Index | Comments and Contributions | previous:1.2 statistics and statisticians

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From: "magic math tricks" <markdemers15#NoSpam.hotmail.com>
Q: Why did the mathematician tell a joke?

a) Because he loved to describe his research.
b) Because he wanted to make everybody in the room groan
From: Stephen Montgomery-Smith <stephen#NoSpam.math.missouri.edu>
c) To have the answer explained in exquisitely painful detail.

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From: Dmitry Cheryasov <dch#NoSpam.engacad.samara.su>
A question is asked to CS department students. The question is: What is
the value  of `2*2'?

(1st year student): says `4', without any thinking.

(2nd year student): says `4, exactly', after a moment of thinking.

(3rd year student): takes a pocket calculator, presses some buttons and
says `4'.

(4th year student): writes a program of about 100 lines, debugs it, runs
it and says: `4.0e+00'.

(5th year student): designs a new programming language that perfectly
fits for solving such problems, implemets it, writes a program, and
answers: `It says "4", but I doubt if I really fixed that ugly bug last

(student just before the final graduation exams): cries in desperation:
`Why, why do you think I must know all that bloody constants by heart?!'

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From: schaker#NoSpam.scubed.scubed.com (Stefan Chakerian)

A mathematician is showing a new proof he came up with to a large group of
peers. After he's gone through most of it, one of the mathematicians says,
"Wait! That's not true. I have a counter-example!"

He replies, "That's okay. I have two proofs."

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From: wthedford#NoSpam.aol.com (Wthedford)

One of my professors who primarially taught grad students was teaching
factorials to a freshman algebra class.  He was overheard saying, with
great frustration in his voice, "My god class, its just a restriction of
the gamma function."

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Q: What does a mathematicians answer, when you ask him/her if (s)he wants
   the window open or closed?
A: Yes.

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From: "Pierre Abbat" <phma#NoSpam.trellis.net>
Le mathématicien est allé au lit pour faire des sommes.

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From: Dave Boll <dboll#NoSpam.mail.omn.com>

I was email-chatting with a friend, and he made a comment on my .sig that really cracked me up. I included it below so that you can be cracked up also.

Home page: http://www.frii.com/~dboll/ Stop by for a visit! Lots of stuff
on Recreational Mathematics, Amateur Astronomy, etc.
>Yeah, I used to think it was just recreational... then I started
>doin' it during the week... you know, simple stuff: differentiation,
>kinematics.  Then I got into integration by parts... I started doin'
>it every night: path integrals, holomorphic functions.  Now I'm
>on diophantine equations and sinking deeper into transfinite
>analysis.  Don't let them tell you it's just recreational.
>Just say {}.

ROTFL! Fortunately, I can quit any time I want.

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From: Bert Tagge <tagge#NoSpam.erols.com>
I will never forget the day in statistics when, the Professor, who had all
of the traditional looks of one (white hair, tweed jacket with leather
elbow patches) was writing on the board X sub i Y sub j; when one of the
students asked, "Don't you mean X sub j Y sub i?"  The Prof looked at the
board a bit, then erased the marks with his sleeve, and said;"yes, you are
correct.  Quite often I will say one thing, write another, and be thinking
a third.  What I am thinking is correct, and you will be tested on."  Every
jaw in the classroom hit the floor!

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From: Hugh Robinson <hmr#NoSpam.coventry.ac.uk>
Okay, here's mine. I am told that it's true, but...

A certain well-known pure mathematician had a wife who, while
intelligent, was not into mathematics. However, by continued
practice, she learnt to distinguish between the conversations
of algebraists and analysts. So when he had guests to dinner
who were talking about mathematics, if they were analysts, she
would introduce at a suitable pause in the conversation:
        "But what happens at the boundary?"
Whereas, if they were algebraists, she would say:
        "But do the roots lie in the field?"
By this means she was always able to impress his visitors by
her knowledge of mathematics.

(No, don't write and ask for the punchline. That's all.)

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From: stephen#NoSpam.sp2n17-t.missouri.edu (Stephen Montgomery-Smith)

Reading the last joke made me think of something:

My wife was at one of the math parties, getting rather bored.
A friend of mind explained to her that there was one conversation
line that always worked with professors.  Just say
"Standards are falling."
Another professor overheard this, and turned around to say that
this was absolutely true, and we spent the next half hour
complaining about how standards are falling.

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From: penny314#NoSpam.aol.com (Penny314)

       Here is one I cooked up when covered
with chalk dust after a lecture.
     " How do mathematicians die?"
       " White Lung Disease"

From: "Charles H. Giffen" <chg4k#NoSpam.virginia.edu>

Since I almost always am covered with chalk after a mathematics
lecture, I usually tell my calculus students somewhere early on
in the course that, although coal miner's dread fear is black
lung disease, we mathematicians suffer from white lung disease!

I guess our minds were running in the same chalktray!

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September 19
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

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."

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A small, 14-seat plane is circling for a landing in Atlanta.  It's
totally fogged in, zero visibility, and suddenly there's a small
electrical fire in the cockpit which disables all of the instruments
and the radio.  The pilot continues circling, totally lost, when
suddenly he finds himself flying next to a tall office building.

