2251: Alignment Chart Alignment Chart

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Alignment Chart Alignment Chart
I would describe my personal alignment as "lawful heterozygous silty liquid."
Title text: I would describe my personal alignment as "lawful heterozygous silty liquid."


Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Created using the BOT template. Needs explanations of each alignment chart, and probably some editing for clarity.
If you can address this issue, please edit the page! Thanks.

"Alignment" and "alignment charts" come from the the tabletop game Dungeons and Dragons. Every character has an [[wikipedia:[Alignment Dungeons & Dragons)|alignment]], which is a sort of a personality archetype or general description of morality. The most widely used alignment system was introduced in the Dungeons & Dragons Basic set"" in 1977 and has been reused in many (but not all) subsequent editions of the game. This system uses two perpendicular axes, each axis having three words; the alignment of a particular character is a combination of one word from each axis (for a total of nine categories). The two axes are:

  • Lawful/neutral/chaotic: this axis says whether a character is strongly devoted to, indifferent about, or categorically opposed to following the rule of the law.
  • Good/neutral/evil: this axis says whether a character is generally inclined to commit good deeds or evil deeds.

For example, a character's alignment can be "chaotic neutral". It means that they don't care about the existing order of the world, what is good and what is evil, what is allowed and what is prohibited. They're very prone to acting on emotions, and their actions often seem to be lacking rhyme or reason. There are nine possible alignments - any combination of the two axes is allowed. A character with the "neutral neutral" alignment is called a true neutral.

The use of the term chaotic in a personality alignment context is different to the term in a physics concept. In physics, chaos refers to unpredictable outcomes following emergent behaviours that are sensitive to small changes in underlying conditions. Similarly, lawful can be considered to follow deterministic physical behaviours. Hitting pool balls with a pool cue is deterministic, it follows the deterministic Newtonian laws of motion. Hitting your opponent with a pool cue is chaotic, the end state of the ensuing brawl is unpredictable.

An alignment chart is a grid that divides the alignments, usually for the purpose of putting descriptions or particular characters on it. Alignment charts are frequently used as a meme template, where humorous or absurdist things are organized into different alignments. In addition to the "classic" Dungeons and Dragons alignment chart, there are a number of variant alignment charts in use as meme templates. Many keep the three-by-three grid structure but replace the lawful-neutral-chaotic and good-neutral-evil axes with others, such as distinguished-functional-disaster vs. gay-bi-lesbian and edgy-depressed-dumbass vs. bitch-thot-bastard. Some alignment charts use other systems of classification, like the McDonald's alignment chart, which is a ternary diagram, a way of plotting data points by the relative proportions of three components in them on a triangular plot.

This comic claims to be a meta-alignment chart, where nine "alignment charts" are themselves sorted into the nine Dungeons and Dragons alignments, following the use of alignment charts to humorously classify abstract concepts. However, these "alignment charts" are mostly diagrams used in academic classifications, which are being treated as if they were blank meme templates. There are two levels of absurdity here: first, the idea of using these technical scientific diagrams to classify things they were never intended to, like fictional characters or how people bag their bread, and second, the conflation of chaos as a physics concept and an assigned moral weights as it applies to each of these classification systems.

Alignment Chart Explanation
Lawful Good Soil chart This chart shows the USDA classification of soil types by their relative proportions of sand, clay and silt. The chart is a ternary diagram (very common in geology), so soils with more clay plot towards the upper corner, soils with more sand to the bottom left, and soils with more silt to the bottom right. This chart has been used humorously as an alignment chart (for example) and may have been the inspiration for Randall to use scientific diagrams as alignment charts. In addition to being Lawful Good, this grid cell is also the upper left cell of the chart and will be read first, making it a good place to put this chart as a "jumping off point".
Neutral Good Punnett square (quote from wikipedia article, but should have been obvious. Oh, yeah - we're all tech nerds, not biologists!) "The Punnett square is a square diagram that is used to predict the genotypes of a particular cross or breeding experiment. It is named after Reginald C. Punnett, who devised the approach. The diagram is used by biologists to determine the probability of an offspring having a particular genotype. The Punnett square is a tabular summary of possible combinations of maternal alleles with paternal alleles.[1] These tables can be used to examine the genotypical outcome probabilities of the offspring of a single trait (allele), or when crossing multiple traits from the parents. The Punnett square is a visual representation of Mendelian inheritance. It is important to understand the terms "heterozygous", "homozygous" …” These refer to the pairs of alleles in an organism’s genotype, indicating mixed or same alleles, respectively. Randall later uses “heterozygous” in the title text. Note that it is possible for a phenotype to be expressed the same between some heterozygotes and homozygotes, e.g., persons with genotypes heterozygous ”Ao” and homozygous “AA” will both express blood type A.

