Randall Munrion

By Phil Plait | February 22, 2012 10:26 am

I’m not sure why so many people think I don’t read xkcd, but a metric buttload of people sent me a link to today’s comic [marginally NSFW]. I thank all of you who did, but take note: given that I am a vastly huge geek, and xkcd is the most popular geek comic in the observable Universe, rest assured I read it.

I have something to add, but go read the comic first. Go.

Back now? OK, so now that you’ve seen it, I have to note we used to make a similar joke when I was in grad school. When my roommate Erik and I ran a night sky lab, he would show students the constellations (they had to learn a handful of them and a few stars for a quiz). In the winter, when it came time to point out Orion, he’d show them Betelgeuse, Rigel, the belt… and then when he pointed out the "dagger", he’d quip, "… and if you want to call that a dagger, be my guest. But I think we all know better."


Or is it SMBC? We need a quattuorlitteras acronymically-known web comic stats-off.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Geekery, Humor
MORE ABOUT: Orion, SMBC, xkcd

Comments (27)

  1. Chris

    I wonder if historically ancient cultures had the same observation and it was sanitized as time went on.
    Also the Orion Nebula glows red, so take what you want from that.

  2. oldebabe

    Well, I see that, apparently, I’m not the only one. When I was little, I called it Orion’s pee-pee, and people said I had a dirty mind…

  3. Dutch Railroader

    And, of course the Orion Nebula is where new stars are seeded…

  4. hde226868

    and no post about this subject would be complete without a link to
    http://amandabauer.blogspot.com/2010/03/dirty-space-news.html

  5. DennyMo

    xkcdsucks is pretty pathetic. Apparently the folks there are envious of his success, but in typical schoolyard-bully style are tearing someone else down to feel better about themselves instead of actually doing something about their own patheticness (patheticity?).

    Oh, wait, that’s how the internet works, isn’t it…

  6. xkcdsucks is pretty pathetic.

    I agree, unless it’s some sort of parody thing on how the internet works. In which case, I really don’t get it…

  7. Tony

    I have no doubt that ancient people saw it the same as we do today. Google some Roman Graffiti if you want proof. People have learned a lot of neat tricks over the millennia, but by and large we are still the same.

  8. Paul Clapham

    And if you go to the Southern Hemisphere, Orion appears upside-down compared to the standard picture, so it’s pretty obvious there. I haven’t figured out yet which upside-down constellation is making Orion feel that way though.

  9. mike burkhart

    #3 I never heard that one before. But don’t worry a lot of dirty minded people call the planet Uranus “ur annis” this was even used in the movie E.T. I have been playing with Google Mars ,witch comes with the Google Earth program. The interesting thing is you can a ground view of things in Google Earth,Moon,and Mars like your walking on the surface. So I have become the frist person to clime Oylmpus Mons in this simulation once I got in the crater I found I could not see the otherside of it . Also I explored Cydona I climed up the “face” and walked all over it and found no eyes, nose or mouth carved into it and as for the “Pyrimids” form the ground view they look like rock formations and hills .There is no city on Mars. Richard Hogsland ,Cydona just has some interesting formations made by nature, not Martians.

  10. Yeah, what the hell is XKCDsucks? I always assumed it was a joke – possibly written by Randall himself to explain his jokes and be self-deprecating, but it’s clearly too advanced for that. Just a nut on the web.

  11. Wzrd1

    The term dagger is such an unenlightened term, I far prefer the enlightened, non-prejudicial and correct term of Genetically Engineered Life Form or GELF for short.

  12. andy

    Yeah, what the hell is XKCDsucks?

    A bunch of people who think xkcd, erm, sucks, perhaps?

    Which is a viewpoint I agree with, I think it’s gone way downhill from the early stuff.

    On the other hand, so has xkcdsucks.

    xkcdsuckssucks?

  13. I’d just like to hear back from Zach Weiner on Orion’s dong.

  14. Adam

    “It’s gone downhill”

    That’s a very common refrain about anything that’s lasted a long time, from long TV series, to bands who last many years, etc. I’ve also often seen people who say that be accused of trying to put one over people who are new to the thing – whether since it grew more popular, or just are younger or considered newbies. That may be true to some extent, and maybe for some people, but I think there may also be something of substance to it.

