Comics about mathematics, science, and the student life.

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.”


A plot of "Time spent doing" versus "Time spent worrying". The relationship is negatively linear, and at the top-left where you have a lot of time and little worry, there's the label, "Letting go of too many desires".

Pruning your active projects is underrated.


A scatter plot of "Significance" versus "Ease of calculation". On the top-left is a marker representing "Heavy-duty experiments" while on the bottom-right is a marker representing "Academic toy models".

There’s a reason all of the early academic work in field X deals with simple models.

Project Timeline

A graph of "Progress on a project" versus "Time". At first, the graph increases linearly, with the label "Initial burst of motivation". Then it plateaus in the "Plateau of difficulty". Then it decreases in the "Decline of neglect". A slow climb ensues in "Remembering the project" followed by "Hitting snags" which makes the graph decrease again. Finally, it skyrockets to the finish with the label "Enough already. Let's finish this!"

Not shown: Extra pauses while people are confused, the many rewrites of the paper, bug hunting and data cleaning, and probably ten unique things that only showed up in this one project ever.


A trailhead with two arrows. To the left is "Breakthrough Work". To the right is "Safe Career".

A breakthrough is just another way of saying it might not have worked.


A mentor speaks with his student. He says, "You need to focus more on the positives in your writing." She says, "So I should put less emphasis on the negatives?" He answers while shrugging, "Or none at all. That's what I do."

I can’t help but notice that many papers try to minimize the drawbacks of their research. Oh, I’m sure that’s just a coincidence.

Technical Details

A graph showing "Technical details" versus "My understanding". The curve starts off high and then asymptotes in an inverse relationship. Towards the bottom where I can understand when there are few technical details, I've marked an arrow with, "Why can't all talks be like this?!"

As I’ve listened to more and more presentations, I feel as though I’m less and less willing to follow technical details in a presentation.

Questions and Answers

A graph showing "Number of questions" versus "Number of answers". The top-left has an "X" labelled, "Graduate studies", while the bottom-right has an "X" labelled, "Undergrad".

Graduate school: Where you learn that the only work is asking better and better questions.

Now What?

A professor tells her graduate student, "Now that you're a grad student, you get to take control of your work." The student is holding his hands out to his supervisor in distress, and says, "Okay, but what do I do now?"

Ah, the stress of having unlimited freedom!

Figure Density

A plot of "Comprehension" versus "Information in a figure". The curve goes up, reaches a peak, and then asymptotes back to zero. As the curve asymptotes, there's a vertical dashed line, and on the right I've labelled, "Most scientific figures".

“I know what we can do. We can split up the figure!”

“Yeah, that’s a great idea. Now, each figure can tell its own story–”

“We can make an awesome multi-panel figure!”