Sunday, June 20, 2010

Comic 755: Purity Revisted

magic school bus ftw

Is the notion of an interdisciplinary course of study such a crazy thing? Or are we really to believe that all ways of studying the world can be divided into some man-made categories like "physics" or "history"? I mean, I think "interdisciplinary" would cover things like neuroeconomics, which combines neurobiology and economics. It doesn't diminish either one, in fact, I'd say most people would agree that it enhances both. So why is the idea of an "interdisciplinary program" considered something to deride?

I don't know the answer to that, and that's why I haven't been making fun of the concept recently. But I do suspect that it's related to an obsession with keeping one's chosen area of study "pure" and untainted by the methods and theories of any others. It's the same mindset that produces comics like this, or this, or this (or, for a non-xkcd example, this Abstruse Goose, which seems almost willfully ignorant of what political science actually is). Now, if this comic had the psychologists attacking the physicists with large objects, I might think otherwise. But as it is, it fits into this pattern of comics where xkcd not only makes fun of non-math-physics-computer-science fields, but seems to actively hate them and wish them harm (the alt-text especially plays into this).

Anyway, that's mainly what bothers me with this comic. It's also true that the whole concept ("in this class, we try to hit each other!") is pretty dumb, and so far removed from reality that it stops being funny and just starts being confusing. The caption, saying that this is part of an even broader context of crazy classes mocking the "interdisciplinary" idea, and - I don't know. I just stare at the screen and wonder why this was made.


  1. Looking even at the basic set up of the joke is wrong- it's sort of like the Tetris Hell joke- the key word "interdisciplinary" is the title and is used in the setup, so by the time you get to the end your already sick of the punchline and the comic has no flow. And the whole comic is pointless anyway.

  2. A joke like this should work on two levels. The idea of interdisciplinary programs being a farce (which Carl covered) and the specific example being funny.

    Here, the example is unfunny. And worse, it barely involves the two things it is combining. Randall's attempt to champion physics, or to pass himself off as someone who -can- represent hard science, falls apart when the best representation he can come up with is a pendulum doing nothing but swinging at something. And how is psychology involved? Running from a pendulum is a behavior, sure, but so is every action. I suspect the idea is that psychology students are so stupid that they would agree to be swung at, proving their own minds to be "faulty". It's dumb and petty.

    To hell with the whole thing.

  3. Ken, I can't believe for an instant that it's that in depth. I honestly think Randall picked a "non-hard science" major at random and the joke would have been the same if he picked Art History or Music or something else that he's deemed worthless.

  4. Gah! I must agree! It annoys me so much that somehow Physics and math students are SOOOOOOOOO vastly superior. Personally I like math...but why the fucking hell does randall have such a fucking superiority complex!? Is application inherently bad???

    !t's not as if he's digging out pure, inherent truths. He acts so smug and "I am teh awesome math-physics-compsci guy" when in reality he is a sad fuck who uses rudimentary concepts in order to appeal to the incredible awkward nerds of the high school world who have had it drilled into their heads that one day they will win.

    Oh, and wait. This fucker, Randall Munroe, who thinks he's so fucking awesome with his disciplinary superiority is a fucking failure of an artist and comedy writer. Forgive me, but is that hard science? I have a great idea for the next comic in his fucking pile of shit: "this is an interdisciplinary course where we have awkward failures of science majors create cave drawings they can laugh at." Does that strike to close to home randy?

    While we're at panel? Really? You live off a comic you publish three times a week that probably takes 5 seconds to sketch out. How the fuck long can it possibly take you to sketch out a few more ideas. Admittedly this would probably end up being a shitpile anyway so...

    Oh and, If you'd ever been any good at anything involving stories, you know that showing is better than telling, but I guess that's just fucking impossible for you, you lazy dumbass. Randall Munroe, sit your fucking ass down for an extra 30 minutes out of you horribly over-scheduled life three times a week and draw out whatever the fuck you want to draw. DO NOT FUCKING DESCRIBE IT IN A FUCKING PARAGRAPH!!! Use awefully stereotypical looking chara--oh wait you use fucking stickfigures, my bad. use stereotypical props to indicate who is what and why, create bizzare and escalating scenes, build the madness, have a punchline, fuck it! THINK ABOUT YOUR FUCKING CHICKEN SCRAWLINGS FILLED IN WITH CHICKEN SHIT!!!

    While I'm still blowing off the enormous build of rage and resentment: HOW ABOUT YOU FUCKING DISTINGUISH CHARACTERS!?!?! I know our glorious lord carl likes to say this and everything else I'm saying: WHY THE FUCK ARE THE OBSERVERS THE SAME AS THE STUDENTS!?!? ARE YOU INCAPABLE OF GIVING THEM EVEN THE SLIGHTEST DISTINGUISHING MARK!!

    Well, now that I've let loose that spew of well deserved explitives and criticism I'd like to ask why everyone has to ridicule the other fields? I mean, aren't we all just exploring some aspect of existence using the tools at our disposal and seeing the wonders that emerge, and of course using those to help think about the world.

