2502: Every Data Table

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Every Data Table
I'm hoping 2022 is relatively normal because I don't know what symbol comes after the asterisk and the dagger.
Title text: I'm hoping 2022 is relatively normal because I don't know what symbol comes after the asterisk and the dagger.


This comic is another entry in a series of comics related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It shows a future data table with one entry for each year from 2017 to 2024, so this table is made at least three years after publication of the comic (presuming it does not depict some form of advanced estimation of trends). The only discernible differences across the eight years are that two years have footnotes as in 2020* and 2021, whereas the other six years have not.

Sometimes a symbol such as an asterisk (*) or a dagger (†, also called an obelus or obelisk) is used to denote an unusual entry in a table to be explained in a footnote with a matching symbol.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a large impact on the entire world and one way this can be seen is through strange stats resulting from the effects of the pandemic, at least in 2020 and 2021, the years marked with footnote in the data table. Various statistics such as employment statistics, spending power, holiday miles, pet ownership, births (or at least conceptions), and—naturally—deaths may have been either grossly suppressed/increased for the majority of 2020, and for 2021 may have hardly recovered, partially recovered, renormalized, bounced back with a vengeance or be over-compensated for in the effort to catch up.

Thus Randall concludes that "every data table" will look like this one from now on, hence the title of the comic.

In the title text Randall states that he hopes 2022 is relatively normal. Comically, he doesn't mainly hope for this because he wants the COVID-19 pandemic to end, but rather because he doesn't know what footnote symbol to use after the asterisk and the dagger.

It is hard to know what 2022 might be like. At the time of this comic's publication in August 2021, nothing is exactly back to normal and proper recovery or the resulting compensatory readjustment may not have concluded in time for 2022 to reflect the trends expected based upon pre-2020 figures, and the additional further years that future statistics will record.

Common symbols that are used after the asterisk and dagger include the double dagger (‡), the section symbol/silcrow (§), the parallel/double-pipe (‖) and the paragraph symbol/pilcrow (¶). Alternately one could use multiple symbols (such as †† or ***) or superscript numbers (¹, ², ³ ...).

Unrelated to the usage as English footnote characters, the asterisk and dagger symbol are used in German mainly as the shorthand "genealogic signs" to express "born" and "died" respectively (e.g. in encyclopaedias, as the German terms are three-syllable words for both and need to be shortened), so a person that is 2020(*) and 2021(†) would have been alive for only about a year, depending on the months. This symbology is also used on some tomb stones. An optimistic view is the "birth" and "death" of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, which would also understandably result in uncertainty on the next symbol in this order, for 2022. Pessimists in this context might suggest to use ∞, which is the symbol for infinity.

Similarly, in biology, an asterisk marks a species (or genus, etc...) that is possibly extinct and a dagger is used to note the possible extinction. (Double asterisks indicate taxa believed to be extinct in the wild but known to be extant in cultivation). This of course does not fit well with SARS-CoV-2, which is not close to extinction.

Randall seems not to have noticed the potential monkey's paw nature of his wish. "Relative" requires a comparison between things. It could be that the whole fall-out of the pandemic becomes the new normal, and future years have no necessity to use symbols to explain how those years come to be like everyone knows they are, while dates before 2020 will be entirely understood as the old normal. Only 2020 and 2021 may need contextual clarifying, due to their nature as a transition from the old normal to the new normal.


[A data table is shown with eight years given. After each year is a series of dots, followed by illegible squiggles. The table is slanted compared to the panel, and closely cropped so it's impossible to tell how far the squiggles might extend or what other years might be included beyond the eight shown. Two of the years are marked with symbols indicating unseen footnotes.]
[Caption below the panel:]
Every data table from now on

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When we all rely on a BOT, we don't know how to do simple things like create new comic explanation pages manually anymore. 8-)
I really hope he's right about 2022... Orion205 (talk) 00:23, 14 August 2021 (UTC)

The DgbrtBOT... Why's it broken?? -- 04:22, 14 August 2021 (UTC)
It looks likely it was being run on a computer by the author, and the computer hiccuped. Nobody has notified the author, who doesn't come here much anymore. The bot is also linked from its page for others to run it. Baffo32 (talk) 09:39, 14 August 2021 (UTC)
Are there any active admins to add bot permissions if anyone wants to run that bot? theusaf (talk) 05:08, 18 August 2021 (UTC)
Asterix and Obelix

Fun fact: comic strip characters Asterix and Obelix were named after these symbols [1]. Frank 10:12, 14 August 2021 (UTC)

That's interesting. I never knew that. Thanks, random stranger! theusaf (talk) 05:06, 18 August 2021 (UTC)
New Normal

