Friday, May 6, 2011

Comic 895: To Be Smug Is My Real Test, To Train Cuddlefish To Be Smug Is My Cause

[Your pirate "The Pirate King" has (placeholder pirate joke, fill this in) this guest review to my very inbox. -Ed.]

teaching physics

Oh gee, another boring-as-fuck comic. How great.

Right off the bat the dialogue in the first panel is terrible. "Understanding Gravity: Space time is like a massive rubber sheet". Is part of this a caption, and the other part is what the professor is saying? In which case why does it look like run together shit? Or is the professor actually saying the part with the colon? Because that would just be weird. At first I thought Randall was referencing a book or essay called "Understanding Gravity: Space Time". Because that would be like him, to start dropping references in the first panel.

So he's got a reasonable facsimile of the diagram commonly used to represent relativity, that's all well and good and sufficient art-wise.

And then in the next panel, generic stick #2 (who appears to be the only student in this classroom) comes up with an objection based on the way the metaphor and diagram are presented. But the wording of his metaphor makes me wonder whether he understands the way gravity works at all. He asks "because they're pulled down by what?", implying he doesn't understand that gravity works in three dimensions (let alone four!). So he is a generic straw-man for the scientifically unenlightened. Man, xkcd must be set on a farm, else how would it have so many straw men?

So I guess the "joke" is that inaccurate metaphors are often necessary to make higher-level concepts interesting and manageable, and that it doesn't matter that they're inaccurate so long as you grasp the basic concept. Well that's a fine premise, but there is absolutely nothing funny about it. Also, as Gamer_2k4 sagely pointed out, it is directly contradicting the message in comic 803.

The alt text is there so he can drop Richard Feynman's name for the freaking bajillionth time, and suck up to him a little bit more.

And undoubtedly, if you are a physics major, you will have to endure this comic being printed out and pasted on one of your professor's walls, or if you're really unlucky, shown to the whole class via projector. Bravo.

[I can't help but feel like Randy is actually siding with the smug student in this one, at least a little bit. -Ed.]

79 comments:

  1. He asks "because they're pulled down by what?", implying he doesn't understand that gravity works in three dimensions (let alone four!)

    No... he asks "because they're pulled down by what?," implying the metaphor is circular. He understands that bowling balls wouldn't pull down rubber sheets without a very large mass on the opposite side. The explanation of gravity relies not only on gravity, but a very particular manifestation of gravity. That's the joke. How funny it is is up to you, but it's pretty clear he understands gravity.

    [I can't help but feel like Randy is actually siding with the smug student in this one, at least a little bit. -Ed.]

    Yes. Yes, he is.

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  2. *Sigh*... maybe you should stop bashing xkcd if you don't actually understand the physics or math behind his comics. The whole POINT of xkcd is to make nerdy jokes.

    Also, the above poster's explanation of the comic is correct.

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  3. No, see, it's not so much that I don't appreciate nerdy jokes.

    It's that there isn't a joke.

    Unless you consider "Hey look, this model is flawed!" to be a joke. But I do not.

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  4. Sorry, Pirate, you don't get the joke. You've validated the cuddlefish criticisms in one easy lesson! Your stupid gives them strength.

    This is pretty down-the-middle, "classic" xkcd. The dialogue is stilted, the art is basic, and the joke is nerdy. It's not the paragon of hilarity, but it's hard to get too angry about it.

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  5. I still don't see that there is any joke other than pedantry and half-hearted counter-pedantry.

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  6. Unfunny, but I can't hate it.

    I just can't care enough. I care more about the welfare of Cuddlefish than I do about this xkcd. This isn't bad, except insofar as it's unfunny. It's not rage-inspiring. It's just so mediocre that it becomes worse than a comic that is genuinely bad.

    Get a real job Robdall, and stop making mediocre jokes and then criticizing yourself.

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  7. this is a guest post dude

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  8. Robdall, we all know that you make all the posts and comments here. Including mine.

