Comics about mathematics, science, and the student life.

Proof By Previous Result

Student 1: "That last proof was difficult, right?" Student 2: "Not really. It was like three lines." S1: "Only three!? Mine took a whole page! What technique did you use." S2: "'Proof by quoting a previous result.'"

“To prove this statement, I invoke Theorem 3.2 of our textbook in conjunction with Corollary 67.1, which together implies our result trivially.”

Spin

Left panel (Politician): "We may have lost the battle, but we will win the war!" Right panel (Scientist, after a null result): "This might seem like a disappointment, but it's still a good thing. As long as get more money." Caption: No matter your job, humans are always good at putting a spin on things.

The side job of a scientist is being a public advocate for science anyway. I guess we are close to politicians after all.

Reasonable Assumptions

Left panel (Your paper): "As you can see, my paper uses the regular assumptions." (Points to pi = e = 3, and the small angle approximation.) Right panel (Other papers): "What?! This author is assuming that N^2 - 1 = N^2 when N = 10^6. What a ridiculous assumption!"

I just try to be unreasonable all the time. Much easier to be consistent.

Typographical Miss

Student: "Wow, I can't believe the author added so many problems that differ by a single number. Some poor souls are going to do the wrong one for the assignment." (Half an hour later) "Damn it!"

As you might imagine, this is definitely based on a true story. I mean come on, the problem was identical to the previous, save one number.

Question Period

Professor: "...and that completes the proof. Any questions?" (Three microseconds later) "Okay great, let's move on!"

“You just told me I had to give the students a chance to ask questions, not that they actually needed to!”

Usual Approximations

Professor: "Since this class has both a mathematics and physics course code, I made two tests."

“Basically, I know you mathematicians enjoy solving the more general case, so I figured you would like the challenge!”

Data Generators

Researcher 1: "So Professor, how are the experiments coming along?" Researcher 2: "Not so great. The data generators are dreadfully slow." R1: "The data generators... Wait, are you talking about your grad students?" R2: "Isn't that what I said?"

“I don’t think that’s the correct term to use-“

“Okay fine, the data farmers are slow. Happy now?”

Temporary Amnesia

Professor: "Welcome to your first 'real' course in mathematics! If you thought proofs were basically an exercise in saying, 'Let's temporarily pretend we don't know what the answer will be,' well you were correct."

The difficultly with proofs at first is that you’re required to show things that feel obvious. A good proof should provide an explanation for something which isn’t clear. Unfortunately, when you start proving divisibility rules, there’s a limit to how much insight you get from the proof.

Semester Cycle

A diagram describing the knowledge a person has as they go through a course. The curve steadily rises, with bumps at both midterms and a surge near the final exam. Then, there's a sheer cliff once the final is over in which students lose most of their knowledge.

This is something I worry about a lot when learning. It’s why I try to teach and write about the topics I’m learning in order to push away that cliff.

Toy Theory

Presentation slide describes the research as being a model which is 246-dimensional, with three flavours of time, and lots of turtles. Researcher: "As you can see, my work promises to shed light on many outstanding problems in physics." Audience member: "But can your model even describe reality?" Researcher: "Oh of course not. It's just a toy model! But it might bring us insights for our universe, so it's worth funding."

I understand the need for basic research, but I sometimes wonder how many different toy theories and models we really need.