    Get out of my head Randall. I don't want your fucking chicken-shit in there. Get out of all of our heads. Go take a break, maybe oneday you can return with another batch of glory, but for now, you are just the sad fuck that is randall munroe.

  5. Speakign of which, I almost forgot. PSYCHOLOGY IS NOT A LIBERAL ART GUYS!!! Psychology does tons of research and can be considered a totally legitimate science.


  7. This blog needs a category for comics that show one example of what should be a list (but better worded).

    A list of combined majors, each with a humorous picture, is not a bad idea for a comic. Using only one is lazy.

  8. Anon 7:38 here

    Ken, I agree. It is one of the many infuriating features of xkcd.

  9. In an effort to see this comic as less condescending (but no less shitty), I see it this way: it's not so much that he's mocking interdisciplinary studies as he's taking them TO THE EXTREEEEEEME!!!, because that's what the younguns think is funny these days, I guess. The caption says the profs were competing to get funding or whatever for the most far-fetched thing. He's not saying that all interdisciplinary programs are retarded, just the ones that are meant to be retarded.

    Another way to bring a tiny bit of good to this comic is to imagine the gray people "in the distance" to be Black-haired Stick Girl's internal visualization of herself swinging a pendulum at the asshat who's talking at her. "That'd shut him up," she thinks to herself. But in her heart she knows the only way to make him stop his yammering is to stroke his ego. "Promising!" she says, with forced enthusiasm, as she slowly backs away behind Talking Stick Man's clone.

    In short, the only way to enjoy this comic is to intentionally re-cast the entire premise. Also, imagine better artwork. That shit is terrible.

  10. I'm not a cuddlefish, I just never comment here.

    I agree that this comic is poorly conceived and horribly executed, but I kind of sympathize with the underlying sentiment.

    After several years of reading inside-baseball stuff, I think the biggest problem with "interdisciplinarity" as it's practiced is a version of the "philosophy yielded science" problem: once a humanistic discipline starts producing results that are interesting to non-liberal-artists, it gets spun off as its own discipline. (Your neuroeconomics example fits in here.)

    A second problem is the fact that some of the most vocal proponents of interdisciplinarity are...kind of whacked. This is not to imply that the concept or even most of the proponents are insane, just that the ones who've seized the megaphone are nutty. They're the ones who insist that poets have something interesting to introduce into science (which may be true) while at the same time demonstrating a fundamental misunderstanding of what scientists do (which undermines whatever case they're trying to make).

    If Randall had ever demonstrated awareness, and appreciation, of what humanistic pursuits are about, this comic could be read as a demonstration to these misguided people of why their suggestions for interdisciplinary programs are misguided. As it is, though, it's just another example of Randall's fuckery.

  11. The sad thing about all of this is Randall enshrines certain areas of study as more "pure", but he does the fields he supports a great disservice. Even in comic 435 he manages to eschew the fact that mathematicians and logicians get into veritable brawls over the axioms that found mathematical knowledge. Saying Math is somehow pure and always true is an awful thought terminating cliché that discourages people from actually seeing the beauty within the subject. This hate for the "impurity" of other fields probably stems from the fact that he cannot articulate the nuances within his own.

  12. What came to mind tangentially reading this comic was the Sokal affair.

    As in, hell yeah interdisciplinary programs are full of shit, and wouldn't it be funny to play pranks through them!

    Except...are interdisciplinary programs full of shit?
    And even if they are, isn't this the lamest prank ever?

    I mean really, did Randy think anyone (even in cartoon land) would find that program in anyway plausible?
    If so, holy shit no seriously stop.
    If not, why did he think his audience would laugh at obvious strawmen? Strawmen aren't funny.

    * * *

    What Randy needs is a Carl Sagan-type figure to leave off how fascinating the natural world is for a moment and point out also how fascinating people and societies and politics and communication and art are.

    For a guy in his mid/late-twenties, the superiority thing is getting old.

  13. his problem seems to be basically that he thinks that these things are really great and exciting, he just thinks that he understands them perfectly and that people who are studying them don't know them any better than he does (cf. 451). he thinks he's an expert in psychology and political science and human behavior in general. his superiority complex isn't that he thinks these fields aren't good fields, but that he thinks they are entirely unnecessary because any idiot can read about them on Wikipedia and become an instant expert (despite the fact that even if this were true he's still piggybacking on the works of real scholars).

  14. Also, Matt P + the Anon below him: yeah it bothers me that Randy seems plain ignorant (as you guys aren't) that
    1) his purest of subjects, maths, is arguably preceded by logic and analytical philosophy.
    2) That the empiricist tradition from which science stems is only one school of philosophy among many, and as such the entire scientific project is dependent on a particular theory of metaphysics, and is (very) arguably preceded by metaphysics.

    Either Randy hasn't considered philosophy's place in the spectrum of "which is the purest", or he's equated it with a crude stereotype of the arts and post-modernist relativism.
    Either way it's more than a little naive.



