Pure Headache

, , , , | Learning | May 30, 2017

(I’m in A-level chemistry, and we’re making paracetamol (Tylenol) in our lab. My lab partner and I have completed all the steps and now have a small pile of white powder on a watch glass. Our teacher notices and comes over to talk to us about the write up.)

Teacher: “So you need to make sure you’ve written down all your values as accurately as possible, to work out how much you should have made, so you can compare it to how much you actually made.”

Partner: “How do we know how much we’ve actually made?”

Teacher: “Well, you just weigh it.”

Partner: “No, but how do we know it’s pure? It could just be chalk for all we know.”

Me: “I have a headache; I could eat some and see if it goes away?”

(I didn’t, nor did I plan to, eat any of it, but as my teacher pointed out, my answer technically wasn’t wrong, just ill-advised. Our next lesson was about calculating purity from melting points.)

Creating Class Surface Tension

, , , , | | Learning | May 13, 2016

(I am a senior year in high school when I discover that I haven’t taken a required class for graduation.  My headmaster opts to just plunk me into the class, adding that I really don’t have to pay much attention, since it is taught with a seventh or eighth grade textbook. For most of the class, I pretty much keep to myself, ace the tests, and doze. That is, until one day near the end of term. The teacher is talking about random things when she comes to a point about water. I will never forget the next things she said.)

Teacher: “Surface tension is the tendency of water to stick to itself and repel other things.”

Me: *thinking* “Well, that’s over simplifying it… but eh, they’ll learn more later.”

Teacher: “In fact, surface tension is so strong, it’s what keeps ships afloat! From little speed boats, right up to big aircraft carriers.”

(At this point I blinked, and laughed loudly.)

Teacher: “Is something funny?”

Me: “Uh… yeah. Kinda.”

Teacher: *snooty* “Well, if it’s so funny, why don’t you share it with the rest of us?

Me: “I don’t think you want me to do that.”

Teacher: “You’ll either share it or I’m sending you to the headmaster’s office for disrupting my class.”

Me: “You asked. You just said that surface tension is what keeps ships afloat right?”

Teacher: “Yes. Do you have a problem with what I teach?”

Me: “When it’s wrong, and I can prove it wrong? Yeah, I do.”

Teacher: “So, you know more than me now, is that it? If you think you’re so smart, then why don’t you prove me wrong? Come on up. Let’s see your so-called ‘proof.'”

(I walk up to the board and start writing.)

Teacher: “What’s that mumbo jumbo?”

Me: “It’s the formula to figure buoyancy.”

Teacher: “So, surface tension.”

Me: “Nope, because this takes into consideration the submerged volume of an object, which is V, the fluid’s density, which is P, and the gravitational acceleration which is a standard 9.8 meters per second squared. Using this, you can determine whether or not an object can remain afloat.”

Teacher: “You just made that up.”

Me: “No, Archimedes did back, oh, I’d say, about three thousand years ago. Even then, people weren’t stupid enough to think that surface tension keeps something afloat.”

(The teacher leaves, coming back a few minutes later with the headmaster in tow.)

Teacher: *pointing to the formula* “She is lying to the students!”

(She rants about how I claim the formula can tell what kept things afloat. He looks at my work.)

Headmaster: *nodding* “She got the formula right… So, what’s the problem here?”

(The teacher loses it and storms out. I explained what she’d said and he groans, pointing to the board and to the students.)

Headmaster: “Learn this. It’ll help you in your physics class. As to what the teacher said… We’ll work something out.”

(In the end, I didn’t have to go back to the class. The remaining five or six weeks of class were cancelled, and the teacher dismissed. Years later, at one of our class reunions, the subject came up again. We got back to the question of how someone like that could get a teaching license. One of the students, who had been a freshman in that year, and remembered the incident explained. Apparently the lady was the mother of one of the students, had worked as a substitute teacher, and when the regular geography teacher had to take a year off due to an accident, she stepped in to take her place. After her dismissal, it had been discovered that she’d lied about her qualifications.)

Taxing Taxing, Part 2

, , , , | Working | March 28, 2014

(I’m a graduate student from New Mexico attending San Diego State University in California. It’s my second year in state when I get a call from the California equivalent of the IRS.)

