Difference between revisions of "1416: Pixels"

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Does not work on xkcd.org neither www.xkcd.org in Firefox and Chrome. Currently you should visit http://xkcd.com for this comic to work properly.
Does not work on xkcd.org neither www.xkcd.org in Firefox and Chrome. Currently you should visit http://xkcd.com for this comic to work properly.
There is a bug/typo, where there is a chance of white pixels zoom into a missing panel, resulting in a white screen.
This is affecting several panels: "du" (1-in-13), "server-1" (1-in-13), and "time-turner" (1-in-14).
In each case the missing (404) tile is "what-if-trade" (probably should be "whatif-trade").
Also, it doesn't work on HTTPS.
Also, it doesn't work on HTTPS.

Revision as of 23:29, 3 September 2014

It's turtles all the way down.
Title text: It's turtles all the way down.

NOTE: The above is only a zoomed out version of the this interactive comic. For a collection of images that appear when zooming in on this comic, see 1416: Pixels/Images.


Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Individual panels need explanations
If you can address this issue, please edit the page! Thanks.

This interactive comic begins with a panel where Cueball is stacking turtles. This is a reference to the idiom "turtles all the way down," which refers to the problem of infinite regression: if everything in the universe is "on top of" something else, so to speak, there must be a "bottom." A joking solution to the paradoxical nature of such a bottom is the proposition that the world rests on a semi-infinite stack of turtles.

As can be read you should "scroll to zoom". This can be done by placing the cursor inside the panel of the comic. When scrolling up (using the mouse wheel) the picture zooms in until the pixels are visible. When you continue to scroll on each pixel then resolves into another comic picture, with black-on-white comic panels making up the white pixels and white-on-black panels making up the black pixels. Scrolling on until you can see the pixels of the comic picture you are now zooming into the process is repeated again and will be so for all subsequent sets of comic panels. Not all white and all black panels are the same; some sets involve more than two different panels, but all involve repetitive tiling.

Book Launch

This comic was released on September 3rd, 2014, the day after Randall's book What If was launched. The book is shown and referred to in a number of frames, for example it is literally launched as a part of an rocket up goer built by Cueball.

The model up goer is made of Rocket Parts from KSP. KSP is the Kerbal Space Program, a spaceflight simulator. Perhaps XKCD's 'parts' refers to KSP's large community of mod developers who contribute 'parts' to the game.

The frames showing the book launch use URIs that include the text "upgoer" in reference to the Up Goer Five comic.

Needs More Struts

Struts are structural members in engineering, and are are one of the components used in Kerbal Space Program to construct rockets. 'Needs More Struts' seems to be a meme amongst players of Kerbal Space Program, along the lines of 'When in doubt, overengineer'. Megan deems Cueball's rocket to be insufficiently structurally sound, and declares that it "Needs More Struts"

The Only Copy

Cueball & Megan turn to each other having just launched the What-If book rocket into space (construction and launch are seen in other panels). perhaps Megan realises they may have misunderstood the term 'book launch' and that they may have just lost the only copy of the book.

Holism, Reductionism, Mu

These three words refer to "A MU offering", an essay by Douglas Hofstatder in his book Godel, Escher, Bach. It includes a similar multiple level drawing: the word MU is composed of copies of the words HOLISM and REDUCTIONISM, each of which are in turn made of smaller copies of the other, which are in turn made of tiny copies of the word MU.

Cantor Set

One panel contains a number of lines and dots, which are in fact a depiction of the first 5 steps of a Cantor Ternary Set, mirrored about the horizontal centreline. The Cantor ternary set is constructed by repeatedly deleting the open middle thirds of a set of line segments.

Time Turners

The time turner is a device from the Harry Potter series of novels by JK Rowling. It allows the user to re-live a period of time over again. In the third novel Hermione is given the time-turner to allow her to take extra classes, however it is eventually used to spare Buckbeak the hippogryph from execution. This prompted many questions regarding why time-turners weren’t used on other occasions to saves peoples lives (among other things).

While J.K Rowling has “solved the problem to her own satisfaction” she admits that she entered into the subject of time-travel too lightly. This panel jokes that if the real life JK Rowling had a fictional time-turner which worked, she would have gone back and removed the time-turner plotline from the book, saving her all the hassle of dealing with the resulting time-travel questions. This act would result in a time-travel paradox.

