0863: "Major in the Universe"

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0863: "Major in the Universe"

Postby glasnt » Mon Feb 21, 2011 5:09 am UTC

Image
http://xkcd.com/863/

ALT: I hear Steven Levitt is writing a book analyzing A.J. Jacobs' quest to spend a year reading everything Malcolm Gladwell ever wrote. The audiobook will be narrated by Robert Krulwich of Radiolab.


http://www.malcolmgladwellbookgenerator.com/

Especially this: http://www.malcolmgladwellbookgenerator ... ages/5.jpg

Technically not a generator, as there are 26 distinct images on loop.

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Re: 0863: "Major in the Universe"

Postby kg333 » Mon Feb 21, 2011 5:22 am UTC

I read the second half of what she said and cringed...

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Re: 0863: "Major in the Universe"

Postby brinhe » Mon Feb 21, 2011 5:23 am UTC

Not familiar with this malcolm gladwell fellow. To be honest, first half of what she said sounded a lot more fun than the second half. And I'm majoring in Computer Science. Hrr.

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Re: 0863: "Major in the Universe"

Postby glasnt » Mon Feb 21, 2011 5:27 am UTC

brinhe wrote:Not familiar with this malcolm gladwell fellow.

I only heard of him from some Tv/radio people RT'ing the MG generator link from my OP.

I'm pretty sure the jist is he thinks he knows everything about everything, but doesn't? >_>

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Re: 0863: "Major in the Universe"

Postby Taymon » Mon Feb 21, 2011 5:32 am UTC

Though I'm unfamiliar with Mr. Gladwell, this comic is still thought-provoking. Obviously, neither of their approaches is at all viable--but is there, perhaps, a middle ground?

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Re: 0863: "Major in the Universe"

Postby LSK » Mon Feb 21, 2011 5:37 am UTC

My solution to this problem was (well, technically, is) majoring in economics, psychology, and sociology, joining the math club, joining the debate team, joining the campus open-theater group, and learning to program and read a foreign language on my own. And being in a band, and reading a lot about physics and chemistry.

It's a pretty good compromise.

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Re: 0863: "Major in the Universe"

Postby devvmh » Mon Feb 21, 2011 5:58 am UTC

I signed up to post this: this sounds exactly like the Bachelor of Knowledge Integration (it's at the University of Waterloo). The first-year prof there really likes xkcd and she definitely read this and got excited. We had a Malcolm Gladwell reading in one of the core courses, and all I've learned is the MIPS instruction set :(

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Re: 0863: "Major in the Universe"

Postby Uninfinity » Mon Feb 21, 2011 6:10 am UTC

I like how, as a kid, I always used to think that being the President was that kind of job, that only super-genius know-it-alls got in.
And then I started watching the news.

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Re: 0863: "Major in the Universe"

Postby A_of_s_t » Mon Feb 21, 2011 6:11 am UTC

Don't we all wish we could major in everything.
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Re: 0863: "Major in the Universe"

Postby Darthcaboose » Mon Feb 21, 2011 6:26 am UTC

The way I've always thought of it is to think of your major as what you'd like to spend most of your time on, but not necessarily the only thing you'll ever do in your life.

Sure you gotta pick something for the sake of the rest of society understanding what you can do, but being well-versed in a lot of different things is the mark of an intellectual (oh, and work-wise, it helps make you a lot more indispensable)!

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Re: 0863: "Major in the Universe"

Postby kanthalion » Mon Feb 21, 2011 6:32 am UTC

After years of lurking, I finally had to register for my first "Get out of my head, Randall" experience. I recently lost my job and am planning on going back to school, but I am having a really hard time deciding on a major because I am interested in just about everything. There just isn't a market for Renaissance men (or women) these days.

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Re: 0863: "Major in the Universe"

Postby halcyon1234 » Mon Feb 21, 2011 6:34 am UTC

A_of_s_t wrote:Don't we all wish we could major in everything.


With a minor in nothing.
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Re: 0863: "Major in the Universe"

Postby scarletmanuka » Mon Feb 21, 2011 6:46 am UTC

I thought majoring in "The Universe" would turn out to be deep theoretical physics. Doesn't everyone want to do that? ;)

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Re: 0863: "Major in the Universe"

Postby Meng Bomin » Mon Feb 21, 2011 6:47 am UTC

I myself haven't read much Gladwell, but the few exposures I've had with him were examples of him being eloquently wrong. The Alt text mentions Steven Levitt of Freakonomics fame and it also mentions Robert Krulwich. The three are narrative artists of the NYC media sphere and I'm guessing that they have a good deal of impact on the intelligentsia of the region (perhaps even our dear Randall Munroe), though Krulwich is the only one I listen to often.

