The Canonical List of Math Jokes
Here's some math related humor obtained from various sources.
Michael Cook (MLC@IBERIA.CCA.ROCKWELL.COM)
[Ed: duplicates, near-duplicates, and unfunniness discarded. Non-math jokes
relocated.]
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"A person who can, within a year, solve x^2 - 92y^2 = 1 is a mathematician."
-- Brahmagupta
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Math and Alcohol don't mix, so...
PLEASE DON'T DRINK AND DERIVE
Then there's every parent's scream when their child walks into the
room dazed and staggering:
OH NO...YOU'VE BEEN TAKING DERIVATIVES!!
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Here's a limerick picked up off the net a few years back.
3_
\/3
/
| 2 3 X pi 3_
| z dz X cos(--------) = ln (\/e )
| 9
/
1
Integral z-squared dz
from 1 to the cube root of 3
times the cosine
of three pi over 9
equals log of the cube root of 'e'.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
This poem was written by John Saxon (an author of math textbooks).
((12 + 144 + 20 + (3 * 4^(1/2))) / 7) + (5 * 11) = 9^2 + 0
A Dozen, a Gross and a Score,
plus three times the square root of four,
divided by seven,
plus five times eleven,
equals nine squared and not a bit more.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
'Tis a favorite project of mine
A new value of pi to assign.
I would fix it at 3
For it's simpler, you see,
Than 3 point 1 4 1 5 9.
("The Lure of the Limerick" by W.S. Baring-Gould, p.5. Attributed to
Harvey L. Carter).
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
If inside a circle a line
Hits the center and goes spine to spine
And the line's length is "d"
the circumference will be
d times 3.14159
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
If (1+x) (real close to 1)
Is raised to the power of 1
Over x, you will find
Here's the value defined:
2.718281...
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Why is the number 10 afraid of seven?
-- because seven ate nine.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
What's big, grey, and proves the uncountability of the reals?
Cantor's Diagonal Elephant!
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
How can you tell that Harvard was laid out by a mathematician?
The div school [divinity school] is right next to the grad school...
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Q: How many topologists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: It really doesn't matter, since they'd rather knot.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A mathematician decides he wants to learn more about practical
problems. He sees a seminar with a nice title: "The Theory of Gears."
So he goes. The speaker stands up and begins, "The theory of gears
with a real number of teeth is well known ..."
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Professor Dirac, a famous Applied Mathematician-Physicist, had a horse
shoe over his desk. One day a student asked if he really believed
that a horse shoe brought luck. Professor Dirac replied, "I
understand that it brings you luck if you believe in it or not."
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
First of all let me make it clear that I have nothing against
contravariant functors. Some of my best friends are cohomology
theories! But now you aren't supposed to call them contravariant
anymore. It's Algebraically Correct to call them 'differently
arrowed'!!
In the same way, transcendental numbers are polynomially challenged.
Manifolds are personifolds (humanifolds).
Neighborhoods are neighbor victims of society.
It's the Asian Remainder Theorem.
It isn't PC to use "singularity" - the function is "convergently
challenged" there.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Why did the calculus student have so much trouble making Kool-Aid?
Because he couldn't figure out how to get a quart of water into the
little package.
--------------------------------units and dimensions-------------
2 monograms 1 diagram
8 nickles 2 paradigms
2 wharves 1 paradox
10E5 bicycles 2 megacycles
1 unit of suspense in an Agatha Christie novel 1 whod unit
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Q: What did the circle say to the tangent line?
A: "Stop touching me!"
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
He thinks he's really smooth, but he's only C^1.
He's always going off on a tangent.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Q: What's purple and commutes?
A: An abelian grape.
Q: Why did the mathematician name his dog "Cauchy"?
A: Because he left a residue at every pole.
Q: Why is it that the more accuracy you demand from an interpolation
function, the more expensive it becomes to compute?
A: That's the Law of Spline Demand.
Q: How many mathematicians does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A: One, who gives it to six Californians, thereby reducing it to an
earlier riddle.
-- from a button bought at Nancy Lebowitz's table at Boskone
Q: What do a mathematician and a physicist have in common?
