From: rec.humor.funny


Here's a "joke" that is guaranteed to crack up algebraicists, which 
tells you something about them.  The delivery is important. First you 
say, "Here is a good math joke" to set them up, and then you say, 
"Let G be a ring, let R be a field, and let F be a group."
       You shoot yourself in each toe, iteratively, until you run out
       of toes, then you read in the next foot and repeat.  If you run
       out of bullets, you continue anyway because you have no exception-
       processing ability.

       You shoot yourself in the foot with a musket.  The musket is
       esthetically fascinating, and the wound baffles the adolescent
       medic in the emergency room.

       USEing a COLT45 HANDGUN, AIM gun at LEG.FOOT, THEN place
       return HANDGUN to HOLSTER.  Check whether shoelace needs
       to be retied.

       Shoot self in foot with water pistol.  On big systems, continue
       until entire lower body is waterlogged.

       You consume all available system resources, including all the
       offline bullets.  The DataProcessing&Payroll Department doubles
       its size, triples its budget, acquires four new mainframes, and
       drops the original one on your foot.

       You grab your foot with your hand, then rewrite your hand to
       be a bullet.  The act of shooting the original foot then
       changes your hand/bullet into yet another foot (a left foot).

       You shoot yourself in the appendage which holds the gun with
       which you shoot yourself in the appendage which holds the gun
       with which you shoot yourself in the appendage which holds the
       gun with which you shoot yourself in the appendage which holds...

       You shoot yourself in the appendage which holds the gun with
       which you shoot yourself in the appendage which holds the gun
       with which you shoot yourself in the appendage which holds the
       gun with which you shoot yourself in the appendage which holds...
       ...but none of the other appendages are aware of this happening.

       You put your foot in your mouth, then bite it off.
Article 1899 of rec.humor.funny:
From: (RAMontante)
Subject: More prog. lang. Help (follow-on)

Three employees of NOSC (an engineer, a physicist and a mathematician)
are staying in a hotel while attending a technical seminar.  The
engineer wakes up and smells smoke. He goes out into the hallway and
sees a fire, so he fills a trashcan from his room with water and douses
the fire. He goes back to bed.  Later, the physicist wakes up and smells
smoke.  He opens his door and sees a fire in the hallway.  He walks down
the hall to a fire hose and after calculating the flame velocity,
distance, water pressure, trajectory, etc. extinguishes the fire with
the minimum amount of water and energy needed.  Later, the mathematician
wakes up and smells smoke.  He goes to the hall, sees the fire and then
the fire hose.  He thinks for a moment and then exclaims, "Ah, a
solution exists!" and then goes back to bed.

Michael Plapp, NOSC
"A mathematician is a device for turning coffee into theorems"
  -- P. Erdos

Jim Lewis, UC-Berkeley
There was a mad scientist ( a mad scientist ) who kidnapped
three colleagues, an engineer, a physicist, and a mathematician, and
locked each of themin seperate cells with plenty of canned food and
water but no can opener.

A month later, returning, the mad scientist went to the engineer's cell
and found it long empty. The engineer had constructed a can opener from
pocket trash, used aluminum shavings and dried sugar to make an
explosive, and escaped.

The physicist had worked out the angle necessary to knock the lids off
the tin cans by throwing them against the wall. She was developing a
good pitching arm and a new quantum theory.

The mathematician had stacked the unopened cans into a surprising
solution to the kissing problem; his dessicated corpse was propped
calmly against a wall, and this was inscribed on the floor in blood:

        Theorem: If I can't open these cans, I'll die.

        Proof: assume the opposite...

