0679: "Christmas Plans"

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cprocjr
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0679: "Christmas Plans"

Postby cprocjr » Wed Dec 23, 2009 5:06 am UTC

Image
http://xkcd.com/679/
Title-text: Physicists who want to protect traditional Christmas realize that the only way to keep from changing Christmas is not to observe it.

I laughed a little. Not the best xkcd ever.
Last edited by cprocjr on Wed Dec 23, 2009 5:09 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Anubis
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Re: "Christmas Plans" Discussion

Postby Anubis » Wed Dec 23, 2009 5:08 am UTC

But only one person has to observe it in order to cause wave function collapse... right?

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eleniy86
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Re: "Christmas Plans" Discussion

Postby eleniy86 » Wed Dec 23, 2009 5:08 am UTC

So is that like Heisenberg Jesus?

westrim
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Re: "Christmas Plans" Discussion

Postby westrim » Wed Dec 23, 2009 5:08 am UTC

Oh oh oh god, that was a horrible pun. Just horrible!

Which will not stop me from showing it to every physics-challenged person I know.

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pyroman
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Re: "Christmas Plans" Discussion

Postby pyroman » Wed Dec 23, 2009 5:09 am UTC

As a Jew I give this one my seal of approval.
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MiB24601
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Re: "Christmas Plans" Discussion

Postby MiB24601 » Wed Dec 23, 2009 5:10 am UTC

This has been every third conversation I've had all week. Who has ever heard of a holiday that falls on the same day every year? It's so strange!
"There's no point being grown-up if you can't be childish sometimes." - The Fourth Doctor, Doctor Who

westrim
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Re: "Christmas Plans" Discussion

Postby westrim » Wed Dec 23, 2009 5:12 am UTC

MiB24601 wrote:This has been every third conversation I've had all week. Who has ever heard of a holiday that falls on the same day every year? It's so strange!


... July 4th, Flag day, Halloween, All saints day, Guy Fawkes, Solstices, Equinoxes, Boys day, Girls day, etc., etc... I mean, I can keep going if you want.
Last edited by westrim on Wed Dec 23, 2009 5:13 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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-.Mateo.-
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Re: "Christmas Plans" Discussion

Postby -.Mateo.- » Wed Dec 23, 2009 5:12 am UTC

Also, until I open my present there are both a playstation 3 and a sweater inside...
Last year I got a dead cat!
Magus wrote:If history is to change, let it change. If the world is to be destroyed, so be it. If my fate is to die, I must simply laugh.

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Omegaton
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Re: "Christmas Plans" Discussion

Postby Omegaton » Wed Dec 23, 2009 5:13 am UTC

Thank goodness for the first reply since I didn't know what wave function collapse was before this comic. Good comic, though!

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CorruptUser
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Re: "Christmas Plans" Discussion

Postby CorruptUser » Wed Dec 23, 2009 5:17 am UTC

-.Mateo.- wrote:Also, until I open my present there are both a playstation 3 and a sweater inside...
Last year I got a dead cat!


Same here. I ordered a chandalier from someone on Ebay named BHatG, but all I got was a dead bobcat.

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Re: "Christmas Plans" Discussion

Postby RuBLed » Wed Dec 23, 2009 5:18 am UTC

-.Mateo.- wrote:Also, until I open my present there are both a playstation 3 and a sweater inside...
Last year I got a dead cat!


You could contemplate on the possibility that in another universe you had a pet cat and a playstation 3. (or you already are a sweater tycoon in another one)

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eleniy86
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Re: "Christmas Plans" Discussion

Postby eleniy86 » Wed Dec 23, 2009 5:19 am UTC

CorruptUser wrote:
-.Mateo.- wrote:Also, until I open my present there are both a playstation 3 and a sweater inside...
Last year I got a dead cat!


Same here. I ordered a chandalier from someone on Ebay named BHatG, but all I got was a dead bobcat.



guess he forgot the airholes :?

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phlip
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Re: "Christmas Plans" Discussion

Postby phlip » Wed Dec 23, 2009 5:20 am UTC

That is a pretty awful/hilarious pun. I approve.

