2153: Effects of High Altitude
|Effects of High Altitude|
Title text: If she'd lived in Flagstaff (elevation 6,903 feet), Cruella de Vil would only have needed 89 dalmatians for her coat.
This comic starts out with three effects of high altitude related to the air getting "thinner" and the lower air pressure. Denver is one mile (5280 feet or 1609 meters) above sea-level (as marked on the steps of the State Capitol). At this elevation, the average atmospheric pressure is about 83% of sea level pressure, or about 840 mbar instead of 1013 mbar, and gravity is 99.94% of gravity at sea level at the same latitude, or 9.796 m/s2 instead of 9.801 m/s2. This has a number of effects:
- Water boils at 202 degrees F (94 degrees C), slightly lower than the baseline 212 degrees F (100 degrees C) it takes at sea level.
- Baseballs and golf balls fly slightly farther (with the same initial velocity, the distance is inversely proportional to gravitational acceleration so it would be 0.06% farther; in addition, the lower air pressure will reduce the resistance from the air the ball will experience, therefore it will slow down at a lower rate and thus fly even farther than the 0.06% due to gravity).
- Sunburn develops faster because there is less atmosphere above to filter out harmful ultraviolet rays.
As usual for xkcd, the effects of high altitude are extended in a comically absurd manner, applying this "slightly less" rule to things that have nothing to do with altitude:
- Scrabble is a board game where each letter is assigned a point value based on its frequency of use in the edition's language. The comic claims all letters are worth 16% more. When applied to the normal values for the Scrabble tiles in English
- Q is worth 12 instead of 10
- X is worth 9 instead of 8
- Y is worth 5 instead of 4
- This point increase would have little impact in the board game when two players sit across each other. However, it would imply that scrabble played via internet should require players to state their altitude at the beginning of the online game which then assigns advantages to higher-altitude players. This advantage seems arbitrary, unless the altitude difference is really significant enough to impede the thinking ability of the higher-altitude party.
- A common superstition states that breaking a mirror causes 7 years of bad luck. The comic claims that at higher altitudes, only 5½ years are caused. This implies that people living at higher altitudes have less bad luck.
- Marketing campaigns will often state "X is the new Y" to draw the audience of Y in toward the newer X. When used with age, usually at 10 year intervals ("40 is the new 30" is the slogan referenced), it is an attempt to convince an older audience that they can share in an experience commonly associated with a younger audience. At higher elevations, the comic claims, people can use or do things designated for an even younger audience. This is contrary to facts however: Most activities, especially in sports, are more difficult at higher altitudes, not easier.
- In the base 16 (hexadecimal) number system, the value 28 represents 2 * 16^1 + 8 * 16^0 = 40. Thus, 40 is the new 28. Likewise, in the base 8 (octal) number system, 50 represents 5 * 8^1 = 40. Remember that, although Douglas Adams doesn't write jokes about other bases, Randall does.
- German band Nena's hit 99 Red Balloons (an English adaptation of the original song called 99 Luftballons) is a song about a war started by a large clump of balloons mistaken for enemy aircraft (see Trivia). The comic claims that if launched from a higher altitude, 94 balloons would have sufficed.
- 4:20 is a code word for cannabis and has evolved in some circles to be the socially acceptable hour to consume cannabis. This has in turn evolved into a joke that when checking the time and finding it is exactly 4:20, people will add "blaze it" as a reference. The comic claims that, at higher altitudes, the socially acceptable time is earlier, so if there is an elevation of one mile, the socially acceptable time would be 4:17 and therefore, marijuana jokes are made earlier. This joke is probably related to the legalization of recreational marijuana use in Colorado.
In the title text, One Hundred and One Dalmatians is a Disney franchise (based on a children's book), where the villain, Cruella de Vil, aims to capture and kill 99 Dalmatian puppies (97 in the book) to have the perfect spotted fur coat. (The title includes the parents [book: and other Dalmatian caregivers] of the Dalmatian puppies.) The comic claims that, at a higher altitude in Flagstaff (6903 ft / 2104 m), she would only have needed 89 Dalmatians, possibly implying that puppies at higher altitudes are bigger (perhaps because there is less air pressure to compress them) or that Cruella de Vil at high altitudes is smaller (possibly because of the higher humidity and lower temperature).
- Effects of High Altitude
- How life is different at one mile above sea level
- (e.g. in Denver)
- [Eight small panels, each containing an image with a caption at the top:]
- [A pot on a stovetop, with steam rising from the pot]
- Water boils at 202°F
- [A baseball flying through the air]
- Baseballs and golf balls fly 5-10% farther
- [Five wavy arrows hitting a curved surface, two at a low point and three at a high point]
- Sunburns develop significantly faster
- [Scrabble tiles for letters Q, X and Y with point values 12, 9 and 5, respectively]
- Scrabble letters are worth 16% more
- [Cueball looking down at a broken hand mirror on the floor]
- Breaking a mirror only causes 5½ years of bad luck
- [Cueball and Megan are talking. Megan is gesturing]
- 40 is the new 28
- Megan: 50 is the new 40, and when you account for elevation it's more like 37.
- [Five black balloons floating]
- Nuclear war can be started with only 94 red balloons.
- [Cueball and Ponytail are talking. Ponytail is looking at her phone]
- People make marijuana jokes slightly earlier
- Cueball: Hey, what time is it?
- Ponytail: 4:17 Blaze it!
- A similar effect on sports caused by different latitudes was the topic of 852: Local g.
- 99 Red Balloons is generally assumed to mean a UFO starts a nuclear war, but the craft is not necessarily a flying saucer nor is the war necessarily nuclear. Although the original German song refers to "UFOs aus dem All", the lyrics of the English-language song say "There's something here from somewhere else" which does not imply extraterrestrial origins, merely that the object is not of domestic origin; and "the war machine springs to life", which implies that a rival nation on earth is thought to be the culprit.
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