Talk:2702: What If 2 Gift Guide

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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The puzzle is almost certainly a reference to the Monty Hall problem, since that's usually framed in terms of 3 doors: behind 2 are goats (bad prizes), behind the third is a new (the desirable prize). While the other puzzles share some attributes, I doubt they're intended. Barmar (talk) 21:55, 23 November 2022 (UTC)

Who says goats are a bad prize? If you want to make goat's milk cheese, they are quite necessary. Whereas a car may be a burden, most states still require the recipient to pay sales tax, which can be thousands of dollars. SDSpivey (talk) 01:58, 24 November 2022 (UTC)
Maybe figuring out how to transport the goats in the new car without the goats ruining it would also be a puzzle.
I don't think there is a solid enough connection to the Goat, Wolf, Cabbage problem to warrant including in the table as a reference. 18:26, 30 November 2022 (UTC)

The goat can be left on its own, but not with the fox or the cabbage. 00:12, 24 November 2022 (UTC)

Another problem with the James Webb photo is that, from its orbit, the Earth appears too close to the Sun to be safe to photograph. So, the recipient of the gift would have to travel into deep space, well past the orbit of the Moon, for the shoot. 22:22, 23 November 2022 (UTC)

Wasn't Bobcat in a Box inspired by xkcd #576 and its title text, which wasn't even the first boxed bobcat in xkcd? Feels weird to say that the boxed bobcat is a reference to an external brand and not xkcd's rich internal history of mailing people bobcats. GreatWyrmGold (talk) 06:14, 24 November 2022 (UTC)

I assume that even if the platinum (or platinum-iridium) cylinder used to define kilogram was recreation, rather than original, it would still be very expensive ($31,965 per kg). --JakubNarebski (talk) 11:40, 24 November 2022 (UTC)

"Katherine and Brandon"[edit]

Could someone explain those Names in the "Chemistry" entry to me? It would be very atypical for Randall to make a mistake in that place, but both seem to be impossible to spell with the periodic table of elements. Potassium, Astatine and Helium would give K-At-He- (and some radiation posioning) and Iodine and Neon -Id-Ne. But neither Rubidium (Ru), nor Radium (Ra), nor Ruthentium (Ru), nor Rhodium (Rh) nor Radon (RN) give you a pure "R" and likewise there is no Element Ri or Er, so it is impossible to put the "R" into "Katherine". Likewise "Brandon" could be started with Boron (B), Radon (Ra), Nitrogen (N) and finished with Oxygen (O) and again Nitrogen (N), but there are only two "D"s in the whole peridoic table and both are fixed to other letters, that would not fit: Paladium (Pd) and Gadolinium (Gd). P.S.: 3 full Minutes of Captcha-solving for a Wiki? WTF??? (talk) 23:40, 23 November 2022 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Potassium-Astatine-Hydrogen-Erbium-Iodine-Neon 23:59, 23 November 2022 (UTC)
As for Brandon, you seem to have missed Neodymium (Nd). So, Boron-Radon-Neodymium-Oxygen-Nitrogen TurZ (talk) 07:00, 24 November 2022 (UTC)

Could he be limiting himself to rendering only the capital letters of each element? 00:17, 24 November 2022 (UTC) But Astatine is so radioactive that no one has ever seen it. A lump big enough to physically see would instantly sublimate with its own heat of radioactivity. 00:08, 24 November 2022 (UTC)

Due to the prior comic, I actually bought a Cybiko (I'm into older computer collecting). Now that he's mentioned it again, I'm thankful I got it quick, before the inevitable price rise. 01:00, 24 November 2022 (UTC)

Is it good? —While False (museum | talk | contributions | logs | rights | printable version | page information | what links there | related changes | Google search | current time: 05:22) 05:28, 24 November 2022 (UTC)
I got one, long ago. I think it has a serial connection (RS232?) as well as a radio of whatever kind, and there was reasonably good SDK support for writing your own software, on PC, to download to the Cybiko. I had and have an RSI problem with my hands, and what I tried to do is to use it as a one-handed PC keyboard - so I had to do some pretty simple programming for that, to transmit keys. On the PC end, I think that a serial keyboard was or is a standard supported disability aid option. It might wear out, thought. But currently I do better with a touch screen PC and the "FITALY" on-screen typing program - the man who wrote that died, though. Robert Carnegie [email protected] 13:03, 24 November 2022 (UTC)

Might be relevant, but What If? had a chapter dedicated to the hypotetical idea of building a periodic table with each square comprised of the element represented therein. It obviously gets dangerous/apocalyptic by the time you get past the first couple rows.-- 13:19, 26 November 2022 (UTC)

