0967: Prairie

This forum is for the individual discussion thread that goes with each new comic.

Moderators: Moderators General, Prelates, Magistrates

nowhereman
Posts: 68
Joined: Thu Apr 15, 2010 5:46 pm UTC

0967: Prairie

Postby nowhereman » Fri Oct 21, 2011 5:39 am UTC

Image

"Colorado is working to develop coherent amber waves, which would allow them to finally destroy Kansas and Nebraska with a devastating but majestic grain laser."

I personally like the interpretation of quantum grain dynamics that states that "We cannot hope to understand QGD except as complex math equations."

Actually I don't remember the exact quote I am brutalizing. Anyway, FIRST TOPIC!

Edit: I couldn't leave my ignorance unchecked, so I looked up what I was refering to. It is the Copenhagan Interpretation of Quantum Dynamics. There, I have satisfied my incessant need to get the correct information. I can now sleep.
Last edited by nowhereman on Fri Oct 21, 2011 5:46 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
"God does not play dice with... Yahtzee!" - Little known quote from Einstein

User avatar
907Code-G
Posts: 27
Joined: Mon Apr 04, 2011 8:49 pm UTC

Re: 0967: Prairie

Postby 907Code-G » Fri Oct 21, 2011 5:41 am UTC

I was trying to post this, and unfortunately, couldn't figure out how to use the img tag again. :(
Also though, have they thought about using alternative wave sources, like, for instance, Corn waves?
Perhaps by integration, they could achieve more caloric energy?

User avatar
907Code-G
Posts: 27
Joined: Mon Apr 04, 2011 8:49 pm UTC

Re: 0967: Prairie

Postby 907Code-G » Fri Oct 21, 2011 5:46 am UTC

Also, anything hiding stick figures below the waist is ok with me. Especially considering the things we've voyeuristically observed these particular figures doing.

edit: waist, not waste.
Last edited by 907Code-G on Fri Oct 21, 2011 8:54 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Sockmonkey
Posts: 1214
Joined: Thu Jul 24, 2008 11:30 pm UTC

Re: 0967: Prairie

Postby Sockmonkey » Fri Oct 21, 2011 5:49 am UTC

Lately with comics like this it seems like Randall is really getting back to his science-nerd roots.

User avatar
muntoo
Posts: 59
Joined: Thu May 06, 2010 11:11 pm UTC

Re: 0967: Prairie

Postby muntoo » Fri Oct 21, 2011 5:49 am UTC

Nice perspective. :)

User avatar
poxic
Eloquently Prismatic
Posts: 4751
Joined: Sat Jun 07, 2008 3:28 am UTC
Location: Left coast of Canada

Re: 0967: Prairie

Postby poxic » Fri Oct 21, 2011 5:50 am UTC

<3
A man who is 'ill-adjusted' to the world is always on the verge of finding himself. One who is adjusted to the world never finds himself, but gets to be a cabinet minister.
- Hermann Hesse, novelist, poet, Nobel laureate (2 Jul 1877-1962)

User avatar
Sean Quixote
Posts: 229
Joined: Tue Sep 14, 2010 1:20 am UTC
Location: Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan

Re: 0967: Prairie

Postby Sean Quixote » Fri Oct 21, 2011 5:51 am UTC

Great. I think my allergies are acting up, now... Thanks a lot Randall, you changed the outcome by measuring it!

Hughes
Posts: 19
Joined: Fri Mar 18, 2011 8:20 pm UTC

Re: 0967: Prairie

Postby Hughes » Fri Oct 21, 2011 5:58 am UTC

I...don't think I'm smart enough to understand this one. Not even after reading (more like scanning, really) the Wikipedia article on the Copenhagen Blah Blah Blah Interpretation Words.

