Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Comic 703: Title of Post

woah hey, it's carl again. Jay and I are still figuring out who will post when. for now: me!

more like asshole societies, am i right
If there was any doubt that xkcd is now entirely marketed towards high school kids, I think this comic finally demolishes that doubt. It's for nerdy outcasts in high school who are so smug and sarcastic that they don't even want to join these "honor societies" because they are sanctioned by The Authorities of The High School. Jokes about making college applications look good? It's like we're back in sophmore year! Bring it on, Randall. This'll be fun.

"Smug" is exactly the tone of the first few panels. It's the same "I am so much smarter than my teachers at school" tone you'll see in the forums on xkcd in general - especially on this comic. And of course, it's not like Randall is new to this smug tone regarding high school in general. If they are having a "who can imitate Holden Caulfield the best" contest, they are all winning.

(though I do appreciate the fact that this comic is leading people to say things like "This comic is funny because it is funny" because that is exactly how inane they always sound! )

Anyway, like most I-am-superior-to-everyone-who-has-authority-over-me screeds, this one has to bend the truth quite hard. Basically, Randall is stacking the deck in his own favor. Honor societies are not for people who are "honorable," they are for people who get good grades. You join them to show colleges that you are smart. Perhaps that's a bit redundant if colleges are going to see your grades directly, but that's a different question. I tried to get into an honor society in high school, and failed, but not because I am dishonorable; that was not a consideration. It was because my grades weren't good enough (I am a pretty dumb guy). That's all! Does Randall really not know this? More importantly, does Randall really think the Anonymous Administrator in panel 1 wouldn't know this? Of course not. But he has to ignore it if the character is going to get to make his biting and sarcastic comment in panel 2.

That clever boy. He sure showed the administration! He sure saw through all that bullshit. they are all a bunch of phonies anyway, huh? And look at all the effort he goes to to mock them, starting his own club. See, he's not lazy, he's just putting effort into subversive rebellious things like school groups. The girls should be flocking to him any second now!

Also, jokes about "If x people join this facebook group" ? Those were what, 2007? Nice.

I can't help but enjoy the final line of today's Natalie Dee, especially given that the two authors are not fans of each other.


  1. Bill Amend thinks the bespectacled kid is Jason Fox from his strip. I think Randall sucks at drawing heads.

    also, what the hell is the kid standing on in panel 3? a rectangle? how two-dimensional does the art have to be?it's the same pose every time, sitting down or standing up.

  2. Also, as mentioned, the first panel (even operating under the assumption that honor societes are actually based on honor) is an example of circular logic and not, in fact, tautology.

    I remember applying to an honor society in high school and being rejected; a lot of my friends were, too, even though they got excellent grades and went to presitigious universities. A lot of it is based on extra-curriculars (like college admissions, but I think moreso), many of which tie back to civic responsibility - e.g. volunteering, Key Club, and related organizations. I tender this as a possible etymology.

  3. There is nothing tautological about honors societies. This is a retarded strip.

    My idiot friends have all joined the tautology club facebook group already. I hate them so much.

  4. yeah, well, that's just...your opinion, man.

  5. The fans on the forums seem to be eating this up, that saying x=x is the funniest thing ever, but I wonder. I wonder if one of them won't try to argue "No you guys don't get the joke the joke is the guy who started the Tautology Club is an idiot who doesn't know what tautology is and that's why it's funny."

    I'm still not sure what tautology actually is (I am pretty dim as has been demonstrated numerous times). I tried reading the wiki article on it but...I dunno, it's still confusing to me. I know that what they're doing on the forums ("This comic is funny because it's funny") isn't tautology, but so then would tautology be something like, "This comic is funny because I laughed at it?" I don't know. Blah. It's too early for me to think.

  6. @Anon 2:11
    Well, that hair style is pretty distinctive (as in, it's different enough from what Randall does normally that it warrants attention), and the glasses give that notion extra credibility. It wouldn't surprise me at all if that was supposed to be Jason; there was a C&H reference in the last strip, after all.

  7. And as supposed SCIENTIST could make such a banal mistake concerning tautologies? Yeah, Randall's smugness got the better of him.

    Long story short: Randall pulled off an Alanis on that comic. Isn't it tautological?

    Dontcha think?

  8. @Gamer_2k4

    That may be, but he's drawn so many misshapen heads in the past (see comic 541, last panel)i can't be sure. And if nobody can tell then he just did a crappy job of drawing it.

  9. i would actually really laugh at a clever comic about formal logic and tautology and predicates and etc.

    because i'm a huge nerd like that.

    but i'm not laughing. it's not out of lack of desire to laugh i really wish this were clever/funny. it's just really really weak. it's dumb and weak and obvious and simple and underdeveloped and ill-informed and childish and dumb and weak.


  10. "I know that what they're doing on the forums ("This comic is funny because it's funny") isn't tautology, but so then would tautology be something like, "This comic is funny because I laughed at it?""

    A tautology is always necessarily true, independently of external information. "This comic is funny because I laughed at it" depends on externam info (is it ACTUALLY funny? Did the person actually laugh? Does one thing necessarily imply on the other?). However, "IF this comic is funny THEN this comic is funny" is a tautology, because you can't make that phrase false. And as a consequence, the phrase is essentially pointless: it's a meaningless supposition.

  11. The whole "honor society for honorable" setup is dumb all right...

    But dumb comic aside, I do like the idea of a tautology club. Seems like it could have made a cute retort if it actually made sense.

    So as my initiation to the tautology club, let's say this comic would have been good if it had been good.

  12. ...for honorable *people*. Dumb sentence is dumb. And a tautology.

  13. This comic is funny because it is funny IS a tautology. Let a stand for the proposition "this comic is funny". Then we can code the whole phrase as the propositional formula a -> a. This is necessarily always true, independent on whether the proposition "a" is true. Thus weird things happen in logic: independent of whether the comic IS actually funny, the sentence "this comic is funny because it is funny" would be true, interpreted as implication under classical propositional logic.

    Other tautologies, easier in natural language:

    it is raining or it is not raining (a | -a).
    if I eat the cake then i eat the cake (a -> a).

    When I first read the comic it got a mild giggle. No more, no less. At least it had some mildly humorous lines, even if Carl calls the comic smug. I don't mind smugness, as long as it's funny. Distorting the truth as far as honor societies is concerned? Who really cares.

  14. An example of a tautology is "free gift". If it is a gift, it is free!

    (Man, that sentence sounds like something T-Rex would say. In fact, I bet there is a Dinosaur Comics strip somewhere about tautology. Let me look for it.
    BO! 543, 933. They don't do it the same way, so it's not a RANDALL YOU PLAGAAAIRUST, but the first row of 933 is certainly a funnier treatment than this particular xkcd.)

  15. But wait, if xkcd is marketed towards high school kids, when you make fun of xkcd fans, aren't you just picking on high school students? Not very sporting.

    Though I guess if you want to pick on me, I'm a college graduate, so that would be fair. It probably won't do much to convince me, though.

    Other note: Carl's attitude towards xkcd seems to have settled into "anti-anti-authoritarian" and "anti-anti-anti-intellectual". Just my impression, of course.

  16. I would like to analyze Carl's arguments one by one.
    1)Comics are aimed at high schoolers
    There are two ways to reply to this. Either I can agree with you. Fine, let's say xkcd's style is now aimed towards high schoolers. that a bad thing? Mutts is aimed to animal lovers. Mallard Fillmore is aimed to those that are (at least somewhat) up to date with the political happenings. What is wrong with his comics being aimed at high schoolers?
    Or, I can say that this is not true. I actually do not believe this is true, and as proof, I will bring up the last comic (the footprints). How many high schoolers would associate a moose and a squirrel with Rocky and Bullwinkle? How many know what a Higgs Boson particle is? I'd say not many. What's nice about comics about high school is that high schoolers can relate to them, and people that have already been through high school can relate to them. Even if they aren't going through high school now, they can still find it humorous, because they also were once in high school.
    And I have no idea why you are interpreting the comic to be that the "nerd" is rebelling because it is sanctioned from the "Authorities of the High School". He's not joining because he thinks it's stupid.

