0809: "Los Alamos"

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0809: "Los Alamos"

Postby LucasBrown » Fri Oct 22, 2010 4:01 am UTC

Image
Alt text: "The test didn't (spoiler alert) destroy the world, but the fact that they were even doing those calculations makes theirs the coolest jobs ever."

Panel 1 reminds me of a passage in A Canticle for Leibowitz.

For those of you who are wondering, the globe-destroying fireball was actually a serious worry for a while--they thought that the temperatures generated by a nuclear explosion might make the nitrogen and oxygen in the atmosphere burn.

Finally, I get the feeling that a line in panel 4 from the guy on the left to the first block of text is missing.
Last edited by LucasBrown on Fri Oct 22, 2010 4:04 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: 0809: Los Alamos

Postby squareroot » Fri Oct 22, 2010 4:03 am UTC

Is this a reference to something..?
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Re: 0809: Los Alamos

Postby Me321 » Fri Oct 22, 2010 4:04 am UTC

I remember hearing that the Generals at the test were worried when the bomb's designers pulled out sunscreen and sunglasses in the bunker 20 miles away.

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Re: 0809: Los Alamos

Postby joee » Fri Oct 22, 2010 4:05 am UTC

I think the guy on the right is Richard Feynman. Something about the hair

p.s. HI GLASNT
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Re: 0809: Los Alamos

Postby hthall » Fri Oct 22, 2010 4:06 am UTC

If there's a one-in-a-billion chance of it going wrong, you kill a handful of people on average.

The comic didn't remind me of this:

Image
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Re: 0809: Los Alamos

Postby scheme » Fri Oct 22, 2010 4:09 am UTC

The left background drawing looks like a schematic of the symmetric implosion mechanism, but does the right background drawing have an obvious connection to the work?

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Re: 0809: Los Alamos

Postby tigger89 » Fri Oct 22, 2010 4:10 am UTC

soh-cah-toa/coh-sah-toa would be a reference to what ranges trig functions are positive in? Or am I misplacing the reference? Because I've never heard that particular mnemonic(wouldn't it have to be soh-tah-coa?), but I can't think of anything else it could be...

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Re: 0809: Los Alamos

Postby aldld » Fri Oct 22, 2010 4:11 am UTC

joee wrote:I think the guy on the right is Richard Feynman. Something about the hair

p.s. HI GLASNT


That's also what I thought at first. Definitely Feynman.

tigger89 wrote:soh-cah-toa/coh-sah-toa would be a reference to what ranges trig functions are positive in? Or am I misplacing the reference? Because I've never heard that particular mnemonic(wouldn't it have to be soh-tah-coa?), but I can't think of anything else it could be...


Sine: opposite/hypotenuse, cosine: adjacent/hypotenuse, tangent: opposite/adjacent
Last edited by aldld on Fri Oct 22, 2010 4:12 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: 0809: Los Alamos

Postby masher » Fri Oct 22, 2010 4:12 am UTC

tigger89 wrote:soh-cah-toa/coh-sah-toa would be a reference to what ranges trig functions are positive in?


Sine of an angle in a triangle is equal to opposite over hypotenuse, cosine is adjacent over hypotenuse and tan is opposite over adjacent.

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Re: 0809: Los Alamos

Postby mdistancerunner » Fri Oct 22, 2010 4:12 am UTC

tigger89 wrote:soh-cah-toa/coh-sah-toa would be a reference to what ranges trig functions are positive in? Or am I misplacing the reference? Because I've never heard that particular mnemonic(wouldn't it have to be soh-tah-coa?), but I can't think of anything else it could be...


soh = sin is opposite over hypotenuse
cah = cos is adjacent over hypotenuse
toa = tan is opposite over adjacent

And for whoever didn't get the reference, for pete's sake...

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Re: 0809: Los Alamos

Postby tigger89 » Fri Oct 22, 2010 4:13 am UTC

aldld wrote:
tigger89 wrote:soh-cah-toa/coh-sah-toa would be a reference to what ranges trig functions are positive in? Or am I misplacing the reference? Because I've never heard that particular mnemonic(wouldn't it have to be soh-tah-coa?), but I can't think of anything else it could be...


Sine: opposite/hypotenuse, cosine: adjacent/hypotenuse, tangent: opposite/adjacent


Aha! I knew it sounded vaguely familiar, like I'd heard it before, but I couldn't figure out what it meant. At least I placed it in trig.

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Re: 0809: Los Alamos

Postby bytbox » Fri Oct 22, 2010 4:14 am UTC

joee wrote:I think the guy on the right is Richard Feynman. Something about the hair


I can't believe that. Feynman (or at least Randall's Feynman) would never not want to do an experiment. That it would destroy the world only has the added bonus that we might find out about the afterlife situation.

Unrelated: imagine an alternate world in which the physicists misdid the calculations, believed that the bomb would destroy the world, and knowledge spread that such a bomb, constructed along such-and-such vague principles, would set off an out-of-control reaction that would kill off all life, or whatever. No bomb, but... "any day now..."