He rolls down the window (this particular airplane happens to have
roll-down windows) and yells to a person inside the building, "Where
are we?"

The person responds "In an airplane!"

The pilot then banks sharply to the right, circles twice, and makes a
perfect landing at Atlanta International.

As the passengers emerge, shaken but unhurt, one of them says to the
pilot, "I'm certainly glad you were able to land safely, but I don't
understand how the response you got was any use."

"Simple," responded the pilot.  "I got an answer that was completely
accurate and totally irrelevant to my problem, so I knew it had to be
the IBM building."

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August 28
March 22
Mathematicians are like Frenchmen: whatever you say to them they
translate into their own language and forthwith it is something
entirely different. (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)

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Old mathematicians never die; they just lose some of their functions.
From: Tim.Nelson#NoSpam.Canada.ATTGIS.COM (list of Old * Never Die, they just)

Special Category: Old scientists never die...

OLD MATH TEACHERS never die, they just reduce to lowest terms
OLD MATHEMATICIANS never die, they just disintegrate
OLD MATHEMATICIANS never die, they just go off on a tangent
OLD NUMERICAL ANALYSTS never die, they just get disarrayed
OLD TRIGONOMETRY TEACHERS never die, they just lose their identities
From: jeroen#NoSpam.orthos.math.rulimburg.nl (Jeroen vi Rutten)

Old mathematicians never die, they tend to zero.
From: pml <plavietes#NoSpam.nh.ultranet.com>
Old mathematicians never die...they just become angles.
From: Dena Schanzer <schanzer#NoSpam.compmore.net>
I have always been told that old statisticians do not fade away,
but rather are "broken down by age and sex".
From: The Professor (franbo#NoSpam.globalnet.co.uk)

Old mathematicians never die, they just lose their functions.
From: "Smiley" <Smiley66#NoSpam.btinternet.com>
Old  mathematicians never die - they just decay

From: Haider Family <haider#NoSpam.netutah.net>
Old mathematicians never die....they just become irrational.

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From: banghar4#NoSpam.studentb.msu.edu (Rick Banghart)

Two math professors are in a restaurant. One argues that the average person
does not know any math beyond high school. The other argues that the
average person knows some more advanced math. Just then, the first one gets
up to use the rest room. The second professor calls over his waitress and
says, "When you bring our food, I'm going to ask you a mathematical
question. I want you to answer, 'One third x cubed.' Can you do that?"
   The waitress says, "I don't know if I can remember that. One thurr...
   "One third x cubed," says the prof.
   "One thir dex cue?," asks the waitress.
   "One third X cubed"
   "One third X cubed"
The waitress leaves, and the other professor comes back. They resume their
conversation until a few minutes later when the waitress brings their food.
The professor says to the waitress, "Say, do you mind if I ask you
   "Not at all"
   "Can you tell me what the integral of x squared dx is?"
   The waitress pauses, then says, "One third x cubed."
   As she walks away, she stops, turns, and adds, "Plus a constant!"

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From: Oscar Lanzi III (o13#NoSpam.webtv.net)

Two mathematicians walk into a restaurant for lunch.  One challenges the
other to a wager, loser pays fthe tab:

Said the challenger:  "The waitperson will not know the correct formula
for (a+b)^2."

"You're on!" was the reply.

They place their order and the waitpersoin is asked the formula for
(a+b)^2.  The waitperson replied:

"Obviously, (a+b)^2 = a^2 + b^2."

"Provided, of course, that a and b are anticommutative!"

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September 4
Special Category: How many scientists does it take to screw in a lightbulb
 How many mathematicians does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
 One, who gives it to six Californians, thereby reducing it to an
   earlier riddle.
   -- from a button I bought at Nancy Lebowitz's table at Boskone

From: rrcraig#NoSpam.eos.ncsu.edu (Ralph Ray Craig)

Q:  How many numerical analysts does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A:  0.9973 after the first three iterations.

Q:  How many topologists does it take to change a light bulb?
A:  It really doesn't matter, since they'd rather knot.
From:BRIAN6#NoSpam.VAXC.MDX.AC.UK (canonical lightbulb collection)

Q:  How many mathematicians does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A:  None.  It's left to the reader as an exercise.
A:  Just one, once you've managed to present the problem in terms he/she
    is familiar with.

    In earlier work, Wiener [1] has shown that one mathematician
    can change a light bulb.

    If k mathematicians can change a light bulb, and if one more simply
    watches them do it, then k+1 mathematicians will have changed the
    light bulb.

    Therefore, by induction, for all n in the positive integers,
    n mathematicians can change a light bulb.


    [1] Wiener, Matthew P., <11485@ucbvax>, "Re: YALBJ", 1986

Q:  How many statisticians does it take to change a lightbulb ?
A:  This should be determined using a nonparametric procedure, since
    statisticians are NOT NORMAL.
A:  Walt Pirie to hold the bulb and one psychologist, one economist,
    one sociologist and one anthropologist to pull away the ladder.
A:  One -- plus or minus three (small sample size).
(Notes: Someone has been asking this as a bonus question on statistics exam
papers for quite a while. Judging from some of his own students' exam
answers, it depends on whether the lightbulb is negatively or positively

Q:  How many light bulbs does it take to change a light bulb?
A:  One, if it knows its own Goedel number.
(Has to do with Goedel's incompleteness theorem)

From: feldco#NoSpam.aol.com (Zevra and his little green guy)

How many mathematicians does it take to change a light bulb?
 None. The answer is intuitively obvious.

