It's obvious

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Wed Aug 13 02:13:40 UTC 2008

At 6:25 PM -0400 8/12/08, Joel S. Berson wrote:
>I have now recalled another "it's obvious" tale, told to or read by
>me I cannot recall when:
>The professor of mathematics is at the lecture hall blackboard,
>writing out a proof.  As he writes one step, he remarks "this step is
>obvious".  He looks again, pauses, steps back, and pauses some
>more.  Then he says "excuse me" and leaves the room.  About 40
>minutes later he returns, says "yes it's obvious", and continues
>writing the proof.
>I don't think I'm confusing this with a cartoon; my visual memory is
>pretty strong.

There are a bunch of these stories on the web, which I found when I
searched for "Yes, it is obvious" [no contraction], some attributed
to a specific mathematician, some not.  You can find four of them by
googling "Yes, I was right, it is obvious".


>At 8/11/2008 07:16 PM, James Harbeck wrote:
>>>Remember that old cartoon - from The NY-er, I believe - featuring two
>>>profs? It went something like this:
>>>Prof. A to Prof. B:
>>>"It's obvious."
>>>Nevertheless, having second thoughts, A proceeds to fill two walls of
>>>blackboard with abstruse mathematical calculations. After he finishes,
>>>he turns back to B and reiterates:
>>>"Yes. It's obvious."
>>Oh, Richard Feynman, in _Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman_, has an
>>anecdote just like that:
>>At the Princeton  graduate school, the physics department  and the math
>>department shared  a  common lounge, and every day at four o'clock we  would
>>have  tea.  It  was a  way of  relaxing  in the  afternoon, in  addition  to
>>imitating  an  English  college.  People  would sit  around  playing  Go, or
>>discussing theorems. In those days topology was the big thing.
>>      I still  remember  a guy  sitting on the couch, thinking very hard, and
>>another guy standing in  front of him,  saying, "And therefore such-and-such
>>is true."
>>      "Why is that?" the guy on the couch asks.
>>      "It's trivial! It's  trivial!"  the standing guy says, and  he  rapidly
>>reels  off a series of logical steps: "First you assume thus-and-so, then we
>>have Kerchoff's this-and-that; then there's Waffenstoffer's Theorem,  and we
>>substitute this and construct that. Now you put the vector which goes around
>>here and  then thus-and-so..."  The  guy  on  the  couch  is  struggling  to
>>understand  all  this stuff, which goes on at high speed for  about  fifteen
>>      Finally the  standing  guy comes out the other end, and the guy  on the
>>couch says, "Yeah, yeah. It's trivial."
>>James Harbeck.
>>The American Dialect Society -
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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