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Re: 0809: Los Alamos

Postby davidstarlingm » Fri Oct 22, 2010 4:16 am UTC

tigger89 wrote:soh-cah-toa/coh-sah-toa would be a reference to what ranges trig functions are positive in? Or am I misplacing the reference? Because I've never heard that particular mnemonic(wouldn't it have to be soh-tah-coa?), but I can't think of anything else it could be...


Sine is Opposite over Hypotenuse, Cosine is Adjacent over Hypotenuse, Tangent is Opposite over Adjacent. SOHCAHTOA.

EDIT: Whoops ninja'd

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Re: 0809: Los Alamos

Postby uiri » Fri Oct 22, 2010 4:18 am UTC

I may be mistaken, but I don't think there was anyone named Steve on the Manhattan Project.
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Re: 0809: Los Alamos

Postby Meem1029 » Fri Oct 22, 2010 4:20 am UTC

Obviously they doctored the documents later to erase all signs of the almost mistake so we would trust the government[/sarcasm]

Realistically, I think that this is an awesome comic. One of my favorites recently at least.
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Re: 0809: Los Alamos

Postby Mazuku » Fri Oct 22, 2010 4:20 am UTC

So have they figured out how powerful a bomb would have to be for it to cook the world's atmosphere totally?
Last edited by Mazuku on Fri Oct 22, 2010 6:07 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 0809: Los Alamos

Postby glasnt » Fri Oct 22, 2010 4:22 am UTC

Ah, the adjacent/opposite/hypotenuse anagrams to help remember trigonometry.

I miss easy maths.

HI JOEE

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Re: 0809: Los Alamos

Postby aldld » Fri Oct 22, 2010 4:34 am UTC

uiri wrote:I may be mistaken, but I don't think there was anyone named Steve on the Manhattan Project.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:M ... ect_people

No Steves there.

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Re: 0809: Los Alamos

Postby Aradae » Fri Oct 22, 2010 4:36 am UTC

Some old hippie caught another hippie tripping on acid.
Guys guys guys! I found Russel's teapot! . . . nevermind, it was just Jesus flying to Mars again.

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Re: 0809: Los Alamos

Postby HighwoodFool » Fri Oct 22, 2010 4:39 am UTC

uiri wrote:I may be mistaken, but I don't think there was anyone named Steve on the Manhattan Project.


At least, none that the public knows about...*cough*...

I'm fairly sure the guy rockin' the hair is Oppenheimer.
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Re: 0809: Los Alamos

Postby honnza » Fri Oct 22, 2010 4:41 am UTC

bytbox wrote:
joee wrote:I think the guy on the right is Richard Feynman. Something about the hair


I can't believe that. Feynman (or at least Randall's Feynman) would never not want to do an experiment. That it would destroy the world only has the added bonus that we might find out about the afterlife situation.

Unrelated: imagine an alternate world in which the physicists misdid the calculations, believed that the bomb would destroy the world, and knowledge spread that such a bomb, constructed along such-and-such vague principles, would set off an out-of-control reaction that would kill off all life, or whatever. No bomb, but... "any day now..."


bombs ARE going to going to decimate the population (not the nuclear ones, these would wipe out every human, which will not, according to the Bible, happen). Either bombs, or something else. Life will be better than today but the event will suck for those who die.

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Re: 0809: Los Alamos

Postby Forny » Fri Oct 22, 2010 4:44 am UTC

I didn't get the trig mnemonic at first because, well, that's not the mnemonic we learned. Ours was "Oscar Had A Hold On Aurthur."
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Re: 0809: Los Alamos

Postby squareroot » Fri Oct 22, 2010 4:45 am UTC

When I said, "What's the reference," I meant I was almost completely unaware of the Manhattan project. No soh/cah/toa. Anyone who doesn't know that mnemonic is just sad.
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Re: 0809: Los Alamos

Postby aniket » Fri Oct 22, 2010 4:45 am UTC

Steve must be a reference to Steve Vai - "For the love of God" is one of his best songs.
But I can't figure out what that has to do with Los Alamos

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Re: 0809: Los Alamos

Postby DavidRoss » Fri Oct 22, 2010 4:48 am UTC

If I asked "What is the relevance of the cubic(?) curve on the right?" or "How did soh-cah-toa figure into the calculations of an atomic bomb effect?" would those questions peg me as someone who is missing the forest for the trees?

alt-text wrote:the fact that they were even doing those calculations makes theirs the coolest jobs ever


One of my professors was a "calculator" on the Manhattan Project. It didn't SOUND like a fun job. Yeah, the job is just what it sounds like. Today, we do that with a thing with little buttons, but back then it was a full time job for someone coming up the ranks.

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Re: 0809: Los Alamos

Postby BlitzGirl » Fri Oct 22, 2010 4:50 am UTC

HighwoodFool wrote:
uiri wrote:I may be mistaken, but I don't think there was anyone named Steve on the Manhattan Project.


At least, none that the public knows about...*cough*...


After this, I'm pretty sure Steve was sent back to 10th grade trig class.
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Re: 0809: Los Alamos

Postby exoren22 » Fri Oct 22, 2010 5:01 am UTC

squareroot wrote:Is this a reference to something..?


Yes. The Los Alamos Nuclear tests.

