Tag Archives: student

Student inadvertently solves never-before-solved math problems

My informant told me about a story she heard about a student waking up late and rushing to their final, then frantically trying to finish the three equations on the board. The first two weren’t so bad, but the third was difficult. He finally finished and turned it into the professor only to find out later the third was actually not part of the test. Instead, it was a problem that had as of yet been unsolved. He had figured it out, though. My informant likes it because she thinks it would be cool to accidentally become famous like that and because it relates to one of her favorite movies, Good Will Hunting, since the main character in it easily solves equations no else could.

I like how the story reflects how we believe what we hear; when we are told something is impossible, it will seem much harder in our mind. But when we think something is supposed to be solvable, it may be easier to figure out, even if it’s never been done before. Limitations we place on ourselves are often illusory.

I looked into the story and found that it is actually based in truth. In 1939, George Dantzig arrived late to his graduate statistics class and saw two problems on the board, not knowing they were examples of problems that had never been solved. He thought they were a homework assignment and was able to solve them. He found out the reality six weeks later when his teacher let him know and helped him publish a paper about one of the problems.

Annotation: Cottle, Richard, Ellis Johnson, and Roger Wets. “George B. Dantzig.” Notices of the AMS 54.3 (2007). Web. April 23 2012.

“코피” and Others — Korean-American Pun Jokes

My informant is a Korean student attending the University of Southern California. He lived in Korea until the fourth grade and then, for familial reasons, moved to the Bay Area, where he went to school until coming down to Southern California for college. When I asked him to tell me a Korean joke, he thought for a bit, laughed, and said, “Weird. I only know Korean-American ones now,” which is understandable considering he has not gone back to Korea in the past five years. Mostly pun jokes, they were composed of Korean and English and require an understanding of both languages for them to be even remotely funny. For instance:

What is a vampire’s favorite drink?
코피 (kopi)!

This is funny because 코피 in Korean means nosebleed, while the way it is pronounced, kopi, sounds a lot like the English word coffee. So while the real answer is nosebleed, kopi adds another dimension to it by making it sound like vampires like coffee. In this case, the audience would need to know English to understand the question, but also the Korean word for nosebleed, and understand that its humor comes from kopi‘s similarity to an English word–a complex, bilingual understanding.

Another example:

Which celebrity likes to hold the most luggage?
Jim Carrey!

Now this is one that, if you did not know better, you would think was an American joke because of the lack of Korean words. However, this is only funny because Jim (or jeem) in Korean means, more or less,  “luggage,” while Carrey just sounds like “carry.” Jim Carrey’s name in Korean-American terms then, could be seen as Luggage Carrey.

These jokes are deceivingly simple, actually requiring a pretty advanced understanding of both languages for them to be immediately funny, as they are supposed to be (my informant could not stop laughing while he told these jokes, while I stared at him blankly, especially the second one). In that way, it can be seen almost as a rite of passage, or a kind of test, for Korean-Americans. To be truly bilingual, to be truly Korean-American, is to be able to understand these kinds of jokes. The fact that these jokes exist at all, in fact, makes it clear that Korean-Americanism is its own culture–that Koreans living in America are not just displaced peoples, losing their culture to America, but an entirely new, emerging culture that thrives on its distinction from both Korea and America.

 

 

BrownBo Formal – Allegheny College

I thought it would be interesting to ask students who went to school in very rural settings what they did for fun or any college festivals and parties they would have. My informant, who is on a sports team that forms a very tight knit community and serves as her primary group of friends, described to me a usual party held around Christmas time. It was started by the boys soccer team living in a particular house near campus eight years ago. Since then it has become a tradition.

The boys from the soccer teams and basketball teams traditionally ask the girls from the girls’ soccer team to the formal, which is really just a college drinking party. The reason why the boys from the soccer team asks the girls’ soccer team is because those are the people who come out to support their games and share the field with them, which in turn almost makes all of the lore surrounding their sport the very thing that draws them together.

Those who attend the formal wear cocktail attire, which is unique to this event. The reason why it is unique is because, as my informant told me, most of their parties are in very casual and warm clothing because of the small town atmosphere on campus. You have to be comfortable because everyone walks on the icy sidewalks during the winter, and the sports teams in general usually dress more casually than the rest of the student body at Allegheny College.

Dirty Joke – American

The informant says she heard the following joke from a student at the University of Southern California: “I heard this one on, um, a—a hiking trip I went on . . . and it was a nighttime hike and we were looking at the stars, and the guides were telling astronomy stories and stuff, but one of them, uh, he told this dirty physics joke.”

The joke follows: “It’s uh, based on the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, which, uh, I guess states something like, ‘If you know something—object’s position, then you can’t know its velocity and vice versa, if you know something’s velocity you can’t know its positions.’ So the joke is, uh, ‘Why was the physics, uh, the physics student, er, um, bad in bed? Because every time he found the right position he didn’t have the right velocity, and every time he had the right velocity he couldn’t find the right position.’”

The informant likes to retell this joke to people she knows are studying math.

She finds the joke funny because it makes light of a serious and unfortunate situation.

The joke is clearly intended for an educated audience; to understand the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, even with an explanation, requires some small knowledge of atomic structure. The Principle refers especially to electrons, which are so small that they’re hard to place. The telling of the joke might even be seen as somewhat of a status symbol—if you get the joke, you’re “in.” The joke of course has a terminus post quem of the proposal of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.