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MIT student blogger Snively '11

I AM THE MASTER!!! by Snively '11

Is there really something that this many people can hate? Yes.

Hmmmmmmm, 18.03 PSET or blog? On the one hand I could be productive and try to finish my PSET, generally making my life less stressful promoting my own well-being. On the other hand, I could also make the argument that blogging is therapeutic and thus would lead to a similar outcome of well-being. Now the question is, which do I enjoy more, blogging or 18.03? Um, blogging. Duh.

We’ll begin with a quick video clip:

[A short segment from CBS’s “Big Bang Theory”]

I’d like to use this video as conclusive proof that every geek in the world wants to be the master (I’d include the proof by induction but it’s long, tedious, and involves calculus so I’ve omitted it). Master of what? Doesn’t matter, as long as said geek has control over something. I think this stems from any geek’s long life of ridicule and belittlement, but I could be wrong. Anywho, the powers at be have begun to realize that nothing swells the ego of an MIT student more than proclaiming him/her as the master of something.

I am totally in favor of a professor calling me Master Snively. “What an excellent PSET Master Snively” or “Correct Master Snively, very well done.” Unfortunately, there is only one way to become a master at MIT and it’s in only one subject.

Every freshman taking 8.01, 8.01L, or 8.02 will, by year’s end, be Masters of Physics!!! The excitement is almost overwhelming! I mean, me, a Master of Physics, can you imagine!? People will bow before me and kiss the ground I walk on. I will proudly proclaim the virtues of precession and calculate capacitance for fun, squashing the less adept between the force of my heel and the normal force from the ground. I AM A MASTER OF PHYSICS!!!

Oop, I’m sorry, let me get you a rag, I didn’t mean to drip that much sarcasm all over your shoes. *squeak squeak squeak* There, all clean now, except for that little bit of bitterness that soaked into the laces but that’ll wear off in time. is an online physics program that tacks more homework onto the lives of most freshman physics students. In addition to weekly labs and weekly PSETS we also have Mastering Physics due twice a week (Thursdays at 11:00 PM, Sundays at 8:30 PM). Essentially you log on and are met with a screen listing sets of assignments. Click on the one that’s due next and you are met with this:

[I’ve actually finished this set so there are percentages next the different assignments.]

Click an assignment and you are greeted by a screen like this:


It is then up for you, the student, to answer the physics questions. Not so bad you say? Sure, I’ll go for that, for maybe the first two weeks of it, but certain things about Mastering Physics start to DRIVE YOU FREAKING INSANE throughout the semester. I’ve taken the liberty of listing such attributes:

1) It’s extra work.
2) It’s extra work that’s really easy to forget because it’s due at strange times.
3) There are always a lot of assignments in each set.
4) Each of those assignments have a lot of parts (sometimes a through m)
5) Everything is case sensitive
6) You can’t submit it with parts that are left blank
7) No Copy-Paste
8) They will use degrees in the question and expect radians in the answer (and vice versa)
9) Guess wrong even once on a multiple choice question and your grade is screwed
10) If you turn in Mastering Physics even 1 second past the deadline you get absolutely no credit for it.

If you’ll remember, Chris posted a lovely little tale about Mastering Physics that exemplifies many of these attributes (Hopefully Chris doesn’t mind if I reproduce his story here):

Aside from the technologically-enhanced lectures, another complement to TEAL is that students must submit weekly assignments online through a site called Mastering Physics. The online assignments involve answering physics problems and entering numerical or variable answers through a real-time system that immediately assesses the answer and provides hints if the student does not know how to approach the problem or enters the wrong answer. Since everything is done online, homework can now be due late at night, or on weekends. For 8.01, there are 2 assignments weekly that must be submitted before 11:00 PM on Thursday and 8:30 PM on Sunday. One of the biggest drawbacks to this system is that everything is computerized, and if you miss the deadline by even ONE SECOND, you get a zero for all the problems that you didn’t submit before the deadline.

So Zach and Chris suddenly remembered that they had a Mastering Physics assignment due at 8:10, and this was basically the ruckus that ensued:

Disclaimer: This does NOT happen on a daily basis. =p

Zach: Do we have a Mastering Physics assignment due today?
Chris: Crap, you’re right!!

*logs on and attempts the questions*

*everything is fine, until 3 minutes before the deadline*

Chris: Three more minutes! What do you still have?
Zach: The reading question and the one on escape velocity.
Chris: Me too! Dude, did you read the chapter?
Zach: I don’t remember any of it!
Chris: Me neither! Dude, where’s my book?!

