Thursday, October 21, 2010

Comic 808: Randy Affirms the Consequent

bad ideas

[ALT: Not to be confused with 'making money selling this stuff to OTHER people who think it works', which corporate accountants and actuaries have zero problems with.]

Oh man, it has been ages since the last chart comic! I was starting to think Randy didn't love me anymore. But here we have one--and it's even got straight lines in it! This is truly the best comic Randy has ever made.

So I guess the point is that if all of these random mystical things worked, then people would use them to make a fortune, because capitalism etc? Either that or capitalism must not work. That seems to be the conclusion Randy is drawing from this extensively researched chart, anyway. Which is obviously true! Everyone knows that when you have some talent or ability that works, you are 100% likely to make a fortune exploiting that talent. This is why all rich people are incredibly brilliant and all poors are inherently lazy slobs!

Randy's poor understanding of capitalism aside, I am striving to locate a joke. I only think there must be one because even Randy can't seriously think he's being insightful here--this is not just preaching to the choir, it's the Platonic Form of preaching to the choir. We get it, bullshit mysticism doesn't work! It isn't funny or clever to point that out, especially when you can't even fucking do it right. We know that you've got this convenient dead horse that looks like it needs beating from time to time, Randy, but it's dead. It was dead long before you got here. Just stop. It's getting kind of gross.

Finally, I'd like to quote from xkcdsucks commenter and mustachioed cerealmonger Capn, in the previous comment thread:


Not checked:
Phenomena as potential, (read: non-existent) lower cost/benefit ratio, solutions to actual problems that have existing solutions.

Checked:
Phenomena that needed to be solved and understood, or cropped up, as components of known solutions to known problems.

Counter-Argument for the table:

Crazy Phenomena:
Spontaneous generation

If it worked companies would make a killing in ...
Cricket Production

Are they?
Yep.

Crazy Phenomena:
Alchemy

If it worked companies would make a killing in ...
Transmutation

Are they?
Yep.


Also worth noting, pretty much every one of the fields Randy mentioned where companies would be making a killing are, in fact, fields where companies are making a killing already. Where by "pretty much" I mean "literally all of them, what the fuck is wrong with you, Randy?"

95 comments:

  1. *Sigh* I'm sorry Rob, based on these few reviews you have not held up to my high standards. I'm going to have to kiss ass on the new site. Bye forever.

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  2. the part that confuses me about that is not that people don't like my reviews but that people for some reason thought Carl's were good

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  3. The comic: "Capitalism isn't THAT ruthlessly profit-focused."
    The alt-text: "Except when it is."

    Focus, Randall.

    Please try to focus.

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  4. Also which "new site" do you mean? xkcd sucks redux? webcomics.me? (Why would you search for bitter xkcd hate at webcomics.me instead of at xkcd sucks redux?)

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  5. "Remote prayer"? As opposed to what, near-you prayer?

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  6. Gryffilion: The comic clearly says "arguing that mysticisms work means arguing that capitalism isn't that ruthlessly profit-focused". Which means Randall does think "that capitalism is that ruthlessly profit-focused". Get your hate right people.

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  7. "The comic: 'Capitalism isn't THAT ruthlessly profit-focused.'
    The alt-text: 'Except when it is.'"

    The conclusion the comic draws is not "capitalism isn't profit-focused", it's "these things don't exist, and I'm proving to you why." While I think Randall's wrong, I also think he's internally consistent (at least in this case).

    Captcha: bacts. Where bacta comes from.

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  8. rob you worthless shitblob keep the alt text in the blog post

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  9. "While I think Randall's wrong,"

    I don't necessarily agree with you. See, his table doesn't say "if it worked, companies would make a killing in..." it says "if it worked, companies would be using it to make a killing in...". So that seems, logically, correct to me.

    "I also think he's internally consistent (at least in this case)."

    Ninja!


    Come on people how do you write about your captcha? If I look at mine and go edit my post it gives me another one.

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  10. Christ I'm starting to wonder about some of you people. Evln is right.

    I dont mind hating on XKCD, in fact its often quite funny, but develop some fucking reading comprehension, and a basic ability to detect sarcasm on the internet please.

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  11. "Christ I'm starting to wonder about some of you people. Evln is right."

    random spam

    "and a basic ability to detect sarcasm on the internet please."

    Sarcasm Mis-Detection wasn't even the cause of these recent errors.

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  12. But don't you KNOW that SARCASM doesn't exist on the Internet? Neither does parody! You have no right for calling me an idiot and telling me to think before posting and acting like I should be a good enough judge of character to tell when people I've been around for years are and aren't serious just because I don't see things that DON'T EXIST!!!

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  13. it would be correct if it weren't wrong. let's try this one:

    The Horse and Buggy. If it worked, companies would be using it to make a killing in transportation.
    The Telegraph. If it worked, companies would be using it to make a killing in telecommunications.

    you may replace these with new technologies that haven't caught on yet, or technologies that worked just fine for their day but never caught on for whatever reason--prohibitive cost, inventor's lack of marketing savvy, superfluity, etc.

    since all of the fields Randall mentioned are already making vast fortunes, they have no real incentive in looking at alternative ways of doing so--especially, as in financial planning, when they can get away with so frequently being completely wrong. so, Randall is wrong and all of his comparisons suck.

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  14. If making horrible webcomics worked, companies would be using it to make a killing in shirt sales.

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  15. "it would be correct if it weren't wrong."

    tautology much

    "let's try this one:

    The Horse and Buggy. If it worked, companies would be using it to make a killing in transportation.
    The Telegraph. If it worked, companies would be using it to make a killing in telecommunications.
    "

    In both cases, they made (I guess).

