Let ε < 0.



Filed under: Diff'rent strokes, Upper-division jokes — Travis @

An engineer, a physicist, and a mathematician find themselves in an anecdote, indeed an anecdote quite similar to many that you have no doubt already heard. After some observations and rough calculations, the engineer realizes the situation and starts laughing. A few minutes later the physicist understands, too, and chuckles to himself happily as he now has enough experimental evidence to publish a paper.

This leaves the mathematician somewhat perplexed, as he had observed right away that he was the subject of an anecdote, and deduced quite rapidly the presence of humor from similar anecdotes, but considers this anecdote to be too trivial a corollary to be significant, let alone funny.


Train story

Filed under: Diff'rent strokes — Travis @

A math convention and an engineering convention were being held in the same city. Consequently, a bunch of mathematicians and a bunch of engineers were on the same train headed for the city. Each of the engineers had his/her train ticket. The group of mathematicians had only ONE ticket for all of them. The engineers started laughing and snickering.

Then, one of the mathematicians said “here comes the conductor” and then all of the math majors went into the bathroom. The engineers were puzzled. The conductor came aboard and said “tickets please” and got tickets from all the engineers. He then went to the bathroom and knocked on the door and said “ticket please” and the mathematicians stuck the ticket under the door. The conductor took it and then the mathematicians came out of the bathroom a few minutes later. The engineers were dumbfounded.

So, on the way back from the convention, the group of engineers had one ticket for the group. They started snickering at the mathematicians, for the whole group had no tickets amongst them. Then, the mathematicians’ lookout said “Conductor coming!”. All the mathematicians went to the bathroom. All the engineers went to another bathroom. Then, before the conductor came on board, one of the mathematicians left the bathroom, knocked on the other bathroom, and said “ticket please.”


Nigh fidelity

Filed under: Diff'rent strokes — Travis @

A doctor, a lawyer and a mathematician were discussing the relative merits of having a wife or a mistress.

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

“No, no, it’s better to have a wife,” says the doctor, “because the sense of security lowers your stress and is good for your health.

“No, no, you’re both wrong,” replies the mathmatician. “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 slip away and do some mathematics.”


Deer hunting

Filed under: Animal farm, Diff'rent strokes — Travis @

Part I: Original Version

A mathematician, an engineer, and a physicist are out hunting together. They spy a deer in the woods.

The physicist calculates the velocity of the deer and the effect of gravity on the bullet, aims his rifle and fires. Alas, he misses; the bullet passes three feet behind the deer. The deer bolts some yards, but comes to a halt, still within sight of the trio.

“Shame you missed,” comments the engineer, “but of course with an ordinary gun, one would expect that.” He then levels his special deer-hunting gun, which he rigged together from an ordinary rifle, a sextant, a compass, a barometer, and a bunch of flashing lights which don’t do anything but impress onlookers, and fires. Alas, his bullet passes three feet in front of the deer, who by this time wises up and vanishes for good.

“Well,” says the physicist, “your contraption didn’t get it either.”

“What do you mean?” pipes up the mathematician. “Between the two of you, that was a perfect shot!”

Part II: How they knew it was a deer

The physicist observed that it behaved in a deer-like manner, so it must be a deer.

The mathematician asked the physicist what it was, thereby reducing it to a previously solved problem.

The engineer was in the woods to hunt deer, therefore it was a deer.

Statistician’s version of the joke

Three statisticians went deer hunting. They spied a deer in the woods. The first statistician shot, and missed the deer by being a foot too far to the left. The second statistician shot, and missed the deer by being a foot too far to the right. The third cried, “We hit it!”



Filed under: Diff'rent strokes, Lower-division jokes — Travis @

A team of engineers were required to measure the height of a flag pole. They only had a measuring tape, and were getting quite frustrated trying to keep the tape along the pole. They’d get it a bit up the pole, but then the tape would buckle and it would fal down.

A mathematician comes along and listens to their problem. After inspecting both the tape measure and the flag pole, he proceeds to remove the pole from its base in the ground. He lays it down flat, measures it easily with the tape measure, and then resets the pole in the ground.

When he leaves, one engineer says to the other and sighs. “Just like a mathematician! We need to know the height, and he gives us the length!”


Outside the box

Filed under: Diff'rent strokes, Upper-division jokes — Travis @

Version 1

A physicist, an engineer and a mathematician were all challenged to build the shortest possible fence around a small herd of resting cattle.

