Posts Tagged ‘XKCD’

How high is up?

June 4, 2016

Source: xkcd: Height


The hierarchies of knowledge

February 21, 2016



I lifted these two cartoons from the Biology vs. Theoretical Physics post on the Sans Science web log, which is now private.

The top cartoon is, of course, from Randall Munroe’s xkcd series.

How should you tell the temperature?

February 16, 2016


Source: xkcd

xkcd: Lakes and oceans

January 19, 2016
Double click to enlarge.

Double click to enlarge.

Source: xkcd

Randall Munroe is not just a witty cartoonist and effective explainer.  He is a master of the visual display of quantitative information.   Look at the Deepwater Horizon well on the display to get an idea of just what that was, for example.

The economic argument against the paranormal

June 16, 2015

Source: xkcd.

Cancer and cell phones

June 15, 2015

Source: XKCD

What’s at stake in global climate change

May 15, 2015

4_5_degreesSource: xkcd.

Science and stamp collecting

May 12, 2015

science and stamp collectingSource: xkcd

The words for winter

February 25, 2015

winterSource: xkcd

We’re not used to really cold winters any more

February 13, 2015

coldSource: xkcd

The complete real estate of the Solar System

July 7, 2014

Randall Munroe shows the surface area of the planets and asteroids in the Solar System that are hard enough to walk on.   Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune and Uranus don’t count because they don’t have solid surfaces.  If they did, their surfaces would be many times bigger than that whole map.

via xkcd.    Hat tip to

Science and the sense of beauty

February 23, 2014


Click on xkcd for more Randall Munroe cartoons

I thought I was the only one like this

November 2, 2013


Click on xkcd for more Randall Munroe cartoons.

-10-day weather forecast

August 28, 2013


Click on xkcd for more Randall Munroe cartoons.


August 17, 2013


Click on xkcd for more from Randall Munroe.

The Saturn V rocket explained in common words

August 3, 2013

Double click to enlarge.

The Saturn V rocket explained in the 1,000 most common words in the English language.

Source: xkcd: Up Goer Five.

If you like this, you might like Short Words to Explain Relativity.

Hat tip for both to

Cases closed

July 11, 2013


Click on xkcd for more Randall Munroe cartoons

Pay no attention to this flow chart

June 14, 2013


Click on xkcd for more from Randall Munroe.

A new New Year’s resolution

January 18, 2013

resolutionClick on xkcd for more Randall Munroe cartoons.

Poll watching

November 6, 2012


Click on xkcd for more cartoons.

Hat tip to Unqualified Offerings.

Elections that broke with precedent

October 18, 2012

Double click to enlarge

Click on xkcd for more like this.

Who are the richest billionaires?

September 1, 2012

Randall Munroe, creator of the web comic xkcd, is a great creator of infographics.  The chart above is a section of his new poster about money and its distribution.  The list of billionaires is from last year’s Forbes.  A lot of the names were unfamiliar to me, so I looked them up on Wikipedia.

Carlos Slim made his billions by buying the Mexican government telephone system at a bargain rate and jacking up phone rates.

Bill Gates, as almost everyone knows, is a founder of Microsoft.

Warren Buffett is an extremely successful investor/speculator in the stock market.

Bernard Arnault is a Frenchman who owns Louis Vuittron and other luxury goods companies.

Larry Ellison is founder of the Oracle software company.

Laksimi Mittai is CEO of the world’s largest steel company, which is based in India.

Amancio Ortega is a Spanish merchandiser of luxury clothing.

Eike Batista is a Brazilian mining and oil-and-gas magnate.

Mukesh Ambani is CEO of India’s Reliance Industries, who expanded the family textile business back into polyester fibers and then into the oil and gas industry.

Christy Walton is one of the heirs of Sam Walton, founder of the Wal-mart store chain.


The future of historical amnesia

August 13, 2012

I’m continually surprised at the number of people who know little and care less about events before they were born.  Since I was 30 or so, I’ve been muttering to myself, “Kids these days!  They think history began with the Kennedy assassination.” “…with Watergate.” “with the Reagan administration.” “…with the Monica Lewinsky scandal.” “…with the 9/11 attacks.”

