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Author Topic: Why do we talk about the characters as if they were real? But then, why not?  (Read 18035 times)

Is it cold in here?

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This question seems to come up in every thread about the motivations or nature of the characters. They're fictional. They're two-dimensional drawings. So why do we talk about how they feel, what's going on in their heads, and what they're like?

I say they're fictional, but not "just fictional". They're well written fiction, which means they have some depth. Being in a cartoon doesn't mean being cartoonish -- they are drawings, but they're more like real people than Dagwood ever was.

The depth shows in the apparently out of character moments and the occasional flash of self-analysis like Dora's in 293 or Faye's in 445.

They act and react like real people, as opposed to just filling a role to be funny (except Pintsize). They have problems which mostly we can relate to (though I've never had a government agent try to confiscate my computer for having an illegal laser).

That said, are we taking things too far? Their creator, who has said he's transcribing their adventures as opposed to creating them, said in the Ask Jeph thread that to him they feel like real people "on good days", in other words not all the time.
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Jackie Blue

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Man, this thread really makes me want to suck some cock.

Barmymoo

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People relate to films, books and television programmes (OH GOD TV soaps, girls at my hockey club once compared a real life event to an episode of Waterloo Road), so why not a comic? No one says "Why are we talking about Neighbours? They're fictional". I guess the difference is that Neighbours characters are acted by real people, whereas QC characters are... drawn by a real person.

Nope, sorry. Can't explain why people (who incidentally are also members of a webcomic forum) always object to analysis of the characters. We like to relate to things that represent us and are similar to aspects of our lives, I guess that's why entertainment is such a big part of people's lives.
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There's this really handy "other thing" I'm going to write as a footnote to my abstract that I can probably explore these issues in. I think I'll call it my "dissertation."

GenericName

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People only object to it because after a bit, Jeph starts to find it creepy.
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pwhodges

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It's called fantasy, and there's nowt wrong with that in moderation.  If you talk about Jane Austin's characters it's called literature.  If you talk about characters in a book written 2000 years ago it's called religion.

Paul
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"As long as we're all living, and as long as we're all having fun, that should do it, right?"  (from: The Eccentric Family )

Thaes

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Who says they aren´t real? On some level, everything´s real.
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Norton Quintessential

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I do it because I'm unable to relate to real people. :wink:
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snalin

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People only object to it because after a bit, Jeph starts to find it creepy.

And that means we have to stop? I mean, it's interesting, why should we care that he doesn't like it?

I mean, he's just the Author, not God. Although the line is a bit thin sometimes.
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benji

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I understand why Jeph reacts the way he does. I would get freaked out by people being that passionate about something I had created too. Also, some people do take it to an odd place. The whole people wanting to have sex with fictional characters is kind of odd, though by no means limited to this comic strip.

On the other hand, I don't think analyzing characters (or being interested in characters) is that odd at all. Even though Jeph gets a little weirded out (which, again, is understandable) he does draw a character driven comic. Given that, we are going to be inclined to consider the characters, to think about them and to talk about them. Some people (my self included at times) do take it to a silly level though. Sometimes we manage to produce pages of character analysis and argument from a comic strip that, realistically, represents about 30 seconds of action. Sometimes we attack or defend characters as though they were people instead of characters, evaluating whether or not they were being good people instead of whether they were presented realistically or whether we thought what they did was compelling or funny.
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Barmymoo

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The sex thing is weird, and would be in any form. I find it weird when people lust after film stars, and they exist. Saying that Dora, for example, is pretty is one thing. Saying you'd "tap that" is definitely another.
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There's this really handy "other thing" I'm going to write as a footnote to my abstract that I can probably explore these issues in. I think I'll call it my "dissertation."

Is it cold in here?

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Who says they aren´t real? On some level, everything´s real.
My sweetie had a high school boyfriend who argued just that point in some detail.

(They went to a Catholic school, so theological reasoning came naturally). He started from the position that everything that exists is in the mind of God, and since God is the creator then being in the mind of God necessarily means something exists. God is omniscient, therefore knows everything authors come up with as soon as they come up with it, therefore all creative works appear in the mind of God, therefore they exist. He used this line of reasoning to prove that Narnia, Barsoon, and all the other realms of imagination were no more fictional than we are.
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Surgoshan

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I've spotted the flaw in that argument; who else can see it?
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Barmymoo

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There's this really handy "other thing" I'm going to write as a footnote to my abstract that I can probably explore these issues in. I think I'll call it my "dissertation."

