2467: Wikipedia Caltrops

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Wikipedia Caltrops
Oh no, they set up a roadblock which is just a sign with the entire 'Czech hedgehog' article printed on it.
Title text: Oh no, they set up a roadblock which is just a sign with the entire 'Czech hedgehog' article printed on it.


Cueball's car has a collection of Wikipedia links spilling out of the trunk, meant to stop Hairy who's in the following car. The idea is that by dropping a series of interesting links, one could stop someone else's movement as they take the time to go through them all, provided that they are also easily distracted. This is analogous to the caltrops mentioned in the title; caltrops are small, spiked implements that are scattered on a road to slow down someone pursuing you. Hence the title of Wikipedia Caltrops.

Wikipedia is also a website that is notorious for having many links to other pages, which may result in a "wiki walk", a dilemma for Randall that has been discussed previously in 214: The Problem with Wikipedia (and separately with TV Tropes in 609: Tab Explosion).

This strategy is similar to a weaponized version of 356: Nerd Sniping, using the high levels of focus that tend to come along with nerdy interests against someone. Munroe apparently reasons that, because these links would stop him in his tracks, they might do the same for a given target.

The Wikipedia links include:

Mentioned in the title text, a "Czech hedgehog" is an anti-tank obstacle made of metal, essentially a large caltrop. It would be an effective roadblock, however a sign describing it would not impede most traffic, [citation needed] only for those distracted as easily as Randall.


[Cueball drives a car, followed by another car driven by Hairy. Cueball is leaning on the open window looking back as 24 large paper slips with Wikipedia links are flying out of the open trunk of the car. They extend to the front of Hairy's car, obscuring that all the way up to Hairy's position in the car. None of the links can be read in full, and only on a few can parts of the actual link be seen. Many has only part of the pages title visible, some parts are obstructed partly by other slips in front of them or they have not entirely left the trunk. In once case the link is so long that it has been split on two lines on a thicker slip. There is a large part of the link that cannot be seen after the first line, but the end of the second line can be seen as well. Here the (fairly) readable parts are given, roughly in normal reading order.]
/wiki/AVE Mizar
Time in Australia#Anomalies:
[Caption below the panel:]
I have a collection of Wikipedia links to throw behind my car if I'm ever being chased by someone as easily distracted as me.

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seems more like flares (which distract) than caltrops (which physically impair) to me. 16:31, 24 May 2021 (UTC)

I'd say "Well, I now know what I'm doing for the next few hours!", except that I suspect that this isn't even going to be the half of it... 16:37, 24 May 2021 (UTC)

👍 OhFFS (talk) 21:45, 24 May 2021 (UTC)

except 'caltrops' is a funnier word than 'flares' and we get the gist anyway. 17:23, 24 May 2021 (UTC)

no WAY randall is a jon bois fan 17:38, 24 May 2021 (UTC)

Flares draw fire to prevent missiles from reaching their target. Caltrops impede the actual motion of the vehicle. If the links are as distracting as Randall implies, I think his choice makes sense! 00:34, 25 May 2021 (UTC)

Flares do " draw fire" but because they are more visible to heat seeking missiles than engine jet engine heat. This seems like a solvable problem, missile and flare wise. 03:44, 25 May 2021 (UTC)

"Chaff" might work, right? Jkshapiro (talk) 14:54, 15 May 2022 (UTC)

Shouldn't the links be given as QR codes rather than plain text, which would have to be read and re-typed into a device with a suitable web browser? 00:54, 25 May 2021 (UTC)

Having to type the URL would be more distracting to driver of the car behind? And it's not like it is exactly easy to aim your phone camera to and read the QR code on a flying banner from the car in front of you, in addition to using smartphone mean traffic law violation. And text in URL also spoiler the link content a bit to invite interest. 02:45, 25 May 2021 (UTC)
QR codes for urls are more a marketing ploy. The usage for typing urls into a webbrowser can be as easily done by an OCR algorithm on the camera image. Sebastian -- 12:02, 25 May 2021 (UTC)
Plain text (if it contains interesting words) will catch the driver's attention. QR codes are easy to ignore.

It looks like "List of Fictional Colors" used to exist but was deleted late July 2020 04:11, 25 May 2021 (UTC)

I have nothing useful to add but wanted to point out that "as easily distracted as me." is grammatically incorrect - it should instead be "as easily distracted as I." 13:25, 25 May 2021 (UTC)

XKCD 1576 OhFFS (talk) 14:53, 26 May 2021 (UTC)
Firstly, no native speaker of English says "as [whatever] as I". Secondly, the whole phrase, "someone as easily distracted as me", not just "someone", is governed by the preposition "by". See §8 of the article on "as" in H.W. Fowler's A Dictionary of Modern English Usage (1926) for case after "as". 21:01, 1 January 2022 (UTC)
Without referencing Fowler's thoughts, I would suggest "...someone as easily distracted as I am." would work. In fact, I'd prefer it. (But there might be a US/UK divide, or similar dichotomy. Like choosing to answer "Do you have <a thing>?" with either "Yes I do." or "Yes I have.") 23:13, 1 January 2022 (UTC)
In a quick sample of everyone sitting at my computer at the moment, 100% of native speakers of English say "as [whatever] as I". And the fact that the phrase "someone as easily distracted as [me|I]" is introduced with a preposition doesn't affect the internal composition of the phrase. Jkshapiro (talk) 14:54, 15 May 2022 (UTC)

The wikipedia list should have a warning before it due to a HIGH nerd sniping potential. No doubt that was the intent. --Hman

It's a legitimate technique. I've been trying to read this explanation page for 48 hours but it keeps sending me down a Wikipedia hole that I have to dig myself out of. Xseo (talk) 10:14, 26 May 2021 (UTC)

My own selection of caltrops[edit]

IMHO a crime to omit…

  • Monastic community of Mount Athos: Large peninsula barred to any females, incl. cows, sheep … to (quote) "ensure celibacy". When Empress Helena took refuge there she was carried to never touch the ground. Uses Julian calendar.
  • Baarle: Village in Dutch territory featuring 16 Belgian exclaves surrounding 7 nested Dutch areas. "For convenience, every house number plaque shows a flag."
  • Blue Peacock#Chicken-powered nuclear bomb: Nuke utilizing body heat

--JR 13:34, 19 September 2023 (UTC)