More Mathematical Humour

Friday 25 February 2005 at 3:47 pm | In Articles | 2 Comments

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.

Not heard of Nicholas Bourbaki? Then find out all about them (sic) at PlanetMath and Wikipedia


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  1. I’m tried the “what’s a polar bear?” joke on my students because we were doing double integrals. Didn’t work too well.

    Comment by tpc — Saturday 26 February 2005 2:31 pm #

  2. Ha! Thanks. Great morning read. All the jokes are great but this one set me off for some reason,

    Q: How many number theorists does it take to change a lightbulb?

    A: This is not known, but it is conjectured to be an elegant prime.

    Comment by SDB — Saturday 19 March 2005 2:34 pm #

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