Cueball explains in the first panel, that the centrifugal force (not be confused with the centripetal force, which is made clear in 123: Centrifugal Force, cited in the first frame of this comic) along with variations in the earth's shape causes the gravitational force to vary by half a percent between some cities. These variations could have a significant effect on certain sporting events; for example, Cueball explains that a pole vaulter might jump 2 cm higher in a city with a smaller gravitational force.
So Cueball writes an article reevaluating pole vaulting world records based on the city in which the record was accomplished. His article suggests that some athletes should not have received an award for breaking a record because they did so in a city with a below-average gravitational force. These pole vaulters whose records were questioned by Cueball's article angrily stage a protest outside of Cueball's apartment.
Then Cueball proceeds to taunt them reasoning that they can't harm him because his building is locked. Cueball and Megan then hear a crash indicating that the protesters have managed to reach the apartment's balcony. When Cueball asks out loud how the pole vaulters reached the balcony, Megan stares at him for a moment and then he realizes the stupidity of that question: the pole vaulters pole-vaulted onto the balcony.
In the title text Randall explains that in fact the gravity force at the Olympic Games at Rio de Janeiro in 2016 compared to London in 2012 will make a difference of more than one centimeter, mainly because Rio de Janeiro is much closer to the equator than London resulting in an increased centrifugal, or, perhaps centripetal if you prefer to be more contrasting, force.
- [Cueball is sitting at a desk, working, with a laptop in front of him. Megan is behind him. Cueball has turned his head to talk to Megan]
- Cueball: Did you know that because of centrifugal* force and the shape of the Earth, "gravity" can vary by nearly half a percent between major cities?
- *Yes, centrifugal. xkcd.com/123
- [Closeup on Cueball, who is looking down at some notes.]
- Cueball: That's not a lot, but it could affect, say, pole vaulting. In a 5m jump, it could make a difference of 2cm.
- [Zoomed out on Cueball, who is typing on his laptop. Megan is behind him, with her hand on her chin.]
- Megan: Huh, interesting.
- Cueball: I'm going to write an article reevaluating vaulting records to take this into account.
- Three days later:
- [Cueball is sitting in an armchair. Megan is behind him, and is pointing behind her.]
- Megan: Good job. There's an angry mob of athletes outside.
- [Cueball looks off the balcony. A mob of athletes is out of frame.]
- Athlete: That record was mine!
- Athlete: How dare you cast doubt on our honor?
- Athlete: Have you no respect?!
- Athlete: Make him pay!
- Cueball: Hey, the math doesn't lie. Suck it, jocks.
- [Megan stands next to Cueball, who is walking away to the right]
- Megan: Dude, don't provoke them.
- Cueball: Whatever. The building's locked. Let 'em vent for a-
- Off-panel Athlete: GET HIM!
- [Megan stands next to Cueball. They are both in shock. Megan has her hand on her mouth.]
- Cueball: Crap!
- Cueball: How did the pole vaulters get up to our balcony?
- [Beat frame with only Megan. Cueball is out of frame.]
- Megan: ...
- [Beat frame with just Cueball.]
- [Zoom in on Megan and Cueball, who is facepalming.]
- Megan: That might be the stupidest question I've ever heard.
- Cueball: Right.
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What a coincidence that he just happened to p*** off the one group of athletes that was capable of reaching and meting out retribution on him. Davidy²²[talk] 07:12, 17 April 2013 (UTC)
This explanation is lacking. It does not talk about the joke itself. It is talking about the variation in gravity being significant in interpreting world records. 18.104.22.168 05:14, 8 July 2013 (UTC)
- Hi 22.214.171.124, don't criticise but help to explain. Nevertheless I will start to work on this right now.--Dgbrt (talk) 20:16, 8 July 2013 (UTC)
- Criticising is helping. 126.96.36.199 06:18, 17 July 2013 (UTC)
- While constructive criticism is helpful, anyone can edit. If you see problems in the article, click "Edit" and make the improvements yourself. That's what Dgbrt meant by "help to explain". (And yes, I do realize this conversation is a few months old.) NealCruco (talk) 22:43, 22 November 2013 (UTC)
- No, no it's not. Criticizing without offering even a partial solution, is just adding noise to the signal. I don't even believe that stating things without an alternative in mind is criticizing. It's just trolling. Cflare (talk) 15:10, 13 August 2014 (UTC)
Well,it doesn't just affect pole vaulters, it affect all sports, like running, less graity makes you run faster. Or maybe slower? ~Jfreund
- The added traction is definitely offset by the increase in force required to maintain height off the ground. So maybe you'd start faster, but you'd definitely end slower. This is why records are a questionable metric. Not only do small things like this completely affect the results, but shifts in these things over time. As well as increases in biotechnology, training, and genetic offerings. It's weird how this has nothing to do with survival on the grand scale, yet we see humans adapt over time like this. Either we are generically becoming better on every metric, or willpower has an effect on offspring. It's possible that athletes find athletes and have kids. I don't know; it is a mystery. Cflare (talk) 15:14, 13 August 2014 (UTC)
- I believe being a winner in sport - especially men - will increase his change for mating and (therefore) procreation. Arifsaha (talk) 19:33, 8 October 2014 (UTC)
- This isn't evolutionary; to establish evolution you need to show that a trait is inherited and those with the trait have produced more offspring over time. Marginal changes in general health and fitness are impacted by diet and related to relative poverty - I find it difficult to believe there is a selective signal in something that is overwhelmingly skewed by environment/context. Most likely, general wellbeing has increased due to greater access to education, welfare, etc. I bet if you look at economic crashes like Russia post 1991 and the western world post 2008, you'd find decreases in these abilities following soon afterward. 188.8.131.52 23:33, 20 March 2016 (UTC)
- I think the upgrades in biotechnology explain away the vast majority of improvements. For example, getting the mile in under 4 minutes was accomplished with the aid of better shoes and a better understanding of the mechanics of running. Bannister was not even a descendant of runners, except in the generic sense that we all are, so speculating about natural selection on this trait since 1900 is ridiculous. 184.108.40.206 14:40, 3 January 2022 (UTC)
Is nobody going to mention the spelling mistake in the first panel? "Buy" instead of "by" ~Jack 220.127.116.11 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
It affects more than sports. I work in calibration. A weight used for *force* measurements (10N, for example) has to be calibrated for local gravity - 1% change in local gravity vs 0.1% weight tolerance...18.104.22.168 15:39, 19 May 2017 (UTC)
The explanation usually given for Bob Beamon's 8.91 metre (29.75 ft) long jump at the 1968 Olympics is that the Mexico City air (at an altitude of 8000ft/2480m) was thinner. But sure, if you also want to credit as well something that needs special, high-calibration equipment and complex math to measure, go ahead. #### (unsigned)
- Is there an actual example where it would have made a difference in the Olympics? 22.214.171.124 12:00, 23 July 2021 (UTC)