Countdown in header text

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Countdown in header text
Countdown in header text full animation.gif

  • The countdown lasted 21 days and the last image appeared in the header text after the end on January 31, 2022. It was not a permanent part of the header, and was removed once the header text was changed to the What If? 2 promotion.


  • On January 10th 2022, Randall added a countdown in the top right corner of the header text on xkcd .
    • It turned out that it was a countdown to the reveal of Randall's new book what if? 2 which was announced at the end of the countdown.
      • The full title: What If? 2: Additional Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions
      • The Hardcover version is released September 13, 2022.
      • A follow up on his first book based on his blog what if?
  • The comic 2575: What If? 2 was released moments after the counter reached zero.
    • A comic entirely devoted to promote the book.
  • The counter began while the comic 2565: Latency was up.
    • First the xkcd Header text was changed back to the standard text for the first time in almost three years:
      • xkcd updates every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
    • But already while this Friday-comic was still up on the following Monday the countdown was added.
  • The first archived version from 2022-01-10 read 20d 20h 27m.
    • It looks like it started on 01-10 17:00 UTC.
      • At that time it would have read 20d 21h 59 min. Just two hours and 1 minute short of 3 weeks.
  • The countdown reached zero on Monday 2022-01-31 at 15:00 (3:00 PM) UTC, or 10:00 AM in Boston, Randall's home town.
    • Seconds was added for the last 10 minutes making the countdown end exactly at 15:00 UTC
      • When the seconds counter replaced the day counter at that time the box started jiggling around.
  • The second day of countdown on 2022-01-11 a diagonal black bar appeared in the lower left-hand corner of the countdown box and started to move further into the image on following changes to the image.
    • This development called for the creation of this dedicated Countdown in header text page.
    • The line had already moved further into the image at this time, but the latest version will never be available in the web archive.
      • This development is reminiscent of the huge comic 1190: Time.
      • The images was uploaded here on munvoseli's page where comparison of two images and an animation can be seen.
  • During the three weeks this page was used to collect theories of both the image and the countdown.
    • Since these are now all either proved wrong or wright, they are only left here below to document how much people though about it.
      • They have been collapsed, to not take up too much space, but can be accessed by pressing the link.
  • Randall has previously made a comic simply called 1159: Countdown.
    • However, in that the roles are reversed.
      • There we know that the countdown is for (Super Volcano) but not if it will happen soon or very much later.
      • Here we know when, and it is rather soon, but not what.

Blow up by Amazon[edit]

  • The day before the countdown reached zero a user found out that:
    • Amazon revealed the news a day too early.
      • The book could be found on Amazon on 2022-01-30 with the book cover clearly showing the part of the image shown in the box. And thus the surprise was lost on those using this page.
      • Here is the page with what if? 2, the above link shows that the page existed the day before the count down ended.
    • A shame for Randall and his fans.
      • Although some of his fans had invested a lot of time in trying to solve the puzzle before the countdown ended and were excited by the discovery.


  • The 136 frames that made up the countdown have been put on this separate page: Countdown in header text/images.
    • The images was mainly downloaded here on munvoseli's page.
      • On that page it is possible to compare two images, chosen between those released, on that page!
      • From 2022-01-14 it has also been possible to see an animation.
        • But after the last frame was released a user on this page has kindly provided a gif animation we could add to the top of the page.
    • See more details at the top of the image page.
  • Other images that also show the clock, compare two images, or show how the page actually looks have been moved to this other page: Countdown in header text/other images.
  • After the first thirteen different frames, it was noted that not only did the first three empty frames looks the same (because the diagonal bar was not in the frame yet), but the seventh and the eighth frame where also the same, even though the bar had already begun moving across the frame from the fourth. This could have been on purpose but could also be a mistake.
    • However, the images that look the same all have individual addresses on the xkcd server. See more here Countdown in header text/images
      • Later for instance frames 91 and 92 also seem to be exactly the same. Also frame 92 did not upload as part of the roughly four hour schedule, but between two frames that are part of the regular schedule.
      • And the second to last frame 135 was also the same as 134, even though they had different names all 136 frames.

Extra pages for images[edit]

Ongoing image description[edit]

  • The counter moved upwards during most of the countdown, to cover less of the revealed image. See more here
  • Here is a description made as the image progressed, and no one knew what it would turn in to, until the very last few days.
    • Frames 1-12: A diagonal line.
    • Frame 13: A curve seems to begin at the top left of the line.
    • Frame 18: The curve connects the diagonal line with a horizontal line.
    • Frame 27-28: A new line appears in the bottom left corner.
    • Frame 40-42: The new line turns out to be connected to the horizontal line, forming a corner which is not attached to any other line.
    • Frame 49: The "camera movement" direction changes, while the object is still moving upward it stopped moving towards the left side, moving towards the right instead.
    • Frame 54: A slight upward curve seems to appear in the right line, the left line seems to have a small bend downwards, though that could at that point just be a straight line that Randall drew without a ruler.
    • Frame 60-62: A new line appears in the bottom right corner, it turns out to be a continuation of the first original line which curves upward and has a positive slope at that point of the picture, between about 2 o'clock and 3 o'clock. The downward bend of the left line continues on straight in the same direction, it was probably an intentional bend and not an irregularity in drawing a straight line by hand.
    • Frame 63: In the minimum of the right curved line a new line starts appearing, way thinner than the others (which were up to this point all rather part of one line) and going slightly downwards and very much to the left, at an angle somewhere between 8 o'clock and 9 o'clock.
    • Frame 67: A possible feature becomes visible at the bottom edge of the image that might resolve the exact nature of the (currently presumed) aircraft, e.g. which particular aerodynamic surface we have been seeing and thus from which particular orientation we are viewing it.
    • Frame 68-72 makes it clear this must be an aircraft by showing windows and a door and clearly the tail fin. As late as frame 69 some people argued that the tail fin could have been a wing.
    • Frame 73-83 brings a horizontal stabilizer into view.
    • Frame 87-89: A new curved line appears on the underside of the (presumed) aircraft, so there either is something behind it or it might not be an aircraft.
    • Frame 96-99: An arc is coming into view in the upper right corner, likely the top edge of a cloud.
      • Turned out not to be a cloud.
    • Frame 101-106 seems to be some kind of radar on top of the plane, like the one on Boeing E-3 Sentry. Or alternatively this plane is hanging beneath another plane. Not looking at all like Spaceshiptwo, but something similar, which could make this plane a spaceplane?
    • Frame 106-114 a new element of the image appears on the right side, it could be the end of a wing. The arch no longer looks like a radar. Could be the tail of a Dinosaur or the cape of someone riding the airplane...
      • a cape is unlikely as it would probably be drawn to flap in the wind. The other element does appear to be a wingtip
      • Could it be Cory Doctorow flying with the airplane, but much closer to the 'camera'?
    • Frame 115-121 makes it clear that the newest addition at the bottom right is the wing tip of the plane. The black curve above the plane still mostly looks like a tail as on a dinosaur or dragon. Could also be a tentacle. Either from an octopus or from and alien like in 2572: Alien Observers. Of course it could also be a cape, but seems too thick at the end...
    • Frame 124 shows something beneath the plane, but already in 125, that makes one of the largest jumps between pictures so far, this is clearly one of the wheels on the landing gear. Also the hind leg of the Dinosaur whose tail has been visible long time is coming in to view. Not certain yet it is a dino (probably a velociraptor), but the leg makes it the number one candidate.
    • Frames 126-127 almost confirm the dinosaur theory.
      • And at this time someone spotted the new What if? 2 book on Amazon and it is the Tyrannosaur from the what if? blog that is now eating a plane rather than being lowered into the Sarlac.
    • Frame 134 reveals the last part of the plane, so now the entire plane and T-rex is visible. This was about 6 hours before the countdown ended.
    • Frame 135 is identical with 134!
    • About ten minutes before the countdown ended the image started to wiggle and as predicted seconds also came in, leaving out the day part of the counter.
    • Frame 136 came just after the countdown ended, turning the background red, as it is on the front cover of the book adding the title what if? 2 in white text beneath the plane, which as now been moved to the top of the image since the overlaid count down is now gone.


