2669: Things You Should Not Do

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Things You Should Not Do
Now I'm tempted to start telling people that I secretly don't actually know how to do any physics calculations, and so all the answers in What If are based on me actually trying to do the thing and then reporting what happened, but phrased as if it's hypothetical.
Title text: Now I'm tempted to start telling people that I secretly don't actually know how to do any physics calculations, and so all the answers in What If are based on me actually trying to do the thing and then reporting what happened, but phrased as if it's hypothetical.

Explanation[edit]

This comic references various questions submitted to be used in the what if? blog/books. In particular, promoting Randall's new book, What if? 2 (released 6 days after the date of this comic publication). This comic has a list of things not to do, an extension of a previous list, and is purportedly things Randall discovered as he was doing research for his book. A visit to the What If? archive shows the titles, publishing date, and a thumbnail for each article. Many of the acts described under the "new" section of the list are depicted in these thumbnails (see table below); others are references to examples or hypotheticals explored within the articles. The entries are all in order of their appearance in the book.

The title text says that Randall is tempted to tell people that all the things in the book were things that he actually tried to do, not that he calculated the solutions for their problems. Many of the questions and answers in his new book are impossible to attempt in real life.[citation needed]

Table of things you should not do[edit]

Number Entry What If? 2 section referenced Explanation
From existing list
156,812 Eat Tide Pods N/A Tide Pods are a brand of laundry detergent sold in small packets ("pods") of water-soluble gel. Many children have tried to eat them, thinking them to be candy, and have had to go to the hospital to treat poisoning. In 2017 and 2018, a satirical "challenge" originated around eating Tide Pods.
156,813 Walk on stilts in a thunderstorm N/A Taller objects are more likely to be struck by lightning, so walking on stilts outdoors would increase the risk of death by electrocution. It would also presumably risk falling and injuring oneself that way, since the ground becomes wet in a rainstorm.
156,814 Set off fireworks at a gas station N/A This has the risk of potentially causing an explosion in the gas station, from the sparks of the fireworks.
156,815 Feed your cat treats that are the exact shape and texture of a human hand N/A This probably runs the risk of the cat attempting to eat your hand, instead of a cat treat.
New!
156,816 Lean over a geyser vent and try to look down into it Geyser Geysers shoot steam and hot water upward. If a person were to lean over the geyser and look down during an eruption, they would be struck in the face by this hot liquid and gas mixture and severely injured or killed. This is a reference to the question from What-If? 2 (called, appropriately enough, "Geyser"), in which it is asked what might happen to a person if they stood on top of the Old Faithful geyser as it erupted.
156,817 Fly a hot-air balloon over a firing range Catch! A hot air balloon could present an irresistible target to the people firing their weapons at the range. The balloon could be shot and you could fall to your death.
156,818 Peel away the earth's crust Lose Weight the Slow and Incredibly Difficult Way This is a reference to an entry in the new book, and an image of what it would look like is shown in 2575: What If? 2, where a potato peeler is used to remove the crust of the Earth. Several *What If* blog posts also result in massive damage to the earth's crust, including what happened to Texas here.

This is a reference to a chapter from the new book, which refers to removing the Earth's mass to lose weight.