How many mathematical logicians does it take to change a light bulb?
 None. They can't do it, but they can easily prove that it can be done.

How many classical geometers does it take to change a light bulb?
 None. You can't do it with a straight edge and a compass.

How many analysts does it take to change a light bulb?
 Three. One to prove existence, one to prove uniqueness and one to derive a
nonconstructive algorithm to do it.

How many number theorists does it take to change a light bulb?
 I don't know the exact number, but I am sure it must be some rather elegant

From: "Ron" <ron#NoSpam.dock.net>
How many mathematicians does it take to screw in a light bulb? Three: one
to screw it in, and two to figure out how to get rid of the remainder.
-Jason Poole

From: Arbel (arbel#NoSpam.mehr.ws)
Q: How many mathematicians does it take to screw in a
light bulb?
A: 0.999999...

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Special Category: Definitions and terms
Februari 1
March 30
August 28
September 26
(Corrected by "Christopher J. Mark" <cjmark#NoSpam.speakeasy.org>)
"A mathematician is a device for turning coffee into theorems"
 -- Alfr़d R़nyi (Hungarian mathematician, 1921-1970)
(It is often attributed to Paul Erd५s)

"Weak coffee however is only fit for lemmas"
 -- Paul Turेn (Hungarian mathematician, 1910-1976)

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June 26
December 17
Special Category: Lord Kelvin/William Thomson
Special Category: Definitions and terms
From: "G. A. Edgar" <edgar#NoSpam.math.ohio-state.edu.invalid>

"Once when lecturing in class he [Lord Kelvin] used the word
'mathematician' and then interrupting himself asked his class: 'Do you know
what a mathematician is?' Stepping to his blackboard he wrote upon it:
integral from - infinty to + infinity of exp(-x^2)dx = sqrt(pi). Then
putting his finger on what he had written, he turned to his class and said,
'a mathematician is one to whom *that* is as obvious as that twice two
makes four is to you.'"

--S. P. Thompson, Life of Lord Kelvin

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Special Category: Paul Erd५s
September 20
March 26

I do what a mathematician does and therefore I drink what a mathematician
(Excuse that Paul Erd५s invented (too late) for the thirteen year old Louis
P२sa, after Erd५s's mother complained that he had given P२sa some coffee.)
  -- Paul Erd५s (Hungarian mathematician, 1913-1996)

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From: Chris Morton (mortoncp#NoSpam.nextwork.rose-hulman.edu)
do it collection

rgep#NoSpam.pmms.cam.ac.uk (Richard Pinch),jeffs#NoSpam.math.bu.edu (Jeff Suzuki)
Joao Batista(fbatista#NoSpam.cc.fc.ul.pt), wft#NoSpam.math.canterbury.ac.nz (Bill Taylor),
Andrew Smith <A.J.Smith#NoSpam.reading.ac.uk>, The Professor (franbo#NoSpam.globalnet.co.uk)
Special Category: Scientists do it...

