Comics about mathematics, science, and the student life.

Academic Ghost Story

Three scientists are sitting around a fire, while one tells a story. "It was a dark and rainy morning when I opened the arXiv and saw... a paper with non-standard notation!" Person Two: "The horror!" Person Three: "Good God!"

Bad notation will literally haunt you for weeks when you need to translate it in order to compare to your own work.


First panel. Person One: "Since this is just a constant, I can use this symbol, right?" (Indicates a sad face icon.) Person Two: "Absolutely not! Give me that." (Takes the chalk.) Second panel. Person Two has changed the sad face to a happy one. "That's better. Haven't you learned that physicists like their constants positive?"

If you want to confuse a physics student, set a constant to be negative in a differential equation that would be harmonic motion. Chances are, they will zoom on and solve the problem without realizing their error.


First person: "How can you work with all that clutter on your desk?" Second person: "It's not cluttered. I sort my stuff just like on my computer." First person: "And how is that?" Second person: "By last modified."

I prefer to think of it as simply letting my desk settle into its most natural state: pure chaos.

Physics Students

Any good student is a mixture of these at each moment.

Warning: The superposition may not always be an equal measure of both.


First panel. An old map with a bunch of confused paths represents a student. Second panel. A high-tech GPS receiver represents the supervisor.

This is why your supervisor is confused that you are confused.


First panel. A researcher stands near the edge of the waters of science, holding a vial of liquid: "Time to add my new work to the oceans of science!" Second panel. The researcher empties the vial, and apart from a splash, nothing changes: "Well, I thought it was going to be a bit more exciting than that."

Ah, the realities of doing science (any almost any other kind of work).


Person holding a lamp and rubbing it: "Alright, I'm going to for a cure for aging, a solution to climate change, a way for everyone to have an individualized education, a good theory of consciousness, what to do about that trolley problem..."

“Oh, and I’ll cover my bases at the beginning by asking for a thousand more wishes!”


First panel. Student: "So, did you finish correcting the tests yet?" Professor: "Woah, it has only been a day! Give me a week." Second panel (a week later). Student: "You must have our tests now, right?" Professor (thinking of their to-do pile, with most of the tests there): "Almost!"

The variety among teachers for getting assignments and tests back is remarkable. My supervisor would get our final exams corrected and our grades posted on the same day as the exam, while others try to get as cozy as they can with the deadline.


First panel. Professor: "Are you clear on what you have to do next? I'll be away for a few weeks, so you will be on your own." Student: "Yes, I'll be fine." Second panel. Professor: "Are you sure? This is the time to ask questions if you have any." Student: "No no, I'm sure." Third panel (the next day). Student (composing an email): "Dear professor, I'm having a slight issue that I hope you can help me with..."

Why do the issues always pop up the second our professors leave? It’s almost as if we are trying to look smart in front of them when we are really lost.

Oh wait.


First panel. Researcher 1: "Hey, do you use funny labels when referencing other work in your LaTeX document?" Researcher 2: "Oh yeah!" Second panel. R2: "I have a ton of fun with those. Since I'm the only one that sees the labels, I make up some crazy ones!" R1: "Like 'ProfessorAnnoying'?" Third panel. R2: "Wait, how do you know that?" R1: "Look." Fourth panel, showing that the hover state displays these crazy labels. R2: "Uh oh." (Pause) "Actually, he's so old that I doubt he has ever read a PDF. I think I'm in the clear."

I only uncovered this while browsing some other research papers and noticing that the hover state acts just like a link with its own URL. I immediately went to check if my past papers had anything crazy. Thankfully, there was nothing I could see.