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Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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World War III+
I hate how the media only ever uses the first part of this quote, stripping it of its important context.
Title text: I hate how the media only ever uses the first part of this quote, stripping it of its important context.


Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: There seems to be more to this comic than so far explained. Maybe a reference to all the Star Wars movies now planned...?

This comic takes a famous quote attributed to Albert Einstein, and expands upon it to absurd levels. The original quote is: "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." The basic premise of this quote is that World War III will be so devastating to the world that there will be nothing more to fight with afterwards.

This comic expands the original quote letting Einstein suggest what other weapons future World Wars will be fought with:

  • V: Crossbows. Crossbows are type of bow that is easier to aim and fire than a regular longbow, but is much more difficult to load. Most often used in medieval eras.
  • VI: Lasers. In science fiction, blasts of lasers are often used instead of conventional guns. This suggests that society would have managed to rebuild lasers by World War VI.
  • VII: Blowguns. A blowgun is a small tube loaded with a small dart or other projectile, fired by blowing into one end. Once again, the world has been devastated, and returned to a simpler technology.
  • VIII-XI: Skipped over.
  • XII: The same weapons as III, but in underground tunnels. This is a parody of saying that X is basically Y 'but in space/underwater/etc', and, if the quote's well-known meaning is accepted, this has terrifying implications for the state of the world. It could also be a reference to HG Well's The Time Machine where the Morlock's are the master race of the future living in underground caves. Also the fact that he did not know which weapons were used in III makes it weird that he knows the same weapons will be used again later.
  • XIII is completely unmentioned. This could be an error, but it makes some sense, considering that XIII corresponds to 13, a number considered unlucky in many Western cultures. This may be a reference to 13 being skipped in the floor numbering of many Western buildings.
  • Before Einstein can discuss World War XIV, the audience of his quote seems to be going away. Einstein claims to have 'a whole list', suggesting that he may know a lot about the future wars to come more so than he has already suggested.

In the title text Randall feigns annoyance about how the media only use the first part of the quote, thus taking it out of context. He implies that this is actually a full quote by Einstein and that all other occurrences using only the "original" version of this quote are misrepresenting it. In this particular case it is a much stronger quote than the long version from the comic, but it is often the case that quotes taken out of context seem to have an entirely different meaning than originally intended.


[A quote with white text on black background:]
"I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones. World War V will be fought with crossbows, World War VI will be lasers, and World War VII will be blowguns. I don't know about World Wars VIII through XI. World War XII will use the same weapons as III, but will be fought entirely within underground tunnels. World War XIV will—Hey, come back! I have a whole list!"
                  —Albert Einstein

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