0984: "Space Launch System"

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Felstaff
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0984: "Space Launch System"

Postby Felstaff » Wed Nov 30, 2011 10:30 am UTC

xkcd.com/984

Image

"The SLS head engineer plans to invite Shania Twain to stand under the completed prototype, then tell her, 'I don't expect you to date me just because I'm a rocket scientist, but you've gotta admit--this is pretty fucking impressive.'"



Turns out that stereotypical German efficiency is actually Nazi efficiency. Also, interesting comment on how US engineers < German engineers in early-to-mid C.20

I don't usually comment, praise, etc. on Randy's artwork as, well, it's goddamn stick figures, but I sorta dig the Saturn V in this one (the whooshy flamey fiery part). 'Tis a neat effect, if only miniscule. Then again, the Saturn V was the first thing I ever drew as a child that looked even remotely like the subject it was supposed to be (my fridge swiftly became covered in various Soviet and US rocket ships, which eventually usurped my sisters hybrid purple bunny/cat things that were the same size as the squarish trees they stood next to)

I think the alt-text is a bit convoluted, don't you? The song is about fifteen years old, and the jokes about Shania Twain actually being impressed much are, equally, fifteen years old.
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Re: 0984: "Space Launch System"

Postby Venetian Road » Wed Nov 30, 2011 10:31 am UTC

counter-example: Charlie Chaplin

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Re: 0984: "Space Launch System"

Postby st0aty » Wed Nov 30, 2011 10:37 am UTC

The alt text made me burn the cheese. All that for a Shania Twain joke. Well done sir. :-)

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Re: 0984: "Space Launch System"

Postby AvatarIII » Wed Nov 30, 2011 10:44 am UTC

i heard that the Germans stole Goddard's American rocket technology in the first place, isn't it ironic (oh wait wrong song)
Last edited by AvatarIII on Wed Nov 30, 2011 10:47 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: 0984: "Space Launch System"

Postby ygp » Wed Nov 30, 2011 10:45 am UTC

The SLS head engineer plans to invite Shania Twain to…

Was coming up with ideas like that part of Randall's job description when he worked for NASA?

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Re: 0984: "Space Launch System"

Postby madjo » Wed Nov 30, 2011 10:55 am UTC

...That don't impress me much...
:)

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Re: 0984: "Space Launch System"

Postby mdog » Wed Nov 30, 2011 10:58 am UTC

I'm sure this thread will get into discussions about Nazis and rocket engineering soon enough. In the meantime, title-text provided a good laugh and a good memory of Shania Twain's song.
If you're not familiar with it, here are the lyrics:
http://www.elyrics.net/read/s/shania-twain-lyrics/that-don_t-impress-me-much-lyrics.html
Her performance of the song is also quite good and funny.
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Re: 0984: "Space Launch System"

Postby Eutychus » Wed Nov 30, 2011 11:02 am UTC

Godwin's law invoked in 3, 2, 1...

(cf here)
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Re: 0984: "Space Launch System"

Postby DorianMode » Wed Nov 30, 2011 11:03 am UTC

My High School history teacher once told us a story. He was visiting this town in the middle of nowhere, Russia, and every building he encountered seemed about to fall over; stairs were crooked, no floor was level, no wall was plumb. In the middle of town there stood a stone opera house, a small architectural marvel, every stone expertly fitted, all the lines perfectly straight. My teacher asked why this building alone was plumb and level; he was told it was build by German prisoners of war.

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Re: 0984: "Space Launch System"

Postby squonk » Wed Nov 30, 2011 11:12 am UTC

Praising Nazis? Does Godwin's law apply here?

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Re: 0984: "Space Launch System"

Postby idisjunction » Wed Nov 30, 2011 11:21 am UTC

squonk wrote:Praising Nazis? Does Godwin's law apply here?


Not if the discussion started with it.

