Spring 2005 7.02, Experimental Biology and Communication
Professor Raj-Bhandry: "There is a big difference between being fine and being paralyzed for the rest of your life."
Professor King: "Say you have one B cell. His name is Herman."
Melissa Kolinski-Collins: "[Explains a strange experimental result.] Perhaps you are actually awesome. This is not the most likely explanation."
Professor King: "You can tell your solutions have lots of proteins, just by the bubbles they make when you shake them up. Oh wait, we told you not to do that."
Professor King: "I would recommend, whether you plan to be a doctor or a scientist or an Indian chief, that you memorize the general structure of the hemoglobin chain."
Professor Guarente: "No one cares about LacA. People who study the Lac operon don't even care about LacA."
7.06, Cell Biology
Professor Solomon: "Our job as biologists is to passively interpret data, not to think."
Professor Solomon: "I'm going to repeat that question in a form I can answer."
Professor Solomon: "I'm not sure if that's really fair, so write it in your notes very lightly."
Professor Lodish: "I hope none of you freak out after this lecture and think you're going to get cancer. Although... many of you will get cancer."
Professor Lodish: "Do you want to go back and talk about sex? Would that be more interesting?"
Professor Lodish: "You wanna hear a gruesome story? I'll tell you a gruesome story."
Professor Lodish: "A large class of neuropsychiatric drugs affect this pathway. Prozac, cocaine... all the good stuff."
Professor Amon: "[Draws two giant circles on the board.] Here are a sperm and an egg. They are not to scale."
Professor Amon: "My lab studies this process, so you can ask me anything about it. If I don't know, probably nobody in the world knows."
Professor Amon: "Do all of you know how to spell hedgehog? Well, I don't. I don't even know what a hedgehog is."
Professor Lodish: "This dimer forms a 69 configuration. I will get into serious trouble if I go into more detail."
Professor Lodish: "I wish I could ask for volunteers to demonstrate this process, but I'd get into trouble. This kinase reaches over and phosphorylates the other, then the other returns the favor. They turn each other on."
Professor Lodish: "Who remembers the name of this enzyme? [Class stares at him, silent.] For a dollar?"
Professor Lodish: "What would happen if I shot off a gun in this classroom? [Discusses the fight or flight response.] Should I do it?"
7.345, Evolution of the Immune System
21A.216, Dilemmas in Biomedical Ethics
24.900, Introduction to Linguistics
Professor Flynn: "Do you remember Henry Kissinger? He was the vice president... no, something else... under Nixon. I can't even remember what it was, it was so awful."
Professor Flynn: "They were very polite to me because I was the village idiot."
Professor Flynn: "In the 70s, the 24.900 professor got disenchanted with linguistics and taught juggling to all the 24.900 students instead."
Woody: "We should do that! Then maybe I'd learn something."
Professor Flynn: "Notice that this morpheme is bound. Notice also that it is not free."
Fall 2004 7.20, Human Physiology
Professor Sabatini: "Myosin is in contact with actin in the absence of ATP. This is not a normal physiological state, unless you happen to be dead."
Professor Sabatini: [Shows a slide of the human brain.] "This is your brain. It is in your head."
Professor Krieger: [Guest speaker says that women with college education or more are less likely to be obese.] "So, women, your MIT tuition dollars are well-spent."
Professor Krieger: [Has class say 'preproopiomelanocortin' three times fast.] "Don't tell your parents I made you do that."
Item from Professor Krieger's problem set 3: "If you were God, or the president of a genetic engineering company..."
Professor Krieger: [Helpfully discussing digestive system regulation.] "When in doubt, everything does everything."
Professor Krieger: "What does this tell you, other than that I got your attention because I mentioned alcohol?"
Professor Krieger: [Discusses regulation of a complicated system involving phospholipase C and a bunch of other stuff, joyfully.] "It's a zoo! It's a wonderful zoo."
Professor Krieger: [Mind-numbing speed rendition of cAMP second-messenger system.] "So this is all very simple and you run away from the tiger."