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  9. Crobdaven the hydra of pointless crap. Cut off a head and more crap just spews out.

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  10. I do think it's slightly, mildly funny to point out that the common metaphor for gravity involves gravity within the metaphor. It's like failing to define a word without using it. Still yeah the comic kind of meanders off after that point without being funny again.

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  11. It would be really cool if you continued with these titles until you'd finished the entire Pokemon Indigo League theme. Please do this! And then move onto the Orange League theme!

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  12. You are such a bunch of dicks. Don't fucking read it if you hate it so much.

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  13. Original, 10:52! They've never heard that one before, I assure you!

    Innit?

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  14. The problem, Anonfag 10:52, is that I regularly encounter xkcd in places where it does not belong.

    The story I told about a professor showing xkcd to a whole class? That actually happened. It was Physics II; and xkcd #567. This is a comic that no matter where you are, especially in the academic world or nerd world, you will have to endure. And we're fucking tired of it, so we'd like to put a stop to it, because really, it is a horrible comic and does not deserve the status it is awarded.

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  15. @cuddlefish The analogy involves a hypothetical force more basic than gravity with some of the features of gravity.

    If you ask me what a sandwich is and I tell you it's made of bread and a filling, you can't respond with, "But isn't bread and filling just part of a sandwich!?"

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  16. "If you ask me what a sandwich is and I tell you it's made of bread and a filling, you can't respond with, 'But isn't bread and filling just part of a sandwich!?'"

    Wow you really just did not get this comic, did you

    that's ok, community college needs students too

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  17. @Anon12:54 I got it and established what's wrong with it. You do realise there are forces other than gravity, right? If you put an object on a rubber sheet, there are many forces other than gravity to explain why the object might push into and deform the sheet.

    The rubber sheet analogy isn't explaining Einsteinian gravity using Einsteinian gravity (if you understood gravity, you wouldn't need the explanation in the first place!). It's explaining gravity as Einstein understood it using an analogy involving your more primitive existing notion of gravity somewhat as Newton understood it. The question is not being begged.

    My background is mathematics rather than physics. Perhaps this practice of using analogies from reality without worrying that you're "assuming reality" is something which physicists find difficult but mathematicians don't.

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  18. The ignorant needing analogies like this is part of what's wrong with the world today. If politicians and the general public actually understood science they might not be so easily swayed by the abstractions of the global warm-thinkers.

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  19. @3:44: That discriminatory elitism is part of what's wrong with the entire culture that surrounds xkcd. Stop thinking you're better than other people - by the very act, you prove yourself less, not more.

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  20. I disagree with Anon3:44. It is not necessary for the public or poiticians to understand Einsteinian gravity so this analogy is fine and a small window to a more exciting explanation of gravity for those who do not wish to study it any further. What every single human can take from science is an ability to critically analyse what people/media/scientists/advertisers are telling them.

    Peace

    Anon
    (who's actual name is Alan 'can't be bothered to get a sign-in name' Henry...but that's a bit of a mouthful)

    ps. for fuck's sake...global warming is happening and has been happening ever since Earth got an atmosphere. Whether current climate change is a result of human activity is up for debate.

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  21. 3:44 wasn't talking about global warming, he was talking all the people around the world who really want to be warm.
    (The joke is he wrote a typo, laugh at my mighty wit!)

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  22. placeholder pirate joke: "shipped".

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  23. Mediocre comic, mediocre review, mediocre cuddlefish, mediocre ALTF stand-in... what is there not to like about today

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  24. I like this comic because it's funny. I like most xkcd comics for the same reason. So do lots of other people. Deal with it.

    This place is funny. Randall releases a very well-executed comic and still you simply wantonly attack it as per usual. There's no real criticism here, just nitpicking and (usually) personal attacks centered on a recurring character happening to be called Megan. Ever considered maybe retiring that dusty old line and thinking up a new joke? Of course not, like a 4chan zombie you just repeat the same things over and over again with the insane conviction that they become funnier with reuse. Very dull, petty, spiteful, boring people. Your mothers must be proud.

