2874: Iceland

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Revision as of 23:46, 18 January 2024 by (talk) (Explanation)
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to: navigation, search
The HVAC bill for installing the Gulf Stream was enormous.
Title text: The HVAC bill for installing the Gulf Stream was enormous.


This comic is a reference to the strange geography of Iceland, owing to the sheer number of notable geographical features in such a small area, leading to the conclusion by Randall that Iceland had to have been created by a committee of various planetary scientists all vying to have their ideas implemented into their 'project', that being Iceland.

The comic depicts a scene of a Cueball giving a presentation to a bunch of members sitting around a table, that being White Hat, Blondie, another Cueball, Megan and Hairbun, in the order left to right. It may have been inspired by Iceland being recently in the news for its notable volcanic activity, although at least this one isn't one of the ones under a glacier, so only (currently) causing fairly localised inconvenience.

Noting that being nearer the magnetic pole might more frequently provide you with an aurora, but the more severe (on the Kp index) geomagnetic storms invoke their auroral displays at lower latitudes. Once you get a Kp of 5 (out of a theoretical 9), Iceland may be far too close to the pole to fully appreciate the sight.

A possible alternative viewpoint that can be taken in this comic is about projects that have unrealistic targets (and often fail as a result). The bottom text has already set itself a very unrealistic target by attempting to satisfy 'everyone', even though such a task would be rendered impossible should a single instance of conflicting desires ever occur. In addition, the various ideas that the characters are each vying for to be implemented into the project (that being Iceland) in this comic would each likely require significant resources to accomplish, causing the project requirements to balloon so drastically that meeting its targets would become impossible. This process is often described as feature creep.

HVAC in the title text is jargon for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. The Gulf Stream is a warm and swift Atlantic ocean current that originates in the Gulf of Mexico and flows through the Straits of Florida and up the eastern coastline of the United States, then veers east near 36 degrees latitude and moves toward Northwest Europe as the North Atlantic Current, providing Iceland with a milder and more liveable climate than would be otherwise expected for its latitude. The electrical costs associated with providing airflow at a certain temperature, over such a vast area would prove incredibly expensive, not to mention the fact that the Gulf Stream is not in fact an artificial phenomenon powered by electricity, but rather a natural one.[citation needed]


[Cueball is standing in front of a board and pointing to it with a stick. In front of him is a long table with White Hat, Blondie, another Cueball and Megan sitting on the long side of the table (the same side, the one away from the reader) with Hairbun sitting at the end of the table furthest from Cueball. All are sitting on office chairs and looking at Cueball. On the board there are two figures and some unreadable text. The top figure is an skewed ellipse with some dots inside. There is a label text beneath it. The next large figure depicts an island with a rift going down its middle. The rift extends on either side of the island. There is a label above it. Beneath this there is a box with four lines of unreadable text and above it a heading. Cueball's stick points to the island.]
Cueball: Okay, we'll make it an island on a mid-ocean ridge to satisfy the mantle people and the oceanographers.
Cueball-like man: But what about my glaciers?
Cueball: We can just pile them on the volcanoes.
Hairbun: Don't forget that it has to be near a pole - I was promised aurora!
[Caption below the comic:]
Iceland was designed by a committee of planetary scientists that was trying to satisfy everyone.

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


As someone with friends in Iceland, I can confirm that Iceland is actually not a real island, and was actually created by a team of 8000 workers that happened to be carrying bags of sand, ice, and grass. someone, i guess(talk i guess|le edit list) 00:33, 30 December 2023 (UTC)

Ooh, can you get some of them to state that online where we can cite it for the Wiki entry?
ProphetZarquon (talk) 20:10, 30 December 2023 (UTC)

With all due respect to the first editor contributing to the Explanation ... my take was that the comic has little to do with mission creep within projects but has to do with the fact that Iceland contains such a confluence of strange geographic features that it defies logic that they should all be collectively present in a single location. For example, you don't find islands on top of a mid-ocean ridge, or a glacier on top of a volcano, or a mild climate (because of the Gulf Stream) in the polar regions where the Aurora Borealis could be seen. The only logical explanation for such a bizarre jumble of features was that it must have been created by a committee of diverse scientists who wanted their pet feature to be included in the formation of Iceland. Rtanenbaum (talk) 02:42, 30 December 2023 (UTC)

Agreed. Also "More fjords!"-Slartibartfast L-Space Traveler (talk) 03:55, 30 December 2023 (UTC)
That's how I took it, too. Get your editing shoes on and fix it. Barmar (talk) 04:09, 30 December 2023 (UTC)
I just changed the explanation on the first paragraph based on your comment, much thanks! AT-RexEatingAnAirplane (talk) 06:22, 30 December 2023 (UTC)
Actually, I think "mission creep" is also one of the subjects which should be mentioned... -- 23:26, 30 December 2023 (UTC)

By the way, Iceland and Greenland have names that are contrary to their actual geography. Iceland is actually much more habitable suitable for cultivation because of the geothermal warmth and Gulf Stream effects. While Greenland is suitable for agriculture on only 1% of its territory. Rtanenbaum (talk) 02:42, 30 December 2023 (UTC)

I don't know if it's apocryphal or not, but I heard that this happened because the inhabitants of iceland didn't want to encourage immigrants who would gentrify the place. So they gave it a name that didn't sound appealing, and gave Greenland an attractive name. Barmar (talk) 04:08, 30 December 2023 (UTC)
While Greenland was indeed 'upsold', Iceland was at least twice ("snow land", prior to "ice land") described for what its respective new arrivals actually saw and identified as its main features (compared with their Scandinavian expectations, even)...
Of course, those arriving at any of the actually 'useful' margins of Greenland perhaps weren't to know how much actual icecap there was beyond the fringes which were somewhat farmable. And one could imagine that arriving at Iceland at the wrong place/time of year could leave one ignorant of the actually surprisingly copious fertile soils, even after first climbing a handy nearby mountain to get a bigger picture. 10:15, 30 December 2023 (UTC)
According to the Iceland Sagas Greenland was named by Erik "the Red" Thorvaldsson (the father of Leif Erikson) to lure settlers there. The short version: Erik was exiled from Iceland for three years and sailed west. In his exile his main occupation was exploring Greenland and its shores. Thus it can be assumed that he knew very well that the place was rather... inhospitable. When he returned to Iceland, he told stories about this "Greenland" and so gathered the first Icelandic colonists to establish permanent settlements on Greenland. Elektrizikekswerk (talk) 09:55, 2 January 2024 (UTC)

Hitch Hiker's Guide[edit]

This one is rather reminiscent of Douglas Adams' Hitch Hiker's Guide series, where the Norwegian fjords (and the rest of planet Earth) are revealed to have been designed to order. 16:09, 31 December 2023 (UTC) - I always felt that that particular project was not ordered ins such detail (i.e. 'I want fjords in Norway') but instead ordered by the Mice as a whole. Slartibartfast is more of an artist than an engineer. That's why he makes Fjords in Africa for the second version.