Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Comic 675: Math people are, yes, STILL BETTER than you!

Oh my goodness PHILOSOPHERS! Those people are just fucking idiots! I hate them so goddamn much. They think they are so great with their thinking and their more thinking. While we scientists have to do experiments and they don't have to! Those bitches.

How much more of this are xkcd readers going to have put up with this? Are math and physics people really so simpleminded that they seek the affirmation of a stick figure, gently caressing their minds while saying "there there, it's ok, philosopher will never be as clever as you, don't worry. don't worry." ? I doubt it. And of course, anyone else read this comic would probably just be offended. Quite frankly, as far as I can tell, the only people who should like this comic - besides physicists with low self esteem - are philosophers who can laugh at themselves.

It's the same irritating elitism that we saw here and here and I worry that Randall loves it so much it's not going to stop.

More people than usual were irritated enough to e-mail me about it, and I had two guest posts in my inbox and some offers for more. I'll quote a little, just to give a flavor of what is pissing people off:

Sheepdean says:

I am sick and tired of this bullshit that Randall thinks he can attack any degree that isn't in the oh-so-wonderful sciences. What has clearly happened here is that Randall has spoken to someone who has half a brain in their head, and this person has taken a critical eye to a generally accepted, most likely true, scientific theory.

A. K. writes:

Xkcd fanboys will read this comic, and their shrieking snorts of hysteria will punctuate dorm-rooms worldwide. As they wipe tears from glee from their puffy eyes, they’ll rejoice at how Randall has once again put those Pesky Philosophy majors In Their Place.

Some will even print out the comic, smudging the ink with their cheeto-greasy fingers in a rush to staple the comic to the noticeboard of their communal kitchen. They’ll take a step back, and for a second, admire their passive-aggressiveness as a dog admires itself as it pisses against a tree.

But hey, whatever makes you feel better. Just remember: You aren't a physicist either, Randall, you sell t shirts with pictures of stick figures for a living. And even I - a crazy blogger with a first-grade education - can look down on that.

update: clearly, when I wrote a post accusing Randall of being elitist, I had no idea that the next comic would end with him saying "I am a god."


  1. Meh. I like the little goatee on philosophy dude.

  2. Man, it's funny because what could the racecar on a train example be? It sounds ridiculously ingenious--a veritable New Noodle Incident whose true hilarity is bounded only by our imagination! O, to be in the presence of such creative genius!

    Seriously yeah this boils down to some fairly sour grapes. Nuts to those stoopid people who see contradictions where there are none.

    Incidentally, I do find people who insist on recognizing some illusory flaw with mathematics or physics or whatever frustrating, although I really hope the frustration stems from my disappointment with myself. That is, not so much a "Gahhhhh why do I have to be around these RETARDS" but "Gahhhhhhh why am I incapable of explaining this sufficiently clearly for him to understand why this isn't an issue."

    It's not that they're bad people, or even that they're doing anything particularly wrong. Since (as far as I believe) there's nothing intrinsically wrong with the current models of physics and mathematics... Well, that means that it's not wrong to ask questions and come up with thought experiments. It's also not wrong to feel free to go against the established system and believe something radically different. Those are both very valuable things. I also think that physics as we understand it is not wrong--or at least special relativity is less wrong than whatever alternative our philosopher chum has come up with. But dangit, why won't he see that even though he's doing a basically good thing, he's a well-intentioned ignorant amateur who's wrong? If the physics is right, and I'm smart enough to get it, why can't I convince him that he's still a good person and all, but mistaken?

    The two conclusions you can draw are "I'm not a very good explainer, I guess," or "This person is an obstinate dumbass, I guess." One of these is a lot more repulsive than the other.


    The goatee was a nice visual touch. I still find it annoying that Randall can take the time to come up with nice visual touches like a goatee, and yet is incapable of connecting heads to bodies. Could we please get some foundational competence before you go in for ornamentation?

  3. What? This isn't about making fun of philosophers at all. It's about the "instant expert" phenomenon - it's just that it's arguably more justified in the case of philosophers.

    I mean, seriously, read the alt text.

    There's plenty of other things you can say about this comic, but this, this is just lazy. And wrong. And stupid. Also, A.K. has officially become one of those stereotyping idiots he apparently derides so much.

  4. This is about philosophers. If you think it is not you are wrong.

  5. I think that since the comic would work nearly exactly as well if you exchanged "philosophy degree" with "history degree" or "experiences as a journalist" or "enormous collection of erotic Pokemon fanfic", the philosophy part is actually not super relevant. If it is about philosophers, it's on the level of those PROFESSION MEMBER jokes that periodically show up in Dinosaur Comics.

  6. Except this is Randy we're talking about, and he didn't use any of those other words. He used "philosophy degree." The last panel wouldn't work very well with any of those other things, also; "turning a rational eye to your dogma" is the sort of thing philosophy people say.

  7. Well, yeah, that's a total "undergraduate philosophy student" phrase. The phrase of a student who still hopes that he will, one day, learn enough philosophy that he will be able to blow people's minds.

  8. What the hell, Randall? There's no such thing as a president of physics! There's the President of Science, who appoints a Phyics Czar. Sheesh!

    Also, this comic sucks but I'm honestly not sure if I would have hated it if someone else wrote it. I'm not quite saying that bias is getting in the way, because if you make your intentions obvious like Randall, they become -part- of the comic.

  9. Someone will have to go back through the archives and find all the comics that are basically this:

    "Isn't it amazing how, despite all our high technology, we as a culture are still about the same as always--immature and prone to silly things?"

