1792: Bird/Plane/Superman

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Revision as of 22:01, 30 January 2017 by 108.162.237.238 (talk) (Corrected one grammatical hiccup and added a bunch of random notes.)
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Bird/Plane/Superman
You can apply special translucent films to your windows to help keep birds/Superman from accidentally flying into them.
Title text: You can apply special translucent films to your windows to help keep birds/Superman from accidentally flying into them.

Explanation

This comic is a logical comparison of observations to resolve the classic comic book trope of: "Look, up in the sky... It's a bird!... It's a plane!... It's Superman!" Taking the random citizens' declarations at face value -- a quite exaggerated position -- this comic aims to help such clueless folks identify the airborne object.

The observations compared range from the mundane to the bizarre.

Bird Plane Superman Explanation
Carries people Some birds are capable of carrying a small human, but this happens extremely rarely (although hoax stories are often reported). Most planes are created specifically designed to carry human passengers, although many are cargo planes with humans only acting as crew, and autonomous drones without humans also exist. Superman, a comic book character created in 1933, is an alien with superpowers, including the power of unaided flight. He often carries other people with him, such as girlfriends or rescued victims of various villains.
Often flies in groups Many types of birds fly in flocks, particularly during long-range migrations. Planes sometimes fly in group formation, particularly when engaged in military operations where mutual support is tactically useful (or when conducting practice maneuvers for such operations). Superman is a unique person, and thus does not fly in groups of Supermen. While Superman occasionally operates alongside other flying superheroes, and in some stories is duplicated or split into multiple beings, Randall apparently considers these circumstances too unusual to meet the "often" qualifier.
Created in 20th century Birds evolved from dinosaurs, appearing as early as the Late Jurassic period, roughly 150 million years ago. The first successful flight of a powered heavier-than-air craft took place on December 17, 1903. Superman first appeared in Action Comics #1, published on April 18, 1938.
Uses magnetic navigation Some types of birds use magnetoreception to navigate using the earth's magnetic field as a guide. Artificial magnetic compasses, along with other navigational equipment, are used by planes. Superman, while possessing a plethora of super-senses, does not appear to be particularly sensitive to magnetism.
Enthusiast community obsesses over small coloration details Bird-watchers identify bird species by a range of characteristics, including the bird's color pattern. Similarly, airplane hobbyists take note of the colors of a plane's paint job and insignia. Comics fans can similarly identify the artist and date of a depiction of Superman by the coloration and configuration of his costume.
Preyed on by cats Cats kill several billion birds a year, often - but not always - eating them. There has never been a case of a cat successfully catching and eating either a plane or Superman.[citation needed]
Occasional mid-air sex Birds sometimes have sex in flight. Mid-air sex involving planes usually invovles passengers (and potentially air crew), not the plane itself. However, this could also be a metaphorical reference to in-flight refueling (such as the depiction, set to romantic music, in the opening scene of the movie Dr. Strangelove), or to this incident where one plane landed atop another in mid-air: http://avstop.com/news/plantcity.html. As for Superman, there have been occasional moments in the comics which indicate or at least imply that he sometimes engages in mid-air sex.
Eaten during seasonal feasts Turkeys, a type of bird, are eaten by Americans during Thanksgiving, a "seasonal feast" held on the fourth Thursday of November of each year. Britons eat Turkey or Goose at Christmas. It is unlikely that normal humans are able or willing to eat Superman.
Propelled by flapping Birds fly by flapping their wings. Planes have fixed wings, and fly by maintaining forward velocity and exploiting the aerodynamic effects of air flowing over the upper and lower wing surfaces, which are shaped and angled to produce lift. Superman flies using superpowers which require neither wings nor flapping.
Sometimes loses ability to fly, needs to sunbathe to regain it Birds can "lose" the ability to fly, if their wings are weighed down by water from swimming. One way for birds to dry out their wings is to sunbathe. One of Superman's superhero abilities is the ability to fly. However, he may lose this ability with prolonged exposure to Kryptonite. Superman's ability to fly is a superpower caused by "electromagnetic radiation from the rays of a yellow sun", so he could regain his strength and superhuman abilities through sunbathing. An airplane can lose its ability to fly, but no issues occurring in modern aircraft can be fixed by sunbathing. Development of a solar-powered airplane could change this, however.
Can take a punch Birds are generally small, fragile creatures, whose bone structures are meant to be light in order to fly, and thus are not vary durable. If you punched, say, a pigeon, you would probably break/dislocate most of it's bones, either killing it immediately or leaving it in a state from which it will probably not ever recover. However, there are definitely some big, flightless birds that could take a punch from a human such as ostriches or emus, but since both are large creatures that would probably react by fighting back, it would not be wise to try. Randall is plainly ignoring these. Planes are usually massive, or at least big enough to carry a human, and have to be made of materials durable enough to withstand hurtling through the sky at hundreds of miles an hour reliably on a regular basis. You could definitely punch one safely. (Meaning safe for the plane, not your hand.) One of Superman's trademark abilities is his near indestructibility; a punch from any regular human would not hurt him.
Mating behaviour often observed by a hidden David Attenborough Not that we know of David Attenborough is an English broadcaster and naturalist, who produced a documentary series The Life of Birds. Included in the series is an episode entitled "Finding Partners", which discussed mating rituals of birds. The comic clarifies that we don't know for sure if he is also interested on the mating rituals of Superman.
Capable of intentionally releasing poop mid-flight Birds often poop during flight; it is arguably more important to shed excess mass while flying, to increase efficiency. Unlike mammals who pee urea, birds poop contains white uric acid. Not peeing reduces water loss. Some planes may be able to intentionally purge their septic tanks mid-flight, depending on the design of the waste interlocks, especially assuming the controls are inside the cockpit or cabin. As the TV show MythBusters has shown, a leaky septic disposal system can unintentionally lose liquid waste and cause a "blue ice" sighting on the ground. Superman, being more or less human, is certainly capable of pooping during flight, but this would generally result in unnecessary drycleaning bills.
Chases and eats bugs Only when bored Many bird species prey on insects and similar-sized animals. Planes often fly into and kill insects (as well as birds), but this is unintentional and doesn't provide them with nutritional value. Superman is not known for eating insects, but Randall implies that he does sometimes, but only when he's bored.

