Sunday, September 20, 2009

Comic 638: No Signs Of Intelligence

search for originality, more like
Another short post today, because later tonight I will post the exciting post-book-party report that Aloria just sent me! I haven't even read it yet. From what I've heard on IRC, some seriously awesome stuff happened. But who knows!

Anyway, ants. Ants not knowing about humans as analogy for humans not knowing about aliens. Basically all I think about it is that the idea is super old, tons of people have suggested that they would be using frequencies far beyond the range in which we are searching, or they are physically much larger or smaller than us and so their messages pass us by unnoticed, etc. There's also the story cited in this forum post, which says "It's reminiscent of an Arthur C. Clarke story in which astronomers spot some stars that are just jumping around for no reason. They're forced to conclude that there is intelligent life out there--and that it's much, much more advanced than us."

There's also the old line (which might be from Douglass Adams? Or Terry Pratchett? is apparently from Calvin and Hobbes) that the surest sign that other life in the universe is intelligent is that it has not tried to contact us.

That's all. Old idea, perhaps cleverly stated, but then again, given the response you could give the ants ("what about all those carefully placed traps, evenly spaced, and right by where all your entrances to the kitchen are?") maybe not.

26 comments:

  1. I thought that that intelligent life quote was from Bill Watterson, but then again maybe Calvin was just quoting someone else :/

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  2. Considering humans are like, what, thousands of times bigger than ants, you think they'd catch a glimpse of one stomping around when they are scouring the tiles for pheromones. But someone on twitter told me I was lame when I pointed this out, so I guess I am wrong.

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  3. The comic also suffers from Redundant Punchline Syndrome. Note that the caption does nothing but explain what the joke that was already completely clear from the dialogue.

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  4. But at least there's different art this time, right? It's not just stick figures and text. Ants might not be the most difficult thing to draw, but... progress?

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  5. Yeah I agree with Mal. Get rid of the caption. BAM. Shitty -> decent.

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  6. I agree with Cam; I'm pretty sure it's Bill Watterson. It's certainly not from the Hitchhiker's books, although DNA would in all likelihood have said it elsewhere.

    I thought the comic was all right, actually. Not good, not that good even by current-xkcd standards, but not one that I would have thought "ugh, this is crap" back in the glory days. And it would have been quite good without the caption -- I'm not quite sure how Randall managed to fuck that up, especially since he seemed to make a point of working enough information into the dialogue to make the analogy perfectly clear.

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  7. Well 639 was devoid of humor. And look! Randy mentioned a funnier comic to try and make up for it.

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  8. The fans don't even like 639.

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  9. @Aloria: Part of the point is that we are so much bigger they'd probably think of our feed coming down as natural phenomena rather than intelligent life.

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  10. I'm in full agreement with Mal, especially since I SAID PRETTY MUCH THE SAME THING IN THE PREVIOUS POST OH GOD YOU'RE STEALING MY IDEAS MAL = RANDALL

    Anyway. The latest comic. The thread. Carl, I think you're getting dangerously close to your initial goal. I DON'T WANNA SEE THE BLOG GO, CARL.

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  11. It's a line in a Pratchett book for sure, but he may have been quoting/paraphrasing C&H (Calvin and Hobbes not Cyanide and Happiness and I just realised this explanation is so long it would have been much easier not to abbreviate).

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  12. http://wocares.com/host/images/222914_comp.png

    how randall munroe has not only gotten lazier with detail, but also keeps reusing the same 5 scenes over and over again

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  13. The Arthur C. Clarke story that came to my mind was of life in the magma beneath the Earth's surface. When they came to the surface they didn't even notice us because we were too insubstantial, like us not noticing a slight mist in the air. If I remember correctly, they also unknowingly set fire to our cities with the heat from their life-support.

    As for the comic, I liked it. I think the caption was added to make people not question the sentience of ants, which I think is unnecessary, but I like the line "called off the search for us". Maybe keep the caption and have the comic say, "We've searched dozens of these floor tiles for several common types of pheromone trails. All negative." In any case, it didn't ruin the comic. I think Clarke also had a story about how termites were the first intelligent species on Earth and were set as our benevolent guardians.

    As for the one with Lincoln, I didn't hate it. It's just a joke that fell flat. I was mostly glad it wasn't just a score=sex joke. Although, with the "your mom" aspect added that could work. My sister used to use the "your mom" joke quite a bit. That was surreal.

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  14. I like this comic. Maybe my standards have been lowered by such things as... "that strip that must never be mentioned again"... but this one's prtty decent. Except, yeah, for the redundant punchline and the crappy alt-title-thingy. I can see there's some effort here, such as he not just throwing Megan at our face(sometimes, a bit too literally... ugh) and the art is something new(background? perspective(as simple as it is)? NO STICK FIGURES? Wow...). There are a few, or maybe a lot of refutations for this comic's proposal, but that's what I'd call stretching the analogy beyond it's intended field.

    I'm also pretty sure that's Calvin, indeed. At least that's where I know I read it from.

    And this Monday's comic... "your mom" joke, completely out of context? Comedy gold, Randall, comedy gold... seriously, he did a bad joke with politics. Too good for Randall to give me two decent comics in a row, eh?

    CAPTCHA: expen. Randall must be having fun at his fans expen...

    PS.: yes, that strip is 631. Oh, the humanity...

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  15. Dammit people. What is with you and this "pretty sure it's calvin and hobbes" IT'S FROM FREAKING CALVIN AND HOBBES.

    Pansies.

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  16. I'm very sorry, Frogwarrior, for expressing my unsureness over such a subject I am unsure about in such a blatant way. Truly, I should just assume my memories are true and anyone who says otherwise is false, instead...

    Really, man, chill off.

    CAPTCHA: nuspa. Wow, I really do not attend to any spa at all...

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  17. Oh good, I have an imitator who probably hates me.

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  18. R: when you see the ass turds, you know you got a problem. Fun fact: iPods like to autocorrect "turds" into "turfs." WELL NOT ANYMORE

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  19. Darn it, Weiner. Stop referencing xkcd. :(

    captcha: wincer. I do this when you mention xkcd.

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  20. "The most important thing that our species has ever done"? Reeeally? More important than, say, the Renaissance?

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  21. Wait Tim what are you talking about

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  22. I think he is being sarcastic, missing Randall's sarcasm, or some odd combination of both.

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  23. It's not "Dougl-Ass" Adams. I read all his books.

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