Code: Select all

enum ಠ_ಠ {°□°╰=1, °Д°╰, ಠ益ಠ╰};
void ┻━┻︵​╰(ಠ_ಠ ⚠) {exit((int)⚠);}
[he/him/his]

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Re: "Christmas Plans" Discussion

Postby MiB24601 » Wed Dec 23, 2009 5:21 am UTC

MiB24601 wrote:This has been every third conversation I've had all week. Who has ever heard of a holiday that falls on the same day every year? It's so strange!

westrim wrote:... July 4th, Flag day, Halloween, All saints day, Guy Fawkes, Solstices, Equinoxes, Boys day, Girls day, etc., etc... I mean, I can keep going if you want.


I know you probably knew what I was referring to, but to be clear, you know about Jewish holidays and that they "shift" dates, right?
"There's no point being grown-up if you can't be childish sometimes." - The Fourth Doctor, Doctor Who

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aleflamedyud
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Re: "Christmas Plans" Discussion

Postby aleflamedyud » Wed Dec 23, 2009 5:26 am UTC

I may be a computing guy, but GODDAMNIT RANDALL GET OUT OF MY HEAD!!!! Admittedly, more for Easter than Christmas, but still.

Also, I think this actually explains why the fuck the Hebrew calendar works the way it does. If the entire calendar is reset a little every so often and changes every year relative to the solar calendar, we avoid collapsing the wave function and changing one of our holidays! Thanks for explaining the mystery, dude. We should make a religious designation "Quantum Jews": those of us who preserve our traditions from all change by not observing them.
"With kindness comes naïveté. Courage becomes foolhardiness. And dedication has no reward. If you can't accept any of that, you are not fit to be a graduate student."

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Re: "Christmas Plans" Discussion

Postby westrim » Wed Dec 23, 2009 5:40 am UTC

MiB24601 wrote:
MiB24601 wrote:This has been every third conversation I've had all week. Who has ever heard of a holiday that falls on the same day every year? It's so strange!

westrim wrote:... July 4th, Flag day, Halloween, All saints day, Guy Fawkes, Solstices, Equinoxes, Boys day, Girls day, etc., etc... I mean, I can keep going if you want.


I know you probably knew what I was referring to, but to be clear, you know about Jewish holidays and that they "shift" dates, right?


Yes, although to be honest I was thrown for a couple seconds before I realized that A: the topic under discussion involved Jews and B: you couldn't possibly be that much of a shlub (woo! Yiddish AND a teacher of mine in middle school!). I've had to deal with the scheduling conflicts and suddenly absent students enough to roll with it.

Kaijyuu
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Re: "Christmas Plans" Discussion

Postby Kaijyuu » Wed Dec 23, 2009 5:43 am UTC

the only way to keep from changing Christmas is not to observe it

Ho ho ho... the pun... burns! AHHHHH
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Re: "Christmas Plans" Discussion

Postby firestar27 » Wed Dec 23, 2009 5:52 am UTC

Heh. I didn't notice the hidden joke in "I just don't know when Christmas is." until I saw the comments. I love the Jewish calender shifting dates. It makes for such a nice surprise and variety. Some years, all the holidays are during the weekdays, giving us JUST enough time to prepare all the food and other stuff, but screwing with any normal work schedule. Other years, the holidays are on the weekends, keeping our work schedule intact, but making us scramble prepare all the food and other stuff as we won't be able to cook the food, etc. on Saturday itself, while dealing with bosses/teachers who now see us during the week and wonder why we're not relaxed if we just had a ton of holidays. :P

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Re: "Christmas Plans" Discussion

Postby Tigranara » Wed Dec 23, 2009 6:02 am UTC

I don't understand! I thought that for one to "not" observe Christmas, it would then have a definite date... and for one "to" observe it, its date would be uncertain.

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MiB24601
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Re: "Christmas Plans" Discussion

Postby MiB24601 » Wed Dec 23, 2009 6:02 am UTC

MiB24601 wrote:To be clear, you know about Jewish holidays and that they "shift" dates, right?

westrim wrote:Yes, although to be honest I was thrown for a couple seconds before I realized that A: the topic under discussion involved Jews and B: you couldn't possibly be that much of a shlub (woo! Yiddish AND a teacher of mine in middle school!). I've had to deal with the scheduling conflicts and suddenly absent students enough to roll with it.