Tova
Posts: 100
Joined: Wed Mar 24, 2010 3:44 am UTC

Re: 0967: Prairie

Postby Tova » Fri Oct 21, 2011 6:06 am UTC

what is this I don't even

nowhereman
Posts: 68
Joined: Thu Apr 15, 2010 5:46 pm UTC

Re: 0967: Prairie

Postby nowhereman » Fri Oct 21, 2011 6:08 am UTC

Hughes wrote:I...don't think I'm smart enough to understand this one. Not even after reading (more like scanning, really) the Wikipedia article on the Copenhagen Blah Blah Blah Interpretation Words.


The comic itself refers to Quantum Dynamics, and in particular, the idea of a wave function collapse. According to this, all particles (and macroscopic objects, though you will never notice it) behave as waves until they are 'observed'. At that point the wave collapses into a single point, the location of the particle. So the take off for this comic is that the "Amber waves of grain" have collapsed into Amber particles of grain when they looked upon it.

As for my joke (or poor attempt at one), the Copenhagen interpretation in an over-simplified nutshell is that these waves do not really exist, nor does it make sense to talk of the particle outside or inside the wave. As such, the mathematics is just all there is and there is no underlying reason for the Wave collapse. Contrast this with other popular theories like the many-world theories and the conscious observer theories. The last one is alot of crack pot, but does have a small devoted following.
"God does not play dice with... Yahtzee!" - Little known quote from Einstein

User avatar
Patashu
Answerful Bignitude
Posts: 378
Joined: Mon Mar 12, 2007 8:54 am UTC
Contact:

Re: 0967: Prairie

Postby Patashu » Fri Oct 21, 2011 6:13 am UTC

Woah, what happened to the average xkcd subscriber understanding quantum physics?

User avatar
Sean Quixote
Posts: 229
Joined: Tue Sep 14, 2010 1:20 am UTC
Location: Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan

Re: 0967: Prairie

Postby Sean Quixote » Fri Oct 21, 2011 6:15 am UTC

Hughes wrote:I...don't think I'm smart enough to understand this one. Not even after reading (more like scanning, really) the Wikipedia article on the Copenhagen Blah Blah Blah Interpretation Words.

This might be a slightly more understandable article for the average layperson.

Eogan
Posts: 10
Joined: Mon Feb 25, 2008 5:51 am UTC

Re: 0967: Prairie

Postby Eogan » Fri Oct 21, 2011 6:42 am UTC

What really bugs me is the use of the term "observe". You can't "observe" a photon because photons don't emit other photons. In order to observe a particle, you hit it with other particles and measure what happens after the collision. Just pointing your eyes towards light does nothing. So whenever a physicist says "observe", mentally replace it with "hit with shit".

The waveforms collapses when hit with shit.
When you hit a photon wave with shit it collapses into a particle.

See how much easier that is to understand?

DVC
Posts: 109
Joined: Mon Feb 18, 2008 5:20 am UTC

Re: 0967: Prairie

Postby DVC » Fri Oct 21, 2011 6:46 am UTC

I like the artwork.

JustDoug
Posts: 90
Joined: Sun Oct 04, 2009 3:35 pm UTC

Re: 0967: Prairie

Postby JustDoug » Fri Oct 21, 2011 6:46 am UTC

Eogan wrote:The waveforms collapses when hit with shit.
When you hit a photon wave with shit it collapses into a particle.

See how much easier that is to understand?


So, banging the rocks together really does work!

ijuin
Posts: 1107
Joined: Fri Jan 09, 2009 6:02 pm UTC

Re: 0967: Prairie

Postby ijuin » Fri Oct 21, 2011 7:01 am UTC

Eogan wrote:What really bugs me is the use of the term "observe". You can't "observe" a photon because photons don't emit other photons. In order to observe a particle, you hit it with other particles and measure what happens after the collision. Just pointing your eyes towards light does nothing. So whenever a physicist says "observe", mentally replace it with "hit with shit".

The waveforms collapses when hit with shit.
When you hit a photon wave with shit it collapses into a particle.

See how much easier that is to understand?