  16. I was just going to point out the same thing - Randall's "fields arranged by purity" arguably cut out both philosophy and metaphysics, which are more pure. And then, there is the fact that, despite effort to the contrary, it is still impossible to be completely objective, which means that many thoughts still must be taken in context of a larger culture in order to analyze them properly.

    Also, if a thought does not, in some way, directly or indirectly, lead to some sort of real-world effect, then it's really just masturbation. Now, I'm all in favor of a little mental masturbation, but sooner or later, you'll realize that while other people are working with and affecting the world while you've been fucking yourself.

    Finally, a lot of great work has come as a result of two fields coming together and trading ideas. A lot of the formative members of our modern sciences were interested in a wide range of subjects, and I'd be willing to wager that the interaction between various fields is the most important element in the development of new fields of study and new thoughts.

    (I was actually interviewed by my university newspaper as being, "the computer science guy who cares about humanities," so as you might suspect, the ridiculous bifurcation of fields of study into relevant and irrelevant is something which I feel very strongly about.)

  17. Man yeah the latest comic is stupid bullshit. It's just the infinitely smug "Haha credibility and professionalism are things of the past. It's all about CROWDSOURCING baby! Who cares where information comes from? Any bit of data, true or false, relevant or irrelevant, is as good as any other bit of data, and the blogosphere churns out data FAR faster than your OLD MAN newspapers!"

    The form of reporting I'm most concerned with is the tendency to "report the controversy", which is to say give scrupulously equal time to both sides of an issue and avoid letting things like "facts" bias the discussion, preferring instead some bastardized notion of editorial neutrality. "Some people say this and others say that and who can know the truth? Certainly not reporters."

    But Randall's point of view seems more like an excuse to be ignorant--"All the old media are irrelevant, and all the new media are arbitrary, so there's no reason to know what's going on in the world. If I want to follow nothing but the trivialities of robotics and blockbuster films, I can! It's great."

  18. jay leno totally didn't realize that people on the streets are dumb. thats why he didn't start doing a skit about it fifty years ago (not accurate)

  19. Not to defend Randall, but the relationship between philosophy and mathematics doesn't much resemble (to me, anyhow) the relationship between mathematics and sciences.

    For one, mathematics has its own study of the aspects of logic that it cares about (mathematical logic). Merely declaring "logic is philosophy" is rather naive itself. Even when analytic philosophers study logic, it's with aim to make the reasoning in various arguments more explicit/clear, or to ask questions like "what is truth?" It's hard for me to imagine someone seriously saying, "the correspondence theory of truth was very helpful in making the formulation of my mathematical theory easy."

    The sciences pick out mathematical theories that fit what they're modeling. I suppose it may be true that some people choose mathematical theories based on philosophical considerations. For instance, I'm sure early intuitionists and developers of constructive mathematics were motivated by philosophical objections to the law of the excluded middle and the like. But all you really need to motivate constructive mathematics is the observation that it is the internal logic/mathematics of computability, or of topological spaces and continuous maps. Those topics are interesting to people independent of what the right philosophical position on the law of the excluded middle is.

    So, to me, it seems that while mathematics and philosophy may have some interest in the same areas, a statement like "mathematics is just applied philosophy" is confused at best.

  20. Maths don't even solve all our problems.
    For example, how can you possibly math away the current oil spill? You surely shouldn't add to it, and multiplying it only makes thing worse. Try dividing it but you just end up with multiple spills instead of one big one! There's no solution to this problem.

  21. this can't be a more obvious question, but why does randall seem to take it as inarguable fact that hard science is the only true and worthwhile life pursuit, when all he does when he's not espousing that belief is drawing idealist, escapist carpe-diem-fuck-the-system-and-come-be-random-with-me masturbation fodder?

    and for obvious question number two: in the newest comic, is randall munroe, of all people, accusing others of PANDERING?

  22. I didn't know the superfluity of uninformative "man on the street" interviews was the result of internet social networking. Given how long they've been doing it, the media must be much more prescient than anybody realised.

  23. 'So, to me, it seems that while mathematics and philosophy may have some interest in the same areas, a statement like "mathematics is just applied philosophy" is confused at best.'

    Depends which bit of mathematics you're thinking of; partial differential equations less so, number theory (cf Bourbaki) rather more so. Russell did a fair bit of work at the start of the 20th century to put mathematics on a sound philosophical basis, but that doesn't have much significance when you're dealing with more applied areas.

    But this whole "X is just applied Y" isn't too helpful, if only because you miss out on lots of emergent meaning. "You're not really thinking! There's just a certain set of electrical states inside your head as described by physics" would apparently be sound, if psychology was just applied biology was just applied chemistry was just applied physics.

    But it's not, because by and large reductivist approaches are daft.

  24. #756: Boring joke, I imagine I've seen plenty of variations on it. The Alt-text is FAIRLY clever, and I think it'd've made a pretty good Guy With Hat comic with a different setup and execution.

  25. Well, it's probably true that Russell was motivated by philosophical considerations, but you don't really have to be there, either. A formal theory containing a contradiction and explosion lets you prove everything, and that's pretty obviously not what you want out of it. You only want your rule system to validate certain things, not everything. If you're capable of deriving a contradiction, your rule system is not helping you as much, because even after a proof that doesn't explicitly go through false, you have to eyeball it and make sure you didn't do anything suspicious.

