Why I am an atheist – Matthew Smedberg »« BBC Radio 4 might want you

Academic advising

I’m just going to have to put the latest xkcd in front of the incoming students: as it says, Every Major's Terrible. I notice, though, that the only reasons he can give for biology sucking are ones of personal distaste.

Of course, rejecting the pragmatic rationalizations for every major is wonderfully liberating. If they all suck, then you should just major in what you love.

Comments

  1. says

    Well said. It’s like Stephen Fry says – who started this idea that education had to be vocational? Do it because you’re interested. (That’s not a direct quote because I’m too lazy to find the part of his book where he said it)

  2. laszlomolnar says

    And the reason for Astronomy is – a bald guy with a bear and glasses who dislike BS? :D

  3. tynk says

    I was a comp say major in college and once spend 12 hours straight looking for a single missing semi-colon (;).

    … for some screwed up reason, I still enjoyed my major.

  4. carlie says

    I hope I’m not the only one who read the title, then proceeded to force myself to read the rest of the comic in proper meter and melody.

  5. spamamander, hellmart survivor says

    Not at all- I just sang the whole thing. Out loud. Thankfully I’m at home…

  6. consciousness razor says

    “If everything is terrible, then nothing is.”

    Music isn’t one of the terrible majors, though, as putting the whole thing to a tune clearly demonstrates.

  7. says

    I hope I’m not the only one who read the title, then proceeded to force myself to read the rest of the comic in proper meter and melody.

    I think anyone who didn’t is doing it wrong.

    … I just sang the whole thing. Out loud…

    … And this, of course, is doing it especially right.

  8. Esteleth, Who is Totally Not a Dog or Ferret says

    Ha! That is brilliant.

    My major wasn’t listed. :(

    Hmm. Anyone wanna help me write a rhyme about biochemistry?

  9. Naked Bunny with a Whip says

    @carlie: I tried, but apparently I can’t read fast enough to keep up with the music on my head.

  10. Trebuchet says

    And the reason for Astronomy is – a bald guy with a bear and glasses who dislike BS? :D

    Almost snorted coffee out my nose picturing Phil Plait with a bear.

    Hmmm, engineering isn’t mentioned, except where he says “physics major” redirects to “engineer”. Which it doesn’t. Though it may have yesterday!

  11. Richard Austin says

    Esteleth:

    Ha! That is brilliant.

    My major wasn’t listed. :(

    Hmm. Anyone wanna help me write a rhyme about biochemistry?

    Something like,
    “The only life you’ll have is in a dish when you do biochem”?

  12. paulburnett says

    PZ wrote “…the only reasons he can give for biology sucking are ones of personal distaste.”

    If you’re tasting things in biology class, you’re doing it wrong – that’s only allowed in culinary arts and forensic pathology classes.

  13. vaiyt says

    xkcd has a history of unfavorably comparing other fields to physics. It’s not coincidence that physics was left out of the song (and the only mention of it is in a favorable comparison with mathematics).

  14. DLC says

    @paulbarnett 17: Nah, you can taste stuff in geology too, sometimes. “here, see this rock ? if it tastes putrid, then that white blotch on it is bird droppings”
    Oh wait. you mean that was a joke ? Dang.

    Archeology is great except for all the dust — sneeze.
    Climatology’s as boring as counting rings on trees.

  15. yiab says

    Saying that math is just like physics is missing about half of math – abstract algebra. The part about “unconstrained by precepts of reality” is quite accurate though, and that’s why I love it.

  16. Stardrake says

    Hmm-they forgot theatre.

    “Theatre only hones your skill at asking “You want fries with that?”

    (Yes, I have a B.A. in Theatre–it’s very useful, there’s this hole in the bathroom wall, the degree covers it perfectly!)

  17. says

    Love the bifurcating cannon ball trajectories.
    I majored in music comp, spending four years drawing little black dots on paper. That was over 20 years ago, though; I’m sure nowadays one makes the black dots on a computer. Such is progress.

  18. thegoodman says

    I was unsure of my major so I selected one that I had a moderate interest in that had a high rate of job placement with relatively high pay. I figured that while I was trying to figure out what I want to do with my life, I might as well earn a good living while doing it.