A quick and largely inelegant run-through (assuming I listed all 118 correctly) shows that as well as two single characters (J and Q) for which there are currently no possible elemental spellings, there are a further 45 digraphs (excluding those already rendered impossible) with no possibilities of being spelt, as well as 2543 trigraphs (again, minus all those predisqualified) which cannot be so rendered. (Without such cascading exclusions, that's 145 digraphs and 8365 trigraphs - out of the basic and otherwise unaccented 26 letters, making a full 8%, 21% and 48%, respectively of all conceivable lengths from 1 to 3, incapable of being sequenced.)
Though all absences should more properly be weighted to the likelihood of encountering them, as well. Maybe "ytz" isn't such a great loss, and "qqq" even less so; except perhaps by the next Musk child, who will probably have other issues to worry about. But the impossibility of "dan" (not even with Deuterium, which was just one of those that I didn't include in my check) causes problems for anyone called Dan as well as hypernyms (Daniel/Danielle, etc, though for those, and others, the lack of "iel" is probably a bigger problem). If anyone is called anything like "BMX" or "BMW" (depending upon the peculiar, and possibly misguided, aspirations of their parents) then they're probably also outliers!
If I find a good name-frequency list, I may run the lists through a further stage to highlight particularly overlooked holes in the sequences such that we can work out which new symbols (under the guise of whole 'relevant' names) we could most usefully petition IUPAC to adopt for elements 119+... ;) 07:10, 27 November 2022 (UTC)

Impossibility of a short name does not necessarily imply longer names containing them are impossible. "Tim" is not possible, but "Timothy" is. 12:01, 28 November 2022 (UTC)
I'd forgotten I'd set this thing running but, on getting back from my Christmas break I spotted that my (woefully inefficient) script had got to a certain point. And unlikely to get to the next waypoint any time soon without a major optimisation/parallelisation rewrite!
I used a semi-weighted list of the top 100 names given to boys in Britain over the last several decades. I first tried to get a list of more names, male and female, with actual number of instances, but I didn't get anything easily analysable so quickly plugged in the above for proof-of-conceot and approximated numbers by doing something clever but not necessarily correct from the ranking number, if any, in each year... ("Jack", in my system, is 197 times more common than "Otis". "Tommy" is the median, at 4.4 times Otis, just above Mohammad at 4.2 - but even if I've got the order right, I probably have mis-scaled my population numbers. I used Logs, along the way, to try to actually make the changes less steep, but only so that the figures "looked right ...ish".)
I did an assessment of how novel element symbols might 'improve' name coverage. By two measures. Firstly, by just how many more names (than the baseline) any given symbol(s) added to the spellable list, without regard for popularity. Secondly, by how many more individuals (by assumed frequency of any given name) would benefit.
Combos 2-letter symbols only 1- and 2-letter symbols
Symbols 676 Total (Aa..Zz) 702 Total (A..Z,Aa..Zz)
573 Unused not a current symbol 586 Unused
424 Unused2 also not two current 1-char symbols 437 Unused
30 Useful also in sourced names 41 Useful
Combo sets More names Better names Combo sets More names Better names
New Symbols % names % improve New Symbols % weight % improve New Symbols % names % improve New Symbols % weight % improve
Baseline 0 Current 14% n/a Current 16% n/a ditto
Add one 30 Le 18% 29% Ry 23% 38% 41 R 23% 64% J 40% 144%
Add two 435 El Li 21% 50% Ma Oa 25% 53% 820 E L 35% 150% J R 53% 122%
Add three 4,060 El Ja Le 24% 71% Da El Ma 28% 71% 10,660 E L R 44% 214% A J R 62% 277%
Add four 27,405 El Ja Le Lo 27% 93% Da El Ma Oa 30% 85% 101,270 A E J L 57% 279% A J M R 68% 317%
Add five 142,506 El Ja Le Lo Ma 29% 107% Da El Ja Ma Oa 33% 101% 749,348 A E J L R 63% 350% A E J L R 75% 362%
Add six 593,775 El Ja Le Lo Ma Mi 31% 121% Da El Ja Le Ma Oa 35% 114% 4,496,388 A D J L M R 72% 414% A E J L M R 82% 403%
FYI, the final four results give the following (including previously valid) names:
  • Six 2chars, most names: Arlo (never knew that was a name!), Benjamin, Bobby, Brody, Caleb, Dylan, Elijah, Ellis, Finley, Finn, Gabriel, Hudson, Jacob, Jasper, Leo, Liam, Logan, Louis, Luca, Lucas, Mason, Milo, Oliver, Oscar, Otis, Reuben, Samuel, Sonny, Stanley, Thomas, Yusuf (31 total)
  • Six 2chars, best names: Bobby, Brody, Caleb, Daniel, Dylan, Elijah, Ellis, Finley, Finn, Gabriel, Hudson, Jacob, Jasper, Leo, Liam, Luca, Lucas, Mason, Noah, Oakley, Oliver, Oscar, Otis, Reuben, Samuel, Sonny, Stanley, Thomas, Yusuf (29 total)
  • Six 1+2chars, most: Adam, Albie, Alfie, Alfred, Arlo, Arthur, Benjamin, Blake, Bobby, Brody, Caleb, Carter, Daniel, David, Dylan, Edward, Elijah, Ellis, Ethan, Ezra, Finley, Finn, Frankie, Freddie, Gabriel, George, Harrison, Harry, Harvey, Henry, Hudson, Hunter, Isaac, Jack, Jackson, Jacob, James, Jasper, Jesse, Joseph, Joshua, Jude, Kai, Leo, Liam, Logan, Louie, Louis, Luca, Lucas, Nathan, Noah, Oakley, Oliver, Ollie, Oscar, Otis, Ralph, Reuben, Riley, Ronnie, Rory, Rowan, Samuel, Sebastian, Sonny, Stanley, Teddy, Theo, Theodore, William, Yusuf (72 total)
  • Six 1+2char, best: Albie, Alfie, Arlo, Arthur, Benjamin, Blake, Bobby, Brody, Caleb, Carter, Dylan, Elijah, Ellis, Ethan, Ezra, Finley, Finn, Frankie, Gabriel, George, Harrison, Harry, Harvey, Henry, Hudson, Hunter, Isaac, Jack, Jackson, Jacob, James, Jasper, Jesse, Joseph, Joshua, Kai, Leo, Liam, Logan, Louie, Louis, Luca, Lucas, Mason, Milo, Myles, Nathan, Noah, Oakley, Oliver, Ollie, Oscar, Otis, Ralph, Reuben, Riley, Roman, Ronnie, Rory, Rowan, Samuel, Sebastian, Sonny, Stanley, Theo, Thomas, William, Yusuf (68 total)
(Any errors in the above might just be my transcribing.)
I had hoped to get to the point where the 1+2char test would actually find a 2char candidate in the final run. The last run started with "A Ad Bl C Ch D", improving name quantity by 72% and fitness by 38%. At 0.38% of the way through the test, the list "A Ad E J L R" (fitness+367%) was the last appearance of a digraph in the incremental striving for higher values. I'm quickly guessing it'll be at the stage of testing 8+ additional symbols, maybe much later. And my current script will take at least two months to give me that result, even with some rather obvious shortcuts.
...anyway, as I'm probably not going back to this, enjoy. And/or have a laugh at my incompetence. 17:03, 2 January 2023 (UTC)


