Laws of the Universe and Teaching

Time for another break from research (at least the normal kind).

I seem to be always discovering fundamental Laws of the Universe, especially about teaching. I’d like to share some of them with you.  They are each called “Wadge’s Law” … by me. Maybe the name will catch on. Here they are.

Wadge’s Law (of traffic)

No matter how late you go through an orange light, the guy/gal behind you follows you through.

As far as I know this is not just a heuristic, it’s 100% true all the time. I’ve never witnessed an exception, and don’t know anyone who has.

Wadge’s Law (of Vampire Courses)

Whenever you’re giving a course, there’s always another course with a much heavier workload that is draining the life out of your students.

The  students think that the Vampire Course, because it involves so much work, is more important, and its A’s and B’s are worth more. When in the clutches of the VC, they skip class or show up late, miss assignments, arrive pale and exhausted, fall asleep, drool,  etc

Wadge’s Law (of Meetings).

Before every formal meeting there’s a smaller, more exclusive, less formal meeting where all the important decisions are made.

This is based on decades of experience in academia and friends’  experience in industry and government. Sometimes there’s an even smaller, more exclusive, less formal pre pre meeting where all the decisions of the pre meeting are made. Maybe even a pre pre pre meeting … until you reach some guy deciding everything in the shower.

Wadge’s Law (of teaching)

Just when you think you’re captivating the students, entrancing them, enthralling them, you turn around and see at least one of them half unconscious from boredom.

Head askew, eyes glazed and half shut, body starting to slump. And if you thought you were really soaring, there will be drooling.

Wadge’s Law (of citation)

No matter how unusual your last name, no matter how impressive your publication list, when you look up your citations there’s someone with the same name who totally outperforms you.

For me it’s a geologist named Geoff Wadge (absolutely true). He writes about volcanoes. A lot. More than I do about anything.

I have a friend with an unusual name, let’s call him Sam Wassereimer. I told Sam about this law and he says “I’m a counterexample”. Sam has published a few books and on Amazon he has no equal among the Wassereimers. I got  suspicious, went to Google Scholar, and sure enough there’s a WD Wassereimer who totally outperforms Sam (a lot of journal publications). Says Sam, “but WD is dead!” Says I, “even dead he outperforms you!”

A break from Laws about academia.

Wadge’s Law (of departure)

From the time you get up and start leaving the house, till the time you actually drive away, an inexplicable five minutes has passed.

More generally, a five minute surcharge applies in other scenarios. Suppose you live in an apartment and it takes seven minutes to take the elevator down to the garage and exit it. If  you leave at 1:30, you will drive away at 1:42.

Wadge’s Law (of invigilation)

No matter how easy the exam,  and how much time the students have, there’s always at least one who stays till the bitter end.

Again, no known exceptions. I’ve seen the bitter enders play with their pencils to kill time.

My daughter, who also teaches, pointed out a companion Law. Since she uses Wadge as her professional name, this is

Wadge’s Second Law of Invigilation

No matter how hard the exam, and how little time the students have, there’s always at least one who leaves ridiculously early.

The next one is derives from a long career teaching Computer Science:

Wadge’s Law (of computer courses)

Every Computer Science Course has a tendency to degenerate into a programming course.

For example, in an AI course the students write a chess player, in an embedded  systems course they write realtime software, in a hardware course they write simulators … and so on.

This rule is not absolute; the instructor can resist the tendency. But it takes effort.

This rule is so profound I’ll  devote a future posting to it. For example, what does a Physics course degenerate into? A psychology course? For that matter, a programming course?Think about it.

Finally, the most profoundest Law I’ve discovered so far.

Wadge’s Law (of B before A)

Whenever you want to do something, there’s always someone who says there’s something else you have to do first.

You’ll have to wait for yet another post to learn all many instances and examples of this Law. (Actually, I just gave you one).

Well I personally think this post has been excellent and can’t wait for feedback.

Oops!

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About Bill Wadge

I am a Professor in Computer Science at UVic.
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