(name unknown), Reed College, Portland, OR
There were two men trying to decide what to do for a living.  They went
to see a counselor, and he decided that they had good problem solving

He tried a test to narrow the area of specialty.  He put each man in a
room with a stove, a table, and a pot of water on the table.  He said
"Boil the water".  Both men moved the pot from the table to the stove
and turned on the burner to boil the water.  Next, he put them into a
room with a stove, a table, and a pot of water on the floor. Again, he
said "Boil the water". The first man put the pot on the stove and turned
on the burner. The counselor told him to be an Engineer, because he
could solve each problem individually.  The second man moved the pot
from the floor to the table, and then moved the pot from the table to
the stove and turned on the burner.  The counselor told him to be a
mathematician because he reduced the problem to a previously solved

    Three men are in a hot-air balloon.  Soon, they find themselves lost
in a canyon somewhere.  One of the three men says, "I've got an idea.
We can call for help in this canyon and the echo will carry our voices

    So he leans over the basket and yells out, "Helllloooooo! Where are
we?" (They hear the echo several times).

    15 minutes later, they hear this echoing voice: "Helllloooooo!
You're lost!!"

    One of the men says, "That must have been a mathematician." Puzzled,
one of the other men asks, "Why do you say that?"

   The reply: "For three reasons.
     (1) he took a long time to answer,
     (2) he was absolutely correct, and
     (3) his answer was absolutely useless."

 (I'm not sure if the following one is a true story or not)
    The great logician Betrand Russell (or was it A.N. Whitehead?)
once claimed that he could prove anything if given that 1 + 1 = 1.
    So one day, some smarty-pants asked him, "Ok.  Prove that
you're the Pope."
    He thought for a while and proclaimed, "I am one.  The Pope
is one.  Therefore, the Pope and I are one."

Donald Chinn, UC-Berkeley

     In the beginning there was only one kind of Mathematician, created by
the Great Mathematical Spirit from the Book: the Topologist.  And they grew
to large numbers and prospered.

     One day they looked up in the heavens and desired to reach up as far as 
the eye could see.  So they set out in building a Mathematical edifice
that was to reach up as far as "up" went.  Further and further up they went
... until one night the edifice collapsed under the weight of paradox.

     The following morning saw only rubble where there once was a huge
structure reaching to the heavens.  One by one, the Mathematicians climbed
out from under the rubble.  It was a miracle that nobody was killed; but
when they began to speak to one another, SUPRISE of all suprises! they
could not understand each other.  They all spoke different languages.  They
all fought amongst themselves and each went about their own way.  To this
day the Topologists remain the original Mathematicians.

                            - adapted from an American Indian legend
                              of the Mound Of Babel

Mark William Hopkins, U. Wisconsin-Milwaukee
   The ark lands after The Flood.  Noah lets all the animals out.  Says,
"Go and multiply."  Several months pass.  Noah decides to check up on
the animals.  All are doing fine except a pair of snakes.  "What's the
problem?" says Noah.  "Cut down some trees and let us live there", say
the snakes. Noah follows their advice.  Several more weeks pass.  Noah
checks on the snakes again.  Lots of little snakes, everybody is happy.
Noah asks, "Want to tell me how the trees helped?"  "Certainly", say the
snakes. "We're adders, and we need logs to multiply."

Rolan Christofferson, U.Colorado, Boulder
Several students were asked the following problem:

    Prove that all odd integers are prime.

    Well, the first student to try to do this was a math student.  Hey
says "hmmm...  Well, 1 is prime, 3 is prime, 5 is prime, and by
induction, we have that all the odd integers are prime."

    Of course, there are some jeers from some of his friends.  The
physics student then said, "I'm not sure of the validity of your proof,
but I think I'll try to prove it by experiment." He continues, "Well, 1
is prime, 3 is prime, 5 is prime, 7 is prime, 9 is ...  uh, 9 is an
experimental error, 11 is prime, 13 is prime...  Well, it seems that
you're right."

    The third student to try it was the engineering student, who
responded, "Well, actually, I'm not sure of your answer either.  Let's
see...  1 is prime, 3 is prime, 5 is prime, 7 is prime, 9 is ..., 9 is
..., well if you approximate, 9 is prime, 11 is prime, 13 is prime...
Well, it does seem right."