    The same problem can be cast in a computer science setting, where you ask, "how do you know you didn't write any infinite loops?" And the answer is that you can't in general, you can only eyeball it, unless you use a system that is incapable of writing infinite loops at all, but that necessarily excludes some perfectly valid programs.

    But yes "X is applied Y" is often unhelpful. Almost every science is applied math in a way, but you need empirical observations to know what math to apply, so it isn't just math at that point. And most stuff reduces to physics in principle, but that's practically useless.

    And the historical development even goes in reverse. Chemistry is applied physics because the part of physics that gives rise most directly to chemistry is what you get when you drill down through chemistry enough. And Newton developed calculus to do physics (and find the volume of various solids, maybe).

  26. Randall's alt-text receieves the "world's most overlaboured metaphor" award.

  27. er it has LIKE in it it's a SIMILE


    Current comic: do we have a category for "HAHA the old media sucks AMIRITE?"
    Jesus Christ I mean I've seen sketches mocking 'man on the street' interviews on primetime BBC1. The Day Today was doing it back 1994, and it really can't be hard to find earlier examples.
    Also why does politician-guy, presumably supposed to be the clever one as opposed to the newsreader, look like a crazy? That is not the hair of a balanced and rational man.

  28. wednesday's xkcd: "why did the chicken cross the road?"

    alt text: to get to the other side

  29. Ann Apolis:
    Actually, I remember interviews with "just some people on the streets" being done quite hilariously on several occasions by certain flying circus(es). So yeah... Dead parrot comic coming up next?..

    On 755: the word "pendulums" is the funniest thing in it.

  30. Does it bother nobody else just how damn tiny the arms of these guys are?
    I mean, stick figures, limited detail, personal style, yak yak yak, but look at 'em. His head is as large as his armspan. Check out your own arms! Even with your fancy necks, I think you'll find that your head is about only elbowspan high.
    Maybe it's an attempt at foreshortening (read: maybe an excuse that could be offered is "it was intended to be foreshortening,") but the stick figures really don't lend themselves to it ._.
    Doop doop commenting on the art because there's no joke worth mention.

    An interesting post on this blog might be about a series of stick-figure comics, in an effort to show that you can have pictures that are simple but not crude.

  31. When I saw "pendulum" in this comic, I immediately thought of that episode on Bill Nye where they explained that a pendulum swinging back at you wouldn't go as high as it was when you dropped it, so they tried to see if people would duck out of the way when they saw the pendulum coming. I thought the comic intended some kind of psychological experiment to see if people actually care about what physics says when there's a pendulum coming at their face. Although after thinking about it, it would have made more sense if the psychology students were hitting the physics students, and we couldn't possibly have anything that insulted physics students, that would be terrible.

  32. NEWS is my favorite news channel.

  33. I like the classic subject verb disagreement in his latest. it should be "The merely reports" instead of Randy's "The merely report." (The media is not plural, no matter how much Randal wants it to be).

    Please excuse my Grammar Nazi-ing.

  34. Charles Augustus FortescueJune 21, 2010 at 9:32 AM

    The media are plural. It's the Latin plural of medium (as in, medium of communication). In modern usage it's become increasingly common and acceptable to treat it as singular, but that doesn't mean it's wrong to treat as plural, just a bit old-fashioned.

  35. I saw the new comic and I was like, "Wait, the guy who culls an endless stream of comics from Wikipedia is harping about the inadequacies of getting info from the web?" And then things went white and when i woke up there was blood because I had passed out and hit my head.

    But wait, that didn't actually happen I FOOLED YOU ON THE WEB. Haha guys, Randall is soooo right in his comic he posted on the web.

  36. Randall just made a comic out of a nerdy high school student's doodles—scribbled in their notebook while not paying attention in English class—about how much everything except math and science sucks and is stupid. Not surprisingly, since he devalues everything that's not directly related to math, he is a poor artist and writer and who therefore lacks the necessary skills to create a good comic.

    However, those who also share the same superiority complex do not care about things like comedic timing, effective art, and well-crafted jokes in general because these things are related to English and Art and those things are below them. As long as there is some vague reference to math and science and how math and science is THE BEST they will think it is also THE BEST because it validates their biased mindset. So they buy polo shirts with stick figures on them so they can show they are a part of THE SUPERIOR CULT!

    And Randall Munroe is therefore able to make a goddamn fucking living (are you fucking kidding me?!?) out of selling validation to awkward teenagers.

  37. To be fair though, Sjon, every teenager purchases validation in some form or another. Nerdy kids didn't previously have as ready a source of validation as they do now, but they're not unique.

    Eventually people should grow up and cease falling for people selling validation, but again, the socially awkward aren't unique in not growing up either.

  38. Yes, while it is correct that media is the plural form of medium, I would argue that while it can be correct to use it as a plural in English, common usage is skewed towards using media as a singular noun when in reference to "the news".