Professor Krieger: "This curve [of enzyme-substrate reaction rate] underlies 75% of this course. Those of you who just want a C, nighty night."
7.23, General Immunology
Professor Chen: "How do you identify which peptides are bound? [Class stares blankly. Whispers loudly,] It's on the handout!"
Professor Steiner: "Now, let's take as an example a spider with six legs."
[Professor Steiner tells a story about carp and Islam.]
Swapna: "What is this class about?
Professor Steiner: "The stem cell differentiates into a more differentiated cell."
9.04, Neural Basis of Vision and Audition
Professor Brown: "These neurons are couch potatoes. It's like they don't fire a spike unless there's cold beer in the fridge and an NFL game on TV."
Professor Brown: "At least in relation to auditory research, the human head is modeled very nicely by a volleyball."
Professor Brown: "Now, this diagram looks very complicated. And it is. And I'm fairly sure it's at least mostly true."
Professor Schiller: "This theory, like a lot of what you see on the news, is poppycock."
Professor Schiller: "This type of vision research is a lot like stamp collecting."
Professor Schiller: "And once you get to this point in the experiment, you do an Indian dance of joy."
Professor Schiller: "Thinking is the most important part of being a scientist, so when you see something, you have to start thinking."
Professor Brown: "I will now demonstrate a frequency. This is 440 Hz. [Whistles a tone.] This is, in fact, the only frequency I can demonstrate."
Professor Schiller: "We call this [brain injury] an infarct. This is nicer than saying 'He got whacked in the head.'"
9.12, Experimental Molecular Neurobiology
Professor Lois: "Okay, let's pretend we are teaching you something."
Professor Hayashi: "You may not want to read the fine print. But biology is all about the fine print."
Spring 2004 7.05, Biochemistry
Professor Brown: [skipping over a few inordinately complicated biochemical steps to get to the end product of a reaction] "And as they say in France, voila!"
Professor Brown: "I feel that it's my job to make these processes as simple as possible. People who write textbooks don't often agree with me."
Professor Brown: "I could speculate on how this process occurs, but I think we'd all be better off if I didn't."
Professor Brown: "Incidentally, I named this compound when I was in graduate school. This was my PhD thesis. [Pauses, looks at chemical structure on board.] Yep."
Professor Brown: "Now at this point the organism says to itself - and I'm just paraphrasing here - 'What's next?'"
Professor Brown: "We're now finished with carbohydrate metabolism. Well, you're not, because you have a test next week."
Professor Brown: "By the time I got to graduate school, citric acid was back in the citric acid cycle."
Professor Bartel: "I should note that the first riboyme to be synthesized de novo was done by [writes on board in capital letters] BARTEL... and Szostak."
Professor Bartel: "Those are all the ribozymes found in nature. We have another one coming out in Nature - [Several members of the class mumble, puzzled.] - the journal Nature - in a few months."
Professor Yaffe: "I've got your noncompetitive inhibitor right here! [Takes pin and gleefully pops a balloon labeled "enzyme".]"
Professor Yaffe: "Nature didn't make chymotrypsin for sequencing proteins."
Professor Yaffe: "This is important. Well, this was my PhD thesis. I'm the one who discovered it. But regardless of that, it's still important."
Professor Yaffe: "Linus Pauling was laying in bed thinking about things I'm sure you all think about in bed -- structural chemistry! [Class groans.] Come on, what else is there to do in bed?"
Professor Bartel: "Please turn your thoughts away from love and back to the isoleucine binding pocket."
7.29J/9.09J, Cellular Neurobiology
Professor Littleton: "We can hypostulate a mechanism for this neuronal migration."
Professor Quinn: "You are not used to thinking of your brain as a gland, except perhaps on Friday and Saturday nights."
Professor Quinn: "Now all hell is going to break loose, but only a few kinds of hell."
Professor Quinn: "I want to quit now, but not before I tell you a terrible thing."
