What-If 0120: "Alternate Universe What Ifs"

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What-If 0120: "Alternate Universe What Ifs"

Postby Envelope Generator » Thu Nov 20, 2014 4:39 pm UTC

Dispatches from a horrifying alternate universe

This week: Excerpts from What If articles written in a world which, thankfully, is not the one we live in:

Image


I can't breathe for laughing. I love the evil end of Randall's jokes and this is the Platonic essence of it, undiluted by narrative. Although to be frank this reads more like a regular XKCD entry with prose in it than a What-If one.
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Re: What-If 0120: "Alternate Universe What Ifs"

Postby alanbbent » Thu Nov 20, 2014 5:19 pm UTC

Ohhhhh. When I first read these, I thought it was all a big plug for his What-If book. I thought these were excerpts from questions that asked about alternate universes where X was true. I kept thinking What could the question possibly have been?

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Re: What-If 0120: "Alternate Universe What Ifs"

Postby Fworg64 » Thu Nov 20, 2014 5:21 pm UTC

Upon inspection of the last graph (unable to post image b/c I just created this account) it disturbs me that the survival time can be lower than the head start time.

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Re: What-If 0120: "Alternate Universe What Ifs"

Postby Flumble » Thu Nov 20, 2014 5:22 pm UTC

@OP: can you add http://what-if.xkcd.com/120/ somewhere?

Argh, Randall, why can't you just keep to your own rules? What If is about answering questions from others, not about being pseudo-meta without anyone asking for it.
I like it by itself, but Randall could've blagged it or whatever and allow the what-ifs to be what-ifs. This is a type error.

Image
The obvious solution to this is to hold the mirror at a slight angle. This way not only is the mid-point away from you, but you can use it to target your neighbours or even other countries.
Moreover, if this virtual moon creation happens instantaneous, you can use it for communication with the other side of the world without lightspeed delays!

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Re: What-If 0120: "Alternate Universe What Ifs"

Postby Introbulus » Thu Nov 20, 2014 5:54 pm UTC

Wait, I'm confused.

The normal world of "What-if?" contains pitchers with nuclear-explosive arms, massive raindrops that encompass entire years worth of rainfall, giants that fell the worlds' only supply of wood, a metal box that flies across and obliterates the entire world...

And we're supposed to be afraid of the alternate reality?
If you can read this, you are wasting your time.

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Re: What-If 0120: "Alternate Universe What Ifs"

Postby rmsgrey » Thu Nov 20, 2014 6:11 pm UTC

Introbulus wrote:Wait, I'm confused.

The normal world of "What-if?" contains pitchers with nuclear-explosive arms, massive raindrops that encompass entire years worth of rainfall, giants that fell the worlds' only supply of wood, a metal box that flies across and obliterates the entire world...

And we're supposed to be afraid of the alternate reality?


Yeah, here the apocalypsi (apocalypsen? why would it even have a plural?) are strictly hypothetical; in the alternate realities, they've actually happened...

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Re: What-If 0120: "Alternate Universe What Ifs"

Postby Moose Anus » Thu Nov 20, 2014 6:15 pm UTC

Breaking a mirror is supposed to be a good thing, but I think it would just increase the amount of virtual moons.
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Re: What-If 0120: "Alternate Universe What Ifs"

Postby hemflit » Thu Nov 20, 2014 6:17 pm UTC

Why are there data points of people surviving less than their head start time from the harvester? Do they just feed themselves to it?

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Re: What-If 0120: "Alternate Universe What Ifs"

Postby eidako » Thu Nov 20, 2014 6:47 pm UTC

derp
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Re: What-If 0120: "Alternate Universe What Ifs"

Postby Flumble » Thu Nov 20, 2014 6:55 pm UTC

hemflit wrote:Why are there data points of people surviving less than their head start time from the harvester? Do they just feed themselves to it?

I guess the survival timer is started when their head start is over.
So either those people are pretty good at hiding or the harvesters are too slow (it mustn't take more than 10 seconds to acquire a target that's at most 200m away).

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Re: What-If 0120: "Alternate Universe What Ifs"

Postby Tormuse » Thu Nov 20, 2014 6:58 pm UTC

What I want to know is is each scenario from a different alternate universe? Or are they all from the same one? (What a frightening thought!)
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Re: What-If 0120: "Alternate Universe What Ifs"

Postby Garnasha » Thu Nov 20, 2014 7:16 pm UTC

This week: What if Randall started sharing his nightmares (and/or bad trips) with us.