    More concisely, "Holy shit, it's the 21st century and I haven't adjusted to that fact yet!"

    Not gonna say it's an exact recreation of an earlier joke, just another example of him harping on a theme that...you really can't wring that much humor out of it.

  10. I don't think the racecar thing is like the noodle incident. It's a fairly common layman's objection to relativity and I'm pretty sure I've seen the problem illustrated and explained in a textbook (can't remember; it's been ages, maybe I saw it elsewhere), although the version I remember had a spaceship inside of a much, MUCH bigger spaceship, presumably because spaceships are about the only thing to be expected to go that fast.

    I also think the philosopher's thing was just a stand-in. Could have been anybody, and if he chose somebody else then maybe he'd have to change the dialog of the last line, but "rational eye on your dogma" is an awesome phrase that fits.

    I find myself doing the "not a very good explainer" thing when the other person in the debate is polite, and the "he's just an idiot" thing when they're rude or have shitty writing. In theory, their politeness could be independent of their intelligence, and while their writing is a closer indicator, there confounding factors like English-as-a-second-language to consider. In practice, I seethe when somebody questions my integrity over matters such as this, 0.9999...=1, or the Monty Hall trap (and variations), and a number of other dumb debates (one in particular actually tried to contact the professional engineering organization I'm a part of and get me booted, thus removing my job and my means to get another similar job, well before I'd said anything even slightly rude -- that's the point where I decided that in the future I'd take part in those conversations anonymously).

    Today's comic seems like "get out of my head" bait. It's a sentiment that I've espoused in the past (using the Wii to illustrate my example). Actually, I applied to grad school espousing the wonder of knowing how, from the level of quantum mechanics up to what you see on the screen*. If I were new to xkcd I'd probably love it. I'm not new to xkcd so it's not particularly insightful and it's been done a couple times.

    * Obviously no human holds every detail, the point I was trying to get across was that I understand physics and I understand computers and I was applying to develop HARDWARE that did PHYSICS with existing SOFTWARE so it was all very relevant and important that I knew these things.

  11. What's that, Randall? It's hard to hear you all the way over there in the PURE DISCIPLINES.

    I feel that this comic represents a subtle but insidious shift in tone from his earlier elitist comics (I'm thinking of the lit crit one specifically). Whereas before it was obviously that he was being arrogant and snobby--because HE was the one making the claims--here Randall is extending the olive branch to the liberal arts, and letting them speak for themselves. And since it's Randall putting words in their collective mouth, the message is loud and clear: "We are a bunch of morons. Gosh! If only we studied SCIENCE." This allows Randall to justify his elitist behavior. "See? I gave them the chance, and they're just like I said they were!"

    Except it's less of a branch and more of a TWIG. "Equips you to ask interesting questions sometimes." Not PROFOUND questions or anything like that--no, more like curiosities, fun stuff that's really just a way of killing time. And that only SOMETIMES. WHAT A CONCESSION! Liberal arts majors, ladies and gentlemen, feeding off scraps from Master Randall's Table of Science.

    The alt-text is the kicker though: "I mean, what's more likely -- that I have uncovered fundamental flaws in this field that no one in it has ever thought about, or that I need to read a little more?" Luckily this statement doesn't apply to RANDALL NOT UNDERSTANDING LIBERAL ARTS or anything. Good thing he doesn't need to actually read any deconstruction to decide there is no value in literary criticism AT ALL. No sir, math and science have the sole claims to truth and you're wasting your time with anything else!

    And it is definitely targeted at philosophy. Panel 3 makes this clear. The comic would be entirely different if he had bullied a different discipline in the humanities. The weakest form of "it's not philosophy" you could make is it's about liberal arts in general. "Ha, ha! Since science is OBJECTIVE and lib arts are SUBJECTIVE how can you know anything is true? Ergo LIB ARTS ARE WRONG." And all that shows is a lack of understanding about the humanities.

  12. Why is it so hard to connect a stick figure's head to its body? SERIOUSLY? I could draw a thousand stick figures and I'd probably make half of them have connected heads and bodies completely by accident even if I wasn't trying.

    I can only assume that Randall therefore purposely draws the heads and bodies NOT connected but hell if I could tell you why.

    Anyway Wednesday's comic is just boring. I "get" the joke I guess about how far technology has progressed but it isn't much of a joke. This comic also goes under the "Common Jokes of the Internet" category. Also now I am sad that the Maru video on youtube is filled with xkcd fanwanking. Sigh. At least there's no wiki article for them to vandalize.

  13. By the way, if you still don't think it's about philosophy, reversing it should make the point clearer: http://chaospet.com/

    Not saying this is about philosophy is like calling women sexist names in an argument and then claiming, "I'm not a misogynist! I'm giving equal anger to my opponent whether it's a man or a woman." Except by using gendered terms (which I will refrain from citing as examples here) you are calling them out AS WOMEN, not just calling them out. This isn't just something I made up either, I've seen it happen.

    So yeah. It's about philosophy.

  14. Carl, some folks would suggest you're being overly defensive as a non-science major. I wouldn't do that, though; it would be uncalled for. I might suggest you're pretending to be overly defensive as a way of pandering to the biases of your readers.

    But man, it would suck if someone on the internet were to pander to the biases of the readers. Heaven forfend.

  15. lol that's a nice attitude to have.

    "i'm going to say what my fanbase wants me to say so we can collectively feel better about ourselves and continue to be wrong and uninformed."