    Additionally, I fail to see any possible reason Randal would have used media as a plural (as, at least to me, it just sounds "wrong"), except if he is explicitly using its original, plural form (making it take a plural verb) to feel superior to anyone who would apply the common usage.

    But, well, I'm just a cynic.

  39. #756 could not even met the low, low bar we've set for XKCD. It's not as bad a drawing of a fucking vagina, but I think we can all agree: it's bad. Why is it so bad though?

    This comic is part of Randall's ongoing incoherent war against the media. See 558 and 727, both of which lampoon something that, we can all agree, is absolutely ridiculous. Perhaps for the first time, he's pointed out something that is actually legitimate: the media replacing the news with uninformed viewer opinion. Of course, by making this comic, Randall isn't implicating himself. Of course not. Randall, and by extension all of the XKCD fans, have important, insightful things to say on the state of the media in this country. His opinion is important, but all those people that didn't major in Math and Science so that they cannot observe important things, such as a million is *bigger* than a billion, have nothing to contribute.

    This is also a really week attempt at a joke. One panel. One. Randall is no Gary Larson, and he really needs those extra panels to flesh out the joke. For example, he could have had the non-Math majors interviewed on the street say something ridiculous. He could have showed a humorous interview with the politician, followed by said non-Math majors.

    The alt-text is also week. The selling snow cones thing could be funny if we actually *saw* it. What's the point in having your work in comic format if we just have to read all the best stuff? What does the actual art add to this, other than the mildly funny politician with a hairpiece?

  40. Notice how the pendulum is being swung by the female cast member, not the male.

  41. I HATE how Randall always tries to play himself off as an academic, when in REALITY, he has earned a measly B.S., spent a couple months in the field, and then separated entirely from any real intellectual pursuits (reading WIKIPEDIA doesn't count, asshole!).
    Contrast this with SMBC, where cartoonist Zach Weiner is a UC-Berkley physics grad student, who still finds time to write dailies, and pumps out videos once a week. Oh, and it's actually funny...

  42. Media in this context isn't plural. It doesn't matter what it means in Latin because we aren't speaking/writing Latin.

  43. The bit that amuses me is, Randall has openly said Feynman and Mythbusters rock specifically because they weren't "pure". I guess he sees the humanities like a piece of grit inside an oyster or something.

    756 would be better if it commented on how the media are increasingly likely to report on web-based "voices on the street" without knowing quite how they work.

    (Eg, mentioning a Facebook page for relevance while forgetting there are pages for "join if you love picking your nose while no one is watching"; posting a screencap of a Twitter search complete with spam/ignorant posters/sponsored tweets; quoting from a blog about how the media are desperate to quote from blogs these days without attribution. Pretty sure there are others.)

    It still wouldn't be good, but at least it would be slightly more relevant. I mean, ignorant vox pops were featured in A Bit of Fry and Laurie, way back when those two were young.

  44. @Anon 14:03:

    "Medium" is the singular (as in, "the medium is the message.") "Media" is the plural. Despite their Latin derivation, the noun/verb agreement rule holds true regardless of what language is being spoken.

  45. No one's saying that English grammar rules don't apply to loanwords. Just that loanwords aren't always the same number as they are in the original language.

  46. Assuming I'm responding to the same Anon that wrote the 14:03 post: I was actually intending to address "It doesn't matter what it means in Latin because we aren't speaking/writing Latin," which I consider roughly on a par with "Why should I have to take a history class? I'm never going to do anything with history." The point about loanwords is well-taken.

  47. By the way, isn't physics interdisciplinary? (Math and natural science?)

  48. "Media" in this context, is plural, because, in English as well as in Latin, "media" is the plural form. It is alright to say "media is", though, because everyone knows what you mean. It's just not technically correct. Kinda like "the data is". It'll be better to say "the datum is" but that just sounds weird.

  49. hey, it's sje! man, I forgot about you. how's being completely useless working out for you?

    you're actually right in that "media" is similar to "data;" both are used with a singular noun, because they no longer refer to a plural but to a single entity. they are both collective nouns! in the case of the "media," it is a collective noun referring to television, newspapers, and radios. in the case of "data," it's a collective noun which means "a body of facts."

    it is not technically incorrect to use either of these uses! these are perfectly standard and acceptable uses. they're one of those things that only idiot pedants care about--like most of those things, the pedants are actually the ones who are in the wrong here, as anywhere.

  50. Not capitalizting sentences, however, is not perfectly standard or acceptable. In that respect the pedants are correct.

  51. Rob you retard he clearly said capitalizting.

  52. they're variants on the same word, dumbass

  53. My reaction to #755 Public Opinion was .... ??? Based on the illustration alone, the comic is maybe a 3.1/10 -- pretty obvious punch-line given the set-up. But then the alt-text just gives a whole new dimension of wtf, bringing the comic down to maybe a 1.8/10! I can't believe he thought that analogy would make sense in anyone's head but his. In fact, if anyone can explain how the hell that snow-cone joke is supposed to make sense, I would appreciate it.