Funny story about that. My roommate, not being Jewish, went to his class that was on Yom Kippur this year and found that a third of the students were out for the holiday. Apparently, the professor walked in, looked around and asked, "Where is everyone?" A few seconds later, he exclaims, "Oh, it's Yom Kippur. Oh, I'm such a bad Jew."

I made sure to get independent confirmation of this story. It's supposedly true.
"There's no point being grown-up if you can't be childish sometimes." - The Fourth Doctor, Doctor Who

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Narius
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Re: "Christmas Plans" Discussion

Postby Narius » Wed Dec 23, 2009 6:02 am UTC

But who says Christmas follows quantum mechanics?
Why wouldn't it follow classical mechanics?
I'm assuming Christmas is not incredibly small on the scale of an electron. In fact in terms of holidays, I would say its pretty big.
Not to be a killjoy or anything, i do love the comic, as always.
Merry Christmas!

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Re: "Christmas Plans" Discussion

Postby GodShapedBullet » Wed Dec 23, 2009 6:07 am UTC

Had to suspend my disbelief a little bit that the non-Jewish guy wouldn't just tell him rather than suggesting he look it up, but besides that, nice.

dmlerner
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Re: "Christmas Plans" Discussion

Postby dmlerner » Wed Dec 23, 2009 6:09 am UTC

Randall, I love you, but you need to brush up your quantum mechanics. Unless Christmas is initially in an energy eigenstate, it evolves in time. Observe any state with infinite frequency (which is of course not quite possible), and it will collapse into an energy eigenstate on the first observation and then stay in that state. So, to keep from changing Christmas, you must continuously observe it. Of course, as is often the case at classical scales, something different is true: the more people observe a religion, the more it will change.

It was nice meeting you at MIT Thursday. Thanks for staying so long to sign books, and sorry about the pizza arriving right as I got up...my friends are excited about my giving them their signed books.

Edit: @Narius: Unless general relativity comes in to play (masses ( technically G-fields) much greater than Earth('s)) - at any length scale - quantum holds. At large scales and/or in many-particle systems, quantum effects are usually negligible, and classical approximations are valid to high accuracy.

I'm an MIT physics major and a stickler about my subject :D.

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phlip
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Re: "Christmas Plans" Discussion

Postby phlip » Wed Dec 23, 2009 6:33 am UTC

dmlerner: I didn't get the feeling that the "changing" in the title text was a quantum uncertainty thing... but rather the observer effect - the act of observing (using the word in the classical sense, rather than the quantum sense) will make changes on the object being observed, as part of or side-effect of the process of making the observation.

That is, they're two different puns - the strip proper puns observing a holiday with quantum observation, and the title text puns observing a holiday with classical observation.

That's just how I saw it, though... I could be wrong. I guess to fit better the title text would have to say "not attempt to observe it" instead of just "not observe it"...

Code: Select all

enum ಠ_ಠ {°□°╰=1, °Д°╰, ಠ益ಠ╰};
void ┻━┻︵​╰(ಠ_ಠ ⚠) {exit((int)⚠);}
[he/him/his]

carls
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Re: "Christmas Plans" Discussion

Postby carls » Wed Dec 23, 2009 6:40 am UTC

Fenomenally horrible joke. Atleast partially saved by the alt-text.

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Re: "Christmas Plans" Discussion

Postby fabiocbinbutter » Wed Dec 23, 2009 7:15 am UTC

Forgive me if I sound like the philosopher from last week's comic (after all, I'm not a physicist)... but the wave-function collapse interpretation of quantum mechanics seems to be like the modern day version of "the earth is the center of the universe". If I'm misunderstanding, please enlighten me, but I think the many worlds interpretation is so much more plausible for not creating some bizarre exception for the special action of observation...

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Re: "Christmas Plans" Discussion

Postby Tigranara » Wed Dec 23, 2009 7:22 am UTC

Tigranara wrote:I don't understand! I thought that for one to "not" observe Christmas, it would then have a definite date... and for one "to" observe it, its date would be uncertain.




