It pays to be a wise ass

Filed under: academe,neat!,news @ 12:31

My Quantum Field Theory professor, Professor Wise (check out the hot website), gives out change for correctly answered questions in order to encourage class participation. Previous to last week, I’d earned something less than a dollar for my efforts. There’s a couple people in the class who consistently make about ten or fifteen cents a lecture and there’s one person in particular who answers “zero” to every question for which that answer could be appropriate. Professor Wise has lauded (and suggested) this strategy, claiming that nearly all of the questions he asks can be answered correctly with that response.

In Tuesday’s lecture, we were discussing grand unified theories, and he posed the (implied) question, “Guess how many grand unified theories I understand.” I responded quickly and authoritatively, “Zero.” The professor immediately burst out laughing and headed for his wallet. Fishing around for a quarter he said, “No, no, no. That deserves something more”. He pulled out a single, but said, “No, no”, and pulled out a five spot. Coming over to my seat he proclaimed to the class, “This is the most money I have ever given out in all my days as a lecturer. No one has ever had the chutzpah to say something like that. Congratulations.” I expressed my deepest honor and gratitude and stuck it in my pocket.

The rest of the class responded with a mixture of laughter, shock, and (I’d like to think) admiration (for the both of us).

To make the deal even sweeter, Professor Wise also finalized his plans to take the class out to dinner the following evening.

Five bucks and a free meal for going to class and being a smart ass. Awesome.


    Adam 05.26.2005 @ 12:46

    Wow! Mike has chutzpah. Who knew?

    jjk 05.26.2005 @ 13:27

    Yeah, I didn’t know that either. Do you have to go home at lunch time to walk it?

    And great story, by the way. An instant classic, if I may say so myself.

    OG 05.26.2005 @ 13:28

    While not as impressive on your story, I also had an “it pays to be a smartass” moment.

    In high school, my honors English teacher, Mr. Wilcox, used to offer extra credit points during our quizzes for difficult questions. After a while, he tired of giving our free points to students and changed the system so if you got the question wrong, your score was actually lowered. The number of volunteers dropped significantly.

    There were still a few bold students who were willing to go +/- 5 points on the quiz for a chance to impress the teacher and their classmates – plus they were smart so they had good odds. Depending on the week, I would sometimes raise my hand and sometimes I would pass, and I think sometimes I got the points, but usually I was unsuccessful.

    Once again, the teacher tired of this routine and one day he decided to up the ante. He switched from a 5 point challenge to 10 and the number of raised hands went from about 10 down to 5. Thinking our hubris still too great, he moved the challenge to 15 points, and the number of hands went to three.

    On this particular day, I had almost zero confidence in my skills to pass a quiz. I had done none of the reading and was completely unprepared. Also, thinking that the teacher wanted to teach us overachieving students a lesson, I was even more inclined to sacrifice my assuredly poor grade just to differentiate myself from my grade-conscious classmates.

    He raised the challenge to +/- 30 points and only my hand remained. My classmates gasped and Mr. Wilcox raised his eyebrows ever so slightly. He offered me clemency, “Ogden, I’ll give you this final opportunity to back out without any repercussions. Are you sure you want to take this challenge?

    jjk 05.26.2005 @ 13:29

    By the way, I like the double entendre (intended or unintended) as a result of the name of the post and professor.

    MDA 05.26.2005 @ 14:30

    OG, that’s an awesome story. I can just see it happening: “Dipthong!”

    jjk, Yeah, isn’t that awesome: Professor Wise.

    HH 05.26.2005 @ 14:44

    Dipthongs schmipthongs.

    Your answer woulda been better had you said: “Well shit, that’s a muthafuckin dipthong bitch.”

    But then again, hingsight is 20/20.

    HH 05.26.2005 @ 18:45

    And hindsight is even better.

    Holly 05.26.2005 @ 19:26

    You’re Jewish?! Who knew?

    MDA 05.27.2005 @ 12:24

    For those further interested in diphthongs (note spelling: thanks Dad!), check out this too-hot phonology site.

    And Holly, couldn’t you tell from my payot?

    Adam 05.27.2005 @ 18:08

    Wow, Mike… that site is… I don’t know, is freaky the right way to describe it? I mean, I knew that language wasn’t exactly a simple thing, but… wow. Check out the “Non-Pulmonics” section to hear some of the toungue-click sound… things.

    MDA 05.27.2005 @ 19:25

    Awesome, isn’t it?

    Griztown 06.02.2005 @ 17:18

    Not to change the subject here or anything, but how many Grand Unified Theories does he understand? Sheesh!

    MDA 06.03.2005 @ 11:03

    “One” was the answer he was looking for. Though it depends on how you define things. “One” in this case refers to an equivalence class with an infinite number of members.

    Nathan 06.04.2005 @ 21:01

    Man, this takes me back. I treasure the certificate I got from Mark’s class in ’02: “You can now calculate any cross-section in QED. Congratulations.”

    MDA 06.05.2005 @ 10:32

    Nathan, I couldn’t agree more: Mark Rocks.

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