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Re: 0984: "Space Launch System"

Postby Andromeda321 » Wed Nov 30, 2011 12:01 pm UTC

Gather round while I sing you of Wernher von Braun
A man whose allegiance is ruled by expedience
Call him a Nazi, he won't even frown
"Ha, Nazi schmazi," says Wernher von Braun

Don't say that he's hypocritical
Say rather that he's apolitical
"Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down
That's not my department," says Wernher von Braun

Some have harsh words for this man of renown
But some think our attitude should be one of gratitude
Like the widows and cripples in old London town
Who owe their large pensions to Wernher von Braun

You too may be a big hero
Once you've learned to count backwards to zero
"In German oder English I know how to count down
Und I'm learning Chinese," says Wernher von Braun


Someday I might get over my crush for Tom Lehrer but today is not that day! :D

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Re: 0984: "Space Launch System"

Postby flangad » Wed Nov 30, 2011 12:36 pm UTC

A little satire on the political and economic woes in Europe... Well-played Mauer, well-played.

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Re: 0984: "Space Launch System"

Postby VAXHeadroom » Wed Nov 30, 2011 12:41 pm UTC

So, getting a little pissy over the use of "Nazi" in today's comic. Werner was, technically, a member of the Nazi party, but only so they didn't kill him. He described himself as a patriotic German during the war, but only joined the Nazi Party under duress. Calling someone a 'Nazi' today invokes visions of him being a supporter of everything evil done as a fanatical supporter of Hitler during the war (at least subjectively in my mind, don't argue this point, I'll ignore you). Werner famously said of the Russians "Our Germans are better then their Germans", no party affiliations mentioned which I think covers how he felt.

Highly suggested reading is the Biography of Werner VonBraun "Dr. Space" by Bob Ward http://www.amazon.com/Dr-Space-Life-Wer ... 543&sr=8-1

Surprisingly no disparaging comments on the SLS itself? REALLY? The "Senate Launch System"?? If you aren't appalled by a small group of Senators designing NASA next rocket for their own political gain, you're not paying attention...Likelihood it will EVER fly? 0% in my book.

And I love Tom Lehrer :D

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Re: 0984: "Space Launch System"

Postby RogerB » Wed Nov 30, 2011 12:54 pm UTC

Felstaff wrote:Turns out that stereotypical German efficiency is actually Nazi efficiency.


I spent a week visiting a German group in Heilbronn in the 1980's. It was unbelievably disorganised, something simple like going to the pub took about 15 phone calls between everybody to organise it and then we still ended up at the wrong pub.

We (the visitors) came to the conclusion that they (the Germans) were doing it on purpose because they were so fed up with the stereotype. Finally I realise they were really saying "We're not Nazis".

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Re: 0984: "Space Launch System"

Postby thesingingaccountant » Wed Nov 30, 2011 12:58 pm UTC

My dad is rather obsessive when it comes to WWII stuff. He's watched every movie and documentary he could find that had anything at all to do with that era. He's also a die-hard conservative Republican Christian, and a vocal supporter of Israel. Naturally, he gets offended pretty easily by jokes that poke fun at anything to do with WWII, especially the Nazis or the Holocaust. He was all manner of displeased when I took part in a community theater performance of "The Producers" last year.

I don't think Dad would appreciate this comic, which is just one more reason why I find it hilarious. I'm thinking about sending it to him. It shouldn't be this much fun to trip people's hair triggers... :twisted: I, for one, think that one of the best ways to fight evil is to mock it. Mel Brooks is my hero.
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Re: 0984: "Space Launch System"

Postby frr » Wed Nov 30, 2011 1:11 pm UTC

To be fair, the americans were pretty busy building the bomb.Though „americans“ in this case also includes a whole bunch of people who fled europe. It's a small world. ;)
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Re: 0984: "Space Launch System"

Postby radtea » Wed Nov 30, 2011 1:14 pm UTC

VAXHeadroom wrote:So, getting a little pissy over the use of "Nazi" in today's comic. Werner was, technically, a member of the Nazi party, but only so they didn't kill him. He described himself as a patriotic German during the war, but only joined the Nazi Party under duress.


Just like Heisenberg... no, wait! Completely unlike Heisenberg in every respect!

Heisenberg actually was a patriotic German, didn't join the National Socialists, and didn't bomb London.