Stockholm Syndrome

Stockholm syndrome is the name for a psychological phenomenon, in which hostages develop sympathy, empathy and/or positive feelings towards their captors. These feelings are usually seen as irrational, seeing as the hostage is held against their wishes, usually with the threat of physical harm or death.

This panel asks "How do we know anyone really wants to live in Stockholm?", questioning whether everyone who lives in the city of Stockholm is in fact held hostage there and only stays because they have developed to like life there (due to Stockholm Syndrome).

Shut Down the Server

Cueball tells an offscreen character that he is going to shut down the server, while carrying a bucket of water.

Usually shutting down a server is done via the operating system or software, in this case it appears that cueball is simply going to douse it with water, likely resulting in serious water damage to the hardware.


`du` is a Linux command to indicate the "disk usage" of a file or directory.

   ~$ du -s video/

This is a command that shows how large all the files are in this user's "video" directory - presumably where they store their personal videos. The units of the result is probably kilobytes (depending on settings)

This number is clearly large and difficult to parse, and the units are not clear. More appropriate units would be terabytes rather than bytes. The du command offers an option to display units in "human readable format", which will adapt to use kilobytes, megabytes, gigabytes, terabytes, etc. as appropriate. The next command purports to request the same result in more human-readable form.

   ~$ du -hs video/
   A lot.

It seems that the computer, rather than giving a specific answer, simply says that the size of the video directory is "A lot."

The final line indicates the computer is now ready to accept a new command.

Fire Hydrant

Black Hat is talking to a fireman, with a fire engine on fire in the background, he asks "To be fair, what else would you expect to come out of a 'Fire Hydrant'?"

Black Hat appears to have managed to replace the usual water supply to the hydrant with some sort of flammable liquid. Thus when the hydrant is used, the result is, quite literally, fire. In Black Hat's logic, a hydrant which delivers water should be called a water hydrant.


The March of Progress image is a famous and instantly recognisable image showing the stages of human evolution by way of a series of primate figures as if marching in a line. The panel parodies the March of Progress image, with 5 ducklings following an adult duck. In this case they don’t actually ‘evolve’ into the adult duck however. The comic has some resemblance to 537: Ducklings.


[Cueball is stacking turtles, and is about to put the fourth turtle on his pile. At the bottom right there is a small panel. Inside this is written:]
Scroll to zoom
[When zooming in there will be several panels with text. The transcript of these may not be possible to complete - but add the transcript of these panels here: interactive transcript]


Doesn't seem to work properly in all browsers (e.g. Firefox and Safari on MacOSX), giving "TypeError: this.data is null" in line 173 of zoom.js: "var item = this.data.get(dims)" Doesn't seem to work in IE8, comic is blank, but title text works.

Does not work on xkcd.org neither www.xkcd.org in Firefox and Chrome. Currently you should visit http://xkcd.com for this comic to work properly.

Also, it doesn't work on HTTPS.


Graph of links between the 79 individual images

This gallery contains some of the 79 images[1] used in this comic. The images are related in a directed graph.

Images Database

This google sheet describes all possible images, their associated codes, and what possible images can be used as sub-images for each zoom level: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1nldKAkeVcK606CY12KI9bah9rDmK9E7CZOyinsEj2Lo/edit?usp=sharing


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


Firefox users with HTTPS Everywhere may have trouble seeing the comic, and Chrome users may experience lag (for lack of a better word) when zooming in. 06:11, 3 September 2014 (UTC)

The combination of "turtle" and "pixel" reminded me of how to code graphics in the older days with for instance turbo pascal (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turtle_graphics) - Stian

Would it be possible to have a "gallery" of all the zoom-in images? 06:29, 3 September 2014 (UTC)

Since the Zoom-in images have at lest one story line in them (I read one about a book launch, the book was launched to space in a rocket), I think a gallery or some such is needed for them. 06:50, 3 September 2014 (UTC)

I got to a white panel and there was nothing. Everything was white and zooming in or out didn't change it. Not sure if it was a bug or intended. -- Irino (talk) 07:15, 3 September 2014 (UTC)

That happens to me when I click on the image in Chrome. Not sure why. Jimmy C (talk) 21:35, 3 September 2014 (UTC)

Yet another comic that doesn't work well on mobile. I'll probably compile a list of comics that are broken in some way for mobile... Er. Soon-ish. -RTR 07:45, 3 September 2014 (UTC)