Surgoshan

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Wear that dress tonight?  Put on the red light?  Walk the streets for money, He don't care if it's wrong or if it's right?
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Pumpkin Eater

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Have their mind made up? Put away their makeup? Tell you once, and not tell you again?

It's a bad way?
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tomselleck69

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Don't post the flaw, it is so damn arousing to know that my Maria Callas/Dale from Chip & Dale Rescue Rangers slashfic is taking place out there somewhere because GOD.
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Thaes

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(They went to a Catholic school, so theological reasoning came naturally). He started from the position that everything that exists is in the mind of God, and since God is the creator then being in the mind of God necessarily means something exists. God is omniscient, therefore knows everything authors come up with as soon as they come up with it, therefore all creative works appear in the mind of God, therefore they exist. He used this line of reasoning to prove that Narnia, Barsoon, and all the other realms of imagination were no more fictional than we are.

Just to make it clear, my answer was actually based on Popperian cosmology instead of a religious point of view, but that religious one is fascinating as well. Of course, as people have mentioned here, it´s a bit flawed, but fascinating nevertheless.
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Doug S. Machina

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Don't post the flaw, it is so damn arousing to know that my Maria Callas/Dale from Chip & Dale Rescue Rangers slashfic is taking place out there somewhere because GOD.

(Much laughter.) But if it's an infinitely large universe and there ae only so many ways to arrange matter, that means somewhere way out there is QC-world, or Scary Go Round world, or Chip & Dale Rescue Rangers. An exciting though alarming thought.

Or, well, probably not.
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Man, if I was the sort of person who quoted things like that in my signature, I'd quote that it my signature.

Surgoshan

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The universe may be infinite, but that doesn't mean it's infinitely large.
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Thaes

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If it wasn´t infinitely large, what would be behind its borders?
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Surgoshan

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The earth is technically infinite and yet has finite boundaries.  Posit a two-dimensional world, Flatland.  A flatlander can conceive of only two dimensions.  Put him on the surface of the earth and tell him to travel to the edge.  He would travel for a long time and eventually return to his starting point, utterly bemused as to how he got there. 

Were you to attempt to travel to the edge of the universe, you, too, would return to your starting point, bemused by a higher dimension yet.  The universe is infinite without being infinitely large.
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pwhodges

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And remember that there are different infinities as well.

Paul
« Last Edit: 20 May 2008, 15:40 by pwhodges »
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"Being human, having your health; that's what's important."  (from: Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi )
"As long as we're all living, and as long as we're all having fun, that should do it, right?"  (from: The Eccentric Family )

Doug S. Machina

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That is the most succint expression of why the universe is thought to be infinite when it's finitely old and started at a single point in my rather shallow investigations of the subject.

The idea came from New Scientist I think. I guess they didn't say "infinitely large" then, but I remember the idea was that there's much more space and matter than ways to arrange it.

And remember that there are difference infinities as well.

Paul

Pardon?
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Man, if I was the sort of person who quoted things like that in my signature, I'd quote that it my signature.

pwhodges

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Sorry - should have been different.  Just as there are numbers of different sizes, so there are infinities of different sizes.

Paul
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"Being human, having your health; that's what's important."  (from: Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi )
"As long as we're all living, and as long as we're all having fun, that should do it, right?"  (from: The Eccentric Family )

Red Peril

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The answer lies in Sociology, particularly someone like Anderson. Essentially our knowledge of people in the world around that is not based on direct interaction is essentially imagined, so even when we think about something that someone we know very well did our interpretation is basically non factual. Bearing in mind that our knowledge of the world is basically a product of our own imagination, and so is our knowledge of most of the people in it, it is a fairly short step to privileging webcomic characters as equal to real people, because we know as much about, if not more, than most of the real people in the world, and our construction of them is just as accurate as our construction of the majority of people in the world. Or maybe its just because these characters are actually more interesting than a lot of people you meet anyway.
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Is it cold in here?

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Great post. All we know about the QC characters is some drawings and lettering on a computer. All we know about each other is some text on a computer.
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Thank you, Dr. Karikó.

GenericName

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Is It Cold In Here, you are no more real to me than Dora. Therefore, we shall now commence talking about which forumites we would bang.

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Doug S. Machina

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Actually GenericName, I know less about you than any of the cast, so you could be far less real than, say, Meena. Except for her being a character in a comic and you (presumably) being a real person at a computer. And I don't I've ever wanted to "bang" another forumite. I'm surely you're all, (well, mostly) lovely though.