Nobody's replied to me yet. Is there something I'm missing? the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle states (in laymens terms) that you can't know a particle's velocity and exact position at the same time... i.e. if you observe one, then you can't observe the other. Wouldn't that mean that if you -don't- observe Christmas, you would know exactly when it is? And simultaneously, if you -do- observe Christmas, you couldn't know when it occurred?

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Re: "Christmas Plans" Discussion

Postby XerxesQados » Wed Dec 23, 2009 8:09 am UTC

But then how will he know what day to eat Chinese food and go see a movie?
Contractions make the apostrophe so much more philanthropic, as it uses its efforts to unite rather than to hoard.

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Re: "Christmas Plans" Discussion

Postby MSTK » Wed Dec 23, 2009 8:23 am UTC

Tigranara wrote:
Tigranara wrote:I don't understand! I thought that for one to "not" observe Christmas, it would then have a definite date... and for one "to" observe it, its date would be uncertain.




Nobody's replied to me yet. Is there something I'm missing? the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle states (in laymens terms) that you can't know a particle's velocity and exact position at the same time... i.e. if you observe one, then you can't observe the other. Wouldn't that mean that if you -don't- observe Christmas, you would know exactly when it is? And simultaneously, if you -do- observe Christmas, you couldn't know when it occurred?


Heisenberg states that a particle's velocity can't be known with precision until knowledge of position is sacrificed, yes. But then Einstein and Co. came along and said, "Well, you might not be able to know the position, but at least it still HAS one. Your 'paradoxes' are silly."
Quantum mechanics's response was to say that not only can we not know the position, but that the concept of position is meaningless until we observe it. Meaning, it doesn't even have a definite position. You can only say "It's 37% being here...", etc.

This translates into the comic by saying that, until we observe and measure Christmas, it doesn't have a definite position on the calendar.

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Re: "Christmas Plans" Discussion

Postby Ryan Fenton » Wed Dec 23, 2009 8:25 am UTC

Registered just to tell this obvious (and puntastic) joke, in context:

Serious guy: So, You're a scientist - you know the number conversions, can't you solve for Christmas using a known quantity?

Physicist: ...Whatever do you mean?

Serious guy: Well, let's say that Christmas is just like Halloween - and Halloween happens to fall on 'OCT'ober 31st. We also know that Christmas is sometime in 'DEC'ember. It's a simple conversion problem - 'OCT'ober to 'DEC'ember, solve for Christmas.

Physicist: Hmmm... Woah, I knew Christmas always seemed creepy, but I'll be damned if Dec 25 doesn't equal Oct 31. They're the same thing!

Serious guy: Ha - I thought you didn't know the date of Christmas...

Physicist: Well the supposedly real one, not the one on the calendar. It is still completely unknown - and unknowable if it never happened.

---
Ryan Fenton

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Re: "Christmas Plans" Discussion

Postby Red Hal » Wed Dec 23, 2009 8:56 am UTC

Narius wrote:But who says Christmas follows quantum mechanics?
Why wouldn't it follow classical mechanics?
I'm assuming Christmas is not incredibly small on the scale of an electron. In fact in terms of holidays, I would say its pretty big.
Not to be a killjoy or anything, i do love the comic, as always.
Merry Christmas!
An interesting point! We know that Christmas has a mass (usually on or around midnight on Christmas eve), and that that mass is reducing thanks to the slow rise in non-conventional magical thinking. Ah! So that's how Santa powers his sleigh! By the conversion of 'mass' into energy. Of course, since Santa is effectively a pagan figure re-purposed, he would find anything overly orthodox to be repulsive, so there would be a net repulsive effect, which also explains the sleigh's apparent anti-gravity capabilities.
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Makri
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Re: "Christmas Plans" Discussion

Postby Makri » Wed Dec 23, 2009 10:19 am UTC

fabiocbinbutter wrote:I think the many worlds interpretation is so much more plausible for not creating some bizarre exception for the special action of observation...


On the other hand, it creates bizarre metaphysics. But at least it's better than some cosmologists' multiverse.
¬□(∀♀(∃♂(♀❤♂)⟷∃♂(♂❤♀)))

watchayakan
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Re: "Christmas Plans" Discussion

Postby watchayakan » Wed Dec 23, 2009 11:08 am UTC

Transactional interpretation is where it's at, mo'fuckers. I'm also partial to decoherence.