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Re: What-If 0120: "Alternate Universe What Ifs"

Postby keithl » Thu Nov 20, 2014 7:49 pm UTC

Flumble wrote:Argh, Randall, why can't you just keep to your own rules? What If is about answering questions from others, not about being pseudo-meta without anyone asking for it.

Mr. Munroe: My "what if" question is: What if you could receive what-if questions from other universes, or this question from the future?

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Re: What-If 0120: "Alternate Universe What Ifs"

Postby Klear » Thu Nov 20, 2014 8:55 pm UTC

Why is it called "What if?" if it describes boring everyday stuff?

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Re: What-If 0120: "Alternate Universe What Ifs"

Postby burnthills » Thu Nov 20, 2014 8:58 pm UTC

Somewhere, someone already started writing the book to encompass all these terrible events into a book called "Blood Oceans"

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Re: What-If 0120: "Alternate Universe What Ifs"

Postby Moose Anus » Thu Nov 20, 2014 8:59 pm UTC

burnthills wrote:Somewhere, someone already started writing the book to encompass all these terrible events into a book called "Blood Oceans"
I guess it makes sense. Spiders eat blood, so oceans of blood would make lots of spiders, which would make people eat lots of spiders.
Lemonade? ...Aww, ok.

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Re: What-If 0120: "Alternate Universe What Ifs"

Postby gladiolas » Thu Nov 20, 2014 10:04 pm UTC

His intro implies they are all in the same alternate universe. I'd like to see the novel set in that universe.

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Re: What-If 0120: "Alternate Universe What Ifs"

Postby ps.02 » Thu Nov 20, 2014 11:22 pm UTC

Beach volleyball has only 2 players per team, so it's not possible for more than 4 players to be killed per game. That's the clue that this indeed is a dispatch from a different universe. Everything else in the article, of course, seems perfectly reasonable. The spherical cows, in particular, could've come out of any undergraduate physics course.

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Re: What-If 0120: "Alternate Universe What Ifs"

Postby Jonathan589 » Thu Nov 20, 2014 11:24 pm UTC

I know little of ice hockey except what I read in Wikipedia a moment ago, but it must certainly have been a relief to hockey players that The Great One's capture cut the death rate in that sport down from scores per game to just one every now and then.

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Re: What-If 0120: "Alternate Universe What Ifs"

Postby wwiddy » Thu Nov 20, 2014 11:32 pm UTC

Can someone explain what's going on in alternate-reality Buckingham Palace? It's the only one I'm not even remotely wrapping my head around.

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Re: What-If 0120: "Alternate Universe What Ifs"

Postby Reecer6 » Fri Nov 21, 2014 1:52 am UTC

Randall, you seriously trust studies like the spider one in an alternate universe? Everyone knows that factoid is false! This is because of Spiders Georg who consumes 1,000,000 spiders per second. The amount of spiders swallowed per second by normal humans is somewhere in the range of 0.05 to 0.01 spiders per second. Spiders Georg was clearly an outlier, and any self-respecting statistician would have discluded him from the study.

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Re: What-If 0120: "Alternate Universe What Ifs"

Postby schapel » Fri Nov 21, 2014 2:20 am UTC

I'm not sure I get the moon mirror thing. Are there lots of werewolves? Even if it's not the intended joke, that interpretation is pretty funnyhorrifying.

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Re: What-If 0120: "Alternate Universe What Ifs"

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri Nov 21, 2014 3:42 am UTC

It seems to be that moons, in the plural, interact with nontrivial frequency on a human timescale in that alternate universe, and that the results are apparently horrible.
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Re: What-If 0120: "Alternate Universe What Ifs"

Postby Adacore » Fri Nov 21, 2014 6:25 am UTC

hemflit wrote:Why are there data points of people surviving less than their head start time from the harvester? Do they just feed themselves to it?

I was assuming that in their hurry to escape the harvester, they fell off cliffs, or into deathtraps before their head start was finished. Or maybe it's measurement error? Either way, it's my favourite thing about that graph.