Paul: thanks for your answer. Even if that page is making my head hurt.
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Man, if I was the sort of person who quoted things like that in my signature, I'd quote that it my signature.

Barmymoo

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I'd rather have sex with a forumite than a selection of pixels on a screen. Although it would be more likely to create babies, I guess.
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There's this really handy "other thing" I'm going to write as a footnote to my abstract that I can probably explore these issues in. I think I'll call it my "dissertation."

Is it cold in here?

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Today's strip got me thinking that it's not only that the characters are written like real people. It's also that they're written like real people you could care about. Dora made a screwup that anyone could imagine having made, and clearly wanted the earth to open up and swallow her (life lesson here: it never does when you actually need it to). Faye then did something unexpected, like real people do, and showed that she's healing, like real people do.
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Is it cold in here?

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Quote from Leibniz:
"This world may be a dream. And existence may be an illusion. But to me, this dream or illusions is real enough if by using reason well we are never deceived by it".

So by that standard the QC universe is real until cats start changing sex spontaneously.
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SleeperCylon

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It's hard to get into such a character driven storyline with likable characters without suspending disbelief and thinking of them as real people.
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Is it cold in here?

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Yes, from willing suspension of disbelief to eager suspension of disbelief.

It seems to be that there's also a kind of shorthand involved. It takes too long to say "a real woman who acts the same way the fictional character Dora has been portrayed as acting in several online cartoons would be said to be acting out of emotional insecurity" when we can just say "Dora is insecure". People can have attributes like black hair or insecurity without actually existing.
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GenericName

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So "I'd hit that" is our shorthand for "A real woman who acts and looks the same way as the fictional character Dora has been portrayed as acting and looking in the most recent strip or several strips would be in serious danger of spontaneous humping by me"?

I can see why we use it.
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Doug S. Machina

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Interesting topic, this.

People can have attributes like black hair or insecurity without actually existing.

This made me think, "Just because I don't exist doesn't mean I don't have feelings!"
Jeph: "How are you phoning me, Hannelore?"
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Man, if I was the sort of person who quoted things like that in my signature, I'd quote that it my signature.

britMonster

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If my boyfriend is a fellow forumite am I allowed to want to bang him?
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britMonster is all hot and bothered by the thought of febreeze.

you're invited : www.lost.eu/75505

Border Reiver

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Sure, why not?

We just don't need all the gory details.
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"It's a futile gesture that my sense of right and wrong tells me I should make." Is It Cold Here, 19 Mar 2013, 02:12

NotDave

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Might be slightly bad form to register purely to reply to a single thread, but hey, here goes (and hi, by the way).

This is actually a topic which interests me; why it is that fictional works, literature, film or whatever, matter to us despite usually having no referential value (Don Quixote does not refer to a real person in the world, just as I'm assuming the characters of QC don't have their exact real life counterparts - this isn't a documentary).

My favourite theory, at the moment, relates to the idea of metaphors of personal identification (a term stolen from Kendall Walton, if you're interested, and the art crtic Arthur Danto also writes on something similar). By this it is meant that in the act of reading, we metaphorically identify ourselves with the characters and situations being described in the fictional work -  the work becomes about us. And in the process of reading we discover things about ourselves and the world.

Obviously this is a rather simplified version, and it cannot possibly be a comprehensive explanation of the appeal of fictive works. We don't necessarily identify with one character in particular (although we might) and we also don't identify with every character all of the time. But we do become "involved" enough that the characters matter to us. While we are reading or watching the work, the characters become "real" through an act of imagination on the part of the reader.

In QC, for example, I think it is fair to say many of us do "recognise" something about the characters as familiar - the indie cultre, the dynamic of the relationships between the characters. And in the process of reading we become part of that in some way. We don't sit there thinking; "Marten is talking now, so now I'll be Marten. Better get ready to be Hanners in a minute." It is just (supposedly) the way in which engaged reading works.

Whether we can learn from QC, or Hollywood romances or soap operas in the same way that we might from "high" literature or art is debatable. I'd argue that although Henry James may work on a metaphysical and epistemological level that usually evades a lot of pop culture, there is still a lot that we can gain from these kinds of things on a personal and emotional level (for any classicists out there, think Aristotle and his concept of catharsis).

I'm not quite sure I can stretch this to people wanting to have sex with cartoon characters, and I'm damn sure Danto and Walton wouldn't, but I suppose that if we have "bought them to life", so to speak, then it could be understandable. Still seems a bit odd though, to say the least. And I doubt that concentrating on one's amorous desires towards fictive characters really leads to the self-improvement that this theory suggests fiction can help us achieve.