  • Amazon revealed the news a day too early! - it is Randall's new book what if? 2 that will be announced at the end of the countdown.
    • So it is a book announcement, and the picture is Tyrannosaur eating a plane while in flight.
  • Here below are the different theories for what the countdown was for and what the picture was going to reveal from before it was clear what it was.

The picture[edit]

  • Theories about the picture:
    • One of the very early theories got it right:
      • The second line makes it look somewhat like the tail fin of an aircraft.

Click to expand for more theories:

    • From 2022-01-21 it became certain that it was a plane! Passenger plane. Door and windows are visible.
      • From 2022-01-22 it became clear that it was the rear end, so it was a tailfin that came into the panel to begin with. Up til the day before it was still a bit uncertain if it could have been a wing.
      • from 2022-01-24 a bottom line has appeared which doesn't fit well with a 'standard' airliner. perhaps the image is deliberately misleading (eg will transform into something else)
      • From 2022-01-26 something looking like a radar like the one on a Boeing E-3 Sentry began emerging in the top right corner.
      • From 2022-01-28 it looks like an elephant's trunk to me.
    • What will this lead up to - theories about this.
      • It could be an airplane with a banner like in 1355: Airplane Message.
        • That would very soon be clear as the bottom part of the rear end seems to be coming into view during 2022-01-24, if the direction does not change again.
          • This is now ruled out, since the plane is clearly not towing a banner.
      • It could end up landing in a city, perhaps with a skyline pinpointing where Randall will be or move.
        • However, unlikely to manage this in real life as the count down ends.
        • Also, very unlikely (1 in 60, or even 1 in 3600) that such a landing would occur exactly on the hour.
          • But it could also just be the time when he announces he has moved...
      • Maybe Cueball will make a parachute jump, and Cueball could represent a real life Randall, as this could in principle be timed very accurately.
        • This is something you would schedule a month or more ahead, want to tell people about in advance, want to make a big deal about on your website, is not quite as bizarre as zero-G and probably more fun [citation needed], could be done with an adventurous wife, explains why it’s the tail of the plane in the image, and (assuming no mechanical, medical, or meteorological problems, a safe assumption), might go something like “on my mark, it’ll be 9:59:56 A.M. in Boston... mark. 3, 2, 1, JUMP!” Maybe it’ll be just Cueball/Randall, but could more likely include Megan representing his wife.
        • However, it could very easily be that the weather in January could foil the attempt, or at least the timing.
        • The plane appears to be a commercial jetliner, though, rather than the small prop planes used for parachute jumps. Unless, of course, Randall is revealing his real identity has been Wesley Snipes all along
        • The plane appears to have its landing gear down, which rules out a parachute jump.
          • At frame 124 it is a bit early to say that the dot beneath the plane is the landing gear, but from 125 it became clear. Also seems like the leg of the dino on the plane has come into vies. The below was written before number 125 came out.
          • Landing gear implies that the aircraft is either taking off or landing, and judging by the plane's nose-up attitude, most likely taking off. Therefore, assuming that the plane is in fact shown seconds after rotation (possibly still on the ground), there is a possibility that the black object could be an airport fixture, perhaps a wind sock in the foreground?
            • Well, forget I said that. It's a dinosaur apparently.
      • Perhaps the new item on top of the plane is the tail of a dinosaur? perhaps like the one on the cover of "what if..." book. perhaps it's a new book?
      • There are two flights originating in Boston departing at 09:59 on 1/31/2022: Spirit NK433 to Orlando Florida and Delta DL5696 to Washington D.C.
      • Frame 101-106 seems to be some kind of radar on top of the plane, like the one on Boeing E-3 Sentry. Or alternatively this plane is hanging beneath another plane. Not looking at all like Spaceshiptwo, but something similar, which could make this plane a spaceplane?
        • Predicting dinosaur
          • Cross-referencing it with the cover of What If?, this does seem like a xkcd-style dinosaur tail. It could represent Randall, or xkcd as a whole, going somewhere. Or it could just be the cover of a new book.
            • Yep, it's a dinosaur.
        • Revising my prior theory: It now looks very much like another aircraft (similar to theory below) but not part of the main aircraft, I think. I would guess it is either an improbable mid-air encounter (like a passenger jet and an ultra-lite) or an equally improbable "launch" of something from the jet (again like an ultra-lite or some other less common or even fictional craft.)
        • Maybe the torch of the Statue of Liberty?
        • The black wave looks like a superhero cape
        • the white element overlapping the fuselage could be the start of the wing-tip these fold up at the ends of many modern aircraft, could mean aircraft is banking left.
      • Frame 107-121 the right wing of the plane moves into view. It is still unclear if the black curve is a tail, a cape or a tentacle. But seems like it cannot be another aircraft.
      • Has now been resolved.
    • Maybe it will be the entire book, or at least include the text 'what if? 2', and that more rapid zoom-out will happen during the last minutes.
      • Since the entire plane is revealed with at least two more possible updates, even in 4 hours schedule, something new may certainly be expected to occur before the end of the countdown. This written after frame 134 that revealed the front of the plane.
  • The XKCD store currently reports "will be opening soon" [1] perhaps any announcement will be simultaneous with a store re-launch.

Early theories[edit]

  • Many early theories were generated before the picture was decisively revealed to be a plane...
  • It seems after two days and 12 pictures like either something is moving into the frame or that it is a zoom out from a white area of a large picture. Maybe it is the arm of Cueball that will come into view.
  • The second line makes it look somewhat like the tail fin of an aircraft.
    • Or the wing of an aircraft (left if looking down at it). Perhaps the plane is towing a banner that will fly through the frame.
      • After almost a week this looks like the most promising suggestion so far. Now that the direction of the camera movement has changed, we might get to see the rest of the aircraft soon.
        • From picture 63, it more and more seems like it was the tail fin of a plane and now we can see the body.
          • It's almost certainly the tail (and now a bit of the rear fuselage) of an aircraft.
            • It could just as easily be the left wing and part of the fuselage (showing windows on the right side of an airliner), with the tail fin out of view to the rear, as being the tail fin from an angle where the left wing is out of view behind the fuselage.
              • judging by the relative size of the (presumed) windows, I think it's more likely to be the left wing than the tail fin.
              • Based on the way planes are drawn in 1868: Eclipse Flights. 1355: Airplane Message and 1669: Planespotting, plane wings have a point on their edge and tail fins have a flat side, and (if a line is present) a thick line separates wings from the body, whereas thin lines or no lines separate tail fins, so this is a tail fin.
              • In the bottom left there appears to be the top part of a horizontal stabilizer, implying this is the tail.
                • It’s a tail fin, that’s finally clear, but that’s the underside of the stabilizer. Which means this would be the best angle to view Cueball/Randall parachuting out of that door, something that would be predictable to the exact minute (barring all kinds of things that could go wrong).
              • Appears to be a door to the left of the windows
              • It could be an airplane with a banner like in 1355: Airplane Message
      • Tail of a space shuttle, perhaps?
        • While I think Randall would've also drawn in the signature black part of the rudder, the shape fits perfectly
        • Timing is close (though not exact) to the Columbia disaster anniversary (2003-02-01 1359 UTC)
      • I'm thinking the tail of a Zeppelin.
        • Although those normally have longer tail fins.
  • Maybe it is some kind of vehicle rolling into frame, like a car?
  • Or the word xkcd? (or xkcd 2?)
  • Could have been "Hangman", but it looks like it's zooming in on the diagonal instead of continuing to make a gibbet.
  • With the new second line appearing in the corner as of frame 28 it looks like it's definitely zooming out of an image. It looks like it could be someone's arm in a running position.
  • I think it could also be two legs of a reclining stick person.
  • The lines suggest a shark fin and the movement would suggest it swimming across the frame.
    • If it was a shark fin, then the most likely candidates would be the first dorsal fin and the pectoral fin, but both end in points rather than edges like in the pictures of the header puzzle. An aircraft tail fin still seems most likely.
  • Maybe it's a two-dimensional shape viewed from a weird angle?
    • Like a rectangle viewed from a floating, tilted perspective
    • Or the top of the k in xkcd
    • Or a boat dock?
  • The r/xkcd subreddit produced some early theories :
    • Cueball's arm
    • The letter D, as in "The End"
    • A spider's web, in reference to comic 1688
      • With the airplane revelation, this reference turned into a meme in the subreddit, where users tried to justify the presence of an airplane shape inside a bigger-scope spider picture
      • More generally, "spider" is now jokingly used nearly each time in place of "airplane" during discussions on the sub
        • For example, the final image is generally described as "a dinosaur eating a spider"
      • Some joke theories included:
        • A giant spider flinging airplanes from the sky, as a new potential "What If?"
        • The lines are a web and the apparent windows the eyes of a giant spider
        • The airplane is a complex-looking spider leg, and 8 of them form a spider
      • Another redditor made the airplane part of a dragon's head


