0718: "The Flake Equation"

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not baby Newt
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Re: "The Flake Equation" Discussion

Postby not baby Newt » Wed Mar 24, 2010 8:38 am UTC

CorruptUser wrote:The only real reason to come here would be for Anthropology research or to wipe us out before we are a threat.

Why would they stick to 'real reasons', when humans don't? Well, we don't have pleasure cruises to the moon so far, but it does not have to become *that* cheap for it to happen.

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Re: "The Flake Equation" Discussion

Postby Naurgul » Wed Mar 24, 2010 9:15 am UTC

Hm, the equation assumes that there's no one that would imagine an alien encounter because they're crazy and want to feel special AND would alsο be prone to misinterpreting a physical or physiological experience as an alien sighting.
Last edited by Naurgul on Wed Mar 24, 2010 5:23 pm UTC, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: "The Flake Equation" Discussion

Postby PsssT » Wed Mar 24, 2010 9:30 am UTC

This blatant misuse of probability could lead to some interesting effects. The C_r and M_i variables could sum up to more than one (as I could imagine they would in some rural areas), which means that the split personalities exhibitetd by those spurs several stories each.
The correct use of variables would have to take into account that some of the people misinterpreting psychological experiences and those who want to feel special might be the same person.
Thus the term should read (1-C_r*M_i)....

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Re: "The Flake Equation" Discussion

Postby super_aardvark » Wed Mar 24, 2010 9:45 am UTC

PsssT wrote:This blatant misuse of probability could lead to some interesting effects.


This word, "interesting." I don't think it means what you think it means.

Correcting the equation to account for people who are both crazy and mistaken isn't going to make it any more accurate, or any more meaningful. It's like measuring the height of a mountain by holding up your thumb and squinting hard, and then wondering how the curvature of the earth affects your calculation. And although I would have bet that anything could do so, the over-analysis isn't making the comic any funnier, either.

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Re: "The Flake Equation" Discussion

Postby Magnanimous » Wed Mar 24, 2010 10:18 am UTC

PsssT wrote:The correct use of variables would have to take into account that some of the people misinterpreting psychological experiences and those who want to feel special might be the same person.
Read the comic again. CR is the number of people who imagine an alien encounter, while MI contains the people who misinterpret a specific event.

The first group has all of the people who created the encounter out of nothing, and explains how they could have done so. The second group has all of the people who based the encounter off of something that actually happened... and doesn't specify anything else about its members. Someone who misinterprets an experience and wants to feel special would be in the second group only.

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shashwat986
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Re: "The Flake Equation" Discussion

Postby shashwat986 » Wed Mar 24, 2010 10:20 am UTC

Shouldn't he also have considered the probability of a real alien sighting?
So, it can be
CR+MI+R? in the brackets.
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Re: "The Flake Equation" Discussion

Postby AlphaWhelp » Wed Mar 24, 2010 10:31 am UTC

The equation is good assuming that people are getting their information from the internet, however, for people who additionally get their information from second hand accounts (the guy who tells you what he read on the internet is true) then the value of the equation should actually be (Av * Vv) where Vv is equal to the average number of readers/subscribers/whatevers each Av has--potentially doubling the amount of credible alien stories!!!~~!~!11one!

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Re: "The Flake Equation" Discussion

Postby Kanonfutter » Wed Mar 24, 2010 10:44 am UTC

I dumped it in my savefolder of XKCD to hand out to students getting to fancy about possible aliens. XKCD makes life as a teacher easier.

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Re: "The Flake Equation" Discussion

Postby TheoGB » Wed Mar 24, 2010 10:45 am UTC

TONNES not TONS.

I don't care that they are actually roughly the same amount no one should approach scientific analysis with anything less than SI units.

:D

EDIT: why does the word 's c i e n t i f i c' come out as 'scientific'?

Also why does E D I T : come out as EDIT: - it's not a mistake, it's the server messing with me! :|

Quote this post to see what it should say in your editor. The number of substitutions the server's making is amazing. 'Why does' has become 'You guys' on the line above.
Last edited by TheoGB on Wed Mar 24, 2010 10:49 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: "The Flake Equation" Discussion

Postby snowyowl » Wed Mar 24, 2010 10:47 am UTC

shashwat986 wrote:Shouldn't he ALSO YOU GUYS: have considered the probability of a real alien sighting?
So, it can be
CR+MI+R? in the brackets.