This is important because it is the mis-interpretation of this that results in the whole "conscious observer" issue. An "observation" does not require an actual mind to perceive it. Rather, a particle/wave is "observed" as having certain characteristics whenever it interacts with any other particle/wave in a way that would require it to have those characteristics. As in Eogan's example. if a particle/wave is involved in a collision, then its wavefunction must "collapse" into a subset that is compatible with it having been at that particular time and place and having the particular energy and vector required for the collision. In short, particles observe each other wherever and whenever they interact. It is actually quite difficult to get any large number of particles to interact without collapsing.

User avatar
Pfhorrest
Posts: 5447
Joined: Fri Oct 30, 2009 6:11 am UTC
Contact:

Re: 0967: Prairie

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri Oct 21, 2011 7:13 am UTC

Simpler and more professional than "hit with shit" is "interact". You cannot observe something without in some way interacting with it. Is it then surprising that interacting with something has an effect on that thing? In the Everett interpretation, what happens when you interact with something is not so much that its waveform collapses into a particle, but that its waveform and yours become entwined with each other; possible states contained within your waveform sync up with possible states of the observed object, such that there are now many possible states of you who have each observed one distinct possible state of the object.

I recently read, and now cannot find, a rather amusing bit of fiction about an alternate universe where the Everett (many-worlds) interpretation became dominant before the Copenhagen (waveform-collapse) interpretation did, and the latter is now (in said alternate universe) considered a crazy crackpot theory. Two physicists in that world are discussing the idea, one putting it forth as a way of eliminating the need to postulate multiple possible worlds, and the other criticising it as itself needlessly postulating a convenient breakdown of an otherwise universal law. The second gives what I think is a great and hilarious schpiel about why the Copenhagen interpretation is silly, using the familiar Schrodinger's cat thought experiment. I probably won't do this justice, but to paraphrase:

"The conversation goes, 'So we have some scientists with a box which contains a living cat and a device containing poison gas, a geiger counter, and a small sample of a radioactive isotope, rigged such that if the isotope decays, the geiger counter will detect it and trigger the release of the poison gas, killing the cat. As time elapses, the unobserved radioactive isotope enters a state of having both decayed and not decayed. That interacts with the geiger counter which enters a superposition of having both triggered and not triggered. That interacts with the poison gas which enters a superposition of having both been released and not. That interacts with the cat which enters a superposition of being both alive and dead.' So far we both agree with everything up to this point. But then, 'Then the cat interacts with the scientists observing it.... and gosh, I just have no idea what could possibly happen next.' Then you come along and propose that - get this - when interactions occur at the scale of a human observer, all the waveforms just collapse to a single determinate state. Really? Isn't that a little convenient? Isn't it simpler just to say that superpositions continue to exist at the human scale and beyond, to the whole universe, and the fundamental laws of physics don't conveniently break down before they reach a scale that would clash with our intuitions?"
Forrest Cameranesi, Geek of All Trades
"I am Sam. Sam I am. I do not like trolls, flames, or spam."
The Codex Quaerendae (my philosophy) - The Chronicles of Quelouva (my fiction)

User avatar
Copper Bezel
Posts: 2426
Joined: Wed Oct 12, 2011 6:35 am UTC
Location: Web exclusive!

Re: 0967: Prairie

Postby Copper Bezel » Fri Oct 21, 2011 7:15 am UTC

ijuin wrote:This is important because it is the mis-interpretation of this that results in the whole "conscious observer" issue.

I got the joke, but I'm nonetheless learning something about quantum physics here. This makes a hell of a lot of sense. I've been misled all of this time by stupid people's explanation of the Schrödinger's Cat thought experiment, which Wikipedia tells me they shouldn't have been invoking in the first place, because it also meant exactly what they didn't mean.

Edit: Slightly sniped by Pfhorrest, but Schrödinger's Cat was exactly that - a critique of the Copenhagen interpretation. Wikipedia says so.
So much depends upon a red wheel barrow (>= XXII) but it is not going to be installed.

she / her / her

Azkyroth
Posts: 65
Joined: Mon Jun 29, 2009 6:35 am UTC

Re: 0967: Prairie

Postby Azkyroth » Fri Oct 21, 2011 7:22 am UTC

Speaking as a Colorado ex-state-riate:

YEAH ! WE WILL KNOCK THOSE CHUMPS FLAT!

