A Math Prof, A Psych Prof, And A Mysterious Black Dog

Once upon a time, a mathematics professor (whom I shall call Professor M) from a North American university was regaling a small group of professors and graduate students with some anecdotes concerning a psychology professor (whom I shall call Professor P) and a mysterious black dog (whom I shall call B).

A that time, the mathematics and psychology departments of this university shared a floor of a large, multi-storey building, and they used the same elevator to ascend to work each morning. For some time, a black dog seemed to accompany Professor P to work each morning. But nobody in the mathematics department was quite sure, because although they seemed to come upstairs in the same elevator, Professor P did not seem to give any attention to B, the black dog. Being shy by nature, and because the dog did not seem to cause any trouble, the members of the mathematics department tolerated the presence of B.

Professor M continued with his story, which included a number of very humorous anecdotes about Professor P and some shenanigans that B created, none of which I still remember. Then, after a pause, Professor M solidified his reputation for self-deprecating humour by stating:

I’m so happy that we share a floor with the psychologists … they’re the only people on campus that make us look normal.


About Santo D'Agostino

I have taught mathematics and physics since the mid 1980s. I have also been a textbook writer/editor since then. Currently I am working independently on a number of writing and education projects while teaching physics at my local university. I love math and physics, and love teaching and writing about them. My blog also discusses education, science, environment, etc. https://qedinsight.wordpress.com Further resources, and online tutoring, can be found at my other site http://www.qedinfinity.com
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8 Responses to A Math Prof, A Psych Prof, And A Mysterious Black Dog

  1. Joe says:

    Must have been psych. profs specializing in abnormal psychology, eh?

  2. Santo says:

    But we math types don’t really have an excuse for being strange, do we?

    (Oh, and by the way, what branch of psychology did you specialize in?)

    • Joe says:

      I didn’t specialize in any particular one, but found physiological and abnormal psychology to me the most interesting branches.

  3. Santo says:

    Jokes aside, the post was not intended to make fun of psych profs, but only as a reminder of how strange math profs tend to be (at least the male ones … women tend to be more normal, even the brilliant ones). The story was told by one of the truly nice people at the university in question, which made it even more charming.

  4. hakea says:

    Hi Santo

    When I started reading I thought the dog was going to be a metaphor for something and the ending was going to provide one of life’s great lessons (hehehe).

    Now you’ve got me wondering about the relationship between B and P.

    Depression is called the ‘black dog’ here in Australia. One of the organisations working for awareness of mental health issues is titled the ‘Black Dog Institute’.

    So glad you have a categories list now on your blog.

    • Santo says:

      Hi hakea,

      Nice to hear from you!

      I read your blog regularly, although rarely comment.

      I know that Churchill called his own depression “the black dog,” but I had no idea it was a generally-used expression. I’ll add it to my list of beloved Australian expressions!

      And your observation (which I had never thought of) adds a new layer of possibilities to the story: Did P have some deeper, symbolic intentions in bringing a black dog around to his work place?

  5. hakea says:

    You should say G’day when you drop in.

    Now you have a categories list, I can find all of your non-maths posts to comment on.

    • Santo says:

      Thanks, hakea! I shall definitely contact you if I’m ever in Australia again … my wife and I talk about taking our children there someday, but who knows when.

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