All entries for Saturday 04 December 2004

December 04, 2004

The Principles of Work (aka Simon's Laws of Physics)

1. The Principle of Minimum Effort
This is simple. It is the ground state of all students, equivalent to taking the path of least resistance. No, scrap that, it IS taking the path of least resistance. For as much time as possible we coast through the term, doing as little work as we can, and hoping that no one whispers those two dreaded words: "Pass Degree".

2. The Principle of Maximum Workload
This is the inverse of the First Principle. It occurs once or possibly twice a term, usually in weeks 5 and 10, and applies in the limit when the First Principle fails. Although no one has yet achieved a Grand Unified Theory of Work to combine these two Principles, efforts are ongoing. Unfortunately these efforts are currently following the First Principle, so a positive outcome looks unlikely in the near future.
An especially good example of the Second Principle is provided by the Computer Science department, who like to set deadlines for 3 pieces of coursework to be within about 12 hours of each other. This, of course, leads not only to the overloading and crashing of the BOSS system (for online submission), but also to the Third Principle.

3. The Principle of Maximum Stress
ξ = (W-w)/tn
Where t = time to deadline, W = amount of work required, w = work done at time t, and ξ = stress.
n is a number dependant on t:

Why ξ you ask? Well it wouldn't be a physical equation if it didn't have a random squiggly Greek letter that no one could understand.

W is always negligible, and as t -> 0, ξ -> ∞ rapidly.
For extreme boundary conditions, this can lead to the Fourth Principle:

4. The Principle of Sleep Deprivation
The All-nighter.

December 2004

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