Comics about mathematics, science, and the student life.

To The Brim

Person 1: "Are you sure that's going to fit?" Person 2 (filling a container labelled 'stuff in your life' and getting near the brim): "Oh yeah, look at all of that room!"

“If it’s not in danger of overflowing, you’re not doing it right!”

Definition

(Dictionary entry) Physicist: A person who works very hard to avoid exactly solving the problem they set for themselves.

“Okay class, we’ve spent a lot of time writing down these complicated expressions. Well, it turns out we can’t actually evaluate these, so we’re just going to use some tricks to get approximate solutions.”

Strategic Email

"Wow, this student once again emailed me just as I sat down. I guess I'll start with their email before getting to the 97 others." Caption: My new email strategy: schedule emails to be sent right as they check their mountain of email.

Don’t tell me Handwaving never gives out good advice for academia!

Enthusiasm

A rapidly growing function depicting how the number of pieces of chalk broken scales with the enthusiasm of the professor.

The best is when they break a piece, pause, try again, and break another piece a few moments later.

Breakthrough

"Hmm, this part of the grant application is asking us why we should be doing this research. What should I say?" "Just say it will change the world if we can make a breakthrough." "Is that likely?" "Heck no, but there's no reason to tell them that!"

Ah, there’s nothing more relaxing than writing grant applications. They really make you indulge in your biggest fantasies for your research.

Show Me

How to respond to scientific claims you don't agree with: 1) Show me derivation from first principles! 2) Show me the original paper! 3) Show me the - Ugh, never mind. Hah, I win!

It’s funny how many disagreements ultimately end like this.

Fractional Gains

A student pulls a cart that depicts their obligations. It is quite full, but yet they say yes to adding something else because it's just a small fractional gain.

Beware of percentages.

Basics

Host: "Professor, could you start off by explaining our standard conception of gravity for our listeners, and then share what you've been doing-" Professor: "Gah, I can't do this. It's all trivial. Nobody wants to listen to that!" Caption: When you've spent so much time talking with experts that you forget that some people are just interested in the basics.

I sometimes notice myself rolling my eyes when I see another explanation of a basic concept that I know well, but then I realize that the target audience is not me.

Communicating to the public is important and distinct from communicating with experts.

Loyal

Scientist, walking a pet on a leash (but only the collar is visible): "Even if no one else thinks you exist, I believe in you, pal." Caption: A scientist with his pet theory.

Admit it. You have a pet like this, too.

Existential Risk

First panel. Person One: "I'm developing an app to make people take existential risks seriously." Person Two: "That's great, but how are you going to do that?" (A device beeps) Second panel. P1 with their phone out: "See this counter? It shows the number of people who are currently awake and have the power to destroy the world. Right now, it's only at four, but I've seen it much higher." Third panel. P2: "For real? That's nuts!" P1: "And there's another one. Do you want the beta build? I'm testing a feature in which the app sends you more and more dire end-of-the-world quotes when certain thresholds are crossed." Fourth panel. P2: "I think I'm going to have trouble sleeping from now on." P1: "Don't worry, my machine-learning algorithm is predicting that things will get worse."

“Oh yeah, and that’s a good thing you won’t be able to sleep. That’s what I call ‘taking it seriously’!”


Disclaimer: I do not know what kind of values for such an app would be typical, but I think any number other than zero is a little terrifying.