Historical knowledge gives you a frame of reference for understanding the present, as well as providing a reminder that things weren’t always the way they were today.  Without knowledge of history and culture, I would be at the mercy of the advertising, propaganda and the mass media.  If I didn’t remember the Joe McCarthy era, or have knowledge of the internment of the Japanese during World War Two, Big Red Scare of the 1920s or the Alien and Sedition laws in the early days of the American republic, I might regard our present Homeland Security state as normal

My earliest historical memory is of World War Two.  I don’t remember Pearl Harbor, but I remember patriotically collecting scrap paper and metal, and I do remember how my third grade class was given the day off in honor of V-E Day.  My earliest memory of a political argument was from when I was in the sixth grade, and I argued for re-election of President Harry Truman against the challenger Thomas E. Dewey.

But World War Two didn’t occur merely because Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo were evil people.  It had its roots in World War One and the blood-and-soil nationalism of the 19th century.  Truman and Dewey didn’t come out of nowhere.  They were the political heirs of Franklin Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover, of the Great Depression and New Deal, and of the conflicts of the Populist and Progressive eras around the turn of the previous century.

It wouldn’t be reasonable to expect everyone to be as fascinated with history as I am.  But I continually find people who consider themselves to be highly educated who are ignorant of basic historical facts.  I wonder whether this historical amnesia is distinctively American or whether it is universal in the modern world.

Click on xkcd for cartoons and occasional infographics like the one above.

New worlds: we live in an age of discovery

August 3, 2012

Click to enlarge

Randall Munroe, who draws the xkcd cartoons, is great at presenting information in visual form.  Here is his presentation of the 786 newly-discovered worlds in the vicinity of our own solar system.  I wish I could live long enough to know whether it is possible for human beings to journey to these new worlds, and, if so, what they will find there.  Either there are living beings on these worlds, which would be a wondrous thing to learn about, or there are not, in which case it would be humanity’s mission to spread life through the universe.

Many intelligent people — Wendell Berry, James Howard Kunstler, Dimitri Orlov — think that our high-technology civilization is unsustainable, and that space exploration is a diversion from what we truly need to do, which is to learn homesteading skills and husband the earth’s remaining resources.  They have good arguments.  There are many things that could bring down our high technology civilization—radical global climate change, peaking of oil supplies, a dysfunctional global economy based on debt—even the threat of nuclear war has only been mitigated, not eliminated.  Once there is a collapse, it will be difficult to rebuild, because humanity will have used up our easy-to-get fossil fuels and our easy-to-process metal ores.

I persist in hoping that this will not come true, although the only real basis for my hope is that I’ve lived a long time and worried about global catastrophes the whole time, and none of the things I feared came about.  The population bomb has been defused, at least for a while; population growth is leveling off in many countries, and the world produces enough food to feed everyone, if it were properly distributed.  The atomic war between the USA and USSR didn’t happen.  Totalitarian governments did not triumph.  None of these dangers has completely gone away, but none of them is an immediate danger.

Human beings are biased toward optimism, experimental psychologists have found.  We believe, as the great Jewish philosopher Maimonides put it, in “the plausibility of the possible as opposed to the necessity of the probable.”  So maybe humanity is not living in a brief interval between barbarism and barbarism.  Maybe we’re on the threshold of a real human history, in which people look back on us as we look back on the Sumerians.  In some moods, I think this is an illusion arising from having read too much science fiction in my youth.  In other moods, I think my pessimism is an illusion arising from old age and knowledge of mortality.  This is still a great time to be alive.

Click on NASA’s PlanetQuest and the Paris Observatory’s Extrasolar Planets Encyclopedia for more about newly-discovered worlds.

Click on xkcd for Randall Munroe’s cartoons.

The Google Search timeline of the 21st century

April 1, 2012

Click on xkcd for more like this.


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