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Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Negative Results
P.S. We're going to the beach this weekend, so I'm attaching my preregistration forms for that trip now, before we find out whether it produces any interesting results.
Title text: P.S. We're going to the beach this weekend, so I'm attaching my preregistration forms for that trip now, before we find out whether it produces any interesting results.

Explanation

Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Created by a NULL HYPOTHESIS - Please change this comment when editing this page. Do NOT delete this tag too soon.

Recently, scientists have begun encouraging each other to publish negative results, where a study failed to find the intended effect, as a way of counteracting publication bias (where only interesting positive results get published), which results in false-positive results being published while negative results are not.

Cueball misinterprets the "push to publish negative results" as meaning that he should always attempt to publish the fact that he failed to find evidence of an effect, even when he didn't even try. This plays on the unspoken assumption that scientists would only choose to submit (and journals would only accept) negative results where a study was designed and executed well enough that it should have shown an effect or at least demonstrated evidence of some kind.

The comic does not specify the specific null hypothesis, indicating a reference to 892: Null Hypothesis.

Besides personal preferences, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the most recent Legend of Zelda game at the time of publication, was likely chosen for its notorious length, Nintendo nerd cred, and a relevance to Nature magazine’s subject. The average time to beat 100% of the content is over 175 hours.

The title text references the practice of "pre-registration" of a study, which is one means to prevent publication bias: details of a planned study are registered with an organization before the study is conducted, so that a null result or a change in methodology cannot be hidden. The title text may be a play on words, mixing this up with registering (or booking) travel. On the other hand, it may just be playing on the absurdity of pre-registering a simple trip to the beach with a registry for scientific studies.

Transcript

[Cueball is sitting in an office chair at a desk typing on a laptop computer. The following message is displayed above him:]
Dear Nature Magazine,
I found no evidence sufficient to reject the null hypothesis in any research areas because I spent the whole week playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
I'll send you another update next week!
[Caption below the panel:]
The push to publish negative results seems kinda weird, but I'm happy to go along with it.


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