An online session of ‘MATH 84: Non-Sequential Arrays’ conducted through Zoom video-conferencing was briefly interrupted on Monday after the virtual background Prof. Jess Samell had been using disappeared for a moment, revealing that he was actually in downtown Dallas, Texas during the fall of 1963.

“It was pretty distracting,” said junior Monique Mundt, recalling how the Tahitian beach which Samell had green-screened behind himself started to blink in and out of focus when — after students heard several loud ‘pops’ — the mathematics professor suddenly stood up and started sprinting in the middle of explaining an equation. “It only took a few seconds for the virtual background to re-appear, but that was plenty of time for us to all recognize the Dallas skyline behind him. And since the Republic Center Tower II, built in 1964, wasn’t there yet — but the Dallas Waterfall Billboard, built in 1962, was — it was honestly a no-brainer to figure out his exact year.”

Ascertaining the date was also an easy task, Mundt noted, as Samell appeared to be running away a grassy knoll with several cedar elms, which were already starting to lose their leaves — suggesting mid- to late-November, given historical weather patterns and agricultural data for the region.  Mundt disclosed that she thought she heard what sounded like a procession, originating from an apparent motorcade of black cars.

As virtual backgrounds become increasingly commonplace during Stanford’s period of online learning, this sort of story is on the rise. “It’s been so wild seeing where professors live, now that they’re all teaching from home,” commented senior Rick Lazaretto with a laugh. “Last week, one of my TAs didn’t realize he’d left his bong out, and we all saw it!” Lazaretto paused thoughtfully and then added, “I guess this was sorta different, though. Not really sure why Prof. Samell was conducting class from a Texan hillside, or frankly, how he managed to go back in time several decades. And come to think of it, did he always bring that assault rifle to lecture?”

Luckily, it appears class soon got back on track. Students confirmed that after Samell stopped running, he announced into a walkie-talkie that “Flying Eagle is down” before apologizing to the class for the disruption and resuming his prior explanation of multivariable distributions.

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