    "you may replace these with new technologies that haven't caught on yet, or technologies that worked just fine for their day but never caught on for whatever reason--prohibitive cost, inventor's lack of marketing savvy, superfluity, etc."

    Details. His basic logic "it would be usable to make money" is correct and most of the things he listed would probably be exploited right now if they'd work. While your post is correct and mentions only the things you just repeated, Capn's quote here is wrong. Capn assumed anyone making money in that field would require the phenomenon to work; this is not what Randall wrote.

    "since all of the fields Randall mentioned are already making vast fortunes, they have no real incentive in looking at alternative ways of doing so--especially, as in financial planning, when they can get away with so frequently being completely wrong."

    Which doesn't exclude a third party from making money in that field using mysticisms etc etc

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  16. no wait it isn't actually a tautology because it isn't true if the comic is

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  17. I'm trying to figure out whether Randall is getting his ideas about capitalism from Atlas Shrugged or from the communist manifesto.

    On the one hand he proposes that companies actually want to lower health care costs which sounds like the kind of capitalism that exists only in the imaginations of far right assholes.

    On the other hand he uses the phrase "ruthlessly profit-focused" which sounds like the kind of language one would expect from a far left douchebag.

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  18. "tautology much"

    sometimes, people tell jokes.

    "Details. His basic logic "it would be usable to make money" is correct and most of the things he listed would probably be exploited right now if they'd work. While your post is correct and mentions only the things you just repeated, Capn's quote here is wrong. Capn assumed anyone making money in that field would require the phenomenon to work; this is not what Randall wrote."

    "details?" really? the fact that there are products out there that are entirely functional that are not being used to make a killing in their appropriate fields due to some barrier or other in their widespread adoption is just "details?"

    because it completely invalidates Randall's statement--"if it works, then companies would be using it to make a killing." they work. companies are not using them to make a killing. for someone who jacks off to making sure people accurately represent what Randy says, you sure are bad at accurately representing what he says. you should probably not so casually dismiss details in the future--it really just makes you look like a tool.

    which, admittedly, you /are/ a tool, so I guess that's not such a bad thing. have you always sucked, or is this a recent development?

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  19. Rob, just for that hateful comment about mysticism, I will get my coven together and hex the hell out of your ass. Remotely.

    I'll agree with the previous thread -- "Crystal energy ---> Regular energy" is kind of funny. Rest, no.

    Captcha: sulogr. It's the Soviet logarithm.

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  20. "On the one hand he proposes that companies actually want to lower health care costs which sounds like the kind of capitalism that exists only in the imaginations of far right assholes."

    He doesn't necessarily propose they want to lower costs for consumers. He might just as well say they want to lower their costs, which I guess companies do want to.

    "On the other hand he uses the phrase "ruthlessly profit-focused" which sounds like the kind of language one would expect from a far left douchebag."

    Maybe with the "ruthlessly", but isn't being "profit-focused", uh, kind of the definition of capitalism?

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  21. Why would someone who read Atlas Shrugged think lowered healthcare costs are a good thing? Lowered healthcare would just mean less poor people are dying and convince people that it's OK for them to be poor. After all, if they REALLY wanted to live they'd get a job that can pay for healthcare, wouldn't they?

    Honestly it's like you're not even thinking here.

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  22. "sometimes, people tell jokes."

    I don't believe in such a thing. (Plus it was a throw-away remark anyway.)

    ""details?" really? the fact that there are products out there that are entirely functional that are not being used to make a killing in their appropriate fields due to some barrier or other in their widespread adoption is just "details?""

    rob come on man i told you you are right. Capn isn't and that's the point I was making.

    "have you always sucked, or is this a recent development?"

    I wouldn't know.

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  23. Evln: Technically it's "utility-focused", but hey, profit is a big part of utility. Helping orphans is equivalent to like $3 of profit a pop. And that teeters off once you realize you could just blow the orphan-money on strippers.

    Captcha: algadox. A new tetracycline for fighting bacteria, I suppose.

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  24. Have you always sucked? Next, what is your favourite wine? Favourite position?

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  25. @Anon

    Ask John Boehner.

    @Evln

    Yes, I was referring to the ruthlessly part.

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  26. "Yes, I was referring to the ruthlessly part."

    Well I guess then that's again just a difference to the US. Over here, saying something like "ruthlessly profit-focused" would be accepted any day if uttered by a central-left-ish politician (though it would of course place them more to the left). Or you might be crazy.

    "Technically it's "utility-focused", but hey, profit is a big part of utility. Helping orphans is equivalent to like $3 of profit a pop. And that teeters off once you realize you could just blow the orphan-money on strippers."

    I understand the words (can translate them) but I don't believe I fully get what you mean. I don't know whether I want to either.

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  27. @Evln

    Yes. I've been crazy ever since that day in the past when very a very interesting and possibly humorous noodle instant occurred.

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  28. @Evln: At the basic level "Utility" means you're get an optimum balance between leisure and profit, but you can also extend it to include warm fuzzy feelings from helping the less fortunate, but let's not. Maximizing profit alone is worthless because that occurs when everyone is always working (except when they're manditorily relaxing) which sucks. Capitalism is about getting as much as you can with as little work as possible. ...Well, that's how it has turned out, anyways.

    Anyways, the point here is that Randall is a Capitalist whore because he is living the dream of making a living off of working 15 minutes, three times a week.

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  29. Comic doesn't really make sense to debunk the beliefs of people who believe in stuff like the supernatural, because their beliefs include the belief that the mainstream establishment is pigheadedly prejudiced against anything supernatural, *even though* (in the minds of supernaturally inclined people) it works. & it's not at all hard to imagine that capitalism could neglect a potential moneymaker. It may be ruthless, but it's run by ordinary dumb human beings. There are tons of examples of this, such as the oft-bemoaned fact that companies don't make attractive plus-size clothes, even though there are lots of fat people who want to buy them. If this stuff, it's plausible that capitalists would neglect it because it didn't seem "scientific" enough.

