Monday, November 8, 2010

Comic 816: Does 'Sucking' Count As An Error?

applied suck

[ALT: Dear Reader: Enclosed is a check for ninety-eight cents. Using your work, I have proven that this equals the amount you requested.]

This post is dedicated to the illiterate fuckheads in the audience.

Apart from being GOOMH-bait, this comic is pretty much uninteresting. Though I'm pretty sure there are proofs out there which demonstrate that 1=2, I couldn't find them when I typed some incredibly lazy phrase into Google and that's more math than logic anyway, maybe--does someone know more about that?

I guess you could say that the professor should probably not say 'well you definitely proved basic logic wrong' and should probably get a second opinion. Or the student should. I mean, that would be sort of a big deal. Show a cluster of people studying it or something, not just one person. It would make it slightly more plausible.

The final two panels are, of course, where the GOOMH-bait comes in. It references a thing that nerds will have heard of. I'm giving it a pass on being loathsome because it is part of the joke, and it works, but still.

Mostly this whole thing is boring. I know it's a joke and it's not supposed to be entirely realistic, but disproving basic logic in order to get a lot of money from someone who will give you $2.56 for finding an error in his book isn't a particularly interesting (or, for that matter, good) idea. It's not like he's legally bound to pay.

I think the joke is supposed to be the contrast between disproving basic logic being a big deal, and using this big deal discovery to do something incredibly insignificant, but the contrast just isn't sharp enough to have much of an impact. Mostly the problem with this one is the execution. Maybe a better artist or writer could have done better, but this, as is so often the case, is just the bare skeleton of a joke--an idea that could have been funny, but ended up as a kind of underwhelming flop.

That said, I actually liked the alt text. It was reasonably clever and actually worked as a subversion. It doesn't lift the comic from mediocrity, but I mean, credit where it's due: the alt text was legitimately good. I wish Randy would learn to use the alt text like this more often--it is quite frequently the worst part about his comics.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to pretend to go somewhere else while you all post comments and I just sit here and read them and feel important because someone cares enough to post a comment.


  1. "I know it's a joke and it's not supposed to be entirely realistic, but disproving basic logic in order to get a lot of money from someone who will give you $2.56 for finding an error in his book isn't a particularly interesting[...]idea."

    If the punchline would have been just $2.56 (or some small multiple of that) from Knuth, then I think the effort->gain would've been disproportionate enough for comedic effect. It wouldn't have made it all that funny, but more interesting than what's here right now.

    That being said at least he's got the form right. He isn't spoiling the "joke" early, he isn't rambling on with PPD, and like you said he used the alt-text pretty well. On the whole, it was a much better comic than he's put out lately.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. There are a lot of fake proofs that can show 1 = 2 or similar things. They obviously all have errors in them. Here is one example. I found that by timing 1 = 2 into google and clicking the first result, so whatever you typed into google must have been incredibly lazy.

  4. I assumed the proof they were talking about was Godel's incompleteness theorem, which -- as I understand it -- says that mathematics and logic are inconsistent with each other. That's why the blackboard has a statement called P followed by the symbol for the real numbers, and the result is the contradiction P and not P.

    I think this is the best XKCD in a long time. My only criticism is that it's not the least bit timely. Godel proved his theorems in 1931, and Knuth published the first version of The Art of Computer Programming in 1968, and given how well known each is among computer scientists, I'm almost certain Randal isn't the first person to come up with this idea.

    Still, the joke was new to me, so I guess I can't complain.

  5. @Andrew: That is not in any way what Godel's incompleteness theorem says. It says (from wikipedia) "Any effectively generated theory capable of expressing elementary arithmetic cannot be both consistent and complete". The point being that for any sufficiently powerful, consistent mathematical theory, there are true statements that the theory cannot prove. It is just about the limitations of mathematics, it doesn't show that mathematics is inconsistent with anything. There is not really a sharp distinction between math and logic anyway. Math is either founded on logic or logic is a branch of math depending on how you want to look at it.

    The point of the comic is just that they've shown proven that logic is inconsistent by showing P and not P, presumably starting from some basic axioms of logic. This is of course not actually possible, it's just the premise for the comic.

  6. Getting rid of "I am owed" in the punchline might remove the icky tone and put it more in line with the xkcd-standard humor of "disproportionate effort for obscure reward." Just something like "I am writing to collect $3,372,564.48 for the discovery of 1,317,408 errors in The Art of Computer Programming..."

    I'm not following you when you suggest this is GOOMH-bait. Usually GOOMH-bait is an obvious rephrasing of "ever notice..." I haven't seen anyone GOOMHing in the xkcd forums, but how on earth would they even do that? "Omigod! I totally noticed that proving the inconsistency of logic could get you tons of money from Donald Knuth!"?

