Title text: Happy little turtles
- To experience the interactivity of the game, visit the original comic.
The comic displays just a small radio button (or option button). Usually, there would be more than one to give the user options. Once it has been selected it cannot be deselected. Once pressed the button turns blue and this starts the real part of this April fool's comic.
The comic consists of an audio file. The speech is a mix of facts about turtles and coding instructions in LOGO. When executed, the instructions draw an xkcd comic. The audio file is 9 hours and 7 minutes long.
- See the resulting comic below.
- The transcript of the quotes (the non-code) can be found here 2601: Instructions/Audio Transcript.
- Images of the dynamic changes and other pictures relating to this comic can be found here 2601: Instructions/Images.
Once the voice begins to describe the instructions (hence the title) it is possible to mute the audio by pressing a muted button at the bottom right of the screen. This fades into view when the radio button is pushed. Pressing it will change the button to a non muted loudspeaker. These were the same buttons that were in the previous April fool's comic 2445: Checkbox. That was the first xkcd comic with audio, and thus these were two April fools' comics with audio in a row, and these are the only comics with audio. In the Checkbox comic, the mute buttons meaning are reversed, so the sound is on when the loudspeaker is shown and muted when the mute button is shown. It could be another layer to the April fool's joke or just an error by Randall.
The image originally displayed on this page was of a small turtle crawling in the center where the radio button is in the real comic. That was the image that would be downloaded by web crawlers like explain xkcd's bot, as it is what was placed here on xkcd: https://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/instructions_2x.png. This is of course not the real comic, which cannot be downloaded in that manner.
The "turtle" is a key concept in Logo, a programming language especially designed to teach programming to children in an easy way. The turtle in the logo is the cursor. Programming commands move the turtle, drawing a line as it goes. Of course, listening to hours of instructions, including the speech-synthesized reading of source code, is not an easy way to code or draw a picture.
In addition, at the end of the audio the voice says:
"I even talk to turtles at times, but you need to understand LOGO to appreciate the great, great things that have been created. We spend so much of our life typing, looking, but never ever seeing."
The title text alludes to Bob Ross's catchphrase "happy little trees" in The Joy of Painting, a PBS TV show in which Ross leads the viewer through the painting of a nature scene. The audio file itself is also presented in the style of The Joy of Painting; it begins with greeting the viewer and introducing the color palette to be used (just one color, in this case, as Logo and all computer monitors of the time were monochrome). The speaker then reads out some helper functions to be used in programming the scene, which is more analogous to Ross's palette of paints (titanium white, carmine red, etc.) along with words of encouragement as each is completed. The functions are DIST, to calculate the Euclidean distance between two points, LERP, to perform linear interpolation, MIX to average two numbers (with LERP), and CUBIC to draw cubic Hermite splines. From there, the speaker alternates between sketching parts of the scene and offering more words of encouragement, mixed in with turtle facts.
Transcribing the audio into text was organized as a project on github.
This is not the first time that Randall made an interactive comic where turtles played a big part, see 1416: Pixels. In this, he jokes with the idea of turtles all the way down, which is also mentioned in the audio file. He also made a comic simply called 889: Turtles.
Unique header text
- "Today's comic was created with Patrick, Amber, @chromakode, Michael, Kat, Conor, @zigdon, and Benjamin Staffin."
The header had not changed since the promotion of the new what if? 2 book.
The resulting image
Explanation of the image
The image drawn by the Logo program is a depiction of Bob Ross standing in front of a canvas, on which he has painted "a happy little tree, holding up a happy little world". However, unlike his usual "happy little trees", the tree depicted is not a small pine, but rather a gargantuan World Tree growing from the back of a giant World Turtle, on which a Flat Earth rests. (The "happy little world" does bear several small pines more typical of his style.) Several ornaments hang from the World Tree, referencing the common practice of hanging ornaments on Christmas trees.
Near the middle of the world, a Cueball sits while listening to the radio, perhaps tuning in to the same transmission that generated the image. Closer to the reader, a turtle is shown walking around, leaving dotted-line tracks behind it, suggestive of the Logo turtle. The dotted-line tracks spell out "TY", shorthand for "thank you" (presumably directed to the readers).
