1527: Humans

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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At this point, if we're going to keep insisting on portraying dinosaurs as featherless because it's "cooler", it's time to apply that same logic to art involving bald eagles.
Title text: At this point, if we're going to keep insisting on portraying dinosaurs as featherless because it's "cooler", it's time to apply that same logic to art involving bald eagles.


The comic is set in the future, with two hovering robots discussing ancient history, in particular the clothing styles of kings and queens of the now extinct human species. It appears that robot archeologists have long ago unearthed remains from one or more human civilizations, providing evidence to build a concept of what humans must have looked, acted and even sounded like. Recently they must have discovered or determined new evidence, which presumably indicates the wearing of colorful clothing by human monarchs. Until this occurred they had very little if any reason to believe that any humans wore clothing. Noting the previous knowledge that some humans had metal rings around their heads, they have drawn the conclusion that these formed a separate species "Human Kings" and the crown is a natural outgrowth of the skeleton. Alternatively, the narrative of the fictional, horned Star Wars Zabrak species may have somehow survived into the era of robot film and misinterpreted as describing a human.

When dinosaur bones were first dug up, the idea that dinosaurs were scaly, reptilian-like creatures was developed with the information available at the time. In recent times, it's been discovered that most dinosaurs actually had feathers, and in well preserved specimens, often from the Jiufotang Formation in Northern China, feathers of various forms are clearly visible.

As this runs counter to the widespread and long-held image of dinosaurs as dramatic reptiles, the public has been reluctant to accept this new discovery, especially as the addition of feathers often conjures up the image of a giant chicken. (See 1104: Feathers). Had it been discovered that dinosaurs were in fact covered with 6-inch long razor tipped spikes, people may have accepted this immediately as it conforms to the stereotype of dinosaurs as killing machines.

In the same way, the new information on kings and queens being covered in fabric runs counter to the movie inspired image that the robot on the right had about humans, picturing them as being pink warriors that could grow metal out of their heads. The head-metal image may have been inspired by the discovery of kings and queens buried or entombed with their crowns lying on top of their skulls - for example the Electress Palatine Anna Maria de'Medici. If the robot beings in this comic don't know enough about human anatomy, they may assume that the metal crown is a specialized part of the human skeleton.

Shown at least some evidence pointing to the truth - that humans typically wore clothing, and that a monarch's crown is only a symbol worn atop the head and not part of their body - the robot is predictably disappointed. Humans wearing clothing reduces them, in its opinion, to "big pillows," much like dinosaurs with feathers reduces them from primal beasts to "big chickens." Something made of cloth (or covered in it), at least in this robot's mind, cannot be a significant actor in history.

The robot fails to reason that, among other things, history was what it was, and its wanting things to have been a certain way does not make it so. In addition, just as the clothing-wearing human is more than a mere pillow, and would have held much fearsome power over the world, a feathered dinosaur is not necessarily merely a giant chicken, but is still a powerful killing machine.

The title text references our failure to change the popular image of dinosaurs to reflect the way they truthfully once were. Randall jokingly suggests that we should apply the same "featherless is cooler" logic to popular images of bald eagles (since they are modern dinosaurs), and remove their feathers (only in depictions of them, presumably), leaving them entirely bald. He appears hopeful that such a direct comparison, using the national symbol of the US no less, would provoke the public to change its mind about how dinosaurs are viewed, since modern raptors (birds of prey) are typically viewed with awe and respect, and are not often associated with the "chicken" stereotype mentioned above.


[Two robots are hovering in mid-air in the comic; what appear to be their optical arrays are facing each other.]
Robot 1: You know, new research suggests ancient human kings and queens were covered in colorful fabric.
Robot 2: Ugh, I like movie humans more. Screaming pink warriors with metal crowns poking through the skin on their heads!
Robot 2: Now they're, what, big pillows?
Robot 2: Science ruins everything.


It is worth noting that this comic was released a few weeks before the scheduled release of Jurassic World, a reboot of the Jurassic Park movie franchise. This new movie, while supposedly aware of recent advances in dinosaur research, still depicts dinosaurs as giant lizards without feathers. It seems likely that the robot's comment about "pink humans" is targeted at this movie, especially given Randall's many earlier references to Jurassic Park and his fear of velociraptors.