  7. mostly just "GOOMH I know who Donald Knuth is/I know about his cash-for-errors scheme"

  8. Virtually all 1=2 proofs I've ever seen have a division by zero in there somewhere and are thus invalid.

    I don't think that's remotely relevant to this comic, unless there are similar "proofs" that prove p && !p (using C notation cause that's easier to type than the algebraic notation used in the comic), but I don't think I've ever seen one of those.

  9. I will actually say, I laughed aloud when I read the alt text. Don't expect me to feel embarrassed or anything. Also don't expect me to defend my reaction in any way. xkcd can just be funny sometimes.

    Granted, this comic could have been a lot better. Like you said, have a panel of people in the first panel (that was unintentional), maybe even a large auditorium full, and then have them bring up some silly way for her to have proven logic invalid.

    The fact that he has "Dear Dr. Knuth" in its own panel sorta makes it seem like it's nothing but GOOMH nerd reference bait, so if he moved the text in the last panel over, and then replaced the that panel with Donald Knuth replying, this would be a fairly funny comic.

    As it is though, it's just a sorta lame comic with a fairly funny alt text.

    Whatever. I laughed.

  10. The only problem with this comic is that the base premise is a bit of a stretch - disproving basic logic. That said, who cares, it was otherwise good. It gets a pass from me, save the bile for the true abominations :)

  11. GOOMHRob i refresh the comments whenever i post something too

  12. It's talking about the law of the excluded middle, something Aristotle used to bang on about. Intuitionist logic requires P&~P is true, and can thereby cope with Godels incompletness, but funnily enough that changes nothing about Knuth. This isn't quite as bad as most of his lame maths refrences, so I'll give it a pass.

  13. 1| a=b
    2| a*a=a*b
    3| a^2=a*b
    4| a^2 - b^2 = a*b - b^2
    5| (a-b)*(a+b) = b(a-b)
    6| a+b = b
    7| a+a = a
    8| 2*a = a
    9| 2 = 1

  14. Explanation:
    2| Multiply both sides with a
    3| a*a = a^2 (a squared)
    4| subtract b^2 (b squared) from both sides
    5| ZOMG BINOMIAL THEOREM! Also facorization by b .
    6| divide by (a-b)
    7| a=b so a+b=a+a
    8| per definition of multiplication
    9| divide by a

    The error is inb step 6.
    a-b=a-a | because a=b
    a-a=0 .
    Dividing by a-b is a divison by zero which yields undefined term.
    (Some fancy Latin phrase here.)

  15. This comic would be funny if Randall were a good artist. It would only have the necessary impact if the proof were shown with some kind of drama, not with some non-descript female (because FEMALES ARE ALWAYS SMART!) going "Wow!" to some other non-descript female (because FEMALES ARE ALWAYS SMART!!). Sometimes I wonder if Randall comes up with such awful execution because he's terribly lazy or because he has no imagination whatsoever. Really, he comes up with the bare-bones of the idea and says "that's AWESOME, I'll just scribble it down right away". He doesn't let his ideas mature, I think; and that's either laziness, lack of imagination or both.

  16. disproving all logic, the new silent hammers

  17. Rob, fuck you. This one IS funny if you've actually studied programming logic. The fact that you've equated it to one of those 1=2 proofs just shows that you don't actually know what the comic is about.

    Though I still say it would be better if the person was collecting some ridiculously small amount (and following from that, the alt text would be much funnier if Knuth sent a much bigger amount instead).

  18. Logic cannot be disproved - any proof/disproof requires the use of logic. Saying, "I cannot find any fault with your proof" asserts that the proof is true, but nothing can be claimed true/false if all of logic is invalidated. The very notion of "proof" assumes logic. In fact, all identification of reality assumes logic, so words and concepts would have no meaning, and *meaning* itself would be impossible.

    If none of that makes sense, that's a good thing - it's a frickin' contradiction, and contradictions can't exist.

    How modern philosophers fall into such a trap so easily, like clockwork, just amazes me.

  19. It also can't be proved, because any proof that it exists depends on logic. When you get right down to it, if you want to do anything useful, you have to accept some things as axioms and go from there.

  20. I guess that was what you said. Reading comprehension fail.

  21. What a misogynistic fucktard. He's trying to say that women are stupid cunts who can't understand basic logic.

    No wonder women run away from this fucking piece of dogshit. He's a condescending, talentless asswipe.

    Randall, I hope you like getting pounded in the ass by your limp-wristed boyfriend (who also happens to be the "man" in the relationship).

    P.S. Randall - since you have the IQ of a dust mite, what I mean by "man in the relationship", is that you are the "woman in the relationship", and what I mean by that is that you get pounded in the backside repeatedly.

