Monday, October 24, 2011

These Things Are Important

The other day I received this message in my OWL announcement system:

Please note the following:

1. The location of [Name Removed]'s office is now McCain building 1150a, but the time of his office hour is unchanged.

2. The time of [Name Removed]'s office hours is now Thursday, 2:30-3:30 pm, but the place is unchanged.

3. [John Smith's] office hour remains stationary in space and time alike.

Worried by the implications, I sent my professor the following communique:

Dear Professor,

I'm a little concerned. If, as you say, [John Smith's] office hours are both temporally and spatially fixed, wouldn't that render them completely inaccessible? Our planet both rotates around itself and orbits the sun - indeed, we in the Western Spiral Arm of this galaxy rotate around the galactic core and continue to constantly move outwards owing to the expansionary nature of the universe. If Mr. Smith's office is spatially fixed, it should physically be floating in space about a day or so behind us. Furthermore, if it is temporally stationary then time within it is no longer passing. This leads us to the following issues.

1) Any meetings within the office will, regardless of the time scheduled, never actually take place - not just because time no longer passes within it, but because the costly nature of university tuition makes it unlikely that Dal students could afford a trip into space to reach the office. Not even the one's with scholarships.

2) Although anyone who managed the now unlikely prospect of gaining access to the office would find themselves effectively immortal - untouched by time's passing - they would more pressingly be unable to receive answers for any questions they might have wished to pose to their TA. It would also mean that, should Mr. Smith take the essays that need to be marked to his office, lots of people's hard work would be lost. Once you entered the office, all temporal activity for you would cease, one would never manage to say "hello" much less get down to cases or mark papers or even sit down. Conversely, all of time might occur at once in a spectacular example of simultaneity which, while interesting, would be probably mentally traumatizing.

3) Mentally traumatizing students might lead to lawsuits or academic censure.

4) It seems a poor use of the Classic Department's doubtless limited budget to enact such rigid spatiotemporal restrictions on such a small office.

5) It further seems rude to the janitorial staff, who run the risk of being temporally imprisoned should they go to clean it - not to mention the overtime they'd need to be paid if we take the cost of space travel into account.

6) Although I am a Classics and History student, not a Physicist, I worry that this course of action might in some way violate the laws of thermodynamics. As you may know, the Dal Student Handbook frowns upon students violating legal laws, and we must assume that frown extends to the violation of the laws of nature

Perhaps a different tack is in order? If there is such a worry about the continued existence of the office as it exists within the flow of time, might it not be easier to re-locate the office into its own pocket dimension, one's who parameters were more securely controlled by the Department of Classics, or at the very least the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences? Although Mr. Smith is not my TA, I am concerned for the welfare of all my classmates. Potentially condemning them and a grad student to a potentially trans-finite existence that might out-live the heat death of the universe just to save wear-and-tear maintenance costs on a single room seems extreme, even by the standards normally adhered to by academia.

I hope this issue can be resolved with further harm to the fabric of the universe or loss of life/temporal-expression-of-one's-place-in-reality-as-a-conscious-creature.

Yours faithfully,

James Campbell-Prager

1 comment:

Jerry Prager said...

Now that was the kind of thing I was hoping you would be able to write after going off to university son. Real learning like eh!