Hi, this is my first edit, I hope I'm doing it right. The psychology example is most likely about the norm of reciprocity (see Wikipedia). It's a very strong norm. Violations of this norm can indeed cause distress to a point where people express anger if they can't reciprocate (which seems somewhat irrational at times). I'm a psychology student from Germany, I might do some errors when writing in english :) 06:15, 24 November 2022 (UTC)

Welcome! 21:58, 24 November 2022 (UTC)

The Benjamin Franklin effect is not involved here. The Benjamin Franklin effect is when you get someone to like you by asking that person to do you a favor. Named after Benjamin Franklin because he described how he made a friend out of an enemy by asking to borrow a rare book. Franklin had previously tried to get on this person's good side by giving gifts, only to be constantly rebuffed. Ophidiophile (talk) 21:53, 2 February 2023 (UTC)

Baby Shoes[edit]

Has nobody mentioned the xkcd comic that references this yet?

Artinum 09:45, 24 November 2022 (UTC)

The alt text is a reference to Ernest Hemingway's 6 word short story "For sale: baby shoes, never worn." This is also referenced in comic 1540 (talk) 19:04, 25 November 2022 (UTC)

...this was already Explained before any of the above was added to the discussion. (It had to be improved, e.g. the wikilink, but now it's fairly well resolved unless you think it needs tweaking.) 21:40, 25 November 2022 (UTC)

I can't be the only one who wishes he'd done it as "Babies/Literature (Not Both): Baby Shoes" -- mezimm 15:41, 28 November 2022 (UTC)

Anyone who reads that short story and thinks it's sad hasn't experiences how quickly babies grow in a while. We've given away so many baby shoes that the baby grew out of before they got a chance to wear them. It's just a reality of life. Andyd273 (talk) 17:43, 29 November 2022 (UTC)

Stephen King[edit]

I admit I haven't read it, but might the entry for Stephen King's desk be a reference to Misery, which involves an author kidnapped by a psycho fan of his? Let me know how far off base I am, or if there's actually some merit to my speculation. MarsJenkar (talk) 15:02, 1 December 2022 (UTC)