So, the Punnett Square is a good chart because it is both a simple and true geometric predictor of inheritance, but it tends to neutral because of complicating factors such as polygenic inheritance; these and other factors will cause genotypic frequency to deviate from expected 1:2:1 patterns.

Chaotic Good IPA vowel chart This chart shows the relationship between different vowels according to the International Phonetics Alphabet. As different vowel sounds are created by changes in different parts of the mouth, it can be considered chaotic.
Lawful Neutral Phase diagram A phase diagram shows the temperature and pressure points where a material changes phase. The diagram included is the phase diagram for water, which exists in three phases (ice, liquid water, steam) depending on it's temperature and pressure. Phase diagrams are useful as the relationship is not always linear. For example, the air pressure of Mars is such that there is no temperature at which liquid water can exist. Water exists as ice until the temperature reaches a point where it sublimates directly into steam.

Phase diagrams follow the laws of physics, so are inherently lawful.

True Neutral Alignment chart All alignment charts are neutral until humans contaminated them.
Chaotic Neutral CIE chromacity diagram The chromacity diagram is typically used to help determine a color temperature given the typical RGB intensities of light. Low color temperatures tend to be associated with 'softer' lights that are easier on the eyes, whereas 'higher' color temperatures are associated with 'harder' light that are perceived as brighter. Given that color temperature as defined by the chromacity diagram has nothing to do with the actual color temperature of a blackbody as defined by Physics, it is chaotic. Also, the official specification for CIE is behind a paywall and defined by private organizations, making it more chaotic.
Lawful Evil Political compass Political Compass [1] separates out left-right thinking into economic and social political thought. For example, Ghandi and Stalin supposedly both had similar economic perspectives (collectivist) but radically different social perspectives (authoritarian vs libertarian).

As politicians make the laws, this is inherently lawful. Attempting to represent all politics in terms of two very general axes is a gross oversimplification, which is likely why it is listed as evil.

Like the USDA soil chart, the political compass has actually been used as an alignment chart, largely as a mockery of it.

Neutral Evil QAPF rock diagram This diagram is used to classify coarse-grained felsic (low magnesium and iron) igneous rocks by the relative volumes of the minerals quartz, alkali feldspars, plagioclase feldspars, and feldspathoids in the rock. It consists of two ternary diagrams - quartz and feldspathoid minerals cannot coexist (they will react to form feldspars)so only three of these components will be in any given rock. Rocks in the upper triangle of the diagram contain quartz, with rocks with more quartz plotting closer to the top, while rocks in the lower triangle contain feldspathoids, with rocks with more feldspathoids plotting lower. Rocks closer to the left corner of the diagram contain more alkali feldspar and rocks closer to the right corner contain more plagioclase feldspar. The field on the diagram for granite is labeled in the comic, but each area outlined on the diagram has it's own rock name (monzonite, syenite, granodiorite, etc.). All the rocks that the QAPF diagram is used to classify look superficially like granite, but their chemistry, mineralogy, and origin differ.

The QAPF diagram and the names of the more obscure rock types on it can be somewhat arcane, which may be why it is considered evil here.

Chaotic Evil Omnispace classifier The other eight diagrams shown in this comic, squished together into one. Probably self-referential humour, in that the diagram created for this comic is considered to be chaotically evil.