  16. Also, on a vaguely more serious note: I'm pretty sure this is a thinly-veiled allusion to the climate debate, and the phenomenon of mostly-unqualified skeptics raising simplistic objections and conspiracy theories.

    Or doubly so for creationism v. evolution debates.

  17. So, despite all of your bitching, I have a personal connection with this comic. I once knew a philosophy undergrad who liked to play word games and thought experiments, and one day:

    "Hey man! Dude! Listen to this! I have DISPROVED THE EXISTENCE OF AN ALL-POWERFUL GOD! If God is all-powerful, he can create anything or destory anything, right? But can he create something that he can't destroy? If he cant' create something that he can't destory, he's not all-powerful, because he can't create anything he wants. But if he CAN create something that he can't destroy, he's not all powerful, because he something exists that he can't destroy. HAH! An all-powerful God can not exist because it's a logical contradicition!"

    I have to mention that I could not care less whether God exists or not.

    He sincerly insisted that his silly little word game "conclusively proved" the non-existance of God, and could not be persuaded that perhaps he was being silly and his thought experiment was retarded

  18. So, you and your friend are both idiots.

  19. @Pat:

    I'm not so sure the veil is that thin. In any case, he could certainly have set it at a climate debate, rather than within the Academy Wars, and subsequently offend a sizeable minority of his readership.

    Here's the question: What is the PURPOSE of him setting out this phenomenon--which is quite obviously widespread--in this specific way? Obviously, to take a crack at philosophy.

    Randall doesn't set the comic up as a "quirky one-shot event"; the subtext is clear, and that is "this kind of thing happens all the time in philosophy." Starting panels 1 and 2 with "Yes, ..." and panel 3 with "And yes..." implies that Randall-figure has had to repeatedly, painstakingly explain these same things, and make these same concessions (in order to keep himself looking like everyone's friend, remember), to philosophy majors... who just WON'T STOP embarrassing themselves.

    The point of the comic isn't simply "Don't talk about things you don't know about." There would have been a hundred other, funnier ways of saying the same thing.


    It's unfortunate you crossed the path of a moron. But maybe you can sympathize a bit with liberal arts majors when giants, such as E.O. Wilson, say things like "It may not be too much to say that sociology and the other social sciences, as well as the humanities, are the last branches of biology waiting to be included in the Modern Synthesis." The humanities are really just biology disguised, and we can discover EVERYTHING through empirical observation and experimentation. Or "all attempts to answer that question ["What is man?] before 1859 [i.e., before Darwin publishes on evolution] are worthless and that we will be better off if we ignore them completely." The arrogance is so blinding it hurts.

  20. @tsld32: Well, if he'd set it in the climate debate, it wouldn't be much of a joke. I mean, for better or for worse, there are a lot of amateur debunkings of global warming. Whereas people don't get out the pitchforks about relativity so much. Probably because it's a bit of a mindfuck in the first place.

    Though sure, he does seem to like taking potshots at philosophy majors. But hey, empiricism is a philosophy too. Just one that's more useful than most (I kid, I kid).

  21. I'm surprised a philosophy undergrad could make that argument and think it's original. I had heard the argument before I was out of high school in various forms. The best one that I read, though, was J.L. Mackey's take on the problem of evil (God is omnipotent; God is omnibenevolent; evil exists), explaining that, essentially, every defence of this is just denying one of the three premises to some degree.

    Since omnipotence is an important part of the problem of evil he deals with it the problems of omnipotence a great deal, as well.

    It's very much the realm of philosophers to play word games dealing with concepts such as omnipotence and omniscience and omni* and the idea of God. It's hardly "retarded" to find an internal contradiction in the idea of omnipotence. It's just stupid to think you're the first person to have thought of it, especially if you are a philosopher.

    But yeah, Socrates.

  22. Speaking of shirts, I think there's a new shirt. (New to me, at least.)

    Anyway, the elitism has always been my least favorite part of xkcd, so while the comic is average, the message is pretty bad.

  23. I think Randall's scrotum has turned red and raw from the sheer force of his masturbation, the proof of which is tonight's comic. His e-penis remains godlike, whatever.

  24. @tsld32

    "Randall doesn't set the comic up as a "quirky one-shot event"; the subtext is clear, and that is "this kind of thing happens all the time in philosophy." Starting panels 1 and 2 with "Yes, ..." and panel 3 with "And yes..." implies that Randall-figure has had to repeatedly, painstakingly explain these same things, and make these same concessions (in order to keep himself looking like everyone's friend, remember), to philosophy majors... who just WON'T STOP embarrassing themselves."

    See, that's the point. The structure of the joke implies that the fact that he's a philosophy major is least important of the three concessions he has to make.

    @Anon (chaospet)

    Thanks for proving my point for me. It's the same comic, whoever you target it to.

    Seriously, guys, you're overreacting. Philosophy is just an Acceptable Target, like Mexicans or something for you Americans if I hear correctly.

  25. Popperian falsification of bold hypotheses? Kuhnian conceptions of science as a series of revolutionary paradigms, each eventually shown to lack verisimilitude?

    Or 'theories are on occasion overturned by simple thought experiments' - isn't Randall just not paying proper attention to Philosophy of Science 101?

  26. I thought this comic was about Luce Irigaray and others of her ilk:

  27. Back when I didn't know any philosophy this roughly matched my prejudices of what I thought philosophy was like.

    This is a comic more about randall's ignorance of philosophy and philosophers (though perhaps not idiotic undergrads, which exist in every single discipline, even math) than anything else.