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  25. You're the first person to mention Megan in this comment thread, Jacob.

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  26. Jacob, I suggest you go to the top of the page and start reading. You can stop at word 25, or word 18 if you're really good at reading comprehension [takes all kinds].

    But I'm going to assume you're joking, because I like to hope that everyone on the internet who doesn't have the ability to grasp social context when it's actually written word-for-word as a subtitle is actually just screwing around and acting out the "meme" of the internet.

    I really do hope.

    Really.

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  27. What Raven doesn't realise is Jacob is actually THE Jacob - you know, "Jacob & Sons", four wives, hairy goatskin, had a ladder. God is an avid reader of xkcd (though he has as yet not managed to create a thread in the xkcd forum) and what we misinterpret as cuddlefish are in fact His prophets come to urge us to change our ways, lest we end up in the Devil's kingdom.

    But as Milton said*, "better to read A Softer World in Hell than read xkcd in heaven".



    *probably

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  28. i like to assume everyone on the internet is completely serious. it's more fun that way, believing those people exist.

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  29. is this comic "very well-executed" compared to xkcd or compared with other comics? because i just don't see it

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  30. @Jacob don't read it if you don't like it.

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  31. Since when judging people
    By the color of their skin
    suddenly became okay?

    I don't think it's okay
    I don't think it's okay
    I think it's
    not
    okay

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  32. Since when beating a dude
    Because he sleeps with other dudes
    Suddenly became okay?

    I don't think it's okay
    I don't think it's okay
    I think it's
    not okay

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  33. ThePirateKing, that may be true this time but I'm talking about this blog in general.

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  34. Something tells me that if this blog were being conducted around a table (preferably with food and drink, although then Rob would probably just eat it all, including the table) where everyone could see each other's face and hear each other's tone of voice, then there would be a lot less butthurt and fewer people getting trolled so hard.

    Also, Alan, you're pretty awesome, and I hope you get a Blogger profile or start signing your posts so we'll recognize you.

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  35. Yeah, the Earth got an atmosphere and warmed right up into an ice age. Homo sapiens is not a learning animal.

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  36. IF THERE IS GLOBAL WARMING THEN WHY WAS IT COLD THIS WINTER??????

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  37. Because you ate all the heat while you were hibernating, Rob.

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  38. Aquarians Love to AquariansMay 7, 2011 at 9:57 PM

    I wonder if Bin Laden's death will make country music good again. Did anyone else notice that country music started sucking right after 9/11? After 9/11, practically all country songs were about loving your country and/or happy traditional families (husband, wife, kids.) That's just wrong!

    To my mind, the following are the only approved subjects for country music: drinking, depressing breakups, drinking to forget someone, divorce, drinking after your divorce, out-of-wedlock pregnancy, casual sex, drunken casual sex, cowboys, unrequited love, and, of course, the Tastee Freez. Also fiddle contests with the devil.

    If you're going to write a country song about a happy couple, AT LEAST have the decency to put something about the Tastee Freez in there! Seriously, NOBODY wants to hear country music about happy people!

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  39. ...is that a reference to the Half Brothers?

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  40. I think the student said it best 'BOOOOOOOORING' I may not have put the correct number of O's in there i'm not quite anal enough to count them.

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  41. This xkcd was the best ever. My friends and I have been taking turns as the student in our reenactments of it, because he's the cool one.

    Oh, wait, cuddlefish don't have friends, because xkcd is syphilis. And liking syphilis makes you Hitler. And being Hitler is wrong.

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  42. Yeah, well me and my friends have been reenacting 858, and it's awesome. It still kills me when the guy says "Oh my God, she's psychic." Lolololol! And it's such a shame we can't do the thought bubble in our reenactments, but our other friends seem to get it. They even join in the comic by adding extra lines such as "You're so pathetic." and "What's wrong with you?"

