Wise Words of Mr Spooner

Part 3

"Now this is our textbook... and thanks to Bob Rae and his new government we'll have no other for a long time."

"So Mr. Spooner's here riding two horses--there's the people who want Finite to go into Engineering, and maybe there's someone else who's going into something completely different, say, English... How do you prove that Christopher Marlowe didn't write Shakespeare? Statistical analysis! And then there's the Wheel of Fortune... how do you know which letters to pick? There's certain letters whose frequencies are higher or lower; statistics can help. But that's assuming you ever get to the Wheel. Now, about Christopher Marlowe, there were a bunch of people who though that thought that he may have written Shakespeare's stuff because in the 1800s nobody believed that a low-class man like Shakespeare could have written such brilliant stuff... a bit of intellectual snobbery. But by comparing the statistics of nouns and verb phrases and such, they proved that Shakespeare really did dash it all off. Brilliant man. Anyways..."

"Now this is a mathematical equation for falling things. Say someone's failing Finite and they jump out of the window. I can get my stopwatch and tell you when they'll hit the ground. It's a mathematical model."

"Matrix multiplication is kind of weird. I think it's typical that an Irishman figured this out, because they're kind of weird. Anybody of Irish background here? Anyone want to beat me up?"

"This model here would be good for doing research on heat loss in humans. Of course, the Germans, you know, during the Second World War used real people to find that out. They'd take prisoners of war and throw them in cold water and see how long it took them to die. Well, they were expendable, you see. Anyways, once hypothermia set in, they were done for. That's why a penguin looks more like this block. It has a short neck and a stubby body and lots of surface capillaries so its feet don't freeze off."

"Solving a system of equations is kind of like making a jingle for broadway, or television. If you've got a musical mind there's a lot of money to be made making jingles for television. There's a fair amount of artistic scope. So in this system of equations... Can't be longer than two minutes!!! Because it won't fit in a television slot. And you can only use so many notes, because it has to be hummable. So you're limited to part of the piano keyboard and you have to make a nice little ditty that's hummable by the average person, watching TV and eating popcorn."

"How is a donut like a saucer? Well, mathematically, they're identical. Somebody correct me if I'm wrong here. If you've got a marker or something you can draw from one point to any other on the donut. It's the same thing on the saucer; you can just draw all around it. Or a cup! 'Cause a cup has a little hole in it, in the handle, just like a donut."

"We do stupid problems like this because we can do them."

"Give me fifteen thousand dollars and I can assassinate Chretien tomorrow. In Canada you can assassinate anybody--if you don't mind dying."

"Well, you know, way back in Britain and the courts of France how the women combed their hair up--the pompadours. And all the men wore wigs. But, you know, they all had lice. Now you take a look at chimpanzees and such--they all groom each other. You'll see them grooming away in a big line, picking the lice out of the one in front of them. And if you go to some countries where they aren't as lucky as we are, well... They wear those big fur coats, and you're always picking bloody lice out. You've got to live with them, you know, it's a fact of life. Now I remember being in a holy temple in China and I happened to look down and there's all these little black spots on the floor. And I notice that they're jumping up! So I looked down, and what do you know, they were fleas! Thousands of them! Well, we all itched for a while, but in places like that it's a common occurrence.

"Well, I apologise for talking on for so long and giving you all this useless information but I figure that if I don't mention Jonathan Swift to you, maybe no one will. And that would be too bad because he's a very interesting man, you know..."

(said during a test, about the 'or' operator) "Anybody know that jazz song, `Love me or leave me'? The guy is saying `don't leave me hanging'! He's saying either take me now or drop me... but make it one way or the other! That's what the `or' is all about."

"OK, so we've got a guy who's Catholic but he goes to a Protestant school. They're very different, you know, in places like Northern Ireland--the Catholics and the Protestants. But this guy is in both groups... he is a member of both sets. Now I'm not an expert on Northern Ireland, I just know the basic situation, although I visited it once on vacation; it's a very beautiful country. This guy... maybe he can talk to both groups; he can talk to both groups; he can sort of mediate them. < reflects on this> Of course, maybe he's the first one to get murdered--both groups think he's a traitor so maybe it's not so good."

"These are facts! Mathematical facts. Now here in North America we've got a bit of a problem... if there are facts that we don't like, we just don't study them. We ignore them, and just try to put them away. Sort of like if I don't look in the cupboard," (opens closet cautiously and peers inside) "maybe there won't be a boogie man!"

"Now we'd all be happy if someone gave us $3000, but how much is it? How much can you really do with $3000? It's a nice vacation maybe, or an old beat-up car. Or you could get, oh, three hundred cases of beer! You could have some gargantuan party but that's about it."

"I don't know if any of you have ever watched pigeons. We used to have this birdhouse which the birds would sometimes fight over. You see, this one bird kept trying to fly in the hole, but it wouldn't fit. It was too big! But it would stick its head in there and try to get in. Eventually it left and another, smaller bird came and took the birdhouse. Then the first bird came back, hoping it had shrunk, I guess, and stuck its head in there. Of course, the bird that was already in there got mad and they started fighting. Well, you imagine this big head sticking into your home... you should have seen them go at it--but this is an example of the Pigeonhole Principle."

