Comics about mathematics, science, and the student life.

Explanation Skills

A graph of "Explanation complexity" versus "Explanation skills". The curve starts with low complexity and low skills, then both increase as the explainer gets better but over-explains, and finally comes down again as the explainer learns how to use their skills to not make the explanation too complex. In the middle hump though is the region where nobody wants you to explain.

Have you ever started explaining something, only for the others in your discussion to quickly pivot away from the topic? If so, there’s a chance you were in that middle hump. (I’ve been there too.)

Dead End

Left panel: A researcher is walking with purpose, saying, "After taking a break, this feels like the right path to the solution to my problem." Right panel (5 hours later): The researcher has their hands on their hips while looking at a sign. It says, "DEAD END", and it's signed by their past self. The researcher shouts, "Damn it!"

On the other hand, being forgetful can sometimes give you the motivation you need to keep going on a project that seems to have no way forward.

Research Taste

A collection of dots which represent ideas are all over the page. There's a dotted curve that weaves around the dots, labelled, "Research taste".

As a graduate student, I’d sometimes be happy enough to just have all those ideas!

Execution Time

A chart with two portions: The large portion has the label "Time spent finding ways it doesn't work" and the much smaller portion has the label "Time executing on the right idea".

Productivity hack: Don’t start with the wrong idea on your next project.

Leader

Two scientists from different areas are walking together. One points to themselves and says, "I'm the leading scientist in my field." The other scientist asks, "Wow, how many people work in it?" He snaps, "That's irrelevant!"

“There’s just you, isn’t there?”

“No! And even if there was just me, that wouldn’t change my statement!”

Easy

A graph of "How easy it seems" versus "How far in you are". When you aren't far in, everything seems easy. But there comes a sudden transition point where it all becomes hard and you start asking, "Why did I ever agree to this?!"

Another simple way to induce this transition is to say “yes” to way too many things (even if they are easy individually).

Resisting

A scientist sticks out his arm behind him and walks away from a flashy orb that says "Impossible research problem". He says, "No, I said I wasn't going to think about you again!"

We all know you will come back to it.

Insecure

Left panel (Start of Graduate School): A student scratches his chin and says, "I've got to show everyone that I know a lot." Right panel (End of Graduate School): A student shrugs and says, "Eh, I know a little, and that's enough."

Graduate school: Learning to be okay with all that you don’t know.

Answers

A graph of "Difficulty to answer" versus "Simplicity of the question". The graph is positive and linear.

There’s a reason why there are big open research questions that are simple to state.

Despair

A graph of "Checking job postings" versus "Despair as a graduate student". The checking quickly rises with despair.

The time-honoured tradition of daydreaming to get away from my current research problems.