He fiddled around rather incompetently with nuclear power experiments, and had no intention of building a nuclear weapon. We know this because he got his guestimate of the size of uranium bomb wrong by a couple of orders of magnitude after hearing of the bombing of Japan. He did a first-order calculation that was much closer to correct within a few days. Anyone who wanted to build a bomb would have already done that calculation at the very start of their research. Heisenberg didn't. Ergo, he didn't want to build a bomb. (This logic, which as a nuclear physicist I am entirely happy with, is laid out in Michael Frayn's play "Copehagen", which I strongly recommend.)

So von Braun was a typical human, the kind of willing dupe that makes up the mass of the human population anywhere, who goes along to get along, and whose apologists later claim "didn't have any choice" about their answer to a question that at least a few other humans manifestly did answer differently. He was a great engineer. Not such a great human being.
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Re: 0984: "Space Launch System"

Postby javahead » Wed Nov 30, 2011 1:20 pm UTC

mdog wrote:I'm sure this thread will get into discussions about Nazis and rocket engineering soon enough. In the meantime, title-text provided a good laugh and a good memory of Shania Twain's song.
If you're not familiar with it, here are the lyrics:
http://www.elyrics.net/read/s/shania-twain-lyrics/that-don_t-impress-me-much-lyrics.html
Her performance of the song is also quite good and funny.

Thank you. The alt-text was lost on me because the only thing I knew about Shania Twain was her desecration of the Super Bowl half-time show.

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Re: 0984: "Space Launch System"

Postby jeroen94704 » Wed Nov 30, 2011 1:22 pm UTC

I especially like how, in all the concept artwork, they gave the SLS a paint job similar to what the Saturn V had in order to let people associate the SLS with the awesomeness that was Saturn V and the 1960's moon program.

Anyone else think this is a rather feeble marketing attempt by NASA?

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Re: 0984: "Space Launch System"

Postby e of pi » Wed Nov 30, 2011 1:28 pm UTC

VAXHeadroom wrote:Surprisingly no disparaging comments on the SLS itself? REALLY? The "Senate Launch System"?? If you aren't appalled by a small group of Senators designing NASA next rocket for their own political gain, you're not paying attention...Likelihood it will EVER fly? 0% in my book.

I'm less interested in disparaging Saturn V than to advocate that the real revolution in rocketry isn't the 130 ton $1 billion-a-launch monster booster that won't be flying until 2017 at the earliest, but rather Falcon Heavy, which is a 53-ton booster costing only $100 million a launch, and flying as soon as 2013. Falcon Heavy will be straight-up the cheapest rocket ever in terms of $/kg to orbit, seven times cheaper than SLS, 70 times cheaper than the Shuttle, even cheaper than Proton and Ariane V (the major commercial launchers for the last twenty years or so). Size isn't everything, since we've gotten really good at putting small things together into big things in space (ISS). Also, if you can transfer fuel then most space hardware can be launched with dry tanks and end up much lighter (a good 80% of a moon mission is fuel). I don't dislike SLS because I think it's not workable from an engineering perspective, I dislike it because it's dreaming small. We developed a lunar lander from scratch 50 years ago for a couple billion and 5 years. If we took the money we're going to be spending on SLS and spent it fast-tracking Orion and a lander, with a Falcon Heavy-launched architecture...what's the phrase? "We choose to go to the moon in this decade..."

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Re: 0984: "Space Launch System"

Postby jeroen94704 » Wed Nov 30, 2011 1:34 pm UTC

e of pi wrote:Falcon Heavy will be straight-up the cheapest rocket ever in terms of $/kg to orbit


Absolutely. There's even a Chinese official on record as stating that they cannot match SpaceX's pricing. Falcon 9 is a great example where, paradoxically, being smart is cheaper than being cheap.

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Re: 0984: "Space Launch System"

Postby frr » Wed Nov 30, 2011 1:35 pm UTC

jeroen94704 wrote:I especially like how, in all the concept artwork, they gave the SLS a paint job similar to what the Saturn V had in order to let people associate the SLS with the awesomeness that was Saturn V and the 1960's moon program.

Anyone else think this is a rather feeble marketing attempt by NASA?

Pretty much all NASA spacecraft are painted white with a little black here and there plus the flag. Even the shuttle was painted this way before they made the fuel tank orange. However it probably is a welcome side effect.

