2931: Chasing

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Certain hybrid events can only happen in certain locations where all the conditions are present; chasers flock to the area in and around Kansas known as tumbleweed-colliding-with-possum alley.
Title text: Certain hybrid events can only happen in certain locations where all the conditions are present; chasers flock to the area in and around Kansas known as tumbleweed-colliding-with-possum alley.


This comic is a scatter plot comparing how exciting it is to see various things with how possible it is to chase them using a convoy of coordinated vehicles.

The least chasable are stationary places like the Grand Canyon or International Date Line. It makes no sense to chase them because they don't move around, you simply go to their known locations. At the other end of the chasability spectrum are animals that move around rapidly, and fleeting astronomical and atmospherical phenomena like clouds, meteors and aurora. However, some of these are difficult to chase because they're small and hard to detect from a moving vehicle, e.g. gnats.

In the top-right position of most chasable and most exciting, tornadoes have a community of 'chasers' who attempt to predict their appearance and get as close to them as possible, which was the subject of a 1996 film, for which a sequel was due to be released shortly after this comic. A major tornado outbreak had also taken place immediately preceding the comic's publication.

The title text suggests that combining some of these things into a single event would multiply the excitement derived from them. This makes sense on the surface, as the rarity value of the resulting event would be high, so even two relatively mundane events could, when combined, produce an interesting outcome. However, it somewhat undermines this by suggesting that, in this particular location, the event in question (possums being hit by passing tumbleweeds) is relatively routine.