    2)Forum writers all write how they are better than their teachers. This "smugness"is expressed in the first panels.
    First, I refuse to defend forum writers as a whole, because many are stupid.
    Second, why can't Randall write a comic with a smug character in it? And "being smug about high school" is really too general of a theme to call him out for being repetitive. I think I am misunderstanding this argument.

    3)Honor societies are for smart people, not honorable people I disagree. At least in my school, to get into the honor society, you must have good grades, AND you must do some kind of community service. Thus, being in the honor society (at least for me) IS a function of doing something considered honorable. Though I do not know if a general honor society functions this way (though I would think the National Honor Society is relatively well known).

    4)I think your second to last paragraph is more of a "I-hate-Randall-and-this-comic-so-I-will-be-sarcastic-about-it" then a real criticism. Correct me if I'm wrong.

    5)Also, jokes about "If x people join this facebook group" ? Those were what, 2007? Nice.
    I was never really into facebook. Can you post a link to one of these groups, showing that they were made in 2007? If so, I can see where the humor would fall flat. Though I did appreciate the "first rule" line.

    As for my my opinion, I felt the comic was somewhat amusing. Nothing more, nothing less.

    I anxiously await your reply.

  17. The Facebook joke didn't bug me as much for being dated because the phenomenon is still as rampant and silly as ever.

    But I just peeked at the previous thread and found a link to the Facebook tautology club and... yeah, I don't wanna join the tautology club anymore.

  18. Mallard Fillmore is aimed to those that are (at least somewhat) up to date with the political happenings.

    All I can think of whenever anyone mentions Mallard Fillmore is that parody where he just spouts out conservative talking points and then says "Oops, I forgot to tell a joke!"

    Anyway I don't think the target audience for Mallard Fillmore is people who are up to date on political happenings, I think it's just aimed at conservatives, same as Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh have conservative target audiences, and how Keith Olbermann and Al Franken have liberal target audiences.

    How many high schoolers would associate a moose and a squirrel with Rocky and Bullwinkle?

    Well, the live-action Rocky and Bullwinkle movie was released in 2000, so it's at least plausible that current high schoolers would have seen it as kids, though I dunno how likely that is (I mean it wasn't a blockbuster or anything).

    I think the complaints about the now high-school target audience is that this wasn't always the case with xkcd. I mean, take a look at comic 12 or comic 26. These weren't high school level jokes. The math and science has more or less been "dumbed down" as the comic has gone on. I think the highest-level math joke he's made in a while was the "Reverse Polish sausage" one.

    Even if they aren't going through high school now, they can still find it humorous, because they also were once in high school.

    I don't agree with this logic because I was once four years old but that doesn't mean I'll still find things aimed at a four-year-old target audience funny.

    I'm sure most TV sitcoms based around high school wouldn't be funny to me either (although whether that's because of poor writing or not, I don't know) even though I've been in high schools. In fact, I'd probably be far more critical because I'll know what it's like and can see errors more clearly. I think this is why there is the complaint that "Honor societies don't work the way Randall portrays them."

  19. CuddleFish, do you feel insecure about liking xkcd? Why do you feel the need to defend is so vehemently? I think that if something has merit, it should be able to speak for itself against petty criticisms such as those presented in this blog.

  20. I liked the set up for two reasons. The first is Richard P. Feynman on honors:

    "I don't see that it makes any point that someone in the Swedish Academy decides that this work is nobel enough to receive a prize. I've already got the prize. The prize is the pleasure of finding the thing out, the kick in the discovery, the observation that other people use it."

    The second is Groucho Marx on clubs:

    "I don't care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members."

    The moral of this post: I disliked Catcher in the Rye but liked this comic.

  21. @Anonymous:
    Conversely, if something lacks merit, that should also be self-evident, and this blog is also unnecessary. In fact, we probably shouldn't bother discussing anything at all.

    Looks like we've argued Carl out a job, guys. Oops? No, wait, that's ridiculous. Let's pretend this didn't happen.

  22. Oh no, more from Ayn RANDALL: A = A, amirite?

  23. Andrew, you're committing a dangerous mistake there. "If this comic is funny then it's funny" and "this comic is funny because it is funny" are NOT the same thing! The former is a SUPPOSITION followed by a thesis; it's exactly in the form "p -> q", except in this particular case p = q, therefore the proposition proves exactly nothing. The second statement, however, is the application of a rule of deductive logic, more specifically Modus Ponens. You are saying "p because q", or more correctly, "q, therefore p". It is a CONCLUSION, which is NOT based on a supposition. It's a statement, followed by a justification. The first phrase cannot be proven false, it is always true by default, regardless of the truth value of "this comic is funny"; both "T -> T" and "F -> F" hold. The second phrase, however, IS falsifiable: if you prove that "this comic is funny" is false (and indeed it is, LOL!), the whole statement becomes false.

  24. "CuddleFish, do you feel insecure about liking xkcd? Why do you feel the need to defend is so vehemently? I think that if something has merit, it should be able to speak for itself against petty criticisms such as those presented in this blog."

    Couldn't the exact same be said for those who dislike xkcd on this blog and fiercely defend their dislike of the strip?

    Please, do consider the implications of your dimwitted suppositions.

  25. We don't have honor societies in Germany... at least, I don't know of any school that has one, maybe the private ones.

    But I can see the response of the "Anonymous Administrator", who is probably a teacher, as something that many of my former teachers would say if I had asked them about the whole honor society business. My teachers were laconic like that.

    And in that context, everything that follows is just a smug student who takes this teacher's response literally, not getting that the affirmation of his supposedly discovered tautology in his school's administration's logic is laconic and not to be taken seriously. Just like Carl said.

    All of this leaves me with this consequence: If it weren't an xkcd comic, it would have been a funny parody of smug students and their oh-so-rebellious non-conformism.
    He'd have it all in there: the stupid facebook group and the stupid rules of that tautology club would be enough to show everyone that he's being very sarcastic about all this.

    But it is xkcd, and I simply can't see Randall having these intentions with the comic strip. Which is too bad, really.

  26. Here, how about we look at this in shades of gray, instead of this weird black and white shit everyone is trying?
    This comic was a mild chuckle. It was okay- it reminded me sort of Foxtrot, which always had a clearly defined joke that was moderately funny.
    But- and I stress this but- it is not the funniest thing to come out of the internets EVAR LOL! Also, Cuddlefish, have you been to a high school recently? Have you seen the intellectual wannabes? I have, because I go to one, and there is a not-small group that loves xkcd because it's about science [dumbed down science], and they love it because they are SO SMART. People casually reference Higgs Bosons like they have an effing clue what they're talking about.
    Anyway, in review: This comic was eh. It was not terrible, but it's not worth defending.


  28. Not Safe For Work

  29. Even though Barney is aimed at toddlers and pre-schoolers, I still find it entertaining because I was once a toddler.

  30. To be fair, anything aimed at people who've reached the age of reason, which is like 5 or something, and up, I still find entertaining if it was actually good. Obviously its potential quality is lower, but whatever.

  31. I just saw one of my friends on Facebook join the now-real "If 1,000,000 people join this group, it will have 1,000,000 people in it" group. I'm seething.

  32. For me, the thing that killed it was the assumption in frame 1. I don't know if Randall thinks he's being funny by purposely mixing up the two definitions of "honorable"; I'm more willing to wager that he just fucked it up.

    (Also, anyone want to explain the alt-text? I don't get it at all)

  33. I think the joke is supposed to be "the president of tautology club is the president of tautology club," maybe?

  34. Hello, last post for tonight. Once again, I will address each response individually.

    Fair point about Mallard Fillmore. It's still, however, not aimed at, say, someone that has no idea what is ever going on politically. Not my best example, granted.
    As for the "dumbing down", I have not (up to a week or two ago) began analyzing xkcd comics as a whole- I would just look at each individual one, and laugh/not laugh at them. So then your complaint is that Randall is destroying a once-good comic? Ok, I can see where that would make you unhappy. Still, if that is what the comic is now, then that is what the comic is now (completely, completely unintentional tautology, lol). You would just now have to look at the comic as it is, instead of comparing it to as it was (and thereby complaining about it).
    Your four-year-old argument is interesting. There is an obvious distinction between a college/post college person enjoying high-school humor, and them enjoying four-year-old humor, but granted that the distinction might not be significant enough for them to still find high school level humor funny. But I think you misunderstood my point. The point wasn't that it was high school humor, which older people might not find funny. Rather it was a situation that a high schooler might find himself/herself in. But the humor in the situation can still be on a higher level of intellect. I'm not saying this comic necessarily is, but I'm saying that an event in high school, which many people might have experienced, can be the basis for higher-level humor.
    Also, see ScottMcTony's comment:To be fair, anything aimed at people who've reached the age of reason, which is like 5 or something, and up, I still find entertaining if it was actually good. Obviously its potential quality is lower, but whatever. Similar to my first point
    Thanks for the responses. Insightful :D.

