Comics about mathematics, science, and the student life.

Self Standards

A graph of "Work" versus "Time". The first linear curve is labelled "Your standards", while the one underneath it is labelled "Quality". The difference in height between the two lines at any point in time is labelled, "There's always a gap".

Hat tip to Ira Glass.

Required Expertise

A graph of "Required expertise" versus "Location in a talk". A dotted horizontal line indicates the minimum expertise for most of the audience. The usual talk is a solid horizontal line above the dotted line. A good talk instead gradually goes up, peaks just above the dotted line for a short period of time, and then gradually descends.

I’d like to see the cumulative probability distribution of “disconnecting” from a talk as a function of location.


A large circle depicting the "Space of possible angles for your paper". There are X's scattered everywhere, and one lone dot within the space, with the label, "The only one that doesn't upset referees."

The fun question: How many of these angles did you try before hitting the dot?


A plot of "People you alienate" versus "Times you say, 'It's trivial'". It curves upwards in an exponential way.

I want to save the “T”-word for talking about solutions in mathematics.

Specialized Vocabulary

A single axis labeled, "Specialized Vocabulary", increase to the right. Starting far to the right and extending to the right is an arrow labeled, "Jargon for experts". Starting closer to the left and extending to right is an arrow labeled, "Jargon for everyone else".

If it’s a word that has a technical meaning that diverges from the usual meaning of the word, avoid it.

Degree of Knowledge

Two friends in a conversation. The first person is finishing talking and saying, "...I don't know." The other says, "But you have a physics degree! Shouldn't you know this?" The first person answers while shrugging, "My physics degree only asserts that *at some point* I knew this."

“What, did you expect me to remember that stuff forever?”


A plot of "Hills you choose to die on" versus "Your sanity". It's a negative linear relationship.

Just ignore those molehills.


A scatter plot of "Apparent Confidence" versus "Desperation". The points rise exponentially and have the following labels: "Can this work?" (low confidence and desperation), "This might work" (slightly higher confidence and low desperation), "This should work" (More confidence, a bit of desperation), "This will work" (higher confidence, rising desperation), "This better work" (slightly higher confidence, much more desperation), "This *has* to work!" (super high confidence and desperation).

The missing axis here is “actual confidence”.

Jargon Meter

A scientist holds her jargon meter and says, "I bought this jargon meter to improve my communication, but it's always at the highest setting. It must be broken." Her friend gestures with his arm and says, "I assure you, it's not."

“I don’t understand. Nobody has said anything!”

“I think they just learned to tune you out.”

Sign Error

A plot of "My confidence in your teaching" versus "Number of times you say, 'Up to a minus sign'". My confidence starts high at one, but as soon as you say the phrase three times, it drops to zero.

The transition happens even faster if you say, “I’ll let you figure out on your own where I made any mistakes.”