A: They are both stupid, with the exception of the mathematician.
Q: Why did the chicken cross the Moebius strip?
A: To get to the other ... er, um ...
Q: What is the world's longest song?
A: "Aleph-nought Bottles of Beer on the Wall."
Q: What does a mathematician do when he's constipated?
A: He works it out with a pencil.
Q: What's yellow and equivalent to the Axiom of Choice?
A: Zorn's Lemon.
Q: What do you get if you cross an elephant with a zebra?
A: Elephant zebra sin theta.
Q: What do you get if you cross an elephant with a mountain climber?
A: You can't do that. A mountain climber is a scalar.
Q: To what question is the answer "9W"?
A: "Dr. Wiener, do you spell your name with a V?"
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A somewhat advanced society has figured how to package basic knowledge
in pill form.
A student, needing some learning, goes to the pharmacy and asks what
kind of knowledge pills are available. The pharmacist says "Here's a
pill for English literature." The student takes the pill and swallows
it and has new knowledge about English literature!
"What else do you have?" asks the student.
"Well, I have pills for art history, biology, and world history,"
replies the pharmacist.
The student asks for these, and swallows them and has new knowledge
about those subjects.
Then the student asks, "Do you have a pill for math?"
The pharmacist says "Wait just a moment", and goes back into the
storeroom and brings back a whopper of a pill and plunks it on the
counter.
"I have to take that huge pill for math?" inquires the student.
The pharmacist replied "Well, you know math always was a little hard
to swallow."
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"A mathematician is a device for turning coffee into theorems"
-- P. Erdos
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Three standard Peter Lax jokes (heard in his lectures) :
1. What's the contour integral around Western Europe?
Answer: Zero, because all the Poles are in Eastern Europe!
Addendum: Actually, there ARE some Poles in Western Europe, but
they are removable!
2. An English mathematician was asked by his very religious colleague:
Do you believe in one God?
Answer: Yes, up to isomorphism!
3. What is a compact city?
It's a city that can be guarded by finitely many near-sighted
policemen!
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Heisenberg might have slept here.
Moebius always does it on the same side.
Statisticians probably do it
Algebraists do it in groups.
(Logicians do it) or [not (logicians do it)].
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A promising PhD candidate was presenting his thesis at his final
examination. He proceeded with a derivation and ended up with
something like:
F = -MA
He was embarrassed, his supervising professor was embarrassed, and the
rest of the committee was embarrassed. The student coughed nervously
and said "I seem to have made a slight error back there somewhere."
One of the mathematicians on the committee replied dryly, "Either that
or an odd number of them!"
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Methods of Mathematical Proof
This is from _A Random Walk in Science_ (by Joel E. Cohen?):
To illustrate the various methods of proof we give an example of a
logical system.
THE PEJORATIVE CALCULUS
Lemma 1. All horses are the same colour.
(Proof by induction)
Proof. It is obvious that one horse is the same colour. Let us assume
the proposition P(k) that k horses are the same colour and use this to
imply that k+1 horses are the same colour. Given the set of k+1 horses,
we remove one horse; then the remaining k horses are the same colour,
by hypothesis. We remove another horse and replace the first; the k
horses, by hypothesis, are again the same colour. We repeat this until
by exhaustion the k+1 sets of k horses have been shown to be the same
colour. It follows that since every horse is the same colour as every
other horse, P(k) entails P(k+1). But since we have shown P(1) to be
true, P is true for all succeeding values of k, that is, all horses are
the same colour.
Theorem 1. Every horse has an infinite number of legs.
(Proof by intimidation.)
Proof. Horses have an even number of legs. Behind they have two legs
and in front they have fore legs. This makes six legs, which is cer-
tainly an odd number of legs for a horse. But the only number that is
both odd and even is infinity. Therefore horses have an infinite num-
ber of legs. Now to show that this is general, suppose that somewhere
there is a horse with a finite number of legs. But that is a horse of
another colour, and by the lemma that does not exist.
Corollary 1. Everything is the same colour.