    "CuddleFish, do you feel insecure about liking xkcd? Why do you feel the need to defend is so vehemently? I think that if something has merit, it should be able to speak for itself against petty criticisms such as those presented in this blog."
    In response, I directly quote...
    Pat:"Conversely, if something lacks merit, that should also be self-evident, and this blog is also unnecessary. In fact, we probably shouldn't bother discussing anything at all."
    and some other dude
    Anonymous:"Couldn't the exact same be said for those who dislike xkcd on this blog and fiercely defend their dislike of the strip?
    Please, do consider the implications of your dimwitted suppositions."

    Both of which are very strong arguments.
    Also, write your names on the post, lest I start calling you a cuddlefish...

    @A Passerby
    Ok, so there are idiots in high school that pretend to be smarter than they are. Perfectly true. I don't see how that reflects negatively on the comic (or was that even your intention? Sorry for my lack of understanding).

    I would like to see a response from Carl. Again, I am new to this website. How often does he look at the comments?
    And also, I am new to blogs in general. What is the tag for having specific words be a hyperlink? Thanks.

  35. art: the prize is money, about $1.4 million. Did Feynman automatically get THAT anytime he made a discovery he liked? NOPE.

  36. ok I will respond, but quickly:

    1. Is it a bad thing that xkcd is now a comic aimed at high schoolers? Yes, in that it pretends not to be - it claims to be about, to quote the site, "advanced mathematics" though clearly if it is aimed at a general high school nerd audience that's not going to happen (woah! calculus! i know this! it's so advanced!). Also, a lot of the fans tend to be college or older - and that is just wrong, if it's aimed at high schoolers.

    Also, I knew what rocky and bullwinkle was in high school. I saw the movie and old episodes of the TV show. It's pretty well known. And it's not like that comic required intimate knowledge of the show. Ask a highschooler you know if they've heard of Rocky and Bullwinkle, that's how we'll decide.

    2. Randall does this so much, in so many comics and other associated things, that it's clear it's not just a smug character, it's a smug author projecting onto his characters (see again, that 11th grade thing).

    3. OK, maybe it takes a little more than grades, in some cases. Though I'll bet that there is a correlation between people with good grades and people who tend to do community service (overachievers, etc). But even so, the point of the comic is wrong: If it takes actual work and study to get into an honors society, then letting a college know that you are in one does actually convey useful and important information.

    4. I was also referencing Catcher in the Rye, since A) JD Salinger just died and B) it has the same annoying attitude as this comic, and I want to point out how old and tired it is.

    5. It took more work than I would have liked, but here: “If 30,394 People Join This Group I Will Name My Firstborn Son Spiderman” is referred to in this random article and it's from 2007, there.

    now no one else should expect me to answer them so thoroughly, I am a busy man!

  37. Aright, I won't bother posting my version cause it was pretty short and mostly irrelevant so I'm pretty glad Carl took this over. I'll just post my favorite paragraph!

    Ann Apolis:
    I used that example too! It went, 'Yeah, that's not what tautology is. Tautology is when you say the same thing twice, but with different words, for example "free gift," or "unfunny xkcd" (zing)'

    ZING IN-DEED. Now aren't you sorry you'll never see the rest, HMMM

  38. Ah, but Carl, you've failed to consider this: by convention, any character without distinguishing traits is taken to be speaking the exact beliefs of Randall. I'm sure we can all treat this as a fair and plausible assumption. However, the last panel of this comic contains two such characters! How can we resolve this dilemma? (more like "die-lemma", amirite? (no))

    I propose that we must take this at face value, and conclude that the "Randall" persona is a farce, constructed by at least two conspirators, in an elaborate plot to irritate you! But wait! Conceivably, it could also be an expression of an internal division within the author. Perhaps he is filled with shame and self-recrimination! Perhaps Randall is ready to crack, and within a few more posts will repent his wicked ways. We may be on the very verge of a breakthrough gentlemen.

  39. @Fernie Canto: Modus ponens is of the form (P & (P => Q)) => Q. "This comic is funny because it is funny" is not in that form; in fact, it asserts causality and not just a simple correlation, and thus it is not directly modellable using sentential logic.

  40. I don't see that it makes any point that someone in the Swedish Academy decides that this work is nobel enough to receive a prize

    This...this quote doesn't even make sense. The Nobel Prize is named after Alfred Nobel. And he even typoed the word which should be "noble" and the Nobel Prize has nothing to do with how noble the work is. Unless Feynman is saying that they're trying to decide if it's close enough to Nobel's work? That would be a weird thing to say though.

    @ CuddleFish:

    You would just now have to look at the comic as it is, instead of comparing it to as it was (and thereby complaining about it).

    I don't think that's possible as each individual comic doesn't exist as a vacuum. The Simpsons has been going downhill for years and it's pretty much impossible to not say "Look at how good it was in seasons 3-10, why can't it be that good again?" Sequels to games regularly get compared to their predecessors for good or for worse. McDonalds hamburgers are going to be compared to Hardees/Carl's Jr. compared to Wendys compared to Burger get the idea.

    So, it only stands to reason current xkcds will be compared to the later ones. That's just human nature. It may be annoying especially if one holds to the tenet of "If you don't compare them to the older ones it's not THAT bad" (this is also true for most newer Simpsons episodes coincidentally) but it's still how most people are going to do it.

    There is an obvious distinction between a college/post college person enjoying high-school humor, and them enjoying four-year-old humor

    Hmm. Okay, true I suppose, although I guess a lot of that depends on what qualifies as high school humor (is it body function jokes or awkward sexual humor jokes? Is it stuff like Saved by the Bell?). So yeah. My example isn't the best I suppose.

    Of course this is also coming from a guy who enjoys Japanese children's shows so I guess take that as you will.

    Thanks for the responses. Insightful :D.

    No prob, it's later in the day, I'm not intoxicated, so I'm less rage-y/sarcastic and a bit more coherent (if only a bit), so I'm able to collect my thoughts a bit more. Even if my coherent thoughts aren't much better than my drunken ones.

  41. (a) "This comic is funny because it is funny" is, technically, not a tautology because of what the word "because" means. Because means something different than if-then. (b) "If this comic is funny then it is funny" is a tautology, but that's not what statement (a) is saying. Consider (c) "I am wet because it was raining" does not mean "if it is raining then I am wet" (many days when it rains I stay inside or have an umbrella. Nor does it mean "if I am wet then it is raining" as I have been known to bathe on occasion. Because indicates a relation of dependence, often causal as demonstrated by (c). Is it a tautology that everything is the cause of itself? No, so at least in the causal sense of because (a) is not a tautology, and I think the same follows for the other senses of because as well.


    I see I have been slightly beaten to the punch, oh well.

    Also: "the first rule of tautology club is the first rule of tautology club" is not a tautology. The P is P is not necessarily true, it is true only if there is something that answers to "the P". It could be false, for example, if the tautology club had no rules. (I suppose it depends on how your free logic evaluates non-designating singular terms.)

  42. CuddleFish, following up from the last thread: I think you ignored all of my most relevant points, choosing instead to point out that I do not in fact know whether Randall thinks he knows more science than we do. Which is true. Well done. Have a cookie.

    However, why don't you go read xkcd 622? Read it carefully. Have you worked out what we're looking for? That's right: we're looking for glaring errors in one of the most elementary proofs imaginable!

    What I am saying is that when your apparent math and science knowledge extends to fucking up elementary proofs and knowing the words "Higgs" and "Boson" - and you insist on making a webcomic about math and science anyway - you are terrible.

