1551: Pluto

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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After decades of increasingly confused arguing, Pluto is reclassified as a "dwarf Pluto."
Title text: After decades of increasingly confused arguing, Pluto is reclassified as a "dwarf Pluto."


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When clicking the image, you will be directed to an article on NASA's website about Pluto's 'heart'.


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Description Explanation
Candy Shell Suger coating
JPEG Plumes JPEG has the common issue of making RGB squares over an image
Frontal Bone
Grease Stains
Bullet holes
New Netherlands Reference to a What If? about draining the Earth's oceans onto Mars. In that What If?, the Netherlands issued forth from the portal that drained the oceans to claim Mars as New Netherlands. Presumably something similar happened on Pluto.
Disputed territory
Snake pit
Full text of the wikipedia article on pareidolia Pareidolia is the issue of making up patterns that don't exist, such as this one.
Tadpole A tadpole is a stage in the life of a frog
Kuiper Belt loops The Kuiper belt is a kind of belt surrounding our solar system
Ghost A reference to Pacman
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Pluto is a planet. Period. Dwarf planets are a special kind of planets - small ones. Also Pluto is a full planet because it's not like a piece of a planet. OK?

I knew it! So my BOT was also running today. And don't miss the updates at WhatIf. --Dgbrt (talk) 19:28, 14 July 2015 (UTC)

Yeah, it's pretty amazing! What is it with XKCD and Pluto these days by the way? The Twenty-second. The Not So Only. The Nathan/Nk22 (talk) 19:36, 14 July 2015 (UTC)

New Horizons space probe flyby of the Pluto system! I can't imagine that a space probe finally reaching a hitherto unmapped planetoid like Pluto wouldn't be exciting to certain people, especially an ex NASA guy like Randall. -Pennpenn 06:27, 15 July 2015 (UTC)

Pluto is moving away from the Sun - and we've learned that as it does so, it enters the snowy part of its 248-year cycle. Hmm ... didn't Ned Stark say something about this? Cosmogoblin (talk) 22:11, 14 July 2015 (UTC)

Alright, the only one that's still got me stumped is "moon buds." The phrase has no stock meaning (Googling it turned up pictures of weed, naturally), but my best guess is this suggests moons reproduce through budding. Any thoughts? Captain Video (talk) 00:38, 15 July 2015 (UTC)

I have added something. Forrest (talk)03:21, 15 July 2015 (UTC)

"Border of pride lands" might also be an indirect reference to the "dark region" on Mars in 1504:opportunity, last panel, which is itself a reference to the Hyena Country of "Lion King." Taibhse (talk) 09:56, 15 July 2015 (UTC)

A couple of other possibilities for the reference to hatching: http://scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/82353/giant-bird-in-space -- 10:26, 15 July 2015 (UTC)

So Megaman needs no further explanation? -- 11:04, 15 July 2015 (UTC)

Where is the north pole? I like to play geohashing there. --GeorgDerReisende (talk) 12:12, 15 July 2015 (UTC)

The comment for Plug(inflating/deflating) is missing 13:30, 15 July 2015 (UTC)

Those aren't bullet holes... they're speed holes! -- 13:46, 15 July 2015 (UTC)

The current explanation has that Randall has drawn "humorous pareidolia on top of it". I may be wrong, but isn't pareidolia the psychological process of seeing faces/objects etc in patterns, rather than those objects themselves. E.g. "I saw a mans face on the moon because of a psychological process called pareidolia" rather than "I saw a pareidolia on the moon, which looked like a face". --Pudder (talk) 14:20, 15 July 2015 (UTC)

I agree, so I changed the word "drawn" to outlined." Captain Video (talk) 15:12, 15 July 2015 (UTC)

The heart reference may be related to this popular animated gif that showed up on Reddit: http://imgur.com/7C2GfIF 15:42, 15 July 2015 (UTC) turbotong

Not originally - I believe NASA were the originator of the "heart" label, though I could be wrong. -- Cosmogoblin (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

.jpeg compression only produces those artifacts on digital images. It was designed for professional photographers and did not take into account the effects of hard edges in the image since film images have no hard edges! It just got adopted by everybody else early on so we're stuck with it even though it can work very poorly on digital images. ExternalMonolog (talk) 17:30, 15 July 2015 (UTC)