Algebraists do it by symbolic manipulation.
Algebraic geometers do it for variety.
Algebraic geometers do it on the cubic three-fold.
Algebraists do it in a ring.
Algebraists do it in fields.
Algebraists do it in groups.
Algebraists do it with multiple roots.
Analysts do it continuously.
Analysts do it smoothly.
Analytic number theorists do it in the critical strip.
Analytic number theorists do it on the critical line.
Applied mathematicians do it by computer simulation.
Banach spacers do it completely.
Bayesians do it with improper priors.
Catastrophe theorists do it falling off part of a sheet.
Chaoticians do it with sensitive dependence
Class field theorists do it by capitulation.
Classical geometers do it on the Euler line.
Classical geometers do it on the nine-point circle.
Combinatorialists do it discretely.
Commutative algebraists do it regularly.
Complex analysts do it between the sheets
Complex analysts do it under a universal cover.
Constructivists do it without excluding the middle.
Decision theorists do it optimally.
Differential analysts do it in a degenerate case.
Functional analysts do it with compact support.
Functional analysts do it with degenerate colonels.
Galois theorists do it in a field.
Game theorists do it by dominance or saddle points.
Geometers do it with involutions.
Graph theorists do it discretely.
Graph theorists do it in four colours.
Group theorists do it simply.
Group theorists do it with the Monster.
Hilbert spacers do it orthogonally.
Large cardinals do it inaccessibly.
Linear programmers do it with nearest neighbors.
Logicians do it by choice.
Logicians do it consistently and completely.
Logicians do it incompletely or inconsistently.
Logicians do it with Jensen's device.
(Logicians do it) or [not (logicians do it)].
Mathematicians do it associatively.
Mathematicians do it by numbers.
Mathematicians do it commutatively.
Mathematicians do it constantly.
Mathematicians do it continuously.
Mathematicians do it discretely.
Mathematicians do it exponentially.
Mathematicians do it forever if they can do one and can do one more.
Mathematicians do it functionally.
Mathematicians do it homologically.
Mathematicians do it in fields.
Mathematicians do it in groups.
Mathematicians do it in imaginary planes.
Mathematicians do it in n dimensions.
Mathematicians do it in numbers.
Mathematicians do it in theory.
Mathematicians do it on smooth contours.
Mathematicians do it over and under the curves.
Mathematicians do it parallel and perpendicular.
Mathematicians do it partially.
Mathematicians do it rationally.
Mathematicians do it reflexively.
Mathematicians do it symmetrically.
Mathematicians do it to prove themselves.
Mathematicians do it to their limits.
Mathematicians do it totally.
Mathematicians do it transcendentally.
Mathematicians do it transitively.
Mathematicians do it variably.
Mathematicians do it with a Minkowski sausage.
Mathematicians do it with imaginary parts.
Mathematicians do it with linear pairs.
Mathematicians do it with Nobel's wife.
Mathematicians do it with odd functions.
Mathematicians do it with prime roots.
Mathematicians do it with relations.
Mathematicians do it with rings.
Mathematicians do it with their real parts.
Mathematicians do it without limit.
Mathematicians do over an open unmeasurable interval.
Mathematicians have to prove they did it.
Mathematicians do it ad infinitum.
Mathematicians do it at the right angle.
Measure theorists do it almost everywhere.
Measure theorists do it almost nowhere.
Moebius always does it on the same side.
Number theorists do it perfectly.
Number theorists do it rationally.
Number theorists do it in the critical strip.
Pure mathematicians do it rigorously.
Real analysts do it almost everywhere
Real analysts do it uniformly.
Ring theorists do it non-commutatively.
Set theorists do it in a morass.
Set theorists do it with cardinals.
Topologists do it in multiply connected domains
Topologists do it on rubber sheets.
Topos theorists do it pointlessly.

From: "vIRCiated\(tm\)" <r.pinheiro#NoSpam.tutopia.com.br>

Mathematicians do it with primality.
MATHEMATICIANS do it as a finite sum of an infinite series
MATHEMATICIANS do it as continuous function
MATHEMATICIANS do it in imaginary domain
MATHEMATICIANS do it with formulौ
MATHEMATICIANS prove they did it
MATHEMATICIANS take it to the limit

From nemo_ outis <nemo_outis#NoSpam.elsewhere.com>:
Topologists do it openly.

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A mathematician is a person who says that, when 3 people are supposed
to be in a room but 5 came out, 2 have to go in so the room gets

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My geometry teacher was sometimes acute, and sometimes
obtuse, but always, he was right.

mathematics physics
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From: lyon#NoSpam.netcom.com (Lyman Lyon)

Physics professor is walking across campus, runs into Math Professor.
Physics professor has been doing an experiment, and has worked out an
emphirical equation that seems to explain his data, and asks the Math
professor to look at it.

A week later, they meet again, and the Math professor says the equation
is invalid.  By then, the Physics professor has used his equation to
predict the results of further experiments, and he is getting excellent
results, so he askes the Math professor to look again.

Another week goes by, and they meet once more.  The Math professor tells
the Physics professor the equation does work, "But only in the trivial
case where the numbers are real and positive."

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From: gw#NoSpam.molly.informatik.Uni-Koeln.DE (Georg Wambach)

What is the difference between an applied mathematician and a pure

Suppose a mathematician parks his car, locks it with his key and walks
away. After walking about 50 yards the mathematician realizes that he has
dropped his key somewhere along the way. What does he do? If he is an
applied mathematician he walks back to the car along the path he has
previously traveled looking for his key. If he is a pure mathematician he
walks to the other end of the parking lot where there is better light
and looks for his key there.

I told this joke to my brother (he is a "pure"). He answers:
"But we have not dropped our keys!" Hence, I suggest a slight

Suppose a _tax_payer_ parks his car, locks it with his key and walks
away. After walking about 50 yards the tax payer realizes that he
has dropped his key somewhere along the way. He asked a mathematician
to help him. What does the mathematician do? (...)

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From: "John Derrico" <derrico#NoSpam.pixel.Kodak.COM>
The famous professor of mathematics was in town for a conference.
Since he had some free time, he was approached to give a seminar for
the undergraduate mathematics students at the local college.

After covering several blackboards with densely packed computations
and expressions filled with Bessel functions and more, the professor
remembered that there were many undergraduate students in the room.
Feeling just a twinge of remorse that perhaps he was talking above
the heads of some of the students in his audience, he turned around
and asked the audience if there were any students who had never seen
a Bessel function. The audience was silent for a moment. Finally, one
intrepid student raised his hand to admit that he had never seen Bessel
functions. The professor nodded with apparent comprehension. Without
hesitation, he turned around and pointed at the blackboard, while saying
"well, there's one now" and continued his talk.

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From: Steven Sinnott <steveisi#NoSpam.vt.edu>
        When a mathematician dies, does he get disfigured, dissolved,
or disintegrated?