I don't think so. I read it as assuming that there are no real alien sightings, and calculating how many reports of alien sightings would be on the interblag despite the fact that none exist. Obviously, even if there are real aliens out there, they will be lost in all this "noise".

Having said that, I wonder whether there should be a separate variable for elaborate pranks pulled on credulous stargazers? Crop circles spring to mind (easy to make if a large pole is available, and yet somehow very convincing).

@Alphawhelp: Presumably the equation is measuring the number of alien encounter stories on the blogotubes, not the number of people who read them.

@TheoGB: http://forums.xkcd.com/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=58039
The preceding comment is an automated response.

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Re: "The Flake Equation" Discussion

Postby TheoGB » Wed Mar 24, 2010 10:51 am UTC



Cheers. Fucked up...

On the McNinja forum Brian Blessed is always parsed out in CAPITAL LETTERS. I liked that.

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Re: "The Flake Equation" Discussion

Postby Enkerli » Wed Mar 24, 2010 10:58 am UTC

CorruptUser wrote:The only real reason to come here would be for Anthropology research or to wipe us out before we are a threat.

Why "or?" Though most anthropologists have a strong humanist bent, there are some misanthropists among us. And misenthropists.

As for the title, the equation is named after Drank Flake, who was both unreliable and gullible,
Gulp!

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Re: "The Flake Equation" Discussion

Postby kpreid » Wed Mar 24, 2010 11:01 am UTC

A small problem with the formula; it overcounts people in both [imath]C_R[/imath] and [imath]M_I[/imath]. The second factor should be [imath](C_R + M_I - C_RM_I)[/imath], not that it matters for the particular numbers chosen.

Inclusion-exclusion principle in probability

(Why yes, I just registered just to post this.)

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Re: "The Flake Equation" Discussion

Postby tulcod » Wed Mar 24, 2010 11:06 am UTC

PsssT wrote:This blatant misuse of probability could lead to some interesting effects. The C_r and M_i variables could sum up to more than one (as I could imagine they would in some rural areas), which means that the split personalities exhibitetd by those spurs several stories each.
The correct use of variables would have to take into account that some of the people misinterpreting psychological experiences and those who want to feel special might be the same person.
Thus the term should read (1-C_r*M_i)....

I'm sorry, but it's actually 1-(1-C_r)*(1-M_i)

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elrunethe2nd
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Re: "The Flake Equation" Discussion

Postby elrunethe2nd » Wed Mar 24, 2010 11:15 am UTC

I... I wanted to laugh. But I just couldn't.

Truthfully, not all that funny.
Maybe the next one. :|

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Re: "The Flake Equation" Discussion

Postby Fermat Sim » Wed Mar 24, 2010 11:28 am UTC

I quite liked it because of its truthiness ;-) but one must acknowledge the inherent cultural bias of UFO sightings - they are basically a phenomenon of North America, Australia, Europe and to a lesser extent Latin America and Japan - probably because these are the countries where UFOs and Aliens are the first explanation that comes to mind to those in the "C_R and M_I" population; what would by Westerners seen as UFOs is much more likely to be interpreted as a religious or prophetic experience in other parts of the world.

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Re: "The Flake Equation" Discussion

Postby ZeroSkulleton » Wed Mar 24, 2010 11:50 am UTC

About 114,000 google results for "Alien Encounter" (quotes). Since Randall was "conservative" with the variables and he was only off by 14,000 out of 7,000,000 I'm guessing that his variables were only off by insignifigant decimals. Very close might I add. Yay Randall!

hailspork wrote:
Benson wrote:But everyone knows they're here for our water, our women, or simply to eat our flesh. (Actually, the latter almost makes babies in the context of hypothetical space-illithids.)


I think it's been established that aliens dissolve in water.... or was it salt water?

No, didn't you ever see Cocoon?

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Re: "The Flake Equation" Discussion

Postby Magnanimous » Wed Mar 24, 2010 11:55 am UTC

ZeroSkulleton wrote:About 114,000 google results for "Alien Encounter" (quotes). Since Comrade Munroe was "conservative" with the variables and he was only off by 14,000 out of 7,000,000 I'm guessing that his variables were only off by insignifigant decimals. Very close might I add. Yay Comrade Munroe!