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OK, hope someone will now explain it after I created this page. I'm lost on this one ;-) --Kynde (talk) 10:49, 6 January 2020 (UTC)

Arrgh, edit conflict! Kev (talk) 11:55, 6 January 2020 (UTC)

I'm pretty sure the Punnet Square is also a meme template... 15:59, 7 January 2020 (UTC)

I vaguely remember Randall to refer to the clay-sand diagram (or whatever it is called) as his all time favorite diagram on what-if somewhere. --Lupo (talk) 12:35, 6 January 2020 (UTC)

You vaguely remember "Starsand" from https://what-if.xkcd.com/83/ with the quote "Fortunately, there's a wonderful chart by the US Geologic Survey that answers all these questions and more. For some reason, I find this chart very satisfying—it's like the erosion geology edition of the electromagnetic spectrum chart." directly applicabe to this chartTier666 (talk) 17:57, 6 January 2020 (UTC)

I fear any attempt to "explain" the CIE chromaticity diagram will devolve into arguments about why Randall chose it. I have found that folks outside the world of optics or neurooptical studies have a hard time understanding why the raw colors available in single wavelengths comprise that short curvy line inside the full colorspace. The way our brain processes the relative signal strengths from the different types of retinal cones is quite amazing. Cellocgw (talk) 12:57, 6 January 2020 (UTC)

CGW I'm shocked! Surely you know that single-wavelengths are the curvy outer boundary while the inner curvy line shows the response to blackbody spectra. ;-) -Fred 19:55, 6 January 2020 (UTC)
Thanks for that; I was about to question the statement myself. All in all, I feel the current explanation of the chromaticity diagram doesn't really explain much, and seems unnecessarily biased to boot. I know just enough about chromaticity to think it's wrong but not enough to correct it. LtPowers (talk) 19:58, 6 January 2020 (UTC)
I agree that explanation isn't great, if it's not improved when I have free time tonight I'll take a stab at it. Or maybe CelloCGW will, since he IS an optics guru (which is why I had to raz him). 20:13, 6 January 2020 (UTC)

@Fred - mea culpa. I should think before writing. Fortunately :-), the ratio of the colorspace to any 1-dimensional line's area is still infinite! Cellocgw (talk) 20:33, 6 January 2020 (UTC) .... now that someone did post some explanation of CIE, more comments. The current CIE spec may be paywalled, but it has changed little if at all over the last 40 or 50 years, so it's not all that hard to get the values. There are several sites (naturally I've lost the URLs) which provide algos to convert HSM to RGB to HSV and so on. See Wikipedia, https://law.resource.org/pub/us/cfr/ibr/003/cie.15.2004.tables.xls , and similar repositories Cellocgw (talk) 20:44, 6 January 2020 (UTC)

I redid the CIE explanation - focusing on describing the diagram, rather than one thing it might get used for (e.g. black body). I think the diagrams on the right are labeled chaotic because they are not some neat geometric shape over-all. I didn't really follow much of what was there, so feel free to revive some of it if it seems useful. (My background in color theory comes from computer science and graphics, rather than from physics or hardware design.) 00:57, 7 January 2020 (UTC)
It's better! Though it might be nice to explain what the x and y coordinates on the CIE diagram represent. (I personally have no clue, even after perusing Wikipedia.) As for chaoticness and shape, really CN and CE are the one two that aren't simple geometric shapes; even CG is a trapezoid. LtPowers (talk) 15:04, 8 January 2020 (UTC)

I'm only familiar with 4th and 5th edition, but should the "Good/neutral/evil:" axis eplanation be changed to "selfless deeds or selfish deeds"? Good and evil are highly subjective ("One person's 'freedom fighter' is another person's 'terrorist'.") but at least in 5e the axis is explained as risking/sacrificing yourself for the benefit of others (Good) vs. sacrificing others for your own benefit (Evil). Also, the explanation of the CN character may benefit from dividing which parts of the explanation are "chatoic" vs "neutral". Finally the "lacking rhyme or reason" part of chaotic is highly debated within D&D circles. There are certainly people who play that way, but there are also others who feel that chaotic characters have just as much motivation and goals as a lawful or neutral character just that part of their motivation is to act contrarily to Tradition/Authority. 14:37, 6 January 2020 (UTC)

It seems from this page that even nerds tend to interpret the alignment system by the ‘common sense’ meaning of the names instead of the detailed explanation. I once simply went through the Wikipedia article, which cited the second edition IIRC: ‘lawful’ means sticking to some code of conduct, whereas ‘chaotic’ is a pure opportunist or behaves randomly. ‘Good’ and ‘evil’ indeed mean selfless vs selfish deeds, but afaik in one of the official explanations ‘evil’ meant exercising authority over others—so all managers would be ‘evil’ automatically. Aasasd (talk) 16:42, 6 January 2020 (UTC)