Proof. The proof of lemma 1 does not depend at all on the nature of the
object under consideration. The predicate of the antecedent of the uni-
versally-quantified conditional 'For all x, if x is a horse, then x is
the same colour,' namely 'is a horse' may be generalized to 'is anything'
without affecting the validity of the proof; hence, 'for all x, if x is
anything, x is the same colour.'
Corollary 2. Everything is white.
Proof. If a sentential formula in x is logically true, then any parti-
cular substitution instance of it is a true sentence. In particular
then: 'for all x, if x is an elephant, then x is the same colour' is
true. Now it is manifestly axiomatic that white elephants exist (for
proof by blatant assertion consult Mark Twain 'The Stolen White Ele-
phant'). Therefore all elephants are white. By corollary 1 everything
is white.
Theorem 2. Alexander the Great did not exist and he had an infinite
number of limbs.
Proof. We prove this theorem in two parts. First we note the obvious
fact that historians always tell the truth (for historians always take
a stand, and therefore they cannot lie). Hence we have the historically
true sentence, 'If Alexander the Great existed, then he rode a black
horse Bucephalus.' But we know by corollary 2 everything is white;
hence Alexander could not have ridden a black horse. Since the conse-
quent of the conditional is false, in order for the whole statement to
be true the antecedent must be false. Hence Alexander the Great did not
exist.
We have also the historically true statement that Alexander was warned
by an oracle that he would meet death if he crossed a certain river. He
had two legs; and 'forewarned is four-armed.' This gives him six limbs,
an even number, which is certainly an odd number of limbs for a man.
Now the only number which is even and odd is infinity; hence Alexander
had an infinite number of limbs.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Theorem: a cat has nine tails.
Proof:
No cat has eight tails. A cat has one tail more than no cat.
Therefore, a cat has nine tails.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
My geometry teacher was sometimes acute, and sometimes
obtuse, but always, he was right.
-------
Q: What quantity is represented by this ?
/\ /\ /\
/ \ / \ / \
/ \ / \ / \
/ \ / \ / \
/ \ / \ / \
/______\ /______\ /______\
|| || ||
|| || ||
A: 9, tree + tree + tree
Q: A dust storm blows through, now how much do you have ?
A: 99, dirty tree + dirty tree + dirty tree
Q: Some birds go flying by and leave their droppings,
one per tree, how many is that ?
A: 100, dirty tree and a turd + dirty tree and a turd
+ dirty tree and a turd
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I saw the following scrawled on a math office blackboard in college:
1 + 1 = 3, for large values of 1
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
lim ----
8->9 \/ 8 = 3
Along the same lines:
lim sqrt (3) = 2
3->4
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Asked how his pet parrot died, the mathematician answered
"Polynomial. Polygon."
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lumberjacks make good musicians because of their natural logarithms.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Pie are not square. Pie are round. Cornbread are square.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Russell to Whitehead: "My Godel is killing me!"
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Von Neumann and Norbert Wiener were both the subject of many dotty
professor stories. Von Neumann supposedly had the habit of simply
writing answers to homework assignments on the board (the method of
solution being, of course, obvious) when he was asked how to solve
problems. One time one of his students tried to get more helpful
information by asking if there was another way to solve the problem.
Von Neumann looked blank for a moment, thought, and then answered,
"Yes".
Wiener was in fact very absent minded. The following story is told
about him: When they moved from Cambridge to Newton his wife, knowing
that he would be absolutely useless on the move, packed him off to MIT
while she directed the move. Since she was certain that he would
forget that they had moved and where they had moved to, she wrote down
the new address on a piece of paper, and gave it to him. Naturally,
in the course of the day, an insight occurred to him. He reached in
his pocket, found a piece of paper on which he furiously scribbled
some notes, thought it over, decided there was a fallacy in his idea,
and threw the piece of paper away. At the end of the day he went home
(to the old address in Cambridge, of course). When he got there he
realized that they had moved, that he had no idea where they had moved
to, and that the piece of paper with the address was long gone.
Fortunately inspiration struck. There was a young girl on the street
and he conceived the idea of asking her where he had moved to, saying,
"Excuse me, perhaps you know me. I'm Norbert Wiener and we've just
moved. Would you know where we've moved to?" To which the young girl
replied, "Yes daddy, mommy thought you would forget."
