474: Turn-On

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
(Redirected from 474)
Jump to: navigation, search
Supercollider? I 'ardly know 'er!
Title text: Supercollider? I 'ardly know 'er!


This comic refers to the first startup (turn on) of CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC). There was a theoretical concern that that the LHC experiments could create a black hole that would suck in our planet.

Cueball uses this concern when telling Megan that this could be their last night on Earth, but since the scene is in a bar, this is just another lame entry he uses because he just wants to spend the night with her.

Megan answers as a physicist and explains that, first of all, they will not start colliding particles just because they actually turn on the collider. That will take a while, during which everything needs to be checked. Secondly, scientists have determined that the fears are unfounded — among other things because cosmic rays have already been bombarding the Earth with particles even more energetic than those created by the LHC. Thus, if the LHC could create a black hole that would suck up the Earth, then that would have happened long ago due to the cosmic rays. (At present time, the collider has been colliding particles for years, and if you read this line on or near Earth, then the Earth is still here; if you read it in a galaxy far away from the Milky Way, then it is somewhat more plausible that Earth may have been destroyed in the time that the signal took to reach you — although not necessarily by the LHC.)

Cueball feels rejected by her answer and turns away to leave her, but she calls him back explaining very directly that she did not say "no" to his request (to try to stay a night with her). Also, as she is a physics grad student, she needs an excuse to party — the excuse being that the LHC is turned on.

Cueball feels encouraged and continues his attempt to get her in to bed. But in his next sentence, he unwittingly uses three of the six quark flavors (up quark, charm quark, and strange quark). Megan continues to be very direct when asking if she has to be on top or bottom (when they are going to have sex). But this is also a sentence she chooses so she can continue using quark flavors (top quark and bottom quark). Cueball is flustered and complains that she is assuming too much, since he hasn't even bought her a drink yet. Megan then makes it even worse when she makes an order of two whiskey sours straight down — to use the final flavor (down quark).

Maybe she just teases Cueball (with her knowledge about the LHC and quarks), or else she is actually so turned on by the LHC Turn-On that she wishes to have sex with Cueball as soon as possible.

The quarks are some fundamental particles the LHC is generating. All six flavors of quarks are in the last panel: up, down, top, bottom, charm, and strange. They are also referenced in 1418: Horse, 1621: Fixion, and in 1731: Wrong, the latter also mentioning the up and down flavor. The mention of the drinks being served "straight down" is a reversal of the common bartending term "straight up," but there is no "straight down" in bartending.

The title text is of course a very old joke "I 'ardly know 'er!," which was referenced in 259: Clichéd Exchanges. In this case, Supercollider (another name for the LHC) should be misunderstood as "(Did you) Supercollide her?", which you could put into a (nasty?) sexual context. Using this sentence at the wrong moment could be bad for a nice romance. This could be a reference to the Futurama episode "That's Lobstertainment!," in which Humorbot 5.0 tells a similar supercollider joke.


[Cueball walks up to Megan sitting at a bar.]
Cueball: So, the LHC's turning on. This could be our last night on earth.
[While Beret Guy as a bartender walks into the frame, Megan replies without turning.]
Megan: Gimme a break. They're not even colliding yet, and it won't do anything cosmic rays haven't.
[Cueball turns and walks away. But then Megan turns towards him and says:]
Megan: Hey, I didn't say no.
Megan: I'm a physics grad student. I need the excuse to party.
[Cueball turns back and they talk:]
Cueball: So, you're up for a night with a charming stranger?
Megan: Depends. Top or bottom?
Cueball: Hey, I haven't even bought you a drink.
Megan: Barkeep, two whiskey sours, straight down.

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


All six flavors of quark are mentioned in the last panel 22:30, 16 December 2012 (UTC)AMP

I thought that I got this one, turns out I didn't have a clue. 00:27, 19 September 2013 (UTC)

I suspect the title text is a reference to the Futurama episode That's Lobstertainment!, in which Humorbot 5.0 tells a similar supercollider joke. Pelosujamo (talk) 17:45, 18 March 2014 (UTC)

This doesn't explain the comic itself, but this could belong to a trivia section. Let me know if you do need help on this. --Dgbrt (talk) 00:35, 19 March 2014 (UTC)

The title "Turn-On" also seems to be a pun. Turning on the LHC (as mentioned in the first panel) and Megan getting turned on by the mentioning of the quark flavors -- 14:05, 20 July 2014 (UTC)

Would havenneen even funnier had he mentioned some squarks. He first says sup, heh. "I didn't tell you to stop" and things like that. I guess you can also say they lepton the bed, and Cueball had a huge hadron. Also particle physicists don't use strap ons. They use gluons! Oh and I'm sure Cueball will send a shower of particles in a burst of energy. But lol I'm pretty sure the joke here is unambiguously that she's "turned on" by the LHC turn on. Heck had I been my current age at that time, I certainly would be. Science is fucking sexy. Oh come on, I can't be the only one that gets off to pure science? XD International Space Station (talk) 01:25, 4 November 2015 (UTC)

And I guess Beret Guy is just... there. Never knew he got a job as a bartender. Good for him. I mean, he could've used his "magical powers" to cure cancer or help people, but sure. Bartender's fine. -- JayRulesXKCD (talk)

I removed a paragraph about their being "another joke hidden in the identity of the bartender" and some sexual innuendo left to "the reader's imagination". That's not how Explain XKCD works, in my experience. Either come up with a justification/explanation for it or don't post it! AmbroseChapel (talk) 04:55, 25 September 2017 (UTC)

Top and bottom are also terms used by gay men to indicate which role each will play in a sexual encounter. -- The Cat Lady (talk) 10:40, 15 August 2021 (UTC)

Cueball's "This could be our last night on Earth" remark seems to imply that having sex with each other would be a worthwhile way to spend the night. 03:41, 24 January 2023 (UTC)