It's obvious

Cohen, Gerald Leonard gcohen at MST.EDU
Tue Aug 12 18:12:30 UTC 2008

My favorite cartoon of the super-intellectual mathematics professor shows an Einstein-like figure (well, I guess it actually *is* Einstein) standing before a blackboard in deep contemplation.  Before him is E = mc5 [sorry, I don't have superscripts on my computer], below which is E = mc4, below which is E = mc3.
And Einstein is looking and looking and thinking.  And the reader of the cartoon is almost tempted to shout out to the cartoon-figure Einstein, "Yes! You've got it! Just come down one more number!"
My reaction anyway.
Gerald Cohen


 From Dave Wilton, Tue 8/12/2008 11:14 AM

I've just searched the New Yorker DVDs through 2005 (I don't have the later
ones.) for cartoons with captions or keywords "math," "obvious," and

It appears that there is a long tradition of cartoons depicting professors
contemplating complex mathematical equations on a blackboard. Here are the
ones I found:

"Duh!" (One scientist to another working on complex blackboard equation.),
Pat Byrnes, 12 April 2004, p.46.

"Hey, no problem!" (A scientist looks at a complicated formula written on a
blackboard.), Eldon Dedini, 19 March 2001, p. 126.

"Here's your problem-you forgot the sleaze factor." (One mathematician to
another.), Lee Lorenz, 30 Sep 1991, p. 27.

"You realize, of course, that this means war." (One physicist to others.),
Sydney Harris, 30 Nov 1987, p. 132.

"This is fine as far as it goes.  From here on, it's who you know." (Two
scientists talking at a blackboard with a long equation on it.), Eldon
Dedini, 17 Nov 1986, p. 139.

"That just shows how little you know." (One mathematician to another.),
James Stevenson, 19 May 1986, p. 34.

"But I digress." (Professor in front of class doodles on blackboard on which
is a complicated formula. Students look perplexed.), Peter Porges, 7 Oct
1974, p.42.

(Mathematician standing in front of blackboard filled with formulas points
to head indicating cleverness, to cat.), Eldon Dedini, 28 Jan 1974, p. 44.

"Ah, it rather looks as though Perkins is on to something." (Two scientists
observing colleague whose mathematical formulas have run off the blackboard
and out around the corridor where he is, still busily jotting them down.),
Warren Miller, 4 Feb 1967, p. 37.

"That and fifteen cents will get you a ride on the I.R.T." (Professor to
student. On the blackboard there are several formulas.), Lee Lorenz, 7 Jan
1961, p. 36.

"And here, in the language of the layman, 'Kerboom'!" (One scientist to a
group. There is a large blackboard covered with physics equations-he points
to the bottom of the board.), James Mulligan, 22 Oct 1960, p. 45.

"Say I think I see where we went off. Isn't eight times seven fifty six?"
(One scientist making correction on  formula that fills blackboard to
others.), Ed Fisher, 16 Jan 1954, p. 25.

"By George, you've got to hand it to him. This really wraps it up!" (Two
scientists look at a complicated looking formula on the blackboard-probably
Einstein's theory of relativity.). Alan Dunn, 11 April 1953, p. 25

The American Dialect Society -

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