Entity Estimate of... Explanation
Chasing Excitement
The Grand Canyon 10% 90% Stationary place in Arizona. It's the largest canyon in the US (but not the world), in addition to being very beautiful due to its depth and the color changes from different geological strata. Seeing a famous tourist attraction in person is exciting.
Niagara Falls 15% 75% A generally stationary place on the border of US and Canada, between the state of New York and the province of Ontario. The waterfall is the largest in North America by width and water volume, making it very beautiful to watch.
Tourist attractions 15% 55% Other stationary places that attract many tourists (e.g. national parks, monuments and historic places) are exciting to see.
Tourist traps 10% 40% Stationary places that market themselves as tourist attractions, but don't really have much to offer and exist mainly to sell food and souvenirs.
Sand trap 15% 25% Pits of sand in golf courses. If your golf ball lands in one, it loses all its momentum almost instantly and it is difficult to hit out to the grassy portions (fairways or greens), which is why it is a "trap". A convoy of golf-carts might "chase" a golf-ball to the sand trap it lands in, but this would not be very exciting.
The International Date Line 15% 10% A jagged conceptual line running from the North to South poles around 180 degrees of longitude, used to separate the time zones that start and end each day. There's nothing to see at these locations, as the line is an abstraction and does not actually coincide with anything in real life, as well as mostly being in the Pacific Ocean, by-passing actual landfall, as well as across the Arctic Southern Oceans. The zones for time in Antarctica are already more pragmatically simplified or just fall back to Coordinated Universal Time.
Meteors 35% 95% Also called "shooting stars". These are fleeting streaks of light that are visible when bits of rock or dust enter the atmosphere and burn up. These are generally rare, making them exciting to see, but there are meteor showers when many are visible due to the Earth passing through a large cloud of dust (usually the remnants of a comet). To astronomy buffs, these can be like natural fireworks shows. Because each meteor streak lasts for a fraction of a second, it's not generally possible to chase them, although if the rock is large enough it may survive to the ground and become a meteorite, which chasers may be able to find by tracking its path through the sky.
Rainbows 35% 90% A visual effect that occurs when sunlight is refracted by water droplets in the air, spreading the light into a spectrum of different colors. Their 'location' is relative to each observer, so long as the necessary components combine correctly in the first place, so any coordinated movement is restricted to finding the right sort of standpoint from which a rainbow is visible. Moving "towards" a rainbow typically results in the rainbow "moving away" from the observer at the same speed.
Comets 40% 85% Comets are chunks of rock and ice that orbit the Sun, usually in highly eccentric orbits that take them from the inner Solar System to the Kuiper Belt or Oort Cloud at the extreme outskirts of the Solar System. Few of them are visible to the naked eye until they are close to the Sun. They're exciting to see because they are rare, and one of the few astronomical objects that looks like more than just a tiny dot because there is a glowing "tail". While they are moving very rapidly through the Solar System, from the Earth they don't appear to move much faster than planets. So there's no need to chase them; when near the Earth, they will be visible from much of the planet for days or weeks.
Sunsets 35% 75% Disappearance of the Sun below the horizon, should happen usually once every 24 hours (except close to the poles). Depending on weather conditions, they can sometimes be very pretty. Traveling around the Earth from east to west is needed for a continuous view of a sunset.
The Moon 40% 70% Earth's only natural satellite with a predictable orbit. While Randall is most likely referring to chasing the Moon on the Earth, the Apollo Missions very much fit the description of "chase in a convoy of vehicles coordinating over radio and using instruments and data to find optimal viewing locations". That is exactly what the astronauts did, they "chased" the Moon (the Moon was moving while they flew towards it) using a convoy of vehicles (the multi-stage rockets) while they "coordinated" to Earth with their radios. Only 12 people (the Apollo astronauts) have actually visited it in person; the rest of us see it from about 250,000 miles (400,000 km) away. Weather permitting, it's visible for about half of every day/night cycle (though may be more obvious when this occurs significantly in the night sky, for several reasons). It doesn't move quickly in the sky, by apparent movement, so little chasing is necessary. A 'supermoon' is when the Moon looks the largest and shiniest, occurring when a full moon appears closest to the Earth in its orbit, though Randall doesn't consider this phenomenon impressive (How To, chapter 21).
Unusual clouds 40% 55% Clouds with unique forms or shapes, like Lenticular clouds. People may want to chase after them if they’re drifting away, as they may want to view the cloud further, perhaps for scientific purposes.
Regular clouds 35% 40% Clouds are an aerosol consisting of a visible mass of miniature liquid droplets. People may chase clouds for the same reasons as wanting to chase unusual clouds.
Fog 30% 25% Atmospheric condition where water droplets are very dense near the Earth's surface, resulting in a visible haze. Fog does not move much, but dissipates over time. Fog might pull away from its least ideal conditions before it vanishes completely. This entry might be a reference to Phileas Fogg, who was pursued around the world.