  28. This is one of the cheesiest XKCD ever. It has reached an old-rusted-cheddar-turned-into-penicilline cheesiness.

    I am an historian. I studied history extensively, to the point that I am invited to participate in broadcastings and books. And yet, I will never, ever, humiliate myself with such an arrogant behaviour as "those scientists, doesn't even know what the world looks like outside labs"...

    Randall's behaviour is unknown to no-one. We all witnessed this bitching. We might even have been like him...

    ...in first grade.

    I am into history since elementary school. When I was in secondary school, I naturally opted for a section which put forth humanities, half my timetable being made with history, litterature, and languages. I remember there were other sections which proposed hours and hours of maths and sciences. And yet, even in secondary school, there no such feuds as in XKCD.

    Even in secondary schools, we were more grownups than Randall.

    I remember, sometimes, there was one arrogant jerk who came to claim his subject of choice was the best, the most useful, the only one which deserved the title of 'knowledge'. The guy was usually bashed by both is peers and is so-called rivals.

    I think the last time I really witnessed a true feud between scientist-morrons and humanities-morrons, I was 13 years old. Afterwards, we all understood how futile it was. We all got the idea that every knowledge is valuable.

    At least, I remember that some friends (including future 'scientists') and I all shared the opinion that we ought not to forget the other topics just because we specialized in one.

    During the Renaissance times, when science emerged, a true scientist was not a pure scientist. We used to call this a polymath. Leonardo da Vinci, grandfather of every engineer, was also a painter and a philosopher. Blaise Pascal, one of the most prominent philosophers, handcrafted the australopitecus of the computer family, and a programmation language eventually beared his name. Lewis Carroll was a prominent mathematician and wrote masterpieces of literature.

    I think da Vinci, Pascal, and Carroll, would not laugh at this webcomic. They would rather laugh at Randall Munroe and his pitiful, childish, prepubescent statement about philosophy - which he blatanlty knows NOTHING about.

    This webcomic reveals how much Munroe is ignorant of philosophy - and certainly as much ignorant of anything outside sciences. THis is why he will remain for all his life a very mediocre scientist : every successful scientist has philosophy.

    And no, Randall, no, a bearded-man sitting in front of his computer is NOT a philosopher.

    And you're not a scientist.

    You're just a schoolboy.

  29. The racecar on a train example, according to some Googling:

    A train is travelling at the speed of light. If a racecar were travelling on top of that train, it would be travelling faster than the speed of light. Relativity is disproven.

    Of course, this doesn't work, because the idea that you can simply add velocities together is slightly flawed. As you approach the speed of light, the velocity addition equation becomes less and less accurate. There's a second and more accurate equation to add velocities which compensates for relativistic effects and ensures that no object, not even a racecar on a train, can exceed the speed of light.

    Also, I didn't see this as an attack on philosophy so much as it is an attack on people who think they can revolutinize a complex field they know little to nothing about. The "Instant Expert, Just Add Confidence" phenomenon. While the example it gives is clearly physics vs. philosophy, the alt-text leads me to believe it's more general than that. Though, knowing xkcd, it wouldn't be a huge surprise if it were targeting philosophy specifically.

    Today's comic: Old joke, but not necessarily bad - until we get the line "I am a God." Totally unnecessary, and you didn't build all that goddamn software and hardware yourself, Mr. Munroe. So fuck off. You almost had a point but you had to ruin it by taking the opportunity to ascend into godhood.

  30. I was surprised that he was using mac osx instead of linux.

  31. Maybe he wanted to cater to the mac fanboys in his audience.

  32. Mac osx eh? Maybe Randall should grow a goatee and take an arts degree? Oh, wait...

  33. New comic.

    You know, the fact that Randall can straightfacedly say "I am a God" and get away with it indicates there's something SERIOUSLY wrong with the xkcd fan community. And I think we all know what it is.

  34. Just wanted to point out that virtually no serious philosophy students are actually like this, or they get it beaten out of them by the end of their freshman year.

  35. There are some who manage to retain it even after they get their degree.

  36. Fantasio, you are awesome.

    I figured I'd say, I'm a physics student who thinks Randall's full of shit. Just saying.


  37. I love it
    when worthless nerds like Randall take something utterly trivial and express a faux-childlike sense of wonder, desperately trying to appear deep and intellectual, almost like a moron who tries pot for the first time.

    "Whoa man... using a computer I am like... manipulating billions and billions of electrical impulses going at the speed of light... I AM A GOD!!!!"

  38. Someone post fantasio's post on the xkcd forums!

  39. About this comics, I'm a damned CompSci and I think that is smuggy as heck. I know, because I've been there, especially when I started reading xkcd. Oh, yes, damned times...

    But, hey, what to expect of the guy who keeps claiming his comics may contain advanced mathematics(unsuitable for Liberal Arts majors), when they clearly don't anymore for months now?

    Anyway, new comic: a chuckle, at most. A shaggy dog one-panel story to tell us technology is misuses for our feeble entertainment or something like that? I'm just going to point out this is true at least since the advent of fireworks.

    And the art here is awful. Mostly because a bland drawing of a stick man using his computer as the narration goes over the computing processes is rather dull. I don't know, but I guess even the drawing of the afore-mentioned cat jumping into a box would be better than this. But what keeps me distracting, once again, is the head.

    THE DAMNED HEAD IS DISCONNECTED ONCE AGAIN! Not only that, but notice where the neck is. It's pointing backwards! Or that is the shoulder, but... anyway, it's stupid! Seriously, the man works with comics, he does nearly nothing else but stickmen comics, and he can't even bother drawing the heads on the right places, or even fixing them after scanning/drawing digitally. EFFORT, damn it, show some damned effort!

