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MIT student blogger Sam M. '07

I’m just curious as to why you keep invoking William Faulkner. by Sam M. '07

"MIT is so charmingly nerdy" entries #12 and 35.

I had not the greatest week, but tune in tomorrow for my misadventures with the reply-to-all feature and otherwise… I don’t want to destroy the organic unity of this entry.

Anyway, in the midst of this not the greatest week, I was thinking about limericks, which of course led me to thinking about quiz bowl. I was thinking about how much fun I had doing quiz bowl in high school, even though I’m not on the MIT College Bowl team or anything. Do you do quiz bowl? If so, here are the three most important things you should remember for quiz bowl competitions:

1. Beethoven wrote only one opera, and it was called “Fidelio.”
2. Nearly all of the work of William Faulkner is set in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County.
3. The third-largest city in Ireland is called “Limerick.”

…and why was I thinking about limericks today? Well, I saw this stray piece of graffiti on a chalkboard as I was walking through building 56.


Get it?

“The integral of z squared dz
From one to the cube root of three
All times the cosine
Of three pi o’er nine
Equals ln of the cube root of e.”

When I was at home, my friend Ben asked me if everybody at MIT would understand the “E/c^2 … sqrt(-1) … PV/nR” shirt.

I was just about ready to say, “Oh, not everyone, we’re not that stereotypical…” but then I gave it a few seconds of thought and concluded, with some surprise, “Uh… yeah, I think so.”

Don’t worry, you’ve still got time to learn.

21 responses to “I’m just curious as to why you keep invoking William Faulkner.”

  1. Laura says:

    OK so I’ll admit I didn’t get the limerick at all and was totally sitting here evaluating the integral (I’ll blame it on the 18.01 pset I’m procrastinating from).

    But I love that T-shirt. =)

  2. Alex says:

    That reminds me of the good ole’ days when i had math courses and understood more than just basic calculus. Now I just spend my time teaching freshmen and sophomores the joys of O-Chem and Gen Chem…

  3. James says:

    Have you ever heard this chant: “Secant, tanget, cosine, sine! 3.14159!” It seems like it was longer than that, but I cannot remember the rest. I heard it from a seriously nerdy team on the TLC show Junkyard Wars a couple of years ago. I think they called it the Geek Chant.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Love the shirt! Didn’t get the limerick and, like Laura, evaluated the integral.

  5. Sam says:

    Actually, James, that’s the beaver call… as much as I hate linking to myself, you can find it at the end of this entry in its full glory:

    See, you unknowingly posted the official unoffical MIT cheer–clearly, you’re destined for MIT. Make sure you write that I said that at the top of your application, now.

  6. Mia says:

    James, was this the whole chant?

    e to u du dx, e to the x dx!

    Cosine! Secant! Tangent! Sine!

    3 point 14159!

    Integral, radical, mu dv

    Slipstick, slide rule, M.I.T.!

    We are Happy- Tech is hell


    M.I.T. Rah! Rah! Rah! (repeat 3x)

    Technology! Technology! Technology!

  7. Mia says:

    Whoa, Sam just posted my same answer, but ten minutes before, and better-put (a link!). That was cool.

  8. Mitra says:

    You should post the poem you wrote for Megan Tsai…..heh

  9. Sam says:

    Mia, I actually like the “we are happy, tech is hell, t-e-c-h-n-o-l… o-g-y!” variant better, so I’m glad you posted that one too.

    Justin… also remember that “Polish piano player” always refers to Chopin, unless it’s “Polish piano player and politician,” in which case it’s Paderewski. I can’t believe the “Fidelio” question hasn’t come up for you before; we used to hear that like once a month!

    It’s also worth noting that regular blog commenter Nehalita corrected a math error I had made earlier in this entry that was missed by at least 4 MIT students.

    Mitra… way ahead of you.

  10. Justin says:

    I am in Quiz Bowl and did not know 1 and 3 but 2 comes up at least once every tournament. Also figures that the one Faulkner novel that I read did not mention Yoknapatawpha.

  11. James says:

    So that’s how that cheer went. Totally awesome, but I’m going to have to delve deeper into calculus if I want to understand these great math puns. I had to go to the library to find out what integrals were. But I understood the (E/c^2) (sqrt -1) (PV/nR) shirt.

  12. Kate says:

    I stuck some duct tape on a sweatshirt of mine and wrote the t-shirt design on it. Only a few people got it, and it was great to see the puzzled looks on their faces…

    I must tell that limerick to my calc teacher tomorrow, she’ll love it. Thanks!

  13. Mia says:

    Heyyy, glad I could be of service. Thanks for posting the limerick though. You gave me a chance to impress my English teacher because you actually posted it on the same day that my AP English Poetry Project was due (this huge notebook of poetic device definitions and examples). So, I printed it out for her, and she was very happy to see that an MIT blogger somehow, very appropriately, posted an extremely creative limerick (with math she had never seen before) on the same day that she would be reading approx. 60 student-created limericks in the notebooks. You made her day!

  14. Clark Poland says:

    My school hosted a quiz bowl tournament today. I read questions since our team had too many people missing and I’m cool like that. Well, there was a question about Fidelio and Yoknapatawpha County. When I read it, I couldn’t pronounce Yoknapatawpha (that’s a tough word if you’ve never read/heard it before)

  15. cindy says:

    ‘lo, this is a wee bit random but im looking for really really really good/funny bookS to read over christmas so…if you guys could suggest your favorite… thanks smile

  16. Sam says:

    Hey Cindy, two of my favorite books are A Prayer for Owen Meany and Everything is Illuminated. The former is engrossing and terribly heartbreaking (and even has some very appropriate Christmastime elements) and the later is both hilarious and devastating, and full of a lot of interesting and unique literary techniques. If you’re looking for nonfiction, I’d also suggest Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond–it’s really eye-opening, although maybe a bit preidcatble.

  17. Drew says:

    Its been so long since I’ve even heard the word limerick I’d never be able to have picked up on the fact that it was one (along with the “all” in the one line, just wouldn’t have included it), and I still don’t know what equation the last part of the shirt came from, although I have to admit it is one that MIT students would know, at least after their first physics class.

  18. Aalap says:

    Hey I just got that E/c^2 thing, it’s so cool. But I am applying to MIT this year, so I better get that kind of stuff smile

    I must admit though I integrated that limerick and was totally confused.

  19. cindy says:

    thanks sam. have you read iron & silk or lost in place (both by mark salzman)? they’re hilarious smile !!

  20. cassi says:

    “and I still don’t know what equation the last part of the shirt came from”

    Dude. PV = nRT Ideal gas law. WTF, man.

  21. cassi says:

    Oops. I thought it was Sam who posted the quote above. My bad. smile Well, there you go Drew. Ideal gas law. If you take any chemistry class ever, you’ll see that baby.