342: 1337: Part 2

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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1337: Part 2
Trivia: Elaine is actually her middle name.
Title text: Trivia: Elaine is actually her middle name.


Donald Knuth is a computer science Professor Emeritus at Stanford University who is famous for writing The Art of Computer Programming and developing the TeX computerized typesetting system. He may not have a mountain hideaway [citation needed] (a reference to Kill Bill, by the way), but he would be one of the best mentors a budding hacker could have.

The A* search algorithm and Dijkstra's algorithm are graph search algorithms. And what study of algorithms would be complete without a healthy study about finding complexities? Time complexity is the amount of time an algorithm takes to execute. Upper and lower bounds for complexity is written in Big O notation. Best possible execution of an algorithm is constant time, or O(1), said in words, for any given data set no matter how large the algorithm will always return the answer in the same time. However, constant time is extremely difficult to achieve; linear time (O(n)) is also very good. For more complex algorithms, O( n*log(n) ) is good, but O( n*log(log(n)) ) is better. (Note that logarithms in different bases are proportional to each other. So this would hold true for any base >1.)

From the evidence that Mrs. Roberts has two children, a daughter named Elaine, and a younger son named Bobby (presumably Bobby'); DROP TABLE students;--), we can assume that she is the same mother from 327: Exploits of a Mom. Of course, the title text here explains that Elaine is only her middle name. In 327 we learned her first name is "Help I'm trapped in a driver's license factory". Mrs. Roberts appears to have had fun naming her children.

All comics in "1337" series:

This series was released on 5 consecutive days (Monday-Friday) and not over the usual Monday/Wednesday/Friday schedule.


[Cueball standing near a friend, who is on the floor near the armchair.]
Friend: So the greatest hacker of our era is a cookie-baking mom?
Cueball: Second-greatest.
Friend: Oh?
[A young Elaine with a ponytail is laying on the floor looking at the screen of a computer that appears to have been pieced together. A younger Bobby is finger painting at an easel.]
Mrs. Roberts had two children. Her son, Bobby, was never much for computers, but her daughter Elaine took to them like a ring in the bell.
[The back of a car is in frame. Mrs. Roberts is waving goodbye to her daughter who is wearing a backpack and is holding a walking stick. She is about to begin climbing a staircase built into a mountain.]
When Elaine turned 11, her mother sent her to train under Donald Knuth in his mountain hideaway.
[Donald Knuth is standing with a pointing stick at a chalk board with graph traversal patterns on it.]
For four years she studied algorithms.
Knuth: Child—
[Knuth whips around slashing the stick like a sword. Elaine jumps and lands on the stick.]
Knuth: Why is A* search wrong in this situation?
Elaine: Memory usage!
Knuth: What would you use?
Elaine: Dijkstra's algorithm!
[They are outside both working on a chalkboard with a separator down the middle so they cannot look at each other's work. Elaine is no longer wearing her hair in a ponytail.]
Until one day she bested her master
Knuth: So our lower bound here is O(n log n)
Elaine: Nope. Got it in O(n log (log n))
And left.


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Well, imho the reference to the master in the mountain hideaway is clearly a reference to Kill Bill, but I am not skilled enough in English to write it myself... 13:06, 6 March 2013 (UTC)

Next time, don't be so shy! Just do the best you can and someone else can help correct it. Alpha (talk) 00:21, 7 March 2013 (UTC)

I don't see why dijkstra's algorithm would use less memory than A*. Any ideas? 01:44, 13 July 2013 (UTC)

Dijkstra's algorithm only needs to store one distance value per node, whereas A* needs at least an additional priority queue. Sometimes A* also precalculates and stores its heuristic. --Chtz (talk) 09:42, 13 July 2013 (UTC)
Why can not be A* implemented exactly as Dijkstra's is with additional penalty (the optimistic distance) calculated at every update? That way it would be as memory efficient as Dijkstra's. 23:48, 5 September 2017 (UTC)

A* needs a priority queue to store nodes to be searched and their heuristic estimates (starting from the initial node), and a chart to store searched nodes and their shortest-path values. In the worst case, every node in the graph is searched and put on the chart and the queue is empty (equivalent to Dijkstra's). In the best case, the chart contains only nodes on the shortest path, and the queue might be empty or contain unexpanded nodes, and there will likely be an implicit set of nodes never examined. It is hard to see how Dijkstra's can be more memory efficient than A*, except maybe at or near the worst case (due to the overhead of the additional data structures).

The mountain hideaway is a staple of Kung Fu movies. Kill Bill was effectively spoofing the genre, and so is this cartoon (rather than specifically spoofing Kill Bill). Mountain Hikes (talk) 04:17, 9 October 2015 (UTC)

Just FYI, my high school math teacher was John Knuth, Donald Knuth's son. To prepare for the AP Calc exam in 2007, we went up to the Knuth family mountain hideaway (in Colorado) and studied for a weekend. This is a real place. Also, we all got 4's and 5's on the exam, best teacher I ever had! --User:GodFatherOfData 16:39, 3 February 2021 (UTC)

Is that an ice pack he's holding in the first panel? 23:42, 15 May 2016 (UTC)

That's something I was wondering too. It's either an ice pack or a towel of some kind. Why would he need an ice pack / towel? Either he's sweating because he's nervous, it's an author mistake, or something offscreen happened. But... what could have happened? --JayRulesXKCD (talk) 11:49, 13 September 2016 (UTC)
He's holding the ice pack (or towel) because of how badly he got pwned. See the end of the last comic ("You may need to sit down").--Luke162.158.146.248 08:18, 27 November 2016 (UTC)

Anybody notice how her son is Bobby Roberts, or if we're going by the Exploits of a Mom comic, Robert Roberts? 20:27, 19 October 2016 (UTC)

I am very confused by "like a ring in a bell". That makes no sense. Pretty much obviously it should be "like ringing a bell" (enunciated in Chuck Berry's singing as "like-uh ringin' a bell") as in, ringing a bell is incredibly easy compared to playing guitar. Surely it's not just a mistake? Maybe it's a known Mondegreen and he put it in on purpose? AmbroseChapel (talk) 06:25, 26 September 2017 (UTC)

According to all lyric sites it is indeed "(a-)ringing" and I've found no reference to the alternative other than this page [[1]] referencing xkcd. However when I saw the cartoon I did imagine the quote might be correct, and make sense. You don't have to teach a bell to ring, ringing is an inherent quality of the bell, just as guitar or computer skills are suggested to be of the respective characters.

What is Elaine's first name? What is the significance of the fact that Elaine is her middle name? Mcm (talk) 16:49, 15 November 2019 (UTC)

According to 327:_Exploits_of_a_Mom, her "first" name is "Help I'm trapped in a driver's license factory". Mathmannix (talk) 19:31, 18 December 2019 (UTC)

Should we be making a category regarding computer scientists and programmers with extensive knowledge of martial arts? Because it seems like a recurring gag. 10:21, 11 August 2020 (UTC)

Is Bobby little bobby tables?

Hi, one question, is Robert Little Bobby Tables? that would fit to his mom?