I have acquired a list of images with what they zoom into, and am working on turning that into something presentable. There's a lot of images though, so it may take a day. As for the white panel, yes, there does seem to be one broken link (out of nearly 500). I'm not sure how I would go about reporting it to get it fixed. Tahg (talk) 07:57, 3 September 2014 (UTC)

There are 79 different images. I have them isolated and am uploading them now. Omixorp (talk) 08:16, 3 September 2014 (UTC)

Cool - the images are here - if you click on the broken links they can be seen. But why are they not visible? They take up a lot of space, so I have moved them to a separate gallery page as has been done with 1350: Lorenz. Kynde (talk) 11:44, 3 September 2014 (UTC)
I think there's a problem with all thumbnails across this site - even old thumbnails don't seem to be working right now. Omixorp (talk) 10:31, 3 September 2014 (UTC)
They work on Lorenz that I have linked to in my comment above. Kynde (talk) 11:44, 3 September 2014 (UTC)

Doesn't work at all (blank) on my Firefox and IE11. I just installed Opera and it works but it's VERY laggy. Also, I have to scroll UP to zoom in, not down. -- 08:25, 3 September 2014 (UTC)

Neither on Firefox 31.0. Zooming until the first level of pictures, I see them appearing. But when they are larger than ~20 pixels they start to disappear. They only reappear intermittently when I pan or zoom. When I zoom in further, only images on the left side appear intermittently. This shows the grid is built from left to right, then top to bottom, and it just stops randomly. --Zom-B (talk) 20:32, 3 September 2014 (UTC)
I'm having different problems with both Firefox 31.0 and 32.0 on Windows. When zooming in, all pixels (including white parts of the image) resolve to images with black background, so I never see the "white" ones (except for the initial "turtles" one). Anyone having the same problem? IE11 works for me. 21:52, 3 September 2014 (UTC)
I also have this issue, using Firefox 31.0 on Windows 7. It's also very slow/laggy doing the fade transitions between pixels and the images. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

This date of this comic (Sept 3rd 2014) coincided with the date of Randall's book, What-If. This book is shown or referenced in a number of the frames.--Pudder (talk) 09:57, 3 September 2014 (UTC)

But the site says the book was out September 2nd... 11:21, 3 September 2014 (UTC)
You're right, I changed it and provided proof. As far as I could find, though, it's only launched in the US as of today. NealCruco (talk) 19:21, 3 September 2014 (UTC)

Also just isolated the images. I described the procedure on my blog: http://azttm.wordpress.com/2014/09/03/xkcd-com-1416-pixels/ Azt (Azt) 09:58, 3 September 2014 (UTC)

I zoom in when I scroll up. I also like turtles. 09:15, 3 September 2014 (UTC)

I think this comic might be a reference to D. Hofstadter's celebrated book Gödel, Escher, Bach, what with the 'holism', 'reductionism' and 'Mu' coming out at some point (there is the very same construction in one of the dialogs from that book). Plus, generally speaking, GEB is all about "strange loops" and infinite recursions. -- 09:50, 3 September 2014 (UTC)

I have uploaded a graph showing the layout of the entire storyline, with thumbnails of the individual images, at Media:1416_Pixels_layout.png. --Mnw21cam (talk) 12:20, 3 September 2014 (UTC)

Has any attempt been made to find "extra" panels that may occur as a part of a logical series? For example, there is "chess-b" and "chess-w", are there "chess-a", "chess-c", "chess-d", etc? Jarod997 (talk) 13:56, 3 September 2014 (UTC)

It never occurred to you that those letters stand for Black/White? --Zom-B (talk) 20:25, 3 September 2014 (UTC)
Huh, wha? No, that's got to be way too simple. There MUST be more images! :P Actually I was hoping/wondering if there was a sequence of 20-ish chess panels which depicted a game, with a Randall type ending to it. *sigh* Way to burst my bubble. lol Jarod997 (talk) 12:37, 4 September 2014 (UTC)

Any Kerbal Space Program players on here who can shed any light on the origins of 'Need Moar Struts'? Is it a well known meme amongst the player base as I have guessed?--Pudder (talk) 14:27, 3 September 2014 (UTC)

In an infinite series of turtles, at least 4 of them have to be youthful, genetically modified, and skilled in martial arts. Has anyone found them? DivePeak (talk) 21:30, 3 September 2014 (UTC)