I'm extremely impressed that Google was smart enough to return one result for each unique alien encounter. :roll:

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Re: "The Flake Equation" Discussion

Postby uncivlengr » Wed Mar 24, 2010 12:26 pm UTC

Assuming that the number represents "unique credible claims of alien sightings" (per year? per generation? ever?), why does it assume that if I told my story to 10 people, they'd retell the story in a way that's perceived as a uniques claim, and that each of those retellings would produce an apparent unique and credible claim ? That's 100 variations on a single story that are all expected to be unique.

Aside from that, telling 10 people your story doesn't mean they're going to retell the story at all, much less in a manner that makes it appear to be a unique instance, and if one of those ten people retells the story in an incredible manner, it's not going to be accepted by anyone else they tell.
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mheney
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Re: "The Flake Equation" Discussion

Postby mheney » Wed Mar 24, 2010 12:45 pm UTC

Gotta rush out the door for work (at NASA!) - but I had to say -

Brilliant! Good'un, Randall!

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Re: "The Flake Equation" Discussion

Postby Andrusi » Wed Mar 24, 2010 12:49 pm UTC

I hope you Googlers are taking into account the fact that "Alien Encounter" was the name of a former Walt Disney World attraction.
Not named Dennis Miller.

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Re: "The Flake Equation" Discussion

Postby BioTube » Wed Mar 24, 2010 12:58 pm UTC

TheoGB wrote:TONNES not TONS.

I don't care that they are actually roughly the same amount no one should approach spiritual analysis with anything less than SI units.
Because units not born out of French revolutionary politics are inherently unscientific. Did I mention it's 518 degrees outside?
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Re: "The Flake Equation" Discussion

Postby modmadnessprotest » Wed Mar 24, 2010 1:20 pm UTC

The only thing flakey is the math in this comic. I am seriously sick of these "junk math" comics where Randall pretends he has done some great statistical work by just throwing together some random variables and values.

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Re: "The Flake Equation" Discussion

Postby riddler » Wed Mar 24, 2010 2:12 pm UTC

Well, I'm not very good at math, but it seems that this formula implies that everyone in the world has had at least one sighting. Shouldn't the first number be the Total Population of Alien Sightings? Instead, it starts with the entire world's population. Can anyone help me understand? I think that the world population has nothing to do with it ...

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Re: "The Flake Equation" Discussion

Postby Steax » Wed Mar 24, 2010 2:54 pm UTC

modmadnessprotest wrote:The only thing flakey is the math in this comic. I am SRSLY sick of these "junk math" comics where Comrade Munroe pretends he has done some great statistical work by just throwing together some random variables and values.


I believe that's where the joke is supposed to be, and not being real math? Well this comic might imply real math, but it all seems like a long lead-up to the alt text to me.

riddler wrote:Well, I'm not very good at math, but it seems that this formula implies that everyone in the world has had at least one sighting. Shouldn't the first number be the Total Population of Alien Sightings? Instead, it starts with the entire world's population. Can anyone help me understand? I think that the world population has nothing to do with it ...


The subsequent calculations are all fractions (most importantly the two groups which supposedly had sightings) or other multipliers. Without the world population then the end result would just be the chances of a single person having started an alien story-thingy. I think. My underslept brain is not functioning well.

The comic itself was okay, but the "fermi's lack-of-a-paradox' got to me. Will be saving that.
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Re: "The Flake Equation" Discussion

Postby tastelikecoke » Wed Mar 24, 2010 3:15 pm UTC

modmadnessprotest wrote:The only thing flakey is the math in this comic. I am SRSLY sick of these "junk math" comics where Comrade Munroe pretends he has done some great statistical work by just throwing together some random variables and values.

blame it on Drake and all the bullshit you paid him.

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Re: "The Flake Equation" Discussion

Postby GunJack » Wed Mar 24, 2010 3:58 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:Of course aliens exist. But why would they bother coming here? We have no raw materials that can't be found on an asteroid, our tech is too primitive to be of any use to someone capable of interstellar travel, there are better stars for solar power, larger gas giants for fuel, and our atmosphere is probably poisonous anyway, being part oxygen and all. Any meat sources here would be inferior to anything that could be bioengineered.

