“You have 5 days, 11 problems, and 0 chance of success” said Professor Sarnak to his class of roughly fifty quivering freshmen concerning the exam they were about to take. “Some call it the Kobayashi Maru of math – nobody passes, and nobody goes back for seconds.” Little did the poor frosh know how bad the exam would actually be.
When the exam began last Thursday, the students were all excited to prove themselves by spending countless hours proving that 1 equals 1, that linear functions exist, and other vital truths that the world would be lost without. However, by Tuesday at 11:00, when the exam was due, the Daily Princetonian obit writers had been working around the clock for days on end, and missing persons ads had been issued for five of the matheletes.
There had been no trace of any of these missing persons until last night, however, when a P-Safe officer stumbled across a trail of trees out on the golf course covered in senseless patterns of chalk numbers and symbols, which ultimately led them to find a small group of three pale, acne-covered, freshmen, all wearing broken glasses and eating a feast of roast squirrel. When the officers came close enough to realize that one was missing an ear, however, the students were startled and ran off screaming digits of pi as loud as they could until they were ultimately caught–a golf ball was hit into a water hazard and they couldn’t help but dive in to try to ascribe a function to the ripple. The three students have subsequently been put in a safe, padded room in Fine filled with chalk boards along with an elderly man who had previously succumbed to the same unfortunate fate.
When Math 215 student Dave Jenkins, who asked to remain anonymous, was asked about the exam, he replied: “Overall the test didn’t take too much of a physical toll on me, although at one point I contracted both bronchitis and pneumonia because of two consecutive all-nighters, which was a total bitch because I lost two days on the exam.”
Rumors have been circulating throughout campus of the various ways that the students attempted to conquer the exam. Some stuck to quite traditional methods, such as endless cups of coffee, red bulls, and/or speed, but rumors of more exotic methods have arisen as well, including many reports of students taking hallucinogens laced with copious amounts of ecstasy in order to try to “think like the pros,” and one report of a student literally dunking his head in a vat of nuclear waste after mixing in several thousand small newspaper clippings of numbers with the hopes that doing so might give him mathematical super powers. Curiously enough, he has developed an incredible ability to count with astounding accuracy, along with tracheal, pancreatic, and somehow cervical cancer.
Far beyond all of this on the broad spectrum of pain and suffering that this exam has caused, however, is the fact that no matter how many hours of work they put in, how many all-nighters they pulled, or how many drugs they ingested, only six students in the class finished more than four of the problems, and Sarnak offered no curve.
-Alex Judge ’14