Every year, my wife forces me to take a vacation, this year on a cruise ship. My daughter and I were cooling off on the top deck after spending a little time in the exercise room when a woman approached and, looking at my daughter’s T-shirt, asked, “Are you a math whiz?”
Comparing herself to MIT students, rather than to the population at large, she replied, “Well, not exactly.”
“Oh, I’m a high school math teacher. I know what the square root of -1 is. That’s i. But what is the rest?”
“You can work it out!”
“Ok, E/c2–that reminds me of Einstein’s equation, E = Mc2. Ah! M. But what about PV/nR?”
Here, reaching back a long time, to 5.01, and wanting to hold up my end of the conversation, I helpfully supplied “Ideal gas law. Pressure times volume equals the number of moles of gas times the gas constant times the absolute temperature.”
“Oh, MIT!” she said.
A little later I ran into the teacher again and fell into a conversation about Artificial Intelligence, high-school teaching, and this and that. As we were about to go our different ways, I said “You seemed impressed that my kid went to MIT. Would you have been impressed if her T-shirt carried a Harvard logo?”
“Phooey. There are lots of Harvards.” Good point.