NOTICE: Posting schedule is irregular. I hope to get back to a regular schedule as the day-job allows.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Monday Funny - reprise and update: PHD Comic [Full link to blog for email clients.]

Over a year ago, I started a "Monday Funnies" blog series with a mention of Gary Larson's "The Far Side, and Jorge Cham's "PHD (Piled Higher and Deeper)" comic.

Today, I am reprising and updating the recommendation PHD (  "Piled Higher and Deeper" is a phrase quite often used to describe the futility and absurdity of advanced degrees, and Jorge Cham captures the essence of this absurdity in his comic about grad school life.

Cham's main characters suffer many of the indignities that we all faced in grad school - the distant professor, the unappreciative undergrads, and misunderstanding public. Cecelia wants to meet with her professor, but he is never available (, meanwhile, our "nameless hero" finds that his advisor is often all too available (

Note the red ink all over the paper Prof. Smith is handing N.H. in that last linked strip - I felt that way.  My wife (then fiance) handed her Master's Thesis in, and it sat on the professor's desk for two months, then came back with only a few corrections.  I handed in my Dissertation, and got it back within 48 hours with so much red ink that it actually transferred to items underneath or placed on top of the stack of pages.

But PhD is about more than just science humor:  This installment ( talks about the real science of the Mars "Curiosity" rover.  When Jorge Cham takes to the road for speaking tours, proud students show off their labs, and they often show up as informative comics such as this one about New Mexico's Very Large Array (radiotelescopes):

There's even a PHD movie, and it has toured college campuses and is now available for streaming or download at:  I have to confess that I have not yet watched it - I  plan to share it with the local students at a future "Neuroscience and a Movie"
I close this tribute to a very timely and topical sense of science humor with a reference to one of my favorite comics which describes the "Science News Cycle" (  It shows how a grad student's statistical correlation turns into sensational news.  Many of us have been there.  In fact, I'm there right now, on the one hand trying to decide the appropriate balance between defending my research from being usurped by others while on the other hand trying to avoid calling too much (unwanted) attention to myself.  Meanwhile, I need a third (!) hand to try to make sure I'm not misquoted or misinterpreted. 

We have a love/hate relationship with the press and the public.  Everyone *needs* to know what we discover, but few of us can have the expository genius of an Isaac Asimov or a Carl Sagan - or even a Jorge Cham. 

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