"See, the life insurance companies are betting. They're betting that you will live to your average lifespan. You, actually, are betting that you're going to die early. You do it so that your heirs, your family, will have something when you go. Of course, that's why so many people fake their deaths. You'll see some guy will be killed and a week later his wife has the insurance and is flying off to South America to meet some strange, exotic stranger."

"There's a lot of baaaaaaaaaaaaaad mathematics out there."

"Bad eyesight is genetic. Now a hundred thousand years ago, I'd be dead. When I was six years old, a tiger would have eaten me. < takes glasses off and peers into distance myopically> Hey, what's that big yellow thing? Auuuuuuuuegggggh!!!"

Mr Spooner: < looking at marksheet> "Brandon, you're uh... not graduating this year, are you?:"
Brandon: "Well, yeah, actually, I am."
Mr Spooner: "Oh. Well, you'd better change your plans then, heh-heh! Sorry, heh-heh, sometimes a little, heh, `gallows' humour is appropriate."

"Whattsa' matter, Joel? You in a bad mood? In a little black humour today? You figure you're... < picks up a Time magazine and reads the headline:> `Doomed'?"

"I've spent a lot of time up at my cottage looking at ants. Because you know, those things, you get a few in your ceiling and then a year later the roof falls on top of you! Or maybe you're lying down trying to sleep and there are little flakes of ceiling floating down on you, and then when you finally do get to sleep you have awful dreams about the ants swarming up and attacking you in your bed. So I spend a lot of time looking for ants so I can grab something and zap them."

"One this page we've got some turtle problems... now we can look at turtles and laugh at them, but you've got to remember that they can outlive us. Especially if you're in Bosnia. Or in Russia... apparently now the life expectancy in Russia has dropped dramatically. The chances of a Russian baby surviving are as low as in some places in Northern Ontario where they have almost no medical facilities... it's amazing."

"I think it would be a lot more fun to go bungy jumping if there was a chance that every now and then they would cut the cord when you jumped."

"...that reminds me of an interesting experiment done by some German zoologist a few years ago. Now the primitive bison are all extinct... Romans killed them all in about 600 BC. Anyway, this guy, he started breeding cattle. He took the meanest, most bad-tempered, ugliest, hairiest cow he could find, I mean, all the worst characteristics... so the biggest, toughest, hairiest, most aggressive, smartest--I mean that's a bad characteristic, isn't it? Cows aren't known for their intelligence. They're pretty dumb; people say "as dumb as a cow," now that's not really fair to the poor cows, I mean, what are they being bred for? They're not bred for intelligence. For several hundred years we've been breeding them for what? Milk. Beef. What do we need smart cows for? I mean, if some aliens came along and decided they like humans for, uh, teriyaki or something and they started breeding us, what are they going to do? Not gonna breed us for our brains, that's for sure. Anyways, this guy, he took the smartest, ugliest, nastiest cows he could find, with all the worst characteristics--and he bred them. And he kept breeding these bad qualities. And several generations later, they ended up with something that looked a lot like a mastodon. I mean, these things were huge, mean, had hair down to here, big curly horns, vicious, aggressive, and smart! They were very intelligent, I mean, you really had to be careful with these things! He started with cows and he worked backwards! Because he figured the genes were still there! So he bred these and got something very similar to these ancient bison. He started with what we have now and worked back to get this primitive, this antiderivative!!" < returns to board with glee>

"If you're walking down Yonge Street in Toronto, and you turn down an alley to take a shortcut and you run into a huge guy, like six foot four, he's got a shaved head and a big swastika tattooed in the middle of his forehead, and he's wearing those metal, uh, those metal gloves, well, if I were you, I'd just turn around and walk right out. But the thing is, you see an equation like this, you know what to do."

"That's why men have buttons on their clothes... Because Frederick the Great, he had all these men; it would get very chilly, they'd get colds and start wiping their noses on their sleeves. So Frederick said: `Well, I'm giving them these beautiful uniforms and what happens? They just get colds and wipe their noses on them!' Spoils them--it's a waste, so what he did was put buttons all down their sleeves so they couldn't wipe their noses on them anymore."

"Does anyone know what the mode is? The mode is the most frequent occurrence. It's like the French phrase " la mode," meaning in the style, or in the fashion. So if you're at a French restaurant and you order, say, ice cream " la mode," it means... wait a minute..."

"They used to have this really good TV show called the Bong Show..."
Students: "The Gong Show."
"Oh yeah, that's it! Bong is the sound our clocks make."

"The mathematical meaning of `normal' isn't the same thing that the average man on the street means. Except, I suppose, you have this normal curve, and up here you gave geniuses, and down here you chart the people who are morons and cretins--those are actual, scientific definitions. The lowest of all are the idiots, morons, and cretins. Those are actual, medical terms. Let's see, uhh... I think idiot's the lowest. (scribbles a small chart on the board: "50< moron< 75 25< imbecile< 50 0< idiot< 25")
Yes, in fact, there are people whose IQ is pretty much around zero. I mean, all they can do is breathe! < laughs> That's why you have people pulling the plugs on those life support machines. I mean, you've got a nice sine wave coming out of the machine here... mindless... that's what Madonna was doing to her boyfriends in her latest move, what, um... `Body of Evidence'? Heh, that's supposed to be a really bad one... I didn't see it myself but I heard about it... Anyway, back to the normal curve..."

Brett Allen (allen@cs.washington.edu)