*retrieves the Physics book from some corner in the room*

Chris: Uhh, the chapter is about Kepler’s Laws of Gravitation.
Zach: Oh! That’s easy! *scribbles something into the reading question*
Chris: *writes* “I … found … this … chapter … to … be … pretty … confusing … because … Kepler’s … third … law … is … confusing …..”

Chris: One and a half minutes!
Zach: Let’s see the escape velocity question…oh crap! It has like seven parts!
Chris: *clicks in* AHHH.
Zach: *reads* The key to making a concise mathematical…blah blah…find the mechanical energy of a object blah blah blah…assume gravitational potential energy is zero at large distances. I don’t know what this is! What are you doing?
Chris: I’m doing the multiple choice! Yes, yes, no, yes, no….YESS I’m getting all of these right without reading the questions! It’s crazy!
Zach: ARGG ok I’ll go and do those as well!

Chris: AHHH THIRTY SECONDS. What is the formula for escape velocity?!
Zach: AHHH it’s something to do with the square root of something!!
Chris: AHHH FIFTEEN SECONDS! Stop doing what you’re doing! Press submit!! Press submit!! They’ll give credit for the questions that we at least answered!!

*frantically presses “Submit Item”*

Zach: I’m pressing it!! I’m pressing it!! AHHH “Cannot submit homework when there are incomplete parts”!!

*bursts out laughing*


Zach: Okay, I’ll just take the time to do this homework assignment over properly.

Chris’s screen: “Homework submitted 1 Minute and 39 Seconds late and received 0% of available credit.”
Chris: So all that work and I still got 0% for the Escape Velocity part.
Zach: Oh well, at least it was fun.

Let’s see, how many things from my list happened there? 1,2,4,6, and 10. I too have a Mastering Physics story, which is similar but different.

It was about 8:27 PM and I was walking towards my floor lounge when all of a sudden (name changed to protect the guilty party) Andrew sprinted out of the floor lounge screaming “OH MY GOD! THREE MINUTES TO DO MASTERING PHYSICS!” He blew past me towards his room to get his computer. Two seconds later his friend, Eric, rounds the corner from a hallway orthogonal to the one I’m in and sprints after Andrew, yelling “I’VE GOT THE ANSWERS ANDREW, I”M COMING!!!”

I’m laughing now, realizing that this is too funny an opportunity not bear witness too. I jog after Eric as Andrew runs out of his room, across the hall, and slams down into a couch next to Eric. I stand in the doorway and watch.

Andrew: Come on computer, turn on!!!
Eric: Alright dude, I’ve got all the answers up, just get online and we get this done.
Andrew: I’m trying! *looks at watch* TWO MINUTES!
Andrew: Ok, I’m on. What are the answers!?
Eric: Here, just give me your computer (computers are swapped)
Eric (mumbling to himself): “g . . . sub . . . 1 . . . times . . . . AAAH! Stupid fraction! Work! Ok, got it, True True False, A, A, D, False . . . ”
Eric: Alright, I’ve almost got it, I just finished the second assignment. CRAP! There’s no way I can finish this last one!
Andrew: Hit submit then!
Eric: SUBMITTED! Wait, NO! Empty parts, I can’t submit it!
Andrew: 15 SECONDS! GO!
Eric: Show answer, show answer, show answer, SUBMIT!
Mastering Physics: “Homework submitted 0 Minute and 13 Seconds late and received 0% of available credit.”
Andrew: ***** **** **** ****!!!! I hate this stupid website!

I lol’d.

At the end of the day, even if you successfully completed Mastering Physics, there is no feeling of pride or mastery and you detest the website just as much as you did earlier. Sometimes you will hear students trying justify their completion of Mastering Physics by saying things like “I’ve Mastered Physics already, have you even started?” but most everybody knows that there is no real feeling of accomplishment involved in finishing Mastering Physics, just this sense of uncleanliness after having spent an hour of your life doing online physics.

Master Snively? I wish.

50 responses to “I AM THE MASTER!!!”

  1. Anonymous says:

    ok maybe i’m ok with not getting in to mit now

  2. Nick says:

    At MIT, physics masters you.

  3. Ana says:

    I liked this one. Do we need to master 8.01L as well? Just out of curiosity, how do you guys know with so much precision at what time you are doing what? And how can you be sure your watch isn’t 1 minute behind the computer’s time? (I don’t think you would be happy to submit it a minute late because of that).

