Title text: Later: 'Why is there a book hovering over the trash can?'
In an attempt to learn to juggle Cueball begins practicing after reading an instruction book. In the third panel, it seems as though he is juggling normally after tossing the balls into their air. However, in a baffling phenomenon the balls he throws into the air seem to stop adhering to the strict laws of physics part of the way through his throw. As can be proven in simple demonstrations things tend to fall toward the largest center of gravity, and items in motion do not completely stop, unless other forces are at play as well.
The joke here is partially making fun of the idea that in a comic, the visuals of juggling would be the same as the visuals sitting in place in the air. So at first while reading, we assume Cueball is juggling, until it is revealed he has no control over the position of the balls at all.
Cueball is understandably perplexed, but instead of ascribing the event to some inexplicable supernatural agent, he concludes that the book's juggling instructions were faulty and throws it away. The title text furthers the joke by implying the book too seems to have become caught up in this phenomenon, which might now occur whenever Cueball throws something.
Many things could be taken away from this. Perhaps Cueball is so spectacularly bad at juggling his failure breaks the laws of physics. Or perhaps the book assumes gravity and momentum are present where you choose to juggle. Or perhaps the book merely instructs you how to juggle like the picture on the front of the cover, where the balls can also be thought to hover.
However it seems that for some reason physics has only stopped acting on these objects as Cueball himself is able to jump and fall back down without any trouble and the book was previously on the floor, implying it had been dropped there.
While it is possible to reach zero gravity (or at least microgravity), there is no place in our universe where objects with mass have no momentum. Some possible explanations might be that Cueball is outside of our universe, he has just discovered something that's theoretically impossible, or he is just dreaming, or Randall has taken comedic license on the "momentum" part for the sake of the joke. Or he could be in a place where the surrounding fluid, instead of having the normal properties of earth's atmosphere, is a very thick or viscous fluid in which things simply become stuck. Or, perhaps the fourth wall is broken, and Cueball doesn’t recognize he’s in a web comic, but we do.
This may also be a reference to a motto often brought up in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series: if you forget about physics, they will forget about you.
This comic is part of the following unpublished comic from the five-minute comics; specifically the unpublished fourth part.
- [The panel shows a close up of Cueball reading a book. The book is called "How To Juggle" and has a picture of a person juggling on the cover.]
- [The view now shows the entirety of Cueball. The book is splayed on the floor behind them, and he is holding some juggling balls.]
- [Cueball throws the juggling balls in the air.]
- [He lowers his arms to prepare to catch the balls. The balls are hovering in mid-air.]
- [Cueball now stands with his arms by his sides. The balls have not moved and are still suspended in mid-air.]
- [Cueball jumps, trying to grab the lowest ball. He can't reach.]
- [Cueball scratches his head and stares at the still floating juggling balls.]
- [Cueball throws the book into a trash can.]
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But if there was no gravity, the balls would have maintained the trajectory and (neglecting air resistance) velocity that they had when they left cueball's hands! -- mwburden 22.214.171.124 23:17, 7 December 2012 (UTC)
- Very true! Please do consider reworking/replacing this explanation so it isn't so misleading! lcarsos_a (talk) 23:22, 7 December 2012 (UTC)
Added "or momentum" to the explanation. -- mwburden 126.96.36.199 13:03, 10 December 2012 (UTC)
But without momentum he wouldn't have been able to 'throw the balls up'. He must instead have placed them there, which he didn't because he can't reach. The only way to save physics I see is that there is something producing very high friction, slowing the balls down until they are trapped. But that's probably not what is happening in the comic. 188.8.131.52 04:30, 9 August 2017 (UTC)
It doesn't look like Cueball's jumping to me--just reaching for the balls. 184.108.40.206 08:45, 23 December 2012 (UTC)
- Nah I agree with the transcript. Both feet are noticeably higher than in the previous "standing" panels. And I can't picture anyone raising one leg weirdly like that if the other leg is planted on the ground - if he were looking to reach without jumping, he'd would be on tiptoes instead. - jerodast (talk) 13:18, 23 December 2012 (UTC)
I thought the joke was the book taught you how to levitate things, which Cueball finds useless since he wants to learn how to juggle. 220.127.116.11 08:17, 25 December 2012 (UTC)
I've interpreted this as a joke on how juggling works (as in, what it always looks like) in 2D images. The title text makes a similar joke, in that throwing or dropping something in a 2D image will always make it look like the thing is floating. (Unless they add motion lines and such and such, but even then, "Why are there black lines in the air?") - Jeff
- I am more than fairly certain that this is the intended interpretation. The transition from the 3rd to 4th panel and the last panel to the mouseover text are plot twists made possible by the fact that a comic can only show snapshots of something we assume to be continuous. 18.104.22.168 Suhail
I don't think this explanation is right. I interpreted this joke like this: Cueball is so bad at juggling that the balls don't even fall after being thrown. Perhaps this joke is similar to the ones in the boomerang comics. 22.214.171.124 22:18, 26 January 2014 (UTC)
I was thinking something like that, but instead maybe he just couldn't understand the next step? 126.96.36.199 14:25, 16 April 2014 (UTC)
The trick is to use apples. I'm not sure it is a next step though. Perhaps a step back? I used Google News BEFORE it was clickbait (talk) 12:37, 23 January 2015 (UTC)
This same comic was in the five-minute comics in xkcd 940. Has anyone else noticed this? -Brittany
This comic is very disjointed and awkward. It's not incomplete it just... it needs work Lackadaisical (talk) 21:05, 16 April 2016 (UTC)
- This comment doesn't seem to mean anything. 188.8.131.52 08:07, 30 August 2019 (UTC)
- Check timestamps my friend, although I just realized I made a mistake by saying "comic" when I meant "comic explanation," once upon a time this explanation read very poorly, those issues have since been taken care of by editing. Lackadaisical (talk)