  43. On the topic of what is/isn't tautology:
    First off, rhetorical or logical tautology? Logical tautologies, as has been stated previously, are arguments that are inherently true, such as "P or !P". Thus, "This comic is funny because it is funny" is not tautology, whereas "The first rule of tautology club is the first rule of tautology club" is.
    Rhetorical tautology, on the other hand, is nothing more than redundancy. It could be argued that the previous false tautology, "This comic is funny because it is funny", includes a rhetorical tautology, in that the word "comic" implies humor. Of course, words take on new meanings, and comedy is no longer necessary to differentiate between a comic and a scribble. So is "funny comic" a tautology? Still no.

  44. I'll repeat myself. "The first rule of tautology club is the first rule of tautology club" is not a tautology, see above.

  45. "Though I'll bet that there is a correlation between people with good grades and people who tend to do community service (overachievers, etc)"

    I really doubt it, actually. You get a lot of lazy entitled shits who can get good marks, and morons with a heart of gold. I bet they're pretty much unrelated.

    I'm not familiar with "honor societies" (I'm not American). I just believed Randall when he described them. Then what Carl says sounds like making the honour roll, which is an automatic function of high marks. Then somebody else says it has to do with community service, which I honestly associate with sentencing for petty crimes rather than top students.

    So I'll just skip to the last panel. And it misses the fun that similar jokes like "department of redundancy department" has, which is to say, it's more than two references twisted into examples. Maybe it could have come together if we shared the same idea of "honor society" with Randall. Too bad.

  46. "You get a lot of lazy entitled shits who can get good marks..."

    I was one of those...good times.

  47. A tautology is simply a formula (logical statement) which is true in every possible interpretation. Unfortunately, the first arguement Randall presents winds up reading P AND P, which is not a Tautology, as assuming the case ~P, P AND P is false. While the other statements given as examples of tautologies are not made of general logical constructs, they do seem to roughly fit the definition I'm using. (The second one has a minor error, in that it doesn't recognize the distinction between 1,000,000 members joining, and 1,000,000 members remaining members following 1,000,000 people joining. The third is always true without any real flaw, simply in that something will always be itself, with no more complicated logical constructs required.)

  48. "For all A, A is A" is actually an example of a reflexive relation, which isn't a tautology in the sense of zeroth-order logic.

  49. Re: Randall's intended level of audience...

    Did everyone forget his cute warning near the bottom of the page? WARNING, this comic occasionally contains "advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors)"?

  50. if I may quote Carl,

    "1. Is it a bad thing that xkcd is now a comic aimed at high schoolers? Yes, in that it pretends not to be - it claims to be about, to quote the site, "advanced mathematics" though clearly if it is aimed at a general high school nerd audience that's not going to happen (woah! calculus! i know this! it's so advanced!). Also, a lot of the fans tend to be college or older - and that is just wrong, if it's aimed at high schoolers."

  51. Fucking Catcher in the Rye. Now that Salinder's dead, I have no problem with trying to find every copy of his book ever published and burning them in a gigantic bonfire of biblical proportions (pillar of fire? Exodus? Yeah, yeah?) even though I didn't have a problem with wanting to do that in the first place, since I hate that book soooo much.

    Also, with all this talk about "honor societies" I just realised something. For my university, we had certain entrance scholarships, there were your typical department scholarships (you get a Math scholarship because you had the highest in your grad class, or you were one of 5 top students that the high school department put forward to the award committee for the university), your honours scholarships for marks and even higher ones for distinctions (so having 95%+ average for all of your high school years) but there was another award we had. We had what was called a "Leadership Award" where we had to write a short, 350 word essay of what leadership meant to us, we had to submit our marks to prove that our averages were above 85% and we had to submit a detailed list of the "leadership" roles we had been in for all our high school years.

    This scholarship was worth a maximum of $3500 and I applied for it because I had done leadership stuff and volunteering (the funny thing was that you didn't have to just volunteer, you had to lead the fucking activites as well) and I had the marks, but I guess I just wasn't enough of a do-gooder to make the cut, because I knew a lot of the people who were applying and they did shit like "knit hats for the homeless" on a weekly basis.

    In the end I guess what I'm getting at is that, shouldn't the stick guy also be trying to get into this society for the potential of financial gain for post secondary? Forget being smug, if you can get free money, put your smugness aside and take the free money every time.

  52. @Fernie: what Antti-Juhani said is basically correct. However I would argue that natural language is not very formal. When given a sentence X, because Y, usually the best you can do is model it Y -> X. Obviously there are all kinds of other logics out there, each with their own semantics (and their own set of tautologies), however for the sake of the argument it seemed a bit overpowering to model the phrase with an action logic (modal logic) ;)

    I agree that it's not very well modeled, but imho it's the closest you can get in classical propositional logic and in that case it can be seen as a tautology. Because in natural language the word "because" implies more than just implication, I agree that there is plenty to say on the matter.

    @Malethoth: given any logic with equality, a = a is a tautology. One of the properties of equality is reflexivity, thus you don't need to interpret equality as being reflexive, it is built into the axioms of the logic. That's assuming we can equate natural language "is" to formal equality, which as far as reflexivity goes is almost certainly the case (you can play awkward tricks with "is" concerning transitivity and symmetry, however)

  53. Why do you hate Catcher in the Rye, Cam?

  54. "given any logic with equality, a = a is a tautology"

    There is no such thing as "logic with equality". What you want to say is "theory with equality" (which means that it contains equality axioms). Which makes "a = a" a theorem in this theory. For example, in the theory of formal arithmetics both "2=2" and Fermat's Last Theorem are theorems. Both are statements that logically follow from the axioms of arithmetic. If you posit that "2=2" is a tautology, then you must consider Fermat's Last Theorem a tautology too. Which is just stupid.

  55. What the hell is wrong with CitR? It was a pretty good read. The stereotype is a dead horse now, sure, but the book was written 60 years ago! Give the man a break. Besides, didn't he explore the realities of his radical character after a while in Holden's emerging impotence to effect change on his circumstances and failure to recognize his delusions? It seemed to me like Salinger was anything but on his protagonist's side.

    My problem with xkcd pandering to high schoolers: I think it's an inherently flawed strategy to design something to "appeal to kids" or whatever. Somehow, you invariably end up with something very patronizing to the ostensible target audience, and since you put all your efforts into making it identifiable as opposed to, you know, good (as in succinct, humorous, insightful, well-though-out, intelligent, whatever).

    I wouldn't necessarily mind it if xkcd was "for highschoolers". I adore SpongeBob after all. But xkcd just seems off somehow. I dunno, maybe it's genuinely over-focused on pandering, or maybe I'm just getting the creepy "middle aged guy hanging out with teenagers" vibes off him, having used to thinking of xkcd as written by a mature, reasonably well-informed and well-adjusted* adult, the ball-pit comic and its ilk aside, when I first started reading it. Maybe if I had just discovered it, my brain wouldn't be so quick to flash the "pathetic immature manchild" light all the time over what I currently perceive as pretend-ignorance and pretend-stupidity assumed to approximate a "teenager's view" of the world. Naturally, teenagers aren't just like adults only slightly dumber and more ignorant.

    Does anyone else think that if you get rid of the first two panels of tautology, what you end up is vastly more amusing?

    *Incidentally, I suspect this was part of what I like about xkcd. It didn't glorify nerds in some absurd, ridiculous fantasy as a few would attempt. However it didn't go to the other extreme and work off the premise that nerds are socially cripples, either. Sure, Randall's nerds ended up in pretty awkward situations sometimes, but there was always a reason for it. It wasn't just, ahem, "haha, nerds are asocial because nerds are asocial! look how asocial this guy is!"

  56. Nooooo!!!! I had a beautiful reply typed out to Timofei and typed backspace with the focus of the window wrong.

    Anyway, although there definitely are logics with equality (equation logic for instance), I mistook the definition of tautology for equational propositional logic. I simply assumed anything that could be stated as true for any model in equational logic was a tautology (as it is a very basic extension of propositional logic). However, it should rather be seen as a subset of FOL, in which case we should treat tautologies as in FOL: in propositional logic a tautology is well defined as satisfying all models. In higher order logics this is not the case and a further restriction is imposed, namely that a formula is only a tautology if it corresponds to a tautology in propositional logic. If this were not the case, then Fermat's Last Theorem would be a tautology in (I suppose, no clue about what Andrew Wiles' proof requires, but given its complexity I'd assume at the very least) some second order logic.