But anyway, yeah. Philosophy geek returning to lurking now.
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Thaes

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You can´t return to lurktivity after a post like that! That was magnificent!
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bunnyThor

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I'd rather have sex with a forumite than a selection of pixels on a screen. Although it would be more likely to create babies, I guess.

Unless you have actually met this theoretical forumite, you should realize that as far as you have evidence, the forumite *is* just a selection of pixels on a screen.
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Is it cold in here?

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... in the act of reading, we metaphorically identify ourselves with the characters and situations being described in the fictional work -  the work becomes about us. And in the process of reading we discover things about ourselves and the world.
Intriguing!

I'd argue that it's not that the work "becomes about us" as we identify with the characters and the situations, but that we recognize elements of those which remind us of ourselves, or of parts of our selves, or of selves we want to be, or of selves we might become.

Still, it's the recognition of common experience with the characters that makes them feel real. I have more in common with Dora than with Pintsize, so Dora feels more real.

I just commented on the relative degrees of reality of two comic strip characters. I believe the technical psychological term for this is "batshit crazy".
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Vendetagainst

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That is the most succint expression of why the universe is thought to be infinite when it's finitely old and started at a single point in my rather shallow investigations of the subject.

I think it's erroneous to claim that there was a single point in which the universe began.
If you accept the Big Bang theory then the universe as it is now is explained, but the "origin" of the universe is necessarilly before this or else there can be no explaination for the matter involved.
Also, it is very difficult to claim that there can be a point in which the universe was created, for that would suggest that there was some driving force behind the creation and thus that the universe in some form had already existed.
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himynameisjulien

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I too have thought that same idea, and every time I do, since I have read the hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy, I think of sand flowing upwards into a cone. I suppose, as well, that if the universe had started as a singularity, then it would have immediately broken down into a black hole. After all, that's what a black hole is, right? Any amount of matter compacted into a singularity will create nearly unlimited or unlimited gravity. But who am I to say that the universe isn't a black hole? For all we know, all black holes contain universes (universii?) identical or similar to our own. It's not as if we've explored them. My best guess is that there are ways of interaction and changes is phase, and whole new phases, of matter that we are unaware of and could not begin to imagine, and through some change in phase from nothing to something (theoretically impossible) our universe was born. Just writing this, I realize now why people choose to be religious in so many cases; it's so fucking hard to comprehend the magnitude and origin of pretty much everything. I mean astrophysically everything, not like a plate or something. Just thinking about black holes occupies your entire mind. Not to mention all this universe stuff. Ooooh, another theory. Time is circular, like the person who posted earlier said about the universe. Or maybe all moments exist in parallel, constantly. Slaughter-house Five.
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NotDave

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With any luck the LHC will clear it all up for us. Then we can start making our brains hurt over a whole new set of problems.
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himynameisjulien

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With any luck the LHC will clear it all up for us. Then we can start making our brains hurt over a whole new set of problems.
I hear it's online as we speak, or will be shortly. Correct me if I'm wrong, which I suspect I am. I also suspect that the research conducted in the LHC will be some of the most important in recent history. *crosses fingers* Higgs Boson.
Maybe if we don't find the Higgs Boson we can shoot pigeons with the LHC. Or give helicopters cancer. I love xkcd.
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NotDave

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Not on quite yet (unless those sneaky physicists have been lying). Turned on in August, several months to get up to speed and (possibly) several years before we're in a position to note anything particularly interesting.

So you can probably uncross your fingers for now.
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himynameisjulien

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Ok, thanks for clearing that up. "Up to speed"? If you mean, as in, "design the experiments + set up accelerator" then I see what you mean,
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voyvf

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Reading NotDave's post here has thus sentenced me to a few days worth of googling and a few months worth of philosophical speculation and analysis.

Thanks, NotDave.

(No, seriously. Thanks!)
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NotDave

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Ok, thanks for clearing that up. "Up to speed"? If you mean, as in, "design the experiments + set up accelerator" then I see what you mean,

Actually I believe it's just for the particles they are accelerating to accelerate. Or something. I'm just going on something I read in a newspaper supplement, so I'm probably not in the best position to go into details about these things.

Reading NotDave's post here has thus sentenced me to a few days worth of googling and a few months worth of philosophical speculation and analysis.

Thanks, NotDave.

(No, seriously. Thanks!)

No problem. I plan to spend the majority of next year pondering similar problems. If I have a breakthrough, I'll try to remember to share it.
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