2887: Minnesota

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Jump to: navigation, search
In addition to 'squishy', after reviewing my submitted intraplate ground motion data, the National Geodetic Survey has politely asked me to stop using the word 'supple' so often when describing Midwestern states.
Title text: In addition to 'squishy', after reviewing my submitted intraplate ground motion data, the National Geodetic Survey has politely asked me to stop using the word 'supple' so often when describing Midwestern states.


Hairy, Ponytail, and Cueball are in a business meeting of an unknown nature, but one which (it transpires) is unrelated to either geography, geology or geopolitical boundaries. Hairy asks if anyone has any other concerns, a common enough question to ask when trying to ensure that nobody at the meeting has still something to say that had not already been covered directly by the agenda or the resulting discussions.

Cueball voices an opinion on Minnesota. Due to the post-glacial rebound present in Minnesota, this US state is apparently slowly decreasing in size. The humor comes from the fact that this may be a genuine concern to Cueball, but is completely unrelated to the topic of the meeting, is not really a 'problem' that has any practical significance, and in any case there is also no reasonable way to prevent this[citation needed]. And yet Cueball clearly finds it important enough that "all meetings should be about Minnesota" until the 'problem' is solved.

The title text implies that Cueball has also brought this issue up to the National Geodetic Survey; rather than commenting on his data or findings, they have simply requested that he stop using suggestive language in his papers ("supple" and "squishy" are sometimes used, especially in erotic literature, to describe certain body parts[citation greatly appreciated]).

The Midwestern states, particularly in areas like the New Madrid Seismic Zone, are subject to the movement of tectonic plates well within a tectonic plate boundary. While these areas are typically less active than boundary zones, they can still experience significant seismic activity. The flexible way the Earth's crust in these regions responds to tectonic stresses – gently stretching and flexing over centuries in response to deep stresses – could imaginatively be described as "supple."

Minnesota's northern border is legally defined in part by reference to geographical features, most notably Lake of the Woods and a chain of rivers and lakes connecting it to Lake Superior. As such, movement of these features due to glacial rebound may indeed be reducing Minnesota's size at a very gradual rate. Minnesota's southern border, in contrast, is legally defined as a line running at 43º 30′ N, which would not be affected by the motion of the land. Indeed, it is possible that glacial rebound is effectively moving land out of Minnesota and into Iowa, again at a very gradual rate.


Ambox notice.png This transcript is incomplete. Please help editing it! Thanks.
[Hairy standing in front of Ponytail and Cueball, who are sitting behind a desk]
Hairy: Does anyone have any other concerns?
Cueball: I'm concerned that Minnesota is getting shorter.
[A map of Minnesota beside Cueball, with arrows pointing from the northern and southern borders towards the middle]
Cueball: Because of post-glacial crust rebound, the northern border is moving toward the southern border. It's less than an inch a decade, but I still don't like it.
Cueball: Minnesota shouldn't be squishy.
[Hairy again standing in front of Ponytail and Cueball at the desk. Ponytail is looking at Cueball, whose finger is now raised in the air, gesturing]
Hairy: Okay. Does anyone have any concerns related to the topic of this meeting?
Cueball: All meetings should be about Minnesota until we resolve this.

comment.png add a comment! ⋅ comment.png add a topic (use sparingly)! ⋅ Icons-mini-action refresh blue.gif refresh comments!


Does NGS's request about "supple" have to be "rather than" commenting on the data? It could be in addition to it. Barmar (talk) 19:38, 29 January 2024 (UTC)

Where do I find the latitude and longitude gain or loss of arbitrary points not relative to the African Plate but to the rotation axis and whatever is the official longitude? Does the official prime meridian move every time the European plate moves or is it fixed to Greenwich Observatory? -- Oxygen (talk) 19:46, 29 January 2024 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Based on IERS Reference Meridian article, I think I can answer that with definitive "maybe". I mean, it's not fixed to Greenwich (is actually 100m apart of it) but I wasn't able to decipher what exactly they are doing regarding tectonic shifts, just that they were thinking about it. -- Hkmaly (talk) 20:39, 29 January 2024 (UTC)

Personally, my go-to "other question" is "what is the square root of pi?". Tends to get a fun mix of answers. PotatoGod (talk) 05:50, 30 January 2024 (UTC)

Rhubarb. (OK - it's not quite square, and it's a stem, not a root, but close enough, and it does make a damn good pie.) 09:27, 30 January 2024 (UTC)
Not to be pedantic (or, to be self-pedantic, maybe this was indeed pedantry), but rhubarb is surely the square stalk of pie. Or you're eating it wrongly. 10:03, 30 January 2024 (UTC)

Probably unrelated, but I've seen several 'scare' articles over the weekend that say the Moon is 'shrivelling', due to its core cooling. Tend to say something like that it has shrunk by 330ft (without indicating over what time period, or relating that distance to the much larger general diameter such that it makes this not exactly a visible difference if you were to stare at any given bit of surface). The 'scare' is that it'll make it impossible to settle the Moon (due to selenological settling, ironically), especially at its (probably valuable) South Pole. Apart from it not being new info (LRO provided "the Moon has been shrinking 150ft over hundreds of millions of years" data, last decade; and that could even be the exact same thing, only quoted as a rough radius change instead of a roughish diameter one), there's also various ways of adding resiliance to reasonable surface changes (e.g. the current Halley Research Base used by the British Antarctic Survey) if you need to. Obviously the recent topical interest in landings (current and nearish-future) could have brought it up as a bit of 'current' news. Maybe it then filtered through to inspire the comic's premise (after searching for a sort-of-equivalent Earthly effect that was even more ripe for absurdist humour)... Likely not, but still thought it worth a mention, as a footnote. 15:02, 30 January 2024 (UTC)

Problem with comics like this is that I've now gone from not knowing the word "geodetic" at all to wondering why Alabama is the only one of the 48 contiguous states without state plane coordinate system legislation from 1983. Davidhbrown (talk) 16:35, 30 January 2024 (UTC)

I think some more detail on the borders of Minnesota as legally defined would be useful, but I'm not sure I have the complete picture. As far as I've been able to research, the northern border (with Canada) is in part defined by geographical features, such as Lake of the Woods, so the rebound would be affecting it, but I'm not sure to what degree. The southern border (with Iowa), on the other hand, is defined as a line at 43° 30' N, which wouldn't be affected by rebound - in fact, it's plausible that the rebound would be pulling parts of Iowa into Minnesota. I don't think this marks any errors in the comic (which only states that that the northern border is moving towards the southern, not vice-versa), but some of the commentary may need to be tweaked or elaborated on. --Penguin Zero (talk) 02:56, 31 January 2024 (UTC)

The image in the second panel clearly implies that the southern border is moving northwards as well. 09:18, 31 January 2024 (UTC)

"All meetings should be about Minnesota until we resolve this" reminds me of something, maybe another XKCD. Maybe the "but someone is wrong on the Internet!" one. There's a infrequent theme of nerd-sniping or very specific issues hijacking normal business. Anyone remember this? Laser813 (talk) 16:25, 31 January 2024 (UTC)

The National Geodetic Survey asked him to stop using the word "supple" so often, which means they are ok with him using it from time to time. 14:44, 29 February 2024 (UTC) I literally lol'ed at "citation greatly appreciated". that said I assume actual citing of examples of erotic literature would NOT be appreciated by site mods. 23:16, 28 May 2024 (UTC)