The title text refers to stickers used to enhance the visibility of clear glass windows or doors. At ground level, these reduce the risk of people accidentally walking into them; at any level, they serve to warn birds (or Superman) away. They are not known to affect the risk of airplanes flying into the building.

Transcript

Ambox notice.png This transcript is incomplete. Please help editing it! Thanks.
Bird Plane Superman
Carries people
Often flies in groups
Created in 20th century
Uses magnetic navigation
Enthusiast community obsesses over small coloration details
Preyed on by cats
Occasional mid-air sex
Eaten during seasonal feasts
Propelled by flapping
Sometimes loses ability to fly, needs to sunbathe to regain it
Can take a punch
Mating behaviour often observed by a hidden David Attenborough Not that we know of
Capable of intentionally releasing poop mid-flight
Chases and eats bugs Only when bored


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Discussion

The explanation says that "birds evolved from dinosaurs". But birds **are** dinosaurs --172.68.54.100 05:40, 31 January 2017 (UTC)

Sunbathing

Randall missed that a plane can lose it's ability to fly via excessive icing on surfaces. While it is not usually the way in which it is cured (using deicing solution and onboard aircraft systems to melt them,) sunbathing the plane in greater than freezing temperatures is an excellent way to regain the ability to fly. (And without additional energy cost, too!) 108.162.216.34 17:58, 30 January 2017 (UTC)

Now that we have solar planes, some planes may occasionally require a sunbath to get airborne again. 162.158.114.88 21:51, 30 January 2017 (UTC)

Flapping

Perhaps we should mention the pre-twentieth century attempts at powered flight some of which were powered by flapping.

