[0012] HighFlying Dreams
└ posted on Monday, 1 December 2008, by Novil
Bonus points for everyone who recognizes the formula on the chalkboard in the third panel. Extra bonus points for everyone who proves its correctness. Please see the third comment for more information…
 Woo: What do you want to be when you grow up?
 Sandra: It’s always been my dream to become a math professor.
 Woo: Math? Isn’t that pretty difficult? I’m always having trouble telling apart four from five. Let alone five from six!
 Sandra: If you have the knack, math isn’t that tough anymore! One day, the name North will be mentioned in the same breath as Newton, Gauss and Turing!
 Professor: I am delighted to award you as the first woman in history with the Fields Medal, Mrs. North.
 Sandra: During the test last week, I didn’t remember the quadratic formula…
Yay for girls in math!
Schoenfeld’s bound on the prime counting function?
I can’t see it; it’s too small.
The end of the first line looks like ‘bacon,’ though.
@ Anonymous: Very good guess with Lowell Schoenfeld. However, it is supposed to be his nonasymptotic version of the Riemann hypothesis. Well, after googling a bit, I’ve found this specific formula only in the linked Wikipedia article. So I hope that it’s not a hoax. (Math at the level of the Riemann hypothesis is really beyond me, so I can’t tell myself…)
…..
Nerds.
Also, my first comment here! : D
Love the comic so far. Best start of any I’ve seen before!
Given that I read about 60, that’s saying something.
i’m with johnny – definitely a strong start. can’t wait to see where it goes
i too read around 60 comics, and i’m finding this one every bit as interesting so far as some that have run for years. keep up the excellent work
I’m sorry to be picky, but the honorific “Mrs.” in English is used with a married name. If the child’s family name is “North”, it would be quite a coincidence if she also married someone named “North”. OTOH, it may just be that her imagination does not fill in these details – she imagines that at the advanced age shown [;)] she would be a “Mrs.” rather than a “Miss”, eh? [I am growing to like this comic strip, even reading it backwards ...]
When I wrote the dialog, I imagined that Sandra thinks that she is married at this time. I didn’t consider the issue that women usually adopt the family name of their husband, but I think it’s better this way nonetheless. Apart from your rationale, it would also be very confusing to the reader if the professor would say: “…, Mrs. Smith.” At least in Germany it is also not that unusual that women, particularly successful sportswomen or show stars, keep their old family name after marriage.
It’s actually not that uncommon for women in the sciences to keep their maiden name at least for professional purposes, especially if they started publishing their work under that name.
Really enjoying the comic, by the way!
Awesome comic here. I’m confused about one thing though: according to the cast section, Sandra is supposedly very good at math, especially differentiation, which kind of contradicts the comic here. Is she just that bad at quadratic formulas alone and great with all the other areas, or is this comic before she got better at math?
[...] and take on serious subjects like human rights in Burma. Anyway, any comic that has a little girl dreaming of winning the Fields Medal is a winner in my [...]
On the subject of Sandra’s last name–I learned about Marie Curie many years ago. One day, I found out that her husband’s name was Pierre Curie. I swear that I honestly thought to myself, “Neat! She married a guy with the same last name!” True story.
b + or – the square root of b squared 4ac all divided by 2a.
Quadratic Formula
Anyway I’m loving the comic so far.
About the “Mrs.” part – it’s not all that odd, though it does imply she is married. Some husbands take their wife’s family name instead after all.
Why is a 11 year old girl having to use the quadratic formula?
I move that the name of this strip be changed to “Weapons of Math Destruction.”
I like it.
Negative B plus or minus the square root of B squared minus 4 A C all over 2A! XD
I knew that from memory!
ACK!
i know the quadradic formula and an easy way to remember it. just sing along with it to the “pop goes the weasel” tune!
try it! you’ll be surprised how well it works
Um, I’d have thought she’d be MS. North, not MRS. You might want to do something about it.
Turing is kind of an odd choice for a list of famous mathematicians. Don’t get me wrong, he was a genius, and in his day they called him a mathematician — but he’s usually thought of now as a computer scientist, since his work pretty much created the field.
I remember wanting to be a famous mathematician when I was a child. But over time, I realized that I just didn’t have the “knack” for it.
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I think its amazing that she knew it in the first place after all shes only 11 and I didn’t learn the quadratic formula till I got to Algebra 2 at 15 years old and I remember that I learned it very fast but then again I always did excel at school back then especially math
@ Xohan: because I’m 12 years old and I have to remember the quadratic formula..tho its quite easy…from memory!
[B + Root(B^24AC)]/2a
Tip: I had my math exam today.
Can you make a blownup version of the third panel? I want to verify the expression on the chalkboard.
@ Novil:
You don’t understand the Riemann Hypothesis? I know it looks and sounds scary and difficult but it’s actually pretty simple. It just turns the area under a function into a bunch of rectangles and adds them all together to get a quick and easy approximation of that area.
