260: The Glass Necklace
|The Glass Necklace|
Title text: Well, for some value of 'actually work'.
This is one of the most romantic comics in xkcd.
The heat from a lightning strike can fuse sand into glass. When this occurs in nature, hollow tubes called fulgurites are formed. Cueball uses this knowledge and a spark of handiness and ingenuity to create an entirely homemade glass necklace for Megan. Here is some inspiration to do it yourself.
The title text represents an answer to the logical question prompted by this comic, which is "Would this actually work?" The implied answer is "Yes," but only "for some value of 'actually work'."
This is a play on the phrase "for some value of x," used frequently in physics or mathematics when it's not necessary (nor easy, maybe not even possible) to calculate a suitable value of x. For example, if you supply energy to a Flux Capacitor, could it turn a DeLorean into a time machine? The answer is yes, if you have sufficient energy (the 'x', in this case).
Any sensible person would take Randall's response to mean it most likely "doesn't actually work." But a romantic person (who may be in love and thus not sensible) might give it a try anyway. It worked for Cueball....
- [There is only one large panel in this comic, but it is still divided up into 19 individual scenes, one following the other, but of very different size and details. In every scene, there is at least one word noted, mainly just stating what Cueball does. The first row has four scenes (1-4), the second row only two (5-6), the third row has three (7-9), the fourth four (10-13), the fifth five (14-18), and then the last scene takes up the middle of the sixth row (19).]
- [Scene 1: Cueball is seen sitting behind a table facing out of the panel drawing on a paper with a cup next to him on the table. An arrow points down to the paper from above where the sketch he is drawing is shown on a zoom in on the paper. He has drawn a cylinder shown in the top left, next to it is a detailed diagram of the cylinder in a cross section down its length, showing that it is hollow, with electrical terminals on either end. The dimensions of the cylinders length, both inner and outer, are indicated on each side of this diagram. Below right is a cross section through circular section indicating the diameter. At the bottom left, there is an instruction showing that the cylinder can be opened in one end, and and an arrow with a label points into the open cylinder. The label can be read, but the dimensions are unreadable.]
- Label: Sand
- [Scene 2: Cueball is at a workbench making the device in a workshop. The main part of the cylinder can already be seen lying on the table, as Cueball works on another part. His sketch is also resting on the table leaning up against the rear part of the workbench where four rows with three small drawers in each row are closed, except the second row from the top, where there are only two drawers, the left of those two drawers standing open. On the edge of the table, two tools looking like hammers hang down. On the floor lie three small rectangular items.]
- [Scene 3: Cueball kneels down on a beach and scoops up sand in a beaker. To the left, a fairly large wave (the surf) can be seen far down along the beach. Above the sea, there are a large cloud and a smaller one. To the right of the beach is a dense forest growing close to the surf. The tree trunks are visible, as are the leaves, but most trees and trunks are not possible to single out, except one large tree standing a little further out than the rest just behind Cueball. The trunk of this tree looks a little like a palm tree trunk, but it has a regular crown of normal leaves.]
- [Scene 4: Cueball, sitting behind a table, pours the sand from the beaker into the cylinder. The lid of the cylinder lies on the table next to a full glass. It is not clear if it is full of water or just more sand. The beaker used to pour sand is not transparent like the glass on the table is.]
- [Scene 5: Cueball ties a spool of string to one end of the cylinder and ties a deflated weather balloon, lying on the ground to the right, to the other end. The spool lies on the ground to the left.]
- [Scene 6: The weather balloon is inflated, and Cueball raises it up into the clouds as thunder rumbles in the huge dark clouds to the right. The cylinder is clearly visible just below the balloon. To the left towards the horizon, there is something that may be a distant city, but there are some lines going away from it away from the horizon, the meaning of which is unclear, could be electrical wires in the air for transporting electricity.]
- [Scene 7: Cueball has left after having tied the end of the string to a stake in the ground. The sky is completely covered with clouds, and the first lightning is flashing in the background, thunder following. The balloon hangs close to the clouds, the cylinder barely visible at this distance.]
- [Scene 8: Lightning hits the balloon and travels all the way down to the rod, which can just be seen at the bottom. There is a loud crack, and the incandescent balloon inside the lightning hisses.]
- [Scene 9: A slim image with a zoom-in just of the cylinder as the lightning hits, showing it attached to the wires going up and down from each of the two terminals. The lightning travels along the wire through the cylinder and out the other wire, fusing the sand contents within.]
- [Scene 10: The clouds are disappearing to the left, and the sun is out again to the left. Two birds fly in the distance near the sun, and below them there is a hill in the horizon. Cueball, holding onto the string with one hand, follows the string to the cylinder lying on the ground. Above this scene, there is a frame with a caption:]
- [Scene 11: Cueball detaches the cylinder from the wire that goes to the remains of the burned out balloon lying on the ground to the right. The other part of the wire still hangs down from the cylinder's other end.]
- [Scene 12: Zoom in on Cueball as he opens the cylinder, letting a wisp of smoke out. The cylinder has clearly been exposed to some rough condition, its surface flaking off. Cueball's hands are clearly visible, which is an unusual style in xkcd.]
- [Scene 13: Cueball puts his hands into the cylinder and removes a piece of glass with a zigzag shape. Leftover sand pouts out as he draws it out of the open cylinder.]
- [Scene 14: Back at his table (with only the surface shown), Cueball admires the piece of glass, holding it between both of his hands. The broken and open cylinder lies on the table, sand pouring out, while the lid lies to the left.]
- [Scene 15: Cueball is looking at White Hat (a jeweler) standing behind his desk under a large sign hanging from a string put over a peck in the wall above the desk. White Hat examines the glass, holding it up in his hand and looking at it with a magnifying glass he is holding up to his eye. A lamp is standing on the table.]
- Sign: Jeweler
- [Scene 16: White Hat, only, grinds the glass on a grindstone he has put on his desk, pieces of glass seeming to fly away from the stone. There are four indeterminate tools lying on the table.]
- [Scene 17: White Hat, only, sets the now-shining glass in a necklace, having cleared the table from any other items.]
- [Scene 18: Cueball holds the glass necklace in both hands, looks at it, and approves the final result, while White Hat stands behind his desk with something small and rectangular in his hand, probably the money Cueball paid for his service.]
- [Scene 19: Cueball gives the glass necklace to Megan, almost touching it and her hands with an outstretched hand. Megan admires the shining piece of glass she now holds in her hands, the string hanging down from her hands.]
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