2325: Endorheic Basin

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Endorheic Basin
My biggest fear is that colonial engineers will try to flood me to generate electricity. My biggest hope is that I'll develop sailing stones.
Title text: My biggest fear is that colonial engineers will try to flood me to generate electricity. My biggest hope is that I'll develop sailing stones.


Yet another comic with one of Beret Guy's strange powers. This time he attracts water so it flows to him rather than running out towards the nearby oceans. He thus claims he is an endorheic basin, hence the title.

An endorheic basin is a limited drainage basin that normally retains water and allows no outflow to other external bodies of water, such as rivers or oceans, but converges instead into lakes or swamps, permanent or seasonal, that equilibrate through evaporation. The Caspian Sea in Asia is the largest such basin. It is debated if it is a lake or a sea (it is salty, but not connected to the oceans). If it is a lake then it is the world's largest lake.

Real-life endorheic basins do not attract water in any unusual ways. Rather, they form when low-lying, inland areas receive water from rivers and streams, but not enough to flood them completely and allow the water to overflow into an ocean. As the surface of the lake grows, so do the rate of evaporation and seepage into the ground, until they're equivalent to the inflow of water (at least, on a yearly average). Obviously, Beret Guy's inexplicable effect on water is distinct from the way actual endorheic basins function.

The panel showing Beret Guy after a shower looks similar to what could happen in a space station if you have liquid water in zero gravity. The water in this environment sticks to any surface it encounters.[citation needed] See for instance the start of this video Water in zero gravity and this one Wringing out Water on the ISS - for Science! to see how water reacts to human skin in zero gravity. It is thus almost impossible for him to dry off after a shower. It seems like the water that is attracted to him is still somewhat subject to gravity, as it pools downwards upon him; presumably he knows to finish showering before it floods over his face.

In fact he needs someone to come with a siphon to get rid of the water. A siphon is a hose or u-shaped pipe, where the downward pipe is longer than the upward section. Thus the water falling in the downward section creates a pull lifting the water in the upward section up to the highest point, from which it will flow down pulling more water up. As the endorheic basin caused by Beret Guy seems to have a limited reach, placing one end of the pipe sufficiently far outside creates a similar effect: The water outside Beret Guy's area of effect flows down under the influence of gravity, creating a pull lifting the water near him "up" out of the endorheic basin. Randall made a what if? article about siphons called Europa Water Siphon.

As with real endorheic basins, if the water is allowed to sit, it will eventually evaporate, but he notes that he'll "develop salt flats". Water from rivers carry salts, typically in low concentrations, and if a lake lacks outflows, the salts build up over time, as the water evaporates. If a salt lake evaporates completely, it can create salt flats (or salt pans), like those near Salt Lake City in Utah, e.g. the Bonneville Salt Flats. These salts come in a variety of forms, including minerals. Sometimes, endorheic basins have high enough concentrations of dissolved minerals to be worth extracting, which is presumably what he means by "let me know if you need any minerals".

There may also be a contrived pun here, in that "flats" is a description of various types of footwear (among them: women's shoes that are not high-heeled and ballet shoes not specifically reinforced for advanced 'pointe' dancing), and the water would clearly leave the 'flats' on his feet.

In the title text, Beret Guy mentions his "biggest fear" due to his water attracting abilities is being flooded to by "colonial engineers" in order for them to use him and the water to generate electricity. This may be a reference to the Qattara Depression Project. The Qattara depression is a low-lying region near the Egyptian coast. For nearly a century, there have been proposals to dig a canal from the sea to flood this depression, deliberately creating a huge endorheic basin. By placing hydroelectric dams along the canal, the proposals hoped to generation huge amounts of electricity. At least one proposal included the use of nuclear explosions to create the canal, which may help to explain why he considers this his biggest fear.

He then mentions that his "biggest hope", due to his ability, is that he will generate sailing stones. Sailing stones (also known as sliding rocks, walking rocks, rolling stones, and moving rocks), are a geological phenomenon where rocks move and inscribe long tracks along a smooth valley floor without human or animal intervention. The movement of the rocks occurs when large ice sheets a few millimeters thick and floating in an ephemeral winter pond start to break up during sunny days. Frozen during cold winter nights, these thin floating ice panels are driven by wind and shove rocks at speeds up to 5 meters per minute. The Racetrack Playa, an endorheic basin in Death Valley, is one of the most famous locations for sailing stones.

This comic came out just a bit more than a month after the previous comic with one of Beret Guy's strange powers, 2310: Great Attractor, in which strange forces exerted a pull on Beret Guy. It does not appear that he himself is drawn to water, and we cannot determine if the Great Attractor is drawn to him, so Newton's Third Law may be constantly being broken, along with the more obvious scientific impossibilities that surround Beret Guy.


