Michael Phelps is an American Olympic swimmer, who could easily be considered the best swimmer worldwide: he is the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time, with 28 medals, 23 of them gold (won in the 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016 summer Olympics, so it would have been 18 Olympic gold medals at the time the comic was published). He was most dominant in the 2008 Beijing Olympics where he won gold in all of the eight events in which he competed, the record for a single games.
Cueball and Megan find that the Olympic medalist is in Megan's pool. He refuses to leave, and is too fast to be caught. Cueball brings in boxes of Jello Mix to fill the pool with, thereby gelifying the pool and trapping Phelps or forcing him to leave.
However, according to the title text, after having waited the time necessary for the water to gelify, Cueball realizes that Phelps has eaten all of the resulting Jello. This may be a reference to Phelps being used to eating impressive food quantities (about 12,000 calories daily), to keep up with his strenuous exercise regimen; or it may be a reference to pictures of Phelps smoking from a bong that arose after the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China, as Marijuana use is often associated with an increased appetite. Otherwise, the text may simply be a reference to Phelps being capable of achieving super-human feats, such as devouring an entire pool full of Jello.
Interestingly enough, just pouring Jello powder into a pool would not solidify the water into Jello. The water would have to be boiled, then quickly chilled, for the Jello to set correctly. As Randall is a scientist, he should have known this; therefore, it's possible that he purposefully ignored this fact in favor of the humor. Michael Phelps' top speed is also only around 2.3 m/s, which can easily be outrun by anyone on land.
The title text may be referenced by 1628: Magnus, where people are thrown into strange contests with others, for example a hot dog-eating contest against the championship race horse Secretariat.
- [Megan and Cueball standing outside their en-Phelps-ified swimming pool.]
- Cueball: Why is Michael Phelps in your backyard pool?
- Megan: I don't know. He's been there all day. Go home, Michael!
- Michael Phelps: Woo! 18 gold medals!
- [Megan and Cueball break out a pair of pool nets and unsuccessfully try to snag Phelps.]
- Cueball: Can you get him?
- Megan: He's so fast!
- Phelps: Ha hah! Can't catch me!
- Splash splash
- [Cueball heads off to fetch something.]
- [Cueball returns with a hand truck full of Jello mix.]
- Phelps: Oh crap.
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Jello was actually put into a swimming pool in the pseudo-science TV show "Braniacs".
- I wonder whether Randall was aware of the pool experiment (http://research.cems.umn.edu/cussler/pool/). Maybe concrete would be the better choice to slow a swimmer down. BKA (talk) 08:44, 8 August 2012 (UTC)
- Would Jello powder dropped in a pool solidify? Does Jello need to be boiled to solidify, or does that just speed things up? TheHYPO (talk) 13:54, 8 August 2012 (UTC)
- I doubt the gelatin just added to the pool would work. It needs to be heated to dissolve, and it will melt/dissolve is reheated. But at room temperature, it gels. So I suspect dumping powdered gelatin in room temperature water would just sink. --Blaise Pascal
- I don't think heat is required to dissolve Jell-o -- I think it just helps. Agitation (say, an Olympic swimming doing laps) should be sufficient. However, refrigeration helps a lot in gelling, so it'll take quite a while at room (actually outdoor) temperature. Then we have the question of Chlorine, which has a very high pH (very alkali). The acid (low pH) content of some fruits prevents gelling, so they can't be used with Jell-o. It's unclear what effect the caustic would have. --- James Curran
I like thinking that Cueball has four giant boxes of Jello mix somewhere nearby, just to be prepared. --DanB (talk) 15:17, 8 August 2012 (UTC)
- It's the Hammerspace! :D --Waldir (talk) 15:48, 8 August 2012 (UTC)
- Wow, I didn't know about that! I kinda feel like I'm one of the Ten Thousand today. --DanB (talk) 16:07, 8 August 2012 (UTC)
- You're welcome ;) --Waldir (talk) 18:40, 8 August 2012 (UTC)
- There is no time scale, maybe between the two pictures, he had enough time to buy it from a store. Hammertime ;) BKA (talk) 09:29, 9 August 2012 (UTC)
- Yes, especially since xkcd characters are known to have waited a long time in the same place :) --Waldir (talk) 12:11, 9 August 2012 (UTC)
Shouldn't aggravation of the jello as it solidifies turn it back into a liquid, or at least chunky liquid. Jason.
Gee, 12000 calories! How often does he have to go to the toilet each day??
Wouldn't using custard powder be better? It would turn it into a non-Newtonian liquid. See Mythbusters and/or Brainiacs 22.214.171.124 03:56, 14 November 2012 (UTC)
I thought this comic was also a reference to Strong Bad Email #187 (http://www.hrwiki.org/wiki/winter_pool) where Strong Bad and Homestar get stuck in a pool of jello, and the king of town has to come eat them out. 126.96.36.199 03:53, 31 March 2013 (UTC)
he must've been very sick after eating the jello because of the chlorine (and it was a lot of jello) Xyz (talk) 11:45, 27 July 2013 (UTC)
- Not to forget that he lost a medium to swim in. Tharkon (talk) 01:29, 27 July 2014 (UTC)
"Quirky, yet simple trick?" That sounds like an advertisement. "This man invented one weird trick for removing Olympic swimmers from your pool! Michael Phelps HATES him!" 188.8.131.52 22:33, 23 January 2015 (UTC)
- I'd almost want to live in a world where that's such a common problem it's a click bait title... -Pennpenn 184.108.40.206 06:22, 26 June 2015 (UTC)
So this guy actually did all the calculations and experiments to fill a pool with proper jello if you're interested