…it’s the lazy man’s calculus.
^
/ \


Disregard that. I was thinking Riemann sums. Yeah, his hypothesis is crazy annoying to understand.
fuc* that, i forgot the quadratic formula today.
Haha, we had a song to remember that formula when I was in Middle School. It’s to the tune of “Pop Goes the Weasel”. It goes:
The opposite of b
plus or minus the square root
of
b squared minus four a c
all over two a
(a + b)^2 = a^2 + 2ab + b^2
Problem?
‘head explodes’ I’m am not a math girl. at all. T.T I can’t tell you how many times I’ve resorted to counting my fingers and toes, which is really, really sad for someone who’s in college.
x=(b +/ [Square Root of: b*b +/ 4ac])/2.
I forgot it too on my last test XD
@ Novil:
@ GreyRogue:
Case in point: my wife, PhD in astrophysics/astronomy, kept her last name. We agreed that if we had children, boys would have my last name and girls would have hers, just to screw with the school systems. Unfortunately that isn’t going to happen.
Math was my favorite subject when I was in school. I went up to calculus 3 in college before taking a break. I may go back sometime to get my degree in electrical engineering.
@ Wayne Zombie:
In the US, if a woman obtains a PhD BEFORE getting married, she almost exclusively keeps her maiden name. (I don’t personally know a single case to the contrary) Of course, then she is always referred to as ‘Dr. MaidenName’ or Professor, not Mrs.
@ GreyRogue:
Actually, what’s funny is remembering how to DERIVE formulas like this using calculus or one of the other socalled basic areas of math easier than remembering some arbritrary equation. My TI85 (and later as an adult, TI84/89) calculators were fun toys as a teenager. TI calculators could play games as well as allow you to test your ideas before writing out your answer to a question on homework/exams.
Irony: Calculus is at a much more basic level than algebra and trig, yet you have to learn algebra and trig first, since a lot of concepts won’t make sense in a classroom setting. Sadly, it’s not popular to teach a little of each math area at once, to the more abstract students. The more advanced concepts in calculus are very… painful, regardless of your aptitude. I’d compare it to learning machine/assembly language from my programming classes. VERY easy to learn the important concepts but a royal pain to actually implement anything beyond simple arithematic. Adding 2 numbers in memory? Easy. Creating a spreadsheet program or a game? Ugh, that’s what languages with higherlevel concepts are for.
Amazingly, there are parts of ALGEBRA that are way more awkward than calculus or pretty much any of the other areas of mathematics. Trying to prove that there is no exact positive solutions to the cube root of the sum of 2 cubes is not exactly trivial, nor is it for higher powers. Fermat’s Last Theorem (for sum of n’th powers) is considered solved but the solution is not exactly straightforward by any means. Trying to break the same encryption used by websites we use everyday, is essentially like factoring any large (100s of digits) number. The fact that NO ONE KNOWS HOW TO DO THIS EASILY is the only reason that we trust the encryption used by banking sites.
Well, an issue I see with professional women, is that they often marry other professionals. If I talk of Curie’s discoveries, which one do I mean? And that’s not even considering the fact that they BOTH worked with these (eventually, deadly) materials.
@ Zeke:
To be fair, in that line of computer science, it is STILL considered a branch of mathematics and not some art or something like applications programming or user interfaces are.
He mostly dealt with algorithms and what we would now call machine language. Turing’s “Bomb” was a play on words in that it helped defeat the Germans as surely as any airplane, tank, or troop.
It’s not that uncommon. My niece says what she wants to be when she’s an adult, and she imagines herself married with kids and a price charming (she’s seven), but she always uses her last name in the imaginings. I guess without a last name in mind, it makes sense.
@ TTTTTTTTTT:
How do you know it’s great? I went there to find a webpage for the comic, but according to the pages html & other programming…. the author hasn’t uploaded any comics yet. That seems incredibly, um, lazy(?) considering that that comment was made 3 years ago. Maybe it’s just the browser I’m using(?) or the fact that I’m trying to reach it from work. I dunno. No comics to be found there. For me anyway.
Btw, I really like the strip so far. Just discovered it today from an advert on the Axe Cop main page. Thanks for supporting Ethan & co. that way. AND for introducing me to your strip. I love it so far.
@ Oson:
I thought it should be “Dr.” (as in PhD).
Xohan wrote:
To solve quadratic equations. Duh.
To be fair to her, I can’t remember the quadratic formula either.
…To be less fair, she’s obviously been studying it while I haven’t used it in years…
@ Xohan:
My daughter took geometry at 10, so it doesn’t seem unreasonable to me.
On another note, she’s likely to be Dr. North if she’s winning the Fields medal, but it’s still certainly a worthy dream.
Congratulations Dr. Maryam Mirzakhani
The first woman just won the fields medal Dr Maryam mirzakhani. She can be the second.