The physicist went first. He took out a piece of graph paper and plotted the position of each cow, giving each cow a pair of x-y coordinates. Then he determined the lines connecting all the points. Finally he constructed a fence based on his diagram. When he finished he turned to the others and said “I’m done. And since the interior region bounded by line segments connecting the cattle-points is convex, it follows that the boundary is minimal. Q.E.D.”

Then it was the engineer’s turn. First he secured a strong fence-pole near the cattle. Next he attached one end of a six-foot-high roll of wire fence to the pole and walked around the cows slowly letting out the roll of wire fence until he came back to the post. Then he gave the roll to the physicist and told him to start pulling. As he the physicist pulled, the engineer ran around the outside of the fence kicking the cows, flailing his arms, and screaming at them to make them get up and move into the middle; meanwhile while he was yelling “Pull the fence tighter! Pull the fence tighter!” Finally the cows were shoved so close together that they couldn’t move and the fence was wrapped around them so tightly that it was leaving marks on their hides. The engineer nailed the other end of the fence to the post, cut away the roll and said “There, that is the shortest fence.”

Finally it was the mathematician’s turn. He walked over to the roll of wire fence, cut off a small piece, wrapped it around himself and declared: “I’m on the outside.”

Version 2

One day a farmer called up an engineer, a physicist, and a mathematician and asked them to fence of the largest possible area with the least amount of fence.

The engineer made the fence in a circle and proclaimed that he had the most efficient design.

The physicist pointed out that fencing off half of the Earth was certainly a more efficient way to do it.

The mathematician just laughed at them. He built a tiny fence around himself and said “I declare myself to be on the outside.”

State of the union

Filed under: Puns, Seasons greetings — Travis @

In deference to this week’s historic inauguration, I’ve decided to present a mathematician’s take on Shepard Fairley’s iconic red-blue-and-blue CHANGE and HOPE Obama posters.


Odd primes

Several people are asked to prove that all odd integers greater than 2 are prime.

  • Tenured mathematician: 3 is prime, 5 is prime, 7 is prime, 9 is not prime. Ha! A counterexample.
  • Untenured mathematician: 3 is prime, 5 is prime, 7 is prime… so by induction, all subsequent odd integers are prime.
  • Statistician: Let’s verify this sone several randomly selected odd numbers, say, 23, 47, and 83.
  • Computer scientist: 3 is prime, 5 is prime, 7 is prime, segmentation fault?
  • Computer programmer: 3 is prime, 3 is prime, 3 is prime, 3 is prime…
  • Physicist: 3 is prime, 5 is prime, 7 is prime, 9 is an experiemntal error, 11 is prime…
  • Mechanical engineer: 3 is prime, 5 is prime, 7 is prime, 9 is approximately prime, 11 is prime…
  • Civil engineer: 3 is prime, 5 is prime, 7 is prime, 9 is prime…
  • Biologist: 3 is prime, 5 is prime, 7 is prime, 9 is… still awaiting results…
  • Psychologist: 3 is prime, 5 is prime, 7 is prime, 9 is prime but suppresses it, 11 is prime…
  • Economist: 2 is prime, 4 is prime, 6 is prime…
  • Politician: Shouldn’t the goal really be to create a greater society where all numbers are prime?
  • Sarah Palin: What’s a prime?


Within epsilon

Filed under: Diff'rent strokes, Dirty — Travis @

A mathematician and a engineer agree to a psychological experiment. The mathematician is put in a chair in a large empty room and a beautiful naked woman is placed on a bed at the other end of the room. The psychologist explains, “You are to remain in your chair. Every ten seconds, I will move your chair to a position halfway between its current location and the woman on the bed.”

The mathematician looks at the psychologist in dismay. “What? I’m not going to go through this. I know I’ll never reach the bed!” And with that, he gets up and storms out. The psychologist makes a note on his clipboard and ushers the engineer in.

He explains the situation, and the engineer’s eyes light up and he starts drooling. The psychologist is a bit confused. “Don’t you realize that you’ll never reach her?”

The engineer smiles and replied, “Oh yeah… but in about two minutes, I’ll be close enough for all practical purposes!”


Less than zero

Filed under: Diff'rent strokes — Travis @

A biologist, a physicist and a mathematician were sitting in a street cafe watching the crowd. Across the street they saw a man and a woman entering a building. Ten minutes they reappeared together with a third person.

“They have multiplied,” said the biologist.

“The original measurement wasn’t accurate,” the physicist sighed.

“If exactly one person enters the building now, it will be empty again,” the mathematician concluded.

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