At the far top right, a dotted line is shown past which the words "vacuum decay" are written. This is a hypothetical effect in which the universe, being in a metastable state, decays to a true vacuum, and the resulting annihilation of everything expands at the speed of light. As such, humans would have no idea if there were an approaching false vacuum until it arrived at Earth.
At the far left of the image, a robot and human are drawn next to a turtle which has flipped onto its back. The robot declares, "Poor thing!" while the human says "I'll help". This is a reference to the "empathy tests" employed to distinguish humans from androids in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and its film adaptation Blade Runner. As part of the test, the listener is asked to imagine being in the desert, flipping a tortoise onto its back, and refusing to turn it back over, while their eyes are monitored for signs of emotional response (or lack thereof). In this case, the robot expresses sympathy for the turtle and the human declares that he will turn it back over. (In this case, however, the robot is very clearly distinguishable from a human being.)
Transcript of the image
- [A man with large hair and a beard, meant to resemble Bob Ross, is holding an artist's palette with five patches of paint in one hand and a paintbrush in the other. He looks upon his canvas, where he has painted a large painting.]
- Painter: A happy little tree
- Painter: Holding up a happy little world.
- [The painting contains lots of stuff. Most notably, an enormous tree with a large, flat top grows on the back of a similarly large turtle at the bottom of the painting, the top of whose shell has been replaced with soil. On the tree is a robot that sees Cueball bending down to lift a turtle that is on its back. They talk:]
- Robot: Poor thing!
- Cueball: I'll help
- [In the top right corner, there is a dotted line forming a semi-circle around the corner. Inside this are the words:]
- Vacuum decay
- [There are no other words in the image. The image includes:]
In the sky:
- Mars, including:
- A Mars rover (appears to be Curiosity or Perseverance), which is examining a turtle
- A small rover (appears to be Sojourner)
- The JWST (James Webb Space Telescope)
- The ISS and what appears to be a TIE fighter transiting the sun
- A small planet with a man and a flower (Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)
- A moon of Saturn, with both Cueball and a tiny turtle
- A constellation in the shape of a turtle
- A constellation in the shape of a kite (or a tetrahedron)
- A constellation that appears to be the little dipper (Ursa Minor) stacked inside the big dipper (Ursa Major), resembling a lemon squeezer, next to an object that appears to be half a lemon.
- Cueball playing tennis with incoming meteors
- A rocket
- Three birds
- Two galaxies
- A star which appears to have teleported
On top of the tree:
- Cueball listening to a radio
- Ponytail holding a balloon
- Megan looking over the edge
- A turtle who may have walked a path in the shape of the letters "T" and "Y"
- A squirrel
- A rabbit
- Two happy little trees
- Eight scattered tufts of grass and five scattered rocks
- Mountains in the background, one of which seems to have a gigantic Egg on its top and stairs leading to it, which is likely a reference to the video game The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening.
Under the tree:
- Beret guy looking out of a window in the tree
- Blondie standing at the base of the tree
- One happy little tree on top of the turtle
- Ponytail in a balloon, throwing out an anchor towards the turtle
- A helicopter with a stegosaurus tail (thagomizer)
- Three glass ball ornaments hanging from the tree
- [The comic consists of one radio button, a small circle in the center of a large white panel. It is interactive. When pressing the radio button (selecting it), it turns blue. The second the radio button is pressed a more than 9-hour long audio file of coding instructions begins to play, and a mute button appears in the bottom right corner. It fades slowly into full opacity. Pressing this button will change it to a loudspeaker. It toggles whether there is sound playing or not. It is not possible to shut down the audio by pressing the radio button. Once selected it cannot be deselected as there is only this one option.]
- [Covered by the radio button is an image of a turtle crawling from left to right, with a dotted line trailing behind it, indicating its movement. This image can only be seen by looking in the place where images for xkcd are usually placed on xkcd.]
- [To read a transcript of the audio file go here: 2601: Instructions/Audio Transcript.]
- If you have scripts disabled, you will just see a picture of a little turtle which is not interactive.
- The Tree being atop a turtle in the finished comic (as well as the general turtle theme) could be a reference to the programming phrase "it's turtles all the way down", which is used to describe infinite recursion. A world atop a turtle (albeit with elephants between) is also a Discworld reference, derived by Terry Pratchett from the same mythic roots, and something Randall is known to have occasionally referenced.