About whether the SLS makes sense: I don't see why we need those insanely large rockets. On the other hand: If we want to go to mars, we have to start with something. Either that or we do it GLaDOS style: one way ticket only – For science!
„Every time you read or write beyond the end of an array, somewhere a fairy dies.“ ~ Richard Buckland

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Re: 0984: "Space Launch System"

Postby TG333 » Wed Nov 30, 2011 1:45 pm UTC

Having been to Buchenwald, Dora and the lot jokes involving Nazi´s and the V2 always come with a bitter aftertaste, but being German I think I can assure you we can´t really help being the stereotype-efficient and timely person. I´m not representing that stereotype very well when I´m in Germany, when I was in the middle east however I felt like I was the company´s most accurate person.
I don't wanna hear your excuses! The building has to be at least... three times bigger than this!

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Re: 0984: "Space Launch System"

Postby ghlargh » Wed Nov 30, 2011 1:49 pm UTC

While reading the alt text i was fully expecting the advice to be to turn the rocket engines on with her under it, at least that would ensure no more songs like that...

About learning from the nazis, it is clear that the US hasn't been doing that lately, their concentration camp in guantanamo bay isn't nearly as efficient...

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Re: 0984: "Space Launch System"

Postby CatCube » Wed Nov 30, 2011 1:52 pm UTC

DorianMode wrote:My High School history teacher once told us a story. He was visiting this town in the middle of nowhere, Russia, and every building he encountered seemed about to fall over; stairs were crooked, no floor was level, no wall was plumb. In the middle of town there stood a stone opera house, a small architectural marvel, every stone expertly fitted, all the lines perfectly straight. My teacher asked why this building alone was plumb and level; he was told it was build by German prisoners of war.


There's stonework by German POWs here on Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, being used to this day.

Edited to add: Apparently there's a few hidden swastikas from them, too. One of them was inside the chimney of the old Black Officers' Club, which some of the POWs were not happy to be working on.

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Re: 0984: "Space Launch System"

Postby jeroen94704 » Wed Nov 30, 2011 1:54 pm UTC

frr wrote:Pretty much all NASA spacecraft are painted white with a little black here and there plus the flag. Even the shuttle was painted this way before they made the fuel tank orange. However it probably is a welcome side effect.


Really? AFAIK, only the Shuttle and other re-entry capable concept vehicles are (were) white and black because that is the color of the thermal blankets and thermal protection system materials being used. Other than that, the ribbed skin in white with black patches is very distinctly Saturn V.



frr wrote:Either that or we do it GLaDOS style: one way ticket only – For science!


You monster!

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Re: 0984: "Space Launch System"

Postby Laplace » Wed Nov 30, 2011 1:58 pm UTC

The first guy in the comic:
"Check out the SLS - 130 ton to orbit. Finally rockets that improve over the ones we had 40 years ago"

Personally, I think the real pun lies in the fact that we now are planning new rockets with roughly zero improvement over the ones we had 40 years ago, in terms of mass to orbit.

They (the senate, NASA) might aim for some improvements in terms of $/ton and payload fraction but in terms of mass to orbit: slim to none. (slim = 10%). Whether this is because of the Nazi efficiency in the 60s or the inefficiency of the Senate now is still to be answered.

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Re: 0984: "Space Launch System"

Postby Apeiron » Wed Nov 30, 2011 2:21 pm UTC

The only circumstance that the word "one" should EVER have an S attached to it is if "one" is the name of things we are talking about. For instance, if we are calling one dollar bills ones.

One, as a quantity, should never be plural. One is the definition of SINGULAR.

Most of the time the "one" following these/those is redundant. Just say these, those or that.

Semi-literate fuckwit saying "langwidgizz chanj, git over it, LOOLLOoLoLl!!!1!" in 3... 2... 1....

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Re: 0984: "Space Launch System"

Postby graudrakon » Wed Nov 30, 2011 2:47 pm UTC

The basic theory behind founding NASA, "Lets put a whole bunch of Nazi and Jewish scientists together in one department and see what happens."

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Re: 0984: "Space Launch System"

Postby jetsam » Wed Nov 30, 2011 2:58 pm UTC

@VAXHeadroom's comment:

The Pope was also a Nazi. He didn't mean it, of course, because he was too young. So of course, there's no need to apologize.

