20 Volumes of Questionable Content Later…

Before I launch into some not-quite-but-almost-pointless algebra, let me explain why I’m calculating the number of years it will take for the Questionable Content books to catch up with the comic itself. First, I love QC. I was never that kid who watched cartoons on TV in the morning, or read comics in the paper at breakfast, but I do read QC every morning. Sometimes I check it on Saturday because I’m CONVINCED it’s Friday, and OMG WHY DIDN’T JEPH POST A COMIC IT’S FRIDAY WHAT’S WRONG??!!!!111!!!111 Second, I own both the QC books, because I love supporting artists and getting books I love signed by the authors. With this in mind, the other day I wondered to myself, “Self, if each QC book only has 300 comics in it, and if the current comic number is 2112, won’t it take a long time for the two to catch up? Doesn’t that mean that my bookshelf will be FULL of QC books in a few years?!” The answer, of course, was to put on my math hat, put pen to paper, and start working out a problem I could probably have done more quickly in high school*.

Because I haven’t blogged in a while, and because I thought this exercise would be fun to blog about, I’m going to walk you through the steps of figuring out exactly how long it will take, and how many volumes there will be. If you don’t want to come along for the ride, skip ahead to the second to last paragraph and weep because you’re depriving your brain of a chance to grow.

The approach I used is to come up with an equation for the comic number based on the week. Yes, I could have done it with the number of days, and maybe it would be a teensy bit more accurate, but that would entail carrying around a 1/7 that I don’t feel like dealing with. For our purposes, this is good enough. Hopefully most of you remember the equation for a straight line:

If not, let me refresh your memory. m is the slope of the line, b is where you started, and x and y are where you are on the line. For this example, I want y to give me the number of the comic from x, which is the number of weeks since the starting point when the number of comics was b. (Remember that when you’re adding things, they have to have the same units!) So this is pretty much what the equation looks like in words:

The starting time in which we’re interested is the launch date of the second book, because I already have my volume 2, and I want to know how many additional volumes I’ll have to buy. The first book was launched 20 weeks ago, when the comic number was 2012 (dun dun duuun…) so our starting number is 2012. There are 5 comics per week, so we plug those into the equation and get:

So that tells us the number of the comic on the Friday of any number of weeks since the book was released. Now we want to be able to ask how far along the next book is on any week after the launch date of the second volume. So we work some similar magic, and calculating that there are 319 days between the launch of the first and second volumes, which – divided by 7 – is 45.6 weeks. Since the second volume contained 299 comics, we can divide that by 45.6 and figure out that there are about 6.57 comics per week in “book time.” The second volume ended at 599, so that’s our starting number, and we get:

Then all we have to do is set the equations equal to each other and solve! Hooray math!

That means that 900 weeks – or 17.31 years – from now, the QC books will finally catch up to the comics… assuming that Jeph keeps the series going for that long. But how many volumes is that? Well, we know how many weeks it takes to make one volume, and we know how many weeks there are in a year, so let’s make a ratio that can tell us the answer:

That will be $354.96 in total, which is $20.51 a year. Remember that this is in addition to the number of volumes already published, and that you can’t have 0.72 of a volume, so the actual number of volumes will be 22.

Ok, so here’s the sad part where I tell you that none of this works in real life. We’re assuming that it takes the same amount of time to prepare and publish each volume, which I can’t believe is actually true. Maybe the time per volume will average out to 45.6 weeks, but we have no reason to believe it will. Also, as I mentioned before, we’re assuming that the comic will continue for another 17 to 18 years, which would be awesome, and is certainly possible (the oldest American comic strip is Katzenjammer Kids, at 114 years old – thank you Wikipedia,) but will it? I guess we’ll find out. In the meantime, I want a plush pintsize. You know, because WHO DOESN’T?!

If you’re curious about how I typeset the equations for this post, I used LaTeX, which is a typesetting language commonly used for research papers, among other things. I created the images to insert here with an online LaTeX equation generator. If you want to learn LaTeX (it’s really a great language for math and for any other sort of writing,) the LaTeX Wikibook is really fantastic.

*For the record, my calculus is skills are sharp as tacks. I can double integrate ANYTHING… ok, not anything, but you get my point. #mathjokes

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