2423: Project Orion

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Revision as of 01:26, 11 February 2021 by (talk) (Explanation: Added to explanation)
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Project Orion
If you tune out again, when you tune back in you'll be hearing about dusty plasma fission fragment rockets.
Title text: If you tune out again, when you tune back in you'll be hearing about dusty plasma fission fragment rockets.


Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Created by a FADED PHYSICIST. Please mention here why this explanation isn't complete. Do NOT delete this tag too soon.
If you can address this issue, please edit the page! Thanks.

White Hat and Cueball are having a conversation. In the first panel, Cueball is telling White Hat about his gardening experiences. White Hat tunes out for the middle two panels, and when he starts paying attention againn, Cueball is discussing Project Orion.

Project Orion was an ambitious plan to launch enormous spaceships into orbit by detonating a series of nuclear bombs below them. The force from the explosions would be absorbed by a pusher plate on the bottom of the rocket, which is the detail Cueball is sharing when White Hat tunes back in. Its coolness and the fact that it involves physics and engineering may be why physicists' conversations tend to converge to it.

The fact that physicists' conversations tend to converge towards Project Orion is similar to how biologists' conversations tend to converge towards carcinization in 2418: Metacarcinization. This may turn out to be part of a series, similarly to the scaled world series, that will show similar examples in other fields, such as meteorologists' conversations converging toward tornadogenesis, mathematicians' conversations converging toward the Riemann hypothesis, or Randall's conversations converging toward dinosaurs.

Project Orion has been mentioned before, in 786: Exoplanets, where Beret Guy sums it up as "nuke-riding city ships."


Ambox notice.png This transcript is incomplete. Please help editing it! Thanks.
[Cueball is explaining to White Hat.]
Cueball: Our garden grew really well last year, so we think we might put a second raised bed along the garage, if we can find a... [text fades to white]
[Cueball looks around in confusion.]
Cueball: [text fades back in] ...thanks to X-ray [ablation?], the pusher plate would absorb the nuclear blast, recoil, and then return to position for the next bomb. Such a wild idea! Probably good that it was abandoned.

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If you read xkcd long enough, the comics always tend toward being about conversations tending toward something. (Okay, that’s not true; there’s one other comic like this and it was a conversation tending toward being about species tending toward being built like crabs. Still funny to think about, though.) 01:09, 11 February 2021 (UTC)

All xkcd comics eventually become conversations about conversations. Captain Video (talk) 01:15, 11 February 2021 (UTC)

Just wanted to point out that "dusty plasma fission fragment rockets" is a series of trochees. 05:45, 11 February 2021 (UTC)

TIL trochee means something different for English than for Greek, Latin, Hungarian etc. Torzsmokus (talk) 08:35, 11 February 2021 (UTC)
This also means that the first four words can be sung to the tune of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 21:57, 16 February 2021 (UTC)

The current explanation mentions other examples of topics, specialists from different fields apparently tend to converge on. Can anyone confirm whether those are actually true, or at least commonly known stereotypes? I've never heard of any such claim. The claim being, that all conversations converge on these topics, not the topics themselves. Bischoff (talk) 13:35, 11 February 2021 (UTC)

Now I understand a bit better what may have influenced some plot elements of Neal Stephenson's book Anathem. 15:28, 11 February 2021 (UTC)

More specifically? It's not striking a chord for me. All Sci-Fi conversations eventually come around to multiverse phenomena? ProphetZarquon (talk) 20:12, 11 February 2021 (UTC)
Well, there definitely was an Orionesque system. With the pre-detection theorising by the core characters possibly being juxtaposed with more mundane gardening information within the Math/enclave. (Must re-read it!) 21:06, 11 February 2021 (UTC)

I don't think that modern engineering can make project Orion safe.

While modern engineering can perhaps make some forms of nuclear propulsion safe(ish) and I think that stuff like nuclear thermal rockets could be great in some roles, I don't think that we are close to being able to detonate nukes in Earths atmosphere safely. Safely enough for the people on the rocket, maybe, but not for the people eating their atomic dust. Like the plans for that giant hypersonic nuclear ramjet, it's awesome, and would likely work, but I don't see a way to clean up the emissions to anything like acceptable levels.

BlakeFelix (talk) 16:02, 13 February 2021 (UTC)