...oh, wait... :P

Sofie
Posts: 44
Joined: Sun Sep 12, 2010 7:09 pm UTC

Re: 0967: Prairie

Postby Sofie » Fri Oct 21, 2011 7:34 am UTC

Agriculture is NOT prairie.
Today very little of the original prairies survive, only one to two percent. Much of the land has been turned into agricultural uses, urban areas are moving in, and fires are being suppressed. The genetic and biological diversity of the plants are disappearing. The herds of thousands of buffalo were all but wiped out.

alun009
Posts: 40
Joined: Fri Oct 29, 2010 8:16 am UTC

Re: 0967: Prairie

Postby alun009 » Fri Oct 21, 2011 7:59 am UTC

That's lovely, but...

No aluminium? 8)

User avatar
J L
Posts: 242
Joined: Mon Jan 25, 2010 11:03 am UTC
Location: Germany
Contact:

Re: 0967: Prairie

Postby J L » Fri Oct 21, 2011 8:01 am UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:Slightly sniped by Pfhorrest, but Schrödinger's Cat was exactly that - a critique of the Copenhagen interpretation. Wikipedia says so.


Thanks both of you. First time I understood what the thought experiment was all about. Always though it was just some sort of scientific mind-fuck.

the penman
Posts: 28
Joined: Mon Jul 05, 2010 11:05 am UTC
Location: Glasgow, UK

Re: 0967: Prairie

Postby the penman » Fri Oct 21, 2011 8:05 am UTC

For a change, I got the science reference but didn't get the cultural one. I plead foreign-ness for my ignorance.

goibee
Posts: 5
Joined: Wed Aug 10, 2011 3:19 pm UTC

Re: 0967: Prairie

Postby goibee » Fri Oct 21, 2011 8:06 am UTC

Wow, this is really stupid. I've read enough about basic quantum dynamics to understand the wave particle duality, but comic still made absolutely NO sense to me...until I googled "waves of grain" and realized it was a reference to that American patriotism song.

P.S. I'm not an idiot, I've just spent my life living in four different countries, none of which were in North America. Thus American popculture and patriotism in general fail to ring many bells with me

Milna
Posts: 8
Joined: Wed Jul 15, 2009 2:33 pm UTC

Re: 0967: Prairie

Postby Milna » Fri Oct 21, 2011 8:11 am UTC

It seems that theres a lot of people that didn't understand this joke because they had no idea what "amber particles of grain" was talking about.

I'm happy to be part of them.

Dave
Posts: 59
Joined: Thu Mar 29, 2007 4:26 pm UTC
Location: London. Londinium.

Re: 0967: Prairie

Postby Dave » Fri Oct 21, 2011 8:43 am UTC

DVC wrote:I like the artwork.


hehe yes, that's pretty much my input to this discussion too!

I remember reading about waves collapsing when observed a few months back, after another of Randalls comics that referred to it. Of course, I've completely forgotten about it now.

Eogan
Posts: 10
Joined: Mon Feb 25, 2008 5:51 am UTC

Re: 0967: Prairie

Postby Eogan » Fri Oct 21, 2011 8:49 am UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:Simpler and more professional than "hit with shit" is "interact".

Perhaps, but it certainly loses some pizazz!

I always thought that Schroedinger's Cat was a jab at the silliness of the "conscious observer" idea. The moment the geiger counter is hit by the radioactive isotope's shit, the fate of the cat is sealed. The geiger counter registering the decay is "observing".

Really, the whole mess boils down into two different types of observation: active and passive. Think of active and passive sonar. Active observation CHANGES what you observe (if you ping the Russian sub, they're going to know you pinged them, and you have now altered the state of the Russian sub. This seems sensible, no?). On the sub-atomic level, active observation is quite often the only available type of observation, and the level of change it causes has been blowing minds for decades.