    This comic lacks a funny joke because Randall doesn't do anything surprising with the idea -- his readers think the supernatural doesn't work & couldn't make money, it doesn't, he tells them that.

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  30. Today's was pretty good, it had a slightly funny joke and only two lines of post-punchline dialogue.

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  31. I've liked a few of the recent xkcd strips but I didn't get anything out of that one. That said, it was probably referencing something I didn't get (Los Alamos? 1945? I get that we're probably referring to the Manhattan Project but is there something else I'm missing?)

    The idea of an engineer working on something incredibly destructive using (and possibly getting wrong) a trig mnemonic doesn't really make me chuckle, although it possibly could with better delivery.

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  32. Fucking hell, the new XKCD lacks a demonstration of Randall's philosophical insight. It's just some stupid joke. What a waste of time.

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  33. Floating head syndrome.

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  34. Comic doesn't really make sense to debunk the beliefs of people who believe in stuff like the supernatural, because their beliefs include the belief that the mainstream establishment is pigheadedly prejudiced against anything supernatural, *even though* (in the minds of supernaturally inclined people) it works.

    Pretty much this. Even if companies thought astrology or crystal energy worked, their response would probably be along the lines of "We're making tons of money doing what we're doing now. Going to this other thing could be risky, so we don't want to chance it, even though it works." Thus, it's not debunked by virtue of the fact companies won't use it.

    To go off what Rob was saying, we could go "If electric cars were really so awesome, car companies would be making a killing in the automobile industry with them." That ignores that there's a lot of problems that the electric car needs to overcome, regardless of whether or not it's better than gasoline powered cars. So using the relative lack of electric cars in the automobile industry to try and prove they're shit is well, a failure of logic.

    Not that Randall has ever shown a very good grasp on logic in the first place.

    Also for 809, he thinks the best job ever is sitting at a desk doing equations for a projected bomb test? Seriously?

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  35. "So using the relative lack of electric cars in the automobile industry to try and prove they're shit is well, a failure of logic."

    Um what

    Since you just admitted that there are a lot of problems with electric cars, it follows that *at the moment* they aren't superior to gas cars.

    Normally I enjoy xkcd sucks, not because the reviews are great, but because it tends to be an interesting lesson in comic construction. But it's all been half-assed lately - instead of criticizing the comic or the joke, let's use a half-correct version of the comic so we can insert some vitriol into the post! I guess since your gimmick is "xkcdsucks" you have to be angry about it all the time? This entire blog has just become a field of straw men.

    In this case Rob and whatshisface have rationalized their way out of being completely wrong, but that's irrelevant, because the final rationale has very little to do with what the original post criticizes. I almost wish xkcdsuckssucks was serious and not a joke, because then we could have an interesting circle of comic > comic criticism > criticism criticism.

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  36. no ppd.
    no awkward text transition in the final two panels.

    Fixed comic

    Thoughts?

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  37. "Since you just admitted that there are a lot of problems with electric cars, it follows that *at the moment* they aren't superior to gas cars."

    do pay attention. randy is arguing that, if something works, it will make people a fortune. following his logic, anything unpopular must not work.

    and who says your logic can't apply to all of his mystical bullshit? there's lots of problems with them that prevent them from making people a fortune--this doesn't mean they don't work.

    do you actually read the shit you're saying? like, at all? because you are saying some really stupid shit.

    "Normally I enjoy xkcd sucks, not because the reviews are great, but because it tends to be an interesting lesson in comic construction. But it's all been half-assed lately - instead of criticizing the comic or the joke, let's use a half-correct version of the comic so we can insert some vitriol into the post! I guess since your gimmick is "xkcdsucks" you have to be angry about it all the time? This entire blog has just become a field of straw men."

    you know, even if you disagree with the interpretation of the comics the only points of contention have been minor at best--which is to say, the bulk of the posts have nothing to do with those points of contention. which makes your little complaint ring kind of hollow. the bulk of the posts have nothing to do with your "half-correct" versions of the comics. and yet you whinge.

    "In this case Rob and whatshisface have rationalized their way out of being completely wrong, but that's irrelevant, because the final rationale has very little to do with what the original post criticizes."

    actually pretty much no one has commented on the original criticism, like, at all, so i'm not sure why you think any rationales have been changing. people have commented on Capn's little block quote, because for some reason they labor under the delusion that Randall is /right/, and that his logic is entirely sound.

    this is key. I wouldn't take issue with asserting that Randy's addition of "would be using it to" is important. I do take issue with asserting "actually Randy is 100% correct here." which is what people are doing, because apparently they are fucking idiots.

    this is also the part where it becomes clear that you aren't actually disagreeing with anything, you're just hating for the sake of hating. which, I'm all about that, but let's not shit ourselves. there's no reason behind that loathing. just let it out.

    "I almost wish xkcdsuckssucks was serious and not a joke, because then we could have an interesting circle of comic > comic criticism > criticism criticism."

    interesting? really?

    you seriously, honestly think that a blog dedicated to reviewing reviews--a non-joke version--would be interesting? because I think that would be the most boring thing in the history of time.

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  38. ppd in the new one is so bad you guys

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  39. "I do take issue with asserting "actually Randy is 100% correct here." which is what people are doing"

    Neither did I mean to assert that and, re-reading what I wrote, nor does it sound to me like I did that. I said that the particular part about "using it to" seems logical; this does not imply that the entire condition makes sense or that Randall chose the right examples (for either mysticism or real sciences/fields).