  22. They say you'll often dream about what you're thinking about when you fall asleep.

    So I've been trying to think of Randall getting dismembered by crocodiles, getting pounded in the ass by a gang of prison inmates, falling off the Empire State building, etc..

    But sadly it hasn't worked yet. But still, the imaginations have been fun.

  23. 816 marks the first time in xkcd history a man has outsmarted a woman.


  24. @Rebecca: And they're only after men for their money.

  25. xkcdsuxredux hit the nail on the head as to why this comic, at its core, isn't funny:

    While this comic had potential, there’s a very specific reason the punchline fell flat, which I discussed earlier: no context for the premise. The joke of this comic is basically one of two things, either “If somebody could prove logic itself invalid, they could collect a lot of money! Hahahahaha!” or “She proved logic invalid just so she could collect a lot of money! Hahahaha!” (which are really the same jokes, just from slightly altered perspectives). Why aren’t these jokes funny? Well, very simply, they’re the equivalent of the jokes “If we could make pants out of cheese, we could eat our own pants! Ahahahaha!” or “She made her pants out of the cheese just so she could eat her own pants! Ahahaha!”. They’re not funny because there’s no plausible reason why either of those things, pants out of cheese or logic being proved invalid, would happen, even in the context of xkcd’s fictional world.

  26. "816 marks the first time in xkcd history a man has outsmarted a woman."

    Wait, that one doesn't count: the man in question is Donald Knuth, which to geek-wannabes is the equivalent (or one of the equivalents) of God.

  27. I chuckled at this one, and the alt text was, as you said, perfectly fine.

  28. Fernie: Allow me to rephrase then:

    816 marks the first time in xkcd history a woman has been outsmarted.

  29. @Rebecca: You neither understand the intention of the strip, nor do you understand homosexual relationships, nor do you understand Munroe, nor do YOU understand basic logic.

    Firstly you need to stop making invalid inferences. HOW EXACTLY does this strip have anywhere NEAR a misogynistic message? How does the gender of either character actually matter? How does portraying a woman as able to disprove logic itself express unintelligence?

    And don't you fucking take /that/ as a stab against all women, because there's no way in hell you're representative of every woman on the planet.

  30. I preferred Mr Pitchfork when he was doing rave reviews of bands called "Take Me To The Place Where The Wild Roses Lay Dying?"

  31. I preferred Mr Pitchfork when he wasn't possessed with the rampant, unbridled fury of a 15-year-old who has yet to discover that which we call "trolling".

    He was such a relaxed fellow...

  32. "Rob, fuck you. This one IS funny if you've actually studied programming logic."


  33. "This one IS funny if you've actually studied programming logic."

    protip: if you ever say "this one is funny if you fall under X category," you have just fallen for GOOMH-bait.

  34. UndercoverCuddlefishNovember 9, 2010 at 4:22 PM

    fernie basically said what i feel i should say in my newly sober state

    the joke could have worked if the "disproving of basic logic" was accompanied by a ton of drama and excitedness and amazement and joy and then the person responsible for the proof actually just goes and does something incredibly petty with the information

    unfortunately randall at his best is still "well at least he did not fuck the joke up" which is not even close to "funny"

    i guess what i am trying to say is:

    i am no longer drunk and it is still not funny

    captcha: mancrop

  35. Every time someone says "GOOMH-bait" I think of Goombas from Mario.

  36. Punchline is supposed to be in the comic itself, not in the alt-text. Again, Randall needs at least an editor.

  37. @Arthur,
    I believe at one point, "Goomhbas" was suggested as a nickname for those who "GOOMH."

  38. My sincerest apologies, Ves, for having any faith in the sincerity of people. I suppose I should let the cynicism take over and start spending my time writing about how there can be no downfall of society because it was never up to begin with, eating nothing but Top Ramen and coffee every twelve hours, too depressed to sleep and too weary to take the pain away, counting the minutes I've spent staring at the clock waiting for sunrise so the day can start anew, forced to stare at the soulless pigs before me, filthy and rotten, gluttonous, wrathful, lusty, fat from the devourment of the innocence of children and the usurpation of nature and love itself, lurching day in, day out, a daily routine of mediocrity and sorrow, only to die alone and scorned by all just has he has scorned all, which my inevitable fate as another filthy stinking human must be.

  39. Just accept you've been trolled, man.

  40. @ Mr Pitchfork:

    Yes, you absolutely should

  41. Rob should feel important! I appreciate his dedication to putting quite a bit of effort in for the sole benefit of a relatively small community. I love you, Rob!

  42. "it's a frickin' contradiction, and contradictions can't exist."

    Why do people keep saying this?