    Oh, yes: "I am a god". I'd call him on that, but then I remember he has a legion of blind followers lolling and goomhing at every damned comic of his. Seriously, I'd have godhood delusions, too...

  40. Question: If I'm an atheist and Randall is a god, does that mean he doesn't exist? Oh if only it was that simple.

    I checked the forums, if only to see if some fantard said something about worshipping Randall (not yet, but there's still time), and I thought two things were funny. One, the person who linked the Google image that had "programmers are lazy" as the number one suggested search, and two,

    "My personal theory is that we are all gods, that every thought we create becomes a new universe. Those who exercise their imaginations regularly are the most powerful gods."

    Randall must be a pathetically weak god then.

    But really my only purpose for this comment originally was to say that Fantasio had an awesome post.

  41. "Someone post fantasio's post on the xkcd forums!"

    I wish I could but I'm banned.

  42. The latest comic is just vile. It's so bad it hurts.

  43. Oh, for the love of humanity, Randall. Why? I'm a Science and Arts student, and one of my great joys is reconciling the various disciplines and seeing how they fit together and how one can influence another. Incidentally, this sort of elitism is rife even amongst professionals in the science disciplines - a theoretical physicist I know repeatedly insists that Philosophy isn't a proper discipline, despite the fact that Descartes, who practically invented modern geometry, also came up with the most important philosophical statement ever.

    So yeah. Randall is pretty much speaking for the science community here - maybe it's just my bad experiences, but put it this way; most 'liberal-arts majors' are about a hundred times more interesting and accepting than their science counterparts. Also, SCIETNIFIC studies say they get laid more. ;)

    Note that not all philosophers are dicks, and the majority of plithy arguments against God are actually perfectly valid. The whole 'can God do something he cannot counter-act' is actually just a rehash of the Problem of the Stone, which boils down to 'can God break logic?'. Most theologians claim not. The Problem of Evil is a far stronger claim. Note that all that philosophers can prove is that God's qualities cannot be as they are claimed. Basically, if you remove the 'omni' from 'omniscient', 'omnipotent', and 'omnipresent' and replace it with 'pretty damn' many of the arguments are invalid.

    Interestingly enough, my philosophy course has made me an agnostic, despite the fact that my teacher was an atheist. I also understand both general and special relativity, albeit not as well as an actual physics student would, but the 'claim' that Randall puts foward in the subtext of this comic (that philosophers are too stupid, ignorant, arrogant, etc. to understand a scientific theory without trying to contradict it for the sake of contradiction) is simply ridiculous and reflects more on Randall's pathetically elitist attitude towards the arts and humanities than any particular quality that philosophers 'all' share.

    The day that physics causes someone to become a Marxist is the day I start listening to Randall's claim that philosophy is a useless discipline.

  44. Nate, it only means you wouldn't have believed in Randy's existence. cool fact though, you can do it anyway.

  45. The discussion here has become very, very enlightening. It's great to see how smart people can take even something as vile as that particular xkcd strip and derive something worthwhile out of it (take THAT, cuddlefishes ready to go "if you're discussing xkcd then it can't be that bad, can it?").

    Fantasio raised a crucial point about how many sciences that seem completely disconnected and opposite, according to hacks like Randall, actually complement and even complete each other when used creatively, with an open mind. Randall's attitude is a symptom of absolute arrogance and a need for self-affirmation. This is shared by the fanboys as well: it's a sentiment that spreads and grows roots. Not that I think xkcd will ruin science or anything, but it shows very well and very clearly what happens when this sentiment spreads: science turns into kindergarten. And it's not just the scientists who lose: the whole society does.

    This term is coming to an end and I concluded a discipline called "Music and Computing", and one of its important points is exactly that: science and art NEED to be mixed and combined, constantly. By separating them, both science and art get hurt, since science loses input of interesting ideas, and art stagnates. I'm sure this extends to many other areas, and it's a shame that all those areas are to some degree spoiled by hacks like Randall, who become intolerant and learn to disdain entire areas based on one or two stupid stereotypes.

    Oh, but this whole discussion is futile: we can fix it because if we don't like xkcd, we shouldn't read it! Hooray!

  46. I am glad that most of you appreciated my comment.

    And I think I can summarize my long statement into this simple sentence : there is no such thing as a wall between sciences and humanities, the only wall lies between enlighted people and narrow-minded people.

    Please be careful when you'll choose your side of the wall.

  47. Change that second part to:

    Because I wanted to draw stick figures hovering above their chair.

    and it would truly be the most perfect XKCD comic ever.

  48. Saint Cad said: //Because I wanted to draw heads hovering above their body hovering above their chair.//


  49. Surely //Because I wanted to draw heads hovering above their body hovering above their chair with a hovering backrest.//?

  50. Touché.

    Because I wanted to draw heads hovering above their body hovering about their chair with a hovering backrest as a means of showing off my hovering ego.

  51. Randall says on the website, "Contains advanced math, which may be unsuitable for liberal arts majors." The problem is, mathematics is, strictly speaking, one of the liberal arts. The real contrast is between liberal arts and engineering, not liberal arts and science. Physics, mathematics, chemistry, and stuff like that are all staple majors of any good liberal arts college. Computer science, engineering, and business are not.

  52. "Contains advanced math, which may be unsuitable for liberal arts majors."

    I'm sorry to disapoint you Randall, but I'm a liberal arts major, or at least what you call a liberal arts major, and I don't feel that advanced maths, or at least what you call advanced maths, is unsuitable to me.

