# 2863: Space Typography

 Space Typography Title text: And over heeee[...]eeeere (i)s Saturn.

## Explanation

This is another one of Randall's Tips, this time a space tip, the first of two in a row, the second being 2864: Compact Graphs with a design tip.

Randall has created a sentence with the property wherein, when printed in Times New Roman font, the distances of the "i" letters from the first letter are proportional to the radii of the orbits of the innermost five planets in the Solar System. These are the only letters in the sentence that have a dot over the letter (there are no "j"s in the sentence) or elsewhere (there are no periods, colons, semicolons, or other dot-containing symbols). He suggests that if you get lost traveling among these planets, you can use the dots as a map.

This won't actually be a very useful map. When traveling between planets, it's not enough to know where the planet's orbit is, you also need to know where it is along the orbit. Additionally, if you are truly lost then you likely do not know where you actually are, and which 'way' you are heading, though you can probably at least locate the sun if you are indeed within our inner solar system.

The sentence is self-referential, since it talks about using typography to measure distances in space, and this makes it a useful mnemonic. The "optimistic" in the sentence could indicate that the aliens in question are highly optimistic that this kind of "map" would be useful for navigating a star system where planets orbit in ellipses, rather than being in static positions along a line (as is so often depicted in line-ups of the Solar System's planets).

The title text appends the sentence with a section for identifying Saturn. It contains an ellipsis in brackets, which normally signifies that an indeterminate number of 'e's has been omitted from the sentence, seemingly to represent Saturn's large orbital radius as the next "i" in "is". The trick is that actually appending the sentence literally, brackets and all, after the original sentence (so that we get "Optimistic aliens measure space typographically. And over heeee[...]eeeere (i)s Saturn.") actually puts the dot on the last "i" at Saturn's orbit. The extra dots and periods beside the six 'i's only serve as punctuation and spacing; the parentheses, besides spacing, call attention to the 'i' in the title text, where the black emphasis of the comic is not available. They're also reminiscent of Saturn's rings, although they are much too large and off-center.

Similar sentences with varying numbers of "e"s could be used to continue out to any planet or other body which does not contain the letter "i" – which is all of the remaining planets and minor planets, with the exception of Eris. However, the strings of "e"s would get longer and longer, to the point that it might be necessary to write down how many of them are to be used – about 59 "e"s for Saturn, starting from the Sun – which negates any mnemonic value the sentence may have had and might as well just be replaced with a table of orbital ephemerides.

## Accuracy

Comparison between orbits of Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, and Jupiter to the dots in the comic

Measuring the distances based on the provided image results in these approximate distances:

Planet Pixel offset Relative Distance in Comic Actual Distance in AU[1]
Mercury 93 0.3907 0.39
Venus 169 0.7101 0.72
Earth 238 1 1
Mars 362 1.5210 1.52
Jupiter 1229 5.1639 5.2

Saturn is 9.54 astronomical units from the sun, for which 13 middle 'e's would be required in "here" to make the title text work.

The picture also contains a standard representation of Times New Roman, with no changes to kerning or tracking.

Continuing the idea would look like this:

"Optimistic aliens measure space typographically. And over heeeeeeeeeeeeere (i)s Saturn. And over heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeere is Uranus. And over heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeere is Neptune."

Planet Number of middle 'e's needed in "here"
Saturn 13
Uranus 49
Neptune 58

## Transcript

[A grayed-out sentence in the Times New Roman font reads "Optimistic aliens measure space typographically". The "O" in "Optimistic" is dark black and indicated as representing the Sun (not to scale). The dots of the letters "i" in the sentence are similarly dark black. The dot in the first "i" in "Optimistic" is indicated as representing Mercury; the dot in the second "i" represents Venus; the dot in the third "i" represents Earth. The dot in the "i" in "aliens" is indicated as representing Mars. The dot in the "i" in "typographically" is indicated as representing Jupiter. A measurement bar indicates that the distance between the "O" and the third "i" in "Optimistic" (representing Earth) is equivalent to 1 AU (astronomical unit).]
[Caption below the panel:]
Space tip: if you're ever lost in the inner Solar System, you can just type out the phrase "Optimistic aliens measure space typographically" in Times New Roman and use the dots as a map.

# Discussion

Are the dot's actually roughly in line with the distances?