156,819 Try to paint the Sahara Desert by hand Paint the Earth This would be difficult and require more paint than humanity has ever produced.
156,820 Remove someone's bones without asking Short Answers #2 A reference to a short answer question in What If? 2.
156,821 Spend 100% of your government's budget on mobile game in-app purchases Expensive Shoebox A reference to one of the examples listed in the answer.
156,822 Fill a lava lamp with actual lava Lava Lamp A lava lamp is a glass lamp, which contains a wax mixture inside, and heats so that the wax rises and falls. Putting actual lava inside a regular lava lamp would most likely cause the lamp to melt and the glass to shatter, not to mention handling lava is very dangerous.[citation needed] However, in this entry, Randall says it would be fairly easy to find a material that would be able to handle the heat of the lava and thus this would be rather anticlimactic.
156,823 Drink the blood of someone with a viral hemorraghic (sic) fever Blood Alcohol Drinking someone else's blood is a bad idea unless you are a vampire. If someone has a viral hemorrhagic fever, it is much worse, as they have a very serious and likely deadly disease which can be transmitted by sharing bodily fluids, such as blood. Drinking blood is the theme of this answer.
156,824 Eat meat from rabid animals Short Answers #4 Eating meat from rabid animals could give you rabies, a virus which is nearly always fatal if not treated prior to the appearance of initial symptoms. Pathogen contamination in cooked foods can persist on the surface of e.g. tongs, chopsticks, or a fork used to grill, which is why the USDA doesn't generally allow kitchen utensils to touch raw or ready to eat foods at all. Exceptions for utensils which touch only raw or partially cooked foods, such as grill spatulas and the like, are often allowed and can be negotiated on a case-by-case basis when they would otherwise be prohibited. The rabies virus permeates essentially all nerve tissue before symptoms appear.
156,825 Perform your own laser eye surgery Eyeball Refers to an answer in the book regarding seeing your own eyeball as well as the end of this answer
156,826 Tell California poultry regulators that your farm is selling Pokemon eggs Read All the Laws While issuing false statements to government regulators is a violation of both California and Federal law, for which prison sentences can reach ten years and fines can reach ten thousand dollars plus any compensatory damages, as per California Penal Code § 132 and 18 U.S. Code § 1001, there is some question about whether any competent regulatory authority would ever take such an assertion seriously, and whether they would be liable for greater damages for doing so than the potential liability of the original culprit involved. Actually doing this, even to county level regulators, could result in a series of events very disadvantageous to you, your farm, and your employees. However, declaring that you're producing Pokémon eggs to your local municipality is probably harmless, and likely to brighten the day of your local regulators.[citation needed] Furthermore, as mentioned in What If? 2, California Food and Agricultural Code § 27637 bars anyone from making false or misleading statements about eggs, and Poké Balls could be considered a type of egg.
156,827 Funnel the entire flow of Niagara Falls into the open window of a physics lab Niagara Straw An oblique reference to the image near the end of this answer.
156,828 Pump ammonia into your abdomen Ammonia Tube Ammonia is an extremely hazardous substance and pumping it into your abdomen would result in a painful death due to ammonia toxicity. As the book mentions, however, at the very least some of it would be neutralized with your stomach acid.
156,829 Suspend yourself inside a 10-meter ball of sunscreen and fall into the Sun Sunscreen Despite its name, sunscreen only protects against some types of radiation from the sun. No amount is going to be adequate protection if you are right inside the sun.[actual citation needed] Also, sunscreen, being a gel, would evaporate when exposed to vacuum. When exposed to the plasma of the coronal surface or the Sun's interior, it would quickly ionize along with anything inside it, becoming plasma like the rest of the Sun.

Transcript[edit]

[Caption:]
Updates to my "Things You Should Not Do" list, based on what I learned writing What If? 2
(out 9/13, xkcd.com/whatif2)
[The rest of the text appears in a box.]
Things You Should Not Do
(part 3647 of ????)
[A numbered list, the first four items in a lighter grey]
#156,812 Eat Tide pods
#156,813 Walk on stilts in a thunderstorm
#156,814 Set off fireworks at a gas station
#156,815 Feed your cat treats that are the exact shape and texture of a human hand
[A horizontal divider with the text "New!" in the middle in black. The remaining items on the list are also in black.]
#156,816 Lean over a geyser vent and try to look down into it
#156,817 Fly a hot air balloon over a firing range
#156,818 Peel away the Earth's crust
#156,819 Try to paint the Sahara Desert by hand
#156,820 Remove someone's bones without asking
#156,821 Spend 100% of your governments budget on mobile game in-app purchases
#156,822 Fill a lava lamp with actual lava
#156,823 Drink the blood of someone with a viral hemorraghic fever
#156,824 Eat meat from rabid animals
#156,825 Perform your own laser eye surgery
#156,826 Tell California poultry regulators that your farm is selling Pokemon eggs
#156,827 Funnel the entire flow of Niagara Falls into the open window of a physics lab
#156,828 Pump ammonia into your abdomen
#156,829 Suspend yourself inside a 10-meter ball of sunscreen and fall into the sun


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Discussion

Seems like this could become a series. 172.68.210.31 20:42, 7 September 2022 (UTC)