I personally am getting very tired of anyone expecting CoViD '19 to be "over" or anxious to "get back to normal". With '19, Delta, Gamma, & Lambda, all making the rounds (& those are just the lineage names; each already has dozens of minor variants, as coronavirus carries over minor variations from each host), & dogs, cats, & deer all showing signs of community-wide infection as well, it seems pretty obvious even to a non epidemiologist, that we've long since reached a state of effectively ubiquitous exposure. Couple this with air quality in increasing decline across multiple factors (rapidly climbing CO2, increasing rates of emissions of microparticulate, the only-just-beginning-&-already-most-of-the-dust-we-breathe breakdown of plastic microfibers, rare volatiles, take your pick, levels of each are accelerating precipitously) & we should all just collectively expect everyone "at risk" of respiratory illness to be suffering or dying on increasingly regular basis, until we all collectively change our lifestyles considerably more than we have so far. Heck, if we continue trying to get "back to normal" we may all die off entirely much sooner than even most of our concerned "experts" seem to think, because of the sheer number of contributing factors compounding each other at unprecedented rates of increase. In my view (seemed obvious since last August) CoViD itself is clearly here to stay, & even with booster shots, we should expect dangerous new variants to crop up. We live in an increasingly dense society (& that isn't a euphemism referring to effects of CO2 buildup) & higher density means more disease exposure; so we will all need to take steps to minimize these exposure risks & keep that up forever (or at least until population density or travel wane dramatically). We might even have to stop living like the future is disposable. ProphetZarquon (talk) 17:12, 14 August 2021 (UTC)

Yes, my reaction to 2022 in this comic was, "I appreciate his optimism, but I don't think it's actually warranted, and I think it's the double dagger symbol that comes next." I do hope we'll ultimately ease into a bit of a smoother and somewhat less oppressive (new) 'normal' than 2020~21 represent, but even in that scenario 2021 definitely seems a bit too soon to expect the current aberrations to reach an end. Regarding lifestyle changes, more than that I think it's largely voting patterns that would need to change (in countries where that applies), since many of the changes needed require large-scale collective coordination (i.e. infrastructure, commercial/industrial regulation, etc. etc.), in other words government level action, rather than just lifestyle changes at the individual level, even if universally applied. But I agree, a willingness to change lifestyles may be required for those kinds of voting patterns to occur. Of course a large span of human history was permeated by a lot of suffering, conflict, and death that probably most of us can't relate to today. On the other hand though, nowadays there's 7B of us and counting to experience the full joys of everything you're describing =/. 20:06, 14 August 2021 (UTC)
Did you seriously implied covid is made dangerous by global warming? Despite climbing CO2, the air quality - meaning, how good it is for people - is getting BETTER thanks to factory emissions being regulated compared to previous century. At least in Europe and US, it may still be bad in China, Beijing's smog is legendary. Of course, that's not related to Covid, which does seem to be here to stay and the best we can hope in is that thanks to combination of vaccine and mutations it gets closer to flu in dangerousness (which would still means tens of thousands of deaths every year, in EU or US). -- Hkmaly (talk) 01:10, 15 August 2021 (UTC)
The observed raise of atmospheric CO2 concentration may cause various changes in climate dynamics, but has no direct effect on human respiration and health. Sitting in a poorly ventilated room causes much, much higher rise (just because you're exhaling CO2), even causing mild, but passing, somatic effects (headaches etc.) -- 08:13, 16 August 2021 (UTC)

I'm thinking the next best option after the asterisk and dagger would probably be the section sign (§) — RAGBRAIvet (talk) 23:04, 15 August 2021 (UTC) 22:23, 14 August 2021 (UTC)

Is there a triangle symbol? That seems like it would be the best, if 2022 was mainly Delta

It's likely Delta will be connected to THIS year (2021) and next year will have another variant as dominant. There might even be enough time left in this year to replace Lambda as well, or maybe Lambda will be connected with winter 2021/22 and we get another for summer 2022. -- Hkmaly (talk) 01:10, 15 August 2021 (UTC)
I just want to say out loud (sic!) what I've been thinking for a while now... People will definitely be uncomfortable with the situation once they have to identify something as the Omega Strain... For a number of reasons. 11:34, 15 August 2021 (UTC)

2022 should have the ‡-symbol, double dagger - Checkmate!

The star and dagger could also be read as star and cross as seen on some tomb stones. They are used to denote birth and death. This could explain the comment about not being sure what the next symbol would be. See example here https://www.serafinum.de/media/image/product/8219/lg/zeitloser-granit-grabstein-in-schwarz-einzelgrab-philium~2.jpg Ray (talk) 08:36, 16 August 2021 (UTC)

In genealogical records, such as family trees, the dagger is used to indicate the death, or the unnatural death, of a person. Similarly, in biology, it is used to note the extinction of a species, genus, etc... Species that are possibly extinct are indicated with an asterisk and finally double asterisks indicate taxa believed to be extinct in the wild but known to be extant in cultivation.

The title text says "I'm hoping 2022 is relatively normal ..." Soylent Green is set in 2022. The movie shows pollution, global warming, riots, a sharp divide between rich and poor, ... and a tasty new food product. Totally fictional, ummm, kind of, sort of. Oh never mind. How do I buy a ticket for a Mars rocket? 19:11, 16 August 2021 (UTC)

TeX footnote symbols[edit]

I think the picture is an excerpt of a scientific paper, so those symbols are the footnote symbols used to explain the anomalies. Here's the list: 1 asterisk *

2 dagger †

3 double dagger ‡

4 section symbol §

5 paragraph ¶

6 parallel lines ‖

7 two asterisks **

8 two daggers ††

9 two double daggers ‡‡

As a result, all Randall has to do is this: \usepackage[symbol]{footmisc}



where num=year-2019.

--I. (talk) 16:11, 16 August 2021 (UTC)