2350: Deer Turrets

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Revision as of 15:14, 15 February 2024 by (talk) (Minor edit)
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to: navigation, search
Deer Turrets
When my great grandfather designed the Titanic and it hit an iceberg and sank, he didn't sit around moping. He took those lessons to his next job designing airships, and he made the Hindenburg completely iceberg-proof!
Title text: When my great grandfather designed the Titanic and it hit an iceberg and sank, he didn't sit around moping. He took those lessons to his next job designing airships, and he made the Hindenburg completely iceberg-proof!


In this comic Black Hat is giving what appears to be a press conference, in which he's offering a non-apology for his recent actions. This is not uncommon in politics and the military, in which the speaker offers bland admissions, such as "mistakes were made", while minimizing the importance of whatever happened.

In true Black Hat fashion, he has apparently built laser turrets that automatically shoot at nearby wireless devices. This could potentially be useful in a military context, but for reasons unforeseeable, he's mounted them on local deer. This not only releases dangerous and indiscriminate weapons, potentially into populated areas, but also makes those weapons very difficult to identify and recover or shut down. Moreover, he then apparently lost interest in the whole project, presumably making no attempt to contain the damage.

Throughout the exchange, Black Hat shows a typical lack of concern for the consequences of his action, dismissing them as "mistakes", even though they were clearly deliberate actions with very predictable outcomes. He then says that it was also a mistake to invite everyone present without warning them to put their phones in airplane mode, heavily implying that the laser-deer are approaching, and everyone on the audience is in immediate danger.

The title, "Deer Turrets," may be a pun on "deterrents," as laser turrets would certainly deter people with wireless devices from approaching deer.

In the second panel Black Hat uses the common idiom "hindsight is 20/20". This may be a pun, as "hind" is a term for an adult female (doe) deer - as a counterpoint to the adult male (buck) deer being known as a "stag" - and a "sight" is a visual aligning device, often for weaponry. Whether or not the potential pun has any further caliber to its references, this might be the ultimate aim of this wording.

The auto-targeting laser turrets may be a reference to attempts by researchers at the University of Washington to create a laser-based battery charging device [1]. The device in question is mounted on a turret that locates and aims the beam at a photovoltaic cell attached to the battery. The same technology could theoretically be used with a higher-powered laser, but for the application described in the comic, the targeting mechanism would need to be altered to sense any electronic rather than the accompanying photovoltaic cell.

In the title text, Black Hat claims that his great grandfather designed the RMS Titanic, the then-largest ocean-liner in the world which sank after striking an iceberg in 1912, and the LZ 129 Hindenburg, the then-largest airship in the world which caught fire and crashed in 1937. He claims that his ancestor did not retire from the design business after the loss of the Titanic, but instead learned from it and made the Hindenburg "iceberg-proof". This is an obvious and humorous lie for several reasons. First, the lead designers of the Olympic-class Titanic and the Hindenburg-class airship were two different people, Lord Pirrie and Dr. Ludwig Dürr respectively, and Black Hat is probably not one of Dürr's great-grandsons (Lord Pirrie had no children). Secondly, while no airship has been recorded to be destroyed by striking an iceberg, it's not because of any "iceberg-proofing" efforts by Black Hat's great-grandfather, or anyone else -- it's just due to the basic fact that airships fly in the air, where there are no icebergs.[citation needed] Were an airship to strike an iceberg, it would almost certainly be destroyed; in fact, the even deadlier accident on the airship USS Akron resulted from the airship simply striking the (unfrozen) ocean. There is also the implication that the "iceberg proofing" is where the project went awry - a hot enough fire will melt an iceberg, so it may be implied that the "iceberg proofing" was intentionally filling the airship with flammable hydrogen gas so it would explode and melt the iceberg on impact. It is unclear how this would be remotely helpful in case of iceberg collision, but it would be very ironic given the fate of the Hindenburg.

The possibility of mounting devices on wild deer was previously referenced in the title text of 1924: Solar Panels.

Black Hat has built a similar device to target users of Google Glass in 1251: Anti-Glass.