  19. Brownian says

    that’s only allowed in culinary arts and forensic pathology classes.

    not true; you can do it in soil science too, if you’re so inclined

    I trust no one here will be surprised that I did.

    So, for those keeping track, the lab in which I’ve tasted the samples include soil science, minerology, osteology/forensic anthropology, paleontology, and stone tools/archaeology.

  20. radpumpkin says

    Bah, all Randall could say about my major was being on high on methylacetate. As if! Sure, it smells quite nice, but there’s no getting high off of it. See, whenever we want to have fun in lab, somebody “accidentally” leaves a large beaker filled with diethyl ether on a hotplate. But I guess that was a bit too much for the whole singalong thing…

  21. David Marjanović says

    who started this idea that education had to be vocational? Do it because you’re interested.

    The idea comes from the times when studying certain things (usually medicine or law) pretty much guaranteed you a job.

    Those times are plainly over. Nothing guarantees you a job anymore. You might as well do something interesting before you fail to enter the job market. :-)

    I hope I’m not the only one who read the title, then proceeded to force myself to read the rest of the comic in proper meter and melody.

    Of course you aren’t :-)

    Anyone wanna help me write a rhyme about biochemistry?

    Anýone wánna hélp me wríte a rhýme ’bout bíochémistrý… sorry.

    Nah, you can taste stuff in geology too, sometimes. “here, see this rock ? if it tastes putrid, then that white blotch on it is bird droppings

    See comment 33. If it sticks to your tongue (…not that way), it’s porous, and that usually means it’s a fossil!!!

  22. AshPlant says

    I just, y’know, I just feel like he loses points for not mentioning salarians at all whatsoever in the ‘you may know this from’ text at the beginning.

    Granted, he hasn’t got many more points left to lose in my eyes, but still.

  23. The Swordfish, Supreme Overlord of Sporks says

    Thanks a lot, AshPlant. Now I’ve got “I’ve studied species turian, asari, and batarian…” stuck in my head… :P

  24. AshPlant says

    Happy to help, O Fish of the Sword. Tell me…do you choke up or crack up when you hum it to yourself?

  25. Amphiox says

    Well, with proper cooking and judicious use of spices, I’m reasonably confident that a Fowler’s Toad can be made palatable, which would make the objection to biology the least worrisome of the bunch!

  26. Part-Time Insomniac, Zombie Porcupine Nox Arcana Fan says

    Oh thank goodness, I thought I’d be the only one who tried to sing it out loud!

  27. Rey Fox says

    I hope I’m not the only one who read the title, then proceeded to force myself to read the rest of the comic in proper meter and melody.

    It’s tricky at times, that iambic octometer. I noticed a few instances of syllable-squishing, but all in all, a performance worthy of Cuttlefish.

  28. Rip Steakface says

    I intend to major in CS… and honestly, I can live with spending days looking for semicolons and end-parentheses if I don’t have to do back-breaking labor like my dad and get paid obscene amounts of cash for what amounts to simply thinking way more rationally than the average person.

  29. Circe says

    yiab:

    Saying that math is just like physics is missing about half of math — abstract algebra.

    That’s a rather bold statement.

    1) Modern particle physics has a lot of interactions with modern abstract algebra: in the theory of Lie groups and Lie algebras, for example.

    2) Abstract algebra is by no means “half of math” (unless you just wanted to be figurative). What about Topology, Probability theory, algebraic geometry, and last but not least, combinatorics? And what about that whole area that goes by the name of “theoretical computer science”?

  30. Jem says

    Well, my major (fine arts) isn’t even good enough to be acknowledged. What dismal prospects I have.

  31. bryanfeir says

    The amusing thing is that, back in University, I actually knew someone like this. He’d been in University for ten years, and was in the middle of pursuing his ninth major at the time. (Said ninth major was the ‘Independent Studies’ program that allows you to essentially create your own major from the available classes. While good for particular edge cases that don’t get covered by the normal programs, say studying the interaction of botany and hydrogeology from a primarily ecological perspective, it is really NOT a program for people who already have trouble making up their minds…)