That's... interestingly not-quite-correct. The JPEG/JFIF method is a good-but-lossy version of digital image compression that outperforms (on compression terms) non-lossy methods of defining a digital image but doesn't work well with hard-edges. Photographs taken in digital format, or converted into digital format from a 'analogue' original, are often put through lossy compression because (for a wise amount of 'loss') the artefacts are easily lost in the already noisy and flowing 'real life' image details, just like the compression of MP3 (MPEG3 Audio Layer, or whichever related standard) applied to audio loses some detail but is generally drowned out by what 'remains', to the casual listener. (Images like graphs and diagrams are replete with hard edges, and have far fewer needs for subtleties of shade, so using the non-lossless PNG or even GIF (now that it's out of copyright, if that was ever your concern) would be better... Depends on whether you want need more than 256 different colours or a humorous animation. If you want both, there are also solutions, but that's the usual decision I'd be making.)
I doubt that NASA uses .JPG images (at least between spacecraft and ground, although maybe for later web publication). There would probably be a (non-lossy) compression scheme (either inherently in the format of the image, or of the 'raw' image consisting of original arrays of bitplains, just to cut down on transmission time), so that as much exact science as possible could be extracted from the original pixels without 'smearing' and such artefacts. Professional (terrestrial!) photographers will often take RAW images (instead of/alongside the quick-and-dirty JPEG ones), for better quality (and no-artefact) images that might end up being blown up to poster-sized images, or from which a small segment will be blown up (e.g. ground-based amateur astronomical photography), that would otherwise so easily reveal the flaws.
Also, IIRC, recent Pluto pictures had notably been created by NASA based upon high-resolution monochrome and lower-resolution colour images from two cameras (usefully analysed seperately, in their own right, and doubtless also needing different exposure times to create) combined together to create the headline pictures we've been seeing.
Incidentally, noticable JPEG artefacts tend to be 8x8 pixel regions (most often seen when a small photographic region is digitally 'zoomed'). For those that need them, there are "artefact removal" tools in most decent image editing programmes that (with practice) can 'reverse' (or, rather, 'blend') the more obvious artefacts, after the fact. I suspect Randall's image's 'artefacts' are a selectively edited 'artefact addition' (easily done, with the likes of Photoshop and GIMP, and related to 'pixelating' method used to selectively obscure detail) on the original image. NASA never had to 'clean' the image, although some of its released images may have been 'dirtied' after down-conversion. 20:51, 15 July 2015 (UTC)

One of a number of pareidolic features Randall has outlined. 20:56, 15 July 2015 (UTC)

Is there anyone else here who (like me) thought that because of the flaring at the bottom the "heart" area looks more like a Heartless emblem? -Pennpenn 00:15, 16 July 2015 (UTC)

I thought the "whale tail" is to the left of the heart (http://www.nbcnews.com/science/space/find-heart-whale-new-horizons-picture-pluto-n388816), what Randall has labeled "chocolate frosting", not "pride lands". If there's some image reversal I don't know about, revert my edit. Djbrasier (talk) 01:42, 16 July 2015 (UTC)

The "candy shell" may refer to commercials for M&M chocolates which were described as "milk chocolate wrapped in a colorful thin candy shell". The Dining Logician (talk) 04:10, 16 July 2015 (UTC)

To me, Snake Pit evokes politics, not topography ... Miamiclay (talk) 08:59, 16 July 2015 (UTC)

I wonder if the text on the surface updates every time the Pareidolia article is edited. Schiffy (Speak to me|What I've done) 15:49, 16 July 2015 (UTC)

I wonder if "the good part" is referencing "JavaScript: The Good Parts" 06:24, 15 August 2015 (UTC)

I wonder if Randall's putting the "complete text of the Wikipedia article on pareidolia" is also a reference to there always being someone who posts a link to the Wikipedia article on pareidolia when there is a discussion of seeing images within images. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Is it worth making a category for "photo comics"? This is one of the few Randall did not actually draw (only letter and annotate). Nitpicking (talk) 13:32, 7 January 2022 (UTC)