2216: Percent Milkfat

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Percent Milkfat
"So what's dark energy?" "Cosmologists and the FDA are both trying very hard to find out."
Title text: "So what's dark energy?" "Cosmologists and the FDA are both trying very hard to find out."


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Whole milk is a dairy product which does not have some of its naturally occurring milkfat removed. Whole milk generally has about 3.5% fat by volume, according to the comic and some sources; other sources list similar but not identical numbers such as 3.25%.

Dairies commonly sell whole milk as well as, at least in the United States, three products with less fat: 2% or "reduced fat" milk, 1% or "lowfat" milk, and "fat-free" or "skim" milk with 0 to 0.05% milkfat.

Since whole milk is labeled as "whole" (or "Vitamin D" milk) and not as "3.5% milk," one might naively assume that whole milk is 100% milkfat, though this is not the case; 100% would be a product which is entirely milkfat (also known as butterfat), such as clarified butter or ghee.

The comic analogizes this difference to the fact that physicists believe "ordinary" matter only constitutes 5% of the actual mass-energy of the universe. Scientists predict the existence of another kind of matter known as "dark matter", invisible to our current instruments but which exerts gravitational force on ordinary matter, which would constitute 85% of total matter and 27% of the mass-energy, and then an even less detectable "dark energy" which accounts for the increasing speed of expansion of the universe.

Ponytail uses these quantities to "explain" the "missing" percentage in whole milk between the actual 3.5% and a potential 100% "whole."

Cosmologists are working to better understand, and prove or disprove, "dark energy" or another reason for the universe's accelerating expansion. The title text supposes that both cosmologists and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates milk and other food items in the United States, are trying to understand the dark energy of the "whole milk."


[Ponytail and Cueball are talking.]

Ponytail: "2% milk" is 2% milkfat. But "whole milk" isn't 100% milkfat - it's 3.5%.

Cueball: Weird. What's the rest of it?

Ponytail: Abut 27% is dark matter. The remainder is dark energy.