701: Science Valentine

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Revision as of 14:56, 23 February 2014 by (talk) (Added an explanation of the breakup indicated in the last panel.)
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Science Valentine
You don't use science to show that you're right, you use science to become right.
Title text: You don't use science to show that you're right, you use science to become right.


Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Cueball breaks up with his girlfriend at the end. This is clearly seen at the last panel.
If you can address this issue, please edit the page! Thanks.
Cueball is taking a scientific approach to creating a valentine card. Based on the first chart, the recipient may be his fiancée or spouse. However, his rigorous approach makes him realize that the happiness he derives from the relationship is declining, which presents him with a choice. Will he be a true scientist by accepting data that he doesn't like, or will he be romantic and just make a cute card? He decides that he is a scientist and so presents his significant other with a breakup valentine. The card has a heart on it crossed by a graph with a negative trend, forming the stereotypical torn heart and showing the decline of his feelings.

The title text seems to be him trying to console himself that he did the right thing.


I wanted to make you a science valentine
with charts and graphs of my feelings for you.
[A graph shows romance and happiness. Romance cuts off, indicating a breakup before the meeting of Cueball and his current significant other, and happiness dips accordingly.
A line indicates where the couple first met; romance is jagged thereafter, initially upwards but later down.
Happiness climbs slightly more steadily and then dips again.
More lines indicate a period of dating and then one of engagement.]
and the happiness you've brought me.
But the more I analyzed
[Cueball works at a computer.]
r0 = 0.20
r1 = -0.61
r2 = -0.83
the harder it became to defend my hypothesis.
In science, you can't publish results you know are wrong
and you can't withhold them because they're not the ones you wanted.
So I was left with a question: do I make graphs because they're cute and funny,
[Cueball sits, looking at a sheet of paper.]
or am I a scientist?
Enclosed are my results.
I hope you can find somebody else
[A jagged, declining graph is superimposed over a red heart.]
to be your valentine.

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If he really did figure out, by sitting down and thinking his life and their relation through, that he doesn't really love her, then he did the right thing. Of course he may not have been scientific enough, if the reasons his feelings and happiness decreases is caused by some outside agency... --Kynde (talk) 11:56, 29 April 2015 (UTC)

I think the r0, r1, r2 are correlation coefficients. They are all between -1 and 1, and all called r, which is a common name for a correlation coefficient. Also, this would mean r2 shows a strong negative correlation between two things. -- 06:57, 11 May 2015 (UTC)

I agree with the above comment, great explanation for this statistical variable which shows that his love becomes negatively correlated with time, complementing the first panel's graph. Barrtender (talk) 14:26, 16 September 2015 (UTC)

I also think that the correlation coefficient interpretation is right. Moreover, it looks like r0 refers to the time just after the first meeting (slightly positive trend), r1 to the time when they were dating (negative trend) and r2 to the time after engagement (with even stronger negative trend). -- 18:26, 3 December 2015 (UTC)
You are conflating correlation with slope. While they share the same sign, a gentle slope and steep slope can have the same correlation coefficient. It might be better to look at the correlation probability, which for the three values are 4.0%, 37.21%, and 64.0%. All other things being equal, these are the probabilities that the two variables are actually correlated. Thus, only the last measurements should be considered significant. It does not imply A strong negative trend. --Rhmcoff (talk) 04:59, 26 May 2017 (UTC)

Maybe 833: Convincing would be worth mentioning in the explanation, where Megan draws a relationship themed graph (and Cueball complains about missing axis lables) -- Ruffy314 (talk) 02:35, 3 November 2015 (UTC)

This reminds me of Ted Chiang's short story, Division By Zero, where a character looks for proof of love and finds none, deciding he doesn't love them... Though I interpreted the end as positive, if a little ambiguous. Ted Chiang is a great author for XKCD fans, I think. 18:14, 25 November 2019 (UTC)