Quotes From Cambridge Maths Lecturers

(Back to my home page...)

A collection of some of the gems we have put up with at 9am in Cambridge Lectures...


Courtesy of Colin Cotter.

(Strange ideas about size)
'Then we draw round a circle at infinity...I'm sorry - I think the board isn't quite big enough...'

(Mathematician's inner knowledge of chemistry)
'Of course the hydrogen atom is soluble...'


'Possibly the proof is so easy it is impossible for you to follow'

'Of course this is a meaningless statement, but it's obivous what it means'

(and again)
'And you may say that is meaningless, and how right you are, but it's worth keeping in mind nonetheless'

(after writing 'Observe...')
'You see, this is the pompous mathematics style'

(After explaining about share prices for 5 minutes)
'Actually, I don't know anything about this'

(After a summary of the previous lecture)
'So, if you found that convincing, you're very gullible!'

(Discussing the step function)
'And you might think that this doesn't have a derivative here, but this is a Methods course!'

(At the start of lecture 14)
'I'm pleased to announce we're over halfway through the course...and it should get more interesting from now on!'

(Summing up the feelings of everyone)
'Here's the relativity stuff. It's not meant to be explicable'

(In the middle of proving something; the answer is nothing)
'What has that got to do with it?'

(a bit later in the lecture)
'And we know what that is because we did it in the middle of the wrong proof!'

(After writing 'Expansion relative to alien cofactors')
'Killing off the aliens!'

(After calling two lemmas the same number)
'Oh, how unfortunate, we wouldn't want 7.14 twice!'

(A vain hope)
'I hope I'm making this transparent rather than opaque!'

(Near the end of the final lecture)
'I thought I'd finish off by giving you the tripos example from the past, and you can see we would have got good marks'

(A relief huh?! But then we've forgotten a proof...)
'Oh, damn the example, I'd forgotten about this!'

(After writing lots of stars in an equation)
'This is what happens after you get a knock on the head!'

(Happiness with the syllabus-writers)
'I'm going to start by saying something stupid, because the way this course is designed I think you're supposed to say something stupid at this point, so I will'

(Something suitable for those sixth-formers)
'You call it the Argand plane if you're a schoolmaster, but real people call it the complex plane'

(Mathmaticians really know what they're doing)
'And of course you're thinking of epsilon as being teensy-weensy, but you don't want to put that in the formal definition'


(After failing miserably to prove a theorem)
'Exercise - Try something to prove the theory'

(Following groans of discontent)
'I can see you like this stuff very much'

(From a lecturer who seemed incapable of forming a complete English sentence)
'I don't know about the English language' - oh well, don't worry, you're only trying to teach maths!

(Far too much enthusiasm for 9am)
'I _really like_ column 3'

(After the 10th instance of chalk breaking in the lecture)
'They don't make chalk like they used to'

(He really ought to get out more)
'It would be nice if every matrix was diagonalisable - it would be the coolest thing on earth!'

(Well, this is reassuring for the exam)
'Of course, the question itself doesn't make much sense...'

(More thanks to the lecturer)
'This notation is confusing, and is deliberately chosen to be that way'

(Who needs clarity?)
'So the sides determine the angles, more or less. I say more or less, because if you think about it, it's not actually true.'

(This sounds rigourous!)
'Proof: Fiddle around with vectors'

(and this!)
'Proof: By picture'

(This one is ultimately reassuring, coming half-way through the last lecture of the course)
'And at this point we know nothing at all'

(After writing c-squared rather than c)
'In sensible units c will be one, so it doesn't matter...'

'Force is measured by Newton'
(presumably after resurrecting him)

(The sort of fun comment only mathematicians can make)
'You can't have holes. You can have spherical holes but not cylindrical holes.'

(Modesty is this guy's strong point)
'This looks like a silly thing to have done but it's actually remarkably clever!'

(After giving a set of equations)
'You can work out why it's obvious'

(one for Beavis and Butthead fans)
'It takes 16 years to get to Uranus'

(Who said precision was dead?)
'I wrote this down in section 13.n, where n is approximately 3'

(Accurate formulae)
'dee by dee t of L, plus nasty, equals G, with nasty usually equal to 0'

(Tautology prize of the term)
'Now less than or equal to means less than or equal to'

(Can someone tell me what this means?)
'The other case is precisely similar'

(While trying to emphasise something)
'What we really need here is Ian Paisley...'

(During a lecture)
'There are some smart people [here]. It's amazingly depressing'

(Due to an interesting example on tiling bathrooms; a perfect example of how ridiculous Maths is in the 'real world')
'Let T be the sum of all possible bathrooms'
'Take the empty bathroom...'
'Is every bathroom included on the right-hand-side?'
'There's no notion of a radius of convergence here...'
And when we were asked 'So what's this?' someone just had to reply 'A kitchen!'

Back to my home page...
This document created by Mike Miller. Last edited 4 September 2004.