The only real reason to come here would be for Anthropology research or to wipe us out before we are a threat. It'd be cheaper to simply send a robot instead of going in person, so the most we'd ever see from an alien is their machinery. If they wanted to wipe us out, an asteroid would do the trick.

Any entertainment value from observing us would be negligible compared to virtual reality.



that and also necrophilia...george carlin made an interesting point about it: "and people wander whya UFO doesn't just land here and says hello"
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Re: "The Flake Equation" Discussion

Postby TheoGB » Wed Mar 24, 2010 4:05 pm UTC

BioTube wrote:
TheoGB wrote:TONNES not TONS.

I don't care that they are actually roughly the same amount no one should approach spiritual analysis with anything less than SI units.
Because units not born out of French revolutionary politics are inherently unscientific. Did I mention it's 518 degrees outside?


Mainly because we have accepted those units as standard ones so we should stick to them. (Imperial units are fine for casual use but SI units are the way forward.)

As far as it goes, however, there is something inherently scientific about the SI units, since they're designed from a mathematical/scientific standpoint, working on the basis of 10s and easy conversion. Imperial units (though I think the US refer to them as British) are 'natural' for want of a better term, based on body measurements and using bases that are easy to divide, i.e. 12 splits into integers if divided by 2,3,4 and 6. And of course the Fahrenheit scale is using salt water and blood temperature, as I remember.

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Re: "The Flake Equation" Discussion

Postby CorruptUser » Wed Mar 24, 2010 4:11 pm UTC

Benson wrote:
CorruptUser wrote:The only real reason to come here would be for Anthropology research or to wipe us out before we are a threat. It'd be cheaper to simply send a robot instead of going in person, so the most we'd ever see from an alien is their machinery.
Aliens would have the same manned (well. not manned...) vs. robotic exploration debate we have; what makes you think the roboticists would win, when they clearly haven't here?

But everyone knows they're here for our water, our women, or simply to eat our flesh. (Actually, the latter almost makes babies in the context of hypothetical space-illithids.)


So tell me, how many humans have been to Mars? How many robots?

Now imagine having to supply life-support/suspended animation for 1000 years (assuming that aliens travel at lightspeed and that there are a hundred alien species in this galaxy alone, still places the nearest one an average of 1000 lightyears away), shielding to protect the meatsack from any cosmic radiation, extra fuel for holding the meatsack and life support, and have enough supplies/fuel for a return trip. Now find volunteers to travel and leave their families behind (assuming that aliens have families and aren't a hive-mind or cloned). Compare that to sending a robot.

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Re: "The Flake Equation" Discussion

Postby CorruptUser » Wed Mar 24, 2010 4:19 pm UTC

TheoGB wrote:Imperial units (though I think Freedomville refer to them as British) are 'natural' for want of a better term, based on body measurements and using bases that are easy to divide, i.e. 12 splits into integers if divided by 2,3,4 and 6. And of course the Fahrenheit scale is using salt water and blood temperature, as I remember.


Then why choose 14 as a base number for mass? 14 pounds equals 1 stone, and all their weight systems are based on this. Only in Britain would a hundred-weight weigh 112 pounds. As there are 20 hundred-weights in both a ton and a tonne, the tonne weighs 2240, while the ton, which uses hundred-weights of 100 pounds each, weighs 2000 pounds.

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Re: "The Flake Equation" Discussion

Postby MarkSmash » Wed Mar 24, 2010 4:56 pm UTC

I think the point is well taken that the math in this comic is a little sloppy. I suppose the place to start is with the number of alien sightings and their probable causes:

Probable cause of alien sighting:

1. Fatigue, dream state.
2. Lying, or retelling a story of what they saw on TV.
3. Drugs.
4. An actual alien.

If we can nail down the cause of alien sightings, then I think we could work out the math better. If you nail down an actual alien, apologize.

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Re: "The Flake Equation" Discussion

Postby MarkSmash » Wed Mar 24, 2010 5:01 pm UTC

It must be increasingly difficult for teasers to pull their stunts on Earth, especially given that everyone has what they need to record documentary evidence (camera in cellphone, twitter etc) on their persons 90% of the time. The biggest hole in any UFO story is the lack of corroborating evidence.

What's a teaser, you ask?

