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''Welcome to the Explain XKCD wiki''
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We have collaboratively explained [[:Category:Comics|'''{{#expr:{{PAGESINCAT:Comics}}-9}}''' xkcd comics]],
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Revision as of 05:35, 4 March 2013

Welcome to the explain xkcd wiki!

We have collaboratively explained 5 xkcd comics, and only 1899 (37980%) remain. Add yours while there's a chance!

Latest comic

Go to this comic explanation

Research Risks
The 1919 Great Boston Molasses Flood remained the deadliest confectionery containment accident until the Canadian Space Agency's 2031 orbital maple syrup delivery disaster.
Title text: The 1919 Great Boston Molasses Flood remained the deadliest confectionery containment accident until the Canadian Space Agency's 2031 orbital maple syrup delivery disaster.

Explanation

Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Created by a BUN - Please change this comment when editing this page. Do NOT delete this tag too soon.

This is a comparison of the possibility of the subjects of various sciences being a threat to humanity. It can either be an autonomous threat to the local population (i.e. by escape from a lab), or as part of a supervillain's scheme to rule the world. [1]

There have so far been several similar comics with such scatter plots. See for instance 388: Fuck Grapefruit, 1242: Scary Names, 1468: Worrying, 1501: Mysteries and 1701: Speed and Danger.

The title text is related to the Molasses Storage entry at the bottom left of the chart, and references the Great Molasses Flood, also known as the Great Boston Molasses Flood. It occurred on January 15, 1919 in the North End neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts (the state in which Randall lives). A large molasses storage tank burst and a wave of molasses rushed through the streets at an estimated 35 mph (56 km/h), killing 21 and injuring 150. The joke in the title text is that in 2031 (14 years after the release of this comic) the Canadian Space Agency has an even more serious disaster, which will be known as the orbital maple syrup delivery disaster. The title text claims that this disaster then became the deadliest confectionery containment accident, thus killing more than 21 people...

Table

Risk of Breaking Free Risk of Supervillain Research field Research Risks Comments
very low very high Prosthetics Cyborgs This is probably a joke related to the fact that many movie supervillains have some handicap, and it is thus likely that such a villain would use some kind of prosthetics, although this might not directly help his evil plan...
low high Neuroscience Mind Control
very low high Laser Optics Something like Laser Weapon System. Or a powerful laser could be used to cut the hero in two as in Goldfinger. See Directed-energy weapon.
medium low high Pharmacology Poisons
low high Materials Science Nanobots See Grey goo
low medium high Sociology Sociological research may help in becoming a tyrant and then lead nation to war.
very low medium high History Ministry of Truth
medium low medium high Psychology Ministry of Truth, Hannibal Lecter
high very high Robotics Villains: Robot minions. Escape: robots gaining sentience and killing everything.
high very high Genetic Engineering Villains: Modify troops to make super powered minions. Escape: Modified life could cause havok
medium high high Chemistry Explosives
very high high Microbiology Lethal diseases See for instance 12 Monkeys
very low medium low Geology Golems, Earthquake machines Study of rocks. Scores below average on the supervillain scale despite Lex Luthor's plan in the 1978 Superman movie hinging on setting off the San Andreas Fault.
very low medium low Linguistics 1984 Newspeak
low low Paleontology Jurasic Park Study of fossils
very low very low Astronomy Asteroid impact
medium low very low Molasses Storage See Great Molasses Flood, as referenced in the title text
very low very low Dentistry Torture/Interrogation
medium high medium low Botany Audrey II Study of plants
high medium low Entomology Insects are small and can often escape through even small cracks, and are known for carrying diseases. Study of insects
medium high low Mycology Fungi cannot move, but their spores could easily spread, therefore, escape probability has been deemed medium high. Mycology is the study of fungi.
very high low Marine Biology Sharknado
medium high very low Ornithology Flying is a useful escape mechanism. Study of birds.

Transcript

[A chart with two crossing lines with double arrows. Each arrow is labeled:]
Y axis top: High
Y axis bottom: Low
X axis left: Low
X axis right: High
[Near each of the "high" ends of the two axis there is a label written in gray, with a line pointing to the relevant axis:]
Y axis: Risk of your research being used by a supervillian for world domination
X axis: Risk of the thing you're studying breaking free from your facility and threatening the local population
[The following points are on the charts upper left quadrant (in reading order):]
Prosthetics
Neuroscience
Laser Optics
Pharmacology
Materials Science
Sociology
History
Psychology
[The following points are on the charts upper right quadrant (in reading order):]
Robotics
Genetic Engineering
Chemistry
Microbiology
[The following points are on the charts lower left quadrant (in reading order):]
Geology
Linguistics
Paleontology
Astronomy
Molasses Storage
Dentistry
[The following points are on the charts lower right quadrant (in reading order):]
Botany
Entomology
Mycology
Marine Biology
Ornithology

Trivia

  • The comic initially had the erroneous spelling "Entymology" (possibly a mistaken mix-up between etymology and entomology, similar to 1012: Wrong Superhero). This was later changed to the correct "Entomology".


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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