    Not to be outdone, the computer science student comes along
and says "Well, you two sort've got the right idea, but you'd end up
taking too long doing it.  I've just whipped up a program to REALLY go
and prove it..."  He goes over to his terminal and runs his program.
Reading the output on the screen he says, "1 is prime, 1 is prime, 1
is prime, 1 is prime...."
A biologist, a statistician, a mathematician and a computer
scientist are on a photo-safari in africa. They drive out on the
savannah in their jeep, stop and scout the horizon with
their binoculars.

The biologist :          "Look! There's a herd of zebras! And there,
                          in the middle : A white zebra! It's fantastic !
                          There are white zebra's ! We'll be famous !"

The statistician :       "It's not significant. We only know there's one
                          white zebra."

The mathematician :      "Actually, we only know there exists a zebra,
                          which is white on one side."

The computer scientist : "Oh, no! A special case!"

Niels Ull Jacobsen, U. of Copenhagen
A doctor, a lawyer and a mathematician were discussing the relative merits
of having a wife or a mistress.

The lawyer says: "For sure a mistress is better. If you have a wife and 
want a divorce, it causes all sorts of legal problems.

The doctor says: "It's better to have a wife because the sense of 
security lowers your stress and is good for your health.

The mathematician says: " You're both wrong. It's best to have both so 
that, when the wife thinks you're with the mistress and the mistress 
thinks you're with your wife --- you can do some mathematics.

Bruce Bukiet, Los Alamos National Lab
Von Neumann and Nobert Weiner 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,

Weiner 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 
Weiner 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 

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...

Richard Harter, Computer Corp. of America, Cambridge, MA
The USDA once wanted to make cows produce milk faster, to improve the dairy

So, they decided to consult the foremost biologists and recombinant DNA
technicians to build them a better cow. They assembled this team of great
scientists, and gave them unlimited funding.  They requested rare
chemicals, weird bacteria, tons of quarantine equipment, there was a
god-awful typhus epidemic they started by accident, and, 2 years later,
they came back with the "new, improved cow." It had a milk production
improvement of 2% over the original.

They then tried with the greatest Nobel Prize winning chemists around.
They worked for six months, and, after requisitioning tons of chemical
equipment, and poisoning half the small town in Colorado where they were
working with a toxic cloud from one of their experiments, they got a 5%
improvement in milk output.

The physicists tried for a year, and, after ten thousand cows were
subjected to radiation therapy, they got a 1% improvement in output.

Finally, in desperation, they turned to the mathematicians.  The foremost
mathematician of his time offered to help them with the problem. Upon
hearing the problem, he told the delegation that they could come back in
the morning and he would have solved the problem.  In the morning, they
came back, and he handed them a piece of paper with the computations for
the new, 300% improved milk cow.

The plans began:

"A Proof of the Attainability of Increased Milk Output from Bovines:

Consider a spherical cow......"

Chet Murthy, Cornell
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

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."

Lyle Levine, Washington University, St. Louis
An assemblage of the most gifted minds in the world were all posed the
following question: 

"What is 2 * 2 ?"

The engineer whips out his slide rule (so it's old) and shuffles it 
back and forth, and finally announces "3.99".

The physicist consults his technical references, sets up the problem on 
his computer, and announces "it lies between 3.98 and 4.02".

The mathematician cogitates for a while, oblivious to the rest of the 
world, then announces: "I don't what the answer is, but I can tell you, 
an answer exists!".

Philosopher: "But what do you _mean_ by 2 * 2 ?"

Logician: "Please define 2 * 2 more precisely."

Accountant: Closes all the doors and windows, looks around carefully,
            then asks "What do you _want_ the answer to be?"

Computer Hacker: Breaks into the NSA super-computer and gives the answer.

Dave Horsfall, Alcatel-STC Australia, North Sydney
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, ..."