  54. Capitalizting is perfectly acceptable. It's you stupid pedants who are always wrong.

  55. yes I was very excited that my idiot pedant detractor was familiar with the word

  56. To My Angry Compatriots,

    Why are you all so angry about this? We all seem to jump to the conclusion that Randall is attacking interdisciplinary studies. Perhaps he's making the old "antics in academia" joke? I'd love to come up with another example, but sadly xkcd seems to be the only source of such humor which comes to mind. Originality?

    In regards to that abstruse goose... The joke is the combination of the words "Political" and "Science." Political, in the word's association to bitter partisan feuding, is the point here, not an ignorance of what political science is.

    In other words: science with political parties. Hilarious. Not ignorant. Get the joke?

    Take your time with these rants, they're starting to look strained and desperate.

    George W. Bush

  57. The common analogy is "rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic". The Titanic is sinking, so rearranging the deck chairs is ultimately futile and has nothing to do with the real problem.

    Randall has taken that analogy and altered it to match what he thinks is happening to the media.

    That doesn't explain it, but it helps a little. You probably have to be a GOOMHR type in order to actually get it.

  58. Ok, so after I read Jhum101's post I had to go read Randall's bio on Wikipedia ... and I both hate Randall more and better understand why xkcd is the way that it is.

  59. Just read Randall's bio myself. That's pretty commendable, though, really. Anyone can support themselves full-time with a good webcomic, but it takes a genius to support themselves with a crappy webcomic.

    I was under the impression he worked full-time which was why the updates were 3 times a week despite the lack of any visible effort.

  60. It's gonna take some time to realize
    But if you look inside I'm sure you'll find
    Over your shoulder you know that I told you
    I'll always be picking you up when you're down
    So just turn around

  61. This comment has been removed by the author.

  62. "'Media' in this context, is plural, because, in English as well as in Latin, "media" is the plural form. It is alright to say 'media is', though, because everyone knows what you mean. It's just not technically correct. Kinda like "the data is". It'll be better to say "the datum is" but that just sounds weird."

    And yet you missed that he used the wrong transitive verb (are like instead of is like) in the alt-text.

    Also, "is plural" (in your sentence) isn't an appositive, so you didn't need to set it off with commas. Also, the "It is" would sound better as a contraction; the 'though' after 'media is' would sound better as a conjunction linking that sentence to the next one (and you should remove the 'just' from it as well); the sentence after that is a sentence fragment; and the final sentence has an improper conjugation of the future tense of "to be" - the contraction for 'will be' instead of 'would be'.

    TL;DR - sje's grammar sux yet he insists on correcting someone else's.

  63. And you started a sentence with a conjunction, faggot.

    captcha: quided, I assume this to be a combination of "quieted" and "guided," the two acts grammar nazis think they're doing.

  64. Can everyone talking about grammar kindly shut the fuck up, except for Rob, he's my homeboy

  65. @1:10
    That's a myth with no historical basis originated and furthered by prescriptivists who think there's actually something called "correct" or "proper" English.


    captcha: sterstyr - to disorient a eunuch bull.

  66. A load of shit is shitty.

    QED, bitches.

  67. XKCD haters are fed
    Up with comics with nowt to be said
    So we go on this forum
    And make sure to bore 'em
    With nitpicking grammar instead

  68. I don't like the way VOICES looks in the comic. The ICE part is too squashed up.

  69. AKA:

    My grammar knowledge is pretty well, actually, which is what five years of Latin'll do to ya. You're right about that comma, but I wasn't going for an appositive. I forgot the comma after "Media". Yes, I used a fragment, but it's still 100% perfect grammar, because, as Rob said, it's perfectly acceptable and understandable and all that. Which was my point with my original comment. Correct grammar is what everyone else around you understands. I'm not correcting anyone, really. I'm just saying don't be such prescriptivists.

    Rob: being useless is alright! I actually just got a $5517 check from the gubberment last week. How are you?

  70. sje46: Your knowledge of grammar is pretty "good," not well (three years of Latin speaking here). "Well" can be used as an adjective, but only really to refer to a person's health.

    Back to the point: Has anyone seen my shoes? I've looked all over the apartment for them but they aren't anywhere. I want to go outside, but society frowns on barefootedness and there's a lot of broken glass which people seem to have just dumped on my stoop to trap me in here.

    Oh crap, now they're throwing it at the window... Well folks, that's what you get when you flip off a religious figure.

    George W. Bush

  71. "My grammar knowledge is pretty well, actually, which is what five years of Latin'll do to ya. You're right about that comma, but I wasn't going for an appositive. I forgot the comma after "Media". Yes, I used a fragment, but it's still 100% perfect grammar, because, as Rob said, it's perfectly acceptable and understandable and all that. Which was my point with my original comment. Correct grammar is what everyone else around you understands. I'm not correcting anyone, really. I'm just saying don't be such prescriptivists."

    It was a satire of attempts to correct grammar? I dunno, I just found it ironic (alternately, hypocritical) that you were talking about how grammar "should" sound yet messed up a load on grammar. But then I started a sentence with a conjunction which got Anon 1:10s panties in a bunch. I bet he still thinks that the only exception to "i before e" is when it sounds like "ay" as in "neighbor" and "weigh".

