Yet even more sincere answers to stupid questions


People write the craziest things into google, and then land on Small Pond Science.

Here’s a selection of some of these searches, and the best I can do to answer the queries. The queries are verbatim, in italics. I’ve done this three times before, but it’s been a while. If you’re wondering about the title of the post, I guess you’ve never been a regular reader of Mad magazine.

differences between humanities and science

Scientists are on campus on days we don’t teach.


should teachers let a failing student pass a class by doing an extra credit assignment



how long do you wait for an instructor who has their ma

You should wait the same amount of time for an instructor with an M.A. as you would for an instructor with a Ph.D. I sometimes am late a few minutes to class, but if your professor is more than fifteen minutes late, they probably aren’t going to make it at all. But before you take off, you could call the professor’s office phone, or the departmental office, just to be sure.


why don’t underrepresented students apply for the nsf grfp?

Because they aren’t getting the kind of support (financially and otherwise) as the non-underrepresented students. Because they’re disproportionally attending disadvantaged institutions. And because they are very experienced with the systemic biases that reduce their chances of getting funded.


email invitation to give a talk seminar

“Dr. McGlynn, I was hoping you would have a couple days free in the fall semester to come out to our university to give us a talk about your research. In addition, our students would like to discuss careers at teaching-focused institutions in a brown bag lunch as well. We’d be glad to fly you out and put you up at a nice B&B that has a great nature reserve in the back. Sometimes you can catch the occasional woodchuck passing by. Last year, someone even spotted a badger. Our seminars are are Tuesdays — are there some weeks that can work of you?” (you can copy-and-paste this one if you wish and send it to


why using google to answer scientific questions is stupid

Because you also need some information literacy to be able to decide what sources of information are valid?


“your research is in the spotlight”

Be quiet, ResearchGate. You’re so annoying. Just distribute my papers and be quiet.


people are irrational nuts today

People are redundant repeaty googlers too.


good things to say about bad students

“I’ve yet to have another student of their caliber.”


a typical structure within colleges instructor assistant professor associate professor and full professor is this egalitarian or hierarchical

If you ask an instructor, you’ll learn how this is a hierarchy.


having baby husband in grad schooltumblr_mx6b5bRCrC1r4k52uo1_1280

You mean this guy?


difference b/w writer and scientist

Scientists write, but writers don’t necessarily do science.


should grades be based on effort or ability

Neither. They should be based on how much students have learned (i.e., achieved the expected outcomes of the course.).


why should we drop the formalities? don’t need to be too formal since we’re in the same line.

Why I do agree, Mister Arbitrary Googler, that is a proper suggestion.


why are you interested in natural history

Because plants and animals are, literally, awesome.


effects of being famous

More people know who you are.


what is a girl professor called

PROFESSOR. dammit.


dont know much about science books

I don’t know much about the French I took.


powerful encouraging words

You’re good enough, you’re strong enough, and gosh darn it, people like you.


what time does this class end

I know the professor is still talking up at the front and the homework hasn’t been collected, but actually, it’s already over. You can get up and leave.


dress code of an ecologist

No diapers.

3 thoughts on “Yet even more sincere answers to stupid questions

  1. Some of those answers made me choke on my tea with laughter, nice work. However surely your answer to “why are you interested in natural history” excludes the majority of biodiversity, because fungi, algae, protists, the various bacteria, etc., are just as awesome, though most are less likely to be immediately visible behind that fictional B&B :-)

  2. “dress code of an ecologist

    No diapers.”

    What? None of your fieldwork has included sitting perfectly still for a dozen hours?

    None of mine, either, to be honest, but I’ve read too many accounts by Attenborough and Wilson and others about crouching in the bush while ants march up one’s leg.

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