Welcome to the explain xkcd wiki!
We have an explanation for all 2861 xkcd comics,
and only 24
(1%) are incomplete. Help us finish them!
Go to this comic explanation
Title text: The value of n is still unknown, but new results constrain it to fall between 8 and 10^500, ruling out popular 'n=1' and 'n=2' theories.
|| This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Created by A SET OF N MATHEMATICIANS TRYING TO FIND THE VALUE OF Y - Please change this comment when editing this page. Do NOT delete this tag too soon.|
In algebra, a variable is any symbol used to represent a number that has not been determined or chosen. The most familiar algebraic variable is x (the unknown input), with y often being the yet-to-be-determined output (its value being dependent on x). According to the comic, the value of x has finally been found, being 4.1083. The joke is that a general-purpose variable, which may take different values in different scenarios, turns out to have a specific value, as though it were a constant. Constants in mathematics and other scientific fields are also often represented by a single symbol - some of the most well-known are π (3.14159...), e (Euler's number, 2.71828...) and c (the speed of light, 299,792,458 m/s (670,616,629 mph, 1,079,252,848.8 km/h, 1.8026x1012 fur/ftn)).
The specific number 4.1083 does not have any notable significance or special role in the contexts of physics, chemistry, finance, astronomy or cryptography. This number to 3 decimal places, 4.108, was referenced previously in comic 899: Number Line.
The title text declares the value of n is unknown. n is often used as an unknown/undetermined integer value. For example, it might be used in statistics to specify the size of a sample. For example, a list where n = 50 would mean the list contains 50 data points, for which that number of iterations or a larger number of cross-comparisons might be expected.
According to the title text, however, the value has been narrowed down to somewhere between 8 and 10500, or one hundred quinsexagintacentillion. Allegedly, therefore, it cannot be one of the (usually) simplest values of 1 or 2. It also means that the narrowing-down isn't particularly narrow, although it is perhaps quite specific compared to the 'pre-narrowing' possibilities of being absolutely any finite value at all.
- [A math formula is circled.]
- x = 4.1083
- [Caption below the panel:]
- Big math news: They finally figured out the value of x.
Is this out of date? .
Lots of people
contribute to make this wiki a success. Many of the recent contributors, listed above, have just joined
. You can do it too! Create your account here
You can read a brief introduction about this wiki at explain xkcd. Feel free to sign up for an account and contribute to the wiki! We need explanations for comics, characters, themes and everything in between. If it is referenced in an xkcd web comic, it should be here.
- There are incomplete explanations listed here. Feel free to help out by expanding them!
- We sell advertising space to pay for our server costs. To learn more, go here.
Don't be a jerk.
There are a lot of comics that don't have set-in-stone explanations; feel free to put multiple interpretations in the wiki page for each comic.
If you want to talk about a specific comic, use its discussion page.
Please only submit material directly related to (and helping everyone better understand) xkcd... and of course only submit material that can legally be posted (and freely edited). Off-topic or other inappropriate content is subject to removal or modification at admin discretion, and users who repeatedly post such content will be blocked.
If you need assistance from an admin, post a message to the Admin requests board.