971: Alternative Literature
In the comic, it is implied that Cueball has been scammed into buying blank books, though he attempts to defend it as a valid choice. The title text likens this to the CVS Pharamcy selling homeopathic pills using methods that does not clearly distinguish them from traditional pharmaceuticals. Homeopathy, widely considered a pseudoscience, is based on the idea that a substance that causes the symptoms of a disease in healthy people will cure that disease in sick people, if administered in sufficiently small doses.
Homeopathic remedies are prepared by repeatedly diluting a substance with alcohol or water. Somewhat counter-intuitively, homeopathy considers the weakest dilutions to have the most powerful healing effect. Frequently, in fact, the dilutions are repeated past the point where any molecules of the active ingredient can remain.
Selling a homeopathic remedy as actual medicine when it is just water is analagous to selling blank books. The smudge of ink Cueball mentions in the comic may be referencing the fact that some of the less diluted homeopathic remedies can contain a tiny amount of the original substance.
Homeopathy is ridiculed in other xkcd comics and in the what-if blog (http://what-if.xkcd.com/79/).
- [Cueball and a friend stand in front of Cueball's bookcase. His friend flips through a number of them.]
- Friend: All your books are full of blank pages.
- Cueball: Not true. That one has some ink on page 78.
- [The Friend looks at page 78.]
- Friend: A smudge.
- Cueball: So?
- Friend: There are no words. You're not reading. There's no story there.
- Cueball: Maybe not for you. When I look at those books, I think about all kinds of stories.
- Cueball: Reading is about more than what's on the page. Holding a book prompts my mind to enrich itself. Frankly, I suspect the book isn't even necessary.
- Cueball: The whole industry is evil. Greedy publishers and rich authors try to convince us our brains need their words. But I refuse to be a sucker.
- Friend: Who sold you all these blank books?
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