Rather than respond through a comment to Pi Day, it seems appropriate to bring this one front and center. If you recall, on March 14 I posted pictures of our Pi Pies. For kicks, I had some students position a white board from their physics class behind the groaning board, call it a little atmosphere. As an endnote I put out a challenge to my dear sister’s son to interpret what was on the board. Successful explanation would result in the Pi Pie of his choice the next time we get together.
He gave a stab at it.
Course, that left me with a little problem. I’m not a physics guy. What do I know? Oh, I know a bunch of people who are. Last Monday after a meeting with one of my graduate assistants I told him about the challenge.
To be fair, this is a really nice guy so I chalk up the smarmy to cultural difference. I know he doesn’t mean to be smug and superior.
“There’s no way,” he said. “This is very high stuff.”
“Humor me,” I told him, then printed the picture and explanation. I didn’t hear back from him all week.
Yesterday I ran into the professor teaching the class. Might as well go to the source.
“Professor, do you have a minute? Could you do me a quick favor?”
Just so you know, this is my favorite person on faculty. He is incredibly smart, his work is elegant and useful and he is approachable and open. Think of him as an anti-Sheldon.
“Of course,” he says with this great Moscow inflected English.
“You know I have this wonderful brilliant genius nephew, right?” I told him.
Professor Anti-Sheldon looked indulgent.
“Yes, of course. The computer guy,” he answered.
I explained the challenge to him and my inability to verify his answer. Professor Anti-Sheldon was kind enough not to smirk. On the outside.
“Let’s see what this genius nephew has to say, yes?”
I showed the professor the picture then scrolled down to the explanation. Professor Anti-Sheldon glanced at the explanation, scrolled through it, gave it at least two seconds attention.
“Hmm,” he said. “You have a problem here.”
“Was he close?” I asked.
“Well this is not the problem, you see. This is the problem. On the left side of board is the class notes and your nephew, he has grasped the situation and explained it correctly. This is good. But on the right side of the board, you see. This is not the class notes. These are notes the students used for a different question, you see. So he explains this as well. And then this, he relates the left hand side of the board to the right hand side of the board, ehhh, this is a fair explanation.”
“Cool. So what’s the problem?” I asked.
“In all fairness, you owe him two Pi Pies, of course.”