    I guess in that sense I am therefore wrong. A = A is a case of the relationship \forall A. R(A,A), which while true for any reflexive relationship R, is not a tautology.

    However, we can simply redo the transcription. Interpret "is" instead of as equality, as equivalence. Then we can write

    "the first rule of the tautology club" <-> "the first rule of the tautology club", which is a tautology.

  57. Catcher in the Rye is hilarious; all the people who think it's a serious :| story told from the sympathetic point of view of its protagonist can fuck right off and learn to bloody read.

  58. Honor societies exist for only one purpose: To get your money. I was invited to join PHI THETA KAPPA mphphhmph years ago. They only wanted a $25 entry fee and I would get a shiney pin. And if I coughed up $50, I would have my name and picture in a book of honors with all the others who forked over the cash.

    Good grades has nothing to do with intelligence. Fortunately, I had both. I conducted an examination which demonstrated that universities don't care one whit about honor society membership and there was no benefit to be gleened from my $75. Of course, I didn't join.

    Smug? Yes, but not for the decision to shun honor societies. Like purchasing a cell phone, there is no benefit for the money spent. refusing these groups is simple Capitalistic logic not, not smugness.

  59. @ Anonymous 5:49 AM:

  60. lol "no benefit for the money spent" w/r/t cell phones.

  61. This goddamned "horseless carriage" nonsense is just a trick to scam the masses, every intelligent person realizes they don't really *need* one.

  62. @Andrew: In some logics where nondenoting terms are allowed, forall x. x = x does not imply t = t for all terms t. I think this was MSPA Critic's well taken point.

  63. You kids today and your television, and your cars, and your quantum mechanics, and your Fermat's Last Theorem, and your dynamite, and your hoola-hoops...

  64. Maybe some of you formal logic-types can explain something for me... it might just be a simple case of informal language vs formal logic.

    I could say, "I'm faster than Jon because I beat him in the race", or I could also say, "I'm faster than Jon because I trained more than he did".

    Both examples are in the form "A because B", but beating him in a race (B1) isn't what actually "caused" me to be faster - that was caused by all the training I did (B2). B1 is, though, the means by which I demonstrate A, and I might not be able to prove A with B2 alone.

    I hope that was clear enough, but is there a logical distinction between the two different uses of "because"?

  65. Andrew: if we interpret "is" as equivalence then "the first rule of the tautology club" <-> "the first rule of the tautology club" doesn't really make sense. Because logical connectives are applied to yes/no statements and "the first rule of the tautology club" is not a statement at all.

    A tautology involving equivalence would be "The first rule of tautology club exists if and only if the first rule of tautology club exists". In this case "the first rule of tautology club exists" is a statement so we can apply logical connectives to it.

  66. see also:

  67. uncivlengr: I don't think formal logic does causality very well. For example if A and B are two unrelated statements then either A->B or B->A is true. So, mathematically one follows from the other, even though they may have nothing to do with each other.

    The difference between your statements may be expressed in modal logic though. For example modal logic deals with statements like "It is necessary that A->B1", "It is possible that A->B2", but it still doesn't distinguish between mathematical implication and cause of things.

  68. Since everyone's going "wha?!?! You don't like Catcher in the Rye?"

    One issue I have is I'm very Scottish and that dickwad Caulfield incorrectly quoted Robbie Burns and thought he was cool for doing so. Next is just his entire story in that fucking book. As I was reading it, in my mind this was what I was thinking "I swear to god, if this little fucker says "it just kills me" ONE MORE TIME, I'm going to go into the book, strangle him, chop his balls off and rip his heart out Frankenstein style" and for some reason my English teacher thought it was one of the greatest pieces of literature ever written.

    I'm sorry, I'm cool with all the love Shakespeare gets, but since when is having your protagonist speak like a 14 year old yuppie and say stupid things like "oh that kills me when people do x" EVERY SECOND SENTENCE. Not only that but he treats people like garbage and, what he expects to be treated nicely in return? Every time we brought this book up in English class I was the only one to call out how stupid Caulfield's motives were.

    Don't even get me started on the "gay" aspect, I would wager this fucking piece of garbage was banned for however many years because it was such a god-awful shit stain on literary world (and maybe because of all the swearing, I mean not even today would a serious author swear that much, not even Michael Chrichton or Tom Clancy swear that much, and they write for adults and use big words like fuck and cunt) but for some reason because Caulfield goes to a teacher's house and the guy strokes his hair he thinks he's gay? I wouldn't be jumping on the gay train, I'd personally be jumping on the pedo train, but I think Holden's too retarded to know what the fuck that word means.

    Any one else want to know why else I hate this book sooo much?

  69. Christ. The kiddies at xkcd are now trying to out-do each other as to who acted more dishonorably with their honors society.

  70. Um, I've never read the book but I'm pretty sure that Holden is supposed to be unsympathetic and annoying.

    Have you ever read A Confederacy of Dunces?

  71. I didn't like reading Catcher in the Rye either, but I'll admit it's because through the whole book I was going "holy shit, this is me, isn't it?".

  72. Cam hey what is your opinion on David Brent? such a tool isn't he? yeah so The Office is a terrible tv show as a result right?

    yeah, Holden's a stupid kid and a huge hypocrite and a bigger phoney than all the people he calls out. that's all...kinda funny? kinda brilliant?

    the fact that you've not said "CitR is badly written here's where it's flawed" but "Holden is a right fucker here's why he's a prick" shows the quality of the writing in CitR. you're not criticising the book, you're reacting to a part of it (the narrator's personality) in a way only possible because it's so well written.

  73. Intentionally annoying is still annoying, and intentionally an obnoxious stupid prick is still, well, you get the idea.
    The thing about CitR is, in real life my reaction to this sort of person ranges from "dull" to "obnoxeous", so why should I find it interesting in fiction when the entire novel is basically jut a big presentation of this uninteresting and abrasive personality?

  74. The characters of The Office, however deplorable, are such in a fascinating way. It would be inadvertantly amusing and interesting to observe in real life. Also, the show is full of fantastic individual jokes, circumstances, etc.

  75. How do you know Randall and Natalie Dee aren't fans of each other?

  76. Keep, I haven't said it's badly written because I'm not a writer so I don't know how to criticize writing, instead I will continue to say that I may think it is a shitty novel, but maybe Salinger was writing correctly, hell apparently JK Rowling is a good writer, she must be if her books continue to get published right?

    Yeah, I don't think writing is what makes a novel good or bad, considering that the last 4 HP books were not even edited well (or at all) so while I may not be criticizing the abhorrent writing of CitR, I'll still maintain that I don't get how a novel about some whiny bitch is so popular. Even more than that, I sometimes feel like CitR was a life story that is Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul worthy more than anything. Why, I like some of the stories in there more than Caulfield's story more because they've been raped, or they have drunk parents, but instead Caulfield's just a loser who wants to run away from life, waaaa waaaa waaaaaaa, you paid for a hooker and you couldn't even seal the deal you pussy

  77. Ironically, this blog itself is a tautology. Readers come here for affirmation of something they already believe.

  78. Man, Carl, I figured "oh I should comment on this because how ridiculous is it that Randall's writing about this shit" but I figured you wouldn't have the post up until this afternoon! YOU SHOWED ME

    Anyway, I think that IN THEORY this comic is maybe a good thing for Randall to have done. Honor societies are complete and total bullshit, and everyone knows this. They don't actually add ANY information to college applications, since the criteria for joining the club is stuff that you send them anyway. Do I need Princeton/State University/community college knowing that I paid some people $50 for a pin? No.

    So I didn't join an honor society in high school, because, as previously mentioned, they're bullshit. However. I graduated from high school two years ago. Since then, I have not talked to anyone (at least, anyone not in HS) about how honor societies are bullshit. Because that's a pathetic thing to spend your time bitching about. Randall is, what, seven or eight years out of high school.

