Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Title text: If that fails, just multiply every number by a thousand. 'The 2nd St speed limit should be set at 25,000 mph, which would likely have prevented 1,000 of the intersection's 3,000 serious accidents last month.'
The quoted text of the report could (and indeed probably would, given the apparent contents) be stereotypically read out loud by the author, or internally by the reader, in an essentially monotonal manner, as exhibited by any number of popularised film and TV characters such as 'Arthur Pewtey' from the Monty Python sketch. But this comic asks us to imagine it instead voiced in the voice of an upset (soon-to-be-'ex-'?) spouse, presumably berating the project leader on various real or imagined infractions, and it works just as well. The jagged nature of the speech bubble indicates that the report has typed out on the computer's screen, but also helps to re-enforce the nagging internal voice.
The title text joke relates to an alternative plan, namely to proportionally exaggerate everything you read. What would have been one serious accident that would have been prevented in the previous month had the speed limit been 25 mph, out of the three that actually occurred under the current limit, now becomes one thousand people saved! And all those lives would have been saved by reducing the speed limit to a 'mere' 25,000 miles per hour. Of course, around 2000 accidents would not have been prevented because people still try to mess with vehicles that are moving at hypersonic velocities.
Note that the title text is inconsistent; if every number were to be multiplied by a thousand, then the speed limit would apply to 2000th Street. Somewhat surprisingly, there does exist streets of this name, mainly in Illinois. Though in this case 2nd St is a proper noun and thus should not be modified.
- How to make boring technical reports more fun to read:
- Imagine they were written and sent in, unsolicited, by the estranged spouse of the head of the project.
- [Cueball is crouching alone over his computer in an empty room, typing on a laptop. He is surrounded by papers and books, apparently related to whatever project is working on. The laptop has a message on it, the text of which is displayed above the computer.]
- Computer: Six guard rails have erratic reflector placement, and one even lacks reflectors entirely, despite rule G31.02(b) clearly mandating consistent usage.
- Cueball: ...Sharon!
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Shouldn't it be 2000th St? --184.108.40.206 06:41, 31 May 2013 (UTC)
- nah, clearly the original was just 0.002th St. Just some random derp 23:03, 3 May 2015 (UTC)
Shouldn't it be a 25,000 mi/h speed limit if multiplied by 1000? Afterall, I have never heard of a 2.5 mi/h speed limit... Think I could get a speeding ticket whilst walking with that limit. Definitely while jogging. 220.127.116.11 07:04, 31 May 2013 (UTC) Aaron
- I've seen 5 kph (around 3 mph) speed limit. It was in parks and we were supposed to run timed laps. Interestingly, in order to get through the minimum, you had to break the speed limit.--Charlesisbozo (talk) 12:45, 2 June 2013 (UTC)
- ...you realize that 25,000 mi/h is 1000*25 mi/h, not 1000*2.5 m/h, right? 2.5*1000 = 2,500. Hppavilion1 (talk) 02:38, 27 November 2016 (UTC)
Lol exactly the first two comments I had in mind were made here. 18.104.22.168 07:07, 31 May 2013 (UTC)
- Also beaten to the 25,000 comment. The lowest I've think I've ever seen indicated is 5mph (mostly in car parks) and except in one locale(1) that's wishful thinking at best, given that at this point you find that on an analogue standard speedo that potentially sweeps far further(2), it's definitely a crap-shoot as to whether you're able to hover the needle barely off of the zero-stop with any accuracy... Even assuming reasonable calibration at the higher speeds. I suspect that 5km/h (3.1-ish mph(3)) might be the minimum I've seen in metric-tied countries, making that just an arbitrary low figure.
- (1) A local bus station that has "Your speed is..." matrices to show a presumably calibrated digital measurement to the drivers of any said bus entering/exiting the site, and flashes in red if they exceed this. Not sure if there's a penalty accumulation, but I suspect there'd be the capability to link to the CCTV systems that also cover the site so that post-incident enquiries would record any driver errors should the worst come to the (painfully slow) worst.
- (2) 120mph on smaller cars, 240mph or more on anything that promises way-over-the-top performance for a country with a top-end national speed limit of 70mph in force. Not that anyone believes that, but even the unofficial publicly-used "I'll get away with it..." 80mph line is 1/3rd of 240. Of course they could go over to Germany to try out on the unlimited Autobahns, or burn rubber at a 'track day' somewhere, but still it irks me that people think like that...
- (3) I can never remember the 'standard' conversion factor. I just remember that it's 93 million miles to the Sun or 150 million kilometres and work it out from that. ;) 22.214.171.124 08:14, 31 May 2013 (UTC)
- national speed limit? The limit is 80 on I-10 in west Texas (posted), and 75 on many other state highways... MR (talk) 03:22, 30 June 2013 (UTC)MR
So, anyway, I put my hand to writing an explanation, making it impressively brief compared with what I usually write (see above). I've put some <!-- Comments --> in, especially next to the potentially disputed numbers, so that future editors can zero in on things that I think might need to be changed, or could be expanded upon. Or redo it all from scratch, as I probably won't notice anyway. ;) 126.96.36.199 09:20, 31 May 2013 (UTC)
Looks like Randall corrected his title-text. So I completed the necessary edit (half done already, with the edit comment "(2500 / 100 = 25, not 2.5)", which I won't argue with...) and removed the related comments. Tempted to add an "in the original version..." addendum, but then anyone who's bothered with that sort of detail has read up to here in the Talk bit, right? ;) 188.8.131.52 17:25, 31 May 2013 (UTC)
The multiplication of all numbers was also featured in a Monty Python sketch. It might be the sketch about buying an ant, as I vaguely remember. 184.108.40.206 19:16, 27 January 2014 (UTC)
Is it supposed to be a nagging voice? I don't know, the word "unsolicited" seems to suggest to me that the comic is suggesting to read the reports as one would read a love letter sent by someone who is already spoken for. Scandalous. 220.127.116.11 21:38, 16 May 2015 (UTC)
I don't agree with the statement "Note that the title text is inconsistent; if every number were to be multiplied by a thousand, then the speed limit would apply to 2000th Street. Somewhat surprisingly, there do exist streets of this name, mainly in Illinois". "2nd street" is not a number, it is a name. It just happens to contain a numeral.KingSupernova (talk)
- I agree, as a proper noun it should not be treated as a number. 18.104.22.168 01:00, 2 February 2016 (UTC)