XKCD is not a Linux X-window program. Just to start with! XKCD is the phenomenally funny comic done by Randall Patrick Munroe, a degree-holder in physics who works for the United States NASA space program. It has become the official cartoon of social news culture, and a large share of geeks and hackers as well. Hardly a day went by there for a while when Reddit didn’t have a link to an XKCD comic posted, until (I think I remember) the cartoonist himself told them to knock it off.
Today’s intellectual exercise: figuring out the true meaning of XKCD. Not the strip, just the name! See, on the about page, it says:
What does XKCD stand for?
“It’s not actually an acronym. It’s just a word with no phonetic pronunciation. It stands for the comic and everything the comic stands for!”
Ha ha! A likely story! But we’re going to get all DaVinci Code on this mystery and find out what time it really is!
So, to start: I noticed that the letters in the title all look like Roman numerals, except the K, which thanks to the metric system has been adopted to mean “1000”. Taking the subtractive system into account, we have
X(10), K(1000), C(100), D(500) K(1000) - X(10) = 990 D(500) - C(100) = 400 990 + 400 = 1390
Obviously a historic date! But what happened in 1390 that makes a big “Ah-Ha!” moment while hunting for clues related to XKCD? Nothing. I almost thought I wouldn’t have a post, here. But then I thought: leave it to that sly fox to not use the subtractive method just to throw us off! So, our new calculation is:
X(10) + K(1000) + C(100) + D(500) = 1610
Well, that still looks like a date. But when I Wikied the new date, I found a clue! 1610 is the year that Galileo Galilei discovered the Galilean moons of Jupiter. And Munroe, being a physicist and working for NASA, surely must have some familiarity with Galileo. Why, even at the bottom of the “About” page, he answers:
What is your favorite astronomical entity?
And Galileo drew sketches of the Pleiades! Ha, I’m on to something. So I started with Galileo and searched back to XKCD, looking for the connection. Didn’t find anything too hot. Searched the other way from XKCD to Galileo. Nothing big there.
Maybe I was using the wrong code? Rot13 on XKCD gives KXPQ, no apparent significance there. Then I thought of the direct-number code, where A=1, B=2, C=3… all the way up to Z=26. Using this code, we get:
X(24) + K(11) + C(3) + D(4) = 42
42! OMG! WTF! BBQ! It’s Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything!
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