Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Title text: And to you, I leave my life-sized ice sculpture replica of the Pietà which was blessed by the Pope. You must never let it melt! Now, remember, all gifts must be removed from my estate within 24 hours.
In some cultures it is customary to make bequests, usually in written form called a will, of some or all of your possessions, to be given to people close to you after your death. Often, items bequeathed may be of purely sentimental value to the giver. That sentimental value may not carry over to the recipient, but they may, nonetheless, feel obliged to keep possession of them in order to respect the giver's wishes. In some cases, if the items are unwanted, unusable, or the recipient simply doesn't know what to do with them, they may elect to place the items in storage, rather than dispose of them.
Randall therefore suggests the following prank to be played by someone near death: bequeath an item that is intentionally very difficult to store or even move. In this case, the old dying man gives his Foucault pendulum to someone in his family.
A Foucault pendulum is a type of pendulum that is commonly used in science museums to practically demonstrate the rotation of the Earth. In order to attain the sensitivity required to do this, the pendulum must be very long - in this case, it is thirty feet (approximately nine meters) in length: about the height of a large hall. It must also be undisturbed; any disruption, such as a touch on the pendulum, will prevent it from accurately portraying the rotation of the Earth.
By insisting that the pendulum never stop swinging, the old man has made it impossible for the pendulum to be simply detached and stowed away. Even transporting it will be extremely difficult, as it is thirty feet tall, and any change to its orientation will disrupt its swing. (Note, however, that the old man didn't specify that it has to work as a Foucault pendulum; merely, that it must not stop swinging.) He has also added an extra layer of guilt to the 'gift' by suggesting that if they do ever let it stop swinging it will be because they have forgotten him.
The title text takes it even further, with a life-sized ice sculpture replica of the Pietà which was blessed by the Pope. A Pietà is a representation of the body of Jesus Christ on the lap of his mother, Mary, in the aftermath of his Crucifixion. When styled "The Pietà" it usually refers to Pietà a Renaissance sculpture by Florentine artist Michelangelo. It is widely considered one of the masterpieces of sculpture. While replicas of Pietà do exist, there are none known to have been made of ice, let alone made of ice and blessed by the Pope. That said, if such a sculpture were made, there are several ways to obtain a papal blessing. Such a sculpture would be over six feet tall and weigh several tons, and would have to be constantly maintained at sub-zero temperatures. While the gift could potentially be very valuable, the statement "all gifts must be removed from my estate within 24 hours" would dramatically increase its chances of melting.
For both the pendulum and the ice sculpture, it is theoretically possible to devise a way to remove, transport, and store them with all the necessary conditions met, but they would probably be huge and very expensive logistical feats, requiring substantial planning and preparation. The final condition that everything must be removed within 24 hours makes such a feat practically impossible.
As a side note: Catholic canon law would discourage selling such a sculpture and, were such a sculpture to melt, the water would need to be collected "burned, buried, or consumed". These are the proper ways to dispose of a blessed object.
Alternatively, the title text could be read as meaning that there is a Pietà that has been blessed by the Pope, which formed the basis for this replica, though that would make the ice sculpture itself somewhat less remarkable.
- [An old man (wrinkled and deformed head with a bit of hair left) is lying in his bed, head on a pillow, body beneath a blanket. He points to one of the three people standing along the side of the bed, Ponytail, Cueball, and a kid with spiky hair.]
- Old man: And to you...
- Old man: I leave the 30-foot Foucault Pendulum from the main hall.
- Old man: It has been swinging for fifty years. As long as you remember me, you must never let it stop!
- [Caption below the panel:]
- A fun prank: as you're dying, leave people gifts that will be as difficult as possible to put into storage.