Professor Quinn: "I have a cold, so this whole lecuture is being brought to you by my spinal column."
Professor Quinn: "I like to call this Quinn's Law: 'If you have a mole of electrons, you're in trouble.'"
Professor Quinn: "Why do neurons do this? We'll come to this at the end of the lecture, when your confusion is complete."
Professor Quinn: "The motto of this class is 'Say yes to drugs.'"
Professor Quinn: "Neurobiology has been hugely advanced by deranged chemists and drug dealers."
Professor Quinn: "The cell beat MIT to engineering."
9.07, Introduction to Statistical Methods
Professor Rosenholtz: "Some days I forget that my computer needs power."
9.30, Neural Plasticity
Professor Tonegawa: "Here is an oversimplified diagram of how we think CREB works."
Professor Miller: "Dolphins have big brains, and for a while people thought, 'Oh, they must be smart, but they just can't tell us, because they don't speak and they have flippers.'"
Professor Wilson: [After over an hour lecturing on the first slide] "We may be done with this lecture sometime next year."
Professor Wilson: "The information from this neuron is delayed by about ten milliseconds. It has a layover in Chicago or something."
Professor Quinn: "The disadvantage of forward genetics is that it's stupid."
Professor Quinn: "This is called a pioneer protein, which means that we have no idea what the hell it is."
Professor Quinn: "Aplysia is not very bright. They have about four behaviors, one of which is death."
Professor Quinn: "So what I'm getting from this - and tell me if I'm wrong - neurotrophin is important, but we don't know why, or how, or where it's coming from, or exactly what its role is?"
Professor Liu: [Giggles.] "Yes, it's unfortunate, isn't it?"
Professor Quinn: "If you have lust in your heart to explain the molecular correlates of learning, then kinetics should be your thing."
21F.702, Spanish II
Professor Ramos: "The verb 'dar' behaves like an 'er' verb. It's sort of schizophrenic."
Fall 2003 5.12, Organic Chemistry
Professor Tabacco: "It turns out that other than interests like barbecuing, chemists aren't all that interested in chemicals like propane."
Professor Swager: "The moment it's a naked carbocation, you can hit it from any side you want."
Professor Swager: "Halogens are great, but what the world needs are more alcohols."
Professor Swager: "George Olah is getting up there in years, but he's still - [Pauses.] Well, he's still alive."
Professor Swager: "You can't talk about epoxides at MIT without mentioning K. Barry Sharpless, who used to teach 5.12 here. [Writes "K. Barry Sharpless -- epoxides" on board.] He's at Scripps now - we're not going to write that, because we don't like it."
Professor Swager: "The solvent cage effect is like when you're at a party, and you're talking to someone, and they're desperately trying to get away from you, but they can't because of the crowd. Does that ever happen to you? [Class mumbles in the negative.] Oh. Well, it happens to me."
Professor Swager: "Let's look at a reaction you should never do. [Shows picture of TNT.] I am very familiar with this compound."
Professor Page: "Parthenogenesis. This is a nice big word which in this case means 'we don't have a clue what's going on.'"
Professor Kaiser: "So this oxygen pairs with this, um... what is this?"
Ignorant members of the class: "Oxygen!"
Professor Kaiser: "I know it's an oxygen. I mean, what is this group called?"
Smart members of class: "Carbonyl."
Professor Kaiser: "Yes! Carbonyl! Jesus."
Professor Kaiser: "Now I'm going to show you one of the most terrifying things in the world. [Shows picture of the Tn1546 gene cassette.] Aren't you scared?"
Professor Kaiser: "We're going to use these concepts in the next lecture, so don't autoclave them. Put them in the freezer."
9.01, Neuroscience and Behavior 21F.701, Spanish I
Professor Groeger: "Quieres dar un regalo? [Student: "Que es regalo?"] Regalo! [Makes wild hand motions. Students are confused and begin to throw out terms: "Ball? Box? Square? Spiral?"] It's a square with a ribbon on top! Un regalo es un 'present.'"
