Comics about mathematics, science, and the student life.


A graph of time working on a problem versus its complexity. At first, complexity just rises. Eventually though, the complexity goes down as you gain a handle on the problem. The ideal publication time is when you've reduced the complexity again.

The first half is all about loading everything into your head, while the second is about sorting it.


Left side (without a cohort): A person stays low on a trampoline. Right side (with a cohort): That person can reach super high while jumping.

I learn and relearn this every day. Never underestimate the power of cohorts.

Crackpot Theory

Left panel: A student runs to her supervisor, waving a piece of paper above her and yelling, "Professor! I finally got one!" Her supervisor says, "Wonderful. I know just what to do with it." Right panel: They've framed the letter on the wall, and it reads, "Dear Joanna, I wanted to share with you my physics theory that everyone has missed..." Her supervisor says, "I'm so proud of you."

I used to think these emails were just a myth from my supervisors. How wrong I was!

Head Start

A timeline of December and January. In the first half of December, you finish the last-minute projects. But in the second half, you get a head start for the new year.

I do this all the time with my reading goals. Do you do this for any area of your life?

Santa Supply Chain Efficiency

A chart of "Gift delivery time per child (microseconds)" as a function of year. The curve starts off high at 400 in 1950, decreases to around 200 over 50 years, and then slowly starts decreasing again. The label on the curve reads, "Santa knows how to keep improving".

In the last few years, many of us have come to appreciate the supply chain infrastructure that undergirds much of our world. We notice when it breaks, but not when it gets better. May Santa’s supply chain efficiency gains over time be a shining example of progress during your holidays!

Methodological details: I assumed 34 hours of delivery time (which is roughly in the ballpark from moving between time zones and having a long night), roughly 1/3 of the population being Christian, and children being 0-14 years old. I then took 34 hours and divided by one third of the children population for my estimate over time. You can change the 34 hours figure, but the shape of the curve will stay the same.


A map of contiguous subjects in physics and mathematics. Your initial problem begins in the "Quantum" area, sneaks over to "Condensed Matter", hops to "Statistical Physics", and then finishes in "Mathematics", where you're able to corner it.

What has the longest journey been for you?


A bar graph of "Satisfaction" for two different activities. For "Personal success", the bar is low. For "Helping others", the bar is much higher.

Maybe not for everyone, but definitely for me.

Abstraction Tolerance

A mathematician and her physicist friend are talking. She says, "And now we can generalize--" A machine goes *Beep*! She continues, "--to higher dimensions and --" The machine goes *Beep, beep, beep!* She sighs. "Are abstraction levels even a real health concern you need to monitor?" Her friend says, "With you, yes."

My abstraction tolerance is proportional to the number of mathematician friends I have who can patiently explain concepts to me.

Hat tip to John Cook’s blog post on the topic.


A Venn diagram of "What you know" and "What you like". In the non-overlapping section of "What you like" is the region "Opportunity for exploration".

A reminder for myself to not get stuck in doing the same things forever.


A person tries walking forward, but a large parachute behind slows them down due to air drag. The person asks, "Why is it so hard to move forward?" The parachute has the label, "Never-ending projects".

There’s a reason why most projects last for a finite time. (By the way, I’m inspired by Craig Mod’s pop-up newsletters.)