    Also you're such a lazy fuck that half your (blog) post is actually Capn's quote. More importantly, in your last paragraph (behind the quote) you make the same mistake as Capn, i.e. ignoring the phrasing "using it to" that Randall used.

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  40. In all honesty, there is probably an unstated 'if this worked, people would be making in a killing in (because the things one could do with, for instance crystal energy far outstrips the regular methods)'. The two key problems being, he doesn't state it and it isn't even true in his examples.

    There's another problem too. It isn't insightful or funny.

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  41. The joke is that the kind of people who swear by mysticism and new age crap are also the kind of people to complain about capitalism.

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  42. Evln and Alsworth: good call. I found this comic so confusing I actually missed its point. Thanks for the correction.

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  43. This review is "meh" AND late. Rob, I thought you were trying to be better than Carl AT LEAST in the "being on time with the comics" requisite!

    Also, I still don't get that "cricket production" part of Capn's comment. Is there any company making a killing in cricked production? Who the hell produces crickets? And isn't spontaneous generation so goddamn false it isn't even funny?

    New comic already reviewed in xkcdsucksredux, with the bonus of a horrible mental image that will haunt me for weeks. My comments on it:

    1) Joke is horrible and based on high school math. Why is Randall still pretending his comics are for genius engineers? Also, it's not funny. The punchline is "hm, I think I made a basic mistake" which would only be mildly funny if that was said AFTER the test started. Then at least the "oh shit" quotient would be high enough for anyone to care.

    2) Horrible horrible HORRIBLE case of PPD. It doesn't add anything and it just keeps hanging there. Also, the reactions are obvious. It's not like they can even be of any interest. A facepalm alone would suffice.

    Finally, why are Randall's panels straight and the "Los Alamos" box isn't? I know, I know, rhetorical question!

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  44. A trigonometry joke? Seriously?

    To his credit, Randall's use of "spoiler alert" in the alt text made me laugh.

    @Nate

    "Also for 809, he thinks the best job ever is sitting at a desk doing equations for a projected bomb test? Seriously?"

    Seriously. I agree with Randall on this point. Considering that the invention of the atomic bomb was the defining moment for the next 46 years, I'd say that's a pretty awesome job.

    (That is, 46 years from 1945 to 1991 when the soviet union fell. One could argue that the atomic bomb continues to be the defining moment of our time. For the moment our culture has moved on to worrying about guys in caves who might be able to fly planes.)

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  45. but is it cooler than working for nasa

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  46. So... is it SOH CAH TOA? I'm 99% percent sure. Why do they make these damn mnemonics so confusing!?

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  47. I would say that Randal is implying the point that if something works, it will be used to make money. His argument though is to say that because they aren't used to make money, they must be pseudoscience.

    Randal's argument is a fallacy for a few reasons.

    1) Not all scientific phenomena have utility. An excellent example would be gene therapy. We would be using it if we could, but we aren't.

    2) Not all scientific phenomena are profitable. Randal's beloved space exploration is one example.

    3) There's a very blurry line between making money off of something because people are gullible and because something works. Venture capitalism is based off this exact premise. See also numerous scientific scams over the years (cold fusion, piltdown man, etc).

    In short, profitability and utility do not imply scientific validity.

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  48. I would like to point out also that it is technically impossible as a company to "make a killing" in health cost reduction :D companies are making plenty of money already at abusing these ideas to make a killing in health cost increasion(fuck you if that is not a word it should be)

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  49. As for 809, I actually thought this one was slightly amusing and Randal's first actual comic in a while. It wasn't perfect by a long shot, but it actually felt like a solid try.

    The background is decent - three scientists discussing the ramifications of their experiment. The set-up in the third panel is the low point. In fact, I think you could delete it entirely and still have a joke. The fourth panel has a solid concept, but is too wordy. With a set-up that's already wordy, you generally want the punchline to be shorter. Get rid of Right Guy's extraneous dialogue, remove the "For the love of" line from Middle Guy, maybe have one guy facepalm and one guy speak.

    Also, I think this comic could have benefited from a little better art, to make it clear they're in a triangle.

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  50. http://i733.photobucket.com/albums/ww336/talligan/los_alamos.png

    I agree with Robert. I couldn't tidy up the final panel as much as I wanted to but by removing most of the extraneous text the joke becomes much tighter.

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  51. Hold on, everyone here is missing the essential problem with this comic: Randall is trying to mark an argument by crossing over from hard science into economics, a social science, and as we know Randall does not study social sciences because he already knows everything he needs to within those fields because those "sciences" are lesser and provided from applications of the knowledge he already has gained in his purer fields as a HARD SCIENTIST.

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  52. "Neither did I mean to assert that and, re-reading what I wrote, nor does it sound to me like I did that. I said that the particular part about "using it to" seems logical; this does not imply that the entire condition makes sense or that Randall chose the right examples (for either mysticism or real sciences/fields)."

    so when you responded to "while I think Randall's wrong" with "I disagree," you were not, in fact, asserting that Randall wasn't wrong? because you responded specifically to that phrase saying you disagree.

    "Also you're such a lazy fuck that half your (blog) post is actually Capn's quote. More importantly, in your last paragraph (behind the quote) you make the same mistake as Capn, i.e. ignoring the phrasing "using it to" that Randall used."

    actually, 77 out of 412 words are Capn's quote--and that number is misleadingly high, due to the fact that he repeats a large number of words since he's emulating the chart.

    and it's really your own problem if you think that my last paragraph is ignoring "using it to." I was using it to illustrate the problem I mentioned in the comments, viz, "every single one of these fields is already making a vast fortune so they don't need any new technologies." again, for someone who jacks off to making sure you get someone's original meaning exactly correct you sure do put a lot of words in other people's mouths.