    People, and thus any creative endeavour, changes over time. It will become different, and there’s nothing really that can be done to stop that. So what someone liked about it originally may no longer be the case, and thus they are likely to think that it has deteriorated. Whether or not it has deteriorated is very subjective, and often it is likely just as good, but just different.

    So to go to a lot of effort writing copious blog posts about a such a natural process, might seem to be a little sad. But everyone needs a hobby, and a lot of unshared hobbies can seem a bit sad.

    So if your’re bored, xkcdsuckssucks is probably as good a way to fill your time as that used by most people of an evening. :)

  15. Well, in India, the constellation Orion is known as “Mriga” (meaning deer), and Sirius is known as “Vyaadh” (literally means – the hunter). So the story goes that the hunter has shot an arrow – which in the west is the belt of Orion – and is then chasing the wounded deer across the heavens. Betelgeuse, Bellatrix, Rigel and Saiph are the four hooves of Mriga the deer. So Orion the hunter in the west is Mriga the hunted in the east! It always fascinates me.

  16. Nerdy Chuckles
  17. Chris

    Orion’s Belt is also associated with or identified as a turtle in both Mesoamerica and the Tuamotus (as well as Burma and China), and the birth of a hero from a turtle shell depicted on Maya pottery again probably refers to Venus.

    From “Exploring Ancient Skies: An Encyclopedic Survey of Archaeoastronomy” Interesting book. A bit expensive.

  18. Mike

    Okay, I have always compared Orion’s sword to a dong. But think of the myriad spectacular photographs of the nebula in action.

    Clearly, Orion is having an orgasm.

  19. Gwif

    Any discussion of “most popular geek comic” is not complete without mentioning the Order of the Stick.

    I submit as evidence exhibit A, the recent record-setting Kickstarter drive that raised over 1.2 million dollars, making it the 2nd most funded drive of all time:
    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/599092525/the-order-of-the-stick-reprint-drive

  20. Tony

    In response to comment #2 (Ben):

    See: http://www.cafepress.com.au/outfitter/789427

    Hey, I just want both sides of the controversy given equal representation.

  21. Actually as I’ve always seen it from here in OZ its the handle of a saucepan.

    (The Belt stars – Mintaka (Delta) , Alnilam (Epsilon) & Alnitak (Zeta) make the base of the saucepan with Saiph al Jabbar (Eta) marking the other side of the saucepan asterism.)

    FWIW, The name Bellatrix – Gamma Orionis – means female warrior and there are hints that the celestial Orion figure was once seen as *female* by Arab or pre-Islamic desert tribes.
    For example stellar expert Jim Kaler notes on his Betelgeuse page :

    The name Betelgeuse is a corruption of the Arabic “yad al jauza,” which means the “hand of al-jauza,” al-jauza the ancient Arabs’ “Central One,” a mysterious woman.

    (Click my name for linked source.)

    Although later Greek myth versions have Orion as definitely male.

    The name for Kappa Orionis – Saiph – a homonynm for “safe” means sword in arabic apparently – its also found as a component of a few other star names eg. that of Eta Orionis & Na’ir al Saif (Iota Orionis) and strikes me as somewhat ironic in that swords and safety hardly go together that well! Although in battle I guess you were safer *with* a sword than *without.* Presuming we’re not talking an Indiana Jones movie scene versus the gun! ;-)

  22. Wzrd1

    From Sameer, Chris and Messier Tidy, we learn new cultural views and names. Indeed, I had forgotten the Arab view, which I was told of by a very good friend, who is an Arab.
    So, thanks for the lesson! I love learning things about other cultures! :D

  23. Hee hee. Makes sense. We’ve got a dawn star and a dog star, might as well have a dong star.

    With our luck, an alien civilization has their own Orion-esque constellation, and our Sun is the end of its… generative tentacle :)

  24. Tom

    I was always under the impression that Orion is posed so that he’s facing Taurus.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Orion_IAU.svg

    One arm is holding a shield (Stars Tau1 to Tau 6 Ori), the other is holding a club (Mu, Chi and Xi 1&2 Ori) held at the ready to fight off the bull. His front leg is bent (Eta Ori), and his belt is at an angle because of the weight of the sword in the scabbard (M42 and the other nearby stars) resting on his hip

  25. @22 MTU: Cool! I second Wzrd1′s comment.

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