Lecture Hopping (and Flopping)

lecture hopping costas
Not amused

Features Editor and local idler, COSTAS MOURSELAS decided to drop into four random lectures, report his findings for your reading pleasure and decide how screwed he’d be if he took that course on a convenient 10 point scale. 

Economics – Econometrics

Ahhh, economics. As a PPE student, it is a degree that is most certainly close to my heart. Too bad econometrics isn’t close to my brain, or anything else for that matter as I had no idea what the hell was going on. Something about polynomial regression and reciprocal models. At some point, the lecturer asked the class if they understood the course content, and if they needed her to run through some of the concepts again. In the internationally recognized sign of “I have no idea what you’re bloody talking about”, some students murmured incoherently while others kept silent in an assuredly defeatist manner.

I started to wonder how in Adam Smith’s name I was meant to concentrate. My eyes glazed over and I slowly slipped into a boredom-induced stupor as I contemplated my existence, the washing up my flatmate still hadn’t done (the bastard) and pretty much anything but econometrics. I suddenly realized that I could make out a very distinct sound, getting louder and more defined by the minute. When it finally reached its thunderous crescendo I realized it was the unmistakable sound of young people selling their souls for a financially secure future.

Maybe I’m just bitter about having to serve these same young people at the McDonald’s drive-thru I will most certainly be working at with this useless degree.

How-screwed-I’d-be-if-I-took-the-module meter: 5/10

I’d figure something out; if I could muster  the will power to actually do the work.


History – Hundred Years’ War

I have to admit; I was excited for this one. I was torn between PPE and history when applying for uni two years ago.

In the lecture we covered the schizophrenic and completely insane Charles VI of France. The lecturer excitedly told us about Charles’ deteriorating condition and the power struggle that followed. The blame for what was the cause of Charles VI madness included, but was not limited to, poisoned apples fed by his brother, being touched by a sword that had been rubbed against dead criminals and vagabonds, eating grapes dipped in animal blood and of course, being bewitched by his barber.

The lecture hall was admittedly quite empty, which I thought would blow my cover. However, I was quickly reminded by partner in crime, Tom Murray, that I easily passed as a history student that never attended his lectures.

In a thrilling turn of events, the lecturer then divulged his membership to the UCU trade union, announcing that he would be taking part in the marking strike. The atmosphere of the lecture immediately changed as the assuredly middle class history students banged their fists against their now exposed chests, chanting “Traitor! Traitor! Traitor!” I may have made that last part up.
On the whole I greatly enjoyed my time at the lecture and perhaps would have chosen history two years ago if I didn’t revel in the arrogant, pretentious, douchebag status I currently enjoy as a PPE student.

How-screwed-I’d-be-if-I-took-the-module meter: 2/10

Most definitely not screwed; assuming my lecturer wasn’t on a bloody marking strike.


Biology – Immunology

This particular lecture was a fascinating experience as I realized just how much a human can hear without comprehending or understanding anything being said. I blame this partially on the fact that immunology uses countless ridiculously long words to express incredibly precise concepts. As a humanities student and professional bullshitter, precision is not something I am in contact with all too often.

Anyway, fellow conspirators Gigi Hill and Liz Alexianu were instrumental in explaining key concepts like chemotaxis, pathogen lysis and opsonisation even if I still don’t understand what the fuck they are (and don’t care quite frankly).

Half way through the lecture a student started giggling in a manic and frankly insane manner, leading me to believe that the ridiculously long words and incredibly convoluted lecture slides had gotten to her; poor soul.

I was happy to find that the lecturer was in fact a fellow Greek man and managed to correctly pronounce Greek terms without completely bastardizing them (cough cough Tim Stanton). I was also ecstatic to find the lecturer concluded that at the end of the day, “It’s all about balance”, indicating that the wisdom of countless philosophers rings true.

Even immunology can’t escape the wide but incredibly shallow breadth of PPE.

How-screwed-I’d-be-if-I-took-the-module meter: 10/10

As screwed as a man can be; primarily because there is no way I’d sit myself down and learn all those definitions.


Physics – Quantum Mechanics

Now I thought I would be ‘relatively’ prepared for this particular lecture as I did Physics at IB level. How wrong I was.

For starters, the lecturer recommended we purchase the fifth edition of Quantum Mechanics. It was at this point that I knew I was in trouble. Any course guide that requires five editions to fix mistakes and inaccuracies means serious business.

In the lecture we covered eigenvalues, the eigenfunction and the Hamiltonian eigenproblem. Don’t ask me what any of that is supposed to mean because my guess is as good as yours; probably worse.

I proceeded to ask my inside man (who wishes to remain anonymous), what the hell a Hamiltonian eigenproblem was. He told me that he “had no idea” and that he “didn’t understand this module’. We also learnt about ‘excited particles’ – I’m glad they were having a good time, I most definitely, was not.

Surprisingly, I absorbed more than I did in immunology but I’m pinning that on the fact that immunology was boring enough to put me in a semi-vegitative state.
Furthermore, as a self-proclaimed hoodie aficionado, I was delighted to see an incredible proportion of students wearing hoodies. I clearly had something in common with the poor sods taking the module; poor fashion sense.

Regardless, quantum mechanics was a painful experience and I’d probably have learnt more about physics staying at home, watching The Big Bang Theory (which isn’t saying much).

How-screwed-I’d-be-if-I-took-the-module meter: /10

Screwed in every dimension of the multiverse; cosmically guaranteed to fail.


For the source of inspiration of this piece, check out Callum ‘Glorious Beard’ Shannon’s ‘How Bad is your Lecture’!

Columnist at York Vision and Chat Politics.


  1. Nona
    20 November 2014 - 08:54 BST

    An eigenvector or characteristic vector of a square matrix A is a non-zero vector v that, when the matrix multiplies v, yields the same as when some scalar multiplies v, the scalar multiplier often being denoted by \lambda. That is: A v = \lambda v. Got now? :)

  2. Scientific Illiteracy
    04 December 2014 - 18:05 BST

    You’d be surprised at how far you can go in a science degree without really understanding any of it.

    It’s all smoke and mirrors my friends, smoke and mirrors.

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