172.71.135.78 21:31, 4 December 2023 (UTC)

Yes they are. I eyeballed with a screenruler and calculated

• 0.40 AU for Mercury (Should be 0.37)
• 0.72 AU for Venus (0.72)
• 1 AU for earth (reference)
• 1.54 AU for Mars (1.52)
• 5.24 AU for Jupiter (4.98)

162.158.202.94 21:48, 4 December 2023 (UTC)

But what size font?Danger Kitty (talk)

129 trillion pt, give or take. 141.101.105.109 23:02, 4 December 2023 (UTC)
Thanks for the decimal-point check. This is my worksheet: Image (open in new tab) PRR (talk) 02:13, 5 December 2023 (UTC)

The number of "e"s between h and r required to make Saturn line up is about 59 (tested using 27.2 pt font) Digin (talk) 22:17, 4 December 2023 (UTC)

There are currently three different figures in the explanation for how many "e"s are needed. One says the title text is correct as written, brackets and ellipsis and all. One says 59. One says 85. They can't all be right. LtPowers (talk) 13:22, 5 December 2023 (UTC)
"They can't all be right." Well, they can, if they don't correspond to the same thing. Are we using the font size from the comic, or from the hover text? Rexon Mobile (talk) 15:39, 5 December 2023 (UTC)
I think the [...] has to be condensing what should be a longer title text. If is was "correct as written", that's an extra 3 dots that don't correspond to planets or anything in that region of space. So unless someone can find some objects in that part of space, I think "correct as written" should be vetoed. Also, can't use periods, colons, or semicolons -- would need to separate the main sentence from the title text addition using perhaps a dash or a comma (as long as a comma isn't as comet). -boB (talk) 17:22, 5 December 2023 (UTC)
The sentence is using only the dots that are part of 'i's. Although the comic's text refers to "dots" without specifying that restriction, we don't have to assume that 'j's and punctuation must also correspond to solar system bodies. BunsenH (talk) 20:06, 5 December 2023 (UTC)
Who says only the dots over the i's are to be considered? The comic certainly doesn't specify that... it just says "use the dots as a map". Someone early on in the explanation made the assumption that only the dots on letters (i and j) could, but I don't believe that's a valid assumption. The fact that Randall doesn't end the sentence with a dot implies he knows that dot would count, so he didn't include it, though admittedly he did include a period on the title text. -boB (talk) 16:48, 6 December 2023 (UTC)
Sorry, the i dots are clearly all that are to be considered. Besides the obvious, they're not in line with the other dots (I would consider the possibility of a j counting, I think i dots and j dots share a name?). Those dots don't count, they aren't officially there. Are you not familiar with this? In literary works such as articles and university papers, if you quote something but want to trim parts in the middle which are irrelevant to why you're quoting it, in order to make it shorter, it would be inaccurate and a lie to do so, you'd be misrepresenting the original text, so you have to communicate that you snipped some stuff. You do that with an ellipsis in square brackets, "[...]" (with the square brackets helping make it clear this is not part of the original quote). Here it shows that Randall has left out some Es for brevity/space. "[...]" being the universal sign for "I left something out" being surrounded by E indicates clearly that Randall has left out some Es, we aren't seeing the full count. Which means to be an accurate distance, the ellipsis must be swapped out with the original Es, the ellipsis isn't there when measuring (and besides, if you try to count them, they have no planets assigned to them). NiceGuy1 (talk) 06:11, 9 December 2023 (UTC)
"I think i dots and j dots share a name?" : That'd probably be Tittle 172.70.85.216 19:05, 9 December 2023 (UTC)
Why do you say that "the i dots [...] clearly [are] all that are to be considered"? Is it just because that's all that Randall included in the comic? If he had included j's or periods or colons or other characters that include dots, would you still be saying that? A dot is a dot, and dots are what he's talking about. I don't see why any dot from whatever characters could appear would not equally meet the criteria of using the dots as as a map. As for the ellipsis, I was making the same argument you are, that it's being used in the sense of omitting characters rather than being used verbatim, as that would require the three dots represent planets or other heavenly bodies. -boB (talk) 14:27, 13 December 2023 (UTC)

I’m curious whether randall brute forced this, trained a neural network, or did it by hand. 172.70.175.179 22:31, 4 December 2023 (UTC)

He would probably answer: 2173: Trained a Neural Net 172.70.42.217 22:45, 4 December 2023 (UTC)

Trying to prep an image of a comparison between actual orbits and the comic, but it's taking longer than i'd like 23:20, 4 December 2023 (UTC)

I assume brackets around (i) are for the Saturn's rings? 162.158.102.71 23:26, 4 December 2023 (UTC)

Ooh, good call. Put that in. LtPowers (talk) 13:22, 5 December 2023 (UTC)
I assumed it was just a way to emphasize the i. In the comic, they are bolded, but that is not possible in title text. - 172.68.27.133 22:28, 5 December 2023 (UTC)

The long, rambling diatribe about literature seemed odd at first, but I think Charlotte Brontë would be proud she was able to represent Pluto and Charon. 172.69.247.56 04:07, 5 December 2023 (UTC)