    In fact, I find them quite interresting. And when I have the occasion to learn something about maths through your comic, I'm quite happy with it and I don't lose this occasion.

    Sorry Randall, but your statement is wrong. And I think this disclaimer should be subtitled this way : "Trespassing liberal arts majors will be shot on sight (because I'm narrow-minded and I find it funny to mock the heretics)"

  53. I guess you people are taking it wrong. When Randall said, I am God, he meant any user in that case. It was not elitist, it was not child like wonder or anything.
    It is just that such things happen to Gods or Kings only earlier. People die building big palaces so that Kings can sleep in confort. or similar other things. This is quite similar in that so much processes happen - very complex and backbreaking - for a users amusement. This is indeed the life of Gods.

  54. When was the last time xkcd contained advanced math anyway?

  55. When was the last time xkcd contained advanced math anyway?

    Like, never? I think he's made a few group theory jokes. I'd have to check but I don't feel like it, but I'm pretty sure he hasn't covered anything that I didn't learn in the first two years of undergraduate school--at a liberal arts college, no less. And the majority of his math references I would've understood in high school.

    What's purple and commutes?
    An Abelian grape.

    What did the mathematician say when he saw an empty cage?

    An engineer, a physicist, and a mathematician are staying at a hotel together. (They're members of a polyamorous community.) Late at night, while they are (improbably) asleep, a fire breaks out in their room! The engineer wakes up, looks around, sees the fire. He sees a fire extinguisher, thinks to himself "Aha, I have the tools to solve this problem," and sprays it all over the place. The fire goes out, and the trio celebrates with a round of neo-Kantian lovemaking.

    The next night, they're staying in the same hotel, with a restocked fire extinguisher and a free copy of the first season of Rescue Me courtesy of the management as compensation. Even more improbably, a fire breaks out that very night! This time, it is the physicist whose slumber is disturbed by the encroaching flames. He siezes the fire extinguisher, performs rapid feats of mental calculation to derive the optimal angle of spray, and puts out the flames. When his companions wake up, they congratulate him on his quick thinking and engage in a round of Husserlian boneration.

    On the final night of their stay, a third fire breaks out! This time, the mathematician wakes up. He looks at the fire extinguisher, looks at the fire, nods groggily, mumbles "A solution exists," and goes back to sleep. The trio burns to death.

  56. How about "because I wanted to draw cartoon vaginas"?

  57. "...And even I - a crazy blogger with a first-grade education - can look down on that...."

    Yawny yawny cunt cunt!
    I’ve every mind to kick you in the nuts, shag your dad and nick your wallet – give you something real to complain about.

    Speaking of Global Warming -
    I cannot help but think that if the sun were to make more effective use of solar panels it could do without nuclear power altogether.


  58. Fantasio said:

    "...Please be careful when you'll(sic) choose your side of the wall...."

    Either way, y'all will be the first against that wall when the revolution comes.


  59. "I guess you people are taking it wrong. When Randall said, I am God, he meant any user in that case."

    Except that this is xkcd, a webcomic that was never shy about the fact that the "regular stick guy" IS Randall's own image; so yeah, he IS referring to himself as a God, and expecting his readers to relate. Thing is, it's an absolutely blunt, direct, straightfaced statement, and, come on, what kind of author would get away with THAT kind of thing? I believe: either an author that is VERY clearly ironic and aware of his own image, or an author that knows his fanbase and knows they'll buy any shit he pulls off.

  60. Fantasio, I... I think I love you. It's cool if you don't love me in quite the same way though.

  61. I've been occupied with school and crap, but I had to come back here for this supremely terrible comic. This gets my goat almost as much as the literary criticism one. Randall just dismisses non-math stuff he doesn't understand as just so much gobbleydegook.

    It's clear that he can't (or has no interest) in trying to understand what the humanities bring to the table, and so he just writes them off, cuz, you know, they don't use the scientific method. Considering all the philo/english/whatever majors I know have a healthy respect for the hard sciences *while* acknowledging their pitfalls just irks me that much more.

  62. Is Aquarians serious or a parody? Do any of you know?

  63. "When was the last time xkcd contained advanced math anyway?"

    this is something that REALLY bothers me. there used be jokes i didn't get (i'm from the liberal arts side see, but i don't draw up a fence because of it - except that randall's line-drawing-in-the-sand makes me feel i should point it out here) and i just shrugged. that maths reference is beyond me oh well. but it's been a long time since there was a joke too complex for my uninitiated liberal arts knowledge to get. and that's weak
    (it also makes the cuddlefish talking about target audiences doubly pathetic :\. hey looks like LIBERAL ARTS KEEP OUT are now part of the demographic)

    The philosophy 'joke' stung.
    I'm usually the first to laugh when my chosen subject is the butt of the joke but this was just an insult, not a witty tongue-in-cheek poke.

    signing off:
    the head of the physics department approaches the college board looking for funding for a new lab and equipment.
    "why can't you be more like the maths department?" said the review board. "all they need are pens, papers, and waste paper bins. or even better, like the philosophy department - all they need are pens and papers".

  64. Wow... I can't believe I'm saying this as I usually find some piece of humor in just about everything, but I actually hate today's comic.

    Congratulations, you made a computer play a video and explained what actually is happening in a dull, wordy manner. By the time I finish all that, I'm already bored with the comic. And then, you say you're a god because of it?

    If I asked my friend or family member to do something for me and he does it, does that make me a god too? No. No it doesn't.

