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XKCD: Abandon all hope ye who enter

I’m going to let you in on a little secret.

Well I’m not going to shout it across the room, come here. Little closer. Closer. Too close……closer. Ok, here it goes. I’m a nerd. There I said it. I posted it on the internet so you know it’s true.

Now that that’s off my chest I have some fabulous news for all of my fellow nerds. There is a comic wholeheartedly dedicated to our plight. XKCD is a physicist’s, mathematician’s, linguist’s, and a systems analyst’s comic all rick rolled into one. I will be the first to admit that I by no means get every reference in the comic, but reading through the archives with a Wikipedia tab close at hand is one of the single greatest pleasures I have had in the past year.

I have a theoretical interest in science and as such there is nothing I love more than reading the latest theories on D-branes and other such noodle teasers. I say theoretical because math and I do not get along. This presents a minor problem in reading XKCD as you may surmise from paragraph three, but even a hardcore literary philosopher should be willing to stretch the boundaries of his knowledge and discover all there is to know about prime numbers.

The most fascinating learning experience by far is had through reading comic number 505. Behold:

A Bunch of Rocks

Forget unification theory

Digging through a few forums, many readers have wrongly supposed that comic 505 is wholly the invention of Randall Munroe. In fact the comic is based on the theories of Stephen Wolfram, author of the textbook A New Kind of Science. A fascinating read to be sure a one that should not be approached lightly. One must keep in mind that, as the title suggests, the man is creating a new science and that takes a bit of concentration.

When Munroe isn’t pointing out subtle humor in the sciences he is promoting counter-culture. Whether contained within the internet  tubes or spread into the more populated areas of modern society through trolling and mass chaos Munroe constantly pokes fun at society’s attempts to control human interaction while critiquing the flaws of the counter-culture he promotes.

His comments on globalization and the future are offset by his obscure and often life-threatening hobbies. While everything seems disjointed and weird, after 735 comics and counting it forms this beautiful and simplistic tapestry that never takes itself to seriously. XKCD is a once juvenile and thought-provoking. It captures the oddities and insights of the likes of Summer Glau and presents them in a simplistic ideal that finds me returning to Pavlov’s ding three times a week.

I highly reccomend XKCD, though such an undertaken should not be a mere whim.

There are many important things to consider when first reading this comic. The single most critical information I can give you is this: For the love of everything holy and sacred, read the alt text! Often the funniest joke or the bit that explains everything is carefully hidden in the alt text. The drawing style is not something to get hung up on either. The stick figures are at once simplistic and epic while often reminding me of my own grade school drawings of mock battles. What is it about stick figures fighting that the human race finds so provocative?

Epic stick figure battles are so cool

While generally non-sequitur, XKCD does on occasion follow the heinous acts of an ASPD stricken man with a black hat. Characters come and more often go through the course of the comic and none but the black hatted anarchist make a lasting impression. But each character shares Munroe’s child-like sense of adventure.

If you enjoy the niceties of nerdom by all means give this comic a read.


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