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Re: 0984: "Space Launch System"

Postby Joran » Wed Nov 30, 2011 3:05 pm UTC

radtea wrote:
VAXHeadroom wrote:So, getting a little pissy over the use of "Nazi" in today's comic. Werner was, technically, a member of the Nazi party, but only so they didn't kill him. He described himself as a patriotic German during the war, but only joined the Nazi Party under duress.


Just like Heisenberg... no, wait! Completely unlike Heisenberg in every respect!

Heisenberg actually was a patriotic German, didn't join the National Socialists, and didn't bomb London.

He fiddled around rather incompetently with nuclear power experiments, and had no intention of building a nuclear weapon. We know this because he got his guestimate of the size of uranium bomb wrong by a couple of orders of magnitude after hearing of the bombing of Japan. He did a first-order calculation that was much closer to correct within a few days. Anyone who wanted to build a bomb would have already done that calculation at the very start of their research. Heisenberg didn't. Ergo, he didn't want to build a bomb. (This logic, which as a nuclear physicist I am entirely happy with, is laid out in Michael Frayn's play "Copehagen", which I strongly recommend.)


I love Copenhagen, such an elegant play. However, when I was reading it, I interpreted the play as basically that we can never be sure whether Heisenberg was trying to build the bomb or not. When he went to visit Bohr in Copenhagen, they went for a private walk that was ended shortly with Bohr shaking in anger. Bohr's family published Bohr's recollections on the meeting.

http://nba.nbi.dk/papers/docs/cover.html

Also, the calculations have two different explanations. Heisenberg claims he was intentionally trying to deceive the Nazis. Some other scientists said Heisenberg got the calculations wrong because he was shitty at math.

At the end of the war, it was naturally in Heisenberg's self-interest to say that he wasn't working on the bomb and he had enough plausible deniability. In the end, the only person who knows if Heisenberg was trying to build a bomb is Heisenberg himself and he's dead.

About whether the SLS makes sense: I don't see why we need those insanely large rockets. On the other hand: If we want to go to mars, we have to start with something. Either that or we do it GLaDOS style: one way ticket only – For science!


The plan I think is for NASA to keep doing big, non-commercially viable projects and for private industry, the Space-X and Orbitals of the world, to take over the milk runs. Hence why they want the gigantic rocket instead of cheaper, cost-effective rocket.

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Re: 0984: "Space Launch System"

Postby kiar » Wed Nov 30, 2011 3:30 pm UTC

I am also somewhat offended with Wernher von Braun being called a Nazi. Von Braun wanted nothing to do with the war when he was in Germany; inspired by Jules Vern's book "From the Earth to the Moon" he had always been interested in space travel. After an early V-2 flight, one of his friends congratulated him on its success. However, he replied "too bad it landed on the wrong planet!" German officials heard him say this, and immediately threw him in jail. He was scheduled for execution before his scientist friends came to his rescue, and begged for his life to be spared in exchange for him pleading loyalty to the Nazi party. When WWII was coming to a close, he hid thousands of documents in an abandoned mine to keep the Nazis from destroying them, and fled to American lines.
After all that, can you truly say he was a Nazi?
To this day, von Braun remains a personal hero to me. Hearing his name so tarnished is, if nothing else, disheartening.

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Re: 0984: "Space Launch System"

Postby Sir_Read-a-Lot » Wed Nov 30, 2011 3:39 pm UTC

Andromeda321 wrote:Gather round while I sing you of Wernher von Braun
A man whose allegiance is ruled by expedience
Call him a Nazi, he won't even frown
"Ha, Nazi schmazi," says Wernher von Braun

Don't say that he's hypocritical
Say rather that he's apolitical
"Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down
That's not my department," says Wernher von Braun

Some have harsh words for this man of renown
But some think our attitude should be one of gratitude
Like the widows and cripples in old London town
Who owe their large pensions to Wernher von Braun

You too may be a big hero
Once you've learned to count backwards to zero
"In German oder English I know how to count down
Und I'm learning Chinese," says Wernher von Braun


Someday I might get over my crush for Tom Lehrer but today is not that day! :D

You got here before I did! [/jealous]

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Re: 0984: "Space Launch System"

Postby J Thomas » Wed Nov 30, 2011 3:43 pm UTC

Joran wrote:I love Copenhagen, such an elegant play. However, when I was reading it, I interpreted the play as basically that we can never be sure whether Heisenberg was trying to build the bomb or not.