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Wikipedia has a list of most Foucault pendulums in the world, if anyone wants to try to guess what museum he worked for :) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Foucault_pendulums Hawthorn (talk) 12:11, 12 January 2018 (UTC)
- I assumed that his Foucault pendulum was in his own home, rather than in some public place. 18.104.22.168 15:41, 12 January 2018 (UTC)
- Yeah, he does say "Main hall" DPS2004'); DROP TABLE users;-- (talk) 17:19, 12 January 2018 (UTC)
- Hmmm, I take your point :) I made the assumption that the pendulum is in a museum because I'm most familiar with seeing them in museums (and museums have halls), but the comic doesn't actually say that. It would be unusual for a man to personally own a large hall with a Foucault pendulum, but the title text does suggest that the guy is rich, so it's possible. Hawthorn (talk) 17:33, 12 January 2018 (UTC)
- I feel this pendulum is unquestionably in this guy's private home. If it were in a museum, firstly it's unlikely to be his to bequeath. Secondly, even if it was, there'd be no difficulty here, the recipient could just leave it with the museum. However, his words not only imply that this bed is in the same building as the pendulum, but the title text saying it must be removed I feel cements the idea that the pendulum is in his home. Even if he is the ultimate dictator of the museum, he'd hardly be any position to insist on any removal after he dies, whoever takes charge after - or likely already now with him on his deathbed - would likely want the pendulum to stay. I believe the whole idea is that this is a weird and unwieldy item to personally own and even more so to have in one's home, so it lends to the absurdity of the comic. NiceGuy1 (talk) 06:44, 16 January 2018 (UTC)
- It is possible that he owns the pendulum, not the hall. As the first commenter suggested, there is only one Foucault pendulum in the word that is exactly 30ft (according to wiki), I don't want to spoil it but the semi-real nature of the series could mean this pendulum is in THAT museum. 22.214.171.124 18:15, 14 January 2018 (UTC)
- So in that case, if we want to know what museum he worked for, we need a list of those that used to have Foucault pendulums...126.96.36.199 09:14, 15 January 2018 (UTC)
I am working on a fan project related to xkcd and I am hoping to release it on the 2000th comic. How much longer do I have? DPS2004'); DROP TABLE users;-- (talk) 16:33, 12 January 2018 (UTC)
- Assuming they come out three times a week as normal, until about the end of May.188.8.131.52 16:46, 12 January 2018 (UTC)
- If the comics continue as normal, #2000 would come out on May 30th, 2018. 184.108.40.206 22:49, 12 January 2018 (UTC)
- Thanks! DPS2004'); DROP TABLE users;-- (talk) 17:17, 12 January 2018 (UTC)
- But why on such an arbitrary number? If you wait until #2048 at least it would be a nice round one :D 220.127.116.11 12:59, 13 January 2018 (UTC)
- Only here could someone suggest that 2000 is an arbitrary number, 2048 is round, and not to worry about anyone wondering what you're talking about. :) I love it. LOL! Though I'd also put forward 2018, as it'll be the one and only comic to appear in it's namesake year (with every single other year's number also appearing this year). NiceGuy1 (talk) 06:44, 16 January 2018 (UTC)
There is a superstition that the stopping of a clock's pendulum will cause (or will be caused by) the death of the clock's owner. A less superstitious version is that a clock's pendulum must be kept swinging as a token of rememberance. Therefore it is actually quite realistic that a dying person might instruct the inheritor of a pendulum clock to never let it stop. However, Randall turns the situation absurd by replacing the pendulum clock with a Foucault pendulum, not only because of the difficulty of moving the pendulum while it's swinging, but also because there's no such superstition associated with Foucault pendulums (that I could find, at least). 18.104.22.168 17:51, 13 January 2018 (UTC)
The possibility that the old man's requests will be ignored are in direct proportion to the possibility of him being capable of exacting revenge from beyond the grave.--These Are Not The Comments You Are Looking For (talk) 01:16, 14 January 2018 (UTC)
- So if he's certain to be able to take revenge, they're certain to ignore his requests? Weird. 22.214.171.124 09:38, 15 January 2018 (UTC)
- It's 'in direct' not 'indirect', if it had been 'indirect' then 'inversely' would have been a better description for likelyhood. And if your just making a pun, well sorry.126.96.36.199 14:34, 15 January 2018 (UTC)
- If it's in direct proportion, then the greater the chance of revenge, the greater the chance of it being ignored. If it's indirect proportion, that... well, that would be meaningless. It would be be more logical for it to be in inverse proportion (the greater the chance of revenge, the lower the chance it will be ignored). Except, of course, that wills aren't (generally) respected due to fear of revenge; they're respected due to legal mandate and social convention.188.8.131.52 16:33, 15 January 2018 (UTC)
- Ol' Mr./Ms. 76.16 is right, These Are... should have said "in indirect relation", or "in inverse relation". The more likely there will be paranormal revenge, the less likely his requests will be ignored. If I KNOW he'll come back to haunt me, I KNOW I won't be ignoring his requests, I'm doing everything I can to fulfill them. :) NiceGuy1 (talk) 06:59, 16 January 2018 (UTC)
- I guess that I did not word my post clearly. What I tried to get across was: the more likely that the Old Man CAN conduct revenge from the Grave, the more likely that his wishes WON'T be ignored.These Are Not The Comments You Are Looking For (talk) 01:10, 21 January 2018 (UTC)
- Ah, I see. If your original comment had said "WON'T be ignored", then it would have come across that way. And yes, you're right. LOL! NiceGuy1 (talk) 04:34, 30 January 2018 (UTC)
Should be mentioned: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/LastRequest 184.108.40.206 08:20, 14 January 2018 (UTC)