Talk:1818: Rayleigh Scattering

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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I keep trying to correct the misspelled joung Girl to Young Girl but it keeps reverting. I corrected the two non-capitalized sentences and they stay put. Does "joung" have a meaning i don't understand? ExternalMonolog (talk) 14:55, 31 March 2017 (UTC)

There might be conflicting edits, that happens a lot with new comicsDontknow (talk) 15:34, 31 March 2017 (UTC)

Question - while I understand the intent of the comic is that overly complicated explanations can be confusing, isn't the title-text analogy incorrect? Doesn't chlorophyll scatter green light and absorbs other colors, whereas with the sky, it's really just different levels of scattering and very little absorbing (hence why a clear sky at dusk can appear red, the sky wasn't absorbing red light, it was just scattering it differently than blue light). Isn't that fundamentally different from the way most other common objects get their perceived color? (ps - I'm not a scientist, just curious, appreciate any feedback)

Sry, no answer to your question, but a second chlorophyll-related one: I doubt that chlorophyll "reflects" green light, "scattering" should be correct! Any other opinions???? milebrega, 14:38, 1 April 2017 (UTC)

"Why are leaves green?" "Well, the leaf absorbs most of the colors, but not the green light, which it scatters instead." "Why is my shirt black?" "Well the cloth absorbs most of the colors, but just scatters the black light... wait..." Andyd273 (talk) 15:46, 31 March 2017 (UTC)

I like to think this is Miss Lenhart, continuing her science teaching in the same vein as in 'Venus'. There's no proof in the comic, but it fits nicely. Potentially something to add as a possibility in the explanation? 16:38, 31 March 2017 (UTC)

I second the take that this is Miss Lenhart; I guess she's not in a classroom setting but she's been in similar situations. Someone should mention that the girl's second question is the same from 803: Airfoil (also with Miss Lenhart). Articles have mentioned sort of "series" of themes before; that article, 1145: Sky Color, and this have an ongoing theme of "how to explain science to kids". 04:04, 1 April 2017 (UTC)

Yesssss <3 I had the exact same thought the first time Rayleigh scattering was explained to me: "isn't that just a specific mechanism of air being blue?" For some reason such explanations majorly tend to insist that the air is not in fact blue, and it has always bothered me. 16:41, 31 March 2017 (UTC)

Maybe the explanation should point out that the real reason the planes "stay up" is that the tiny birds are on the underside of the wings.-- 17:20, 31 March 2017 (UTC)

If air is blue how come a sunset, with LOTS of air, is red? I know the answer but it is the obvious next question with this explanation. 17:22, 31 March 2017 (UTC)

During the day the Sun heats the air. At sunset you see the result of this heating, the air glows red-hot or orange-hot and starts to quickly cool down. You can't see it glowing during the day because of the very bright Sun.-- 17:40, 31 March 2017 (UTC)
Oh ok. Than why is the sun-rise also red? ;-). --DaB. (talk) 23:40, 31 March 2017 (UTC) 10:31, 1 April 2017 (UTC)

Can someone add this to the comics featuring those respective characters? Dontknow (talk) 17:41, 31 March 2017 (UTC)

New here, probably not following proper form in this commend, but, if I may ask, is that thing about mountains appearing blue actually true? (Unsigned)

I received the 'rayleigh scattering' explanation myself, and it served me well. Even without knowing anything about quantum mechanics or how the human eye works, knowing that there's an optic principle at work other than simple pigmentation explains why the light is golden early and late in the day, and why dust or smoke can have such diverse effects on the colour of the light beaming down, especially at dusk and dawn.

If I'd been told air was blue, I'd have a lot more questions, and I'd still think that gemstones like alexandrite that look different colours in different light were somehow magical, instead of just having unique physical properties. So, I'd like to assume Randall's just making a outlandish joke, not really trying to say that it's wrong to give children the phrase 'rayleigh scattering' and explain what the consequences of it are, even without describing the mechanisms behind it--something that still goes way over my head.Namaphry (talk) 04:59, 1 April 2017 (UTC)

Air is not blue - certainly not in the same way that leaves are green or blue-dyed liquids are blue. This is evident when observing the Moon - a large chunk of rock much farther away than any mountains. Does all the air we're looking through at it make it appear blue? Of course not. If anything, the Moon can appear orange near the horizon. (But clearly, the reason is not that "air is orange".)

What is happening with the sky is that air can appear to glow with various colors when illuminated with a strong directional source of light, such as the sun. The color depends on multiple factors, including the angle of illumination and observation. The glow can be commonly seen being blue, white, yellow, or red - with blue hues generally observable on clear days, and reddish hues at sunrise or sunset. This only works with a directional source of light; when the source of light is diffuse, such as under a large cloud cover, the sky doesn't appear blue, and neither do distant mountains, readily disproving the notion that air itself would be blue.

There. That didn't involve any quantum mechanics. 07:07, 1 April 2017 (UTC)

Is there no xkcd April Fool's this year? ~Luc [talk] 22:27, 1 April 2017 (UTC)

Current explanation all backwards?

I seriously doubt the point of the comic is to tell children wrong answers just because they might not understand the real answer. That is just horrible. "The child's reaction in this comic, "Wow!", suggests that not only she understood, but is also excited about learning, which could be more important to her development than hearing the "correct" answer up front." That doesn't make any sense. I'm sure he doesn't want to say, tell children planes fly because of birds in their wings. There are easy and simple ways to give the correct answer, that children will understand, and it's definitely not better for their development and interest to tell them absolut BS. It's the other way around, he makes fun of this answer, and so wants to make the point to NOT tell children things like that just because you're too lazy to explain, or because you think they might not understand. The point is not: Give an easy and possibly wrong answer to children. The point is rather: While for blue sky the easier (and TRUE) answer might be enough for kids, for other things that's not the best solution, and definitely don't oversimplify so much that your answer actually is wrong. 08:53, 1 April 2017 (UTC)

I completely agree. I find the current explanation to be 100% the opposite of what Randall has been trying to say in earlier comics. The joke is those that think it is better to tell false stories rather than try to tell the truth. --Kynde (talk) 18:28, 1 April 2017 (UTC)

Hommage to Calvin and Hobbes?

I believe this comic could be an hommage to Calvin and Hobbes comics, where Calvin asks his dad stuff about nature, and his dad replies with completely nonsensical explanations. 21:20, 1 April 2017 (UTC)

The other side of the argument

The other side of the argument is basically that by giving an overly simple and inaccurate explanation, one can be very misleading. There is another take on the following sentence:

The child's reaction in this comic, "Wow!", suggests that not only she understood, but is also excited about learning, which could be more important to her development than hearing the "correct" answer up front.

That is that the child may be impressed by a mere superficiality. Did she really understand, or was the explanation in some way impressive? (Impressiveness does not imply correctness.)

A person might say, "Wow!" to some Hollywood special effects. Does that really mean that the person is interested in how to create such effects? Does the girl in the strip really care to learn? If she does, starting off by telling her something wrong seems a rather odd way to go about it.

When one starts in a field of study, one often needs to have simple explanations. Otherwise, the sheer mass of detail can be overwhelming. It is more useful to give an explanation that is more or less correct and to mention that there are special cases. An example is Einsteinian physics which obsoleted Newtonian physics, but the latter is still close enough to be useful in everyday situations.

Additionally, if one gets in the habit of simplifying everything without regard to correctness, where does it end? The final frame gives an example of this. 00:26, 2 April 2017 (UTC) (Gene Wirchenko <[email protected]>