    If it's some kind of statement about how far computers have come and what we can do with them, it's a fairly stupid one. I could watch flash videos on my computer YEARS AGO. It's not some new thing. And it most certainly doesn't make you a god if you can tell your computer to do something for you.

    Maybe if you made it some kind of scientific/math thing about how computers have the strength nowadays to do these super-ultra convoluted equations that require tons of memory to perform or something (I don't know, I just kinda made that up on the spot), then I could believe you. But watching flash videos?

    Maybe I'm missing the point of the comic. I don't know. But what I do know is that it's not funny, and horribly, HORRIBLY stupid.

    ...Perhaps I should've waited until Friday to do this rant when the post about this comic was actually made.

  65. Oh boy, another drawing of a guy at his computer with a bunch of text.

    I cannot wait.

  66. So is ALTF a sockpuppet or a bot or some kind of avant-garde poet or what?

  67. i think it's a code. ALTF with 4 letters. Alt F4 anyone?

  68. I'm thinking that maybe the comic is just a way to say "Hey guys I just bought a new Mac isn't that cool?" for people who don't normally read his blog.

    "come on, what kind of author would get away with THAT kind of thing? "

    Well, B^Uckley did with his "Wintereenmas" shit, but since CAD fanboys are the same as xkcd fanboys in that they'll lap up anything the creator pisses out, that's not surprising.

    Most other webcomic creators that have done the "I am a god!" thing weren't being all that serious about it, like PA and Kate Beaton. But I can't imagine too many others who would get away with it though.

  69. Carl, could you please post some of the guest commentaries (I am specifically interested in A.K.'s)

  70. because ALTF makes me want to close this window and kill myself

  71. ALTF is as much an avant-garde poet as Munroe is a brilliant scientist.

  72. Similar to what others have said. This seems to be about someone being naive enough in one field and arrogant enough by virtue of expertise in some other field to think that they can immediately contribute some groundbreaking work. There seems to be much foaming at the the mouth here - tagging this as elitist - as if this is characterizing philosophers. While the illustration certainly uses a philosopher I think the comic at chaospet.com shows that the joke works equally well when switching in another discipline but perhaps I can take this view because I see this happen with engineers as much as any of the liberal arts. As Linus Pauling illustrated with his nonsense about Vitamin C. When we step outside our fields - sometimes even just slightly (Pauling *was* a chemist) its like an invitation to look like a dumbass. :)

  73. I would be significantly less inclined to tag the comic as elitist if xkcd didn't demonstrate similar prejudices against people in more right-brained disciplines on several prior occasions. Additionally, the "I'm better than you because I understand MATH" attitude is extremely prevalent amongst nerds, exactly the audience to whom xkcd panders.

    I have no idea why I am talking like this, but I am going to blame it on the fact that I took my ADHD meds today.

  74. Hey guys, I'm back from a tropical island! It's amazing how great you feel when you don't read XKCD for over a week. Well, and when you're on a tropical island.

    Elitist comic: the Math People Are Better Than You comic holds a special place in my heart because it was one of the comics that made me realise how much I loathed the comic I once loved and made me google the immortal words "xkcd sucks". This was sort of a flashback to it, so that was nice. Amazing how the only way the comic can be nice is by making you remember a moment entirely about hating the comic.

    Latest comic: he's using OSX because he used Linux for a while but eventually realised it was too much of a hassle for him (like advanced maths amirite) but he was too proud to admit that Windows was working pretty well for him and go back, so he went to OSX instead. THIS IS A TRUE STORY.

  75. Also my captcha was forses. And as you know, some of those who work forses are the same that burn crocces.

  76. Yeah, Nate, you concluded pretty much the same as me. An author dubbing himself "a god" in his webcomic would, in 99% of the cases, indicate some degree of irony; but since this is xkcd and we know the kind of shit Randall likes to pull off, he definitely meant it in a sort of "deep" and "us geeks are so SMART and CAPABLE" way. I'm not saying Randall was being serious about it, but that strip betrays a little need of self-affirmation, of using his interests as a self-aggrandising tool. "Hey, guys, I KNOW how computers are ultra special stuff, and you all should be geeks and feel as special as I do".

    And that alt text? Come on, the joke is ready and finished. If you're such a god, Randall, why wasn't that strip funny?

  77. //Additionally, the "I'm better than you because I understand MATH" attitude is extremely prevalent amongst nerds//

    (Holy crap, with an account I can actually copy-and-paste. This is sweet.)

    I remember when I was a college freshman, I had this attitude as well. A little exposure to the world and I realized that there were many people smarter than me (and in a lot of things other than math), and that I was an arrogant bastard for ever thinking myself better than others for math/physics knowledge.

    As Fantasio said, Randall (and his fanboys) have yet to grow out of this childish attitude.

  78. ALTF's writing reminds me of the weird girl in eighth grade homeroom who dyed her hair a different color every month and was really into Andy Warhol. You know, with the senseless stringing of certain words together and the pointless weirdness and all.

  79. "Latest comic: he's using OSX because he used Linux for a while but eventually realised it was too much of a hassle for him (like advanced maths amirite) but he was too proud to admit that Windows was working pretty well for him and go back, so he went to OSX instead. THIS IS A TRUE STORY."

    I gave up on Linux and Windows is doing quite fine to me. WOW, I'm such a speshul ANTI-GEEK and I refer to all the Linux fans as "freetards".

    No, really, Windows is doing fine.