  • Theories about the countdown:
    • One of the early theories got it right:
      • Randall's next book, either the countdown is counting down to the start of promotion or it is released when the countdown ends.

Click to expand for more theories:

  • Several have already been mentioned in the discussion:
    • Maybe Randall is going on vacation?
    • As of now - 22-Jan-2022 7am PST - the countdown disappeared from some users browser. Temporarily (perhaps to make the image cleaner?) or permanently? The countdown was back up soon after. probably a glitch and maybe not for all places or browsers.
    • Randall's next book, either the countdown is counting down to the start of promotion or it is released when the countdown ends.
      • Usually Randall has made month long book promotions before release. So if it is the release day it is a new way to do it. But he will get a lot of attention. If it is just the start of promoting it, people might get disappointed…
        • For instance he began promoting his new book Thing Explainer in the header text. That was in May 2015 and the book was first released late November 2015. Most of this time the header text was promoting the book.
      • The day before the announcement a user posted a link in the discussion with a book listing for what if? 2 on Amazon showing more or less the picture revealed at this time, thus ending the debate as to what the image and the countdown was for.
    • James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) going into orbit about L2 Lagrange point.
      • Randall has already made several comics about the telescope. The latest 2564: Sunshield was released just five days prior to the countdown was started.
      • But the telescope will not reach the point but rather go into a large orbit around it, so a precise timer counting down to it seems a bit farfetched.
      • On NASA's page on JWST it seems like it will go into orbit 29.5 days after its December 25th Launch, on Christmas Day, so it should have already started the orbit by the 23rd or 24th of January - 8 days before the countdown.
      • Also No based on the image.
    • Lunar New Year
      • In China it starts on February 1st and a countdown for China is 8 hours behind.
        • The South Korean time zone is UTC+9, hence 14:59 UTC = 23:59 in South Korea, one minute to Feb 1.
          • But it's weird if Randall that has basically never mentioned this holiday suddenly makes a three week countdown for it, and why choose South Korea when most would think of China in this context…?
    • Randall will stop making xkcd (Goodbye in the image).
      • Hopefully not.
      • It might be a temporary stop (hiatus).
    • National Backward Day
      • This is not a day mentioned on Wikipedia at the time of release of the countdown, so seems unlikely.
    • Maybe it will be an announcement of xkcd 2, a new and improved version for… some reason?
      • Seems unlikely…
    • Black History Month. The Greensboro sit-ins started on Feb 1 1960. Black History Month also begins on February 1st, also in 2022.
      • But this countdown stops early on January 31st so seems unlikely.
      • However, before changing the Header recently it was about Black Lives Matter for more than 1.5 years, first ending on December 20th 2021, less than a month before the countdown began. In between that there was a short Christmas sale reminder until a week into 2022. So it could just be another way of reminding of us the issues faced by black people in the US.
        • If this was true, I feel like it would be simpler to just change back to the Black Lives Matter text at the top of the screen. Also, it seems increasingly likely as of Jan. 20th that the image is some kind of plane, which doesn't really have much to do with Black History Month (that I know of?)
    • The accompanying header says specifically "xkcd updates Monday, Wednesday, and Friday"--maybe the countdown is to the reveal of a new update schedule?
      • Very unlikely. This was the standard header for a long time. It was used when Randall had nothing better to say. But with all his books and the trouble in US with elections and BLM, he has used the header as a platform most of the time many years now. So the standard text is rare. But he did return it for two days before adding the count down, making it seem just like normal.
      • A guess is that it returned to this, so the header text did not take any focus away from the countdown.
    • Red spider attack?
      • Un-Likely
    • He will become a father - could be a planned C-section.
      • As this is unpredictable, and could go wrong, then this would be a dangerous countdown, people can be very superstitious, even if scientist.
    • As it currently looks (after a few days into the countdown) it may be a trip he is taking by plane.
      • Maybe going somewhere people could meet him.
        • Book tour?
      • Moving a long way from home (down under or the like).
        • Maybe he's moving to Japan? Could be a plane, and the time zone would fit, at least.
          • Then the countdown would be until when the plane lands, not to midnight.
            • What has time zones to do with this clock? It counts down to the same time all over the world, and will reach zero at the same time no matter what time zone you are in.
            • Time zones have to do with where it will be midnight when the countdown reaches zero. If it's a countdown to when January ends (a moment before February begins), then it's until that moment in the time zone where the countdown reaches zero at that time.
              • According to my calculations, the timer will coincide with midnight in the UTC+9 time zone, encompassing both Koreas, Japan, and small parts of Russia and Indonesia.
        • If it is a plane, then maybe it will land in a new city Randall moves to when the counter ends, and the skyline will be visible...
    • Perhaps it's a start to a new series like 1190: Time.
      • It is already a series that works like Time, so seems unlikely.
    • Zero-G flight, really looks like plane to me.
      • Could be time he will first go weightless which could be fairly well known except for bad weather
    • A parachute jump by Randall. Could be predicted as well as the zero G.
    • How about the new series of Picard?
      • Star Trek: Picard (season 2) is set to run from March 3 2022, which both Wikipedia (link before) and IMDb agrees upon so bad to miss by more than a month, and what would the plane in the image have to do with this anyway?
      • So No!
    • The xkcd world tour!! I wish
    • I'm beginning to see another part of the picture entering into view, underneath the arc and above the body of the plane. To me, it looks like it could be a leg of sorts (Early bet: it could be a dinosaur)
    • Maybe something to do with aliens? Randall posted two comics about aliens secretly observing earth in a row now, could that be related?
    • DB Cooper's jump from an airliner was 50 years ago, but not until november
      • Maybe Randall admits that he was DB Cooper all along?


