The American Mathematical Society has published a paper called Foolproof: A Sampling of Mathematical Folk Humor aimed at professional mathematicians who would understand jokes like:
- Q: What do you get if you cross a mosquito with a mountain climber?
A: You can’t cross a vector with a scalar.
Q: How many topologists does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Just one, but what will you do with the doughnut?
Q: Why did the chicken cross the Möbius strip?
A: To get to the other–er….
If you understand what Bourbaki is all about then this one is lovely:
- Q: How many Bourbakists does it take to replace a lightbulb?
A: Changing a lightbulb is a special case of a more general theorem concerning the maintenance and repair of an electrical system. To establish upper and lower bounds for the number of personnel required, we must determine whether the sufficient conditions of Lemma 2.1 (Availability of personnel) and those of Corollary (2.3.55 Motivation of personnel) apply. If and only if these conditions are met, we derive the result by an application of the theorems in Section 3.1123. The resulting upper bound is, of course, a result in an abstract measure space, in the weak-* topology.
Comic Sections is the funniest mathematics book I have read and I (and others) giggled all the way through it – how many maths books can you say that about? It is a collection of mathematical jokes, poems, reviews, howlers, riddles, wit etc etc which vary from the low-level
- 90° is the boiling-point of a right-angled triangle
to the more advanced
- Q. What is a kittegory? A. A small category
via a journal review
- This book creates a much-needed gap in mathematics
and on to a final exam question
- Discuss the advances made in algebra since the invention of the phrase “char F 2″
I have already quoted from the book a couple of times here
There’s no way I can do justice to the book so you have no choice but to buy a copy Yes, it’s out of print but the author Desmond MacHale, will sell you one. This is what he told me:
- I have about 100 softback copies remaining which sell at a trickle because I don’t promote it and they retail at $15 US including postage if you want to spread the word about. Yes I really should rewrite it but I am busy working on Beauty in Mathematics which I hope will be influential;there are of course many new mathematical jokes since I wrote CS.One of my favourites is What is the difference between an introvert mathematician an an extrovert mathematician? Well,when an IM is talking to you he looks at his shoes;when an EM is talking to you he looks at your shoes!
My postal address is Dept of Mathematics, University College, CORK,Ireland.
Best regards, Des MacHale
PS Key in my name on Amazon.com or abebooks.com to find my other stuff on jokes,WIT,movies and lateral thinking puzzles, if you want to punish yourself further for Lent.
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While you’re there, do investigate the wealth of mathematics contained in the forum – maybe you’ll be hooked 😎