Then again, the shit we're hitting it with has the same mass and energy as the stuff the shit hits, so we probably shouldn't have been so shocked.
"Let's determine the location of that car by driving another car into at 200kph."
"HOLY CRAP! That drastically altered the state of the original car! I didn't expect that!"
"..."

Andromeda321
Posts: 123
Joined: Fri Sep 18, 2009 11:31 pm UTC

Re: 0967: Prairie

Postby Andromeda321 » Fri Oct 21, 2011 8:58 am UTC

This one made me laugh and then I had to explain to my Dutch colleagues just what the hell it meant. And then they were all amazed at my recollection of having to do the Pledge of Allegiance every morning.

Yep, the USA is a weird country.

User avatar
907Code-G
Posts: 27
Joined: Mon Apr 04, 2011 8:49 pm UTC

Re: 0967: Prairie

Postby 907Code-G » Fri Oct 21, 2011 9:10 am UTC

My post sounds like nonsense to anyone not thinking about this in a completely different way than intended. oops.

Heavenslaughing
Posts: 6
Joined: Mon Jul 12, 2010 10:16 pm UTC

Re: 0967: Prairie

Postby Heavenslaughing » Fri Oct 21, 2011 9:26 am UTC

The great part is that the joke even makes sense on a more basic level: if you look more closely, you see the individual grains, the particles instead of the waves.

If we are going to replace 'observe' with 'hit with shit,' I suggest we try creative applications of the reverse, as well. E.g., "What did you just say about the conscious observer theory? You should get your head observed."

Kit.
Posts: 1117
Joined: Thu Jun 16, 2011 5:14 pm UTC

Re: 0967: Prairie

Postby Kit. » Fri Oct 21, 2011 9:38 am UTC

From all quantum mechanics interpretations, I like the "shut up and calculate" one the most.

Eogan
Posts: 10
Joined: Mon Feb 25, 2008 5:51 am UTC

Re: 0967: Prairie

Postby Eogan » Fri Oct 21, 2011 10:13 am UTC

Heavenslaughing wrote:The great part is that the joke even makes sense on a more basic level: if you look more closely, you see the individual grains, the particles instead of the waves.

If we are going to replace 'observe' with 'hit with shit,' I suggest we try creative applications of the reverse, as well. E.g., "What did you just say about the conscious observer theory? You should get your head observed."

Lol!

Thanks for that! :lol:

MrGuy
Posts: 30
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 1:31 pm UTC

Re: 0967: Prairie

Postby MrGuy » Fri Oct 21, 2011 11:07 am UTC

907Code-G wrote:Also though, have they thought about using alternative wave sources, like, for instance, Corn waves?
Perhaps by integration, they could achieve more caloric energy?


All corn waves are also grain waves.
All grain lasers use grain waves.
Billy has a grain laser.

Does Billy's laser use corn waves?
A.) Definitely
B.) Possibly
C.) Definitely Not
d.) Impossible to determine.

Man, I could make WAY awesomer SAT questions....

Edit: stupid typo...
Last edited by MrGuy on Fri Oct 21, 2011 11:23 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

Randomizer
Posts: 284
Joined: Fri Feb 25, 2011 8:23 am UTC
Location: My walls are full of hungry wolves.
Contact:

Re: 0967: Prairie

Postby Randomizer » Fri Oct 21, 2011 11:22 am UTC

What I want to know is - did Randall draw the prairie, or did he take a picture and cartoonify it in Photoshop? I mean, the sky looks hand-drawn, but I can't tell with the field.

@Eogan - I like your "hit with shit" explanation. It really clears things up. All this time I'd thought the accepted explanation was that complicated mystical bullshit was going on that the average person just couldn't understand.

