Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Title text: 'The mountains near here formed when the ... Newfoundland ... microplate collided with, uhh ... Labrador.' 'Ok, now you're definitely just naming dogs.' 'Wait, no, that's actually almost correct.'
Ponytail is describing the origin of some rock formations to Megan and Cueball. She apparently forgot the names of the microplates and the age when the subduction occurred, so she substituties them with names of dog breeds (Dalmatian, Laika and Pomeranian) to seem knowledgeable and impress her audience.
Although no microplates or geological ages with these names exist, this is not obvious for people outside of the field, as dog breeds are often named after geographic regions. For example Dalmatia is the name of a region in Croatia, and a microplate named after it could exist (possibly as a fragment of the former Adriatic Plate). Likewise, a Laika Plate could be named after the Laika Island in Vanuatu (although the dog's name is the Russian word лайка, literally meaning "barker", and unrelated to the island). Geological ages are often named after place where the first rocks dating from the age were found e.g. the Devonian is named after the English county of Devon, while the Permian is named after the Russian city of Perm. Thus, a Pomeranian Age named after Pomerania, a region on the Baltic Sea split between Poland and Germany, might reasonably exist.
So the comic concludes in the caption with one of Randall's many tips, this time a geology tip, about how it is possible to pretend to be more knowledgeable regarding geology by just inserting dog breeds names instead of real names as no one remembers the names of all the microplates.
The title text continues the situation until Ponytail starts to run out of dog breeds. Her audience catches on... until one of them chimes in that her "explanation" did name two real geological features: the dog breeds Labrador and Newfoundland are named after the two Canadian regions Labrador and Newfoundland respectively. Geologically, Labrador is the easternmost section of the Canadian Shield, the ancient core of the North American continent. In contrast, Newfoundland (especially western Newfoundland) was formed from terranes, the remnants of a series of plates that collided with - and subducted beneath - North America. Some geologists have assigned the name "Newfoundland Plate" to one of these former microplates that Newfoundland now comprises. However, the title text explanation is not likely to be entirely accurate, because the most significant mountains in Newfoundland are the Long Range Mountains, which are the northernmost of the Appalachian Mountains, created when Africa and North America collided to form Pangaea; no mountain range is identified as being the result of the collision of the Newfoundland Plate with North America.
Subduction was featured in a previous comic 1388: Subduction License.
- [Ponytail is gesturing toward some rock formations in a grass field while addressing Megan and Cueball who are looking down at the rocks, Cueball with a hand to his chin.]
- Ponytail: This bedrock likely formed as the Dalmatian microplate subducted under East Laika during the Upper Pomeranian.
- Cueball: Ah, yes.
- [Caption below the panel:]
- Geology Tip: There are so many microplates and ages that no one remembers them all, so in a pinch you can bluff with dog breeds.
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