1315: Questions for God

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Questions for God
What sins could possibly darken the heart of a STEAMBOAT? I asked The Shadow, but he says he only covers men.
Title text: What sins could possibly darken the heart of a STEAMBOAT? I asked The Shadow, but he says he only covers men.


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Megan is paraphrasing a famous quote from the British applied mathematician, and fellow of the Royal Society, Horace Lamb, who famously stated in 1932: "I am an old man now, and when I die and go to heaven there are two matters on which I hope for enlightenment. One is quantum electrodynamics, and the other is the turbulent motion of fluids. And about the former I am rather optimistic." Cueball, in response, indicates that what he hopes for divine elucidation relates to the widespread schoolyard rhyme "Miss Susie", which typically begins with the stanza:

"Miss Susie had a steamboat The steamboat had a bell Miss Susie went to heaven The steamboat went to...

Hello operator Please give me number nine ..."

The rhyming scheme between the second and fourth lines, and implied contrast, causing the listener to fill in the word "Hell" instead of the innocuous "Hello". Therefore Cueball is indeed wondering what a Steamboat, an object lacking will, could have done to deserve divine punishment.

The alt-text is a reference to the 1930's pulp series "The Shadow" whose titular character is a psychic vigilante. The 1937 radio play's introduction began with the line "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!" Unfortunately as the subject is a Steamboat, and lacking a mind (or heart) to read, The Shadow would be unable to determine what heinous crimes it had committed to deserve damnation.


Megan: Horace Lamb said he would have two questions for God: why quantum mechanics, and why turbulence?

Cueball: I'd have just one: what did Miss Susie's steamboat do?!

Title text: What sins could possibly darken the heart of a STEAMBOAT? I asked The Shadow, but he says he only covers men.

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Hey, Arnold! Greyson (talk) 13:51, 10 January 2014 (UTC)

The Shadow cannot provide an answer because steamboats--boats and ships specifically, and generally anything you ride on--are gendered as "women" in the English language. Kevin11 11 (talk) 14:30, 10 January 2014 (UTC)Kevin 11_11

I think this is worth mentioning as a secondary possibility, but to me it doesn't work nearly as well as the simple "a steamboat isn't a person". Jkshapiro (talk) 03:32, 29 January 2016 (UTC)
I read it as the poetic "man" which includes women as a subset, which is also a fairly common English construction. I am not familiar with The Shadow, but Wikipedia doesn't suggest that there's any particular genderful power to the phrase (in fact, the Shadow only has powers in the radio adaptations it seems out of necessity), so I'm going to assume that this is a coincidence. Hppavilion1 (talk) 02:35, 1 April 2017 (UTC)

The description of The Shadow is not quite right. The radio character had "the power to cloud men's minds so they cannot see him", but the pulp magazine character did not. He used his black cloak and slouch hat to blend into the shadows and he was a master of disguise. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Hi? As a Mathematician, I feel the Shadow should just program around quantum mechanics in general. Simplifies the problem. This is the algorithm now. 07:15, 12 January 2014 (UTC) -- Anomulus (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I think Eric Laithwaite on gyroscopes unknowingly explained the behaviour of storms. Three tropical storms on the go simultaneously will on cyclosis resolve or devolve into a VEI event. When they hit a continental shelf (thus causing cyclosis) the tilt causes a fundamental change in fluid dynamics and a change of state takes place as the energy moves underground. In an as yet inexplicable paradox(?) there are NO tropical storms when a super-quake strikes. The base-line appears to be 5.6 M after a lull in medium sized quakes.I used Google News BEFORE it was clickbait 21:09, 9 January 2015 (UTC)