Anyway, I real liked this comic. I have the same thoughts as Philip on the nature of the alt-text.

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Re: "Christmas Plans" Discussion

Postby dr_faulk » Wed Dec 23, 2009 12:39 pm UTC

I'm surprised that nobody has mentioned that Christmas is a macroscopic (classical) entity, and that Quantum Mechanics shouldn't apply.

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Re: "Christmas Plans" Discussion

Postby guyy » Wed Dec 23, 2009 12:50 pm UTC

phlip wrote:That is a pretty awful/hilarious pun. I approve.


Ok, I guess I'm just an idiot, but I can't see how it's a pun. A joke about quantum uncertainty, yes...but where's the pun?

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Re: "Christmas Plans" Discussion

Postby jc » Wed Dec 23, 2009 1:00 pm UTC

westrim wrote:
MiB24601 wrote:Who has ever heard of a holiday that falls on the same day every year? It's so strange!
... July 4th, Flag day, Halloween, All saints day, Guy Fawkes, Solstices, Equinoxes, Boys day, Girls day, etc., etc... I mean, I can keep going if you want.


Um, if you check with your calendar, you'll find that the solstices don't always occur on the same (calendar) date. And they can be on different days depending on which time zone you're living in. It's not unusual for them to be on different days to people living in New Zealand and Hawaii.

The problem is that our solar system was so sloppily designed and maintained that no two time measuring units are commensurable. None of the natural time units such as day (the Earth's rotation), month (our moon's revolution around the Earth) and year (the Earth's revolution around the sun) are rational multiples of each other. So any calendar that attempts to use all of them is going to be unable to put any naturally-occurring events such as solstices on the same day every year. The only holidays that occur on the same date every year are those that are defined to be on a specific date. This isn't possible with solstices or equinoxes.

There is a theory that when the solar system was originally designed and constructed, all the natural time units were integer multiples of each other. But over the ages, everything has drifted out of calibration, and nothing quite works right any more. (We'll have to wait until we can get to the archives on Malgrathea to verify this theory, though.)

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Freiberg
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Re: "Christmas Plans" Discussion

Postby Freiberg » Wed Dec 23, 2009 1:25 pm UTC

Tigranara wrote:I don't understand! I thought that for one to "not" observe Christmas, it would then have a definite date... and for one "to" observe it, its date would be uncertain.


Perhaps we both misunderstand the Heisenburg uncertainty principle? Because that is what I thought too when reading this.

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Re: "Christmas Plans" Discussion

Postby JustDoug » Wed Dec 23, 2009 1:32 pm UTC

Tigranara wrote: [preventing recursive quote clip]
Nobody's replied to me yet. Is there something I'm missing? the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle states (in laymens terms) that you can't know a particle's velocity and exact position at the same time... i.e. if you observe one, then you can't observe the other. Wouldn't that mean that if you -don't- observe Christmas, you would know exactly when it is? And simultaneously, if you -do- observe Christmas, you couldn't know when it occurred?


"I believe that since I don't observer Christmas, it can't have a definite date."

You're making a case for the opposite. That's probably why you got no reply originally.

Edit: Unless you you were discussing the alt text, in which case you didn't get a reply 'cause people didn't reply yet. Dawg.
Last edited by JustDoug on Wed Dec 23, 2009 5:27 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

teppinwhite
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Re: "Christmas Plans" Discussion

Postby teppinwhite » Wed Dec 23, 2009 2:06 pm UTC

XerxesQados wrote:But then how will he know what day to eat Chinese food and go see a movie?

I wish Atom was still playing shows as Atom

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Re: "Christmas Plans" Discussion

Postby aliquis » Wed Dec 23, 2009 2:24 pm UTC

Obviously, this doesn't only apply to jews. I'm lutheran, but my girlfriend is catholic. Yesterday evening, she asked me what I'm doing this week. I informed her about Christmas, and it turned out she had completely forgotten that Christmas is already on December 24th–26th for me. :)

This is, of course, a little backwards, since I'm the physics major, not her.


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