Saturday, February 14, 2009

xkcd's MIT Comic

A few days ago, I received two e-mails within an hour of each other informing me that your friend & mine, Randy Munroe, had made a wacky special comic not particularly related to xkcd. Now, the project he made it for was pretty cool: A bunch of students applying to MIT decided to make a giant fake "welcome to MIT admissions" website, and they asked Randall to draw them a comic for it. You can explore their site and see his comic here. The whole thing is pretty damn impressive for a group of high school kids but my blog isn't "high school kids suck" it's "xkcd sucks" so I'll just talk about Randy's comic quickly.

Actually there isn't a lot for me to say - Never having attended or considered attending MIT, I don't really understand what Randall is talking about in any but the last panels. Of the two people who e-mailed me the comic, both of whom are MIT students, one said it was pretty good and one said it was "mildly funny." I trust them.

But as Mr. "Mildly Funny" put it, isn't there something a little weird about a guy in his mid-20s hanging out at MIT enough to make these kinds of jokes? Randy never went to MIT but he spends apparently a creepy amount of time there, which kind of weirds out Mr. Mildly Funny. I agree with this.

Anyway, I don't have much else to say, just thought that a new comic should not go unnoticed.


  1. They're cute one-panel jokes, not bad for a "welcome to MIT" page made by high schoolers. But if the art's just stick figures and simple doodles, why not draw the comics themselves? "Randall's a minor celebrity, and his involvement will draw more attention!" Fair enough, but then the bar is lifted, and Randall's comics are at the level of high schoolers applying to MIT.

    Which isn't necessarily an insult, except to the commenters there whose MINDS ARE BLOWN at how AWESOMELY HILARIOUS the comic is. Some doodles just blew their minds. If enrolled at MIT, they should be given scholarships to drop out and prevent lowering the value of an MIT degree.

  2. Yeah, Carl, because 24 years old is much too old to be hanging around 18-22 year-olds. I don't see what is so creepy about a 24-year-old nerdy guy who lives near Cambridge hanging around 22-year-old nerdy guys who live nearby. Plus, you know, graduate students.

  3. More than undergrads go to MIT. Most of the graduate students would be in their mid-20s. So it's not so unusual for a guy in his mid-20s with similar interests to hang out with people at MIT, which would probably involve being at MIT.

    From there, it's only a small step to a group of high school students applying to MIT trying to get a relatively famous webcomic author (especially one whose comic focuses on subjects that would coincide with the interests of people applying to MIT) to make a comic for them.

    See also the person above.

  4. OK i will specify: One of the e-mailers, who said she sees him hanging around a lot, said she was a freshman, so the difference in age would be more like 6 years. Happy now?

  5. Okay?
    Would it be creepy for a 24 year old student (Which, there are people in their mid 30s in some of my classes, so 24's not that old to be hanging around a University) to be around MIT? No, of course not. But, well, he's a student! He has a reason to be around there! ... Well, Randall doesn't? It's not like MIT is a hub of research, innovation, and just overall geeky people. Except that it is. You hang out with people with similar interests to you. After a certain age point, the difference stops to matter. My university has a board gaming club, and 5 of the regular attendees are people that live in the local community, but a good 10+ years older than Average University Student Age. They attend because there are students here that like playing obscure/geeky board games. Is that odd?
    I suppose you'd find it so, but none of the students that attend do.

  6. The creepiness of age differences is a highly subjective thing.

  7. Doesn't Randall have an equation for this sort of thing?

    24/2 = 12, +7 = 19. So it's not creepy for him to appeal to 19-year-olds. Consistent!

  8. randall spends most of his time at MIT in a dorm, though.

    !student in a dorm for more than a weekend ... pretty strange if you ask me.

  9. Randall likes to play videogames (usually with other people), and has friends at MIT. Where did you keep your game systems in college? The student center?

    Y'all are grasping. It's kindof become a running theme.

  10. Thomas: That formula was not original to Randall, just so you know. And it does work pretty well for most creepiness things.

    Most recent cuddlefish: no actually.

    First: I keep my game systems at my house/apartment. It is the place where I live, and also the place where I keep things I enjoy! Hence, game systems. And if living on campus, I'd find a place that isn't a dorm, because dorm rooms are the worst place for such things, ever.

    Second: while there are some college cultures where undergrads spend a lot of time hanging out with grad students and graduates, they are rare. Harvard undergrads always feel awkward when they feel like they are the only undergrads present, for instance. They often comment on this fact. I'm sure it's similarly weird when all your friends are undergrad except for this one guy.

    One of the reasons age differences are creepy is because you are at completely different places in your life, dealing with different things, et cetera, and are not sharing the things common to people of a similar age.

    Now, the later one gets in college, the more likely one is to have friends who have graduated. But I can easily see an incoming freshman finding it weird that someone who has graduated is hanging around.

  11. I must say I disagree with it being creepy that a 24 year old would hang out with students. Many postgrad students/students that did gap years/medical students/architects etc are over 24.

    However I do find it annoying how, as Randall sees himself as part of some sort of "science illuminati", he feels that this somehow qualifies him to talk with authority about MIT, even though he has no connection with the institution whatsoever.

  12. Well, he was dating a girl who lived in said MIT dorm for quite awhile. Also, anyone who's ever been to MIT knows that a 24-year old cambridge resident is pretty low on the scale of creepy things one routinely runs into.

  13. Ok, obviously I don't know the details here and I wasn't trying to say that it is creepy; just that the first I heard of it was from an e-mailer who did know a bit more and did think it was weird. Obviously we don't know all of what's going on and we won't agree on the creepiness levels even if we did. So - the argument is INCONCLUSIVE.

  14. In my university, there is some guy who is always around despite the facts that he hasn't been a student there for sixteen years, and that now he is officially working in a other city. He is currently 40, and apparently he has no intention to leave.
    So, no, Randall is not creepy because he's 24 and hangs out with MIT freshmen.

  15. See guys, the fact that some other guy is more creepy is proof that Randy is not creepy.


  16. Fun fact: creepy is not just a binary switch. There are different levels of creepy! Ranging from 'asking that girl you met in English class out one too many times, not getting the hint that she is not interested' on up to 'setting up surveillance cameras on her house and bedroom so you can always watch her while she is at home.' Randy can be creepy, and 40-year-old dude can be even creepier.

  17. Rob: I want to say this one more time in my defense: I set up those video cameras in her house because I wanted to help catch those other stalkers that might have been there.