Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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In this comic, Randall is making fun of how oxygen deprivation can lead to reduced mental acuity. In this case, mental state of the researchers devolves as they approach the high altitude telescope, and reaches such a poor state when they arrive as to lead to juvenile (almost intoxicated) behavior. While "dizziness" and "lightheadedness" are common symptoms, the other behavior is not.
The title text refers to a device used to make artificial reference points in the sky for astronomical observation. The reference points are created by shooting a powerful laser into the sky. The concern of the astronomer in the comic is that an imagined "star cat" may be attracted to the laser in the same way cats on Earth playfully chase laser beams projected on surfaces.
- Commentary: Because of low oxygen, astronomers working at high altitude telescopes may need to write down their plans ahead of time while at sea level.
- [Some astronomers are inside a sea-level research facility]
- Astronomer #1: Ok, let's head up to the observatory.
- [The astronomers drive uphill]
- Astronomer #1: When we reach the summit, we'll check the iodine cell and do a general calibration.
- Astronomer #2: Sounds good.
- [The astronomers have reached the high-altitude observatory]
- Astronomer #1: My head feels funny.
- Astronomer #2: Look at those telescope domes. I hope they don't roll away.
- Astronomer #3: Maybe we should tape them down.
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- [The astronomers are inside one of the domes]
- Astronomer #1: Haha, look at this mirror! My face is huge!
- Astronomer #2: I see your face in the telescope! I discovered you!
- Astronomer #3: Let's make out!
Ok, Is everyone on vacation today? or is this explanation that hard? Edo (talk) 19:27, 22 December 2014 (UTC)
- The comic was uploaded just minutes before you commented at 19:23. ThePurpleK (talk) 19:36, 22 December 2014 (UTC)
- "Ok, Is everyone on vacation today?" Randall was ... --RenniePet (talk) 20:01, 22 December 2014 (UTC)
Transcript right now assumes two Astronomers. It looks to me like three. 126.96.36.199 21:03, 22 December 2014 (UTC)
- I changed it to 3. 188.8.131.52 22:36, 22 December 2014 (UTC)
A laser guide star is a device for focussing telescopes. Cats go crazy chasing lasers. I can only imagine what havoc a star cat might wreck chasing a laser guide star. 184.108.40.206 21:07, 22 December 2014 (UTC)
- The source of the laser is only moving at 1000 miles an hour, but it's going in a huge circle. That's a lot of leverage for our particular lighthouse. Seebert (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
I may be wrong, but I think all high-altitude observatories are built on mountaintops. So the drawings indicating the astronomers are driving up a hill, at least for the last stretch, is wrong - they'd be driving up a very steep mountain road with lots of zig-zags. --RenniePet (talk) 23:49, 22 December 2014 (UTC)
True story: Stephan James O'Meara's eyeballs are close to where it'd become statistically unlikely for there to be humans with a more perfectly shaped eyeball. He probably sees that 3 of the sky's planets are bigger than a point without an instrument. So from natural ability, being born after '55, and a bit from practice, SJO had about the best night vision of anyone alive in 1985. The guy wanted to be the first human to see Halley's Comet come back. So he traveled from Boston to a 14,000 foot volcano in the middle of the Pacific and brought a telescope so wide that Yao Ming could barely hug it. And bottled oxygen. Even people who can grow enough blood cells and heart-lung athleticism to acclimate completely still have trouble seeing in the dark. Besides some of the best observing conditions on the planet, it was also only 7.5 degrees from the latitude where Halley's Comet passed overhead so there was very little extra air to look through. Also, you have to use peripheral vision. But not too far to the side. And not the ear side, that's the blind spot. And tap the telescope and look for motion. That's the technique. It must've been freezing (it was midwinter and convection of even a human under the opening affects the view) but here is a guy staring through a telescope Yao Ming could barely get his arms around with an oxygen mask to his face. 220.127.116.11
00:17, 23 December 2014 (UTC)