Comics about mathematics, science, and the student life.

In Theory

A researcher explains that they work in theory, by which they mean "in theory", so as little as possible.

“I don’t know why people think my job is so special.”

Show Your Work

In the first panel (representing school), the professor tells the student to always show their work while solving a problem. In the second panel (representing research), the professor tells the student that they need to show less work.

“We’re working with professionals here, not some young grad students!”

“But what about the grad students like me who are trying to learn from our paper?”

“I’m sure they will figure it out.”

Frictionless Learning

A student sits on a block and slides on a frictionless plane.

Watch a pretty video explaining a concept, and you will come out thinking you know everything. Sit down and try to work through a problem, however, and you will quickly realize you learned almost nothing.

Learning requires a lot of slow movement, with a lot of friction.

Impress Versus Scare

In the first panel, the professor gushes about how nice the equations of general relativity are. In the second panel, the professor says to forget about all of that, since these equations are actually quite nasty.

I’m firmly convinced that physicists and mathematicians are some of the best marketers for their equations.

The Scientific Jungle

On the left, the city represents lecture notes and textbooks, the suburbs are advanced courses and internships, the campers are graduate school, and the tent is research.

“When no one can answer your questions, you’re getting close!”

(Originally part of my post on ErrantScience Clutter.)

Productive Breaks

Two students discuss their homework. One student mentions how they stopped after five minutes, and calls it "subconsciously mulling it over".

“The best thinkers always figured out the solution to their problems when they weren’t working. I’m just trying to emulate them!”

Influence

Two graphs. One shows what we perceive to be our influence, while the second shows that our influence reaches further than we realized.

We influence so many people that we never hear from ever again or know existed that it’s kind of amazing to think about.

By Inspection

The differential equation for oscillatory motion is on the board. The professor explains that the solution is clear by inspection, when really it's the years of experience that makes it clear.

“You don’t see it? But it’s jumping out right at you!”

Your Turn

Despite being frustrated as undergraduates, we do the same thing as our professors later on.

The cycle continues.

Procedure

Student thinks their piece doesn't fit in the machine, but they don't realize that a rotation would do the trick.

I try not to be too cynical about early mathematics education, but I really dislike when we try and split a concept into distinct “parts”. The end result is that students don’t recognize that some procedures are part of the same idea.