I am on Chrome, and I cannot see any of the images in the Explain XKCD gallery even though the actual strip works fine. Anyone know what's wrong? Jimmy C (talk) 21:35, 3 September 2014 (UTC)

I don't know why the article says that the comic doesn't work in Safari on Mac OS X. It's working just fine here on Safari 7.0.6. I think if someone is going to make such claims, they should be careful to note which version of the software they're working with so others can compare appropriately. Yaztromo (talk) 23:33, 3 September 2014 (UTC)

Works for me on Safari 8.0 on my Mac-- 19:35, 4 September 2014 (UTC)

How do you get all these 'interesting' panels? No matter how much I scroll and pan I only get the space objects (including the Earth with 'BOOK LAUNCH' inscription), atoms and the MU panel (but never got either HOLISM or REDUCTIONISM). Firefox 26. 07:43, 5 September 2014 (UTC)

That's the same bug as I described above ( I couldn't get the comic to work properly with Firefox, so you'll probably have to try another browser... hope Randall will get these bugs fixed. 17:55, 12 September 2014 (UTC)
Adjacency list for the graph

I've created a quick hack to show what each image can contain here. Might be helpful in finishing off this page. Uber5001 (talk) 22:48, 3 September 2014 (UTC)


Is the way the images are repeated being based on some math pattern, like the Mandelbrot set? Osias (talk) 02:38, 4 September 2014 (UTC)

Quarks and strings?

Once when zooming I have found something that looked roughly like quark model of nucleon (below MU), then a loop - perhaps a string from the string theory --JakubNarebski (talk) 10:53, 4 September 2014 (UTC)

The image certainly looks like a loop or a string but Randall has a very low opinion of string theory.

09:57, 5 September 2014 (UTC)

Interactive graph

Hello, I've uploaded an interactive version of the graph here Raphv (talk) 15:16, 4 September 2014 (UTC)

Hey has anyone seen the panel with black hat? He's standing next to a fire fighter and a burning vehicle saying, "to be fair, what else do you expect to come out of a "fire hydrant"?" I found it in one if the bird panels, next to a turtle panel. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

"scroll to zoom" is wrong and misleading

This may be nitpicking, but Randall's words "scroll to zoom" are misleading.

  • When I visited http://xkcd.com/1416/ first on my smartphone, I scrolled the page and nothing zoomed.
  • Next, when I visited http://xkcd.com/1416/ on my PC, I scrolled the page and nothing zoomed.
  • Only when on the PC I use the mouse wheel, nothing scrolled but the image zoomed.

The text should really be "Use mouse wheel to zoom".

When someone posts a comic, I can't pay attention to the content if the words are misleading.

What do you think ? --MGitsfullofsheep (talk) 11:08, 6 September 2014 (UTC)

Has not worked since day 2

Whichever browser I try, the lower levels do not load and the first image just fades to white. They did load on launch day, but not anymore. 14:47, 16 September 2014 (UTC)

Is the Mario scene referring to the Carl Sagan line about how "a still more glorious dawn awaits," as well as Super Mario Galaxy? - 21:37, 18 January 2015 (UTC)

Mikemk added "The plate on the turtle is Greek mythology, far before the 18th century". I can't actually find anything about a World Turtle from Greek mythology (Chelone was just an ordinary-sized turtle who did not support the world), but I've added a mention of other ancient myths. I propose to remove Mikemk's addition to the "Incomplete" tag in a few days, if nobody objects. Cosmogoblin (talk) 12:31, 9 July 2015 (UTC)

In my ongoing war against the "Incomplete" tag, I've added a great deal of detailed explanation to various panels. I think it's fine now, but it could really do with a review by somebody else! In particular, it would be great if somebody more familiar than myself with the terms could check through what I've written for Mu, Holism and Reductionism. Cosmogoblin (talk) 18:28, 14 July 2015 (UTC)

Isn't the last panel of the "Needs More Struts" series showing the Earth and Moon, not the Earth and the rocket? -- Comment Police (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I've got a book called "Turtles All The Way Down". Klyxm (talk) 06:48, 5 March 2018 (UTC)

So, I've been trying to scroll on a Mac (I don't have a mouse available), but it just zooms in a bit, then stops. How am I supposed to get this to work? 18:05, 20 November 2019 (UTC)

Two things: One, it sometimes works now, and two, I fixed the comment (it was unsigned). 18:05, 20 November 2019 (UTC)