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  53. I don't understand all the vitriol here. I'm not a big xkcd fan, but I am aware that:

    a) lots of people deeply believe in remote viewing and/or dowsing and/or hexes and/or crystal energy and/or etc.

    b) many people consider quantum theory (less so relativity) to be fanciful because they sound implausible.

    c) i) remote viewing would be a *much* more cost effective way of locating oil reserves...
    ii) prayer would be a *much* more cost effective way of healing people...
    iii) curses would be a *much* more cost effective way of winning wars...
    iv) etc...
    ...than methods currently used.


    Really, guys. It's not a funny joke and it's not an immediately visual representation of the joke and it's not something that made me laugh or even think very hard. But it's not stupid, and it's not wrong, and it's not obvious to everyone.


    Captcha:
    cyxic (n) Someone who sees through xkcd's bullspit.

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  54. Wow, way to fail at logic Evln.

    Let me break it down for you, the logic Randy asserts boils down to simply:

    All crazy phenomenon can make companies lots of money if and only if they are real and have real world applications (or they are in the business of selling it to suckers, which is irrelevant to my counter argument).

    From this he obtains:

    A company is using crazy phenomenon X to make lots of money.
    Therefor the crazy phenomenon is real and has a real world application.

    No company is using crazy phenomenon X to make lots of money.
    Therefor the crazy phenomenon is either not real or has no real world application.

    So you can disprove it in multiple ways.

    Robs way: Give a crazy phenomenon that is both real and has a real world application and does not make any money (horse and buggy). This contradicts the argument.

    It could be argued from here that the horse and buggy is not a real world application, therefor it only made money in the past. Which is a valid point.

    But if you want to throw time into the mix it conversely could be argued that the internal combustion engine was never a real concept until someone made money on it. Which is not true, given that a concept is either real or it is not at any given point in time.

    My argument is just slightly different but has the same results as Rob's:
    Give a crazy phenomenon that is not real and has a real world application and did make people lots of money (spontaneous generation, alchemy). This also contradicts the argument.

    tl;dr:

    ur dum, its a round about appeal to authority via appeal to the market.

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  55. Friday's XKCD is based on a flawed premise. The Manhattan Project scientists did not need math to prove that the Trinity test wouldn't ignite the atmosphere. They simply cited other high-energy reactions that didn't ignite the atmosphere.

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  56. @Anon 11:51

    Nope, it was calculated first so they could know what energies actually 'could' ignite the Nitrogen in the atmosphere:

    http://www.fas.org/sgp/othergov/doe/lanl/docs1/00329010.pdf

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  57. @Arthur:

    "On the one hand he proposes that companies actually want to lower health care costs which sounds like the kind of capitalism that exists only in the imaginations of far right assholes."

    What's wrong with people? Can't they read sentences and understand them at the same time?

    He's not proposing that all companies want to reduce health care. He's proposing that all companies want to reduce health care COSTS. Of course they do! EVERYONE wants to reduce health care costs!

    Do you want to spend $10 on your aspirin, or would you prefer it if your aspirin cost $2? Do you want the hospital to charge you $4000 for your broken leg, or would you prefer it if they charged you $50? Do you want to be spending $100 a month on health insurance, or do you want to be spending $10 a month? Do you think your COMPANY wants to be spending $300 on the remaining 2/3rds of your insurance, or do you think they want to be spending $30.

    Sometimes I worry that people who comment on websites are often the same people with very basic reading comprehension...

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  58. You'd be write, people here tend to barley understand what they're saying themselves, let alone what other people say...

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  59. Speaking of bullshit mysticism, how does Randall feel about The SingularityTM? If it worked, companies would be using it to make a ton of money on AI, right?

    The starry-eyed techno-idealism in 786 sounds suspiciously like Singularity talk.

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  60. Sam F you moron it's obvious that he's referring to HEALTH CARE companies

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  61. randall seems like the kind of person who would believe in and want the singularity to happen

    also anon have you read the last few particularly terrible qc strips? it's basically xqcd

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  62. 'We know that you've got this convenient dead horse that looks like it needs beating from time to time'

    This is hardly a dead horse. If anything it's a horse that has found a wonderful new vigour.

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  63. Not a verry funny comic, but the core of the argument seems correct to me. These kind of arguments is often used in economics. Of course, the assumption is that firms are profit driven, so that they would seize any opportunity to make more money. It seems like a reasonable assumption to me.

    "The Horse and Buggy. If it worked, companies would be using it to make a killing in transportation."

    "The Telegraph. If it worked, companies would be using it to make a killing in telecommunications."

    What a stupid point Rob! A Horse and Buggy is less efficient and more costly than a car. The telegraph is slower and more expensive than telephone lines. A profit driven company will never replace a technology with a less efficient, more costly technology.

    It would replace a technology by a cheaper more efficient technology, however.

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  64. Rob:
    "so when you responded to "while I think Randall's wrong" with "I disagree," you were not, in fact, asserting that Randall wasn't wrong? because you responded specifically to that phrase saying you disagree."

    Evln:
    ""While I think Randall's wrong,"

    I don't necessarily agree with you.
    "

    what

    I wonder where you read that I "disagree" with it. Everything else you said has been reasonable, but here you directly quote me as saying something that I did not say.

    Rob:
    "actually, 77 out of 412 words are Capn's quote--and that number is misleadingly high, due to the fact that he repeats a large number of words since he's emulating the chart."

    Measured from top to bottom, about 15 out of 30cm is Capn's quote. Though that number is misleadingly high because he has lots of one- and two-line blocks with blank lines in between.

