Aunt Pythia’s advice
After a short vacation Aunt Pythia is back to give out free advice that’s worth every penny. Go here for past advice columns and here for an explanation of the name Pythia. Please submit your question at the bottom of this column (pretty please!).
Let’s first go over last time’s question for the readers:
Why do some foods burn when you stir them? It doesn’t make sense that my rice or pasta should burn when there is still a lot of water in the pot just because I stirred it.
Physics-Inclined Wannabe Chef
The answer to the Chef were interesting and thoughtful, although I’m not sure anyone actually whipped out the pots and ran experiments (including me!).
…the remaining water settles to the bottom of the pan, gradually boiling away and preventing burning at the bottom. If you stir, you distribute the water throughout the “sponge” of cooled rice above. The bottom layer of rice then burns if the heat is hot enough and the water can’t percolate back down in time to prevent the burning.
I’m gonna have to say the jury’s out. We got direct disagreement. Anyone want to produce a Mythbusters-style rice cooking show?
Dear Aunt Pythia,
I’m going on the academic job market for the first time. I’ve heard a lot of advice, but I’d really like Aunt Pythia’s advice: what three adjectives should I try to embody during my Joint Math Meeting (JMM) interviews?
Nervous in Nebraska
These are going to sound pretty typical but here goes: try to appear confident, interested, and likable.
To explain why I chose those three adjectives, keep in mind that interviewing for a job is a lot like dating. You need to figure out if you like your date while, at the same time, convince your date to like you. Those are two tasks and they are both up to you, they’re your responsibility, and it’s not enough to just do one of them.
So, although you’re nervous, you need to give off “I am not depending on this to work out because I have other interviews” vibes, because first of all it’s the truth, and second of all you need to make sure your interviewer feels obligated to sell the job to you. Otherwise the entire process is all about whether you’re good enough, which is imbalanced. It should be more a discussion of whether it’s a good fit overall. Watch this video to see how that negotiation can look if it’s an incredibly funny, inappropriate, and drunk interview.
At the same time, you need to seem interested. You can’t be indifferent to the job, because that’s the kiss of death from the perspective of an interviewer. Why would I offer a job to this jerk who doesn’t even seem to want it?
Finally, keep in mind that the real question on the interviewer’s mind is whether they’d actually want to be your colleague. You need to seem like someone who would fit in to the department, both mathematically and socially. Now’s not the time to mention weird hobbies, but it is the time to mention caring about how real analysis gets taught (although don’t be too radical). You want to give the impression that you’re fun, professional, and thoughtful about being a math nerd.
I hope that helps! See you in San Diego!
Do you think stricter gun control laws would really prevent mass shootings?
Only in Oakland
Why, yes, I do, and even more importantly I think they’d massively cut down on all shootings. Mass shootings get lots of attention but let’s fact it, they are statistical anomalies compared to the very predictable country-wide individual shootings that we see every day. The overall death toll by shooting in countries is highly correlated to the gun ownership rate:
For me, that is super convincing. However, I’m pretty sure we will need a bit more than true facts to deal effectively with what has become a religion in this country. I’d love advice on strategies to this effect.
Do you have any advice about how to tell your boss that you’re pregnant if you didn’t start the job very long before you got pregnant?
Shy pregnant woman
One of the great things about being pregnant is that it announces itself. My advice it to say nothing unless it just spontaneously feels right to do so. Just please don’t feel guilty or awkward towards your employer about being pregnant – it’s normal, natural, and protected by the law.
And please write back with questions about babies when the time comes!
Finally, a question for the readers – I’m interested in what you’ll say:
If an editor of an Elsevier journal asks you to referee a paper, wouldn’t it be the norm to decline the request instead of leaving it unanswered, or does Gowers’s revolution includes that anyone who has not joined for one reason or another should be shunned and considered a pariah?
Please submit your questions here! I’m getting wonderful, high quality questions, but not enough of them, and I’m almost out. Please save Aunt Pythia by asking her something super ridiculous!