  • The identifier of the script contains what is probably an acronym, but for what?
    • count / wim (?) / Rik (name) & me f(light)
    • Or it's just the output of whatever js minimizer was used.
    • R = Randall?
    • Randall is travelling to Germany? "Wo ist mein Reisepass? Ich komme mit einem Flug"
    • "wi" are the initials for the book that's coming out
      • so what could mRikmef be?
    • So the first two letters are what if, maybe the R is for Rex, and the f is flight, not sure about the others?
      • "what if" could be a good shout, the dino on the plane reminds me of the cover of the first "what if", and a raptor attack/snakes on a plane crossover would make for some great what-if analysis
  • The "img" tag has a misspelled "heigth" attribute. Probably just a typo?

Archived Versions[edit]

  • Here is a list of the versions that has been saved to the web archive during the countdown.
    • The counter in that version is written behind the date of the web archive.
    • Note that the counter is active on the archived version counting minutes down from the start. Some of the versions almost changing the minutes just after loading. But it will always count from the time given here:
  1. 2022-01-10 20d 20h 27m
  2. 2022-01-10 20d 17h 18m
  3. 2022-01-11 20d 13h 48m
  4. 2022-01-12 19d 14h 1m
  5. 2022-01-13 18d 10h 14m
  6. 2022-01-14 17d 13h 51m
  7. 2022-01-14 16d 19h 3m
  8. 2022-01-15 16d 9h 32m
  9. 2022-01-16 15d 7h 10m
  10. 2022-01-16 14d 16h 7m
  11. 2022-01-18 13d 9h 57m
  12. 2022-01-18 12d 19h 6m
  13. 2022-01-19 11d 17h 26m
  14. 2022-01-20 11d 4h 23m
  15. 2022-01-20 10d 15h 3m
  16. 2022-01-21 10d 12h 26m
  17. 2022-01-21 10d 4h 36m
  18. 2022-01-22 9d 14h 36m
  19. 2022-01-22 9d 11h 12m
  20. 2022-01-22 8d 16h 29m
  21. 2022-01-23 7d 23h 20m
  22. 2022-01-23 7d 15h 41m
  23. 2022-01-24 6d 18h 50m
  24. 2022-01-25 6d 8h 11m
  25. 2022-01-26 5d 14h 32m
  26. 2022-01-26 4d 21h 1m
  27. 2022-01-27 3d 21h 22m
  28. 2022-01-28 2d 16h 8m
  29. 2022-01-29 2d 12h 14m
  30. 2022-01-29 1d 15h 30m
  31. 2022-01-30 0d 19h 53m
  32. 2022-01-31 0d 2h 11m
  33. 2022-02-01 The day after (0d -9h -5m / -1d 14h 55m)

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During the first three weeks there were so much talk on this page, that it became very long. To help with this I will collapse all the original talk until when it became clear what it was Randall was promoting the day before the countdown ended. It will always be possible to see all the old comments by pressing the expand button to the far right. So feel free to comment below again - then someone might notice that there has been written something new again! --Kynde (talk) 19:16, 31 January 2022 (UTC)

Click to expand:

The talk on from 2565: Latency and 2566: Decorative Constants has been moved here by me when I created this page --Kynde (talk) 11:01, 12 January 2022 (UTC)

From Latency

What is happening around Feb 1st, there is a countdown that appeared a few hours ago in the upper right corner of the xkcd index. There is also the directory which might be an acronym, if it isnt a countdown package? (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Damn you beat me to it ;-). But I have made a Trivia here on this comics page and links to more detail on the xkcd Header text page. I belie you are a day of, but someone will likely correct me if I'm wrong. As I can see it will be January 31st, 9:59 in Randall's home town Boston.--Kynde (talk) 20:06, 10 January 2022 (UTC)
But damned if I can wait. Sure millions will watch the page when it goes to zero! At least it is no April 1st. :-D --Kynde (talk) 20:10, 10 January 2022 (UTC)
From Decorative Constants

Any idea what's going on with the clock that's counting downwards in the banner? Currently counting down from 20 days 16 hours? 22:08, 10 January 2022 (UTC)

(Simultaneous edit) What is the days-hours-minutes in the box above the comic referring to? The image itself is dated yesterday, as you can see by saving it. Worst-case-scenario, is this a countdown to the end of XKCD? 22:11, 10 January 2022 (UTC)
It's going to hit zero at around midnight on Jan 31st 2022 CST? SteveBaker (talk) 22:16, 10 January 2022 (UTC)
Posted this on the previous comics discussion. But lets take it here where there will be more traffic: --Kynde (talk) 22:44, 10 January 2022 (UTC) -- Copy paste from previous comics discussion:
Damn you beat me to it ;-). But I have made a Trivia here on this comics page and links to more detail on the xkcd Header text page. I believe you are a day of, but someone will likely correct me if I'm wrong. As I can see it will be January 31st, 9:59 in Randall's home town Boston.--Kynde (talk) 20:06, 10 January 2022 (UTC)
But damned if I can wait. Sure millions will watch the page when it goes to zero! At least it is no April 1st. :-D --Kynde (talk) 20:10, 10 January 2022 (UTC)
Yeah - you're right - I messed up. So as I type this, it's Jan 10th 2022 at 4pm - 1600 hrs Mountain time - which is 1800 hours EST. At this moment, the countdown reads 20d 16h 0m - so Jan 30th + (18+16) hours = which is Jan 30th + 34 hours - which is Jan 31st + 10am in Boston (EST). SteveBaker (talk) 23:05, 10 January 2022 (UTC)
Hey great, can see they agree in the link to reddit below. So happy I got it right both in UTC and Boston. It will be 15:59 here in DK. Not 16:00. ;-) --Kynde (talk) 23:44, 10 January 2022 (UTC)

Counting down to Backwards Day? -- 23:28, 10 January 2022 (UTC)

There's a reddit thread discussing it: I think the most likely guess is that Randall has a new book coming out. Barmar (talk) 23:40, 10 January 2022 (UTC)
Would still seem strange if it came out that day with only promotion before being a count down. But then again, he will have the xkcd communities boiling if he gives no other hint. So every one will see if he promotes a book. Also as they wrote at the time I looked at reddit I do not think it is the end of xkcd, or Webb related. Although Webb was the first I thought about. But I mean even if it came to L2 at that day, it is not going to any specific point but just in orbit. --Kynde (talk) 23:47, 10 January 2022 (UTC)
The date fits the idea of it being Backwards Day ( but what about the choice of time? SteveBaker (talk) 03:38, 11 January 2022 (UTC)
Backwards day... Never head of it until now. Is it big in the US. I mean when looking after dates so obscure they are not mentioned on wikipedia then there are probably lots of things happening on that day? But maybe it is a think in the US? --Kynde (talk) 08:48, 11 January 2022 (UTC)
I haven't heard of it until now either, so it is probably one of the bajillions of holidays no one actually cares about, and is unrelated to the countdown. 13:22, 11 January 2022 (UTC)Bumpf

Someone has noticed the image is changing with pixels added at the bottom left corner and is keeping track of it here: 05:49, 11 January 2022 (UTC)

Looks like an image is "moving" into the frame because at the moment you can see some white pixel in the lower left, i.e. the black part might end up as a line as part of some comic. 08:31, 11 January 2022 (UTC)
Thanks used that to pinpoint the start of the countdown. Have added this info to the header text page, and the original trivia. Also just added a line of trivia to this explanation with the link. This was when this comic came out most people noticed the count down. But it did came out while Latency was up. --Kynde (talk) 08:43, 11 January 2022 (UTC)
Speculating on what it could be, the only thing that makes sense at that angle is a character's arm. 04:47, 12 January 2022 (UTC)
As of 7 PM PST, the two lines appear to be disconnected from anything else, which rules out a lot of the theories put forth here. Hmmm… I can’t really think of anything it could be other than the wing of an airplane. Maybe it’ll zoom out after it moves into view?Szeth Pancakes (talk) 03:17, 17 January 2022 (UTC)

