Formulaic CIDU (bonus)

Well, I don’t think he was just scribbling. It’s too convincing.

Unlikely that it is a vector-graphics equation for the lines and filled areas that constitute the smiley face. Right?

But if mostly a blur-retrace of something real, then what in particular? An elaboration or derivation of part of Maxwell? [Though that would work better for the “Let There Be Light” referenced in the GoComics comments.] Something from General Relativity? Thermodynamics? We are happy because the Sun keeps shining?


  1. I’m not sure there’s anything more here than “the formula for happiness”, is there?

  2. I’m doubt it’s real (no pun intended) because there’s a square root of -1 in there. A true physics or math formulation would likely use i to represent the imaginary unit number.

  3. Brian, I had exactly the same observation, and doubt because of it. But OTOH the overall brackets structure and layout seemed to me too good to be fresh spun by the artist.

  4. It is definitely not a real equation for anything. Ham appears to have suffered through enough advanced math and/or physics classes to have soaked up a fair collection of appropriate mathematical symbols, and his mastery of a sloppy professor’s handwriting is positively spooky, but his “equation” is simply not parsable. The [brackets] and (parentheses) are mismatched, the “long s” integral symbols have been misused as subdividers. The intended effect is clearly “brilliant professor solves unintelligible mess with a simple, happy answer“.

  5. No, I think the formula (or I should say “formula”) is gibberish. For example, there are several integral signs, but I don’t see any associated differentials. And the big integral in the “numerator”, if that’s what it is supposed to be, has several lines of symbols. I can’t even parse what those operations are supposed to be.

  6. The students are a bit odd. 3 Model A & 4 Model B, looking like tiny adults at middle school desks.
    Obviously mannequins.

  7. You might almost make it work as a matrix of four elements, each complicated, Almost, thanks to the mismatched paren in the middle right. But I suspect it really comes from vague memories of math class or more likely copying chunks from a few math books.

  8. Even n squared over t sub 1 seems odd. t sub number variables represent time series, as in “time 0, time 1, time 2” etc. It’s the difference between time 2 and time 1, not the exact time of time 1, that is important.

  9. I think it’s just the cartoonist’s take on a joke that’s so old that I can’t even remember its details now — the one with a blackboard like that and in the middle is a big question mark. I used to have a t-shirt with that on it.

  10. Harris is poking fun at a strategy that can be (and actually has been) used to solve college math and science assignments. First you work down from the top (the “given” equation), and then up from the (already known) final “target” equation. In the ragged gap between the two orderly sequences, you then insert “…it is intuitively obvious that…”, and the problem appears to be solved (assuming, of course, that the instructor is more brilliant than the student).

    P.S. It doesn’t always work. One guy who tried this trick at my college got his paper back from the T.A. with the comment “It is to me, but I don’t think it was to you (and points taken off for the incomplete answer).

  11. I heard a story of a professor teaching a class, writing stuff on the blackboard. “Now this is intuitively obvious,” he said. Then he looked at what he wrote, and said “Or is it?” He stared at it for a minute or two, said “Be right back!” and ran out of the room. Half an hour later he came back holding several books and said, “Yes! It is intuitively obvious.”

  12. Thanks, jajizi.

    Certainly a lot simpler than the equation in the cartoon!

    I noticed in the Example Solutions that the LHS were kept simple, just the constant (giving I guess the radius), while the guts determining the shape are put on the RHS. Is that now the recommended style in school?

Add a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.