Index of facts
|Merriam-Webster defines a turtle as a noun.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=569|
|Here are some interesting notes from interesting facts about turtles.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=962|
|Over a great many years, I have taken a great interest in the land turtle.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=973|
|One of the interesting points about turtles is their great variety of foods.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=1415|
|in the pen and in five minutes it is surrounded by the turtles,||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=1976|
|when I found one of the large turtles had caught and disemboweled, the very large toad,||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=2648|
|I have seen turtles eating at 11:00 at night||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=2655|
|the youngest of turtles I have ever had seems to take to the same food as the adults||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=3506|
|I made friends with a turtle yesterday and he gave me his phone number.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=4283|
|Running away is slow as compared to this turtle propulsion.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=4522|
|Occasionally one can see a turtle dragging another one along||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=5370|
|I have never known a land turtle to bite||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=5382|
|Some people have turtles in their cellars believing that they catch rats and mice.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=5853|
|I believe that these turtles died because they were exhausted||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=5879|
|and mice might be kept away by the noise made by the turtle making its endless||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=6151|
|But doubt whether a turtle could catch a rat or a mouse||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=6158|
|In this, the turtles would enjoy themselves||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=6437|
|How about some interesting things in 10 facts about marine turtles from the WWF UK.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=6622|
|There are seven species of marine turtle.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=6628|
|Marine turtles were around more than 100||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=6632|
|These days, scientists recognize seven species of marine turtle,||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=6638|
|turtles do not have teeth.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=6890|
|Turtle shells are made of over 50 bones fused together.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=7064|
|The first few years of a marine turtle's life are known as the lost years.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=7352|
|Marine turtle species vary greatly in size.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=7654|
|Wales holds the world record for the largest marine turtle ever found||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=7675|
|1000 marine turtle hatchlings make it to adulthood.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=8216|
|turtles seem to prefer red, orange, and yellow food.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=10106|
|I'm beginning to suspect it's turtles all the way down||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=10403|
|marine turtles can migrate incredibly long distances.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=10623|
|move the turtle||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=11788|
|Here are some more interesting bits from interesting facts about turtles.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=11913|
|several occasions with the turtle still in c.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=12612|
|there is an artist in the bottom of everybody||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=12934|
|The number laid by a turtle varies||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=15403|
|I have also observed one turtle laying its eggs||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=15411|
|I had the pleasure of seeing six little baby turtles come out||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=16167|
|The turtle commenced to dig at six p.m.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=16753|
|Five days later a second turtle dug these eggs out arid,||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=16760|
|personally. I do not believe that the turtle digging out.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=16768|
|turtles a year factoid. Actually just statistical error,||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=16972|
|average person paints zero turtles per year||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=16976|
|turtles. Georg who lives in cave and eats over 10,000 each day||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=16980|
|The young turtles when they make their emergence at the end of three months,||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=17234|
|Do you know what A sea turtle's favorite sandwiches?||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=17526|
|Just ask the next sea turtle you meet.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=17536|
|Here are some interesting observations from odd facts about turtles.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=17639|
|It has been said that the turtle,||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=17647|
|In many ways. The turtle is one or the strangest of living things,||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=17943|
|But the turtle in all his varieties in all his ways is a most mysterious animal.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=17961|
|Your turtle is neither fish, flesh nor fowl.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=17979|
|a little turtle||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=18667|
|there is none so tenacious of life as the turtle||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=18986|
|Leave the turtle apparently undisturbed||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=18992|
|Just as soon as a baby turtle emerges from the egg off he scuttles down to the sea.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=19273|
|The young turtle feeds unmolested while his armor undergoes the hardening process||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=19306|
|whatever the young sea turtle eats and wherever he eats it||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=19628|
|the turtle is free from all danger||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=19915|
|interferes with the turtle||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=19924|
|Cool facts about turtles from Deutsche Welle.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=20499|
|There is a reason why turtles look a little prehistoric.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=20506|
|Luckily for the turtles, they're burrowing and water-dwelling habits.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=20527|
|While a turtle's lifespan largely depends on the species,||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=20926|
|A typical pet turtle can make it to anywhere between 10 and 80 years.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=20935|
|Researchers think some turtles could even be hundreds of years old.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=20949|