I am not sure the phase diagram is for Water - that has nine solid phases. Surely it is merely a simple example. Arachrah (talk) 16:52, 6 January 2020 (UTC)

As an interesting note, this comic's alt-text also ends with a period inside of a quote. This was discussed at length in the previous comic. Agrasin (talk) 16:52, 6 January 2020 (UTC)

I'm just upset that both a soil diagram and the QAPF were included, but not the TAS. Where's the love for extrusive igneous rocks? Mergelong (talk) 18:22, 6 January 2020 (UTC)

BTW, I offer my condolences and wish luck to the person who's going to make a transcript of this comic. Aasasd (talk) 22:28, 6 January 2020 (UTC)

"lawful heterozygous silty liquid" Is this not him being Lawfull, having inherited different forms of a particular gene from each parent, and basically a bag full of salt water? Nappy (talk) 07:51, 7 January 2020 (UTC)

A phase diagram was also used in https://what-if.xkcd.com/138/ 08:23, 7 January 2020 (UTC)

The phase diagrams for oxygen and radon look similar to the Lawful Neutral one here. 23:06, 8 January 2020 (UTC)

Is it coincidence that the evil chaotic diagram looks a bit like a brain? -- 10:52, 9 January 2020 (UTC)

Made a "real" one using actual picts from the internet based on this comic ... but ALSO using his comic. Meta, meta, meta, maybe? https://imgur.com/gallery/CagOh8s

I'm fairly certain that Randall is classifying himself using the Omnispace classifier, rather than referencing "the true neutral, neutral good, lawful good, and lawful neutral charts in the Alignment Chart Alignment Chart." as the current description suggests. If you look at the Omnispace classifier, Silt, Liquid, Heterozygous, and Lawful Good all share a common point on the chart. 17:55, 27 January 2020 (UTC)

Omnispace Classifier

I think the Omnispace Classifier is meant to be a horrific Frankenstein amalgamation of the other 8 kinds of chart. Theoretically it can "classify anything" since it can classify anything the other 8 can, but practically it would obviously be totally useless, or at least a lot less useful than just using the specific chart that works for the situation. Pureawes0me (talk) 12:09, 6 January 2020 (UTC)

In the description of the Omnispace Classifier, saying "the diagram created for this comic is considered to be chaotically evil." is wrong. The diagram created for this comic is not an Omnispace Classifier, it is an alignment chart. It's even in the title "Alignment Chart Alignment Chart". Pureawes0me (talk) 14:11, 8 January 2020 (UTC)

I concur. LtPowers (talk) 15:04, 8 January 2020 (UTC)

I feel the "Omnispace Classifier" is actually chaotic evil due to its mishmash of axes, which change randomly in topic and direction depending where you look on the graph. --GoldNinja (talk) 17:43, 8 January 2020 (UTC)

Chart Position Rationale

The page currently tries to explain each chart's position based on the content of the chart, e.g. the political compass chart is lawful because politics relates to laws. I think this is wrong: the charts are arranged based on their properties as charts. It's not based on whatever it is they represent. This feels more in character with how Randall tends to do things. It also avoids making a bunch of value judgments about various topics. Khaim (talk) 23:05, 8 January 2020 (UTC)

Possible explanations for each chart:

  • Soil chart: Information-dense, continuous, triangular
  • Punnett square: Simple, square
  • IPA vowel chart: Irregular shape
  • Phase diagram: Square, continuous
  • Alignment chart: "A is A"
  • CIE chromaticity diagram: Irregular shape, curved, nonlinear
  • Political compass: Square (lawful), highly subjective, not very useful
  • QAPF rock diagram: Diamond shape is misleading since it's actually two ternary charts stuck together, not very useful (unless you're a geologist?)
  • Omnispace classifier: Totally made up, irregular, completely useless

Khaim (talk) 23:31, 8 January 2020 (UTC)

I agree with this, and it's how I first interpreted the comic.--GoldNinja (talk) 23:40, 8 January 2020 (UTC)
Well, the point is to make any connection to both axis of the chart. Your explanations do not do that properly either. e.g. for IPA vowel chart "Irregular shape" does not explain why it would be considered "good", while it is one of maybe more possible reasons for being considered chaotic. --Lupo (talk) 07:39, 9 January 2020 (UTC)