Friday, May 6, 2011

Do not bring large exotic or farm animals to class

Colleges and universities certainly want to encourage diversity and ensure access for individuals with disabilities. If you want to bring a seeing eye dog or cat to class, that will probably not be a problem. If you need a stuffed animal to be comfortable, that may be OK, too.

Nevertheless, professors and their institutions have to draw the line somewhere. Not only is having a seeing eye giraffe, elephant, or hippopotamus quite disruptive to the educational process; these also take up a great deal of space and, at least occasionally, cause significant damage to the buildings. Because of their obstructive qualities, these may also bring the institution out of compliance with fire and other emergency evacuation regulations. In terms of logistical concerns, those that are not properly house trained may cause serious littering problems and unpleasant odors that will interfere not only with your own learning, but also that of your classmates.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Limit contact with aliens

There is something to be said for having an open mind, so at first glance, this advice might seem disconcerting. Why should you not take the opportunity to benefit from the potential wisdom of visitors from other galaxies?

One reason is pragmatics. This type of interest can become obsessive and detract from your studies. I am not saying to shun these creatures--just limit your socializing to no more than two or three hours a week.

Another reason has to with your credibility. Although it is clearly possible--and by some accounts even probable--that there is intelligent life elsewhere in the Universe (or, for that sake, in parallel universes), most reputable scientists doubt that these fellows have actually visited Earth lately. In addition to possible constraints of possibly not being able to break through the speed of light barrier, the time dimension throws in an additional curve. Civilization on Earth may have been around for a few thousand years and may not last beyond the next thousand years. If we go back in time from the beginning of our Universe (which, by the way, raises some problems, according to certain theoretical physicists which I do not make any claim to understand), being of by just a fraction of a percent could mean that a civilization would be missed by a large margin. The bottom line is that if you claim to be hanging out regularly with aliens, you may suffer a serious loss of credibility. Professors try to grade you only based on your work, but in borderline cases, someone who comes across as a nutcase might end up with the lower grade.