585: Outreach

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Completely implausible? Yes. Nevertheless, worth keeping a can of shark repellent next to the bed.
Title text: Completely implausible? Yes. Nevertheless, worth keeping a can of shark repellent next to the bed.


Scientific animal tracking is commonly used to learn more about other species, particularly endangered ones, as a way of better understanding their physiology, behavior, and what risks they face in the wild. It's used in a wide variety of sciences, including wildlife biology, conservation, wildlife management and zoology.

The scientists in this comic are working on a rather limited budget and can't afford the cost of hiring someone to retrieve a tracking tag from the water. So they create one that will pop free, float to the surface, and inflate a giant helium balloon, causing it to gradually drift over land. Eventually the balloon will slowly deflate, soft-land, and with any luck someone will find it and mail it back to the scientists.

But it goes horribly, hilariously wrong. The tag can't quite pop free from the shark, and proceeds to inflate the balloon while the shark is still attached. The shark rises right along with the tracker tag, drifts back over land, and goes right after the scientists that had been tracking it.

The young girl, seeing two scientists running frantically from a flying shark, no doubt has never seen anything more awesome in her whole life, and figures that if such excitement is a daily part of a scientist's job, that's the job for her!

The alt-text suggests keeping shark repellent by one's bed to account for the quite-unlikely event of something like this happening. Because you never know.


[A group of scientists with goggles and labcoats stand around a pair of beakers.]
Ponytail: The tracking tag will record the shark's movement and habits.
[The capsule floats upward.]
Ponytail (narrated): Then, it will pop free and float to the surface.
[A coast is shown, with arrows directed from water to land.]
Ponytail (narrated): We can't afford a recovery program, so the capsules will inflate helium balloons, drift over land,
Ponytail (narrated): And hopefully be found and mailed to us. Any questions?
[The capsule has a caption on it.]
If found please call
[The scientist is standing over a groggy shark.]
[The shark is dropped off a boat, into the water.]
Shark: !!!
[The course of the shark is shown, weaving around islands.]
[The capsule is shown sticking out of the shark.]
[The capsule remains attached to the shark.]
[The balloon starts to inflate, still attached to the shark and underwater.]
[As the balloon inflates, it starts to pull the shark to the surface.]
Shark: ??
[The balloon breaks the surface, pulling the shark with it.]
[A man and a child are standing together.]
[Two scientists run past, screaming. One is holding a microscope.]
Scientists: AAAAAAAA
[A shark attached to a huge balloon floats past following the scientists.]
Shark: <<Chomp chomp>>
Child: Daddy?
Father: Yes?
Child: I want to be a scientist.

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Did SyFy just steal this idea when they produced "Sharknado"? 21:16, 11 July 2013 (UTC)

We are going to need a bigger balloon... Mountain Hikes (talk) 06:14, 10 December 2015 (UTC)

Reference the bird carrying the shark video, which was theorized as more likely a Spanish Mackerel: While it may not have actually been a shark, nature reveals that no matter how strange we get, there's always something weirder out there. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fqr-aW0bGNw The incident is discussed further on ScienceAlert: https://www.sciencealert.com/a-video-of-a-bird-capturing-a-shark-like-fish-is-going-viral-for-its-resemblance-to-sharknado