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Re: 0863: "Major in the Universe"

Postby pbnjstowell » Mon Feb 21, 2011 6:49 am UTC

If I could have afforded to be a perpetual student, I would have majored in the universe.

Or library science.
With a minor in everything.
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Re: 0863: "Major in the Universe"

Postby skine » Mon Feb 21, 2011 6:50 am UTC

I've heard that He-Man earned a Master's in the Universe.

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Re: 0863: "Major in the Universe"

Postby nowhereman » Mon Feb 21, 2011 7:31 am UTC

I am a psych major who in his spare time reads high level math books, studies programming languages and computer security, and maintenance, classic economics and game theory (especially David Ricardo), physics, chemistry, biology, martial arts and I am currently trying to learn Houdini escapes. I figure my hyper-eclectic attitude will backfire eventually, but it hasn't yet.
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Re: 0863: "Major in the Universe"

Postby Turing Machine » Mon Feb 21, 2011 7:32 am UTC

Good old Malcolm "igon value" Gladwell.

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Re: 0863: "Major in the Universe"

Postby BryanM » Mon Feb 21, 2011 7:33 am UTC

skine wrote:I've heard that He-Man earned a Master's in the Universe.


I've always wondered if he needed to earn a bachelor of the universe degree before he could get his masters or if it was an open masters program.

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Re: 0863: "Major in the Universe"

Postby StClair » Mon Feb 21, 2011 7:41 am UTC

In a certain fanfic universe I could name, the psychokinetic energy field given off by a sapient brain, disembodied spirit, or sufficiently advanced artificial intelligence is measured in units of "Spengler flux." However, I'm guessing that is not what "igon value" means.

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Re: 0863: "Major in the Universe"

Postby AvianMinded » Mon Feb 21, 2011 8:05 am UTC

You know this actually makes me happy that I worked a few years before doing any sort of post-secondary education. Don't get me wrong... I still have no effing clue what I want to do with the rest of my life, but I have a pretty strong grasp on what I don't what to do with the rest of my life (and those are lessons I learned sans tuition cost).

I'm 23 and have had more jobs than years in my life, so I guess I'm narrowing it down a bit by now... right?
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Re: 0863: "Major in the Universe"

Postby Ethan_Smith » Mon Feb 21, 2011 8:08 am UTC

As a college junior now, I feel like this is very much a high school senior'y experience, partially from the lack of knowledge with what college writing is actually *about* (every european summit that didn't end in an agreement), and the sillyness to think that you've learned pretty much all their is to learn about X, so you can just move on to whatever.

I had two experiences that're related to this comic this week, both of which made me cringe--

My little sister's friend calling me to ask about college, stating that she wanted to double in business and art (Because I like business, and I like art!) and being shocked at the concept of a 10+ page paper.

Walking past a conversation of someone saying "yeah, the homework was really hard, but screw it, I'll just skip it because darn, I know everything about Western civ anyway!"

oohhhh man kid

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Re: 0863: "Major in the Universe"

Postby Mawh » Mon Feb 21, 2011 9:08 am UTC

Thank you for that. I'm desperately trying to find my way, and I was very sad when I realised I could not do everything, as I intended to do when I was younger. Thanks. I'm wiser now.

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Re: 0863: "Major in the Universe"

Postby super_aardvark » Mon Feb 21, 2011 9:21 am UTC

StClair wrote:In a certain fanfic universe I could name, the psychokinetic energy field given off by a sapient brain, disembodied spirit, or sufficiently advanced artificial intelligence is measured in units of "Spengler flux." However, I'm guessing that is not what "igon value" means.


Thank you, this is exactly what I thought too. (Ok, not exactly, but Ghost Busters, anyway.) I'm assuming (congratulations, you're an ass!) he meant eigenvalue, but I have no idea what that has to do with Gladwell (I haven't read Tipping Point or anything else by him).

kanthalion wrote:After years of lurking, I finally had to register for my first "Get out of my head, Randall" experience. I recently lost my job and am planning on going back to school, but I am having a really hard time deciding on a major because I am interested in just about everything. There just isn't a market for Renaissance men (or women) these days.


