You think your Tuesday mornings suck?

Picture amphi_mog.jpg Just so you don’t think for a moment that I am out there having fun when I leave this blog unattended for weeks on end…

Note that this snapshot entirely fails to convey the real Soviet-era ambiance of my 8am-1pm weekly Tuesday lecture: attended by twelve hardcore students huddled in a 300-seat auditorium, fighting sleep and hypothermia, with the dreary droning of a disinterested lecturer as background lullaby.

Can I get a Hell Yeah for advanced graph theory?!?

Hell… zzz


  1. What do you make of a comment like the one above? It’s almost like a Turing test for your Spam Karma, Dr D. It has just enough relevance to the post to squeeze through, yet you wonder if the commenter is actually human.

    Lord, I remember standing down there at the front teaching linguistics some 10 years ago. Tuesday mornings are a lot better now — my main concern today is whether I should have a snooze in the hammock before or after lunch.

  2. FIVE HOURS?!?

    Sweet merciless mathematics – my saturation point for dense lectures usually comes after 2 hours (without taking into consideration the early start) – I wonder what will happen in hours 3-5 if I was ever asked to attend this class.

    And, for a class called advanced graph theory, I see an absence of actual graphs on the 9 sections of theory written on the chalkboards.

  3. Ria

    Re. Turing test: yea, I hear you… and truth be told, I would probably manage manually such comments if they had the slightest hint of self-publicity about them. As it is, I am pretty sure this one is legit, if somewhat random and not very enlightening (trust me, you get used to bizarre Google foot traffic after a while).

    Note that, despite what a lot of people may be inclined to postulate, categorizing the post above as sensical/germane/human-like is not, imho, a valid Turing test:
    A Turing test should have as its inherent goal to identify if the other end of an interaction is human or not. Asserting that the content generated fits the bill of human-generated content is only a small fraction of asserting this humanity, since any rudimentary computer program could do that (spambots often are even less than rudimentary, but anyway). Delivery, timing and a host of other interaction parameters ought to account for something.

    Anyway, this is my own take on “The Test” and I am convinced the solution to the specific problem of spam, lies in that non-heuristic grey area most bot-fighter seem to neglect.

    Ironically enough, Advanced Graph Theory is, of all the lectures I am currently attending, one of the more helpful in this line of research 😀

    Regarding teaching to people: As a person who is both teaching and being taught to, let me assure you that people such as this lecturer have it the easiest. Unlike say, me having to impart dreary science 101 classes to unmanageable groups of disinterested future drop-outs, the guy has a small group of mature students all ears about what he has to say on the very topic he’s dedicated his entire life to. I doubt you can make teaching any more pleasant than that. Yet, instead of devoting the bare minimum to preparation and/or establishing contact with us, he essentially spends hours mumbling notes while copying them on a board.
    All that just goes to prove that impressive research credentials do not necessarily make one a good teacher in their field. But that’s hardly news nor unfortunately something the French have ever understood.


    There’s a 30 mins break in the middle (they aren’t completely off their minds: nobody would ever show up for 5 uninterrupted hours of that). Note that it is absolutely not uncommon for people to spend the entire 5 hours asleep on their table.

    Welcome to my world of endless sweet pain 😉 That’s 3 mornings a week (a fourth one and all afternoons are lab and field studies).
    Luckily too, this is hardly mathematics, or only the kind sufficiently grounded in reality that I can wrap my mind around it without too many neuron casualties.

    As for the conspicuous absence of graphs, as many things when they get to their “advanced” level, graph theory is by now hardly more than a bunch of matrices and algebra concepts with nary a number or actual graph illustration to go with (“Hmnn… Just picture a large finite mesh of connected vertices in N-dimensional coordinates and M-dimensional arc constraints… See it? Good.”).
    OK. I realize that sort-of-invalidates my earlier “no longer doing math” statement… But seriously… In fact it’s mostly pseudo-algorithms, demonstrations and matching explanations.


    Indeed it is. Our lecturer seems to think hand-outs or slides are for pansies.

  4. I used to sleep during magistral classes too. Then I discovered that my bed was far more comfortable, and that I wouldn’t be waken up by the teacher departing the room and the next one arriving.

  5. This number theory…it doesn’t seem to be that hard, so don’t pretend as it is. I am sure that molecular spectroscopy, when dealing with 100+ electron molecules, is harder than the shit you have taken a picture of.

    Good luck, nonetheless; college/university/post-grad might seem as quasi-hard shit, at least to those that are completely alien to it.

  6. urchin:
    True… which is why I rarely bother going unless I’m sure I have enough energy (or caffeine) to stay awake through the whole thing.

    Riight. And mine is so long I can’t pee without a scaffold.

    So what do you make of that one just above? surprisingly smart bot or insanely stupid human?

  7. Yeah, it’s a toughie.

    “This number theory” — who mentioned this? Does he mean numbers-in-general theory?

    “so don’t pretend as it is” — non-native user of English.

    “I am sure” — meaning he doesn’t actually understand what follows.

    “might seem as quasi-hard” — grammatical error and pleonasm.

    Conclusion: French college dropout (failed licence twice) working on short-term contract for American data entry company.

    Is there something missing between his two comments?

    Going back to the Turing Test, I think spam bots make for ideal participants. In a Turing Test, the message content is the only means for identifying the other party as human or machine. Your qualifiers of delivery (tracking?) and timing would not be relevant in a Turing Test; they are, however, key filters in your spam karma, and justifiably so.

  8. Believe it or not! But I am The anonymous girl… and thanks dr Dave for your support! I am studying at the LSE (London School of Economics and Political Science) and yes it is not as easy as it looks like, actually it can be quite tough at some point… Why can’t people stop judging so easily? x

  9. In Turing Test Two, two players A and B are again being questioned by a human interrogator C. Before A gave out his answer (labeled as aa) to a question, he would also be required to guess how the other player B will answer the same question and this guess is labeled as ab. Similarly B will give her answer (labeled as bb) and her guess of A’s answer, ba. The answers aa and ba will be grouped together as group a and similarly bb and ab will be grouped together as group b. The interrogator will be given first the answers as two separate groups and with only the group label (a and b) and without the individual labels (aa, ab, ba and bb). If C cannot tell correctly which of the aa and ba is from player A and which is from player B, B will get a score of one. If C cannot tell which of the bb and ab is from player B and which is from player A, A will get a score of one. All answers (with the individual labels) are then made available to all parties (A, B and C) and then the game continues. At the end of the game, the player who scored more is considered had won the game and is more “intelligent”.

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