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Re: 0809: Los Alamos

Postby cprocjr » Fri Oct 22, 2010 5:02 am UTC

Am I the only one who thinks their legs seem uncharacteristically long (compared to their bodies) for xkcd comics.

Anyway, great comic!

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Re: 0809: Los Alamos

Postby Troy Martin » Fri Oct 22, 2010 5:05 am UTC

Man, the trig joke made me laugh pretty hard. Kudos to the great Randall for another win strip that appeases my inner (and outer) nerd.
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Re: 0809: Los Alamos

Postby spopepro » Fri Oct 22, 2010 5:08 am UTC

That's what you get for Teller being of in his own world designing a fusion device and having to hire outside work...

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Re: 0809: Los Alamos

Postby Steve the Pocket » Fri Oct 22, 2010 5:09 am UTC

I have "Freeman's Mind" to thank for me getting this strip. Now to go back through all the episodes to find the exact quote.

EDIT: OK, it's episode 7:

Good old New Mexico. We're really making a name for the state. First they invented the atomic bomb in Los Alamos; now we've invented mean-ass aliens that teleport out of nowhere! I'm not sure which is worse! You know, when they invented the atomic bomb, they were afraid that it was going to catch the atmosphere on fire and burn up the whole earth. But they did it anyway. That took balls. Not us, though! The only people taking the risk were the ones who didn't understand them in the first place! We're not brave. We're just stupid.
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Re: 0809: Los Alamos

Postby tuckels » Fri Oct 22, 2010 5:14 am UTC

cprocjr wrote:Am I the only one who thinks their legs seem uncharacteristically long (compared to their bodies) for xkcd comics.

Anyway, great comic!


It makes it look like they're wearing bell–bottom jeans, in my opinion. Because it's totally possible to tell what kind of pants stick figures are wearing.

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Re: 0809: Los Alamos

Postby thedufer » Fri Oct 22, 2010 5:19 am UTC

DavidRoss wrote:If I asked "What is the relevance of the cubic(?) curve on the right?" or "How did soh-cah-toa figure into the calculations of an atomic bomb effect?" would those questions peg me as someone who is missing the forest for the trees?


Quantum mechanics calculations (esp. those involving atoms) almost always involve trig. Theres a lot of integration over volumes in spherical coordinates and such.

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Re: 0809: Los Alamos

Postby Scorpio3002 » Fri Oct 22, 2010 5:20 am UTC

They're jobs were so awesome that there's an entire opera written about them.

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Re: 0809: Los Alamos

Postby CalculatingGod » Fri Oct 22, 2010 5:22 am UTC

Am I the only one of us who googles things he doesn't know?

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Re: 0809: Los Alamos

Postby DeathDread » Fri Oct 22, 2010 5:28 am UTC

Mazuku wrote:So have they figured out how powerful a bomb woulf have to be for it to cook the world's air totally?


First, it would have to be hot enough to cause Nitrogen nuclei to fuse (we won't really worry about oxygen, 80% of the atmosphere is good enough), and then we'd need the energy from the nitrogen fusing to cause other nitrogen nuclei in the atmosphere to fuse - and this is not possible. Even if we did create a bomb hot enough to fuse nitrogen, the heat would dissipate too quickly for a chain reaction in the atmosphere.

Also, I was under the impression the fear of the atmosphere igniting was never taken seriously by the physicists, rather it was a fear among the public and generally in regards to the hydrogen bomb.

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Re: 0809: Los Alamos

Postby Jumble » Fri Oct 22, 2010 5:38 am UTC

So, Steve would have kept his job if he'd learnt the 'only have sandwiches after hot coffee or after tea' acronym that we were taught in school?
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Re: 0809: Los Alamos

Postby Ansuz » Fri Oct 22, 2010 5:40 am UTC

I always disliked "soh cah toa". This is probably because I learned trig with the unit circle, and think 'sin = y/r; cos = x/r; tan = y/x'.

Anyways, I read this as an actual experiment to try and open up the gates to heaven and grab hold of the fire. I think I like it better that way, instead of actually thinking of nukes.

Yeah, the middle guy's legs are long. The other two are fineish.

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Re: 0809: Los Alamos

Postby ijuin » Fri Oct 22, 2010 5:44 am UTC

IIRC, for the atmosphere to ignite in a chain reaction, either Oxygen-16 or Nitrogen-14 would have to release energy when undergoing fission. Elements lighter than iron ABSORB energy under fission, and release it under fission. However, fusing elements heavier than helium tends to require about an order of magnitude more energy to initiate than fusing deuterium (Hydrogen-2), and the lack of confinement in the open atmosphere would tend to prevent a runaway reaction.

If we're talking about chemical combustion, gaseous N2 and O2 simply do not experience self-sustaining combustion because the oxidation of Nitrogen is also an endothermic reaction.

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Re: 0809: Los Alamos

Postby beergeek » Fri Oct 22, 2010 5:47 am UTC

So what WAS the actual error they made? A friend said a book he was reading claimed it to be a factor of 10, but this guy would probably be scared of precalc so I'm wondering if "factor of 10" was fudging the actual cause.


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