The header changes page says that it's forcing "Friday" to move down to the next line. Not for me. Did he fix it, or is it browser-specific? Barmar (talk) 14:58, 11 January 2022 (UTC)

It must be browser specific. But i have tried bot the old Internet Explorer, Edge, Chrome and Firefox, and it does it in all cases and zooming does nothing.. Which browser do you use? I have corrected to in some browsers though, in the explanation you refer to. --Kynde (talk) 15:31, 12 January 2022 (UTC)

This is much more likely a count down related to the James Webb Space Telescope. At approximately the day the count down indicates the telescope will be orbiting the L2 gravitational spot.Perhaps most of the mirrors will be approximate place to allow for months of fine tuning. An example of a slightly similar idea is Punchcard (talk) 15:35, 11 January 2022 (UTC)

I really do not think so. There is nothing special about a specific moment for reaching L2. It will go in orbit around it, but when to day it is there or in orbit is hard to pinpoint. --Kynde (talk) 11:13, 12 January 2022 (UTC)
And after I looked at it, it seems it will reach L2 several days before the countdown. See Countdown in header text#Theories. --Kynde (talk) 15:31, 12 January 2022 (UTC)

I think the Countdown should get its own entry. What do we think? Sure (talk) 16:25, 11 January 2022 (UTC)

I think it should! What with the count itself, the speculation about what it could mean, and now the slowly arriving image (?) this seems like something beyond either of the two comics since it started! 18:00, 11 January 2022 (UTC)
I'm surprised it doesn't have one already. This is one of the more unique situations in a long while, more speculation could happen. Thisfox (talk) 22:26, 11 January 2022 (UTC)
I have now created this page and talk page for us to continue the discussion and make dedicated changes about this countdown here. And have moved all discussion from the two pages that had some already (except a few on the first talk page that was also mentioned here. --Kynde (talk) 11:13, 12 January 2022 (UTC)

If you take a look at this [[2]] it displays this: {"img":"72cb154b23f959f908f5dc8eb03069c6df3f0f54aae896a0e7ed27befb2ee639.png","start":"2022-01-10T17:00:00Z","target":"2022-01-31T15:00:00Z","until":"2022-01-11T20:55:38.205303701Z"} Hoodiesandboba (talk) 20:58, 11 January 2022 (UTC)

To correct your link:
"...If you take a look at this link it displays..."
As to where the "72cb154b23f959f908f5dc8eb03069c6df3f0f54aae896a0e7ed27befb2ee639.png" is rooted, I haven't dug into that (or what transforms might be being applied), but it looks like a manipulation of browser states might be able to prematurely reveal it. (I'm on mobile at the moment, and it's significantly more fiddly to poke into the page-scripting and markup than I can be bothered with this moment, but I know what I'd do with a good acreage of screen, mouse control and a proper keyboard to rattle away at. And the combined minds here surely can do even better than myself.) 22:38, 11 January 2022 (UTC)
The filename is a random number long enough to prevent brute force guessing to find future images. The state-file looks like some information for the javascript script where this URL comes from. I haven't looked into the script that much but from the values I'd say that it's telling when to start doing refreshs (2022-01-10T17:00:00Z) and when to stop doing that (2022-01-31T15:00:00Z). While these values are constant, the third value changes and is ten minutes after the time the page has been requested. I suppose this is telling the script, when to do a refresh of the image load. 11:05, 13 January 2022 (UTC)
After some fiddeling, I've found the origin of the filename: It's the SHA-256 hash of the image 11:05, 13 January 2022 (UTC)
There's already a note that it would be impossible to brute-force the filenames. But as the images are very similar to each other, would it be feasible to programmatically generate images similar to the last one (extending up and to the right, different variations of the line shape), hash those files, and test to see if they match images on the server? I'd expect it to reduce the number of possibilities by orders of magnitude, but not sure if that's enough to make brute-force attempts feasible and non-destructive. (Also don't know the PNG format well enough to know if an image with the same pixels in it is guaranteed to produce the same bytes in the file across different implementations) -- Angel (talk) 11:16, 14 January 2022 (UTC)
Hmm… if it was pure black and white, the total number of possible images would be within the realms of sanity to brute force. But add antialiasing and the numbers rapidly become silly. Even if you only allow pixels to change within a certain distance of the previous image, and restrict greys to places between a black and a white, the numbers quickly become absurd. Although that makes me think about making 1-bit versions of all the images so far, predicting a set of "next frame" possibilities at each step, and training a CNN to pick the correct next one; and if it gets accurate enough by the time we get to the present… hmm. How predictable is antialiasing? Do we know the software he's using to create the images; and if so is there a relatively predictable algorithm applied along the edges? Angel (talk) 11:41, 14 January 2022 (UTC)

I think it counts down to Lunar New Year (the Year of the Tiger), as measured in Korea (the earliest timezone where that is celebrated). Actually, it reaches 0 one minute before the New Year, so maybe it will switch to seconds for the last minute. 05:10, 12 January 2022 (UTC)

Could be, but why. Randall has never to rarely? mentioned this new year... --Kynde (talk) 11:13, 12 January 2022 (UTC)

I think we are seeing a zoom out of some image. Perhaps it is the arm of Cueball? --Kynde (talk) 11:36, 12 January 2022 (UTC)

It looks like there's a little curve at the top left of the line entering the frame! This makes the Cueball arm hypothesis more likely. Sure (talk) 14:18, 12 January 2022 (UTC)
I also noticed that (and moved your comment up here, as it is kind of a reply to that). Seems like the picture updates every four hours, and that it happened last time at noon UTC today. And thus it will also be at midnight. So 4, 8, 12, 16, 20 and 24. But it is not certain yet and not sure it happened like that the first day or two. --Kynde (talk) 14:46, 12 January 2022 (UTC)

I have added the first 12 images on this page: Countdown in header text/images - anyone may help uploading the new ones there. --Kynde (talk) 11:43, 12 January 2022 (UTC)

Thank you! 12:44, 12 January 2022 (UTC)

Does anyone mind if I make a few spelling/grammar corrections to the article? It feels like the kind of thing that could be interpreted as rude, so I wanted to ask first. 13:00, 12 January 2022 (UTC)

No no please help me with my poor spelling. I'm Danish and not very good at spelling in English. Also anything I write is up for debate and can be changed. Just because I started this page do not give me ownership over it. As long as relevant info is not deleted the entire layout maybe changed. But better to get the page going sooner rather than later.--Kynde (talk) 14:46, 12 January 2022 (UTC)
Alright!! Thank you so much for all your great work on this page! 18:02, 13 January 2022 (UTC)

I originally put this (without realising it wasn't the Talk page) in the Images sub-page, in response to the revelation it was (very probably) the SHA256 of the image data that was used to name the file:

  • When I first looked at it and decided it was an obvious hash (yes SHA256 sounds about right, but nice to know someone's tried it) I personally had hoped it would be a hash of the datetime (plus a salt, maybe, to give it that extra little frisson of difficulty in reverse engineering... ;) ). But if it's as you say I think I'll refrain from getting any rainbow-tables set up and bashing through the possibilities in the rather huge phase-space it could represent. Of course, there must be a look-up table used by the server. It'd be too much to hope for that it's publically exposed though, and totally a rookie-error if it is. (That Randall, and maybe anyone he actually drafted in to implement it to save himself the worry, is surely not going to commit.)

