Arbitrary snakes


Here is a true and accurate description of a thesis defense. Just in case you’re contemplating grad school.

It is also true that the snakes are mostly toothless, but they can still kill you. Maybe.

Comments

  1. fusilier says

    You realize you’ve just signed your death warrant.

    And don’t expect AAUP to _defend_ you.

    fusilier
    James 2:24

  2. jrkrideau says

    Or as one great defense went, ‘ Well actually Herb, that really is your area so I’ll let you do it”.

  3. numerobis says

    Youth these days get it so easy. That wasn’t written until years after I did my defense. I had no warning!

  4. psanity says

    @ 5, NYC atheist:

    I can think of a couple possibilities. Either you didn’t follow the link, or you are so deeply embedded in academia that you’ve forgotten most people don’t know about the snakes.

    I’ve known, kind of, since I was a small child, but I thought it was a metaphor. Although Dad was really freaked out by snakes after that.

  5. says

    I have never had to defend a thesis but my understanding is the snakes at the university are similar to the snake I had to fight at my union initiation. And the ones you fight before they let you into the motion picture academy, fuuuuuckkkkk…

  6. Rob Grigjanis says

    I still have nightmares about my snake. I knew it would be there about an hour before the ordeal began. I think it was a large constrictor, but my serpent-discerning skills were at low ebb that day. I felt lucky to get out more or less intact.

  7. says

    Snakes can turn up anywhere – and perhaps some of the nastiest are the nameless snakes that block your publications and grant applications. In the 1970s I was working on a human-computer interaction model based on observations of how sales staff viewed the problems of complex sales contracts in one of the most advanced computerised system of its time. A colleague suggested that perhaps what it was doing had a link with Artificial Intelligence – and gave me a recent Ph.D. thesis to read. I quickly realised that much AI problem solving applications involved tiny closed systems with single solutions – while my work was aimed at complex open-ended tasks where the goal was not known in advance. But, I thought, simple closed tasks are a simple subset of complex open-ended tasks and I quickly showed that my “commercially inspired” approach could match (or even out-perform) most of the mathematically inspired AI problem solvers in the recent literature. But as soon as I tried to publish I was repeatedly blocked by anonymous snakes. Typically a paper describing my problem solver and giving details of how it actually solved a range of recognised AI problems would came back as “too theoretical ever to work.” It is now realised that the narrow-minded 1970s research on chess playing and simple logical puzzles had taught us virtually nothing about human intelligence but many years ago I had given up the research in disgust. retirement allows me to do genuine “blue sky research” and it turns out that what I had in the 1970s was a simple neural net model which concentrated on the transfer of information between neural nets (the brain of the human and a computer) – bypassing much of the need for time-consuming trial and error learning which dominates most current “Big Data” neural net research. Perhaps my research could still be of interest – but at nearly 80 years old, with an 1970s albatross of rejection round my neck, and no prestigious institution backing me, the modern snakes will automatically dismiss the ideas..