564: Crossbows

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I hate being the slowest guy in the lab.
Title text: I hate being the slowest guy in the lab.

[edit] Explanation

There are conflicting theories as to the meaning of this comic.

  1. Since the experimental confirmation or denial of the Higgs mechanism was widely recognized as important to the development of physics, the experimenters involved were likely to receive Nobel Prizes. Nobel Prizes, however, are only given to living people and groups of up to three in size. The experimenters, therefore, are preparing to fight to the death when the discovery comes. Peter Higgs had made a statement in 2008 hinting that the confirmation would come within one year, and that statement was made one year before the Tuesday mentioned in the comic. Tentative experimental confirmation of the Higgs boson was made in March 2013.
  2. At the time this was written, there was much hype about the Higgs mechanism, as it was a theory explaining how particles got their masses. Experimental confirmation of the Higgs mechanism and its signature particle (the Higgs boson) was seen with such importance that the boson was dubbed the "God particle." Detecting it, however, required accelerating particles to energies higher than ever before. Since this was at the cutting edge of physics, it was unknown what would actually happen. There were fears that the experiment would create a micro black hole or worse. This comic could be seen as applying those fears to a common trope in horror movies and video games where a mutant infestation is created by unknowing scientists. The scientists here, apart from poor Cueball, have done their research and armed themselves for any upcoming dangers. It is unknown whether these dangers are specific or not. Some argue that velociraptors are a common enough theme in xkcd that the experimenters are preparing for a velociraptor attack. Others point out that the crossbow is a weapon in the game series Half-Life, whose plot has a similar infestation following failed physical experiment riping dimensional seams. They mention that someone at the particle accelerator closely resembled one of the main characters of Half-Life. Of course, the crossbows may just be a general preparation for danger.
  3. Finally, this comic may simply be general sympathy for those late to catch on to something. Substituting different things for "crossbow" and "Higgs excitation" would give a similar situation for Cueball. Randall apparently hates these situations. A layer of metahumor may be present here, as Cueball may represent the clueless readers of xkcd who have to go to the forum or this wiki to understand its comics.

The proper interpretation of this comic, or whether there even is one, remains an open question.

[edit] Transcript

[Cueball is pulling a crossbow out of a desk.]
Cueball: Why do you have a crossbow in your desk?
Megan (off-screen): You don't?
[Megan is on panel.]
Cueball (off-screen): No—why would—
Megan: You are studying the consequences of Higgs excitation, aren't you? Like the rest of the lab?
[Cueball and another man, both carrying crossbows, join Megan on panel.]
Cueball: Yes, but why—
Friend: Maybe he's slow with the math.
Megan: Well, he has until Tuesday.
Friend: Poor guy.
Comment.png add a comment!


Is there any evidence for involvement of velicoraptors in this comic?Guru-45 (talk) 17:24, 29 July 2013 (UTC)

I did add the incomplete tag. Physicists are unsure on gravity? I also can't see any hints for Velociraptors at the comic. The explain does need a major review. When I have enough time I will give a try.--Dgbrt (talk) 17:57, 29 July 2013 (UTC)

The "explanation" is really bad and contains many errors. The first sentence "Physicists are unsure of most of the forces that govern our everyday lives" is extremely vague; "attraction" is a certain sign of a force (i.e. the force pulls two particles together instead of pushing them apart), "gravity" is a certain type of force (like electromagnetism or the nuclear forces). The Higgs Boson is not a force, it wasn't theorized in the late 1900s, and it acts on the scale of fundamental particles which are several orders of magnitude smaller than atoms. The LHC was not set to be released, but to be activated. No serious particle physicist expected that the experiments at the LHC would have drastic ramifications. That accelerator had a malfunction shortly after its first activation had nothing to do with the Higgs Boson. etc. I Think this needs to be completely rewritten. -- 15:46, 19 August 2013 (UTC)

Err yes. This piece was a train wreck which I turned into a rundown shack. It needs a few more citation links (for the confirmation, and to Cueball and Randall), a few more examples of infestations, and a more fleshed out explanation of why a crossbow in particular (and if velociraptors come in). --Quicksilver (talk) 21:38, 20 August 2013 (UTC)

The point of this was missed completely by this explanation. The physics Nobel price has never been avarded to more than three people and is only awarded to people alive when the price is given. As the discovery of the Higgs certainly will give a Nobel price to someone, and there are more than three people working in that particular lab on the Higgs, they prepare for some kind of battle royale until there are less than three researchers left, such that they can be awarded the price. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I did add the incomplete tag again because a summarize of some theories doesn't help.--Dgbrt (talk) 21:14, 22 August 2013 (UTC)

I think it's more likely to be option number 2, as they talk about how Cueball hasn't yet done the maths. If it was just a Nobel prize, they would've already known they were close to a breakthrough, without having to do any calc. Obviously the maths reveals the possibility of some sinister mutation as explained in point 2. Just a random opinion floating through. Alcatraz ii (talk) 10:31, 23 August 2013 (UTC)

No 2 might also be a reference to the quote by an American physicist that the LHC might discover dragons (see eg http://blog.iandavis.com/2008/09/15/the-lhc-may-discover-dragons/). I still like explanation 1 best though, even dispute the math thing. Maybe it just refers to counting the lab members? 17:47, 23 August 2013 (UTC)

I'm glad people are not complaining about the explanation anymore (I did put more effort into this baby than any page yet). I do not, however, think we can proceed any further until we get something straight from the horse's mouth, i.e. a clear indication from Randall of which way this comic was to be interpreted.

Until then, this explanation has explained all it can, and I thus see it as complete. --Quicksilver (talk) 03:42, 24 August 2013 (UTC)

I think it just might be pointing at all the inside jokes a group of people have and the nuances the newbies have to put up with in order to be "IN" the group. Might also be a precursor to xkcd 794, although seemingly unrelated. 15:51, 10 December 2013 (UTC)BK201

I vote for the results of this experiment being society changing. Or #2. 17:16, 1 January 2014 (UTC)

I think the only point is that cueball doesn't understand why they have crossbows, I think the possible explanations as to why they have them don't really matter. user:halfhat 13 January 2014 (UTC)

I don't think explanation #1 is correct. In the last panel Megan says "he has until Tuesday", suggesting that he has a chance to "get it" and thus avoid "something". But just having a chance would seem to suggest that they don't plan on shooting/killing each other. Having "until Tuesday" would seem to indicate that Cueball has a chance to prepare, likely for explanation #2 - the "Half-Life" scenario. That's my 2 cents. =8o) Jarod997 (talk) 14:14, 28 January 2014 (UTC)

With the Nobel prize teams being up to three members, perhaps they're doing an intellectual survival of the fittest. If the third member of the team isn't up to speed then kill him and replace him. Poor guy... (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
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