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  43. "Yeah, the Earth got an atmosphere and warmed right up into an ice age. Homo sapiens is not a learning animal."

    CLEEEEEEVVVVVVVVVVEEEEEEEEEEEE????????????!!!!!!!!!!!

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  44. % anon 7:21:
    You don't even know what you don't know, manboon.

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  45. I doubt xkcd sucks has the necessary prestige to attract Cleve. xkcd itself may be inadequate.

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  46. Actually, as a long time xkcd hater, I think this comic is OK.
    what happened to the good old times when xkcdsucks would grudgingly admit if a particular comic wasn't that bad? It lends credibility to your angry rants when you do that...

    not to mention that the review doesn't even get the basic premise of the comic as anonymous 5:54 pointed out...

    Welp, looks like Im gonna have to side with the cuddlefish on this one. May god help us all.

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  47. The xkcd canon is becoming like the geek Bible: every possible message can be found within its pages for every possible circumstance; you need only decide what applies to you, and then go start a church about it.

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  48. Student doesn't understand gravity because he defies it.

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  49. I can see that if some far-future xkcdian cult becomes a mainstream religion it could have even more warped values than the extremist Christians of today.

    First of all, instead of Jesus we get Black Hat Guy, who teaches us that it's okay to cut off someone's arm to enforce a point.

    It will also be taught that computers are awesome, but not as important as being right about important things like... Porn for Women and goddamn dental nerves.

    They will also teach that if you pray often enough, preferably with 'sudo' at the start of every prayer, the sexy Linux programming goddess will visit you in your dreams.

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  50. If xkcd had a message for every possible circumstance in my life, I would consider my life so petty and meaningless I would end it immediately.

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  51. People keep saying I didn't get the comic.

    But their interpretations of it don't seem to be in any way funnier than mine. So it doesn't really matter, does it?

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  52. welcome to writing reviews of terrible comics! it turns out everyone who disagrees with you does so in such a stupid way it's better to just ignore criticism than actually pay attention to it.

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  53. So it's destructive criticism?

    I guess that's what one should expect on a hate blog.

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  54. aye, basically.

    the criticisms always fall under the category of "I disagree with your interpretation, therefore you didn't understand the comic even though my interpretation isn't funny, either," or, occasionally, of "I don't like your jokes/I think you are being too mean to Randy, therefore you suck at writing reviews." neither of these are useful.

    this one has been especially fun to watch, though, because pedantic nerds are asserting that Smuggy McSmugerson in the comic is a sympathetic character, deftly exposing the sham that is "using a simple and easily understandable analogy to help people understand a complicated concept" for what it is: something less than absolute 100% truth.

    obviously if you disagree with Smuggy McSmugerson, you don't understand the comic, because all good nerds know that there are only two kinds of acceptable thoughts: those that absolutely 100% correspond to reality without any inconsistency at all, and those that are about Megan and her delicious milk buttons.

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  55. Xkcd vs. Xkcd Sucks: Which Is Better, And Why?
    DISCUSS!!!!

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  56. That's like asking, "what's better: Soylent Red or Soylent Green?" Answer: they're both made of Rob.

    @Ls777: Carl left and Rob took over.

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  57. Rob said:

    ".....And then in the next panel, generic stick #2 (who appears to be the only student in this classroom) comes up with an objection based on the way the metaphor and diagram are presented. But the wording of his metaphor makes me wonder whether he understands the way gravity works at all...."

    Rob you ignorant fucking cunt! The first is not a metaphor, it's a simile. The second is neither - a conjectural query perhaps.

    Fuck me from behind with the Large Hadrian Collider at CERN, but you are one thick galactorrhea survivor.

    PS I've seen statues of Antinoos and he is certainly not large.

    For future 'lactation' dross, try working on the Dopamine / Prolactin contra-indication conundrum. I imagine a few nyucks could be milked.

