done here. And keep it short. Check the source for better understanding.--Dgbrt (talk) 20:04, 6 June 2017 (UTC)
I looked at the source to see what you did. Thanks. --Ianrbibtitlht (talk) 20:13, 6 June 2017 (UTC)

Does anyone else think that the rocket looks a lot like the Delta II? --