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Latest revision as of 23:05, 16 October 2016

Welcome to the explain xkcd wiki!
We have an explanation for all 1943 xkcd comics, and only 38 (2%) are incomplete. Help us finish them!

[edit] Latest comic

Go to this comic explanation

The End of the Rainbow
The retina is the exposed surface of the brain, so if you think about a pot of gold while looking at a rainbow, then there's one at BOTH ends.
Title text: The retina is the exposed surface of the brain, so if you think about a pot of gold while looking at a rainbow, then there's one at BOTH ends.

[edit] Explanation

Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Edited by a leprechaun. We are here. We are watching. The bit about percentages of the mass of the Sun should be made more readable. Also need to explain title text.

Megan appears to reference the myth that at the end of every rainbow lies a leprechaun's pot of gold. Instead of claiming that leprechauns and their gold don't exist, Cueball offers the refutation that, technically, rainbows are circles, so they do not have an end.

However, Megan counters that if one considers the path light takes to form a rainbow, then it forms a two-cone structure, where the Sun (the vertex of the outer cone) emits light rays that move towards the Earth (forming the faces of the outer cone), then reflect off water droplets located at just the right angle (the circular base) to reach our eyes (the vertex of the inner cone). Thus, such a rainbow structure can be said to have "ends", represented by the vertices of the two cones: one at the eye of the viewer, and another at the light source (usually the sun).

Megan then says that the Sun is indeed a pot of gold. The Sun is approximately 1.989 × 1030 (1 nonillion 989 octillion) kilograms[1], and its abundance of gold is approximately 0.3 parts per trillion[2]. Based on these numbers, the sun contains 5.967 × 1017 (596 quadrillion 700 trillion) kilograms of gold. This equates to 5.967 × 1014 (596 trillion 700 billion) metric tons of gold. As such, Megan's statement that the sun contains "quintillions of tons of gold" is off by a factor of roughly 4000. But the amount of gold within the sun is far more than a pot's worth nonetheless.

The amount of water in the oceans is about 1.35 × 1018 (1 quintillion 350 quadrillion) metric tons[3]. If we assume that Megan is still talking in terms of mass rather than volume or molecule count, then this means that her next statement (that there is more gold in the sun than water in the oceans) is off by a factor of roughly 2300 (though it would have been true if the previous one was).

Cueball then asks about leprechauns. Megan replies that the leprechauns all died when the Sun formed, implying all the gold in the Sun is actually the remnants of leprechaun gold. However, she does not consider the explanation where the leprechaun is on the other end of the rainbow...

The title text suggest that, since the pot of gold exists in the brains of people thinking about it, and the retina is the foremost part of the brain for the light perception, it can be argued that, in addition to existing in the sun as the comic explains, the gold (and leprechauns) also exist at the other end, in the retina and brain of the person seeing the rainbow -- as long as they are thinking about a pot of gold at the time -- and then it's gone as soon as they stop thinking about it.

Many neurologists would agree with the concept that ideas in your mind can be said to be physically located in your brain. However, there are significant implications to this. For example, there is a hippopotamus in the room you are in. It's in your brain, because you read that sentence. Feel free to inform anybody else nearby of this, and any similar true facts.

[edit] Transcript

[Megan and Cueball are walking.]
Megan: There's a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Cueball: Rainbows are circles. They have no end.
Megan: Not quite!
[In a borderless panel, a multi-part graphic is shown depicting what Megan is describing off-panel: a short cone inside a longer cone, with the longer cone having its point starting at the Sun, the shorter cone having its point at a miniature Cueball's head, and both cones sharing the same circular base. The diagram is repeated from 3 different perspectives to make the structure easier to grasp.]
Megan (off-panel): A rainbow is light leaving the Sun, bouncing off the clouds, and converging on your eye. It's an inside-out two-ended cone.
[Megan and Cueball are still walking.]
Megan: One end of that cone is your retina.
[A wider view of the same scene, with Megan and Cueball walking on a dark ground.]
Megan: The other end is the Sun—which contains quintillions of tons of gold. There's more gold in the Sun than water in the oceans.
Cueball: So there is a pot of gold!
Cueball: What about leprechauns?
Megan: All incinerated as the sun formed. Very sad.

[edit] Trivia

As of January 19, 2017, the value of gold is 42,692.98 USD per kilogram. Based on this, all of the gold in the sun is worth 2.5474901 × 10^22 (25 sextillion 474 quintillion 901 quadrillion) USD. Of course, if you tried to sell the gold in the sun, the market would be saturated and the value of gold would plummet astronomically. You would never be able to cash out.


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Last 7 days (Top 10)

Lots of people contribute to make this wiki a success. Many of the recent contributors, listed above, have just joined. You can do it too! Create your account 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 and everything in between. If it is referenced in an xkcd web comic, it should be here.

  • There are incomplete explanations listed here. Feel free to help out by expanding them!
  • We sell advertising space to pay for our server costs. To learn more, go here.

[edit] 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.

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