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From: ikat#NoSpam.msg.ti.com (KatC)

If mathematicians are neutered, they can't multiply.

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From: seanr#NoSpam.fs-gate.uchicago.edu (Sean Roberts)

If a mathematician writes a fantasy novel, would the pages have imaginary
From: jboots#NoSpam.pacifier.com (John Boots)

If Fibonacci wrote the book, they would be numbered 1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21...

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From: Mike Banulescu <misu#NoSpam.dartmouth.edu>
Since I'm studying for a math final tomorrow:

- do mathematiciens go to the beach looking for a tan?
- and while on a plane, do they try to figure out its equation?
- wherever they are, mathematicians just can't seem to integrate into
the real world...

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From: Melanie Aultman <afn10453#NoSpam.afn.org>
Mathematicians....don't sin, they sine.
              ....always have a  nice tan.
              ....are always going off on a tangent.

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August 3
October 26
During an oral examination by the Polish Mathematician M. Kac, a student
was asked the behaviour of the Rieman zeta function zeta(s) in s=1. When
the student had no idea, Kac gave the hit:"Think of me." The anser came
immediately :"Aah, it has a simple pole."

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From: Henry Cate's Life collection 3.6
Just to throw in my two cents worth in to the Intuitively Obvious
bucket, when I was a math student at Towson State University we were
given a final exam that involved proving that two N dimensional
matrices were related in a given way.  I started with the first matrix
and used every theorem that I could remember trying to reach the
second, but I got stuck halfway through.  Working feverishly on a
piece of scrap paper, I started on the second matrix, but couldn't
work it back to the first.  In a flash of inspiration, I set the two
intermediate results equal to each other and copied the second set of
equations backwards onto the tail of the first.  When I got the paper
back, there was a C which was crossed out and replaced by an A, the
midpoint of my equations was underlined, with a note saying - At first
I doubted that this step was intuitively obvious, but after thinking
about it for several hours, I decided that it was.

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From: Henry Cate's Life collection 3.6
All right, you asked for it.  A (possibly apocryphal) story related to
me by a graduate student who had come from a large midwest
(Wisconsin?) univ.  Seems that one of his classes was taught by the
department emeritus Prof who was very old (in his 80's) and sometimes
a bit vague, but at other times incredibly sharp.  One day in lecture
he was explaining something abstruse and paused to look at the board
for a moment.  Thereupon he wrote down a result and said, eyes
twinkling, "And this is intuitively obvious..".  Whereupon he smiled,
looked out over the class, saw the rows of blank stares, and turned
back to the board to contemplate the statement written there.  This
went on for about a minute, at the end of which time he started to
wander, rather deeply in thought, across the stage.  This went on for
a minute or two, after which the Prof. drifted out into the hall and
was heard walking back and forth.  People started to, well, look at
each other and smile.  A scout was sent out who reported the old boy
was pacing around and muttering to himself.  The class, incredibly,
remained reasonably calm.

About five minutes after the scout had returned, there was a happy
shout from the hallway, and the again bright-eyed Prof. scuttled back
in, pointed to the intuitively obvious result written on the
blackboard, turned to the class and said, all aglow,
	"Yes, yes, it IS intuitively obvious".

Same source, different Prof.  This one happened to not like students
coming in late to the math class he taught..so much so that he would
do any of the following to the offender: lock them out, yell at them
abusively, throw chalk at them. One day, the Prof. was late.  Five
minutes went by.  Silently, one of the students went down and started
passing up to the audience all the chalk pieces and erasers.  The
Prof. came rushing in at last, gave no excuse, and began to lecture.
After about a minute, he needed the chalk, and asked "Has anyone seen
the chalk?".  The entire class stood up and bombarded him with chalk
and erasers.  The professor was said never to have abused a student
for lateness again.....

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From: mlc#NoSpam.iberia.cca.rockwell.com (Michael Cook, Canonical list of Math Jokes)

This actually happened about 15 years ago, when -- as a young lecturer -- I
was asked to give a course on Foundations of Analysis.  I was sure at the
time that the students already know the subject matter and they will be
wasting their time listening to me.  I was quite surprised, when I entered
the classroom for the first lecture, to find a room packed with students.
I was going to suggest that those who know the subject matter leave the
course, so as not to waste time and energy.  I therefore asked the
following question: "Has any one of you, by chance, read the book of
Landau: Foundations of Analysis?"

The class suddenly became very quiet, until a student from the last
row said: "I did not read the book, but I saw the movie."

Weeks later we were laughing, trying to imagine to ourselves how a
movie on Foundation of Analysis could look like.

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A "small college story" going around here (at least three people have
told me this story, each one claiming it was them):

A student, working on a rather long math homework assignment,
discovered that one problem was fairly easy to solve, except that it
required about three pages of fairly simple proof after the one or two
difficult steps.  It being rather late at night, he did the difficult
steps and left the proof undone, along with a note:

"This proof is left as an exercise for the grader."

Next week, he received his homework back.  He noted that several extra
pages had been stapled to the back of it.  Examining the extra pages,
he was surprised to find the entire proof written down step-by step.
At the end, in red pen, the grader had written:

"I made a minor math error.  Minus 2."

