[ Original collator is Bob Dowling, RJD4@UK.AC.CAMBRIDGE.PHOENIX ]
and another one from a 1A Engineering maths lecture :
"Graphs of higher degree polynomials have this habit of doing unwanted wiggly things."
It is said of some things in maths that a mathematician should read the proofs precisely once.
"I don't want to go into this in detail, but I would like to illustrate some of the tedium."
From a single seminar at the King's College Research Centre:
"I'm sure it's right whether it's valid or not."
"Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead."
"I can see T is tending to infinity for you as well."
"If I am incomprehensible then stop me, but if it's simply wrong then I don't think that it matters."
From a supervisor:
"It's a standard question, made a bit harder by adding some A-level stuff."
An introduction to the summation convention:
"If you've got a problem with this then go back, write the whole thing out using sigma notation and convince yourself that it's better not to have problems."
And from the University of Bath...
"A one by one matrix has one column and one row, and the same number in both. "
"Using some hand-waving and symmetry ideas... "
"You haven't written it in green - your notes will be wrong. "
"Any Questions? [pause] You all look asleep - what is it, hyperglucocemia? Too much sugar on your cornflakes? Not any cornflakes? Never mind - I'm bright eyed and bushy tailed, so let's continue."
Meanwhile, back in Cambridge...
"This is known as the 'Toytown solution'. Actually, there is a more technical term for it ..."
And from the DPMMS common room...
"Of course this is true for more general values of 5"
"Not so much a double coset table, more a pile of junk"
A brief conversation -
"What have we not got?"
"No we have not"
"No we don't"
"We have not got not"
"Ah, Not is what we have not got!" -Agreement followed.
...what do they put in the coffee??
From an applied maths supervisor (a part III student): "All numbers are totally irrelevant, unless you're doing Astrophysics." "However well you do [in your Tripos exams] you always find there's someone from Trinity who's beaten you."
I'm told that countability isn't taught in IA anymore. It doesn't seem to have been taught to this Part III lecturer at all!
"Damn! I'm running out of integers!"
Anonymous supervisor, talking about Relativistic Electrodynamics:
"There are some bits at the end of the course I don't really understand, but the students don't normally get that far."
From an EIST lecturer:
"When you stick your fingers in the mains, its not the imaginary component which you will feel"
From substitute lecturer, replacing the scheduled appearance by Dr. X:
"Good morning. For those of you who don't know me, I am not Dr. X; I am Dr. X's representative on Earth."
And from my source in Bath...
"Now, I want you to look very carefully at what we have just proved. What we have just proved is false." [slight pause while what he has just said sinks in] "Oh dear, that's going to go onto the computer, isn't it."
[ Fame at last ! ]
"I'll give you a clue - it begins with `f' and rhymes with `factor'..." - Lecturer to a 1st year problem class
"The object of this lecture is to frighten half of you away."
"I wrote my first program in 1954, and that didn't work either."
"That is the total and absolute generalisation ... well, almost."
Back in Cambridge, explanations are up to their usual standards...
"Perhaps it would be best if this argument remained a deep mystery to you."
"One property which we know very well happens; a+b=b+c." (for all a,b,c?)
"I shall explain this by waving my hands about in an appropriate manner."
"What I've talked about today seems to be uniquely incoherent ... I never know if you're as baffled as me, or if you're getting along fine."
And our first candidate for the Sybil Fawlty prize for "Stating the Bleeding Obvious":
"g inverse is called an inverse to g."
"This is not really a convention, it's just the normal way of doing things."
The things Cambridge does to a lecturer...
"Dr. X hasn't lectured a Cambridge group before, so he might be quite interesting."
"Some students may feel that the contents of Question 33 are both dull and useless. I must confess that my first impulse is to reply that it serves them right for doing the fast course."
From the wonderful world of IA Natsci:
"Whenever the maths turns out to be impossible, you have to invent new physics."
A depressed first year...
"I used to be without hope - but now various people have assured me that failing the exams is more difficult than Green's functions."
"There are ways of managing without cuts, but I do not think the present Government is going to find them" - IB Complex variable, October 1979.
"I've never tried dividing both sides by infinity before, so here goes."
"It's OK to divide by zero, provided you don't cancel it."
"It's a real integer, not just any old integer."
For once a quote meant to be humourous:
"To a mathematician, PI is 1 and PI^2 is 10. 2*PI we're not quite sure about."
Descriptions of assorted mathematicians:
"He's not just an experimentalist. He's an antitheorist!"
"He gets lost on random walks."
"Some inspired joker - probably Maxwell."
"This is the simple form. [pause] Well, it's simple in the sense that it leaves out all the really important bits."
"...as Poincare' proved at the beginning of this talk..."
"This is obvious. But don't look at it too carefully, or it becomes unobvious, until you look at it for a long time when it becomes obvious again."
"I need two hands to wave, not just one."
"FORTRAN... Then, as now, the language used by scientists with real problems."
