1486: Vacuum

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Do you think you could actually clean the living room at some point, though?
Title text: Do you think you could actually clean the living room at some point, though?


According to quantum mechanics there is tremendous energy density in space-time itself: this is known as: vacuum energy, zero point energy, vacuum foam, etc. So far we don't know any way to tap into this energy.

In the cartoon, Beret Guy appears to be making a silly mistake, confusing the "vacuum" referred to in calculations of the theoretical energy density of space time with a vacuum cleaner, which is also commonly referred to as just a "vacuum".

Cueball tries to correct him, but it turns out that Beret Guy really is able to tap into this fundamental source of energy. Having such strange and impossible powers is second nature to Beret Guy, as can be seen in many of his appearances – for instance in 1388: Subduction License.

But even though Beret Guy now claims the Universe is his to command (a sentence used by Jafar from Aladdin, but a similar intent is also stated by the crazy villain in many movies), Cueball is not fazed by this and simply asks, in the title text, if Beret Guy would use the vacuum for its intended purpose and clean the living room. This seems to imply Beret Guy has previously, perhaps repeatedly, taken an action that would normally imply he was going to clean the living room (such as taking a broom or some other cleaning implement that is not the vacuum) and done something unexpected with it instead (such as flying off on it).

On an additional note, many scientific breakthroughs in history have been made because the person making them did not realize they were supposedly impossible, such as spin-stabilized magnetic levitation. This comic could be seen as a nod to that.

It seems that Cueball borrows one of Beret Guy's vacuum cleaners later in 1826: Birdwatching. A normal vacuum cleaner would not be able to do what Cueball's presumably does to birds in that comic!


[Beret guy is holding an upright vacuum cleaner upside-down by the handle, waving it around above his head.]
[The vacuum cleaner is upright on the ground, and Beret guy is standing on its body, wiggling the handle.]
Cueball: What are you doing?
Beret Guy: Trying to unlock the tremendous energy of the vacuum.
[Beret guy rides the vacuum cleaner as it begins to lift off, propelled upward by an unknown force.]
Cueball: That’s not what that—
Beret Guy: —Ha ha! It works!
[Beret guy flies away on the vacuum cleaner.]
Cueball: I said, that’s—
Beret Guy: The universe is mine to command!!

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This is obviously a reference to Vacuum Energy. The "Tremendous" part is because calculation based on quantum electrodynamics suggest it should be 100 order of magnitudes larger than measured (That is a "1" with 100 zeros after it). 09:42, 13 February 2015 (UTC)

AKA a googolplex -- Brettpeirce (talk) 12:55, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
No, that's just a googol. 13:55, 13 February 2015 (UTC)

Wondering if this is a reference to Terramex [1] -- Stese (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

My antivirus says this link is not safe. 10:50, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
I see what you did there. - Equinox 17:03, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
can't speak to your antivirus, but I don't see any problem with the site (TVTropes) - it's a page about a video game called "Terramex" (which in summary is a game about adventurers finding a scientist that can prevent a meteor from hitting Earth) - no idea what that might have to do with vacuum energy, vacuum cleaners, living rooms, berets, or billiard balls, or even flying, but oh well -- Brettpeirce (talk) 12:55, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
One of the methods of getting around in Terarmex is flight on a vacuum cleaner, as depicted in the last panel. (Stese)
You completely missed the point. xkcd comic 609 referenced TVTropes' addictive power. You can get trapped in the web of links all day. Therefore, was simply joking that their antivirus had detected this, and warned them that the site was not safe. I understand not seeing the comic before, but the IP did provide a link to explain the joke. NealCruco (talk) 18:00, 13 February 2015 (UTC)

I tried to read this explanation, but couldn't because of xkcd 1240 10:23, 13 February 2015 (UTC) I was expecting something related to February 14. You know, something about YouTube, IBM, ENIAC, Pale Blue Dot, Shoemaker, Hilbert, Catalan, etc. 10:39, 13 February 2015 (UTC)

Isn't 'the universe is mine to command!' a quote from Aladdin?? -- Atty70 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Yes it is a quote from Aladdin (by Jafar when he becomes a genie) [2]. It is also a quote from "insert your bond/sci-movie here" as it is the usual goal for any scientist that creates a lot of energy or a new weapon (only exception to this is in the real world with Einstein and the atomic bomb). Maybe something to add to the description (looking at someone with better english and story telling skills than I got) Aquaplanet (talk) 12:44, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
One actual quote related to atomic bomb is not so different: "I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds." -- Hkmaly (talk) 17:20, 14 February 2015 (UTC)

faced? 12:53, 13 February 2015 (UTC)

Has anyone found a calculation or example of how much energy would be required to run a "vacuum (in the space time sense) cleaner"? And what would it be cleaning exactly? Iggynelix (talk) 18:50, 13 February 2015 (UTC)

I suppose it would clean a soft vacuum into a hard vacuum, so it would be cleaning particles. Which is kind of exactly what vacuum (in the household appliance sense) cleaner does, just on a larger scale. Shishire (talk) 20:57, 13 February 2015 (UTC)

Can we get that last panel as a tee shirt? -- dragonkingofthestars (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I want one too. But i must say i found the idea of accidentially tapping vacuum energy with a vacuumer extremely far fetched. I mean it was obvious what beret gey was trying to do, but to let him succeed ?!? ;-) --Wilberforce (talk) 22:37, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
Two words: Soup Socket... 01:26, 14 February 2015 (UTC)

Is supernatural powers for Beret Guy an official XKCD theme now? Djbrasier (talk) 04:26, 14 February 2015 (UTC)

"On an additional note, many scientific breakthroughs in history have been made because the person making them did not realize they were supposedly impossible ..." On an additional, additional note, the vacuum cleaner was invented based on a music hall demonstration of a cleaning machine that blew instead of sucked, and the person watching the demonstration got the idea that the machine would "suck" less if it sucked, if you get my meaning. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vacuum_cleaner#Vacuum_cleaner --RenniePet (talk) 12:14, 14 February 2015 (UTC)

The energy for black hole evaporation doesn't come from the vacuum state, it comes from the mass of the black hole itself. The explanation given on this page is incorrect. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

In the game Final Fantasy V, the villain ExDeath (or depending on the translation X-Death, Exdeath, Ex Death, EXDeath and so) 's objetive is control the energy and power of the Void/Vacuum (depending on translation) to command the universe, spiler: He was unable to control the tremendous power and become Neo Exdeath (again spelling issue) who want use the void to make everything into nothing, also both as boss have a move called "Vacuum Wave" and in Dissidia they signature move is "Power of the Void" and in Dissidia 012 is "The laws of the universe mean nothing!", ultimately was defeathed by the hero(e)s. Funny that Barret guy want use the Vacuum/Void to acomplish what ExDeath fail to do with the Void/Vacuum. -- 06:22, 16 February 2015 (UTC)

Is this the same thing as 1404? I don't understand physics well enough to know if it does or doesn't. Djbrasier (talk) 15:44, 16 March 2015 (UTC)


I challenge the statement that "spin-stabilised magnetic levitation" was a breakthrough invention, and would like to hear a few more of those "many" other examples. ;) --Wilberforce (talk) 17:12, 6 March 2023 (UTC)