  4. Anonymous says:

    Psst … Snively, you should join the UATTF: The Underground Anti-Teal Task Force.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Haha, this sounds a lot like WebAssign xD

  6. Anonymous says:

    Haha, this sounds a lot like WebAssign, but the good part about WebAssign is that it’s due at 8:30 in the morning usually for us raspberry

  7. Nihar says:

    more cynical….I see what you mean wink

  8. weller says:

    we had a physics online hw thing from Univ. of Texas online… it was terrible.. you couldn’t round at all, and all your answers had at least 7 digits behind the decimal, and sometimes the internet in the dorms ( i go to a residential school) wouldn’t work when you wanted to submit… you either hate it or love technology depending on how much time you have left

  9. OmarA says:

    Wow…imagine if all assignments were like that.

  10. mee says:

    when are decisions coming out? 15th?

  11. Abduhu says:

    Well, once you’re done with the assignment you should scream out “I AM THE MASTER” no matter how you feel. I’m sure its therapeutic.

  12. Rutu says:

    OMG I completely sympathize…….er…..empathize……We have the same thing for our Calc 3 class. Well, almost the same…the boxes are a bit different though….here:

    So yeah, I know exactly what you’re talking about with exact answers and submitting late and forgetting and stuff…..though, if we submit late, our teacher takes a point off for each day, so I guess that’s better than no credit……but oh man, we have to go through this twice a week? And the fact that I’m probably going to be majoring in physics doesn’t make in any more possible to dodge these….and here I thought once every 1-2 weeks was enough…….ah well, MIT’s still awesome ^__^

  13. Rutu says:

    Oh, and I forgot…..we don’t get any hints and stuff…..just have to do the problem, click submit, and blindly pray for the best……

  14. I totally know what you’re talking about Master Snively! (can’t believe I’m the first to say that in the comments haha) Well not totally because mine isn’t for physics but in my Spanish 1010 class we have a thing called “Quia” and it SUCKS! It’s due the night of the test and it is probably about…oh i dunno 50 questions long and each question also has at least A to D if not more. I hate it… Gah..
    At least I’ll be somewhat prepared for becoming a “Master of Physics”!:P

  15. Hyun Jin says:

    Amazing blog as always, Master Snively.

    Online assignments seem to be horrible, but I’d do it for admittance into MIT. Hands down… Yeah, and um do situations like the two you’ve written happen often?

    Oh, by the way, does anyone else watch the Big Bang Theory periodically? I think it’s the best thing since sliced bread. Or bread in general.

  16. carmen says:

    lol…all the more reason that i start studying physics and ace the ap physics test this may. my french class started doing a “watch a french episode” thing on discovery channel website. the sad part is, it is so corny and that we have to have it “submitted” before my teacher goes to bed. which is a very variable time…=(

  17. Anonymous says:

    You know, sliced bread wasn’t that great.

  18. Steph says:

    Don’t even get me started on Mastering Chemistry. There’s a flaw in Mastering Chemistry that Mastering Physics might have. I know how you can be the master, Snively. *evil laugh*

  19. jesse says:

    BBT is great. All my friends play wow, except for me. I imagine that that is what it is like sometimes. Anybody know when the next new Big Bang Theory is going to be out? I miss it terribly.

    That is the one bad thing about online programs. Real people have some empathy and leniency. Computers have a hard time showing empathy.

  20. Anonymous says:

    It’s all about 8.012 kids. The psets are hell, but they’re regular paper ones, and impossible to forget.

  21. job'12 says:

    do you have to do mastering physics if you do 8.012?

  22. oh my god! je voudrais etre a blogger.
    hey snively, donnnnnnnn’t you love your job. It is awesome. I am praying i come over in fall and take over the job from you as a hacker.
    Why don’t we try some online stuff in the meantime?

    dude, your keyboard should be……

    Nway am bored here at job working for spinvox and trying to convert crazy voicemails into texts. its 4.15am and i cant wait for dawn. I need some rest. any help guys?

  23. David says:

    My AP Physics class has something similar called webAssign and it drives me insane, in ways you have described. We have to do these weekly homework assignments online and the system is so fussy, refreshing your browser will make it crack and submit a bunch of wrong answers and make you cry til your eyes are blood red. I have another pset due this Friday!

  24. le-yo says:

    these automated computer-controlled assignments should be scrapped out of the educational system.
    Its like waiting for rapture and hoping you wont be a second late in the preparation ( at least the atheist dont have to worry much.)

    hey y’all check out my page on

  25. Rutu says:

    Wow, look at us, all wanting to live for the next four years at the Massachusetts Institute of TECHNOLOGY, and wanting to kill simple online assignments ^__^.