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From: reg#NoSpam.pinet.aip.org (Dr. Richard Glass)

While taking a psych. course in college, the teacher had a habit of
putting the following questions on an exam:

"Ask yourself a question and answer it"

Being a math major, I asked myself "Solve the following differential
equation [* equation deleted *] under the following conditions
[* conditions deleted *]"

and proceeded to solve it.

The next day I stopped by the math office to see one of the profs.  He
told me "Go away, I'm stuck grading your stupid psych. exam".

I got full credit, and the psych prof. never put that question on an
exam again.

From: Seth Breidbart (sethb#NoSpam.Morgan.COM)

The story around Harvard was that there was a graduate Math course
whose final always consisted of "Make up an appropriate final exam for
this course and answer it.  You will be graded on both parts."

Then one year, a student answered as follows:

The exam is: "Make up an appropriate final exam for this course and
answer it.  You will be graded on both parts."  The answer is: "Make
up an appropriate final exam for this course and answer it.  You will
be graded on both parts."

His reasoning was that since that was the best exam the professor
could write, it certainly ought to be good enough for a student.

He got an A.  The professor specifically prohibited that answer from
then on.

From: Evan Kirshenbaum (evan#NoSpam.hplabs.hpl.hp.com)

I heard the same story at Stanford.  It bothered those of us whe were
into recursion because the proposed question is a two-part question
(question and answer) and the proposed answer only adresses one of the
parts.  The story should really be recursive:

  The exam is: "Make up an appropriate final exam for this course and
  answer it.  You will be graded on both parts."  The answer is:
     "The exam is `Make up an appropriate final exam for this course
     and answer it.  You will be graded on both parts.'  The answer is
         `The exam is "Make up an appropriate final exam for this course
         and answer it.  You will be graded on both parts."  The answer is

or, using Common Lisp notation,

  #1: The exam is: "Make up an appropriate final exam for this course and
      answer it.  You will be graded on both parts."  The answer is: "#1#"

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From: neufeld#NoSpam.aurora.physics.utoronto.ca (Christopher Neufeld)

Well, I've got a favorite story from my Math-Phys course in undergrad.
I figure the statute of limitations on the marks has expired now, so
here goes.

The typical problem, show <expr> is equal to <much simpler expr>.  The
math was pretty nasty, and half-way through it looked like I'd need a
clue to getting to the answer, so I went to the result and tried to
work it back to the intermediate result (typical test/homework trick).
They didn't meet.  I had two expressions which I knew were equal from
plugging into the calculator, but I couldn't show it algebraically.
So, I used another familiar trick, between the two lines I wrote: ICBS
(it can be shown) and stuck it between the two pieces I couldn't

Now, somebody else in the class did the same thing, exactly, and got
stuck in exactly the same place.  He wrote: TAMO (then a miracle
occurs) in the same place.

I got full marks, he lost marks and got a sarcastic comment from the

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"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."

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From: Mike Deeth <mad#NoSpam.ashland.baysat.net>
March 3
Januari 6
Why did Cantor get fired from the M&M factory?
He kept throughing away the W's.
On his way out of the building he was heard muttering,
"Doesn't the idiot realize that there are an infinite amount
of w's?  Throughing away a few w's won't change the number
of w's that remain.  ...Oh!..  Pardon me Mr. Tree.  How are
your leaves today?"

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From: Michael Stueben
Q: How can you tell an extroverted mathematician?
A: He stares at YOUR shoes while talking to you.

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From: Joachim Verhagen.

One of my students told me about a conversation he had with another
student.  The other student studied law and Jim asked why he did that.
Law student: I can get a good job by studying law.
Jim        : And why do you want a good job?
Law student: I will earn a lot of money with a good job.
Jim        : And why do want to earn a lot of money?
Law student: I can buy a big car and a house, marry a woman and start a
Jim        : And why do want all those things?
Law student: That makes me happy.
Jim        : I study mathematics and by studying mathematics I reach the
same in one step as doing mathematics makes me happy directly.

Adapted from part of an article by Hendrik Lenstra in Natuur & Techniek,
October 2001.

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From: Keith King <keithkng#NoSpam.gnt.net>
A mathematician was in a habit of making a cup of tea when working late at
night. His normal method was to get the teapot from the cupboard, take the
teapot to the sink, add water, heat to boiling, then make the cup of tea.
Unfortunately, one night when he went to make tea, the teapot was already
full of water and sitting on the stove. He thought about this for several
minutes, then emptied the teapot and put it back in the cupboard, thereby
reducing this to a previously solved problem.

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From: Grozzybrokedown#NoSpam.aol.com

A mathematician organized a raffle in which the prize was advertised as an 
infinite amount of money. He sold all the tickets quickly.  When the winning 
ticket was drawn, and the happy winner came to claim his prize, the 
mathematician explained the mode of payment:
1 dollar now, 1/2 a dollar next week, 1/3 a dollar the week after that...

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From: Joachim Verhagen.
Special Category: Famous last words

                             Famous last words

Mathematician: And now we divide by zero.