@Pfhorrest - When I'd heard of Schrödinger's cat I'd thought the idea was that just putting it in the box makes it both dead and alive. It makes a lot more sense with the poison gas in there.
Belial wrote:I'm all outraged out. Call me when the violent rebellion starts.

descent
Posts: 5
Joined: Sun Mar 21, 2010 4:05 pm UTC

Re: 0967: Prairie

Postby descent » Fri Oct 21, 2011 11:29 am UTC

Milna wrote:It seems that theres a lot of people that didn't understand this joke because they had no idea what "amber particles of grain" was talking about.

I'm happy to be part of them.


It's a "field" of grain.
That said, the easiest way to think of QM is to think of particles as having different shapes. They can be particle-shaped - which is a ball in space-time, or wave-shaped - which is a bubble in space-time of increasing diameter. Neither would be 100% "solid", but the chances of interaction would be higher in the case of the ball, as it would be more localized.
Space can be seen as having an information density limit (determined by planck's number) which leads to granularity at very low scales = in extreme cases space would either be able to keep a record of the particle's direction of motion but not of its position (particle behavior/a ray), or it will keep a record of its position but not of its direction of motion (spherical wave behavior).

(this is my amateurish view on it, i'm not a physicist)
Last edited by descent on Sat Oct 22, 2011 5:41 am UTC, edited 3 times in total.

User avatar
Uzh
Posts: 66
Joined: Wed Jul 06, 2011 7:25 am UTC

Re: 0967: Prairie

Postby Uzh » Fri Oct 21, 2011 11:40 am UTC

For all those of the readers, who may be aware of quantum physics but are not aware of some specific american memes:

"Amber particles of grain" refers to a patriotic song, as important (wikipedia tells me so) as "God Bless America". In "America the Beautiful" the second line is "For amber waves of grain" referring to the midwestern fields.

Knowing that today's comic makes definitely more sense. I'll call my great-uncle (two removed) who is farmer in Oklahoma to ask how far they went with that.

@Randomizer: I think it's genuinely own work. It looks like the Bob-Ross-technique: Small pencil-strokes to make big effect...
"The problem is that humans have these darn biological limitations and if it gets too far from 293 K they'll start complaining, or die." http://forums.xkcd.com/viewtopic.php?f=60&t=106000#p3483385

JPatten
Posts: 95
Joined: Tue Jul 13, 2010 5:39 pm UTC
Location: Southeast USA
Contact:

Re: 0967: Prairie

Postby JPatten » Fri Oct 21, 2011 12:17 pm UTC

It is a comic that is definately U.S. centric. Unless you Knowt he song "America the Beautiful," then the joke doesn't make sense. Of course its even better by the fact that grain really is made of particles, sort of, but in a macro fashion they do give waves. Though Kansas and north is more of grain producer than Oklahoma, which had more cattle or oil.

ASW
Posts: 28
Joined: Wed Jun 11, 2008 6:58 pm UTC
Location: Nebraska
Contact:

Re: 0967: Prairie

Postby ASW » Fri Oct 21, 2011 12:25 pm UTC

As a Nebraskan I generally oppose the alt text :) Although it would be wicked cool to see.

JPatten
Posts: 95
Joined: Tue Jul 13, 2010 5:39 pm UTC
Location: Southeast USA
Contact:

Re: 0967: Prairie

Postby JPatten » Fri Oct 21, 2011 12:37 pm UTC

ASW wrote:As a Nebraskan I generally oppose the alt text :) Although it would be wicked cool to see.


As a sooner fan I have to hope they hurry with that laser! *grin*

User avatar
SirMustapha
Posts: 1302
Joined: Mon Jul 21, 2008 6:07 pm UTC

Re: 0967: Prairie

Postby SirMustapha » Fri Oct 21, 2011 12:40 pm UTC

I really don't get the joke at all (I did more or less understand the science explanations here, but I still don't get how they're supposed to make this a "joke" proper), but I really enjoy the art. The finak product looks like a truly worked-on drawing, not like a bunch of "stylish" Photoshop filters applied on some crap smudges. Randall could do this kind of thing a lot more often.


Return to “Individual XKCD Comic Threads”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 46 guests