  26. pratik says:

    hi snively!
    great blog!I know its really great to be called the master at doing anything.I too was called the master of calculus,three dimensional geometry etc. at my high school(must admit it felt like i was on cloud nine).On a more serious note,I couldnt help but notice that your syllabus bears a striking resemblance to my 12th grade syllabus(I am Indian btw).take capacitance for example.In addition to the topics u mentioned,we also had spherical,cylindrical capacitors,capacitors with dielectrics in different arrangements,LC,RL and RLC circuits etc.Please correct me if this is a misconception.

  27. pratik says:

    btw when are the decisions going to be declared?The tension is nerve wracking(I hyperventilate all day and havent had decent sleep in months!)God help us!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  28. Judy H. says:

    wow, thank god I’m only in AP Physics C

  29. Kal says:

    great, i just spent an hour watching clips from the big bang theory instead of doing my homework….thanks snively!! (no sarcasm intended, watching was so much funner then studying for my english test)

  30. Anonymous says:

    I have no experience with Mastering Physics, but Mastering Chemistry is awesome. Mainly because I don’t really pay attention in class and teach myself with the information presented in the Self Tutoring assignments.

  31. Davorama says:

    Why are you so cool?
    “Oop, I’m sorry, let me get you a rag, I didn’t mean to drip that much sarcasm all over your shoes. *squeak squeak squeak* There, all clean now, except for that little bit of bitterness that soaked into the laces but that’ll wear off in time.” = genius. write a book.

    We had to submit homework online for AP physics last year – it was just about the same thing, except via AIM. “How do you do #30?! I only have a minute!” “I guessed a second before it was due and got it right.” – the only thing was we were able to submit single questions and get credit for just those.

  32. Anonymous says:

    How many MITians get into FBI, CIA, MI5, MI6 and things of this sort. ( ‘The Recruit’ says so). Answer this snively.

  33. Snively says:


    I personally know one person who is being recruited by the CIA and I can only assume that there are others as well.

  34. asm says:

    Oh God. I remember my sophomore year physics class tried something like this once. It failed miserably, to say the least. Pretty much, every other question would undoubtedly evoke a collective “wtf?” from various areas of the computer lab. Thankfully it was banished forever. Of course, while we were using it that fateful day, we all lol’d.

    …Snively, that expression is starting to embed itself into my brain. I found myself saying “I lol’d” at least three times today. o_O

  35. Shruthi says:

    Wow, the timings for submitting stuff is set that accurately? :O Well, (Master) Snively, just scream if you cant get it done… Like someone else said, I am sure it would help :D

  36. Granton says:

    I am a prospective freshman for mit. I was wondering what the grading scale for this class is.

  37. Anonymous says:

    If anyone ever tells you they’re being recruited as a spy or undercover cop, then they’re not very good at their job XD

    So, I’d assume there’s a lot more raspberry

  38. Anonymous says:

    And who says that CIA needs only spy or undercover cops? There is lot more into it. Spare some thoughts for the crazy Car Maker for Bond..James Bond. LOL…

  39. Chris says:

    heh just found out these blogs aren’t blocked at school because they’re educational! w00t! Ahem..I just realized that clip is from The Big Bang Theory (I see the bracket notation, I just didn’t read it, which I independently discovered yesterday was awesome, therefore two conclusions independently verified= The Big Bang Theory is amazing.

  40. Anonymous says:

    Chuck Norris is a master of physics, and he went to Cal Tech!?

  41. Rutu says:

    I agree with Davorama. You should write a book. On anything. We’d read it. Maniacally. ^__^

  42. Hawkins says:

    Master Snivblag! I lol’d at your story. I can’t wait to master physics… = Big Bang Theory look awesome. Too bad I don’t have TV! =(

  43. Hawkins says:



  44. Truman says:

    I can’t help but get the idea that nobody, anywhere, is good at Physics.

  45. Jalpan Dave says:

    Being a university student myself and having had to submit Mastering Physics Assignments, I have my own funny stories to tell.

    Once, for some gas law question, the answer was supposed to be given in 2 significant figures and I wrote 17.8. The feedback was “Not quite! Check to see if you’ve made calculation mistakes.”

    There was a question which had a gazillion parts on of which was “Check all that apply” type of questions. I checked all that applied in my head and kept getting it wrong again and again. In the end, the answer showed up and all of them were correct choices. Damn it!! And as Master Snively said, even one question can screw up your grade.

    But having said that, I love Mastering Physics and I think it strengthens your grasp of the fundamental Physical concepts.

    I too am taking a course in Electricity and Magnetism but I have like 10 days to do each assignment.

    Snively, what exactly is TEAL? I’ve read about it 1000s of times but have no clue even today what it is!!! Please advise.

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  48. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t there another way to become a Master? Does not the Assassin’s Guild bestow the level of Master Assassin to some of their best warriors? Just wondering.