  80. FACT: Linux is a superior OS, for superior people.

  81. I call Linux fanboys freetards, but only to piss them off.

  82. Richard is spot on.

  83. @aloria: Can't say I agree. Personally I think and I have commented to this effect on the 'purity' thread. That there is a bit of a misunderstanding as to what - at least in my meager understanding of this - what a mathematician would refer to as 'purity'.

    On a more general note and certainly not referring to you specifically but in reading over all of the posts here. I start wonder if I'm missing some joke. Like that many of the posts are all just emulating for the sake of parody the same kind of self-soothing circle-jerks of the xkcd forums.

  84. Interesting that Randall would follow a comic criticizing philosophy with a comic founded in extraordinarily bad philosophy.

    The biggest problem with 676 is that Randy's masturbational fantasy of making computers 'work' only makese sense because he personifies the computer. Randy doesn't seem to realize that computer chips don't "scream," never work "frantically," and never ever "strain themselves." In fact, computers do only what the laws of physics require them to do--the electrons constantly go into their lowest possible energy states, and the result is the image on the screen that Randy desires.
    Computers do not conceive of "work" and "effort," so it's absolutely idiotic for Randy to stroke his ego with the idea that he is powerful to make them work for him.

    For what it's worth, Dijkstra, a man Randy probably adores, HATED this asinine personification of computers: www.cs.utexas.edu/users/EWD/transcriptions/EWD10xx/EWD1036.html

  85. another thing that's annoying about the philosophy-slapping in this comic: so if we buy into the biology-is-just-chemistry-is-just-physics-is-just-maths type thinking that randall goes with, shouldn't we be all agog at, y'know, Frege and Russell and Tarski and heck even Husserl if you approach him from the right angle? aren't they working at an even more fundamental level than maths even?

    sure that's an obnoxious angle to take, but at least it's one a genuine 'obnoxious philosopher' character might hold.

    three guesses why randall couldn't deal with that line of thinking though...

  86. But "work" is a physics concept, so Randall was clearly referencing it. You just don't understand the entire depth and subtlety of 676.

  87. This is more of an attack on armchair scientists than philosophy students. I hate those guys.

    But I also hate this comic. It was shit and smug just like everyone is saying yay Randall don't advertise the fact you are a bigot.

  88. Yeah, Carl, you're so far off the mark on 675. So so so so so far. Like, I avoided commenting until now 'cause I was afraid I'd go off on a diatribe about how completely and totally you misunderstood the comic.

    It's still pretty sucky, though. Like the best thing I can say about it is it very much succeeded as a GOOMH. And 676 is... ugh. Ugh. 676 is the one of my least favorite scifi cliches EVER, played COMPLETELY AND TOTALLY STRAIGHT. It's like he's flaunting just how little he cares about the quality of what he's putting out.

  89. Abstraction


  90. I started to realize why XKCD was a bad comic when I noticed that Randall had a tendency to value GOOMH moments more than humor.

    A lot of XKCD's charm is lost when you realize that the only reason GOOMH comics exist: Nerdy people like us tend to think very alike but can't grasp that there are so many similar minds. It's like he took the effect from comic 610 and marketed it.

    So in other words, IMHO:
    GOOHM = bad design

  91. I'm a tad confused by the whole "I am God" line to begin with.

    If he were the one who invented all those technologies (e.g. Al Gore), or if all those technologies had been invented for the specific purpose of him (and no one else) doing that, it might have some meaning.

    As it stands, I don't understand what makes him say that.

  92. Fantasio! You are amazing, and much loved by all of us. You are even, dare I say... fantastic!!

    anyway I just wanted to leave a comment saying how nice it is that so many of you have names today.

    also: welcome back asher!

  93. I thought Asher left because he wanted to be the new Dr. Horrible.

  94. Hey-idea!

    Randall Munroe makes a webcomic that makes people laugh. Why does it make people laugh? Because it makes fun of aspects of people in certain fields (for many of its jokes). And all these jokes are bound to offend some of the people in these fields. If you have EVER made a joke like this, you know some people will be offended. Have you ever made a blond joke? Yes, everyone has. Well, I'm deeply offended that you made it, and so I will flame you. Because yes, that is what you've been doing. You flame Randall when he's more creative than you'll ever be. I'd like to see you set up a site, publish a comic on it 3 days a week and run it so well you make a living off of it.

  95. I love when the cuddlefish think they have said something so mind-blowingly original and clever that we will just stop what we are doing. It's great.

    I'm not very convinced by your argument that if you have ever offended someone you are not allowed to make fun of people for being douchebags, though.

  96. He's not being elitist. He's making the point that people moving outside their areas of expertise are stupid if they think they can overturn the expertise of someone else with only a tiny ammount of work on their part.

  97. "I'm a tad confused by the whole "I am God" line to begin with.

    If he were the one who invented all those technologies (e.g. Al Gore), or if all those technologies had been invented for the specific purpose of him (and no one else) doing that, it might have some meaning.

    As it stands, I don't understand what makes him say that"

    It's fairly simple but also easy to miss. He's basicly imagining all of these tiny processess which actually are increadably strenuous for the computer in the same manner that the anchient Egyptians imagined their slaves. IE He's got so many diffrent technologies straining desperately so that he can achieve something fairly purile.

  98. As a philosophy major, I found this comic to be pretty amusing. But if making inane angry noises about a popular web comic is the only way that you can get the attention that you obviously crave, then I say more power to you, my lad!

  99. look at MEEEEEEEEEeeeeee

    how else could I get attention? I am willing to try other things. KEEP IN MIND: I do not want to have to work hard, and I want to be able to do it without getting out of bed.