"Suitably interpreted, this is an exact value."
And from the depths of historical apocrypha... Supervisor (drawing a graph): "This function has no nodes." (Pause) "How does it smell?"
A good enough philosophy of life:
"Theoretical physicists tend to assume that Nature isn't as malevolent as our pure mathematical examiners."
The following shouldn't really be here but I couldn't resist it: Tourist outside DAMTP: "I think it used to be a church."
"Bear with me until my starting transient has settled down into doing things properly from the notes."
"And now, a few examples of fatigue from [my] vast experience."
Do we have a Dr. Hobson in the faculty?
"If there is a choice, you've got to do it."
"Different may mean the same."
"A sphere isn't that simple when you get into higher dimensions - it's a bit non-flat."
And those fascinating results come thick and fast in this course:
"There are 9 results in there - it looks like it's going to be tedious, and indeed it is."
Sometimes I think they make Quantum Mechanics deliberately obscure...
"There's a number down here which, for the sake of argument, we can call 1."
Precision? What precision?
"We have a correspondence that's nearly one-to-one."
And a couple of remarks from the students...
"Mathmos think of engineers a bit like lemmings... ...they're both wooly and jump to the wrong conclusions."
"I don't see the point of lecturers talking, except to resolve some of the ambiguities in their handwriting."
"Various people with suicidal tendencies can even integrate elliptic functions"
Said of Algebra III:
"This course could be viewed as 1001 things to do with your favourite matrix"
The problems that the maths societies have to overcome to get their audience!
"Why weren't you at the meeting?"
"Because it was boring."
"No it wasn't."
"Well, it should have been!"
Oh, the joys of dual lecturing!
"I was going to say 'the cream of the nation's youth', but they're probably at the other lecturer."
The secret of Pure Mathematics:
"...interpreting out of all recognition..."
The black art of applied mathematics...
"It is traditional to leave the notation ambiguous." ...and talking about the black arts...
"For non-deterministic read 'Inhabited by pixies'."
And if that wasn't confusing enough...
"I thought I understood Newton's Third Law before that lecture."
"This is equation 2, which implies that equation 3 comes someplace earlier."
"Unless x is a banana or some other such object that commutes with A."
And this year's honesty award must surely go for the following two gems from the same lecturer...
"I'm going to make a small point in the corner of the board [does so], and come back to it later!" And later...
"The thing which caused me to write 'lies' in extremely small letters in the corner of the board was..."
And later still...
"When you see this, you are entitled to go ` Y'what?! '."
A possible candidate for the Tautology Award?
"If we want to take the westerly winds into account, we could also do that using this method, but then we'd have to take the westerly winds into account."
"This type of rotor is known as a squirrel-cage rotor because the way it's wound looks like a bird cage."
CompSci meets Zoology?
"What we're trying to do is work things out about elephants."
A nomination for the Sybil Fawlty "Stating the Bleedin' Obvious" Prize:
"A polynomial f is said to have degree m, written deg f equals m, if it does have degree m."
Now it is fairly well known that lectures are not supposed to be copied down mindlessly. But...
"Recall word 2 of defn 2.1" But then again...
"I know you all have very innocent minds, but occasionally a word should be allowed to wander through before reaching the paper."
And on the subject of teaching styles:
"Proof left as an exercise for your supervisor."
And this year's first contenders for the Tautology award:
"It's obvious that what I've just written down is obvious."
"The fixed element can be said to be exactly what it is."
Mathematical notation is a minefield of obscure symbols ranging over most alphabets and scriptstyles. Any guesses for which character was described by an undergraduate as:
"It's a script spider"?
And with the reading problems come the corresponding writing ones suffered by these lecturers:
"My script 'y's always end up looking like rabbits."
"Little mouse tensored with piece of cheese."
However, good notation has its rewards as described by this lecturer:
"The prime leaps on to the other factor in a most convenient fashion."
And now, back to the content of the lecture courses:
"You can hardly underestimate the importance of this."
"I've got a lot to say about this theorem, so don't stop me if I go too fast."
"Sometimes it's useful to know how large your zero is"
Three from the same lecturer who is clearly having real problems...
"What am I doing? I haven't written any damn thing yet - I've just written total rubbish."
"What am I talking about? Does anyone know what I'm talking about? This is rubbish."
"Every time I go to the board with these notes I write down something completely different."
Hmmm... do I detect someone almost as cynical as myself?
"Theoretical physicist - a physicist whose existence is postulated, to make the numbers balance, but who is never actually observed in the laboratory."
A IB Chemistry lecturer, refering to a previously derived equation.
"This is rigorous. Well, it's rigorous in the sense that ... All right, it's not rigorous."
Certain calulations will always be CPU intensive...
"This principle is sometimes known as assuming the CIA is paying our computing bills."
Letter from an editor:
"I very much regret to inform you that the review procedure of your paper 'Approximation of Delay systems by Fourier-Laguerre series', is incurring a delay..."
The end (as of 5th July 1990).