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Special Category: You might be a scientist if...

From: Aubrey Jaffer <agj#NoSpam.alum.mit.edu>

You Might be a Mathematician if ...

* hypergeometric summations are the most fun you can have with your clothes

* you cannot refrain from blurting out counterexamples when someone claims
  an impossibility;

* at the age of 19 your most productive years are behind you;

* your major result will be named for someone else;

* you make mistakes ... but they are really interesting mistakes;

* you wonder how Euler pronounced "Euclid";

* you understand all the mathematics Gauss produced ... through age 13;

* Russel's letter to Frege adorns your wall;

* your major was Mathematics, minor Caffeine;

* you know all of the Greek alphabet, but not a word of Greek;

* your favorite story is Pretty Poly Nomial and Curly Pi;

* irresistible little combinatorics puzzles keep appearing like a nervous

* your progeny are relieved to learn that Mathematics is not a heritable
  genetic trait;

* the solution to every problem involves counting balls into boxes;

* you can fold planar strips into regular polyhedra ... entirely in your

* doing something more than once is boring;

* you suffer dental and gum disease because brushing teeth more than once
  was boring;

* you have already obtained your next three years of reading material;

* it is difficult to plan for retirement given the current state of the
  continuum hypothesis;

* you celebrate Erd५s's birthday decadently with donuts and champagne in
  paper cups;

* you remember postal addresses by means of number theory: "The smallest
  integer which is the sum of two cubes in two different ways";

* you count on your fingers in binary;

* your romantic relationship is stressed when you show too much interest in
  your beloved's mathematician acquaintances;

* you know a six-letter word with three vowels, all of which are

(In case you are as ignorant as me: It is syzygy. Syzygy is the position of
an object when it is in line with other objects. It is then "at syzygy".  -

* you learned French so you could read Bourbaki;

* you bring Bourbaki's Varietes Differentielles Analytiques Fascicule de
  Resultats on vacation;

* you don't bother taking vacations when you can read Bourbaki at

* you visit Earth primarily for lectures and family obligations;

* your opinion of A Beautiful Mind is "been there; done that."

Copyright 2002 Aubrey Jaffer

From: qqquet#NoSpam.mindspring.com (Leroy Quet)

* you tell those who ask you what you do for a living that you are a
mathematician.... which is a lie...

* you think of math as an art, not as a science...

* you would rewrite the above joke as :'you think of math as an art, not
ONLY as a science'...

* you think that jokes about math are funny...

From: qqquet#NoSpam.mindspring.com (Leroy Quet)
One more. related to last one I gave:

* you MUST reply to your original reply to news:sci.math just to point out
that "You know you are a mathematician when" you appreciate humor
which is in any way self-referential...

From: Joona I Palaste <palaste#NoSpam.cc.helsinki.fi>
You know you are a mathematician when you find yourself saying "there
exists" instead of "there is".

From: "Russell Easterly" <logiclab#NoSpam.attbi.com>
You Might be a Mathematician if ...
* You get into heated arguments over 0.999... = 1.0...

From: Joona I Palaste <palaste#NoSpam.cc.helsinki.fi>
* Or into heated arguments whether "Two coins are tossed and one is
heads" is any different from "Two coins are tossed. Given that one is

From: "Russell Easterly" <logiclab#NoSpam.attbi.com>

You Might be a Mathematician if ...

You think Cantor's set is "beautiful"

Your retirement plans include solving the twin prime conjecture

You think finding a new formula that sums to e is cool

Cantor's diagonal proof makes sense to you

You spend time helping people you don't know do their homework

You have read articles with titles like "Betti numbers of Z^n-graded

You know the difference between a conjecture and a theorem

You care how people pronounce "Euler"

You think Zeno was a troublemaker

You know what an "Erdos number" is

You have an Erdos number

You write emails in Latex

NNTP-Posting-Date: Sun, 01 Apr 2007 19:42:06 -0500
From: quasi <quasi#NoSpam.null.set>

When the doctor announced that your great aunt had just expired, you
challenged the claim for lack of rigor.

When giving a lecture in a room with windows, people from the outside
are always waving back.

When being interrogated as a suspect by the police, and asked to prove
your innocence, you started off by saying "Assume instead that I'm
guilty ..."  at which point you were promptly arrested.

From: Aubrey Jaffer <agj#NoSpam.alum.mit.edu>

* your fame lies in posing the question you can't answer;

* you have calculated how many ways (ignoring reflections) there are of
lacing  your sneaker; 

* you know why adhesive tape always rips at an angle ... and derived the
angle formula;

* you celebrate Rota's birthday decadently with donuts and champagne in paper

* you celebrate Erd५s's birthday furtively with Benzedrine chased by a double

* you celebrate Nash's birthday psychotically with LSD while riding a bicycle
  in figure eights;

* unemployment is a welcome opportunity to make progress on your life's work;

* caffeine is one of your major food groups;

* your correspondence has footnotes and bibliography;

Copyright ऊ 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008 Aubrey Jaffer

From: "Dave L. Renfro" <renfr1dl#NoSpam.cmich.edu>

* Your internet experience is such that you're surprised
  when you sometimes stumble on a non-mathematical web
* When you read about Hillary Clinton saying her false
  claim was a "minor blip" among the "millions of words"
  she spoke everyday, you figure you don't get the
  joke, since everyone knows one million seconds is
  a little over eleven and a half days.
* You cringe each time you read or hear someone use
  the phrase "and conversely" incorrectly.