|There are currently 356 known species of turtles.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=21629|
|There are sea turtles, leatherback turtles, snapping turtles,||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=21642|
|pond turtles, soft-shelled turtles, and of course tortoises,||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=21646|
|Not all turtles or tortoises||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=22175|
|but all tortoises or turtles.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=22177|
|technically all tortoises are in fact turtles.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=22181|
|But the main difference between turtles and||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=22192|
|while most turtles live in or near water||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=22198|
|Some turtles are vegetarians||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=22405|
|Most turtles are actually omnivores but a few species||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=22409|
|Not to the fearsome-looking alligator turtle||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=22421|
|Even water-dwelling turtles will dig their nests||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=22805|
|No species of turtle sticks around to raise their young.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=22814|
|A turtle's gender is determined by temperature||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=23005|
|A turtle's gender is determined after fertilization.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=23010|
|If the turtles eggs incubate below 27.7 degrees Celsius,||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=23015|
|turtles tend to give birth to more females||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=23037|
|Sea turtles are known for their amazing ability to return||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=23182|
|turtles can navigate their way at sea by||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=23190|
|turtles have strong underwater eyesight.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=23618|
|Although sea turtles are famous for their internal GPS||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=23629|
|Six out of seven turtle species are classified as||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=23919|
|How about some interesting facts from turtle facts by Alina Bradford.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=24214|
|turtles are reptiles with hard shells that protect them from predators.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=24221|
|Turtles live all over the world in almost every type of climate||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=24233|
|the turtle order||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=24479|
|turtles spend most of their lives in water.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=25251|
|Sea turtles rarely leave the ocean except to lay eggs in the sand.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=25260|
|Freshwater turtles live in ponds and lakes||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=25266|
|With so many different types of turtle.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=25760|
|The largest sea turtle species is the leatherback turtle.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=25765|
|The largest freshwater turtle in North America is the alligator snapping turtle.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=25788|
|The Yangtze giant softshell turtle is the largest softshell turtle.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=25799|
|A turtle's shell is a modified rib cage and part of its vertebral column||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=26177|
|All the thoughts of a turtle are turtles and of a rabbit rabbits.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=26401|
|So let's try to think like a turtle||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=26406|
|Many turtles are able to retract their heads and feet into their shells,||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=26450|
|turtles are placed in the two sub-orders based on the method of retraction.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=26455|
|Sea turtles have lost the ability to retract their heads||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=26472|
|turtles are very adaptive and can be found on every continent except Antarctica.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=26676|
|Most turtle species are found in southeastern North America and South Asia.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=26681|
|sea turtles can be found in the coral triangle.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=26844|
|what do you get if you cross a turtle with a giraffe,||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=26976|
|The African helmeted turtle is the most common turtle in Africa,||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=27157|
|roti island. Snake-necked turtles are found only on Rhode island.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=27221|
|turtles are not social creatures||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=27393|
|while they typically don't mind if there are other turtles around them,||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=27396|
|Most turtles are active during the day,||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=27405|
|turtles are not silent creatures.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=27537|
|Most turtles are omnivores.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=27961|
|musk turtles eat mollusks,||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=27968|
|The cooter turtle is mostly vegetarian||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=27973|
|and the green sea turtle only eats grasses and algae.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=27976|
|The alligator snapping turtle lures in fish with its tongue||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=28293|
|crayfish and other turtles.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=28313|
|All turtles lay eggs.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=28483|
|No species of turtle nurtures their young||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=28493|
|turtles reach the age to mate at different times.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=28762|
|Male and female turtles intertwined their tails so||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=29117|
|sea turtles travel from the ocean to lay eggs on beaches.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=29387|
|sea turtles lay around 110 eggs in a nest||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=29392|
|Though the flatback turtle only lays 50 at a time||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=29396|
|the temperature of the sand affects the sex of the turtle.||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=29661|
|Too many sea turtle females are being born||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=29673|
|according to the sea turtle. Conservancy||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=29679|
|Many turtle species are listed as threatened,||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=29984|
|I even talked to turtles at times||https://xkcd.com/2601/radio.mp3#t=32815|
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