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Yes! Preach it, Randall! 08:23, 20 May 2015 (UTC)

Everyone knows they're more akin to big cows, anyway. 09:33, 20 May 2015 (UTC)
Big spherical cows. --Pudder (talk) 10:22, 20 May 2015 (UTC)
Although most remaining "cows" are actually closer to oblate spheroids ... 19:56, 20 May 2015 (UTC)

Robots complaining about science is like humans complaining about evolution. 09:49, 20 May 2015 (UTC)

Great line :) -- 10:51, 20 May 2015 (UTC)

Given the title text, the reference to movie humans makes this cartoon likely an oblique commentary on the upcoming film Jurassic World where the dinosaurs remain featherless. 10:54, 20 May 2015 (UTC)

I don't really want to see a sequel criticized for maintaining continuity. Think of what it would be like if someone made a 2001 movie where instead of travelling to Jupiter, Hal orchestrated the invasion of Iraq. Wait a second, that would make for an awesome movie.--Dave108.162.237.183 13:36, 20 May 2015 (UTC)

LOL! :) KieferSkunk (talk) 23:22, 20 May 2015 (UTC)

Personally, I wouldn't like being chased with Aepyornis either, and noone ever doubted Aepyornis had feathers. -- Hkmaly (talk) 11:45, 20 May 2015 (UTC)

I wonder which movie Robot #2 is referring to. Something with a crowned monarch and lots of (almost) naked warriors. 300 perhaps? Smperron (talk) 12:47, 20 May 2015 (UTC)

I'm pretty sure their talking about future films, we make films about prehistoric dinosaurs, so the robots make films about prehistoric humans(pre robot history) -- 13:36, 20 May 2015 (UTC)
except for the use of "their", I'm in complete agreement. I'm gonna make a few tweaks, accordingly - Brettpeirce (talk) 14:18, 20 May 2015 (UTC)
Robot 2 isn't referring to a current movie, I think this is set roughly 65million years in the future. So i've removed the part about Troy and other sword and sandal films -- Zeimusu (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
I assume it's more that skeletons and metal are much more likely to survive than clothes. Perhaps, they often see the crowns nearby the skulls in digs and assume that they were attached in life. 19:24, 20 May 2015 (UTC)

Dinosaurs with feathers. Yawn. The idea is already tired. Dinosaurs with feathers cool? I just picture the T-Rex in Jurassic Park chasing the car to the tune of the Chicken Dance and it doesn't take me long to realise how cool feathered dinosaurs really are. 21:49, 20 May 2015 (UTC)

What's tired is the idea that dinosaurs evolved and developed in such a way for people to find cool millions of years later. Then again, lets see how tired you are when my cloned puffball T-rexes have chased you down! Hahaha! -Pennpenn 04:35, 21 May 2015 (UTC)
One day I will travel the entire Milky Way Galaxy to find the person who asked 00:49, 8 December 2020 (UTC)|, If you would like, I can pay for your plane ticket to fly to Australia. Then, I would like you to go into the wilderness, and fight an ostrich. Have fun.

You know what,| I’m extra angry today. Unfortunately you’ll probably never read this, since your comment is from five years ago. I feel like my original comment was not enough. How dumb, how idiotic do you have to be to make a comment like this. You should apologize for your actions. You seem like you have never heard of any bird other than a chicken. Why don’t I tell you about some modern feathered dinosaurs before you go on about how not scary they are.

The cassowary is a six foot tall bird native to Australia. They are usually herbivorous, but when provoked, they are extremely dangerous. Here is a passage from their Wikipedia article.

“The inner or second of the three toes is fitted with a long, straight, murderous nail which can sever an arm or eviscerate an abdomen with ease. There are many records of natives being killed by this bird.[37]”

Cassowaries can run at a top speed of 31 miles per hour, which happens to be somewhat faster than Usain Bolt. They have extremely sharp claws and can easily injure or kill a person.

Also native to Australia are Emus. They are extremely fast and are very tall. Once the australian government tried to remove the emus, so they went to war with them, and the Australian government failed. They lost the war against emus.

Ostriches are massive flightless birds in Africa. They can run about 5 times faster than the average person. You should try and fight one sometime.