Maybe. But I don't think it will be.
What I was thinking was that there are clearly, on average, around 43 items per 'page', up to this point. This page shows only 19 items (both pre-New and New, or 20 if the "New" line counts as one, don't know if multilines reduce the number of numbered items ler page), so either it's been[citation needed] manually split/new-paged (for changing aesthetics) or else it is highly varying according to the font-height/multiline-wrappings in use beforehand. Or perhaps we should expect around the same number of 'newer New' items to complete this page before the next page number is automatically started to be populated. 172.70.86.8 20:53, 7 September 2022 (UTC)

#156,819 looks like a reference to the Phineas and Ferb title sequence, and the episode Oil on Candace and probably more relevant here, What If 84. 108.162.210.233 21:49, 7 September 2022 (UTC)

It's true that it could be a reference, but I think I recognized most of the topics on the list as being mentioned in some what-if article from the archives--in the case of the "painting" one, https://what-if.xkcd.com/84/. Dextrous Fred (talk) 22:13, 7 September 2022 (UTC)
I think that given that he learned about this doing his new book that has not been released yet most of the new items would first be clear when we read the book, and hence all references to old what if seems moot to me... In my opinion it seems that those writing the current explanation failed to read this sentence: Updates to my "Things You Should Not Do" list, based on what I learned writing What If? 2!!! Taking this into acount nothing on the new list should be from the old what if blog/book. --Kynde (talk) 13:02, 8 September 2022 (UTC)
Many articles (roughly half) in the blog were published after the first book was written, so those references are fair game to be included in the new book, and thus valid references as things he learned in the interim. Take a look at the archive thumbnails for the articles in 2014. Dextrous Fred (talk) 22:52, 12 September 2022 (UTC)
I think #156,819 is confusing because it's been done. -- Ken g6 (talk) 17:01, 8 September 2022 (UTC)


Added a transcript, hopefully it isn't too terrible. (also first explainxkcd edit!) Merrybot (talk) 21:52, 7 September 2022 (UTC)


Any indication what the purpose of the misspelling of hemorrhagic as *hemorraghic might be? XKCD is usually typo-free, which makes this look deliberate – but why? 172.71.94.3 00:29, 8 September 2022 (UTC)

I assume just a typo by Randall Munroe. 172.70.214.79 02:11, 8 September 2022 (UTC)
"XKCD is usually typo-free" Oh, they do happen every now and then but usually get corrected eventually by Randall. Nothing too special about this. Elektrizikekswerk (talk) 07:13, 8 September 2022 (UTC)

#156,823 is actually a subplot in the movie "Only Lovers left Alive" by Jim Jarmusch. 162.158.129.163 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

#156,820 sounds like a reference to TF2's "Meet the medic" which starts off with The Medic describing how he lost his medical licence by stealing a patient's skeleton 108.162.241.103 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

The last item suggests to me that the new book has a question like "What SPF would the sunscreen need to be if you were falling into the sun?" Barmar (talk) 21:10, 8 September 2022 (UTC)

Far more than any SPF a terrestrial chemical could attain, which is essentially equivalent to positive infinity in this case, barring any new extremely unlikely physics. 172.70.214.79 04:08, 9 September 2022 (UTC)

Is the maximum jail sentence for telling California poultry regulators that your farm is selling Pokemon eggs eight or ten years? 172.70.206.213 04:06, 9 September 2022 (UTC)

We need a more practical approach to legal advice. For example, how realistically could there ever be any compensatory damages? If a government regulator ever took a claim that a farm was producing Pokemon eggs seriously, wouldn't their liability for waste, fraud, and abuse damages to the public overwhelm that of the supposed defendant? 172.70.206.163 07:26, 9 September 2022 (UTC)

I'm assuming that a Sun-sized ball of sunscreen would collapse and ignite as a star, right? 172.70.214.79 10:47, 11 September 2022 (UTC)

#156,816 was also in the news. I'm wondering if all of these up to some point have actually happened. 172.69.134.131 (talk) 02:39, 13 September 2022 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

"Remove someone's bones without asking"[edit]

I believe this may actually be a tf2 reference. In "Meet The Medic", a short animation made by valve, the medic implies he removed someone's bones without killing them, resulting in the loss of his medical license. Link to the video I'm talking about: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36lSzUMBJnc&ab_channel=teamfortress