The capper to the story is that I asked his daughter (the girl in the
story) about the truth of the story, many years later. She said that
it wasn't quite true -- that he never forgot who his children were!
The rest of it, however, was pretty close to what actually happened...
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A bunch of Polish scientists decided to flee their repressive
government by hijacking an airliner and forcing the pilot to fly them
to a western country. They drove to the airport, forced their way on
board a large passenger jet, and found there was no pilot on board.
Terrified, they listened as the sirens got louder. Finally, one of
the scientists suggested that since he was an experimentalist, he
would try to fly the aircraft.
He sat down at the controls and tried to figure them out. The sirens
got louder and louder. Armed men surrounded the jet. The would be
pilot's friends cried out, "Please, please take off now!!!
Hurry!!!!!!"
The experimentalist calmly replied, "Have patience. I'm just a simple
pole in a complex plane."
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A group of Polish tourists is flying on a small airplane through the
Grand Canyon on a sightseeing tour. The tour guide announces: "On the
right of the airplane, you can see the famous Bright Angel Falls."
The tourists leap out of their seats and crowd to the windows on the
right side. This causes a dynamic imbalance, and the plane violently
rolls to the side and crashes into the canyon wall. All aboard are
lost. The moral to this episode is: always keep your poles off the
right side of the plane.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Economist: Someone who is good with numbers but lacks the personality
to be an accountant.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Old mathematicians never die; they just lose some of their functions.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
During a class of calculus my lecturer suddenly checked himself and
stared intently at the table in front of him for a while. Then he
looked up at us and explained that he thought he had brought six piles
of papers with him, but "no matter how he counted" there was only five
on the table. Then he became silent for a while again and then told
the following story:
"When I was young in Poland I met the great mathematician Waclaw
Sierpinski. He was old already then and rather absent-minded. Once he
had to move to a new place for some reason. His wife wife didn't trust
him very much, so when they stood down on the street with all their
things, she said:
- Now, you stand here and watch our ten trunks, while I go and get a
taxi.
She left and left him there, eyes somewhat glazed and humming
absently. Some minutes later she returned, presumably having called
for a taxi. Says Mr. Sierpinski (possibly with a glint in his eye):
- I thought you said there were ten trunks, but I've only counted to nine.
- No, they're TEN!
- No, count them: 0, 1, 2, ..."
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
What's non-orientable and lives in the sea?
Mobius Dick.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Definition:
Jogging girl scout = Brownian motion.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
lim sin x
n --> oo ------ = 6
n
Proof: cancel the n in the numerator and denominator.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Two male mathematicians are in a bar.
The first one says to the second that the average person knows very
little about basic mathematics.
The second one disagrees, and claims that most people can cope with a
reasonable amount of math.
The first mathematician goes off to the washroom, and in his absence
the second calls over the waitress.
He tells her that in a few minutes, after his friend has returned, he
will call her over and ask her a question. All she has to do is
answer "one third x cubed."
She repeats "one thir -- dex cue?" He repeats "one third x cubed."
Her: "one thir dex cuebd?" Yes, that's right, he says. So she
agrees, and goes off mumbling to herself, "one thir dex cuebd..."
The first guy returns and the second proposes a bet to prove his
point, that most people do know something about basic math.
He says he will ask the blonde waitress an integral, and the first
laughingly agrees.
The second man calls over the waitress and asks, "What is the integral
of x squared?"
The waitress says "One third x cubed," and while walking away, turns
back and says over her shoulder, "plus C!"
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Fuller's Law of Cosmic Irreversability:
1 pot T --> 1 pot P
but
1 pot P -/-> 1 pot T
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A topologist is a man who doesn't know the difference between a coffee
cup and a doughnut.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A statistician can have his head in an oven and his feet in ice, and
he will say that on the average he feels fine.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
There are three kinds of people in the world;
those who can count and those who can't.
And the related:
There are two groups of people in the world;
those who believe that the world can be
divided into two groups of people,
and those who don't.
