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''Welcome to the Explain XKCD wiki''
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__NOTOC__{{DISPLAYTITLE:explain xkcd}}
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<font size=5px>''Welcome to the '''explain [[xkcd]]''' wiki!''</font>
  
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We have collaboratively explained [[:Category:Comics|'''{{#expr:{{PAGESINCAT:Comics}}-9}}''' xkcd comics]],
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remain. '''[[Help:How to add a new comic explanation|Add yours]]''' while there's a chance!
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[[Category:Root category]]

Revision as of 05:35, 4 March 2013

Welcome to the explain xkcd wiki!

We have collaboratively explained 5 xkcd comics, and only 1672 (33440%) remain. Add yours while there's a chance!

Latest comic

Go to this comic explanation

Contrails
Astronomy (or "astrology" in British English) is the study of ...
Title text: Astronomy (or "astrology" in British English) is the study of ...

Explanation

Contrails (short for "condensation trails") are trails of vapor produced by aircraft exhaust, trailing the airplane. They are formed from water condensing on jet fuel exhaust particles, some impurities of which provide bases for ice crystals to accumulate on. Some can dissipate in minutes, but others can last for hours or even longer, depending on the temperature and wind conditions at that particular altitude. The chemtrail conspiracy theory claims that contrails lasting unusually long are actually chemical or biological agents sprayed into the air for sinister purposes. There is no evidence such a thing is happening.

Here, White Hat, presumably speaking with a British accent, notices that there are a lot of contrails in the air. Cueball corrects him, saying that in American English, contrails are called chemtrails, which is, of course, incorrect.

This is a comic in the My Hobby series. Some of these comics involve Cueball giving misleading information about pedantic terms, such as 1405: Meteor. Another of these comics, 966: Jet Fuel, even mentions chemtrails, saying that they are made of mind-control agents carried on board the planes that makes them.

The title text implies that astronomy and astrology are synonymous, with astrology being the term used in British English. However, this is incorrect. Though both involve studying celestial objects, astrology is the pseudoscience that interprets positions of celestial objects as having influence on human affairs, while astronomy is the scientific study of celestial objects on a universal scale.

The joke is that British English and American English often call the same object with different terms, and one can often learn new words for a simple thing. This, however is not the case in this comic; contrail and chemtrail do not refer to the same thing, the latter being only a subtype of the former. And it being xkcd, we can assume that chemtrail is a term that is frowned upon. Thus the comic states it as misinformation.

The title text includes a similar situation: Astronomy is the scientific study of things in outer space, like stars, planets, and galaxies. Astrology, however, is a system that infers a persons personalities and characteristics from zodiacs on the persons birth date. the zodiac being the constellation assigned to that period of time in a year. The same system can also derive predictions about future, especially that of a relationship. Some would argue that astrology shows statistical values, but it is hardly science by the standards of scientific study.

Given that the "American English" version is the conspiracy theory one for contrails/chemtrails, while who confuses astronomy and astrology is not fully clear, it is possible that the rest of the explanation of the astronomy vs astrology text would describe astrology. In that case, this could be a comment on the educational status in the US vs the UK, where conspiracy theories and superstition (astrology) are much more prominent in the US than in the UK (or Europe in general).

Transcript

[Cueball and a White Hat are walking. White Hat is looking up to the sky while Cueball, walking in front holds out one arm towards him.]
White Hat: Lots of contrails today.
Cueball: Oh, you must be from the UK. In American English it's "Chemtrail".
[Caption under the panel]
My hobby: Spreading linguistic misinformation


Is this out of date? Clicking here will fix that.

New here?

You can read a brief introduction about this wiki at explain xkcd. Feel free to sign up for an account and contribute to the wiki! We need explanations for comics, characters, themes, memes and everything in between. If it is referenced in an xkcd web comic, it should be here.

  • List of all comics contains a complete table of all xkcd comics so far and the corresponding explanations. The red links (like this) are missing explanations. Feel free to help out by creating them! Here's how.

Rules

Don't be a jerk. There are a lot of comics that don't have set in stone explanations; feel free to put multiple interpretations in the wiki page for each comic.

If you want to talk about a specific comic, use its discussion page.

Please only submit material directly related to —and helping everyone better understand— xkcd... and of course only submit material that can legally be posted (and freely edited.) Off-topic or other inappropriate content is subject to removal or modification at admin discretion, and users who repeatedly post such content will be blocked.

If you need assistance from an admin, feel free to leave a message on their personal discussion page. The list of admins is here.

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