    Question: Why the FUCK does he feel the need to bitch about this? Is Randy reduced to hanging out with high schoolers at this point, having annoyed the living shit out of everyone at MIT?

    Also, anon 12:28, truly it is like rain on your wedding day.

  79. I got a smile out of this one. That's something, right?

  80. It's worth pointing out that someone is sipping a martini (or maybe not) in a highschool club. This is so inappropriate for the situation that it's obvious that Randall doesn't care at all about his work.

  81. Sick today. :(.

    1) Firstly, I do not see where it says that the comics are about "advanced mathematics". Secondly, I think a distinction has to be drawn between high school humor, which is based on a lower level of maturiy i.e., "wo, I'm so smart because I know calculus", and humor that can be understood when one is of high school intellect, or higher. It is unfair to be annoyed if you feel xkcd is the second one, because even one in college can appreciate this. (I feel your argument to this specific comic is the second one, which is why I don't like the argument). If, however, Randall makes an immature comic about sex (and of course, "immature" is subjective, though I am quite positive I would agree with you that many of them are immature), it would be a fair argument to say "Wow, Randall, you are still as mature as a 15 year old. Grow up."
    As for Rocky and Bullwinkle, it stopped airing in 1964 (wikipedia). Thus, nobody that is in high school now watched it when it was in its heyday (correct word?). They would only know about it from whatever they have picked up from general culture. Considering that one in college has been immersed in general culture more than one that in high school has (both quantitatively , as they have lived longer, and qualitatively, as you cannot compare a high school setting to a college setting), I feel one in college would be far more likely to know about the show.
    2) So Randall is smug? Ok, fine. In spite of that, you cannot attack every comic that has a smug character in it by saying "Oh, this is just Randall projecting himself into his comic". It can simply be a smug character written by a smug author (and who better to write about a smug character than a smug author?). I think that just because his character acts to be better than those around him, nobody should feel that its Randall saying he's better than everyone else.
    3) I am not clear why what you said is a problem. Which statement are you unhappy with? "If I'm in the honor society, than I am honorable", or "If I am honorable, then I am in the honor society"? (Anyone else is free to answer this question :D). Based on what you said, I think you are talking about the first one, but again, I am not sure why what you said does not work with that statement.
    4) Having never read Catcher in the Rye, I do not know where you referenced to it (Holden Caulfield?). Though it is amusing that everyone in the forum seemed to have quickly put themselves under the banner of "I love this book" or "I hate this book".
    5) Oh, I misunderstood you. Yes, I am aware that there are many "If x people join this group..." groups, but almost all of them end with "...then I will do such-and-such". The ending of "...then there will be x people in this group is unique enough to be amusing.

    Sorry I took up your time for one of my less passionate arguments. I will only again appeal for a response for a comic that I find hilarious, and that you unfairly bash (so, like, Monday at the latest :D).

    Responses to everyone else should go up within an hour (or sooner, hopefully).

  82. Man the edit war about xkcd on Wiki's tautology page is still going. It looks like unfortunately at the moment, the comic is staying in the article.

    Anyway after reading posts here I'm still trying to work out what, exactly, tautology is. Lemme try again.

    "The first rule of tautology club is the first rule of tautology club." - not a tautology.

    "This is the first rule of tautology club or this is not the first rule of tautology club." - is a tautology

    "If this is the first rule of tautology club then this is the first rule of tautology club." - probably a tautology

    "If no other rules precede this rule, then this is the first rule of tautology club." - maybe a tautology?

  83. lul "to show colleges I'm honorable"

    I can't wait until Randull learns that anybody with a high-enough IQ can join Mensa, not just tables! Maybe that'll be his next comic!


  84. It's actually really fun to make passive aggressive clubs. Our school has a black student union. I wanted to make a white student union, just so that when people say I can't have that, I'll point out the fact that there's a black student union, and we're equal now. Racist? Maybe. But I'm just expressing my freedoms.

    I also wanted a club which would exclusively hold fundraisers all year, and do nothing else, so that at the end of the year, we would have thousands of dollars which we could then give to other clubs in return for favors. Yeah, it's a lot like a mafia. I'd call it that if it wouldn't create suspicion. I was thinking of calling it the "Academic Economy Club" or something uninteresting and nonsensical but still related to what we do to keep from blowing our cover. The club would be by invitation only, of course.

  85. I am all for redundancy and making worthless orginizations a la Operation Mindfuck but less cool and way more stupider. I just hate Randall being such a whiny bitch about it.

    Captcha: watest

  86. So here's something minor but telling:

    Randall drew his avatar surrounded by females in the last panel. And, for no valid reason, elevated about everyone else. Interesting.

  87. @Nate:
    I see your point in the first paragraph. But look at it from my perspective. I've never analyzed xkcd. As I said before, I would wake up, look at the comic, and laugh/not laugh. It would never occur to me to compare them to earlier ones. When you read Zits or Garfield or Non-sequitor, for examples, do you compare them to the previous day's comic, or the previous week's, etc...? I don't, but I guess others might.
    And I don't drink much, so I cannot really relate. Though I am a big fan of wine.woot (and the whole woot community in general :D).

    A moment to reread your original post...
    Ok, I did not address the Legolas comment, because it was not directed at me- it was directed at the forum in general. I was not in the mood to read through the rest of the posts, and comment on all of them. I had already done that for the first 60 or so. But in case you want me to address's obviously an exaggeration, but the point still comes across perfectly. How would ninjas be any different; they also leave footprints, do they not?
    And just because he references to something that happens to a high schooler does not at all mean his audience is only high schoolers. See my past two posts, and what I said about "high school humor".
    As per your request, I just read 622. Seems he massacred that one. Terribly. But now, we have two responses to that. Either Randall is advanced in math and science, but he just completely screwed up that comic. Or he actually does not know math and science. Yet you cannot argue the second one, and at the same time argue that his comics are declining, because they used to be so much more complicated/scientific (someone before, I forget who, used the examples of 12 and 26). Thus, he simply screwed up one comic. And that comic cannot reflect more on any other comics, because it is the exception to Randall not knowing some math/science thing.
    Also, please do not insinuate that I am choosing which arguments I want to argue with. I've already addressed like 30 of them, between 3 or so posts. I think that is a lot.

    Also, I would like to add this to my response to Carl...Full disclosure (always wanted to say that), I'm a high school senior (but already accepted into college. Yay for early decision!). You can respond to any of my responses using that knowledge, if you are so inclined.

  88. 1. ctrl+f+"advanced mathematics" while you are on the homepage. try just a LITTLE harder, ok? The Rocky and Bullwinkle movie came out in 2000 (wikipedia). For comparison, the Flintstones went off the air in 1966, yet I'd hope that most high schoolers have heard of them. WWII ended in 1945, yet we've still heard of it. I think your point is silly.

    2. Randall clearly projects himself into his comics often. Not only by portraying them sympathetically, but he's said it's an autobiographical comic and that he bases the comics on situations he is in. Rob has some experience with this; having seen Randall in person and then seeing the stories or ideas played out in comics.

    3. I'll try a different approach. One is not honorable because he is in an honors society; one is in an honors society because he is honorable (disagree with this all you'd like, its truth is not the issue here, only its logic). College applications do not have a box marked "Place a check mark here if you are honorable" so people need other ways of communicating the information, namely, including honors societies among the groups of which they are members. Put a third way, the second half of the main character's question in panel 1 ("...and I'm honorable because I'm in an Honors Society") is just wrong and illogical, and in real life the off-panel person would have called him on it. But in Randall Fantasy Land, everyone is stupider than him.

    4. Well, I did. Also I called someone a phony, which is usually a catcher in the rye thing to say.

    5. The "If x people join this group then in will have x people in it" thing is scarcely older than the "if x people join this group" thing. Snarky young people are always taking things to their meaningless extremes as fast as possible these days. I also recall "If N people join this group, then it is possible for N+1 people to join this group" or somesuch.

  89. Actually Carl, to your point 3, as David pointed out he has laconic and overly snarky teachers who would probably say that "pretty much" thing as a kind of "sure kid, whatever you want to believe, just get me out of this fucking interview." so it is plausible to think that teachers wouldn't call the student for him incorrectly summing up the purpose of the club.

