516: Wood Chips

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Wood Chips
You didn't run a chemical analysis against the Shroud of Turin? Man, all that work for NOTHING.
Title text: You didn't run a chemical analysis against the Shroud of Turin? Man, all that work for NOTHING.


Cueball has tried to play an elaborate hoax on a woman (Hairbun) involving wood chips that match the composition of the wood used to build a 19th-century ghost ship called the Mary Celeste. Unfortunately, Hairbun has done the sensible, reasonable thing and thrown them out instead of checking to see if they belong to a ghost ship, whose wood chips or what-have-you would probably not have found their way to the hallway. This causes Cueball to realize that he needs to rethink the complicated way in which he creates hoaxes, because the people he is trying to trick do not follow through with his elaborate plans.

The title text suggests that he also set up some kind of chemical match with the Shroud of Turin. The Shroud of Turin is a famous artifact bearing a ghostly image of a man's face, said by some to have been used to wrap the body of Jesus of Nazareth. In 1988, radiocarbon dating determined the shroud's linen was produced between 1260 and 1390. While some defenders of the shroud's authenticity have raised questions about potential contamination or repairs to the original fabric, these theories have been largely refuted by experts. The Catholic Church neither endorses nor rejects the shroud's authenticity.


[Cueball leans on desk; Hairbun sits behind desk.]
Cueball: Did you ever figure out those mysterious woodchips?
Hairbun: The ones in the hallway? No.
Cueball: You didn't suspect that they matched the timber used in 1861 to build the "ghost ship" Mary Celeste, prompting you to send them to a lab for analysis, the results of which raised new and stranger questions?
Hairbun: No, I threw them out. Why?
[Caption below the panel:]
My hoaxes need to get a lot less subtle.

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The wood chips may be a reference to the 1995 horror movie 'Seven' in which the killer fed wood chips to his victim. Also here the wood chips serve as a starting point for an elaborate scavenger hunt. MrKaizer (talk) 13:18, 30 May 2013 (UTC)

Unlikely. Beanie (talk) 13:28, 30 March 2021 (UTC)

Near the end of the explanation is a reference to a test of the Shroud of Turin which "appeared to prove the cloth was medieval in origin (albeit not old enough to have been used by Jesus)." This should say "was medieval in origin and thus not old enough to have been used on the body of Jesus." "Medieval" refers to the Middle Ages, commonly reckoned to cover about 500 to 1500, or in some contexts 1100-1500. As it stands, using "albeit," this sentence is as logical as saying "This equation is relativistic BUT does not go back to Newton." 18:04, 21 November 2017 (UTC)