Comics about mathematics, science, and the student life.

Theory Building

First panel. Person 1: "I don't think this piece of data fits your theory." (Holds up a puzzle piece that won't fit in the last whole of the theorist's puzzle.) Second panel. Theorist: "Oh yeah?" (Proceeds to take out a pair of scissors and shapes the piece.) Third panel. Theorist: "There! It fits." (The cut piece is on the floor.) Fourth panel. Person 1: "What about the piece you just cut off?" Theorist (shrugging): "Experimental error."

This is precisely how it goes each time.


First panel is what we teach: "People are multidimensional, and it's important to treat them as such." The board says, "People are like vectors." Second panel is what we do. Person approaches another and starts to introduce themselves, while the other person takes the dot product between the person's vector and a unit vector.

“Wait, just give me a chance!”

“Sorry, I’ve already projected you against one axis, so I’ve lost any other information I had of you.”


Young researcher: "Finally, I'm done my first contribution to science! I can't wait to hear what others think of it." In the second panel, the researcher walks to a building called the "Science Repository". In the third panel, the researcher sets their new idea among others and says: "This is going to be a perfect fit. Everyone will see it!" Fourth panel (a year later). More ideas have come in, totally covering up the researcher's idea to the point that no one notices it anymore.

What, did you think everyone was actually going to read your new paper?

Tunable Theories

Throughout the panels, a fly is buzzing around, while someone tries to swat it. In the final panel, the fly says: "I will never be killed!" A metaphor for tunable theories.

The difference is that, while flies die pretty quickly, tunable theories enjoy long, long lives.

Neutral Response

First panel, a researcher presents their results and gives a good presentation. In the second panel, a bad presentation occurs. And yet, both result in the audience clapping.

I understand that it is the polite thing to do. I just find it interesting how applause is more of a social convention in research presentations than an actual marker of quality.

Open Science

Student reading a research paper: "This paper is so good! Plus, they reference a ton of papers. I'm going to check them all out!" (After checking a bunch of the references): "Surprise, surprise. Another paper behind a paywall. Maybe the 103rd time's a charm..."

Like my undergraduate supervisor use to tell me, at least we have the arXiv for physics.

Starved Theorists

Researcher presenting data that has a strange anomaly: "As you can see, we have some interesting results." Audience member: "New physics!" (The next day on the arXiv): Fifty new research papers on this anomaly.

We just want one morsel of new physics. Please!


Researcher: "I have a great idea for a paper! It will be a great fit for a mathematical physics journal, since it's multidisciplinary." (A few months later, the peer review comes in) Email: Dear researcher, Here is the feedback for your manuscript. Referee 1: Needs more mathematics and less physics. Referee 2: Who cares about the math? More physics!

You just can’t please everyone, huh?

Whole Question

Student (as the teacher approaches with the test): "Deep breaths. You know how to do all of this. No need to stress out. It's going to be fine..." (Looks at the first question and goes in shock): "'Find the B field...' I have to find it everywhere?! I'll never have time to do that." Actual question, which the student didn't read: Find the B field for the exterior of a sphere. Caption: Test tip: make sure you read the whole question.

I’ve definitely found myself flying through a question, only to look up fifteen minutes later and realize I only had to find part of the answer.


Student: "I'm going to learn about X today!" Student sees that X is intertwined with Y, Z, A, B, C, D, E, etc.: "Oh boy."

The issue (and great thing) about mathematics and physics is that you need to build up from the foundations. Unfortunately, that means you can rarely just “pick up” a topic without having to look at several other connected ideas.