Comics about mathematics, science, and the student life.

Optimal Arrival

A timeline of arriving to a meeting. Around 5 minutes before the meeting is when you should arrive for physical meetings. There's an inset graph near the time of the meeting starts, which shows how you enter a virtual meeting only seconds before the meeting time.

If you arrive more than five seconds before the meeting, there are no established rules of etiquette.


Left panel (As a student): A student pumps her fist and says, "I have to get this expression exactly right!" Right panel (As a theorist): She puts out a hand and asks, "What's a constant between friends?"

“How can I put in the least effort to answer my question?”

Cramming In

A professor in front of the room says, "It's the last class of the term, but I'll at least introduce this topic." A student raises his hand and asks, "So it won't be on the final?" She responds, "Oh yes, of course it will be a big component." (Pause) "It's also pretty hard."

“Just look at these notes that I’ll post three days before the exam but never explain. You’ll get all the ideas there.”

Never-Ending Projects

A graph of the number of never-ending projects versus overwhelm. The curve rapidly increases without bound. There's an arrow pointing to the curve at high overwhelm which says, "Why endings are useful."

If you’re like me and want to do everything, it’s a lot easier when you don’t require doing each new activity until you die.


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?