    Rob:
    "and it's really your own problem if you think that my last paragraph is ignoring "using it to." I was using it to illustrate the problem I mentioned in the comments, viz, "every single one of these fields is already making a vast fortune so they don't need any new technologies.""

    kk

    Blog post:
    "Also worth noting, pretty much every one of the fields Randy mentioned where companies would be making a killing are, in fact, fields where companies are making a killing already. Where by "pretty much" I mean "literally all of them, what the fuck is wrong with you, Randy?""

    I did not read this as illustrating that problem.

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  65. To clear things up, by "not necessarily agreeing" I meant specifically that while I do think that Randall is wrong, I might have disagreed with the specific point Alsworth made. Alsworth's post did not explicitly state what Alsworth thought Randall to be wrong about.

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  66. Capn: "Give a crazy phenomenon that is not real and has a real world application and did make people lots of money (spontaneous generation, alchemy). This also contradicts the argument."

    I might have misunderstood you here. What exactly does the bold part mean? Are you saying spontaneous generation and alchemy did make people lots of money?

    In that case, I guess you can argue both spontaneous generation and alchemy where accepted to be scientifically sound in the past. Looking back on it today though, you can also say that anyone who made money from these phenomenons really was in "the business of selling it to suckers" too - only that here, there is a possibility that those who made the money might have genuinely believed in their phenomenon themselves.

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  67. "What's wrong with people? Can't they read sentences and understand them at the same time?"

    apparently you can't. here is what you said:

    "He's not proposing that all companies want to reduce health care."

    here is what you responded to (in italics for ease of differentiation:

    "On the one hand he proposes that companies actually want to lower health care costs which sounds like the kind of capitalism that exists only in the imaginations of far right assholes." (emphasis mine)

    "He's proposing that all companies want to reduce health care COSTS. Of course they do! EVERYONE wants to reduce health care costs!"

    why should a company which makes money off health care want to reduce its costs? are you familiar with the concept of a monopoly? how about a for-profit corporation?

    "Do you want to spend $10 on your aspirin, or would you prefer it if your aspirin cost $2? Do you want the hospital to charge you $4000 for your broken leg, or would you prefer it if they charged you $50? Do you want to be spending $100 a month on health insurance, or do you want to be spending $10 a month?"

    the consumer wants lower prices, this is true.

    "Do you think your COMPANY wants to be spending $300 on the remaining 2/3rds of your insurance, or do you think they want to be spending $30."

    do you think your INSURANCE COMPANY wants to be paid $300, or do you think they want to be paid $30?

    "Sometimes I worry that people who comment on websites are often the same people with very basic reading comprehension..."

    case in point: you.

    "What a stupid point Rob! A Horse and Buggy is less efficient and more costly than a car. The telegraph is slower and more expensive than telephone lines. A profit driven company will never replace a technology with a less efficient, more costly technology."

    way to ignore my next paragraph, in which I said this:

    you may replace these with new technologies that haven't caught on yet, or technologies that worked just fine for their day but never caught on for whatever reason--prohibitive cost, inventor's lack of marketing savvy, superfluity, etc.

    I would add that there are superior products that never caught on for no reason than nobody ever heard about them.

    but you bring up, as is so often the case, a point which essentially proves mine: that something has not been adopted doesn't mean that it doesn't work, merely that something has prevented it from being adopted. things like remote viewing and dowsing and all the things in the chart could work just fine--there's just something keeping them from catching on. this could be the fact that the majority of people don't believe in them, or the fact that it requires a special person to use them, or just the fact that what we have going on right now works just fine, thank you.

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  68. "I wonder where you read that I "disagree" with it. Everything else you said has been reasonable, but here you directly quote me as saying something that I did not say."

    the part where you said you "don't necessarily agree." that is the part where you said you disagree. you fucking dumbass.

    "Measured from top to bottom, about 15 out of 30cm is Capn's quote. Though that number is misleadingly high because he has lots of one- and two-line blocks with blank lines in between."

    so what you're saying is a book in 72 point font with 100 pages is the same length as one in 8 point font with 100 pages? what the fuck is wrong with you?

    "I did not read this as illustrating that problem."

    this is because your reading comprehension rivals that of a baby gerbil.

    "To clear things up, by "not necessarily agreeing" I meant specifically that while I do think that Randall is wrong, I might have disagreed with the specific point Alsworth made. Alsworth's post did not explicitly state what Alsworth thought Randall to be wrong about.

    so that's why, when you said you "don't necessarily agree," you were responding specifically and exclusively to the line "while I think Randall is wrong?"

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  69. do you think your INSURANCE COMPANY wants to be paid $300, or do you think they want to be paid $30?

    This is, I think, the problem that I'm understanding.

    Sam F is reading Randall's comic as "If auras and homeopathy and prayer were actually useful and worked, then health insurance companies would tell people to do them so that they wouldn't have to pay as much money, thus being more profitable."

    Everyone else (including me) is reading it as "If auras and homeopathy and prayer were actually useful and worked, then doctors/hospitals would tell people to do them which would mean that they wouldn't get paid as much money, which is stupid."

    The reason the way Sam F is reading it is retarded (even if Randall meant it that way) is that those things are very religious-based. An atheist isn't going to like it if his insurance company says "We won't pay for your medicine, you should just pray to get better." Likewise, a Christian won't like it if they get told "You should just work on your aura and try focusing your chakra to get better." That usually leads to loss of business, which is--GUESS WHAT--bad.

    So if, say, auras and prayer actually worked, they're still not going to risk lawsuits or customers leaving by pushing those things. Thus, the health insurance companies' lack of pushing those things isn't because they don't work, but because they don't want to get sued or have people go to another insurance company that won't push things against their religious beliefs.

