Pushing the Postal Service’s Theoretical Limits: XKCD on the mail


By Ashley Bowen-Murphy, curatorial intern and American Studies doctoral student

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“You can do this one in every 30 times and still have 97% positive feedback”
XKCD, 2007 October 5, licensed via the Creative Commons

Popular webcomic XKCD, by former NASA roboticist Randall Munroe, typically mines computer science, technology, mathematics, and science for its jokes. Nevertheless, the stick figures that populate XKCD need the mail to deliver items sold or purchased online. For the characters in XKCD, the mail possesses the ability to “make the world a weirder place.” Running gags include Ebay packages and bobcats (above) and the limits of the United States Postal Service’s abilities (below).

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“I’m on the USPS ‘no fly’ list.”
XKCD, 2006 May 1, licensed via the Creative Commons

Although the USPS does not deliver bobcats, they have delivered bees and babies! While it remains legal to ship certain insects through the mail (including bees), the USPS stopped shipping babies about one hundred years ago. Likewise, although you probably cannot send pi through the mail, it is possible to ship eggs, butter, and other ingredients needed to make a delicious pie.

Finally, we suspect that the XKCD stickmen would probably approve of the Navy and postal service using a missile to deliver the mail in 1959.