Rain 35% 20% Water droplets falling from clouds. In most of the world, this is a pretty common occurrence. Unless the volume is extremely high, there's rarely much excitement due to them, but extreme cases may cause flooding that can be dangerous. The only people who might chase rain are weather reporters who want to get wet.
Gnats 35% 5% Hardly anybody wants to track down gnats, as they are annoying to chase and difficult to see, but people could theoretically use advanced instruments to do so.
Aurora 60% 95% Impressive light displays that result from excitement of the Earth's magnetosphere by charged particles in the solar wind. These are generally only visible in high latitudes, so most people do not live where they're visible. Their visibility can be tracked and forecasted via monitoring of solar wind output from the Sun, and particularly intense episodes can be predicted (as well as locations for viewing) on the basis of the solar cycle and solar flare activity. The release of this comic coincided with the strongest geomagnetic storm warning forecasted by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in 20 years [1] (May 2024 solar storms).
Your favorite band's shows 60% 80% Musical acts often plan tours, where they go around the country (or world) putting on shows every few days. Extreme fans with time (and money) on their hands may "chase" them by going to a series of their shows. Since the tour dates are planned and publicized well in advance, the shows are easy to find. However, depending on the popularity of your favorite band, this might be an expensive hobby, especially for optimal viewing. Also, tickets may be sold out.
Rare birds 60% 60% Many birders will "twitch" to see rare birds, and this requires a fair amount of checking location, behavior, etc. Also, rare birds tend to be exciting to see.
Regular birds 55% 40% These are easier to see than rare birds.
Regular balloons 55% 25% Both children and adults accidentally let go of helium balloons, and may attempt to chase after them to retrieve them.
Tumbleweeds 60% 15% A roughly spherical portion of certain plants that breaks off from its roots and rolls along the ground, propelled by winds, to distribute the seeds of the parent plant. Most people don't find them very interesting to look at, and they're often used as a shorthand for nothing of interest happening. They don't usually travel very quickly, so it would be possible to chase them if you were so inclined. The locomotion of tumbleweeds is of interest to ecologists, as the non-native and extremely invasive plant disperses its seeds across a region.
Speed traps 65% 5% A section of a road where police often wait for passing drivers who are exceeding the speed limit, so they can catch them and issue speeding tickets. Frequent drivers, especially truck drivers, have developed systems to warn each other of these locations (citizens band radio was once the most popular method, but now this can be done using mobile phone using services like Waze).
Tornadoes 85% 95% Wanting to witness a tornado is the typical objective of storm chasers.
Whales 85% 90% Widely distributed and diverse group of marine mammals. They are some of the largest animals to ever live, and often travel in groups, making them exciting and easy to see (when active at the surface). They have often been chased by humans, both for the purposes of hunting and exploiting them as a resource and by tourist-oriented whale-watching trips.
Icebergs 85% 75% Piece of freshwater ice broken off a glacier or ice shelf. These come in many sizes and shapes, making it interesting to see a new one. At the time of this comic, there had recently been substantial interest in tracking the progress of the giant Iceberg A23a.
Hot air balloons 80% 60% An aircraft whose bag is filled with heated air. Hot air balloons are ridden for a variety of reasons (entertainment, sport, advertisement, etc.) and they usually involve a "chase crew" of people on the ground. To an uninvolved observer, catching an unexpected glimpse of an airborne balloon is a moderately exciting event; giving chase is not advised, however, as it may interfere with the chase crew's operation and may be perceived as a hostile act, thereby creating uncomfortable levels of excitement.
Radiosondes 85% 50% Small instruments carried in weather balloons to gather and transmit atmospheric parameters. There's not much to see in them, but they're easy to track with a proper receiver.
Neighborhood possums 85% 35% "Possum" is a common term for Virginia opossums, the only species of opossum found in North America. In urban areas they will get into human garbage, and may carry diseases, so many may consider them pests and hunt them. A coordinated group of hunters can track them.
Ice cream trucks 85% 25% Vans that sell ice cream. They're easy to chase because they often play music and/or ring a loud bell so customers will know they're coming, and make frequent stops to allow customers to make purchases. Ice cream trucks may typically be chased by children too young to drive a convoy of vehicles for their pursuit, but their excited screams might provide data that can be used to track an ice cream truck through a city.
Other chasers 90% 10% May result in an awkward or friendly encounter if met in person. Chasers may bond over their enjoyment of chasing various objects, much like how geohashers connect with each other at specific geohashed locations. However, another group of chasers might not appreciate it if they find out that they're being the target themselves.