    Thus further proving what Rob and everyone else has said in this thread, that the fact that a company will not use a certain thing is not proof that the thing doesn't work.

    tl;dr Sam F, you are stupid and wrong, and the comic is stupid and wrong and a fucking logical fallacy because Randall doesn't know shit about dick.

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  70. sam f also seems to believe that literally every human on the face of the earth wants to bring down health care costs, because consumers and businesses that have to pay for their employees' insurance want to bring down health care costs.

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  71. @Nate Your last line is false. Randall knows a lot about dick. "They are about this big, now can we as a culture please move on [to the mystery of wombs and females in positions of power]," remember?

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  72. What? You're proposing that the reason why auras and prayer aren't suggested by insurance companies is that they're worried about losing a small segment of their base represented by atheists? I think you give atheists way too much credit. We are not nearly that well organized as to be a part of anyone's political or economic calculus.

    The real problem with auras or prayer working is that then you wouldn't need, hospitals, doctors, nurses, MRIs, PET scans, mammograms, insulin, antibiotics, etc. Not to mention the health insurance superstructure that pays for all of this. All you would need is to get your christian scientist friends together and pray hard! Yes that would reduce (actually eliminate) health care costs, but it would also eliminate the health insurance industry. So why exactly would health insurance companies push these things?

    Better yet: what reason does a health insurance company have to try to reduce the number of costly and often redundant procedures and tests that you go through when you get sick? Sorry, but capitalism breaks down here.

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  73. i think what he's saying is that, even if these things did work, their religious connotations would alienate a lot of people--such as atheists and Christians--and that would drive away customers. which is valid!

    basically there's lots of reasons, all of which are completely sound from a capitalist's point of view, that mainstream healthcare-providing companies (be they insurers or doctors and hospitals) would not employ alternative medicine techniques, even if they worked. driving away customers, reducing profits, &c &c.

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  74. It seems to me that christians would be very excited if it turned out that alternatives to mainstream science and mainstream medicine actually worked.

    I'm not sure how atheists would react to such news. But as I implied before, their reaction to anything is pretty negligible.

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  75. you don't know many christians then. you're probably thinking of christian scientists?

    the thing is the only thing christians want to work is prayer. they aren't, by and large, anti-science or anti-medicine. they certainly aren't going to be pro-anything just because it goes against science or medicine. even the most devout fundamentalist young earth creationist doesn't actually Hate Science and want to crush it 'neath their heel. they just have strong opinions about certain fields.

    many of them are anti-"demonic activity", however, and anything like auras and psychic powers and things like that are occasionally seen as being gifts from satan etc.

    which is to say, they might not have much problem believing they worked, but they would also very probably believe that they worked at the expense of your very soul.

    (why do i get the feeling this is going to provoke some obnoxious "NO CHRISTIANS HATE SCIENCE" rant? please don't.)

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  76. UndercoverCuddlefishOctober 22, 2010 at 11:24 PM

    christians hate science and i have proven this empirically

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  77. It seems to me that christians would be very excited if it turned out that alternatives to mainstream science and mainstream medicine actually worked.

    Knowing quite a few Christians, I'm going to say that they DO believe prayer works. That's kind of why they do it so much.

    Anyway, you'll meet VERY few Christians who believe in prayer only and nothing else. Most of them work under the belief of "God helps those who helps themselves" meaning pray for recovery but make sure you take medicine and go to the hospital too. To that end, insurance companies refusing to pay for medicine, or medical procedures and saying "Just pray" is going to alienate pretty much anyone. This is because the atheists will say it's bullshit, and Christians will say "I still need the medicine to help me get better even if I pray."

    Same thing with auras or homeopathy. Atheists and Christians alike would flip out if an insurance company started going off about auras and chakra, and people who believe in homeopathy would also likely not have insurance in the first place because they'd think medical science is all quackery.

    In fact, interestingly enough and to further prove that Randall's chart is wrong, many supporters of homeopathy say that the insurance industry and medical fields are trying to outlaw or discredit homeopathy BECAUSE it works so well and those companies can't make loads of profit off of it. So to them, the fact that doctors and scientists say "Homeopathy is garbage and we should outlaw/strongly discourage it" is absolute proof that it works.

    what reason does a health insurance company have to try to reduce the number of costly and often redundant procedures and tests that you go through when you get sick?

    Okay, look. You clearly don't understand how insurance works, so I'll explain it.

    Let's say you break your arm. You go to the hospital. The hospital says "This broken arm will cost you 10,000 dollars to mend." (I'm just making that figure up, I have no idea how much it would be.)

    You go to your insurance company and say "How much of this 10,000 dollar bill are you going to pay?" They will then say "Under your level of coverage, will will pay x dollars/x% of this bill." In other words, insurance companies LOSE money the more you have to go to the hospital or undergo expensive procedures.

    So, it is ABSOLUTELY in the best interest of the health insurance companies to make you go to the doctor less. This is why health insurance companies refuse to cover people with pre-existing conditions, because they will be paying assloads of money for this person's bills, and this person hasn't paid them anything yet, and even when they do, the amount they will be paying to the company will be less than the company will be paying out.

    This is also why insurance companies will occasionally scramble to find reasons to drop people's policies if the person gets something like cancer, because chemo is expensive and the insurance company doesn't want to have to keep paying for that.

    So, if you never went to the doctor, basically health insurance would just be you sending them a check every month and them paying nothing. It would make them even richer. This is why Sam F is saying "Randall's chart is correct because if a health insurance company could push homeopathy/prayer/auras on people, the people would get better and the company wouldn't pay any money."

    Which is why I went into the thing that insurance companies would lose customers if they refused to pay money on the grounds of pushing those theories, EVEN IF those things legitimately worked. So therefore, the fact that insurance companies, or hospitals, or anyone refuses to use them is NOT proof that those things don't work.