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Re: What-If 0120: "Alternate Universe What Ifs"

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri Nov 21, 2014 6:30 am UTC

I was assuming it was survival time from some figurative starting gun, and head start was how soon before the starting gun you got to begin. So if you had a 27 second head start and a 24 second survival time, that means you were running for 51 seconds total; 27 before the 'gun', then 24 more until the harvester caught up.
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Re: What-If 0120: "Alternate Universe What Ifs"

Postby Adacore » Fri Nov 21, 2014 6:35 am UTC

That's an interpretation I considered, but the survival time tracks the head start time plus a small harvesting margin a little too well for that to be right, I'd think.

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Re: What-If 0120: "Alternate Universe What Ifs"

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri Nov 21, 2014 6:42 am UTC

It would work out that way if the harvester was just slightly less than twice as fast as humans on average. Human runs for ten seconds total, five before the gun, and the harvester flies for the next five and change and catches the human. Humans on average run 50 seconds, 25 of them before the gun, then harvester flies for an average of 25 seconds and change until it catches up. But that one slow human runs for 51 seconds, 27 of them before the gun, and the harvester catches up in just 24 seconds.
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Re: What-If 0120: "Alternate Universe What Ifs"

Postby ftr » Fri Nov 21, 2014 8:39 am UTC

I don't even know what the harvesters are from, tbh... anyone care to enlighten me?

Also, the sports death/game graph confuses me...

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Re: What-If 0120: "Alternate Universe What Ifs"

Postby J L » Fri Nov 21, 2014 8:41 am UTC

One of the best installments in a while. It's not only the darkness, but the absurdity of these alternate worlds that made me laugh aloud. Well done!

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Re: What-If 0120: "Alternate Universe What Ifs"

Postby Flumble » Fri Nov 21, 2014 11:34 am UTC

ftr wrote:I don't even know what the harvesters are from, tbh... anyone care to enlighten me?

It considers an alternate universe in which human harvesting is in development/common. Think of Terminator, the cybermen from Doctor Who and Soylent Green(?) among others. (or the Matrix before the film(s))

ftr wrote:Also, the sports death/game graph confuses me...

That's simply a matter of having less restrictive rules concerning injuring and killing your opponents. Or sacrificing your teammates to Zarblox for good luck.
Or perhaps it's in the same universe as the harvesters and basketball players are the best at staying alive until the game is over.


Seriously, these are the only two paragraphs that confused you?

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Re: What-If 0120: "Alternate Universe What Ifs"

Postby kryton » Fri Nov 21, 2014 12:01 pm UTC

This one was too cool Randal :D
I followed the link to OSHA for the report of workplace deaths in this universe, and it's shocking how many are "worker squashed by vehicle driven by inattentive co-worker" *shudder*
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Re: What-If 0120: "Alternate Universe What Ifs"

Postby cellocgw » Fri Nov 21, 2014 1:07 pm UTC

ps.02 wrote:Beach volleyball has only 2 players per team, so it's not possible for more than 4 players to be killed per game. That's the clue that this indeed is a dispatch from a different universe. Everything else in the article, of course, seems perfectly reasonable. The spherical cows, in particular, could've come out of any undergraduate physics course.


You're assuming the rules are the same there. My suspicion is that the death rate due to multi-solar irradiance alone is quite high, and while there may only be 2 players on the court at a given time, there's rather a long bench of substitutes -- the best sunscreen they have is only rated for 314.15 seconds, so there are a lot of player swaps.
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Re: What-If 0120: "Alternate Universe What Ifs"

Postby Copper Bezel » Fri Nov 21, 2014 1:20 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:It would work out that way if the harvester was just slightly less than twice as fast as humans on average. Human runs for ten seconds total, five before the gun, and the harvester flies for the next five and change and catches the human. Humans on average run 50 seconds, 25 of them before the gun, then harvester flies for an average of 25 seconds and change until it catches up. But that one slow human runs for 51 seconds, 27 of them before the gun, and the harvester catches up in just 24 seconds.

