So long, and thanks for all the price gouging

Whenever I see Martin “Pharma Bro” Shkreli, I am reminded of a line from the 12th Chapter of the Restaurant at the End of the Universe:

“He smiled a tight little smile which Zaphod wanted to hit with a brick.”

Today, I am instead reminded of the last line of that chapter…

“He smiled the smile that Zaphod wanted to hit, and this time Zaphod hit it.

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I am grading linear algebra homework, and a not-insubstantial percentage of students attacked the problem of determining whether or not [2,6,6] was in the span of [-1,2,3], [3,4,2], and [-9,-2,5] by converting this into the system of 3 equations in three unknowns:

{ –x + 3 y – 9 z = 2,   2 x + 4 y – 2 z = 6,   3 x + 2 y + 5 z = 6 }

…and then, rather than row-reduce a matrix as we have done for the LAST EIGHT WEEKS, proceeded to solve this system by isolating the x in the first equation and substituting that into the second, and then isolating the y in that equation and substituting it into the third equation, and…

Clearly, I have failed them.

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All I wanted was a Pepsi

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Greek to me

So I gave the problem below to my Calc 3 class during an “open quiz” (think in-class work), as a means of assessing (a) that they know what the symbols mean without the crutch of loaded letters (like x, y, z) and (b) that they can compute the partial derivatives in the correct manner in the correct order.

It was an unexpected bonus, then, when I got to listen to students say things like “Do we have to take the derivative of donut-e-to-the-chexmix-squared-donut with respect to the chexmix first, or the donut?” and “If you differentiate all horseshoe-sine-horseshoe-flyswatter with respect to the bullseye, you get zero.”

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High ground

Is it just me, or is an Anakin Skywalker toy with pre-detached arms and legs a little too on the nose?



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