Kai-Mikael, Royal Inst. of Technology, Stockholm, SWEDEN
Two mathematics professors enter a restaurant for dinner.  The first
professor is an optimist; he claims that teaching math is a very
important task of society and that the everyday common Joe really did
pay attention to calculus.  The other is a pessimist; he claims that
teaching math to the masses is pointless, and that most people don't
even listen to their math classes any more than they have to to pass
them, and then forget them.

They argue this subject through the entire meal, and when they are
finished, the second one excuses himself to use the restroom.  While he
is gone, the first professor calls aside their waitress and says,
"Ma'am ... my friend doesn't believe that people pay attention to math
and that teaching math is pointless.  To prove him wrong, I'll pay you
$20 to answer a question in front of him when he returns.  I'll ask you,
       'What is the antiderivative of 1/x?'
and you'll respond,
       'The natural log of x.'
Got it?"  The waitress agrees and walks away with the $20.

When the pessimist returns from the bathroom, they call the waiter over
to pay for the dinner.  When he comes, the optimistic professor asks
him, "Say waitress, do you know what the antiderivative of 1/x is?"

The waitress replies, "Sure.  It's the natural log of x."

The second professor is astounded.  He says to his friend, "I guess you
were right... people do pay attention to calculus after all!"

Later, as the two professors are walking out the door, the waitress
comes up to them and adds, "Plus a constant."

William R. Ward 
An engineer, a physicist, and a mathematician each checks out a room at
a motel.  While they're all sleeping, a fire broke out in each of their 
rooms. The engineer wakes up, goes out and brings back a bucket of water 
and puts the fire out in his room and goes back to sleep.  The physicist 
wakes up, takes out his calculator and finds the exact amount of water 
needed and puts out his fire.  The mathematician wakes up, notices the 
fire, takes out her pencil and PROVES that the fire can be put out on 
paper and goes back to bed.... Well I guess that's the end of our poor 

The news was crippling the European summer tourist industry.  An 
unprecedented number of airplane crashes had caused many travellers to 
postpone their plans or go elsewhere. An answer had to be found to the 
mystery of the cause of the crashes.

Some things were obvious. Only international flights landing at the
Warsaw airport were involved. The tragedies had spanned all airlines,
times of day, shifts of traffic controllers and cities of origin. A
special task force of experts from around the world was assembled to
study the situation.

After several days, the leader of the task force convened a press
conference to announce that the problem had been identified, and the
solution had been immediately implemented. Travellers need no longer

The reporters demanded details, and the scientist finally agreed to try
to explain the error.  "An administrative misunderstanding by the
Customs Agency," she explained. In an effort to speed up arrival
processing on international flights, customs officials had asked the
airlines to separate seating of Polish citizens and foreign visitors on
the airplanes. Unfortunately, this caused an instability that the pilots
could not overcome.

Pressed for more information, the scientist added, "All of the Poles
were placed on the right hand side of the plane."

Denise DiFilippo
On Noah's ark, we pick up action where Noah throws the dove out the
window, it returns with an olive branch, signifying dry land. Noah then 
goes to empty out the ark, approaching each pair of animals, and bidding 
them well, telling them to go forth and multiply.  To the giraffes he 
says, "Go forth and multiply." And they leave the ark.  To the monkeys 
he says, "Go forth and multiply." And they leave the ark.  This 
continues until the entire ark is empty, except for two snakes in the 
corner. Noah approaches the snakes and says, "Go forth and multiply," 
but the snakes say they can't.  Why not?

Because they're adders.  Well, be it as it may, Noah and Mrs. Noah decide
to leave the snakes on the ark, and they go take a walk on the dry land.
Noah cuts down a tree, makes a little table out of it, then brings it in
to the ark as a gift for Mrs. Noah. At that moment, the two snakes cross
over the tree and leave the ark.  What's the moral of the story?

Two adders can multiply when they have a log table.

Back to the Gödel, Escher, Bach page.   John Lawler