Heisenberg uncertainty.

Heisenberg is the cat in Schopenhauer's box.
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Re: 0984: "Space Launch System"

Postby harperska » Wed Nov 30, 2011 3:47 pm UTC

Apeiron wrote:The only circumstance that the word "one" should EVER have an S attached to it is if "one" is the name of things we are talking about. For instance, if we are calling one dollar bills ones.

One, as a quantity, should never be plural. One is the definition of SINGULAR.

Most of the time the "one" following these/those is redundant. Just say these, those or that.

Semi-literate fuckwit saying "langwidgizz chanj, git over it, LOOLLOoLoLl!!!1!" in 3... 2... 1....



Does your grammar nazi mind twitch a little bit whenever you hear the lyrics to 'White Christmas'?

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Re: 0984: "Space Launch System"

Postby MathUhhhSaurus » Wed Nov 30, 2011 4:06 pm UTC

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But that won't keep me warm in the middle of the night..."

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Re: 0984: "Space Launch System"

Postby The Moomin » Wed Nov 30, 2011 4:07 pm UTC

Apeiron wrote:The only circumstance that the word "one" should EVER have an S attached to it is if "one" is the name of things we are talking about. For instance, if we are calling one dollar bills ones.

One, as a quantity, should never be plural. One is the definition of SINGULAR.

Most of the time the "one" following these/those is redundant. Just say these, those or that.

Semi-literate fuckwit saying "langwidgizz chanj, git over it, LOOLLOoLoLl!!!1!" in 3... 2... 1....


Each individual rocket is singular, it's just that there were a lot of singular individual rockets.
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Re: 0984: "Space Launch System"

Postby CasualSax » Wed Nov 30, 2011 4:27 pm UTC

jetsam wrote:@VAXHeadroom's comment:

The Pope was also a Nazi. He didn't mean it, of course, because he was too young. So of course, there's no need to apologize.


Mandatory enlistment followed by desertion is not my definition of Nazi. He didn't make a stand and fight against his country and face certain death, but I don't expect that of anyone. I am surprised that he has not wished he did more, but I can only imagine the hopelessness related to strict military rule.

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Re: 0984: "Space Launch System"

Postby blabla » Wed Nov 30, 2011 4:45 pm UTC

VAXHeadroom wrote:So, getting a little pissy over the use of "Nazi" in today's comic. Werner was, technically, a member of the Nazi party, but only so they didn't kill him.


That's not even what he himself claims. He claims that he joined the Nazi party because else he would not have been able to continue his work (his work being development of military rockets) not because he would have been killed.
And there is doubt about that being true, but at the best he was a horrible opportunist that did not care that he helped a fascist regime developing weapons to destroy everyone else or that concentration camp slave labor was used in his rocket program.

Not everyone who was not in the active resistance against the Nazi regime was a Nazi, that would have been something that really could have get you killed. But von Braun was not just one of the "silent masses" who did not fight against the Nazis for fear of getting killed. Von Braun actively and knowingly helped the Nazis develop weapons, he definitely was not a hero some seem to see in him.

kiar wrote:Von Braun wanted nothing to do with the war when he was in Germany; inspired by Jules Vern's book "From the Earth to the Moon" he had always been interested in space travel. After an early V-2 flight, one of his friends congratulated him on its success. However, he replied "too bad it landed on the wrong planet!" German officials heard him say this, and immediately threw him in jail. He was scheduled for execution before his scientist friends came to his rescue, and begged for his life to be spared in exchange for him pleading loyalty to the Nazi party. When WWII was coming to a close, he hid thousands of documents in an abandoned mine to keep the Nazis from destroying them, and fled to American lines.

That is just wrong. Get your facts straight.

At the best von Braun was an opportunistic asshole. His specific views on the Nazi party can be debated, and there is his word against other statements but I cannot see how anyone could see this person as a hero.


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