[Megan, holding a glass of water up in one hand, is talking to Beret Guy, who has water surrounding his feet, with small droplets falling off the two small water triangles that cover his feet. The water in her glass is leaning towards Beret Guy.]
Megan: Why are your feet wet?
Beret Guy: I'm an endorheic basin!
[Megan looks down at her glass as the water in it is flying out towards Beret Guy's arm, which he has stretched out towards the glass.]
Megan: Huh?
Beret Guy: Nearby water flows toward me, not the ocean.
Beret Guy: See?
Megan: Oh, cool.
[At the top of this panel is a box with text being said by Beret Guy to Megan. Beneath it is a depiction of what he is explaining to Megan. Beret Guy is shown standing in a bathroom, with a towel around his waist. Almost his entire body is covered completely in water, except most of his head above mouth level, and both his feet are beneath the water bubble. He yells to someone outside the bathroom. A shower-tray or partially sunken bathtub can be seen to the left with a closed shower curtain across it. To the right of him is the sink with mirror above it. Further right is the door. The floor is tiled.]
Beret Guy - narrating: The most annoying part is drying off after a shower.
Beret Guy: Can someone bring me the siphon?
[Back to the situation from the first panel, although Megan has lowered her glass a bit. The glass seems to be as full as in the first panel though, even though Beret Guy now also has water on his arm where it was pulled out off Megan's glass in panel 2.]
Beret Guy: But I have to get rid of it or I'll develop salt flats.
Beret Guy: Anyway, let me know if you need any minerals!

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I think it is a funny comic, but the way water acts towards Beret Guy has nothing to do with what happens in an Endorheic basin. And also if he attracts water more than gravity, then a siphon is no help at all to get rid of the water. A pump would be needed that could make a larger pull then gravity. But the name is just something Beret Guy gives it. And since he is the only hydrophilic person in the world it is hard to say how it will work for him. But given that Randall named the comic it seems to me that either he did not care about this, did not think about it correctly, or else, also a possibility, I do not understand these concepts well enough --Kynde (talk) 22:49, 26 June 2020 (UTC)

I sort of disagree with Kynde. I think the idea here is that Beret Guy is a local low point where water flows toward. It's not that he's "more attractive that gravity" but that from the perspective of the water he's now the lowest point around and thus it flows toward him. Like a Endorheic basin it can't flow out to somewhere else. This makes the siphon comment funnier in my opinion as they're suggesting that if then found an even lower point than Beret Guy they could siphons water off of him and to that lower point. Something that the water wouldn't do on its own because of "walls" in his water potential function. 23:23, 26 June 2020 (UTC)Max

Do we have a category for comics where Randal is suspected of trolling the explainxkcd community? 00:32, 27 June 2020 (UTC)

"All Comics"? 00:43, 27 June 2020 (UTC)

"Generating Electricity" is most likely a reference to the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qattara_Depression_Project

Qatarra makes sense; my first thought was the Salton Sea. It's certainly not a Minecraft reference, since rivers in Minecraft are flat (same altitude as the oceans) & hydroelectric dams do not exist in the game. 17:25, 27 June 2020 (UTC)

(Prior item is unsigned.) Worth a link to https://what-if.xkcd.com/143/ aroujd the subject of siphons? If nothing else, it shows that Randall knows how they work (even if there's confusion over whether BG does, or just has the laws of nature do what he thinks they should do, as per Vacuum Energy). 10:57, 27 June 2020 (UTC)

That would be relevant yes. Looking into this I found that the page on what if what if? do no longer work here on explain xkcd...? The link is active but only displays a white page with "No input file specified." --Kynde (talk) 09:56, 1 July 2020 (UTC)

Ordinary siphoning wouldn't work unless MOND or modified inertia dark matter theories are true. 18:25, 27 June 2020 (UTC)

No, an ordinary siphon will work fine - it just has to feed past the local maximum & then it'll drain to the sea, just as it would if you put a siphon in a reservoir and fed the siphon's output to a point past the dam. It's pretty clear that BeretGuy's local minimum is not all that deep. Cellocgw (talk) 12:31, 29 June 2020 (UTC)

So, does anyone know what a Colonial Engineer is? I'm unfamiliar with the term. A quick google search just turns up a plastic parts company and a minecraft mod and that's it. 21:13, 27 June 2020 (UTC)

Isn't it simply engineer from British colony? You know, from the time of British Empire, when that included Egypt, India and lot more ... -- Hkmaly (talk) 22:42, 27 June 2020 (UTC)

Taking a poo must be awful. All that toilet water getting attracted to his butt... DrPumpkinz (talk) 00:07, 28 June 2020 (UTC)

Peeing would be worse... 20:33, 25 February 2021 (UTC)

They could also dress him in a molybdenum disulfide membrane to generate electricity. Electricity generated with water, salt and a three-atoms-thick membrane

I just changed the explanation slightly as gravity and personal attraction explains the foot-pooling of water and the not-yet-face-covering for the shower scene (plus hanging off his hand, at least until he raises his arm or brings it to his side to let it flow to is feet as well). Wanted to add in high surface tension (to explain how his feet are sticking outbl of his accumulation of shower-water), but - as you can see - this gets far too wordy. (Surface tension and core-attraction alone would not explain his feet or hand, of course.) 10:58, 29 June 2020 (UTC)

Everybody here has been nerd sniped so hard. Unrelated, but has anyone created an SCP page for Beret Guy yet? I think he's earned it Stardragon (talk) 16:41, 7 March 2022 (UTC)