XKCD or Why we need science literacy - Computer Science Edition

Science Literacy Week logo

September 19-25 is Science Literacy Week and we are celebrating it at the Leddy Library.

As we explained yesterday, one noble reason to become science literate is to understand the jokes of the web comic, XKCD by Randall Munroe. Randall describes himself as, "I'm just this guy, you know? I'm a CNU graduate with a degree in physics. Before starting xkcd, I worked on robots at NASA's Langley Research Center in Virginia. As of June 2007 I live in Massachusetts. In my spare time I climb things, open strange doors, and go to goth clubs dressed as a frat guy so I can stand around and look terribly uncomfortable. At frat parties I do the same thing, but the other way around." Munroe is also the author of What if? : serious scientific answers to absurd hypothetical questions and Thing explainer : complicated stuff in simple words , both of which can be found on the shelves of the Leddy Library.

Every day this week, I'm going to offer some XKCD comics dedicated to Physics, Earth Science, Biology, Biochemistry and Chemistry, Mathematics, and - today, Computer Science! -

Don't worry if you don't get the jokes - each cartoon is linked to it's respective XKCD Explain entry!


REGULAR EXPRESSIONS

http://www.xkcd.com/208/

Alt-text: Wait, forgot to escape a space. Wheeeeee[taptaptap]eeeeee.


PASSWORD STRENGTH

http://www.xkcd.com/936/

Alt-text: To anyone who understands information theory and security and is in an infuriating argument with someone who does not (possibly involving mixed case), I sincerely apologize.


PROTOCOL

http://www.xkcd.com/1323/

Alt-text: Changing the names would be easier, but if you're not comfortable lying, try only making friends with people named Alice, Bob, Carol, etc.


PYTHON

http://www.xkcd.com/353/

Alt-text:  I wrote 20 short programs in Python yesterday. It was wonderful. Perl, I'm leaving you.


CRON MAIL

http://www.xkcd.com/1728/

Alt-text: Take THAT, piece of 1980s-era infrastructure I've inexplicably maintained on my systems for 15 years despite never really learning how it works.


BACKUPS

http://www.xkcd.com/1718/

Alt-text : Maybe you should keep FEWER backups; it sounds like throwing away everything you've done and starting from scratch might not be the worst idea.


ALGORITHIMS

http://www.xkcd.com/1667/

Alt-text: There was a schism in 2007, when a sect advocating OpenOffice created a fork of Sunday.xlsx and maintained it independently for several months. The efforts to reconcile the conflicting schedules led to the reinvention, within the cells of the spreadsheet, of modern version control.


BACKSLASHES

http://www.xkcd.com/1638/

Alt-text: I searched my .bash_history for the line with the highest ratio of special characters to regular alphanumeric characters, and the winner was: cat out.txt | grep -o "\\\[[(].*\\\[\])][^)\]]*$" ... I have no memory of this and no idea what I was trying to do, but I sure hope it worked.


DEPENDENCIES

http://www.xkcd.com/754/

Alt-text: The prereqs for CPSC 357, the class on package management, are CPSC 432, CPSC 357, and glibc2.5 or later.


And there's is so much more.... thank you Randall.