...anyway, bringing it here, as being more conversational than informative. Still thought I should say it, but stupidly long as a comment so maybe I needn't have repasted it again! 03:39, 13 January 2022 (UTC)

(Put this in here as it was before in the explanation --Kynde (talk) 12:02, 13 January 2022 (UTC):) Was going to say it's Hangman, but it looks like it's zooming in on the diagonal instead of continuing to make a gibbet. Thisfox (talk) 06:37, 13 January 2022 (UTC)

I read the javascript of the countdown and noticed one thing that i didn't see mentioned anywhere on this page: the countdown text is moving upwards. When the countdown started the text was exactly in the middle of the image and at the end of the countdown the text will be at the top (you can see how it will look by changing the time in your system). The code will also make the text disappear and leave only the image after the countdown goes to zero. 23:52, 13 January 2022 (UTC)

Uuuh thanks that was interesting. Maybe to make more room for the image? --Kynde (talk) 12:09, 14 January 2022 (UTC)

The Greensboro sit-ins started on Feb 1, though the time is different.. But black history month? (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Thanks to Theusaf for helping with putting the images up on the image page. --Kynde (talk) 12:09, 14 January 2022 (UTC)

Anyone here that can make an animation out of the images and put it in the explanation? If it is "easy" could it be updated some times on the way towards the final image on January 31st... Like the one on Time. That would be really nice. --Kynde (talk) 17:02, 14 January 2022 (UTC)

I made an animation: [3] (Now i realize it wasn't needed because there already is automatically updating animation linked from the page...) 18:18, 15 January 2022 (UTC)
Not if you would let us use it here on xkcd. I have no contact to munvoseli. But if you made one we could upload here on xkcd on this page and then update it a few times, until we have a final version, then that would be much better than having one on a private persons page. Which may be deleted at any time. So cool you made one. If it is possible I would like to have one like the one at Time. --Kynde (talk) 13:41, 18 January 2022 (UTC)

There's something else moving into the frame... We'll have to see what it is. Sure (talk) 19:12, 14 January 2022 (UTC)

To even find this page, I had to page backward through the comic to get to Decorative Constants, go to the discussion, and come across the link to this page from there. I suggest that there be a direct link to this page from the explanation of every comic that existed while the countdown was in progress. A second question: has anyone determined for sure whether the ‘camera’ is zooming out from a blank spot in the final image, in which case we can expect other stuff to come into view from above and right, OR is it panning onto an image that is not changing size, in which case nothing will appear except from the direction it’s moving toward? And if it’s panning, has anyone tried estimating where the current stuff will end up? 07:42, 15 January 2022 (UTC)

I agree with you and have now changed the four comics that was active while the count down was active so far, so the link to this page is above their explanations. If people keep updating like this for new comics, there will be a link to the countdown page from the front page. --Kynde (talk) 14:40, 15 January 2022 (UTC)

Does Randall already have kids? If not, maybe his wife is expecting? That's something you'd announce and the last two comics are about kids. Another idea: he's going to space 🚀. -- 20:47, 15 January 2022 (UTC)

I’m sure he would have a birth announcement afterward, but I doubt he would try to predict it to the exact second, 21 days in advance. 22:36, 15 January 2022 (UTC)
Maybe it's a C section? Those are usually scheduled. lol but yeah that's unlikely.Wouldn't rule it out though.Sure (talk) 13:58, 17 January 2022 (UTC)

I noticed that it almost appears to be the tail fin of an airplane. I don’t know if it is, or if an airplane even makes sense? -- 22:11, 15 January 2022 (UTC)

There's not enough time for it to make the several passes necessary, before the big 'reveal', but I'd have suspected Randall capable of parodying the Airplane! in-title parody of Jaws. Would have somewhat been a shaggy-brick joke, but wouldn't put it past him... 00:18, 18 January 2022 (UTC)
I actually think, after watching the animation so far on musoveli’s page, it looks more like a main wing of a swept wing commercial aircraft. If it is, and the pattern continues, we should be able to see the main body or an engine nacelle at least. -- 13:39, 18 January 2022 (UTC)
I agree now. First I was sure it was the tail of an airplane, but the way it moves into the image now, makes me think of the wing, with the plane body soon coming into view. That was at image 59... --Kynde (talk) 17:48, 19 January 2022 (UTC)
I think at the time of posting the body has just come into view! I may be wrong, as it is only a tiny sliver, but I am hopeful!-- 01:59, 20 January 2022 (UTC)
I'm still more mentally-prepared for it being a tailfin (seen from the side, the 'new' line being the mid-dorsal surface of the main aircraft hull) than the port wing (the new bit being of the lateral airframe surface forward of the wings and perhaps just behind the cockpit point). But this POV will doubtless be overturned by the revelation of the next frame(s), which will make many of us look just as misdirectedly creduluous as each other. ;) 02:50, 20 January 2022 (UTC)
I can see the tailfin too, but because I am a human, and we dont shift our opinons easily, i still think its a plane. We might all be wrong though! This makes me think of a game from elementary school where on kid would draw a line, we would guess what it was, then the would draw another, and so on, until we guessed it. (I just realized that I wasnt logged in for my previous few posts here). --BlackBeret (talk) 13:34, 20 January 2022 (UTC)
(Me again,, whatever this signs as.) In case you read me wrong, I was meaning a tailfin of a plane (rudder surface, vertical stabiliser, whatever), so I think we have agreement. Or had. Not seen the latest picture update(s), so my views may imminently change in a few moments when I actually do, and/or yours also will by the time you read this. ;) 16:18, 20 January 2022 (UTC)
I understood what you meant by tail fin. I also now think you are right, becuase I think I can see a tiny little line poking out from the bottom corner that could be the vertical tail fin. (Is there a better word for it?)--BlackBeret (talk) 00:46, 21 January 2022 (UTC)
Once again, my opinion has changed. I now once more believe that it is a wing, now that we can see the windows of the plane. It almost looks like spaceshiptwo, which in my opinion is the coolest rocket in the industry right now. But it isn’t, because it doesn’t have the right wings. That was unrelated.--BlackBeret (talk) 02:54, 21 January 2022 (UTC)
On a second look, it could be SpaceShipTwo in “shuttlecock” formation for reentry. Wouldn’t it be cool to see Randall in space? --BlackBeret (talk) 15:23, 21 January 2022 (UTC)
SpaceShipTwo is not really looking at all like this commercial plane I believe it is. A passenger plane is my idea of how it looks now. I cannot tell if it is the wing or tail we see, but is inclined to sat that the thin line is the top of the passenger hull, and thus it is a wing, as the tailfin would not need this extra line as it is fused with the planes body. I also now begins to think the plane will land somewhere we can recognize (sky line) when the counter ends, and Randall is going there. But if he can actually land somewhere that precise seems farfetched. --Kynde (talk) 16:07, 21 January 2022 (UTC)

I believe it looks like he would draw the arm and upper "body" of a person running to the left. 01:11, 16 January 2022 (UTC)

Am I the only one thinking it'll be another extra long comic like 1190? 02:52, 16 January 2022 (UTC)

Randall is secretly in space, having launched a few days after JWST, and the countdown is to when NASA will see the fruits of his elaborate plan to create the most epic photo bomb of all time. 20:59, 16 January 2022 (UTC)

Surprised no one has linked to the xkcd comic called Countdown. It centers on the problem of having a countdown to something and people not knowing what it is (and also not being able to see all relevant information). Seems relevant in a couple ways. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Yes but there we don't know when the count ends, but we know what it is about. So kind of the reverse of this countdown. But I think I will add a line about it in the explanation. Also a search for Countdown goes there so maybe I also add a link here from that comic. (Remember to sign you comment) --Kynde (talk) 13:32, 18 January 2022 (UTC)

Did anyone calculate the speed/acceleration of the object moving in the frame? We can predict future positions if nothing changes (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

It just changed direction so nothing will come from that now. (Remember to sign you comment) --Kynde (talk) 13:32, 18 January 2022 (UTC)