Also should we mention that a hta craft pwered by flapping would be an ornithopter.

Mating & Peeping David

Given their is only one David Attenborough and he does not spend his entire life making wildlife documentaries the chance of his observing any individual bird copulation is remarkably small.

141.101.99.137 19:28, 30 January 2017 (UTC)

What sort of birds mate in mid flight? --141.101.80.52 19:47, 30 January 2017 (UTC)

Swifts for example. --DaB. (talk) 21:37, 30 January 2017 (UTC)
You seem to be right about swifts mating in mid flight. According to | this source, the common swift (Apus apus) is the only species who engages in this behavior.--141.101.98.160 14:59, 1 February 2017 (UTC)
mid flight poop

From what I understand, superman gets the majority of his energy from the sun. Is there any confirmation that he can poop mid flight, or even poop at all? Maybe he just slowly releases various gasses?--173.245.51.17 22:47, 30 January 2017 (UTC)

Well Superman does eat, so it is likely he does poop too. Sun gives him super power thing, but he frequents restaurants as Clark Kent. --Trimutius (talk) 04:00, 31 January 2017 (UTC)

Planes are definitely capable of releasing their poop intentionally. They choose not to. Truth Rating: Pants On Fire. 108.162.219.76 14:47, 31 January 2017 (UTC)

It depends what you mean by 'plane poop'. Is it engines exhaust? Fuel, hydraulic oil or other technical fluids? Or is it passengers' poop... If you mean the latter than no, there's no "empty toilet in mid flight" functionality. A malfunction may cause the toilet contents to spill over but it is not intentional. -- Malgond (talk) 11:39, 1 February 2017 (UTC)

The Indian government thinks planes do intentionally release their poop. Citation: [1] -- 21:48, 2 February 2017 (UTC) User:Scryer

There were several aircraft in the early days of flight that had toilets that were directly connected outside. One such one, the Supermarine Stranraer, got the nickname "whistling shithouse" because when the toilet seat was lifted, the airflow through the tube caused it to whistle. Also, during WW2 on bomber aircraft, they would sometimes crap in a cardboard box and throw it overboard rather than use the difficult to use and unpopular chemical toilets. 108.162.250.17 06:59, 7 February 2017 (UTC)

I was under the impression that birds either do not have sphincters, or do but can't control them to hold their poop in. Would this not mean that birds should not be ticked, or am I completely wrong?141.101.98.52 06:35, 1 February 2017 (UTC)

punching

No need to go to ostriches or emus, swans can fly well, and certainly take a punch, though i would *strongly* recommend against trying. [2]. Geese are also probably not much safer. --162.158.89.43 12:27, 31 January 2017 (UTC)

Title text

I've never seen such a sticker with a spider web - unless on Helloween. But stickers depicting silhouettes of birds on the other hand: https://www.google.com/search?q=vogel+aufkleber&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjj64Xlv-zRAhXGtxQKHS3ABh0QsAQIgwE&biw=1920&bih=914 But it seems as if this is a regional (Germany - or maybe Europe) thing, since searching for "bird stickers" didn't yield such a clear result... Elektrizikekswerk (talk) 13:22, 31 January 2017 (UTC)

Magnetic navigation

There is no evidence that Superman is not able to fly in Magnetic navigation mode... 188.114.103.11 17:33, 31 January 2017 (UTC)

There is no evidence that Superman exists. --162.158.150.22 15:00, 1 February 2017 (UTC)
Other Comparisons

Missing: Frog and Underdog. Underdog would be a disappointing subset of Superman, Frog a subset of Bird. Schnitz (talk) 20:09, 1 February 2017 (UTC)

This page has quite a few typos and instances of awkward phrasing. I'll go through it and clean it up in a bit.
--Sensorfire (talk) 01:03, 19 August 2018 (UTC)