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  58. i didn't write this post

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  59. Hi ALT-F! Don't you think it would be rather nifty if you wrote a review for a comic and submitted it to Rob? I believe I would thoroughly enjoy such a post!

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  60. You're all wrong and shut up

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  61. Anon@1:36

    No, you're engaging in a particularly ridiculous form of special pleading to defend the analogy. Oddly enough, the comic did a much better job of defending it, and by these contortions you're proving that you don't understand how analogies work. You don't NEED to pretend that the bowling ball meant something complicated about non-gravitational or demi-gravitational forces to explain relativistic gravity.

    Also, you're changing your defense. At first it's "oh, but it's a completely hypothetical force that's super simple!" which makes the analogy terrible because now it doesn't correspond to anything at all.

    Then it's "you know there are other fundamental forces, right?" as if that was all what the analogy is talking about. When first off, really only electromagnetism has a chance of working at the bowling ball scale (it's almost always a bowling ball) and secondly, no, it's not a magnetically charged bowling ball. Come on? It's referring to damn gravity. This is obvious.

    Then, in the same post, you move on to claiming it refers to explaining Einsteinian gravity in terms of Newtonian. But it doesn't. Or rather, the two forms of gravity are indistinguishable for the purposes of setting up the analogy.

    There's just no two non-ridiculous ways about it. The analogy explains gravity using gravity. You're trying to pretend that a different analogy was given. It wasn't.

    I expect this was basically a combination GOOMHR-bait, since just about everybody who understands gravity gets bothered by this metaphor at some point even if they come to embrace it, and a snarky way of rebuking the way so many beginners (and experts) pick away at irrelevant details of analogies. Not funny at all. But I'm pretty sure those were the "jokes".

    Understanding it doesn't make it funnier. But so many xkcd sucks people came from people who liked the old xkcd comics that there's still a huge mass (LOL Rob) of pedantic people hanging out here, and I'm one of them, and I can't help it. Someone is wrong on the Internet.

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  62. Does anyone actually find ALTF funny, interesting, or engaging in any way? I'd rather listen to idiots like Glenn Beck or the Westboro Baptist Church than her pseudo-pedantic faux-intellectual scheisse. At least they can turn a phrase sometimes.

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  63. the thing is sometimes she gets people to write these beautiful little hate-screeds about her, and that is hilarious

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  64. I used to love watching Glenn Beck's show, especially when he'd make specific and near doom prophesies, and then talk about them the day after as prophesies that "some people" were spreading around, and how they were still mostly valid, even though nothing happened.

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  65. Anon 2:43 is basically right.

    I want to add that this blog has become a troll-church for the cult of annoying ALT-F.

    And it bothers me.

    Innit?

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  66. "i didn't write this post"

    Buuuuuuuuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrn

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  67. Oh boy, a white knight comic!

    How long has it been since one of these?

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  68. re896: INADAKWIT

    --or---

    It's like subnormality, except without the art!

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  69. I don't hate the idea behind the concept, even if it's more pictoblog than comic, but 'Zombie Marie Curie!'? It was sort of funny the first time he did it (397) but not this time.

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  70. GOOMH I had a stilted conversation with a dead person recently

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  71. @2:43 Except you're anonymous so what you say doesn't matter. What a wasted spiel.

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  72. @2:43
    (1) There are more forces than gravity;

    (2) So why can't we consider an imaginary force simpler than gravity, but with some of the intuitive behaviour of gravity, in an analogy to explain gravity?

    I guess you're annoyed because, "X can't be used to explain X." But X is _not_ being assumed: we're just assuming some intuitive feature of X. (I've seen people try to reformulate the more basic force within the analogy by incorporating some acceleration, but it's really not necessary.)

    What is being done should be self-evident. If we were actually able to use Einsteinian gravity to explain Einsteinian gravity, we'd end up with elephants all the way down.

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