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  78. The biggest mistake Randall made when trying to make a funny joke about Los Alamos is that he would have to compete with Richard Feynman who is an actual physicist who worked at Los Alamos and is also a much much funnier man than Randall Munroe.

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  79. Hey look, Randy re-did the comic he already did back when he was still sort of funny. Thanks Randy.

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  80. Yeah, I wish the post here had included something about how the whole health care thing is flawed. If those preventive techniques worked, they would cause the health care industry to LOSE money. So obviously the health care industry wouldn't want to use them if they worked. And then the post should have pointed out that Randy doesn't understand economics at all, but he doesn't have to because it's a stupid, stupid liberal art and not a hard science.

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  81. About the whole health care thing:

    Let's say, for example, homeopathy worked. How would health care industry make any money, you wonder? Well, you could make tons of remedy with one miligram of medicine and hundreds of liters of water, and still sell it for the same price. Costs reduced, profit increased hundredfold.

    Or I'm dead wrong?

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  82. drunk drunk drunk drukn drunk drunk DRUNK

    i actually liked tjhis comic

    fuck you rob

    altho i like your anger

    good cunt

    drunk fdrunk.

    bye.

    asokdnmf wep[iogynn

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  83. @Chaos

    You reminded me of this passage from Nobel Prize Laureate in Economics, Paul Krugman:

    "Things like this often happen when economists deal with physical scientists; the hard-science guys tend to assume that we’re witch doctors with nothing to tell them, so they can’t be bothered to listen at all to what the economists have to say, and the result is that they end up reinventing old errors in the belief that they’re deep insights. Most of the time not much harm is done. But this time is different."

    Source: http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/12/07/unhelpful-hansen/

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  84. "so what you're saying is a book in 72 point font with 100 pages is the same length as one in 8 point font with 100 pages?"

    For books you would of course measure their format and thickness, ie. their volume. No, I really was too lazy to copy the blog post into a program to count its words and went for the length on screen which conveniently inflated Capn's part. Of course that's a bogus measurement.

    Saying "the fields Randy mentioned [...] are, in fact, fields where companies are making a killing already" is on its own irrelevant to the comic unless you ignore "using it to". With "using it to", Randall did not state anything about companies making a killing in the field if these companies are not using that particular phenomenon for it. So without the explanation that you meant "companies wouldn't use the phenomenons if they already have other ways of making money in that field", it wasn't clear to me you were referring to that.

    "so that's why, when you said you "don't necessarily agree," you were responding specifically and exclusively to the line "while I think Randall is wrong?""

    Yes. It wasn't clear what Alsworth thought Randall to be wrong about. I pointed out the "using it to" thing, in case that was what Alsworth thought Randall to be wrong about.

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  85. Chaos: "Yeah, I wish the post here had included something about how the whole health care thing is flawed. If those preventive techniques worked, they would cause the health care industry to LOSE money. So obviously the health care industry wouldn't want to use them if they worked."

    What about insurances? You pay them monthly whether you are ill or not, so they technically don't care whether you are ill or not. The point is that they might have to pay for a therapy, medicine etc in case you are ill. Therefore, insurances are interested in (and might even pay you) preventive measures because they'll save money if that preventive measure succeeded in preventing an illness (or curing you early on). Disclaimer: that's how health insurances work here, you never know with the US.

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  86. "so what you're saying is a book in 72 point font with 100 pages is the same length as one in 8 point font with 100 pages?"

    For books you would of course measure their format and thickness, ie. their volume. No, I really was too lazy to copy the blog post into a program to count its words and went for the length on screen which conveniently inflated Capn's part. Of course that's a bogus measurement.

    Saying "the fields Randy mentioned [...] are, in fact, fields where companies are making a killing already" is on its own irrelevant to the comic unless you ignore "using it to". With "using it to", Randall did not state anything about companies making a killing in the field if these companies are not using that particular phenomenon for it. So without the explanation that you meant "companies wouldn't use the phenomenons if they already have other ways of making money in that field", it wasn't clear to me you were referring to that.

    "so that's why, when you said you "don't necessarily agree," you were responding specifically and exclusively to the line "while I think Randall is wrong?""

    Yes. It wasn't clear what Alsworth thought Randall to be wrong about. I pointed out the "using it to" thing, in case that was what Alsworth thought Randall to be wrong about.

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  87. @Evln

    Here in the US our private health insurance companies simply drop your coverage if you get sick. In this way they neither have to pay for preventive measures or for treatment. (Disclaimer: this is mostly true for individuals buying health care insurance. It does not apply to unions or businesses.)

    While President Obama's health care legislation is designed to fix that problem, the health insurance companies are looking for any loop holes they can. It may be that the secretary of health and human services has the ability to close said loop holes as they appear. In the end though no one knows what will happen in practice until it does.

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  88. Which is why I proposed adding anthrax to the water supply, in order to bring these issues to the fore. Bastards in government didn't listen, of course.

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  89. @Professional Mole No, because it would also be much easier for competitors to slip into the market and undercut prices.

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  90. Just saying, dowsing is only used to find water.

    Just saying. Randy doesn't even actually know how the mysticisms he's "debunking" work.

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  91. "astrodowsers" would be a better joke, all scouting the universe for water, and therefore potential sentient life

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  92. "Just saying, dowsing is only used to find water."

    Hold your horses and read the Wikipedia on dowsing. Yourself is not a reliable source. Check. Mate.

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  93. Randall's logic isn't far above saying that if your dick isn't big enough to make you rich as a porn star, you must be a woman.

    Let's stick to challenging the claims that are actually made, please. It's far more productive.

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