    However, I had some pretty snarky teachers in high school (my favourite was retiring in my last year so he just flew off the handle, called me "fucking jaded" to my face during a lecture, and it was awesome) and I know for a fact that unless they really didn't like the kid (I don't know how the kid would've gotten into the society in that case, but maybe there's a quota to fill or something stupid) or something, then they wouldn't let a sentence like that go by because they would know that the applicant has a false interpretation of the society, and why the hell would you let someone in who doesn't know what they're doing?

    In short, no I guess Randall is talking out of his ass again :/

  90. @Carl

    1) My bad, I only looked at the top. However, you seemed to have not read the entire sentence. I quote. "Warning: this comic occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors)." (Is Rob a liberal-arts major? That would be funny) And it has occasionally used advanced mathematics. Granted, not as much recently as it used to, but still, occasionally is fair.
    And The Flinstones are, in general, much more well known then Rocky and Bullwinkle. Heck, they're even on cereal boxes. Generally, the passing of time would make something less known. The WWII argument is completely uncomparable, for reasons I feel are obvious.
    As for there being a movie in 2000- if a high schooler would have seen it then, he would have been somewhere between the ages of 4 and 7. I think that is borderline age-appropriate. And based on the reviews (RT gave it a 43), I doubt many would watch it now.

    2) So as I said, it's a smug author writing about a smug character. But nonetheless, I think it is difficult to use the argument of "Randall uses his comic to show that he's better than everyone else" multiple times. It is just impossible to know.

    3) Very nicely put. I did not understand that you were expressing this argument before. I agree, then, that this is a serious flaw in the comic.

    4) Wasn't doubting you :D.

    5) But if 98% of the groups are "If x people join, I will do something", being part of the other 2% can in fact give you opportunity to be clever. I do not think it is fair to call it a "meaningless extreme". Quite the opposite. If almost all of the "If x people join this group" group ends with "then I will do this", it is (potentially) funny to twist it around by ending with something different.

    Thanks for another in-depth response.

    And on a completely different note...I was scrolling through random xkcd comics, and came across the cuttlefish comic. With a "tt". Who decided to change it to "dd"?
    Just curious :D.

  91. Just read the posts on the Cuttlefish thread. I retract my last question.

  92. CuddleFish: Minor points first.
    Ninjas as a pop-culture phenomenon are generally granted exemption from the laws of physics. Legolas isn't. Not even in the movies.

    "please do not insinuate that I am choosing which arguments I want to argue with."
    I mean, unless you're trying to deny that you have free will, you are in fact choosing which arguments to respond to. Wasn't attributing intentional intellectual dishonesty to you. If you want to read such things into my statement, that's fine. And, incidentally, you still have yet to explain how the final panel of 702 is anything but "I am aware of the existence of the Higgs Boson."

    The actual lesson of 622, as well as the overall decline in sophistication of the math/physics in xkcd, I would argue, is that Randall has stopped putting effort into making his math/science references sophisticated, interesting, or even basically correct. Saying that past (very far past) instances of actual math in xkcd excuse the current abysmal situation is much like saying that the original Star Wars trilogy excuses the other one.

    And, full disclosure: I don't know if Rob is, but I am a liberal arts major. Do I know what a poisson distribution or a fourier transform is? No. No, I don't. Do I know how to correctly prove that there is no greatest prime number? Yes, I do. You may reply using that knowledge, if you are so inclined (see how dickish that sounds?)

  93. @SprachgefuhlThis

    1) I do not think of ninjas as being able to defy laws of physics. They can just do sneaky stuff really, really well. Legolas is similar in that regard.

    2) I apologize, then, as I thought it was an accusation. As for the Higgs Boson- I have heard of the particle, but I knew nothing about it. Thus, this would be a "if you really know what this is, and know a bit about it, you'll understand it immediately" panel, similar to the knight or moose and squirrel panels.

    3) As for 622, I do not think you can group "sophisticated" with "interesting" with "basically correct". How many times has he simply said something wrong about math? I would say not many. And that comic was 80 ago. My point is that that specific comic in an exception to having factually correct math comics. As to having sophisticated comics; if by "sophisticated" you mean "not simple", then I think he has still done those recently (689, 696, and 702 are all, I feel, not simple. That does not mean they are difficult to understand, necessarily. But I would not classify those as "simple"). Finally, interesting is completely subjective. I have found his comics to still be interesting.
    Now, there is also a different category of "sophistication of math/physics". My knowledge of physics goes up to AP physics, and my knowledge of math goes up to AP Calc BC. If Randall makes a joke about something past that, I will not appreciate it; I will just say "I don't get it". Thus, I am happy with him not giving a very complex math/physics joke. And as you are a liberal-arts major, I would venture to say your math knowledge may not be that much more than my own. Assuming this is true (correct me if I'm wrong, of course), why would you want more complex stuff?
    Finally, I'm not saying that past uses of math excuse the relative lack of math now. But he said that he'd use math "occasionally". It's therefore hard to argue that you want more of it.

    4) And finally, the "if you are so inclined" was directed at Carl, who said before that I should not ask for him again to reply in depth. I had no intention of sounding "dickish". Or is the "dickish" going on the "full disclosure"? I feel that it is fair to say where my position is coming from, as it makes arguments against me more applicable (so, for example, if you say that even though you are a liberal-arts major, you still have significantly more math knowledge than I do, I will not be able to argue with you from a logical standpoint). I do not see your problem. And since I want to say that I am in high school, but I might not say it (so that I would sound more educated than I am), I sue the term "full disclosure", which I feel fits in well.

  94. i want to warn people that this new "CuddleFish" is at least being a lot nicer and more decent than most, and probably deserves a serious conversation (which is why i had a bit of one, and I'm just too lazy to do it more)

  95. My favorite FB group in the "If this group..." category is "If this group reaches 4,294,967,296 it might cause an integer overflow."

  96. Cuddlefish, the thing is that as Sprach said, ninjas in popular culture are basically able to defy the laws of physics. Turn invisible, be completely silent, kill in less than a second, so on. Thus, the argument is that a pop-culture-related ninja (think like Dr. McNinja or Shadow from FFVI) would be able to walk on snow without leaving tracks, whereas not even Legolas should be able to do that.

    I was going to say something about "High school kids might still know about Rocky and Bullwinkle even outside of the movie, I saw reruns of the show as a kid." Then I remembered that I was a kid a LONG time ago and that probably the show hasn't been on the air even in reruns for a while.

  97. see also Ninja Parade Slips Through Town Unnoticed Yet Again.

    I know Rocky and Bullwinkle have been on TV in the last few years. I also know that the Simpsons has referenced it. Point being, it's not like it is some kind of Adult Reference. Look, the easy thing would be to just ask a kid if they know it. Do any of us see kids on a regular basis? Let's just ASK.

  98. I know that you can still watch Rocky and Bullwinkle, but that's on Teletoon Retro, so it's a Canadian station

  99. @Anonymous: On the whole, I disagree with the premise of this blog, and I often find the arguments presented here petty and uninteresting. However, I come here to learn about doing webcomics. A webcomic criticism blog ought to be good for that, and in fact there occasionally is the odd good point here.

  100. geez CARL maybe it didn't occur to you that all of us might be court-ordered to stay at least 50 feet away from places where kids congregate

    you're so insensitive

  101. CuddleFish:
    1) What Nate said. And Carl.

    2) Not a physicist, but I have done a bit of reading up on particle physics, and near as I can tell, all that Randall has done here is draw a generic picture of the aftermath of a particle collision. This isn't particularly witty or funny, and, again, basically boils down to "Higgs Boson, amirite? Eh? Eh?"

    3)xkcd 689: Requires knowledge of: robotics competitions, such as the one I competed in during high school; what sprinkler systems do when exposed to fire; the effect of water on unprotected electronics; the mechanics of umbrellas. Verdict: Simple.
    xkcd 696: Requires knowledge of: ratios. Additionally, various games, a very few of which were unfamiliar to me, but which is irrelevant for discussing the level of mathematical sophistication. Verdict: Simple.
    xkcd 702: Requires knowledge of: the existence of something called the Higgs Boson, what the aftermath of a particle collision looks like. A cursory familiarity with particle physics is sufficient. Verdict: Simple.