And then:
There are two groups of people in the world:
Those who can be categorized into one of two
groups of people, and those who can't.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
97.3% of all statistics are made up.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Did you hear the one about the statistician?
Probably....
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
There was once a very smart horse. Anything that was shown it, it
mastered easily, until one day, its teachers tried to teach it about
rectangular coordinates and it couldn't understand them. All the
horse's acquaintances and friends tried to figure out what was the
matter and couldn't. Then a new guy (what the heck, a computer
engineer) looked at the problem and said,
"Of course he can't do it. Why, you're putting Descartes before the
horse!"
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
TOP TEN EXCUSES FOR NOT DOING THE MATH HOMEWORK
1. I accidentally divided by zero and my paper burst into flames.
2. Isaac Newton's birthday.
3. I could only get arbitrarily close to my textbook. I couldn't
actually reach it.
4. I have the proof, but there isn't room to write it in this margin.
5. I was watching the World Series and got tied up trying to prove
that it converged.
6. I have a solar powered calculator and it was cloudy.
7. I locked the paper in my trunk but a four-dimensional dog got in
and ate it.
8. I couldn't figure out whether i am the square of negative one or
i is the square root of negative one.
9. I took time out to snack on a doughnut and a cup of coffee.
I spent the rest of the night trying to figure which one to dunk.
10. I could have sworn I put the homework inside a Klein bottle, but
this morning I couldn't find it.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The guy gets on a bus and starts threatening everybody: "I'll integrate
you! I'll differentiate you!!!" So everybody gets scared and runs
away. Only one person stays. The guy comes up to him and says:
"Aren't you scared, I'll integrate you, I'll differentiate you!!!" And
the other guy says; "No, I am not scared, I am e to the x."
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
8 5
If lim - = oo (infinity), then what does lim - = ?
x->0 x x->0 x
answer: (write 5 on its side)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Boy's Life, May 1973:
Ralph: Dad, will you do my math for me tonight?
Dad: No, son, it wouldn't be right.
Ralph: Well, you could try.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Mrs. Johnson the elementary school math teacher was having children do
problems on the blackboard that day.
``Who would like to do the first problem, addition?''
No one raised their hand. She called on Tommy, and with some help he
finally got it right.
``Who would like to do the second problem, subtraction?''
Students hid their faces. She called on Mark, who got the problem but
there was some suspicion his girlfriend Lisa whispered it to him.
``Who would like to do the third problem, division?''
Now a low collective groan could be heard as everyone looked at
nothing in particular. The teacher called on Suzy, who got it right
(she has been known to hold back sometimes in front of her friends).
``Who would like to do the last problem, multiplication?''
Tim's hand shot up, surprising everyone in the room. Mrs. Johnson
finally gained her composure in the stunned silence. ``Why the
enthusiasm, Tim?''
``God said to go fourth and multiply!''
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Definitions of Terms Commonly Used in Higher Math
The following is a guide to the weary student of mathematics who
is often confronted with terms which are commonly used but rarely
defined. In the search for proper definitions for these terms we
found no authoritative, nor even recognized, source. Thus, we
followed the advice of mathematicians handed down from time
immortal: "Wing It."
CLEARLY: I don't want to write down all the "in-
between" steps.
TRIVIAL: If I have to show you how to do this, you're
in the wrong class.
OBVIOUSLY: I hope you weren't sleeping when we discussed
this earlier, because I refuse to repeat it.
RECALL: I shouldn't have to tell you this, but for
those of you who erase your memory tapes
after every test...
WLOG (Without Loss Of Generality): I'm not about to do all the
possible cases, so I'll do one and let you
figure out the rest.
IT CAN EASILY BE SHOWN: Even you, in your finite wisdom, should
be able to prove this without me holding your
hand.
CHECK or CHECK FOR YOURSELF: This is the boring part of the
proof, so you can do it on your own time.
SKETCH OF A PROOF: I couldn't verify all the details, so I'll
break it down into the parts I couldn't
prove.
HINT: The hardest of several possible ways to do a
proof.
BRUTE FORCE (AND IGNORANCE): Four special cases, three counting
arguments, two long inductions, "and a
partridge in a pair tree."
