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What does Randall from XKCD.com mean with this joke?


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closed as off topic by Alex Becker, Matt Pressland, copper.hat, Jasper Loy, Ross Millikan Mar 12 '13 at 16:30

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An example of bad labelling, I guess. –  J.H. Mar 12 '13 at 16:23
The exponent is supposed to be a citation. But I'm not sure if that makes it funny. –  Alex Becker Mar 12 '13 at 16:23
explainxkcd.com –  Aaron Blenkush Mar 12 '13 at 16:56

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

$r^2$ looks like $r$-squared. But in fact the exponent $2$ is a footnote mark.

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Hard to realize when there's no note number 1. –  Sebastián Grignoli Mar 12 '13 at 16:26
Well...it's certainly not the best cartoon of XKCD. I guess the exponent $2$ was chosen, because it makes the formula very close to the formula for the area of a square (up to the factor $2$). –  azimut Mar 12 '13 at 16:29
… and it’s a kick at the (arguably) bad habit of choosing numbers to mark footnotes in mathematical papers. I personally think it’s fine, as long as you stay out of adding footnotes to formulas which may be a bad habit in it’s own right. –  k.stm Mar 12 '13 at 16:32
@K.Stm.: I completely agree. –  azimut Mar 12 '13 at 16:33

I guess the pun is in the fact that, you can't square a circle (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Squaring_the_circle)

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I guess azimut answer is the right one ... my bad –  kaharas Mar 12 '13 at 16:28

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