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Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Revision as of 19:09, 27 February 2013


Welcome to the explain xkcd wiki!

We have collaboratively explained 6 xkcd comics, and only 2054 (34233%) remain. Add yours while there's a chance!

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Hygrometer
I'm working on assembling a combination declinometer, sclerometer, viscometer, aleurometer, stalagmometer, and hypsometer. I'm making good progress according to my ometerometer, a device which shows the rate at which I'm acquiring measurement devices.
Title text: I'm working on assembling a combination declinometer, sclerometer, viscometer, aleurometer, stalagmometer, and hypsometer. I'm making good progress according to my ometerometer, a device which shows the rate at which I'm acquiring measurement devices.

Explanation

Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Please edit the explanation below and only mention here why it isn't complete. Do NOT delete this tag too soon.

Here, Megan is talking to Cueball about hygrometers. But before she can even finish explaining what it does, Cueball has looked up, found, and purchased the product. A hygrometer is an instrument for measuring the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere, or the amount of water in solids such as soil or wood.

It seems Randall (as Cueball) loves being able to measure things and therefore finds instruments or measurement tools that end in -ometer very interesting, and wishes to own all of them. Many measuring instruments use the suffix -meter which is derived from the Greek noun μέτρον for "measure". The character "o" always belongs to the first term, but it also belongs to old Greek words like thermo-meter, micro-meter, or even hygro-meter. Other measurement devices such as speedometer use an English word with an "o" appended to mimic the Greek derived terms, purportedly for easier marketing. Because themes in science often based on Greek terminology that ending at the first part appears often. Nonetheless Randall believes that this "o" belongs to the general term for measuring devices.

In the title text the author Randall states he is working on assembling a collection of measuring instruments. The list consists of:

  • A viscometer is an instrument to test the viscosity (ease of pouring) of a liquid. For example, honey has higher viscosity than water.
  • An aleurometer is an instrument to evaluate the quality of flour for baking by measuring how much a wet mass of wheat can expand when heated, while keeping its adhesivity.[1]
  • A stalagmometer is an instrument to measure surface tension of fluids by producing a drop and weighing it - the bigger the drop is, the larger surface tension the fluid has.
  • The word hypsometer can mean two unrelated instruments to measure height. One measures heights of a building or a tree by triangulation. The other measures altitude by measuring air pressure through its effect on the boiling temperature of water. It should not be confused with the altimeter which measures altitude by mechanically measuring air pressure (and which also does not follow the -ometer rule and might therefore be of less interest to Cueball? Is that the reason why Cueball appears in a diagram at the Wikipedia page for hypsometer but not for altimeter?).
  • An ometerometer, being a concatenation of -ometer with itself, would be a device for measuring measuring devices.

Transcript

[Megan and Cueball are walking and talking. Cueball is holding his phone with one hand, looking at it.]
Megan: ...A hygrometer is a device for measuring—
Cueball: I want one! Ooh, found one for $7.99 with free shipping! I'm buying it.
Megan: —Humidity.
Cueball: Oh, cool!
[Caption below the frame:]
For some reason, I feel a powerful compulsion to own any device whose name ends in "-ometer."


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