Comics about mathematics, science, and the student life.

Transition

Three people, each at a different stage of their careers. On the left is an undergrad, on the right is a researcher, and in the middle is a graduate student with an identity crisis.

Not pictured: The very real (and just as good!) alternative of doing something other than traditional research in academia.

Up-Front

Plot of work put in by the author versus work put in by the reader. Good papers are on the top-left, while bad papers are in the bottom-right.

“Don’t blame me, I’m just trying to give the reader the benefit of the doubt that they are an expert. You see, I’m being generous!”

Causal

Events A, B, C, D, E, and F in a diagram with their causal links. We want to only see that A implies B, but really there are a lot of confounding causes.

“We will start by ignoring reality and pretending everything else is constant except A and B.”

Folders

The folder structure for my data. It's a bunch of folders with very bad names: OldData, PreTweaksData, MaybeUsefulData, FinalData, OldFinalData, TestData, FiguresData.

The fun is when you get back to a project after putting is aside for a while, and figuring out how each piece works together to produce your plots!

Jury-Rig

Left panel (In Theory): "I'll just whip up a small library to take care of my problem." Right panel (In Practice): "The last five hours may have been fruitless, but I'm sure I can jury-rig *this* library for my needs!"

Most of my programming is just a sequence of trying to modify existing code for my needs, before finally acquiescing and writing my own code.

Dopamine

Graph of dopamine versus time for a scientist. Small blips are false alarms, and the breakthrough is a very prominent spike, but the dopamine crashes right after it.

Technically, it’s a Dirac delta distribution.

Compute Time

Two bars in a bar graph. The short one represents the jobs that launch and run without errors on the first try, and then a much larger bar represents the the jobs that end after two seconds from a silly typo.

The fun part is when these errors happen on the supercluster that you’ve been waiting forever on to get the job submitted.

Gap

Left panel: "Can you run this simulation for me?" "Sure, I saw this in class." Right panel: (Later) "How do I even implement Equation 1?!" Caption: Coding shows you exactly where your theoretical gaps lie.

And this is why I’m always wary of papers I read which don’t give any simulation details and just present the results.

Name Vacuum

Left panel: A scientific phenomenon depicted as a circle. Right panel: A bunch of papers pinned onto the circle, trying to establish its name. Caption: Scientists abhor a name vacuum.

Quick, use your academic influence to get your friends to cite the name you’ve chosen, making it appear standard in the community!

Dark Magic

A section of a paper on numerical simulations. Authors will always talk about what they plotted, sometimes talk about how they did things, and rarely give details on why they chose the parameters they did.

The number of times I’ve wanted to know the details of a simulation and was given nothing is truly impressive.