You know, I was just thinking to myself, "Holy crap, I was just catching up on Radiolab after several months of not listening, and here's xkcd mentioning it this very day! What a startling coincidence!" and here's kanthalion relating his own experience with a similar coincidence regarding this very comic! Get out of my head, kanthalion!

Oh wait, kanthalion's post had no f----ing thing to do with me or my situation. I guess it was just a coincidence.

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Re: 0863: "Major in the Universe"

Postby keithc » Mon Feb 21, 2011 9:41 am UTC

skine wrote:I've heard that He-Man earned a Master's in the Universe.

Hawkwind got there first

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Re: 0863: "Major in the Universe"

Postby dead3y3 » Mon Feb 21, 2011 9:51 am UTC

I am also majoring in computer science, but even a professor wouldn't learn all this (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_instruction_sets). Not of course to mention the not notable ISAs not referenced by wikipedia. :) It is pretty much impossible to know everything and useless for anyone's related future job.

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Re: 0863: "Major in the Universe"

Postby tommm » Mon Feb 21, 2011 9:53 am UTC

Who the hell is Malcolm Gladwell?

Also, what is it with Americans and your "majors"? In Britain, we go to university to just do one subject. I'm in my first year, and I'm taking courses in maths, maths, maths, maths, maths, maths, maths and mathematical physics. I know someone who is on an exchange from MIT, and she tells me that she has to take at least one arts class every term there. Seriously, what is wrong with you guys?

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Re: 0863: "Major in the Universe"

Postby dead3y3 » Mon Feb 21, 2011 10:11 am UTC

tommm wrote:Also, what is it with Americans and your "majors"? In Britain, we go to university to just do one subject. I'm in my first year, and I'm taking courses in maths, maths, maths, maths, maths, maths, maths and mathematical physics. I know someone who is on an exchange from MIT, and she tells me that she has to take at least one arts class every term there. Seriously, what is wrong with you guys?


This does not apply only in America. Here (Greece) in my department we also have a three year core curriculum and we get to chose a major in the last two years.

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Re: 0863: "Major in the Universe"

Postby StClair » Mon Feb 21, 2011 10:38 am UTC

I believe the idea behind the "American" style of university is to not merely turn out appliances that can be neatly slotted into the profession of choice as they come off the assembly line, but to provide graduates with some measure of general higher education about their world and culture and perhaps encourage them to stretch and exercise their minds a bit.

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Re: 0863: "Major in the Universe"

Postby rossrevisited » Mon Feb 21, 2011 10:39 am UTC

Theres a class at Strathclyde University called "The Universe and Everything" (http://soolin.mis.strath.ac.uk/classcatalogue/control/showclass?uiocode=89107&show=all) . I did take it thinking it was the only class I'd ever need. Turned out it was all about fridges and light cones. I needed to take more classes.

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Re: 0863: "Major in the Universe"

Postby somebody_else » Mon Feb 21, 2011 10:43 am UTC

tommm wrote:Who the hell is Malcolm Gladwell?

Also, what is it with Americans and your "majors"? In Britain, we go to university to just do one subject. I'm in my first year, and I'm taking courses in maths, maths, maths, maths, maths, maths, maths and mathematical physics. I know someone who is on an exchange from MIT, and she tells me that she has to take at least one arts class every term there. Seriously, what is wrong with you guys?


I am studying Engineering, majoring in mechanical and aerospace here in Australia. Fortunately I don't have to take any arts courses though, the closest I get to leaving my faculty is for maths.

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Re: 0863: "Major in the Universe"

Postby RebeccaRGB » Mon Feb 21, 2011 10:57 am UTC

I took art classes, but because I wanted to, not because they made me. ^.^

My school didn't do the "take X classes outside your major every term" thing, but rather did the "here's Y classes outside your major you have to take; we don't care when, just make sure you take them" thing. I think it's because high-school education is so poor. I went to a good high school, and even I discovered that you don't really learn anything until college. ^.^

Grad school, on the other hand, is entirely what you're majoring in, nothing else.
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Re: 0863: "Major in the Universe"

Postby topquark » Mon Feb 21, 2011 11:52 am UTC

If he wants to major in the universe, shouldn't he be studying cosmology?

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Re: 0863: "Major in the Universe"

Postby libra » Mon Feb 21, 2011 12:34 pm UTC

Who'd want to major in everything? Crochet patterns, cricket scores and golf handicaps for the past 110 years, celebrity marriages, the history of PAYE, the plot of Desperate Housewives, motor car manufacturers and their available daughters, brands of SCUBA gear on the market since their invention by Jacques Cousteau and every floral pattern ever created by Laura Ashley?