Spring 2003 7.013, Introduction to Biology
Professor Jacks: "Was it good for you? It was good for me."
Professor Jacks: "I'm peeing."
Professor Jacks: "I have a flaming chainsaw."
Professor Jacks: "You're all bacteria to me."
[Editor's note: The above four quotes were said within a span of five minutes.]
Professor Sive: "My point here is not to talk about the fun part of sexual reproduction."
8.02x, Physics: Electricity and Magnetism
Professor Roland: "Let me make a comment that you won't be able to understand, but maybe you can just keep it in mind."
Professor Roland: "This machine cost about a billion dollars. Your take-home experiments will be on a slightly smaller scale."
Professor Roland: "What can we conclude from this demonstration, other than that junior faculty will do anything to get a laugh out of the audience?"
Professor Roland: "I firmly believe this value [for the mass of a quark] is correct, because the guy who measured it has his office two doors down from me."
David Pritchard: "How many of you have read Principia from cover to cover? I haven't, but I've read enough to know that I don't want to."
Kate Scholberg: "Neither fish nor electrons can pop in and out of existence. Electrons, like fish, are conserved."
Professor Roland: "Solving this problem requires you to solve - [stops] - requires somebody to solve a pretty complicated differential equation."
Professor Roland: "This is a very important equation. It has no practical application whatsoever."
18.02, Multi-Variable Calculus
Professor Sipser: "I have found in my previous experience teaching this course that students tend to forget this minus sign. Please do not do this unless you wish to find minus signs on your exams."
Igor Pavlovsky: "When people see the word 'prove' they run away. But the doors are closed, so you can't."
Igor Pavlovsky: "This is a geometry problem, so you should probably draw something."
Professor Sipser: "This being a math course, I feel an obligation to tell you why this is true."
Igor Pavlovsky: "All this talk and no action. [Meaningful pause.] Let's take the partial derivative!"
Professor Sipser: "Most of the rest of this lecture I'm just going to be blabbering up here."
Professor Sipser: [A question is asked regarding the figure he has drawn.] "No, this isn't a flat ice cream cone! That wouldn't be very tasty."
21L.004, Major Poets
Professor Fuller: "I can say 'excrement,' but I can't say 'shit.' Except that I just did."
Fall 2002 5.111, Principles of Chemical Science
Emma Sceats: "Lots of enzymes in your body depend specifically upon acid-base equilibria to work, such as the enymes in your liver which break down alcohol. Oh no, you're all underage! Oh God, I shouldn't be saying this."
Emma Sceats: "I'm only a chemist because I was a pyromaniac when I was younger."
8.01x, Physics: Mechanics
Professor Litster: "This isn't going to teach you much physics, but it's fun."
Professor Scholberg: "Nothing like a blowtorch to liven up a physics lecture."
Matt Borthwick: "What we need to do, in extremely technical terms, is add up all the little differential bits of stuff."
9.00, Introduction to Psychology
Professor Wolfe: "You're not going to save the world by handing out quarters and free note paper."
Professor Wolfe: "Artificial light is what has allowed us to abuse the beautiful circadian clocks given to us by nature."
[Editor's note: There are many more excellent Wolfie quotes somewhere... I just can't find them. I need to ask Stephen.]
18.01, Calculus: Integral and Differential
Professor Devlin: "Once, when Gauss was in elementary school, his teacher was hung over or something and made them sum the first one hundred numbers before they could go out to recess."
Inwon Kim: "When you slice it up you get a record, an LP. [Pauses, looks at figure.] Who uses LPs these days?"
Professor Devlin: "There was this one cycloid I couldn't solve last night. But then I solved it this morning, so I put it on the problem set. [Class groans.] Come on, guys, it's not that hard!"
Professor Devlin: "This doesn't look right to me. I'm nervous. What is this?" [Student says, "That's what I got."] "That's what you got? I feel better."
Professor Devlin: "This is further proof that infinity is weird."