Tax Board: “We are calling because you didn’t pay your taxes for the previous year.”

Me: “For which year?”

Tax Board: “[Year I first arrived in California].”

Me: “Yes. I was not a California resident that year.”

Tax Board: “Yes, but you were living in California.”

Me: “True, but I was maintaining my New Mexico residency. I paid New Mexico state income taxes for that year. I’m a graduate student and since I could not guarantee that I would be staying past the first year, I was maintaining my New Mexico residency in case I didn’t pass through the first year.”

Tax Board: “But you were still living in California.”

Me: “But I was not a California resident. What money is this about?”

Tax Board: “We have a record of interest on [bank account] of $800.”

Me: “That account is drawn on a bank in New Mexico.”

Tax Board: “But you were living in California.”

Me: “But I was maintaining my New Mexico residency. I specifically did not move my accounts over nor did I register my car nor get a driver’s license in California until this year. My voter registration was for New Mexico. I was not a California resident.”

Tax Board: “But you were living in California when you earned the money.”

Me: “But I was maintaining my New Mexico residency. I was not a resident of California.”

Tax Board: “But if you are living in California when you earn money, you must pay California taxes on it.”

Me: “That makes no sense. That means anybody who is physically in California whenever any interest is earned means they owe California income tax and that clearly isn’t true.”

Tax Board: “But as soon as you started living in California, you owed California income tax on any money you earned. You weren’t just visiting. You were living here.”

Me: “Wait a minute. It seems every government agency here in California has a different idea of ‘residency.’ The DMV seems to think I needed to register my car as soon as I drove over the border from Arizona. The university says I’m not a resident until I’ve lived here a year. And now you’re telling me that I’m a resident as soon as I earned any money.”

Tax Board: “Yes, you owe California income tax on money you earned while living in California.”

Me: “You say I owe taxes on $800 of interest income? That’s what, eight dollars of taxes I owe?”

Tax Board: “That’s right.”

Me: “I’ll be happy to write you a check for $8 in exchange for a refund of the $10,000 in out-of-state tuition I had to pay.”

Tax Board: “Excuse me?”

Me: “If I’m liable for taxes, then I demand the services that those taxes paid for. San Diego State is a state-run institution. It is funded by my tax revenues. I was charged out-of-state tuition. But you, the tax franchise board, are saying that I am a resident of California. Refund me my out-of-state tuition. You can take the eight bucks out of that.”

Tax Board: “… I think we might be able to overlook this.”

 

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Weekly Roundup: Math Counts!

, | Not Always Right | Right | June 16, 2013

Weekly Roundup: Math Counts! In this week’s roundup, we share five stories where math skills don’t add up!

  1. Equivalence, Meet Ignorance (5,254 thumbs up)
  2. The Count Would Be Proud (2,508 thumbs up)
  3. Adventures In The Third Dimension, Part 2 (1,571 thumbs up)
  4. Those Heathens And Their Time-Telling Ways (2,368 thumbs up)
  5. Don’t Count Out The Cost Of Education (1,181 thumbs up)

PS #1: check out our Extras section, with pictures, videos, and news!

PS #2: Read more roundups here!

Weekly Roundup: Weird Science

, | Not Always Right | Right | October 21, 2012

Weird Science! In this week’s roundup, we feature customers with a weird (or non-existent) comprehension of science!

  1. The Building Block(heads) Of Life (5,628 thumbs up)
    A brainless bookstore customer gets a crash course in Chemistry 101!
  2. Magnetic Lines Of Farce (3,127 thumbs up)
    This credit card customer doesn’t quite understand the “attraction” of magnetic stripes.
  3. A Heated Topic (3,870 thumbs up)
    A restaurant patron gets into a heated argument with an employee over the warmth of the sun!
  4. Science, Stripped Down To A Soundbite (2,031 thumbs up)
    Explaining condensation and temperature? It’s wasted on customers who just want a “watered”-down explanation.
  5. Can’t Keep A Good Waitress Down (4,038 thumbs up)
    A waitress gets a tip for giving a customer tips on gravity!

PS #1: check out our new Extras section, with pictures, videos, and news galore!

PS #2: Read more roundups here!

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