XKCD Marks the Spot

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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XKCD Marks the Spot
World Polio Day XKCD comic
Title text: World Polio Day XKCD comic
  • The original blog post on GatesNotes can be found here.


An extra comic drawn by Randall for Bill Gates' blog to celebrate World Polio Day. As noted, the disease polio has nearly been eradicated, with only a few isolated pockets remaining. Unlike diseases that are more difficult to treat, such as HIV, polio can be prevented easily by vaccination.

Hairy treats polio as a disease that requires exotic methods to contain when, as Ponytail explains, polio can be effectively contained and eradicated using conventional methods. The joke is that Hairy densely refuses to accept the simple but effective conventional methods presented to him by Ponytail. He instead offers ridiculously complicated methods such as crowdsourcing, using apps and 3D printers, genetically engineering the common cold, and nanobots as an alternative, ignoring the tried and true conventional methods.

Through the comic, Randall also calls attention to the fact that continued awareness and financial support is necessary to completely eradicate polio. Ponytail even emphasizes that "decades of gains" could be lost if the medical community stops attacking polio.

The title text is a rare instance where the text is simply descriptive, rather than adding an additional comment or joke. It also seems like this text is no longer shown on the blog when hovering over the picture.

Randall linked to the comic from the header text starting on 2015-10-22, when 1593: Play-By-Play was on the front page, and the link stayed for more than a month up till the release of his book Thing Explainer 2015-11-24.


[Ponytail is standing at the end of a table in front of a screen, giving a presentation]
Ponytail: The Polio nightmare is almost over.
[Blob and arrows appear on the screen]
Ponytail: By testing, monitoring, isolating, and vaccinating, we've pushed polio back, town by town, to just a few isolated pockets.
[Three men and a woman are seated at a table watching Ponytail's presentation]
Hairy: Sounds like we need a whole new strategy.
Ponytail: Huh?
[Hairy raises his finger to make a point]
Hairy: How about we crowdsource it? Hold an online vote on which regions to vaccinate next!
Off-Panel Ponytail: What? No. We just need to stay focused.
Ponytail: We're 99.9% of the way there. We know how polio spreads and how to beat it. We've done it in almost every country. We just have to finish the job.
Hairy: Lets develop a mobile app that checks users for polio, then uses a 3D printer to—
Ponytail: No, we need to keep doing what we're doing: working with locals, testing people who show symptoms, monitoring sewage and vaccinating.
[The arrows change direction to illustrate the infected area expanding]
Ponytail: If we stop now, a few steps from the finish line, the virus could quickly roll back decades of gains.
Hairy: We should genetically engineer the common cold to fight the polio virus. Then we could cure the cold by—
Off-Panel Ponytail: We have the tools. We know what to do. We just need the money and the effort to do it.
Ponytail: We beat smallpox this way. We can beat polio, too.
Hairy: Okay, okay, I understand.
[Hairy rubs his chin]
Hairy: Nanobots. With a fleet of polio-fighting nanobots, we—
Off-Screen Ponytail: Eye on the ball!
Hairy: Right, sorry.

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Hairy's hair is really messed up. Herobrine (talk) 13:20, 15 April 2018 (UTC)