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Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Universal Dreams
"That's ... unsettling." "Yeah, those definitely don't sound like the normal drea– LATITUDE THREE FIVE POINT..."
Title text: "That's ... unsettling." "Yeah, those definitely don't sound like the normal drea– LATITUDE THREE FIVE POINT..."


Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Can someone check whether the clayton movie is actually a reference? Seems to me the nightmare explanation is more relevant.

The first and second panel are a discussion between Megan and Ponytail about dreams. Megan mentions a dream or nightmare about failing to prepare for an exam despite not being a student for years. This is similar to the dream depicted in 557: Students. Ponytail responds that certain dreams occur with surprising frequency among many people, dubbing them "Universal Dreams" (which is the title of the comic).

In the third panel, Black Hat describes an avatar of misfortune in the form of a horse appearing on a hill. This could be a play on the word nightmare. A mare was originally a demon or goblin that gave bad dreams. The modern word mare, meaning female horse, has a different origin, but still serves handily as a homophonic pun.

Alternatively, this may be a reference to 2007 film Michael Clayton, which features a dream like sequence where the title character recognizes a scene of three horses on a hilltop from an illustration in a book. He stops his car, gets out and approaches the horses just minutes before his car explodes. This marks a major turning point in the direction Clayton takes for the rest of the film, similar to how Black Hat says "[the horses] mean the dream is about to turn bad."

In the last panel, Black Hat describes having dreams where he receives specific information about the real-world, which seems closer to prophesying or precognition than what would be considered a normal dream, as normal dreams do not tell the future. This may be a reference to the 2009 film Knowing where a child hears voices telling her the date, time, latitude and longitude of major disasters (including earthquakes) that will occur 50 years in the future. Dreaming of latitude and longitude was also a topic of 240: Dream Girl, but in contrast the events in that dream did not come true within the comic, a real-life meetup of xkcd fans occurred at the location and date mentioned within the comic.

In the title text, either Megan or Ponytail is responding to black hat when she unexpectedly interrupts herself with the first part of geographic coordinates - Latitude 35, just as Black Hat described, implying the whole comic might be another of Black Hat's dreams. 35 degrees North would include 31 major cities around the world, including 11 in Japan and 8 in the USA (including California, a seismically active region); the only major city within 35 degrees South is Canberra, Australia. This suggest an earthquake would happen soon in one of those major cities. The second half of the coordinates are most likely cut off to add uncertainty to the situation.


[Megan, Ponytail, and Black Hat are standing around.]
Megan: I've been out of school for years, but I still get those dreams where I have an exam and I didn't prepare.
[Ponytail shrugs.]
Ponytail: I think that's one of those weird universal dreams— like forgetting your clothes or discovering rooms in your house you didn't know about.
[Zoom-in on Black Hat.]
Black Hat: Yeah! Or when you're having a normal dream, but then a horse appears on a distant hilltop, and it means that the dream is about to turn bad!
Ponytail or Megan (off-screen): I... What?
Black Hat: I have that one like every night.
[Megan and Ponytail look at Black Hat.]
Black Hat: Or those ones where you're talking to someone, and they start repeating a latitude and longitude over and over, and then you wake up that morning and there's an earthquake there.
Black Hat: Haha, dreams, right? So weird!

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