54
$\begingroup$

My knowledge of geometry is just a little bit above high school level and I know absolutely nothing about topology. So, what is the point of this meme?

meme about birds "talking"

(Original unedited webcomic: “Juncrow” by False Knees)

$\endgroup$
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Maybe it because "the geometers" talk a lot (represented by crow) since its using index notation. While topologist describe things by simple formula ? $\endgroup$ – kelvinn aja Jun 3 '18 at 11:10
  • 25
    $\begingroup$ Why in the world do we not have a (memes) tag?! $\endgroup$ – Wojowu Jun 3 '18 at 19:54
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ If it's any consolation, I have been a mathematician for almost 30 years and I have no idea what the joke is supposed to be. $\endgroup$ – Martin Argerami Jun 3 '18 at 21:29
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Once we are at it, there is a nice story about a topologist drinking tea. He drinks tea from a clay cup. Suddenly the handle breaks off. "Very strange"-says the topologist-"the shape of the cup is now completely different but one can still drink tea from it". He drinks one more cup and the bottom of the cup drops off. "Just unbelievable"-says the topologist-"the shape is back to the original but one cannot drink tea from it anymore!" As to the meme, I would say that topologists use nice notation for incomprehensible objects while geometers use incomprehensible notation for nice objects. $\endgroup$ – fedja Jun 19 '18 at 2:50
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ I don't think a topologist will define the first chern class via the curvature form tho. $\endgroup$ – user113988 Jun 19 '18 at 4:10
59
$\begingroup$

The topologist bird is stating some nice simple topological concepts. The geometer bird comes along and interrupts the topologist bird, squawking loudly over the top with something much longer, more complex-looking and uglier, involving iterated partial derivatives, multiple nested subscripts and superscripts, and so on. The topologist bird looks pissed off.

The meme was probably made by a topologist, in a frustrated attempt to convey "why do geometers always overcomplicate things?" or "why is geometry so ugly?" or "why do geometers always talk over topologists?" or something along those lines. (As in most memes, this probably isn't an entirely fair reflection of reality.)

I imagine a geometer could make a meme in reverse that implied "why do topologists always take nice things like doughnuts and turn them into coffee cups and start calculating their cohomology?".

I don't think there's anything deep going on here. The contents of the speech bubbles don't actually mean much as sentences. They're just some common expressions that you find in topology and geometry respectively, thrown together.

$\endgroup$
  • 22
    $\begingroup$ Or the idea may be. What the topologist sings is pretty abstract algebra (or pretty, abstract algebra?) whereas the crowing contains - yuk! - expressions involving the dirty reality of real or complex numbers. $\endgroup$ – Hagen von Eitzen Jun 3 '18 at 11:13
  • $\begingroup$ @HagenvonEitzen Abstract Algebra is a collective noun so the Oxford comma doesn’t make sense. $\endgroup$ – Jack Lam Jun 4 '18 at 13:27
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ It's not an Oxford comma. It's an attempt to ensure that 'pretty' is taken as a second adjective for 'algebra' as opposed to an adverb modifying 'abstract', as it is in the first occurrence. It's not technically correct written English, but it's a pretty good reflection of the pause that one would use in spoken English to make the distinction. $\endgroup$ – JonathanZ Jun 11 '18 at 8:27
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ If only someone - mathematicians, say - would come up with a form of punctuation that clearly marks the order of precedence when dealing with nonassociative operations! $\endgroup$ – Billy Jun 11 '18 at 10:12
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Ha! I've found that with linguists, and some programmers and mathematicians, I can use parentheses to encode the underlying syntax tree of a sentence. Everyone else gets confused and angry. $\endgroup$ – JonathanZ Jun 11 '18 at 16:33
23
$\begingroup$

I rebut your meme with a meme of my own

enter image description here

$\endgroup$
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Hey! Spectral sequences are beautiful! $\endgroup$ – Max Jun 19 '18 at 3:07
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I suppose both subjects have their "elegant" bits... and their scarier bits. :) $\endgroup$ – Mateen Ulhaq Jun 19 '18 at 8:36

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.