[Black Hat is at a podium, addressing a crowd]
Black Hat: Was it a mistake to build turrets that can track nearby wireless devices and fire powerful lasers in their general direction?
Black Hat: Sure. I realize that now.
[Face-front view of Black Hat]
Black Hat: Was it a mistake to mount those turrets on neighborhood deer, release them, then lose interest in the project and move on?
Black Hat: Yes. Hindsight is 20/20.
[Close-up, Black Hat holds up his index finger]
Black Hat: But science is about learning from mistakes
Black Hat: And not being afraid to make new ones.
[Side view again]
Black Hat: Like inviting you here, but not warning you to put your phones in airplane mode.
Black Hat: Another mistake.
Black Hat: But that's okay.
Off-Panel: Gallop gallop
Audience member: Is it really?!
Black Hat: I think it's fine.
Deer: Pew! Pew!

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


There's no "next" button on 2349? -- 18:44, 24 August 2020 (UTC)

The reason there's no Next button is that it's the newest comic. -- 21:04, 24 August 2020 (UTC)

Is this about something? I mean, it could be a commentary on the way politics handled Covid, some politicians taking terrible decisions, then saying it was a mistake and that science is still learning, but then still taking terrible decisions afterwards. 21:02, 24 August 2020 (UTC)

That's definitely my take on this comic. The similarity with certain political meetings in the covid situation is quite abvious, in my opinion. 16:02, 25 August 2020 (UTC)
I saw it as a send up of the agile development practices of Silicon Valley and many other businesses today. The principle is that if an idea is going to fail, you want it to fail fast, so you can learn and pivot quickly to a better idea. This can ideally result in a culture that values constructive failure. If taken too far, it can lead to sloppy practices, waste, and outright harm to customers and to the public. JSekula71 (talk) 20:12, 27 August 2020 (UTC)

The thing about icebergs, is that 9/10ths of them would be on fire, if they weren't kept underwater. Truth! 22:17, 24 August 2020 (UTC)

(to the tune of “Do-Re-Mi”) Does are near, now flee in fear; The ray will boil everyone; The antlered gun is taking aim; Now it’s vaporised my lung... Lightcaller (talk) 22:43, 24 August 2020 (UTC)

Deer don't gallop. Are you sure that's about the deer? 22:54, 24 August 2020 (UTC) Dear IP_address, deer most certainly do gallop. Since I'm a nice guy (rarely), I LMGTFYed that to confirm. Cellocgw (talk) 12:35, 25 August 2020 (UTC)

No deer run. 02:25, 26 August 2020 (UTC)
Some deer run. 16:04, 24 September 2020 (UTC)

I don't think you can build an iceberk-proof airship. Or at least, you won't get it into air because it would be too heavy. -- Hkmaly (talk) 00:21, 25 August 2020 (UTC)

You make a ship iceberg proof by making it fly. You can't be sunk if you fly over. Hax (talk) 07:16, 25 August 2020 (UTC)

I think the "Is it really??" means "Is it really okay?", not "Is it really a mistake?". 11:03, 25 August 2020 (UTC)

Gotta keep on trying 'til you run out of cake. 13:18, 25 August 2020 (UTC)

Some airplanes crash into mountains. Some mountains look like icebergs. Therefore, some airplanes crash into some icebergs. These Are Not The Comments You Are Looking For (talk) 03:51, 1 September 2020 (UTC)

The current explanation says, “Deer are well-defined by their tendency to move around” - though I’m not too familiar with deer (they’re not common animals in my place), I’m not sure if this explanation is okay. Maybe “well-known” instead of “well-defined”? Intuitively, the set {A | A has tendency to move around} is not well-defined... Yosei (talk) 14:01, 20 March 2021 (UTC)

“in their general direction” – Sounds like a Monty Python and the Holy Grail reference to me (“I fart in your general direction!”) -- 23:18, 21 September 2023 (UTC)

When Mao went to clear the sparrow but for the locust, it was 42% as deadly as fauna-mounted autocannons[edit]

Just saying. 07:17, 25 August 2020 (UTC)

Didn't the designer of the Titanic go down with ship? SanFranSam 04:25, 26 August 2020 (UTC)


The part that made me laugh the hardest was the Citation Needed on the claim that there are no flying icebergs! Well played. BlakeFelix (talk) 11:03, 26 August 2020 (UTC)

Ok, this iceberg (https://www.explainxkcd.com/wiki/index.php/2829:_Iceberg_Efficiency) could definitely pose a threat to an airship. Perhaps it's Black Hat's way of justifying his grandfather? IDK (talk) 12:32, 12 March 2024 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)