Yeah, but while we could assume some uniformity in the speed of the harvesters, it's very unlikely that humans' running speeds would be so uniform. Unless the harvester is just intentionally tracking at twice (whatever speed the runner tops out at,) I don't think you'd get such a consistent trend. And the fact that the margin between head start time and survival time tends to be slightly greater when both are larger tracks with the idea that, you know, human ran for 25 seconds, was noticed, was harvested five seconds later, because the harvester had to cross that distance....
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Re: What-If 0120: "Alternate Universe What Ifs"

Postby schapel » Fri Nov 21, 2014 1:40 pm UTC

kryton wrote:This one was too cool Randal :D
I followed the link to OSHA for the report of workplace deaths in this universe, and it's shocking how many are "worker squashed by vehicle driven by inattentive co-worker" *shudder*

I'm working on a hardware and software system that will provide a backhoe operator with a display of the depth of their bucket while they're digging a trench. One reason to do this is so that there doesn't have to be a co-worker leaning over to look in the trench to give the backhoe operator feedback. A surprising number of them die or are injured after being struck each year.

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Re: What-If 0120: "Alternate Universe What Ifs"

Postby scalziand » Fri Nov 21, 2014 4:27 pm UTC

Re moon mirrors, imagine these guys being slightly less friendly.
Image

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Not shown: Statistics on guard raptor effectiveness.

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Re: What-If 0120: "Alternate Universe What Ifs"

Postby Bounty » Fri Nov 21, 2014 4:48 pm UTC

Adacore wrote:
hemflit wrote:Why are there data points of people surviving less than their head start time from the harvester? Do they just feed themselves to it?

I was assuming that in their hurry to escape the harvester, they fell off cliffs, or into deathtraps before their head start was finished. Or maybe it's measurement error? Either way, it's my favourite thing about that graph.

I think it's an extention of the old Maxim "When being chased by a Harvester, you do not need to run faster than the Harvester, just faster than guy behind you."

wwiddy wrote:Can someone explain what's going on in alternate-reality Buckingham Palace? It's the only one I'm not even remotely wrapping my head around.

Sid

I'm guessing Hell Dimentional break through. An active portal in Westminster Abby would create severe heat fluctuations, and laying out the remains of the population of the UK in concentric circles is the kind of things Hell Dimention residents would do for a good time.

ps.02 wrote:Beach volleyball has only 2 players per team, so it's not possible for more than 4 players to be killed per game. That's the clue that this indeed is a dispatch from a different universe. Everything else in the article, of course, seems perfectly reasonable. The spherical cows, in particular, could've come out of any undergraduate physics course.


I'm pretty sure the numbers are because of the manditory nature of attending the games, combined with the violence of the reaction of the ball to the silicate compounds in the ball. ;)

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Re: What-If 0120: "Alternate Universe What Ifs"

Postby Klear » Fri Nov 21, 2014 5:42 pm UTC

wwiddy wrote:Can someone explain what's going on in alternate-reality Buckingham Palace? It's the only one I'm not even remotely wrapping my head around.

Sid


Being a Fallen London player, I've found that one the least weird.

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Re: What-If 0120: "Alternate Universe What Ifs"

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri Nov 21, 2014 6:46 pm UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:Yeah, but while we could assume some uniformity in the speed of the harvesters, it's very unlikely that humans' running speeds would be so uniform. Unless the harvester is just intentionally tracking at twice (whatever speed the runner tops out at,) I don't think you'd get such a consistent trend. And the fact that the margin between head start time and survival time tends to be slightly greater when both are larger tracks with the idea that, you know, human ran for 25 seconds, was noticed, was harvested five seconds later, because the harvester had to cross that distance....

But then we're back to the problem of how someone could have run for 27 seconds but only survived for 24 seconds, which one of the data points on the plot says, and which we were trying to make sense of in this thread.
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Re: What-If 0120: "Alternate Universe What Ifs"

Postby Jonathan589 » Fri Nov 21, 2014 7:31 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:But then we're back to the problem of how someone could have run for 27 seconds but only survived for 24 seconds, which one of the data points on the plot says, and which we were trying to make sense of in this thread.


Can Harvesters anticipate and start heading in the right direction before the people start running? Or perhaps they can teleport a bit just to be amusing. TVTropes has pointed out that evil things can catch up with you when you are least expecting them (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MobileMenace).
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Re: What-If 0120: "Alternate Universe What Ifs"

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri Nov 21, 2014 7:39 pm UTC

You got the quote attribution wrong, and also that doesn't solve the problem, which is that logically you cannot run for 27 seconds if you only have 24 seconds of life in which to do it.
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