    TL;DR - It's Rob's fault.

  72. I wasn't a fan of Edward Lear, but he's growing on me.

  73. Y'know the odd thing? Everyone's been complaining so much about how the whole smugness thing and how Randall loves utterly bashing media and social networking that nobody seems to point out that the comic is not only funny, but a literal "Randall says this, and then it happens"! It's the kinda thing Least I Could Do gets lambasted for, but even that always ties in a joke into it!
    Alt Text is ridiculously stupid. It's a fancy "Doing X is like somebody that did something wrong". Only while making a mockery of the deaths of hundreds... for no apparent reason. Even the 9/11 one had to require that as a setting for the joke to work, but practically any setting would've worked here!

    Wow, you're actually right! His ENTIRE life experience, not counting any freelance programming he may or may not actually do, is one bachelor degree in physics and literally just half a year of work experience! And the worst part is that everyone keeps referencing him as being a former NASA roboticist, despite only being there for 6 months!

  74. He did apply to stay on as a permanent employee, but they rejected him on the grounds that he kept trying to incorporate lesbianism into everything. Fascists.

  75. Holy shit,

    I mentioned in either this thread or the one before that the biggest science elitists are the ones who've studied the least-

    And here we have the king of high-school science elitists, and his education consists of a BS and token work experience in NASA.

    Well- I'm not sure, but maybe I should feel vindicated? I mean, the way Randall harps on about SIENS and PIE-FON I was expecting him to be a postgrad or a honours at least.
    What does everyone else think?

    No rob, u are teh pedants

    then rob was grammar nazi

  76. "He did apply to stay on as a permanent employee, but they rejected him on the grounds that he kept trying to incorporate lesbianism into everything. Fascists."

    Replace lesbianism with cunnilingus and you are and you are probably correct.

  77. "I actually just got a $5517 check from the gubberment last week."

    Man, wealthfare's really gotten out of hand.

  78. I was expecting to be about ecks kay see dee.

    I was wrong.

    It was still awesome.

  79. Rob, how can you possibly criticise Xkcd when you talk so much about "pedants" being wrong. This has to be the most pedantic blog on the net, inventing faults to criticise a comic that millions find joy in.

    a)Stop being so fucking hypocrytical

    b) learn to not be as bitter

  80. @Anon12:55,
    I think...

    Oh that is clever! Bravo!

  81. "I'm not correcting anyone, really. I'm just saying don't be such prescriptivists."

    which is why you say things like "it's technically incorrect," I assume?

  82. "This has to be the most pedantic blog on the net, inventing faults to criticise a comic that millions find joy in."

    Yeah, because EVERYONE should have the same opinions, especially when there are (snicker) "millions" to agree with,

  83. "Inventing" faults? We probably also conjure up reasons for these imaginary faults from the Land of Wishes and Sherbet to fit our obviously incorrect world view (or at least, our incorrect view of xkcd).

    Wait a minute...

    Anon 12:55 spelled "Xkcd" with one capital CLEARLY HE MUST BE A TROLL i must alert the internet!

  84. Rob, enouch of your shit, you're just throwing big meaningless words around (prescriptivist) trying to justify your hypocracy- (something Xkcd rails against, I'm glad).

    Once you take your mind out of the bog of illogical thinking and double standards so typical of the liberal arts (which you get SO BUTTHURT about in this blag) You might even see your own faults, though your pride will never let you admit them.

    It doesn't matter though, anyone can plainly see that you're in the wrong here, and just bullshitting to save time.

    You children have fun with your little criticisms, but like it or not you're actually supplying Xkcd with more traffic,

    Have fun raging against the machine, bitches.

  85. open letter to trolls:



  86. Of course. Anyone who disagrees with you _must_be_a troll. Typical Rob...


  87. you are nothing compared to the might of Ryan Learn and the other great trolls and cuddlefish of xkcdsucks' history. you mock their glorious tradition by being so utterly insipid.

  88. also: REMEMBER THE ASS TURDS. i say they all pale in comparison to that one

  89. Alexa, the Web Information Company, estimates that about 1 in 1000 global internet users view XKCD on a daily basis [1354th overall reach]. This saddens me. Although, the sites he must overcome to reach the top 3 []] are mostly pornographic, lesser known Social Networking sites, variations of google, and of course Wikipedia. Does that shed any light on his comics?

    Although it's hardly a mystery, "based on internet averages, is visited more frequently by males who are in the age range 18-24, have no children and browse this site from school".

    ##Oh, and I'm going to go ahead and put it out there that Randall probably thought "giving a greater voice [...] social web is so popular" was an appositive adjectival phrase for "News Reporters"...for some reason. The whole mass is clearly an awkward noun clause, but what in XKCD isn't [awkward]?

    Also, anyone accidentally end up over at because of a typo? 'CAUSE JESUS IS MY BEST FRIEND! ALRIGHT! ALRIGHT! haha.... brilliant. I hope they get lots of spillover traffic.