Ambox notice.png This transcript is incomplete. Please help editing it! Thanks.
[An X Y axis graph]
[Y axis label:]
Exciting to see in person
[X axis label:]
Possible to chase in a convoy of vehicles coordinating over radio and using instruments and data to find optimal viewing locations?
[X and Y axis values (from bottom left):]
[Top left quarter:]
The Grand Canyon
Niagara Falls
The Moon
Tourist attractions
Unusual clouds
[Top right quarter:]
Your favorite band's shows
Rare birds
Hot air balloons
[Bottom left quarter:]
Tourist traps
Regular clouds
Sand traps
The International Date Line
[Bottom right quarter:]
Regular birds
Neighborhood possums
Regular balloons
Ice cream trucks
Speed traps
Other chasers

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Weather permitting, the aurora borealis may be visible from northern US tonight. I wonder if that inspired this comic. There's also a new "Twister" sequel coming out this summer, which is about tornado chasers. Barmar (talk) 21:14, 10 May 2024 (UTC)

Sadly, given last month's event, "Total Solar Eclipse" is not on the chart. With the changing clouds over Texas on eclipse day, many were driving around figuring out where best to watch from. I would put it at the top of the chart and almost fully to the right. 21:41, 10 May 2024 (UTC)

I'm astonished that solar eclipses aren't in this comic or the title text. Zowayix (talk) 22:42, 10 May 2024 (UTC)
Yeah, I would replace Tornados with that TSE. Tornados might be exciting in person, and people might be chasing them, but they are more terrifying than exciting. 08:11, 11 May 2024 (UTC)

I feel like Randall is selling Ice Cream Trucks short. Doctorhook (talk) 02:56, 11 May 2024 (UTC)

I strongly disagree with this chart, about the possibility of chasing the Grand Canyon & the international dateline. Owing to length & downhill grade of the former, & timing sensitive nature of the latter.
ProphetZarquon (talk) 03:02, 11 May 2024 (UTC)
What 'timing sensitive nature' of the latter? Apart from historic changes, and lacking any further proposed ones, you're just talking about a discontinuity effect that happens continuously.
Unless you mean timing it for an hour (or maybe two, or more, depending upon less straightforward TZ-abuttal??) every day, you can perhaps step/paddle back and forth between "very late night" on one date and "very early in the morning" on the next-but-one date. 09:39, 11 May 2024 (UTC)

Uhhh, isn't it an activity to take donkeys down into the Grand Canyon? That feels not all that different than the convoy thing - pretty sure it IS similarly done in groups, and that it's indeed to see the place better... :) And that radios would be advisable. And I've never even been anywhere near there! NiceGuy1 (talk) 06:11, 11 May 2024 (UTC)

I would moreso call that exploring than chasing. 13:55, 13 May 2024 (UTC)

Seems to have completely missed the eclipse chasers all over the US recently :D 08:08, 11 May 2024 (UTC)

You could say "they've been eclipsed"... (Which is what they all want!) 09:39, 11 May 2024 (UTC)

I believe I read about a plan to chase the interstellar object 'Oumuamua, which would be like chasing a comet but even more so. -- 20:17, 11 May 2024 (UTC)

Speaking as someone who lives where there are none of the former and many of the latter, seeing a possum would be much more exciting than seeing a hot air balloon. 09:21, 13 May 2024 (UTC)

Ok, not hot-air, but: https://projectpossum.org/research/balloon-nlc-imagery/ 10:51, 13 May 2024 (UTC)

For the whale explanation, don't scientists chase whales as well?--Calpurnia Tate (talk) 00:34, 17 May 2024 (UTC)

Which reminds me... should Sea Shepherd be mentioned in "Chasing other chasers" as some sort of actual example? Because that's quite literally what they do... Elektrizikekswerk (talk) 06:47, 17 May 2024 (UTC)

Number of Apollo astronauts[edit]

Are we counting unique individuals or total visits? There were six landings with two astronauts each, but someone went twice? (talk) 20:48, 11 May 2024 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Nobody doubled up. 6x2=12. (Some went on up to three separate 'walks'/drives away from their craft, but no-one landed twice.) 21:59, 11 May 2024 (UTC)
Arguably the crews of Apollos 8, 10, and 13 also visited the Moon; As did the Command Module Pilots on the six missions with landings. These guys all got 99.9+% of the way there, and while they didn't touch it, nor did the twelve guys who landed (none of whom were brave enough to take their gloves off while outside the LEM).
In this extended group of lunar visitors, there were some double ups, e.g. Jim Lovell, who was on Apollos 8 and 13. 22:55, 11 May 2024 (UTC)
You could also say that many of them got 100.1-% of the way there, when they orbited around the far side. 00:35, 12 May 2024 (UTC)
In total, 24 people went to the moon on 9 trips (Apollo missions 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17), with 12 men actually landing, walking and driving around, and leaving (Apollo missions 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17). There were 3 people who flew there twice, but nobody landed more than once, yet. Nutster (talk) 18:44, 13 May 2024 (UTC)

I so much want to include Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee. 14:46, 12 May 2024 (UTC)