I don't understand. What's this about Charlotte Brontë? I don't see any reference to her in this comic.162.158.155.112 20:17, 5 December 2023 (UTC)
It's a joke about umlauts. 172.69.247.48 06:37, 6 December 2023 (UTC)

For what it's worth, the asteroid belt spans the area covered by the word "measure" 172.71.222.152 14:10, 5 December 2023 (UTC)

It would be nice if the word gaps were aligned that way, but there is no obvious alignment with either the edges of the asteroid belt, or the location of the Kirkwood gaps. The asteroid belt would stretch from the middle of the M in "measure" to the P in "space", with the most prominent Kirkwood gaps corresponding roughly to the letters A, R and E. Rexon Mobile (talk) 15:33, 5 December 2023 (UTC)
If he really wanted to represent the asteroids, I think he might have found a way to include a word like "riiii[...]iiight" so there would be lots of dots. Barmar (talk) 15:51, 5 December 2023 (UTC)
So asteroids are mostly between the As in "measure" and "space". Neat. --172.71.114.63 19:18, 6 December 2023 (UTC)

I added the table with the count of 'e's and adjusted the wording where it said 85 'e's from the Sun to say an extra 13 'e's in the word "here". I worked this out using an image from Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_System#/media/File:Solar_System_distance_to_scale.svg) in PowerPoint but don't have upload privileges to post. Would be nice if someone could do that. Denver87 (talk) 15:30, 5 December 2023 (UTC)

Amazingly (assuming my math was right so please someone check) the sun to scale would be very close to the size of the actual dots used to represents the planets. (Planets wouldn't be visible.)

I don't see why the mnemonic for the order of the planets would be relevant to this comic. Should it be removed? Rexon Mobile (talk) 17:40, 5 December 2023 (UTC)

Absolutely. No relevance to the comic. removed 18:18, 5 December 2023 (UTC)
I put it in because it was another mnemonic about the solar system. [*shrug*] BunsenH (talk) 19:59, 5 December 2023 (UTC)
what?! it should at least be mentioned. this comic wouldn't exist in a world without well-known solar system mnemonics :D
Lordpipe (talk) 10:35, 6 December 2023 (UTC)
Maybe in a "Trivia" section? BunsenH (talk) 16:53, 7 December 2023 (UTC)

The mnemonic scans as "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious", with the one hiccup that the emphasis lands on the second syllable of measure. --NotaBene (talk) 22:46, 6 December 2023 (UTC)

I'm so glad "dark black" is specified in the description, lest anyone get confused by looking for light black instead. 172.70.127.16 03:41, 7 December 2023 (UTC)

Lots of people get lost in the inner solar system. That is, they get lost on Earth, and Earth is in the inner solar system. Yet I don't think this mnemonic would help them much. --172.70.178.187 07:47, 7 December 2023 (UTC)

## what if? news!

I can't find it anywhere here, but there is now an official what if youtube channel with (currently) two videos uploaded! Also, I think the most recent one *isn't* a duplicate of one already covered in other what if? media! (yeah i know this isnt related to the comic but this is where people will see it)162.158.175.61 23:38, 5 December 2023 (UTC)Bumpf

No, it's been covered somewhere in one of Randall's books. But for anyone who's wondering, here's the link. https://www.youtube.com/@xkcd_whatif
If it's been covered already, i find it strange that its first upload was November 30, 2023... 00:19, 6 December 2023 (UTC)
A quick reading of the video's comment indicate that it is taken from the first book, so "the most recent one *isn't* a duplicate of one already covered in other what if? media!" is incorrect, no matter when the free access was added on Youtube. 162.158.233.107 08:35, 6 December 2023 (UTC)
Oops :) that's what the "I think" was there for 172.71.30.241 23:41, 6 December 2023 (UTC)Bumpf

## Outer Planets

We need a similar sentence for the outer planets. Jupiter is already in the first one, so it will provide a link connecting the two scales. 172.69.214.39 17:49, 8 December 2023 (UTC)

I'm going to wait until we know where(/if) Planet X might be... 172.70.189.138 17:51, 8 December 2023 (UTC)

Here is a sentence in French that covers all 8 planets with good precision: "On intimide, irrespectueusement, chaque alien en déclarant qu'une phrase aussi bébête peut le dépanner en cas d'égarement désespéré dans le système planétaire de Mercure, Vénus, la Terre, Mars, une géante gazeuse, Saturne,Uranus et Neptune : rien ne le sauvera." Unlike Randall's, this sentence contains no 'o' other than the Sun. It was designed by French physicist Gilles Esposito-Farèse. Zetfr 19:53, 20 December 2023 (UTC)