  90. Yadda yadda yadda... seriously, are we going to have a grammar war? Cause, frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.

    Now, where I was? Oh, yes, that comment I was going to post but didn't do so cause I was not in the mood. I'm not, still, but only for thorough analysis of trite webcomics. So, quick comments.

    As I said before, I don't think this comic here is about "pure" science being better than "impure" science(even though we know Randall is quite the science Shiite himself), or even about interdisciplinary courses being all bullshit, but about "interdisciplinary" having ascended to this cool buzzword status. He makes a joke exaggerating that, and that joke is bad. No, really, it is. I still keep wondering what the psychology student is supposed to contribute to, but, anyway, that could be a medical student and it'd be the same.

    New comic? Meh. Trite. And let me just say, that politician looks AWFUL. So awful it needs to be said in all caps. FUCKEN AWFUL.

    Hugs and all that,


  91. Wait a minute, how many 2 page comment wars have we actually had? I thought we only had 2 or 3.

  92. a good number of them actually.

  93. T_A (twice), the shitstorm about whether or not giving Randall a book is a dick move, 631, Ryan Learn, Rob's "no one is forcing you" rant, Rob's subjectivity v. objectivity rant, any more?

  94. the FAQs don't count, I assume. I think we got a few others on comment threads, also.

    I feel like WMH also caused at least one

  95. Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

  96. Fuck BuffaloX8, no sane anglophone would ever make a sentence that awkward except for the sake of not having any other words, it doesn't count.

  97. @Ravenzomg
    Are you one of the people that visits xkcd.. maybe not on a daily basis, but reads every update?

    I'm curious, but how many webcomics does the average person here 'follow' - i.e. read every update of? And how many do they follow entirely because said webcomic sucks?

    I mean, there's an awful lot of bad webcomics out there. In fact, all webcomics with the exception of basically Achewood, SMBC and a couple that no longer update would fall under this category. Why is xkcd so special?

    If Randall ran ads like SMBC did, he'd be laughing all the way to the bank.

  98. I mean, it's almost as bad as those idiots who think the "ghoti" joke is clever or, even worse, a valid argument.

  99. Seriously guys, I NEED TO FIND MY SHOES. This is not a joke. Where did you put them

    Love always,
    George W. Bush

  100. @7:10 James while John had had had had had had had had had had had a better effect on the teacher.

  101. O Hai, I'm a bit late to the party, but I for one found this XKCD to be moderately amusing.

    Being involved in university politics, I can totally relate to the portrayed absurdity that interdisciplinary projects can achieve. E.g. we had one program involving Linear Algebra and Sports where on one week students would do some endurance training and the other week they had to solve matrix equations. Such interdisciplinary projects are often proposed to elicit additional funding from the (usually ignorant) authorities.

    So Yeah, that's where the humor stems from in this one. The rest of the criticism still holds true. That is all :)

  102. Rob: well yeah, the FAQ doesn't count, it took over a year to break 200. I was just thinking of ones that got that high in a few days.

  103. I'll let you know if any more pop up I guess. maybe I can convince Carl to make a hall of fame sidebear

  104. A comment about interdisciplinary studies:

    There isn't anything inherently wrong with it at face value. In fact, your reasoning that knowledge exists outside arbitrary divisions of fields of study is sound. It's the same reasoning that has led to a rise in interdisciplinary studies in academia.

    The problem is that a lot of administrators that like the idea of interdisciplinary studies have taken it a little too far. It's like the emphasis has become reorganizing the way we solve problems, rather than ACTUALLY solving problems.

    It's frustrating for many in academia. Especially because the the people pushing interdisciplinary studies sometimes aren't really experts in either field.

    A professor once told me: "While there is value in finding ways to connect different fields of study, there's just as much value as exploring one specific thing in depth. Maybe more. So I don't understand this recent fetishism of interdisciplinary studies."

    Basically, interdisciplinary studies sounds fancy when you only skim the surface of what various fields are trying to accomplish. Perhaps this is why it is attractive to administrators and laypeople.

    But the value of going into depth in something can't be ignored. For interdisciplinary studies to achieve its potential, the infrastructure of academia would have to be one where someone can spend his or her life going in depth on a topic that lies between the arbitrary divisions of academia. While that has happened, in general that goal seems to have been lost, and all interdisciplinary studies has become is a superficial way to appeal to administration for funding.

    Thus the motivation behind xkcd's unfunny comic.

  105. I guess I've just never been exposed to the lamer side of interdisciplinary things. I've seen things like philosophy of science or the biology and sociology of AIDS and such. really interesting things.

  106. also sometimes interdisciplinary studies are completely unnecessary. "women's studies," for instance, is utterly superfluous when there already exists sociology. a new field is simply not necessary there.

  107. But then how are we supposed to learn about how every aspect of society is completely misogynist?

  108. I thought it was called literary criticism.

  109. good thing you came here, then

  110. Wow...sje's a horrible person everywhere. Not just on the XKCD forums.

    Why do I use those forums?