SOFT PROOF: One third less filling (of the page) than
your regular proof, but it requires two extra
years of course work just to understand the
terms.
ELEGANT PROOF: Requires no previous knowledge of the subject
matter and is less than ten lines long.
SIMILARLY: At least one line of the proof of this case is
the same as before.
CANONICAL FORM: 4 out of 5 mathematicians surveyed
recommended this as the final form for their
students who choose to finish.
TFAE (The Following Are Equivalent): If I say this it means that,
and if I say that it means the other thing,
and if I say the other thing...
BY A PREVIOUS THEOREM: I don't remember how it goes (come to
think of it I'm not really sure we did this
at all), but if I stated it right (or at
all), then the rest of this follows.
TWO LINE PROOF: I'll leave out everything but the conclusion,
you can't question 'em if you can't see 'em.
BRIEFLY: I'm running out of time, so I'll just write
and talk faster.
LET'S TALK THROUGH IT: I don't want to write it on the board lest
I make a mistake.
PROCEED FORMALLY: Manipulate symbols by the rules without any
hint of their true meaning (popular in pure
math courses).
QUANTIFY: I can't find anything wrong with your proof
except that it won't work if x is a moon of
Jupiter (Popular in applied math courses).
PROOF OMITTED: Trust me, It's true.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Albert Einstein, who fancied himself as a violinist, was rehearsing a
Haydn string quartet. When he failed for the fourth time to get his
entry in the second movement, the cellist looked up and said, "The
problem with you, Albert, is that you simply can't count."
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Some famous mathematician was to give a keynote speech at a
conference. Asked for an advance summary, he said he would present a
proof of Fermat's Last Theorem -- but they should keep it under their
hats. When he arrived, though, he spoke on a much more prosaic
topic. Afterwards the conference organizers asked why he said he'd
talk about the theorem and then didn't. He replied this was his
standard practice, just in case he was killed on the way to the
conference.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
When I was a Math/Chem grad student at Princeton in 1973-74, there was
a story going around about a grad student. This guy was always late.
One day he stumbled into class late, saw seven problems written on the
board, and wrote them down. As the week went on he began to panic:
the math department at Princeton is fiercely competitive, and here he
was unable to do most of a simple homework assignment! When the next
class rolled around he only had solved two of the problems, although
he had a pretty good idea of how to solve a third but not enough time
to complete it.
When he dejectedly flung his partial assignment on the prof's desk,
the prof asked him "What's that?" "The homework." "What homework?"
Eventually it came out that what the prof had written on the board
were the seven most important unsolved problems in the field.
This is largely an academic legend, at least according to Jan Harold
Brunvand, the author of a series of books on so-called Urban Legends.
He talks about it in his latest book _Curses! Broiled Again!_ in the
chapter entitled "The Unsolvable Math Problem." It is, however, based
in some fact. The Stanford mathematician, George B. Danzig,
apparently managed to solve two statistics problems previously
unsolved under similar circumstances.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The following problem can be solved either the easy way or the hard way.
Two trains 200 miles apart are moving toward each other; each one is
going at a speed of 50 miles per hour. A fly starting on the front of
one of them flies back and forth between them at a rate of 75 miles
per hour. It does this until the trains collide and crush the fly to
death. What is the total distance the fly has flown?
The fly actually hits each train an infinite number of times before it
gets crushed, and one could solve the problem the hard way with pencil
and paper by summing an infinite series of distances. The easy way
is as follows: Since the trains are 200 miles apart and each train is
going 50 miles an hour, it takes 2 hours for the trains to collide.
Therefore the fly was flying for two hours. Since the fly was flying
at a rate of 75 miles per hour, the fly must have flown 150 miles.
That's all there is to it.
When this problem was posed to John von Neumann, he immediately
replied, "150 miles."
"It is very strange," said the poser, "but nearly everyone tries to
sum the infinite series."
"What do you mean, strange?" asked Von Neumann. "That's how I did it!"
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Mathematicians are like Frenchmen: whatever you say to them, they
translate it into their own language, and forthwith it means something
entirely different.
-- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"The reason that every major university maintains a department of
mathematics is that it is cheaper to do this than to institutionalize
all those people."
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
What do you call a young eigensheep?
A lamb, duh!!!
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"The world is everywhere dense with idiots."
- LFS
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The following is supposedly a true story about Russell. It isn't
really a math joke since it makes fun of the British hierarchy, but
it's funny anyway....
Around the time when Cold War started, Bertrand Russell was giving a
lecture on politics in England. Being a leftist in a conservative
women's club, he was not received well at all: the ladies came up to
him and started attacking him with whatever they could get their hands
on. The guard, being an English gentleman, did not want to be rough
to the ladies and yet needed to save Russell from them. He said, "But
he is a great mathematician!" The ladies ignored him. The guard said
again, "But he is a great philosopher!" The ladies ignore him again.
In desperation, finally, he said, "But his brother is an earl!" Bert
was saved.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
This was made by Mike Bender and Sarah Herr:
MATHEMATICS PURITY TEST
Count the number of yes's, subtract from 60, and divide by 0.6.
The Basics
1) Have you ever been excited about math?
2) Had an exciting dream about math?
3) Made a mathematical calculation?
4) Manipulated the numerator of an equation?
5) Manipulated the denominator of an equation?
6) On your first problem set?
7) Worked on a problem set past 3:00 a.m.?
8) Worked on a problem set all night?
9) Had a hard problem?
10) Worked on a problem continuously for more than 30 minutes?
11) Worked on a problem continuously for more than four hours?
12) Done more than one problem set on the same night (i.e. both
started and finished them)?
13) Done more than three problem sets on the same night?
14) Taken a math course for a full year?
15) Taken two different math courses at the same time?
16) Done at least one problem set a week for more than four months?
17) Done at least one problem set a night for more than one month
(weekends excluded)?
18) Done a problem set alone?
19) Done a problem set in a group of three or more?
20) Done a problem set in a group of 15 or more?
21) Was it mixed company?
22) Have you ever inadvertently walked in upon people doing a problem set?
23) And joined in afterwards?
24) Have you ever used food doing a problem set?
25) Did you eat it all?
26) Have you ever had a domesticated pet or animal walk over you while you
were doing a problem set?
27) Done a problem set in a public place where you might be discovered?
28) Been discovered while doing a problem set?
Kinky Stuff
29) Have you ever applied your math to a hard science?
30) Applied your math to a soft science?
31) Done an integration by parts?
32) Done two integration by parts in a single problem?
33) Bounded the domain and range of your function?
34) Used the domination test for improper integrals?
35) Done Newton's Method?
36) Done the Method of Frobenius?
37) Used the Sandwich Theorem?
38) Used the Mean Value Theorem?
39) Used a Gaussian surface?
40) Used a foreign object on a math problem (eg: calculator)?
41) Used a program to improve your mathematical technique (eg: MACSYMA)?
42) Not used brackets when you should have?
43) Integrated a function over its full period?
44) Done a calculation in three-dimensional space?
45) Done a calculation in n-dimensional space?
46) Done a change of bases?
47) Done a change of bases specifically in order to magnify your vector?
48) Worked through four complete bases in a single night (eg: using the
Graham-Schmidt method)?
49) Inserted a number into an equation?
50) Calculated the residue of a pole?
51) Scored perfectly on a math test?
52) Swallowed everything your professor gave you?
53) Used explicit notation in your problem set?
54) Purposefully omitted important steps in your problem set?
55) Padded your own problem set?
56) Been blown away on a test?
57) Blown away your professor on a test?
58) Have you ever multiplied 23 by 3?
59) Have you ever bounded your Bessel function so that the membrane
did not shoot to infinity?
69) Have you ever understood the following quote:
"The relationship between Z^0 to C_0, B_0, and H_0
is an example of a general principle which we have
encountered: the kernel of the adjoint of a linear
transformation is both the annihilator space of the
image of the transformation and also the dual space
of the quotient of the space of which the image is
a subspace by the image subspace."
(Sternberg & Bamberg's _A "Course" in Mathematics for
Students of Physics_, vol. 2)