Randall's new comic is about hyposthesis genration (Sound familiar?), and the title text makes a lot of sense if you think about it from his perspective. Sure (talk) 13:06, 18 January 2022 (UTC)

I really do not think this comic is a comment on the countdown. But I can see why it could be funny for us here at explain. But I'm quite sure that Randall stays away from all these fora discussing his comics. We put way to much importance to this site if we think he actually comes here... ;-) --Kynde (talk) 13:14, 18 January 2022 (UTC)

What do the comments in the explanation above that say "the timer may be using EST" mean? The timer is just counting down days, hours, and minutes. We should all see the timer reach zero at the same time even though that may be morning for some readers, afternoon for others, and night for other readers. Randall's living on Eastern Standard Time isn't going to make the countdown run any faster or slower than it would if he lived in a different time zone. -- 16:00, 18 January 2022 (UTC)

Agreed have removed all ref to EST. It is UTZ that is interesting and of course Randall's local time zone in Boston. --Kynde (talk) 16:29, 18 January 2022 (UTC) 03:54, 19 January 2022 (UTC)
Guys put that back! It's referring to comic 1061! Not that I think it's likely, butlet's not dismiss that out of hand. 03:54, 19 January 2022 (UTC)
That is ridiculous! --Kynde (talk) 07:42, 19 January 2022 (UTC)

I think the image entering the frame is a boomerang! Sure (talk) 12:53, 20 January 2022 (UTC)

Well Randall has sure been fond enough of those that we have the Category:Boomerangs. However, in none of those have he drawn that extra line that have appeared before you suggested this. So I would say, it is not!--Kynde (talk) 16:24, 20 January 2022 (UTC)

Yay, started by the new development with the counter in the xkcd Header text, I was inspired to continue the work I started back in June 2019 when I created the page regarding changes in the header. When I began adding the countdown at the top I became aware that I had left a period of more than a year with Changes not documented yet 2 from September 2015 to November 2016 (Changes not documented yet 1 is anything earlier than March 2014). And today I finished documenting the gap so now Protip on Garden is suddenly also here, just below where the undocumented section was, which I deleted today. And thus the protip is now not just mentioned in the trivia on the 1663: Garden page. Of course it would be great to continue backwards, but it is a hughe project. But there where some important changes in the now closed gap, among other the longest running book promotion for Thing Explainer. Of course I cannot say it is complete back to march 2014, but anything staying longer than two weeks in the front page header I believe I would have found. But I have not walked through every archived version ;-) They load terribly slow. --Kynde (talk) 16:39, 20 January 2022 (UTC)

I guess when more windows come into view, we’ll finally know whether the windows continue far to the left of the wing, or stop well short of the tail fin (which the two currently showing already seem to me to be too close to). (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

That is true. Wonder if the plane will land in a city that can be recognized when the counter runs out? --Kynde (talk) 16:07, 21 January 2022 (UTC)

That new bottom-left line worries me. [...] 15:50, 22 January 2022 (UTC)

Retracted. I was still thinking a viewpoint mildly downward, or exactly level with the aircraft, but a very slight upward view (and from slightly forward?) onto the underside of the HS surface would conceivably produce that profile.
Note that I'm commenting on directly, as the frames in the /images page have been left fallow for a while now. I presume someone is going to catch us up again when they have the wherewithall (unfortunately, I don't right now, hard to edit complex things on this device, and I wouldn't be able to upload the frames to the wiki anyway). rush, we have... 8d 0h 23m left, at least, to be thorough about this. ;) 14:37, 23 January 2022 (UTC)
I have now uploaded up to the current on xkcd nr. 85. --Kynde (talk) 20:09, 23 January 2022 (UTC)

I wondered if there was anything else interesting in the js file that updates the countdown. So I de-minified it. (There is nothing noteworthy.) Toby (talk) 17:20, 23 January 2022 (UTC)

The new parachute theory could be a possibility. I have added this and two others to the top of the image theories and moved all else into an Early theory section. For sure it is a plane. And also added the parachute idea to the countdown theory section. Not my theory, but moved it to two other places than where it was first stated. (Left it there though!). Not special certain it will be, but could be. --Kynde (talk) 20:09, 23 January 2022 (UTC)

Maybe Randall found D.B. Cooper? ;D (talk about me behind my back) 13:49, 24 January 2022 (UTC)

Maybe he's going to announce he is D.B. Cooper..! 14:01, 24 January 2022 (UTC)
 :o surprised pikachu (talk about me behind my back) 11:50, 25 January 2022 (UTC)

I've been checking the possible aircraft used for Zero-G (parabolic) flights, and currently - in the US at least - none of the models used have 'standard' hull-mounted horizontal stabilisers, as in the picture. They're either T-tails or cruciform (midway up the vertical stabiliser), possibly for very good reasons. (i.e., at the most crucial part of the flight envelope, it keeps the control surfaces out of the immediate wake of the wings. Handy feature, more than overcoming the engineering compromises needed to mount things that way.) Assuming any attempt at accuracy[citation needed] this might rule that option out. (And skydiving is usually high-winged non-jets, and this seems to be a low-winged jet.) Though A300-ranged planes have been used in Europe and conceivably loosely fit the given profile. But it looks like a smaller plane than many of the Vomit Comets (and larger than most parachute-party planes). Unfortunately, it still rules far too many other options in, never mind artistic innacuracy drift. 15:14, 24 January 2022 (UTC)

suggestion: make a bot that uploads the newest image with . 18:20, 25 January 2022 (UTC)Bumpf

With just five days left it is not worth the bother... --Kynde (talk) 07:50, 27 January 2022 (UTC)

Actually, this started to get a little boring a few days ago. Just sayin’ 12:52, 26 January 2022 (UTC)

First the airplane two alien-themed comics in a row...Of course!!! It seems so obvious! Randall is an alien! The countdown is to the big reveal! /j

Unless he keeps up alien themed jokes through the week I do not think they will be related to the count down. --Kynde (talk) 07:50, 27 January 2022 (UTC)

The new development makes me think it is a plane like Boeing E-3 Sentry. With a radar on top. If not another plane is above, holding this one, which could make it something with a going into space plane? Not sure if those that exist would look like this though. But the radar would probably look like this. --Kynde (talk) 07:50, 27 January 2022 (UTC)

(based on 110 frames available): The upper black "arc" can be some hair and the ellipse on the right look like the right glass of a pair of glasses. The latter I think because the upper line of the plane's main body gets refracted a bit. So this might become a picture with a glasses-wearing person in front and a plane in the background. If somebody more web-comic-savy than me recognizes a character we might see the start of Randall's vacation and his vacation replacement.Kimmerin (talk) 15:43, 27 January 2022 (UTC)

The line below the windows is a fairly common place to switch from a dark to light color with a commercial airline livery, or a line of color, etc. The floor of the passenger compartment is generally a little below the middle of the fuselage, the windows are above. The fuselage looks much more typical if that line is just paint than if it's demarking the fuselage from something else. The curved object in the upper right would be the right place for a winglet if the plane were banking slightly, particularly a winglet like the A350's.

Countdown not appearing on certain comics (most notably 980: Money)

I have not checked every comic, and this may be a bug or nerd sniping, but this could mean... something? Idk Eebop (talk) 02:41, 28 January 2022 (UTC)

Money has custom text in the header specific to the comic. I assume when he does this it just overrides the default, where the countdown is. 04:09, 28 January 2022 (UTC)
Yes that is the same for all comics that have Unique header text, so this doesn't mean anything. So far I have found 14 of those. Mainly me who edits the xkcd Header text page where all changes to the header text can be logged. And the unique headers are listed there as well. --Kynde (talk) 09:44, 28 January 2022 (UTC)

I have a feeling the black thing in the top right corner is a bird wing, and the thing beneath it on the plane is its talon, meaning a giant bird is carrying a plane. Maybe the image has absolutely nothing to do with what will happen at the end of the countdown? 13:47, 28 January 2022 (UTC)

Don't think so, also now it is clear it is the wing. --Kynde (talk) 08:10, 29 January 2022 (UTC)
Yeah, I see that now. When I posted that it certainly looked like a talon. My new guess is that I have no idea what the black thing is. However, it appears to be attached to the countdown itself now, maybe a graph?
Raptors on a Plane?