  43. At first I thought this one was terrible beyond repair, but after reading what some people said, I think:
    Panel 3 should have been "Dear Mr. Knuth, after a lifetime spent debunking all of logic, I have proven that the entirety of 'The Art of Computer Programming' is wrong. As a reward for exposing this error of a book, I fully expect a reward of..."
    Panel 4: "$2.56."

    Of course they'd have to be turned into a male, because Randall must never portray a woman making such a foolish mistake. Unless it has to do with relationships.

  44. I kind of feel like Mr Pitchfork is trolling now.

    Anyway, latest comic: best part about it was the alt-text.

  45. On 817: I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.

  46. Okay, 816 was halfway decent and better than a lot of his comics nowadays.



  48. 817 . The first xkcd comic that actually made me say out loud "omg, whaaaaaaaaat, omg. no way. this is... just, no. no. omg, what"

  49. @9:21: It saddens me that you're right...

    "First Post... I've read this comic regularly since around 100, and this comic finally forced me to post.

    Simply awesome. My favorite comic yet."

    "This comic is insanely awesome.

    My boyfriend create a mock-xkcd picture while we were courting, and it is pretty much this. Except they were both thinking of each other together.

    I'm nearly tearing up now :("


  50. I think the latest comic should get an "angriest rants" post. I guess that's not something you do beforehand, but...

    I think I speak for us all when I say, "What the fuck is this shit?"

    And he couldn't even wait until midnight to upload it either. Probably in a fit of depression and angst. Somebody get randall a snicker stick.

  51. I really, really wish I hadn't looked at the forums for this comic.

    Reading the comic itself was bad enough, but seeing the forumites sucking Randall's dick as hard as they can in the thread for it was the worst.

    On the plus side, the xkcdexplained for this one could potentially be fantastic (not that it isn't usually).

  52. Re: 817, Spock says "THE PAIN! THE PAIN!"

  53. this one appears to have finally bested xkcdexplained.



    fuck you!

  55. At this point we must be getting trolled. It's the only explanation compatible with the existence of a just and loving god.

  56. (in case they actually replace it with a post later, xkcdexplained's reaction, preserved for posterity because it is the most perfect thing I have ever seen: )

  57. So, XKCD has finally jumped the shark and officially embraced existential/depressed/misunderstood/suicidal/love-less/nerdy/quirky/angsty teenagers?

    I'm not even sure if XKCD is worth reading anymore. It used to be... if only for the xkcdsucks(redux) and xkcdexplained (and variants or either), but this is ridiculous. I really thought 816 meant XKCD was starting to go up, but then he slaps me in the face. Now, I must go pine over an imaginary XKCD that cares about me.

  58. XKCD is like one of those crazy codependent people in a relationship. Every time it starts to seem a little better--maybe it didn't wake up weeping and drinking the bottle of scotch labelled "In Case Of Consciousness" this morning--people start thinking, "Oh! XKCD's on its way back up! Soon it'll stop clutching my shirt and screaming at the top of its lungs that it needs me and loves me!"

    No. No it won't. If we're going to read XKCD, we need to stop expecting miracles to happen and accept that we are spectators into the nightmarish psychodrama of Randall's thoughts.

  59. x=0
    thus, x(x-1)=0x, because you multiply anything by zero and it becomes 0.
    Another fact is that when you divide both sides of an equation by any number, the equation remains equal. So we will divide by x to get:
    x-1= 0
    if x-1 equals 0, than x must be one more than zero, that is to say, 1.
    we know that x=0, however, so this must mean that 0=1.
    This is not a particularly strong example, but it does work.

  60. No, it doesn't work. You already said x is zero, and then you say to divide by it; impossible. This is worse than people who refuse to believe that .9 repeating is equal to 1.

  61. Alsworth, I find it disheartening to think that, whenever someone disagrees with you, they must be trolling. It's saddening to think that you're so jaded by the taxing and depressing nature of society that everyone who isn't superficially you must be trolling. Perhaps you misinterpreted my blatantly over-the-top cynical rant that could only be reasonably interpreted as written in jest.

    I don't troll. Trolling is stupid, and those who do do it because they're depressingly skilless and loveless.

  62. really because that seems right up your alley

  63. I have to say that I'm in agreement with Rob regarding this one. The alt-text was the cause for a good chuckle, the comic itself not so much.

    Of course, I say this knowing base logic (and thus the principle of explosion) and not having known about Dr. Knuth and his writing prior to the comic, so that could very well be why.

  64. @Mr Pitchfork

    Don't feed the trolls.

  65. The funny thing about this comic is that even if you accept its premise, it doesn't make sense. Presuming a proof for p&!p, you could prove *everything* with it ("Ex falso quodlibet").
    So there would actually be *no* errors in Knuth's Art of Programming (except orthographical ones etc.)