Thursday, October 26, 2006


I've been wondering what it is about math people that makes us want to torture ourselves. Near the end of Lie algebras, which is a one-and-a-half hour lecture (with no break) after a morning of lectures, the professor was in the middle of doing a long proof and paused, saying "So I'm wondering what I should do now... I think I'll prove part 4 of the theorem, and then we'll stop." At this point I'd already been half-asleep for half an hour and all I wanted was for the lecturer to stop talking and let me leave... to breathe fresh air and look at the sky (there are no windows in this lecture hall) and have a cup of tea. There were something like 20 other people in the room, all of whom looked as tired and worn as I felt, and I started thinking, why doesn't anyone just say "Please no! We can continue next time! My brain has already leaked all the way out of my ears and before I can understand anything that you're going to say I just need to put it back together!" Are math people just so fixed on being hardcore that they always need to ask for more torture?

I've seen this happen in other lectures, too. After two hours of lecture the lecturer stops, turns around, and says whether they should continue or not... and someone always speaks up to say yes, please keep going. And everyone else stays silent, or agrees with them. For a while I thought it was just me, but it isn't... almost everyone I've talked to can't sit still for more than an hours worth of math at a time, and the more hours are stacked on top of one another the more one needs a break... so why does nobody ever say "no, I'm too tired and I think a lot of people here are, too"?


Anonymous Alya said...

I actually get annoyed at professors in linguistics classes for going overtime all the time. And some of them look at their watches, see that time is up, and then continue talking! Phonology class often runs late despite the fact that most of us are going to a linguistics talk right afterwards every Thursday. I guess in theory I should want to have the extra learning or whatever, but really, I have a lot of classtime as it is. The professors don't tend to ask whether it's OK to go overtime, though...

8:43 AM  
Anonymous mama said...

Would you be once brave enough to say stop? :-)

9:25 AM  

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