2923: Scary Triangles

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Scary Triangles
Concealed mostly beneath the surface, sharks are the icebergs of the sea.
Title text: Concealed mostly beneath the surface, sharks are the icebergs of the sea.


Cueball is giving a marine biology lecture about sharks and seems to have mixed up icebergs with the topic.

In pop culture, sharks will often approach prey or people with only their front dorsal fin visible, which looks like a triangle, above the water. As far as its usual marine prey is concerned, this is inaccurate, as most sharks will attack from below to keep the element of surprise. From the human perspective, we're just more used to (and capable of) seeing the surface of the sea so, most of the time, if we actually know that there is a shark in the area then it's because it is currently swimming close enough to the surface to have its dorsal fin conspicuously sticking into the air - whether or not it is a hunting shark, a dangerous shark or even an actual shark.

In the comic the joke is that Cueball reveals that marine biologists have only recently learned that the triangle is only a small part of a shark. Until this revelation people were only aware of the visible portion, and the fact that death and injury often occurred when they arrive, causing them to be known as 'scary triangles'. Finally the community has learned that more than 90% (i.e. the rest of the shark's body) is hidden beneath the surface. (In most, if not all, cases it would actually be significantly more than 90%.)

The 90% is borrowed from an often cited factoid about icebergs: that 90% of their volume is underwater (see also 2829: Iceberg Efficiency). This follows from the relative densities of ice and water: the fraction under water is the density of the ice divided by the density of the water. For pure ice just below freezing in pure water just above freezing this would be 0.92 kg/L / 1 kg/L = 92%. However sea water has a density of 1.03 kg/L, leading to 89%. In reality icebergs are made of compressed snow (which has a lower density) and may be filled with air cavities, leading to lower densities.

Having learned that a similar fact is true of sharks, Cueball has drawn a dotted outline of the shark's body, equivalent to that often depicted in diagrams of icebergs, beneath the scary triangular fin, to show what a shark looks like under the surface. Cueball's enhanced analysis has so far failed to identify some of the even more scary triangles that more often stay below water, and would be experienced proportionately more in actual attack situations, also leaving critical leaky holes in the body.

The title text continues the joke explicitly, saying that sharks are the "icebergs of the sea." However, icebergs are already the icebergs of the sea.[citation needed] A better name would be "icebergs in the animal kingdom".


[Cueball points with a stick to a poster hanging behind him to the left. The poster has a diagram of a shark. The dorsal fin is shown above a wavy surface of water. The part of the outline of the shark that are under water are drawn in dashed lines. There are unreadable text in the top and bottom left corner, and two labels with lines that points to its dorsal fin and its gills. Cueball's stick points to the label near the gills]
Cueball: Today's marine biology lecture is on sharks. We all know them as the scary triangles of the sea, but recent research has revealed that the triangle is only a small portion of the shark - over 90% of it is hidden beneath the surface.


This is the second comic in a row to mention sharks (the previous being 2922: Pub Trivia), and the third out of the last five to mention large marine predators in some way (the first being 2919: Sitting in a Tree).

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Sharks are but two-dimensional icebergs. [ What is Titanic in this metaphor? ] JohnHawkinson (talk) 00:17, 23 April 2024 (UTC)

The Orca. Barmar (talk) 00:33, 23 April 2024 (UTC)
A castaway sitting on a floating log. :) NiceGuy1 (talk) 05:06, 28 April 2024 (UTC)

This feels like a riff on cosmology, not sure if it's meant to be it specifically, just sounds a lot like "recent research has discovered 90% of the mass in the universe is dark matter" kind of thing. 03:57, 23 April 2024 (UTC)

No for sure it is a riff on icebergs. It is also not very recent that we found out that most mass in galaxies seems to be invisible (dark matter) --Kynde (talk) 11:41, 23 April 2024 (UTC)
Surely we've known about icebergs for longer. But the fact that they are referenced in the title text reads to me that that's a secondary layer of the joke. 06:02, 24 April 2024 (UTC)

Just like 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea predicted the modern submarine, so too did Jaws predict the modern shark. --NeatNit (talk) 04:43, 23 April 2024 (UTC)

No, the joke is, in my opinion, NOT that Cueball didn't understand that sharks don't always show this behaviour and that 90% of it are below the surface is no "conclusion" but the "recent discovery" he (and his team, most likely) just made. The joke is the analogy to icebergs and that only "recent research" has shown that sharks are much more than the "scary triangles of the sea". Pretty much like the discovery that icebergs are much more than what can be seen from the surface was a "huge" surprise in the 18th century. Unfortunately I currently don't have the time to rewrite the explanation in that regards. Elektrizikekswerk (talk) 06:52, 23 April 2024 (UTC)

I think I, and others, did rewrite it, hope it is an improvement? --Kynde (talk) 11:41, 23 April 2024 (UTC)
Yes, thanks :) Elektrizikekswerk (talk) 13:21, 23 April 2024 (UTC)

"90% of the universe is composed of faecal matter" - this is another fundamental law, coincidentally found out by a person named like another large fish, so there is clearly a pattern emerging and Cueball might be on to something. Will we get to a Grand Unified Theory of Everything and Its Dog through sharks, icebergs, dark matter and literary genres? PaulEberhardt (talk) 22:04, 23 April 2024 (UTC)

Don't you mean '...everything and its dogfish'? 08:30, 24 April 2024 (UTC)
actualy just statistical error. only 2% of the universe is poop. Feces Georg -- 08:44, 24 April 2024 (UTC)
Depends whether you're measuring volume or mass. Basically you're talking at cross poopuses. 12:07, 24 April 2024 (UTC)


Yes! If you learn enough about the culture of Blåhaj, you will recognize that 90% of it is hidden below the visual appearance. (Okay, I got the iceberg attribution a few seconds before I got the link to Blåhaj, but now I am convinced. :D ) -- 15:25, 23 April 2024 (UTC)


Mar 10, 2024 — noun. fac·​toid ˈfak-ˌtȯid. Synonyms of factoid. A spurious "fact," assumed to be true simply because it appears in print. Coined by Norman Mailer in his 1973 biography of Marilyn Monroe. -- Greeseyparrot (talk) 21:06, 26 April 2024 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Yeah, the suffix "-oid" means having the form of something but not being one. "Android" or "humanoid" has the form of a human but isn't one. "Spheroid" is like a sphere but not one. "Crystalloid" has crystal-like properties but isn't a crystal. Etc. :) (I keep having to remind myself to stop using "factoid" and realizing we need a replacement to ACTUALLY mean "tiny fact". :) ) NiceGuy1 (talk) 05:18, 28 April 2024 (UTC)
You needn't dismiss all <X>oids as not examples of an <X>. It's a superset. A cuboid (a hexahedron with the equivalent form as a cube) can indeed be a fully regular rectangular cuboid (i.e. an actual cube).
When you're not sure about the figure emerging from the mist in front of you not being a trivial arrival rather than a supernatural/extraterrestrial visitation, you can describe it as humanoid and not actually be wrong when it turns out to be a human.
A factoid, therefore could be 'true', but it certainly gives room for various unstated nuances in the 'soundbite statement'. 13:20, 28 April 2024 (UTC)