Excuse me, but that should be Raptors on every plane.Szeth Pancakes (talk) 20:08, 28 January 2022 (UTC)

Looks like a raptor tail to me. Silverfunk (talk) 14:50, 28 January 2022 (UTC)

What if? 2 on amazon

There's a listing for What if? 2 ( on amazon that may be linked to the countdown? Considering I can't find anything about it before recently I feel like the countdown could've been to announce it. Flumnble (talk) 03:29, 30 January 2022 (UTC)

I originally imagined that, and had (thought I'd) checked Amazon and another retailer, but hy neither showing an 'available for pre-order' that looked relevent was resigned to it being something else. Unless the countdown was to when the pre-orders would be possible... If it is, then someone at Amazon may have jumped the gun/not kept the gunvsafely holstered and broken the embargo early... Going to check your link in a moment, but first checking my prefered (physical) store's web-site and a couple of others... We got Kirk into space, already, so I'm not now too bothered in pushing yet more money Jeff's way. 03:59, 30 January 2022 (UTC)
ok, that's definitely correct. the picture in the countdown looks exactly like the top of the book cover. (talk) 07:20, 30 January 2022 (UTC)
That is actually really sad they could not figure out to wait with this until he announced it on xkcd. Shame on Amazon. Buy it somewhere else. :-( But the theories is over. The book anouncement and the dino on a plane was some of my first guesses. But had actually not thought about a new what if book. Can't wait to get my hands on it. --Kynde (talk) 08:18, 30 January 2022 (UTC)
AMAZONNNNNN! >:(!! (No, really, buy it somehwere else, and not just because they ruined the surprise. Signed, your friendly neighborhood anti-capitalist.)
And now the Amazon page is showing a release date in September, with pre-orders now. MAP (talk) 07:52, 31 January 2022 (UTC)
So this whole thing was a 21-day countdown to a botched announcement of something you can’t even see for another nine months? And here we all thought something was actually going to happen at the end of the countdown. At least we don’t have to sit through nine months of frame-by-frame like the Super Bowl watch party. 10:10, 31 January 2022 (UTC)
Well this was actually early on the best guess we had, that it was a book announcement. So we should not be so surprised, and I for one stated that it it was not just for the promotion, then it would be very different that with other books. But yes it was a bit little for three weeks, but we did get a new comic and some new design features on xkcd. --Kynde (talk) 19:10, 31 January 2022 (UTC)

Commenting from Melbourne Australia here. The black figure is clearly the Qantas logo of the 'flying kangaroo'. Randall is coming to visit us downunder (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

You did not read the previous comment that revealed it to be the T-rex from the what if series? --Kynde (talk) 08:18, 30 January 2022 (UTC)

This countdown first appeared in 2565 - Latency. Could this not be a continuation of that joke? Maybe the next What If? entry? That would certainly be a bit of latency! -- ByronCinNNZ (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Not really as this happened automatic and with the intended delay. --Kynde (talk) 19:10, 31 January 2022 (UTC)

It looks as though the drawing was slightly altered for the countdown - the dinosaur's tail is at a different angle between the two drawings. 02:28, 31 January 2022 (UTC).

True the final image is not the same, but also the planes angle is different. --Kynde (talk) 19:10, 31 January 2022 (UTC)

Someone should upload a gif of the final wiggling countdown. I would, but permissions... Toby (talk) 15:17, 31 January 2022 (UTC)

I agree, if someone can make that gif, I would be very happy to help loading it up on the page. The one on Munvocelis page is cool, but can we except it to stay there for ever? If you can help, then please also reply on my talk page, as I might not see it here later... --Kynde (talk) 19:10, 31 January 2022 (UTC)
Thanks to Toby who provided us with the new gif animation as well as a gif with the wiggling. Have put that on the other image page. --Kynde (talk) 20:24, 31 January 2022 (UTC)
Thanks for the gif, that really shows what I was curious to see, how the panning out exactly worked. You can see the speed changes in panning really well. Small improvement to make still: I think the last frame (the book frame) should stay on a bit longer before resetting. Like 1-2s? Thanks! 21:33, 31 January 2022 (UTC)
Like this Toby (talk) 22:44, 31 January 2022 (UTC)
Great with this improvement, and seems that you can upload a new file even if you could not create the new file. Have you seen my message in your talk page Toby? --Kynde (talk) 12:50, 1 February 2022 (UTC)
Yes indeedus I have Toby (talk) 14:29, 1 February 2022 (UTC)
Great. Maybe you wish to change your own page now, since I used it to make it a link. But my comment there really only belonged in you talk page. Where I also wrote it. --Kynde (talk) 09:05, 2 February 2022 (UTC)
I have made 22 images from countdown Day 20 to Day 0 and the day after and put them here Countdown_in_header_text/other_images#Changing_counter_position. If you or someone else could make a gif showing this that would be great. Again with a bit longer time with the last image. And also a bit slower for each frame than the gif at the top. That would be cool to have on this page as well. --Kynde (talk) 10:49, 2 February 2022 (UTC)
Thanks again Toby for this gif. --Kynde (talk) 10:01, 4 February 2022 (UTC)
Side-by-side comparison in "/other images" page.

Appreciated that the images are reduced to be less problematic, but they still make the page twice as wide as it would normally be. On this device this compresses the rest of the page to "half the screen width" as with when a single huge image (or non-breaking string of text) is put into a page) while the usual CSS bounds are respected for everything else but the browser makes sure all this big thing fits on this (already wide-ratioed) screen. Just a note (which I can't make on the 'other images' sub-page Talk, as I can't create it) although I don't know if anyone should 'fix' it, or even how they would. 15:22, 2 February 2022 (UTC)

Well it is just a couple of pages I created to be able to dump these images, for documenting what happened during the countdown, as this will be lost on xkcd fro now. And yes I know they are properly only easy to view on a real computer? I'm not sure how to fix it. I'm not going to change the size of them, but if any one else wish to do so feel free, either change the files of put in a size in the wiki code. Not sure how to do that either. Also if there needs to be space between the images that would also be possible to fix. --Kynde (talk) 10:00, 4 February 2022 (UTC)
Or maybe it was just this image here that was the problem? I have removed it from the page and just put in a link to it. Check if that helped? It was one long image. --Kynde (talk) 10:05, 4 February 2022 (UTC)
Aye, it was. Should have checked the wikisource, I had assumed you (or whoever) had forced non-breaking between a whole set of spanned images.
(From a quick look at latest change, you now provide two separate links to the same, now off-page, image? I didn't follow them, but it looks to be ultimately the same 1-20.png file.) 16:22, 4 February 2022 (UTC)
When I uploaded the image, it was by making a link to a file on the page. This was the one that broke peoples borders. So instead of leaving it there, I link to the page where the image is and where it can be changed. That is on this wiki. But if you click on the image on that page, you just get the image up on the screen. And that is the link I use both here and as the first link. It is an easy way to see the image. It is still on this page, but only displays the image. SO it is as I inteded nad only uses this local page. Great it fixed the problem for you (and others) --Kynde (talk) 16:59, 13 February 2022 (UTC)