This world is inhabited by hundreds of terrifying and deadly birds. Every single one of them has feathers. Before you talk about how feathered dinosaurs “aren’t scary”, imagine this. You’re in the plains of Africa. You spot an ostrich. Imagine you bother it and it attacks you. Imagine it running at you at 70 miles per hour. Imagine being attacked by one of the now extinct terror birds, which were once the apex predators of South America. Imagine your death, covered in feathers. So please, for the love of god, shut up and delete this comment.

end of rant

"covered with colorful fabric" - "big pillows" - Am I the only person who thinks the robots have discovered, and are taking as authoritative, a furniture store ad for king and queen size beds? (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Could this also be reference to Stephen Hawking's recent comments about computers overtaking humans with AI ("Checkmate" - HAL)? 04:32, 21 May 2015 (UTC)

Though it's almost certainly not a reference, this reminds me of the Futurama episode "Fear on a Bot Planet" (the one where they have to deliver something to a robot controlled planet where humans are thought of as highly destructive horror movie monsters). -Pennpenn 04:41, 21 May 2015 (UTC)

I was thinking that "growing metal out of their head" is a Viking reference -- in the romantic depiction of a Warrior with a Helmet with horns Horned_helmet. Spongebog (talk) 06:05, 21 May 2015 (UTC)

Could be, but I would assume he would have gone futher with it then, since that is another historically false idea. I am assuming he just referring to a future trend of depicting crowns as ingrown in kings heads. Carewolf (talk) 13:58, 21 May 2015 (UTC)
There is no reference to "horns" only to "crowns". The robots have assumed that humans fossilized with crowns are a distinct species, and the metal crown is part of the skeleton. I've removed explainations of "horns"Zeimusu (talk) 17:53, 21 May 2015 (UTC)

Isn't it worth noting that dinosaurs in Jurassic Park are cloned, and their DNA is patched up with frog DNA? Michael Crichton also wrote about the dinosaurs not being exactly how they used to be in the books because of it. I would have thought it strange if the dinosaurs in Jurassic World looked different from how they did in Jurassic Park as they exists in the same continuity. They even mention the T-Rex has lived on the Island for more than 20 years. RavenLiquid (talk) 12:03, 21 May 2015 (UTC)

I wonder if, when they eventually do a full reboot of the franchise, they'll say they patched up the dinosaurs with bird DNA, since that kind of make more sense than frogs. I mean, as much sense as any of it makes. -Pennpenn 23:52, 21 May 2015 (UTC)
The frog DNA was a huge plot point (at least in the books) as all dinosaurs were female (to control the population), and frogs can change sex if the environment has to much of either sex. So the dinosaurs got this trait from the frogs and were reproducing (the famous life finds a way quote).RavenLiquid (talk) 10:07, 22 May 2015 (UTC)

This might sound weird, but it reminds me of that Spongebob episode where at the end, some floating creatures, taking pictures with their tongue, visit Jellyhenge or something. The Twenty-second. The Not So Only. The Nathan/Nk22 (talk) 18:04, 21 May 2015 (UTC)

Usually I would say I understand xckd just by reading it. But this one puzzled me enough to look up what an "explain xkcd" had to say. I actually thought the Kings and Queens being "big pillows" remark referred to use of the words for mattress sizes (as well as possibly the colorful fabric being sheets or comforters). But since the comic is about misunderstandings over long periods of time, it may be deliberately confusing. 05:28, 23 May 2015 (UTC)

I'm guessing there's nothing genius about this. Randall thought "I'll recreate the dinosaur feathers reaction but in the future with humans instead of dinosaurs" and then something popped into his mind about those prehistoric movies from the 60s with mostly naked people or 300 or something and he threw the word movie in. It didn't really make sense, it wasn't really funny, but he just published it anyway. - 14:02, 23 May 2015 (UTC)

The post claims that Jurassic World is a reboot of the franchise, but that isn't strictly true. There is some retconning of some events to allow for the events to believably fit into the continuity of the previous films, but the overall plot is unchanged.

"Now they're, what, big pillows?"; I took this to mean that rather than humans being extinct in this comic, it takes place in a future where obesity is common, no humans work. So if humans are just fat and sit around all day, that would explain the pillow comparison. Maybe?  - 04:13, 2 June 2015 (UTC)

E 02:47, 24 December 2020 (UTC)

Is it just me, or does this one seem very SMBC-inspired? Like, alien-alien dialogues involving humans are very common in SMBC, whereas I don't think there are many in xkcd at all.