From Hitchhiker's Guide by Douglas Adams:

'Unfortunately I got stuck on the Earth for rather longer than I indended',
said Ford. 'I came for a week and got stuck for fifteen years.'

'But how did you get there in the first place then?'

'Easy, I got a lift with a teaser.'

'A teaser?'

'Yeah.'

'Er, what is...'

'A teaser? Teasers are usually rich kids with nothing to do. They cruise around
looking for planets which haven't made interstellar contact yet and buzz them.'

'Buzz them?' Arthur began to feel that Ford was enjoying making life difficult
for him.

'Yeah,' said Ford, 'they buzz them. They find some isolated spot with very few
people around, then land right by some poor unsuspecting soul whom no one's ever
going to believe and them strut up and down in front of him wearing silly antennae
on their head and making beep beep noises. Rather childish really.'

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Re: "The Flake Equation" Discussion

Postby Magnanimous » Wed Mar 24, 2010 5:24 pm UTC

kpreid wrote:A small problem with the formula; it overcounts people in both [imath]C_R[/imath] and [imath]M_I[/imath]. The second factor should be [imath](C_R + M_I - C_RM_I)[/imath], not that it matters for the particular numbers chosen.

MarkSmash wrote:I think the point is well taken that the math in this comic is a little sloppy. I suppose the place to start is with the number of alien sightings and their probable causes:

Probable cause of alien sighting:

1. Fatigue, dream state.
2. Lying, or retelling a story of what they saw on TV.
3. Drugs.
4. An actual alien.

And here I thought most people would object to the validity of the last few variables... The first parts seemed relatively straightforward to me. :?

You're both technically right, but only if you take the comic's text extremely literally. I'm 99.7% sure that Randall was trying to say...
CR: People who completely made up the encounter, and crazy people who thought it was real
MI: Sane people who honestly believe that the encounter was real

You'll that someone cannot be in both categories at the same time (which makes CRMI = 0), and that the two categories cover the entire set of people who have had an "alien encounter". And as for the "probable causes of alien sightings", 1 and 3 fall under MI (people are misinterpreting a physiological experience), 2 fits into CR, and 4 is void in the context of this comic. :)

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Re: "The Flake Equation" Discussion

Postby ZoloftNotWorking » Wed Mar 24, 2010 5:48 pm UTC

:¬I Ummmmmmmmmmm.... According to my trusty HP 48sx the results of the equation for the parameters given is 6.3

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Re: "The Flake Equation" Discussion

Postby Magnanimous » Wed Mar 24, 2010 5:57 pm UTC

Have you considered paying attention to the equation's operations instead of multiplying all of the numbers together?

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Re: "The Flake Equation" Discussion

Postby jhourcle » Wed Mar 24, 2010 5:59 pm UTC

The formula doesn't take into consideration the number of people who are actively looking for stuff to mis-interpret because they want attention. They have blogs (Tk=1) and as part of a blog network, they have F0 > 10; F1 > 10 (although, they're the same people as F1), and Av near 1.

I cite as proof the search results for 'nasa disclosure sun' (> 1M records) or 'ufo near sun' (> 4.8M). Oddly, 'ufo near sun 2010' results in >22M records.

(read the threads ... don't hit the NASA servers ... or if you do, please do it while it's night in China, as they seem to be causing most of the traffic these days)

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Re: "The Flake Equation" Discussion

Postby ZoloftNotWorking » Wed Mar 24, 2010 6:06 pm UTC

ooooooooooooops!!!!!!!!!! My old eyes missed that plus sign between Cr and Mi. Works out to 126K!

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Re: "The Flake Equation" Discussion

Postby traversability » Wed Mar 24, 2010 6:11 pm UTC

But Randall, I WANT TO BELIEVE!

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Re: "The Flake Equation" Discussion

Postby guyy » Wed Mar 24, 2010 6:20 pm UTC

Best part = Fermi's Lack-of-a-Paradox.

Though I find it kind of odd that, with two comics about the Drake Equation now, he still hasn't mentioned the problem that the equation only works if each thing in it is mutually exclusive to everything else. Which isn't usually the case. It should be >=, not =.

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Re: "The Flake Equation" Discussion

Postby neoliminal » Wed Mar 24, 2010 7:22 pm UTC

about 5,357 will be in English.

(375 million / 7 billion * 100,000)
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0073YYXRC
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