I'd choose to major in the topics I want to learn, the ones I find of interest - not those topics someone else chooses for me, or the "practical," boring work-related topics that will only stand me in good stead when looking for work, but which will serve no purpose whatsoever in enriching my life.

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Re: 0863: "Major in the Universe"

Postby Brillig » Mon Feb 21, 2011 12:48 pm UTC

StClair wrote:I believe the idea behind the "American" style of university is to not merely turn out appliances that can be neatly slotted into the profession of choice as they come off the assembly line, but to provide graduates with some measure of general higher education about their world and culture and perhaps encourage them to stretch and exercise their minds a bit.


While this seems like a nice idea in principle, having experienced (and taught in) both systems, the actual effect is that American STEM students are much less likely to read literature or learn languages (or even take dance or martial arts classes!) unless they're getting college credit for it, while British STEM students are more likely to read/learn languages for pleasure and edification, and to keep reading/learning other subjects after finishing their degree. Obviously there are exceptions in both systems, but this is a marked trend I have observed. I can't comment on how being made to take STEM classes affects Arts/Humanities students, obviously.

Given how much more expensive it is to attend American universities, my feeling is that being made to taken classes outside the subject one wishes to pay to be trained in is the perfect way to breed resentment towards having to take those 'Gen Ed' classes altogether, and generally has quite the opposite effect to the one intended.

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Re: 0863: "Major in the Universe"

Postby KShrike » Mon Feb 21, 2011 1:13 pm UTC

I feel like Majoring in everything would be pointless for me (IMO).

I do wish I could major in Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, Music, and Worship. I can't, however.

tommm wrote:...what is it with Americans and your "majors"? In Britain, we go to university to just do one subject. I'm in my first year, and I'm taking courses in maths, maths, maths, maths, maths, maths, maths and mathematical physics. I know someone who is on an exchange from MIT, and she tells me that she has to take at least one arts class every term there. Seriously, what is wrong with you guys?


I used to think that all the time.... nah, I still do.

I wish all I had to do was physics, math, CSCI, and EE related.

What I normally find is that a good number of courses don't teach what they are supposed to. For example:

English is a course that is supposed to teach intelligent, credible writing. Instead, it teaches students how to misquote random journals to get them to say their opinions. Refer to this comic: http://xkcd.com/263/
Too much politics, too much opinion being taken by its word. It's got to stop.

By the way, if you truly want to major in everything: (to be edited: can't find the video, because I'm in a class, but will edit to post it here)

On a serious note, I happen to be multi-talented to the point of wanting to major in different sides of the spectrum.
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Re: 0863: "Major in the Universe"

Postby rcox1 » Mon Feb 21, 2011 1:30 pm UTC

Ethan_Smith wrote:As a college junior now, I feel like this is very much a high school senior'y experience, partially from the lack of knowledge with what college writing is actually *about* (every european summit that didn't end in an agreement), and the sillyness to think that you've learned pretty much all their is to learn about X, so you can just move on to whatever.

I had two experiences that're related to this comic this week, both of which made me cringe--

My little sister's friend calling me to ask about college, stating that she wanted to double in business and art (Because I like business, and I like art!) and being shocked at the concept of a 10+ page paper.

Walking past a conversation of someone saying "yeah, the homework was really hard, but screw it, I'll just skip it because darn, I know everything about Western civ anyway!"

oohhhh man kid


A wonderful example of he difference between a freshman and a junior. As a freshman we believe we know everything and anything in he process of learning that is no fun to do is a waste of time, because, as said, we know everything.

As we approach senior year we begin to realize that the world is bigger than anything that will fit in our head, and it is not so what we know, but what we don't. And the process, though often tedious, is never boring to a person who wants to learn.

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Re: 0863: "Major in the Universe"

Postby Radical » Mon Feb 21, 2011 1:32 pm UTC

Search MathWorld
No search results for Igon Value

ahw

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Re: 0863: "Major in the Universe"

Postby CSS Suxxx » Mon Feb 21, 2011 1:38 pm UTC

It's a good point that people who think they're interested in 'everything' have probably only had a superficial introduction to most things. And an even better point that Gladwell's trick is giving his readers a very, very superficial look a lot of different areas and making them think they've really learnt something.

Two good points in one strip!

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Re: 0863: "Major in the Universe"

Postby Pez Dispens3r » Mon Feb 21, 2011 1:41 pm UTC

I think it's safe to say this is now my favourite comic.
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