From: "I.N. Galidakis" <morpheus#NoSpam.olympus.mons>

Anywhere you look at, you just see streams of number sequences.

From: amy666 <tommy1729#NoSpam.hotmail.com>
if you went to see the movie the matrix because you assumed it was about
math :)

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From: Marcin Mieszek <mieszek#NoSpam.post.pl>

A mathematician found out that a pipe was leaking, so he called a
plumber. The plumber  changed a gasket and asked for $100.

"But how is it possible? You've been working for only 10 minutes and it
takes me full week to earn $100",  exclaimed the mathematician. 
"Well, that's why I became a plumber. But let me tell you something - I'll
give you the address of my company. Go there and say that you want to work
as a plumber. And don't mention that you are a mathematician."

And so the mathematician did. Soon he earned quite a lot of money.

But the company decided to educate the plumbers and send them to primary
school. On the first day the mathematician was asked to write the equation
for the surface of a circle on the blackboard. He could not remember it,
but he wanted to use integral calculus to derive it. However, he made some
error and obtained a negative result. He repeated the calculations twice,
thrice - and still obtained a negative result.

He looked stressed at the class
and found all the fellow plumbers shouting to him: "Change the range of
integration! Change the range of integration!"

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From: snispilbor#NoSpam.yahoo.com (Snis Pilbor)

Theologian:  You mathematicians are blind.  Don't you know man is more
than just numbers?

Mathematician:  You're right!  ...(prolonged pause)...  man is sets!

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June 23
Februari 10
From: snispilbor#NoSpam.yahoo.com (Snis Pilbor)

A mathematician and a physicist are in a bar...

Mathematician:  I've been working on this problem regarding Turing
computability.  The question is, if a person used sound reasoning,
could he program a computer to evaluate this function...

Physicist:  You should get some people in a lab and ask them to write
such a program.  See what happens.

Mathematician:  Ah, but the problem is, it is impossible to duplicate
sound reasoning in a laboratory environment!

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June 19
August 19
Special Category: Blaise Pascal

From: "Snis Pilbor" <snispilbor#NoSpam.yahoo.com>

And now a more serious, pseudo-joke from obscure math history...
In his "Provincial Letters", Blaise Pascal visciously attacked the
Jesuit sect.  He exposed the Jesuit tactic of winning followers by
creating very comfortable doctrine.  The Jesuits boasted that their
doctrine would appeal to any person, be they aristocrat, gentleman,
commoner, soldier, monk, even criminal.  This was accomplished by using
very contrived interpretations of Scripture and other holy writings to
justify the vices of each class-  criminals could commit their crime
and be held guiltless, gentlemen could engage in duels, soldiers and
monks could disobey their superiors, etc.  This disgusted Pascal to the
point of attacking the Jesuits as he did.
Now the question is, why oh why didn't the Jesuits think to include
mathematicians in their schemes?  If only they had devised doctrine to
allow mathematicians to prove theorems without shame and guilt, not
only would Pascal no doubt have accepted and cherished their doctrine,
he would have gone on to be the greatest mathematical genius of all

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From: lnhxmz302#NoSpam.sneakemail.com (Andrew Stimpson)
                        moonlighting mathematician?

During a study session for our final exams, a fellow grad student said that
she thought that our math professor had been working on the final iteself
when she had stopped by for last minute help during his office hours,
mostly because he closed a text editor window right after she came into
the room.  Another in the group quipped that maybe he was working on his
latest Harlequin romance novel.

"God, I hope not." she responded. "He was writing it in LaTeX."

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From: "socratus" http://www.socratus.com
One professional mathematician came to give a lecture.

There is nobody in the classroom, but he has a plan  and he begins his

Becoming enthusiastic  he suddenly notices two students in the room.

He continues the lecture joyfully and after some time he notices that three
of them are going away.

"Here it is,- mathematician thinks sadly,- 
now one more student will come and nobody will  be here again". 

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From: "Dr Andy Ma" <andyma#NoSpam.physics.org>
Special Category: Scientists do it...

How do Monte Carloists do it? They do it randomly.
How do Monte Carloists do it? They avoid repeated histories.
How do Monte Carloists do it? They do it a large number of times.

How do Monte Carloists really do it? They don't; they just simulate it.

Special Category: Old scientists never die...
Old Monte Carloists never die, they run out of random numbers.
Old Monte Carloists never die, they become correlated histories.

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From: Arthur <artyw2#NoSpam.yahoo.com> and Dave Skinner <skinn...#NoSpam.gmail.com>:

An infinite number of mathematicians walk into a bar.  The first one orders
a beer, the second orders half a beer the third asks for a quarter of a
beer.  Before the next one can speak, the bartender says "You're all
idiots", and pours two beers.

A good bartender cuts people off before they reach their limit.

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