    Moreover, saying that the haiku proof snafu was over 80 comics ago is not much of an argument when the last comic we've been discussing as an example of a sophisticated math joke is 678 comics ago. Find a sophisticated math joke less than 80 comics ago, and then we'll talk.

    Re: "I am happy with him not giving a very complex math/physics joke." This is precisely my point. Randall has dumbed down his comic to the point where high schoolers and liberal arts majors are fully capable of getting every single science and math joke he uses. Not to seem elitist, but that's pretty much the definition of lowest-common-denominator humor.

    Your issue with my use of the terms "sophisticated", "interesting" and "basically correct" is incoherent. Why, exactly, can't I group these terms together? For one thing, "interesting" is strongly correlated with "sophisticated" for many people, including me.

    Your argument that "occasionally" effectively means "not since xkcd 26" is simply wrong.

    aaaand 4) If "if you are so inclined" means "if you care to reply, since you are busy", then it is a poor stylistic choice to italicize it, as it came across as unnecessarily sarcastic towards Carl, who is being quite civil toward you. If it's just a poor stylistic choice, then I retract my comment.

    Carl: ...alright, I'll give the CuddleFish the benefit of the doubt.

    Latest comic: This is a better joke on the same premise. The best Randall can come up with, once again, is a "Your Mom" joke. Lowest-common-denominator humor indeed.

  102. gah okay so obviously I don't know how to hyperlink text in here.

    The better joke is at

    Sorry bout that.

  103. looots of people in here throwing logic and random mathematics (fermat's last theorem? lol?) around without knowing what they're talking about.

    this is more painful than a 0.9_ = 1.0 debate...

  104. Latest comic: Randall is taking "contradictory axioms" to mean "a contradictory statement". Goddamnit, he can't even get basic logic terms right.

  105. @ David 6:24 - I agree completely. But then, that's how I feel about most of his "I'm so quirky!" comics.

  106. Anon 5:56: contradictory axioms imply a contradictory statement can be formed from those axioms. If there's a contradiction in your premise, then P and ¬P are true. Therefore, if we assume P or A (A is anything we choose) is true, we can assume from the knowledge that ¬P is true that A is true. Thus, inconsistent theorems imply everything is true. Principle of explosion.

    He didn't get it wrong, he left out a step (contradictory axioms imply a contradictory statement).

    But the end result is just another "your mom" joke, so it's dull.

  107. Well, that didn't take long:

    And didn't Randall once do a comic about how tiresome "your mom" jokes were?

  108. I dunno, I think that one is in praise of your mom jokes.

  109. @Milkshake: Oh. I guess I'm just retarded, then.

  110. Anon 8:38: Nah. One mistake doesn't do that. Lots of mistakes, maybe, but not one.

    Rob: *twitch* That would explain a lot, actually.

  111. @SprachgefuhlThis

    1) Again, I do not feel that, even in popular culture, they are actually able to defy laws of physics. The Onion exaggerates, like they exaggerate everything. I believe this is like bringing a proof from "Real Ultimate Power".

    2) I cannot really argue with this point, as I do not know how advanced one has to be in his knowledge of the Higgs Boson to understand this panel. Would one that has not read up on particle physics, but has still went through a year or two in college, understand this?

    3) By simple, I did not mean difficult to understand, as I said before. I meant more of "plain". Still, assuming those are bad examples, how about 686, 681, or 657?
    For your sophisticated math joke, how about 645?
    As for your next point...first of all, there is a difference between "high schooler/LA major", and "lowest common denominator". I would not call calculus the math knowledge of the lowest common denominator of math intellect. Second of Randall has written less for physics/math majors, and more for HS/LA majors. But still, do you want stuff you do not understand? (That is a serious question, not sarcastic.)
    Next paragraph. You cannot group them together because they are different. Even sophistication and interesting do not go together. For example, this article is sophisticated, but I would not call it interesting (though of course some might). Conversely, this article is not sophisticated at all, yet I find it interesting (in addition to humorous).

    4) Ok, so here's the story behind the italics. I will begin with the disclaimer that if you would be saying the story I am about to give, I very well might not believe it. Nonetheless, it is true :D. So I was searching for a way to write words as hyperlinks. Google gave me the answer. But it also taught me some other stuff. Before, if I were to bold or italicize words, I would use the tags (Strong)(/Strong) and (Em)(/Em). But then I read that (b)(/b) and (i)(/i) would work equally as well. So I tried the (i) one, by putting it at the end of my post. Then I clicked on preview. I scrolled down, and saw it worked. Yay! Then...I just didn't care enough to take it out, so I did "Post comment". So yes, a terrible stylistic choice, but not an intentional one (not intentional in that I did not mean to give those words any special emphasis).

    Thanks, by the way, for making me work for my arguments :D.

    And finally, here's how you hyperlink words (google ftw). (a href= XKCD(/a) would give you READ XKCD when you replace the () with <>.

    You are too kind :D. Look at my "1)" for my argument with the ninja. Also, I am in high school, so I can ask my friends "In the TV show Rocky and Bullwinkle, what animals are the two main characters?" I do not really believe that this will definitively show that either side is correct (not really a random sampling), but I'll do it just for the fun of it :D.

    Oh, and Harrison gets an "lol". :D.

    I might be busy for the rest of the day, and am busy Saturday. In any event, if I see Carl's/Jay's comments on 704, I will comment on that thread, not on this one. In case anyone's curious, I was unfamiliar with the "Principle of Explosion", and therefore did not understand the joke. Alas :(.

  112. And look... the tautology group founder has a hot(?) chick behind him! How better to validate his rebelliousness and the awesomeness of his cause than to show a cute girl joins him as a co-founder and follower?

  113. Why do you people say Randall is always so smug? I mean, that much characteristics can be instantly assumed in a friggin webcomic. He might be joking, person no. 1 in fact said he was quite a pleasant person to talk to. I'm fine with the webcomic criticisms, because it's true, xkcd does suck, but insulting his character is a little to generalized.

  114. smug is more of an emotion than a character trait.

  115. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  116. At first I liked xkcd, but then I found this website and discovered that some people do not like xkcd. Now I do not like xkcd.

  117. That statement would not be inane if every post and comment was "I do not like xkcd".

  118. also if it weren't actually true for some people (Rob, Fernie Canto, me)

  119. wait Carl are you saying you convinced yourself that xkcd sucks

  120. @Anon7:33, I have to agree with you. That's great :)

  121. The "Fight Club" reference was also also cringe-inducing. "The first rule of..." That bit.

  122. I cringed also, but then when I thought about it I wondered if it was meant as a reference or if he was just kind of sloppy, or if it's so permeated our society that any time someone reads rules we think it is a reference.

  123. I think the fact that the way you read them out, if you follow the formula of "the first rule of x is x. The second rule of x is x" if you do that, then people will think you are referencing Fight Club because that was how it was in the book and the film. At the same time it is even more apparent you are referencing Fight Club if your second rule is simply stating the first rule a second time for more conviction

  124. Fuck. Honor societies are always a touchy point for me, because I KNOW I'm smart, but I just don't do well in school. I have organizational problems, and oftentimes miss assignments, so my grades aren't good enough. It really hurts since Now I'm entering my senior year, and I'm thinking about college. It's hard to prove that you deserve a good college when you're below a grand majority of your classmates in GPA. (it's a 3.6 or so, but I also go to a really good school, there are like, a MILLION 4.0ers) I can sympathize with this comic, although in terms of being funny, really the only lasting part of it is "The first rule of tautology club is the first rule of tautology club!" It's not like, knock your pants off funny, but It pops into my head every couple of weeks, and There's a little "heh" in my brain.

    But the saying that people in Honor societies are smart, while not untrue, gives the impression that people not in honor societies are not smart, which is not the case. I guess that this is SUPER irrelevant here, but... It's a touchy subject for me. I'm really anxious about college.

  125. just remember that the overwhelming majority of people are very happy at the school they end up in. most likely you'll be some place living with friends instead of family, stayin' up late, drinking frequently, etc. recipe for fun, so don't sweat it too much.

  126. i don't mean to be a dick but everyone at your school having a 4.0 doesn't mean it's a good school.

  127. I have a message directed to pretty much everyone on this website...

    u mad?