Let ε < 0.


16 reasons why God would never get tenure

Filed under: Academic humor — Travis @
  1. He had only one major publication.
  2. And it was in Hebrew.
  3. And it had no references.
  4. And it was not published in a refereed journal.
  5. And some even doubted that He wrote it Himself.
  6. It may be true that He created the world, but what has He done since then?
  7. His cooperative efforts have been quite limited.
  8. The scientific community has had a very rough time trying to replicate His results.
  9. He never applied to the Ethics Board for permission to use human subjects.
  10. When one experiment went awry, He tried to cover it up by drowning the subjects.
  11. When subjects did not behave as predicted, He often punished them, or just deleted them from the sample.
  12. He rarely came to class: He just told students to read the book.
  13. He has his son teach the class.
  14. He expelled His first two students for learning too much.
  15. Although there were only ten requirements, most students failed His tests.
  16. His office hours were infrequent, and usually held on a mountain top.


Upgrade to graduate students

Filed under: Academic humor — Travis @


The upgrade path to the most powerful and satisfying computer:

  • Pocket calculator
  • Commodore Pet / Apple II / TRS 80 / Commodore 64 / Timex Sinclair
    (Choose any of these)
  • IBM PC
  • Apple Macintosh
  • Fastest workstation of the time (HP, DEC, IBM, SGI: your choice)
  • Minicomputer (HP, DEC, IBM, SGI: your choice)
  • Mainframe (IBM, Cray, DEC: your choice)

And then you reach the pinnacle of modern computing facilities…

Graduate students!

Yes, you just sit back and do all of your computing through lowly graduate students. Imagine the advantages:

Multi-processing, with as many processes as you have students. You can easily add more power by promising more desperate undergrads that they can indeed escape college through your guidance. Special student units can even handle several tasks on their own!

Full voice recognition interface. Never touch a keyboard or mouse again. Just mumble commands and they will be understood (or else!).

No hardware upgrades and no installation required. Every student comes complete with all hardware necessary. Never again fry a chip or $10,000 board by improper installation! Just sit that sniveling student at a desk, give it writing utensils (making sure to point out which is the dangerous end) and off it goes.

Low maintenance. Remember when that hard disk crashed in your Beta 9900, causing all of your work to go the great bit bucket in the sky? This won’t happen with grad. students. All that is required is that you give them a good *whack!* upside the head when they are acting up, and they will run good as new.

Abuse module. Imagine yelling expletives at your computer. Doesn’t work too well, because your machine just sits there and ignores you. Through the grad student abuse module you can put the fear of god in them, and get results to boot!

Built-in lifetime. Remember that awful feeling two years after you bought your GigaPlutz mainframe when the new faculty member on the block sneered at you because his FeelyWup workstation could compute rings around your dinosaur? This doesn’t happen with grad. students. When they start wearing and losing productivity, simply give them the PhD and boot them out onto the street to fend for themselves. Out of sight, out of mind!

Cheap fuel: students run on Coca Cola (or the high-octane equivalent — Jolt Cola) and typically consume hot spicy chinese dishes, cheap taco substitutes, or completely synthetic macaroni replacements. It is entirely unnecessary to plug the student into the wall socket (although this does get them going a little faster from time to time).

Expansion options. If your grad. students don’t seem to be performing too well, consider adding a handy system manager or software engineer upgrade. These guys are guaranteed to require even less than a student, and typically establish permanent residence in the computer room. You’ll never know they are around! (Which you certainly can’t say for an AXZ3000-69 150gigahertz space-heater sitting on your desk with its ten noisy fans….) [Note however that the engineering department still hasn't worked out some of the idiosyncratic bugs in these expansion options, such as incessant muttering at nobody in particular, occasionally screaming at your grad. students, and posting ridiculous messages on world-wide bulletin boards.]

So forget your Babbage Engines and abacuses (abaci?) and PortaBooks and DEK 666-3D’s and all that other silicon garbage. The wave of the future is in wetware, so invest in graduate students today! You’ll never go back!


Ultimate test

Filed under: Academic humor — Travis @

In honor of the end of the semester, I present the following in-class exam. I’ve been told you can find this in William Nivak’s “The Big Book of New American Humor.”

Read each of the following fifteen problems carefully. Answer all parts to each problem.
Time limit: 4 hours. Begin immediately.

Describe the history of the papacy from its origin to the present day, concentrating especially, but not exclusively, on it social, political, economic, religious, and philosophical impact on Europe, Asia, America and Africa.
Be brief, concise and specific.

You have been provided with a razor blade, a piece of gauze, and a bottle of Scotch. Remove your appendix.
Do not suture until your work has been inspected. You have 15 minutes.

2500 riot-crazed aborigines are storming the classroom. Calm them. You may use any ancient language except Latin or Greek.

Create life. Estimate the differences in subsequent human culture if this form of life had developed 50 million years earlier, with special attention to its probable effect on the English parliamentary system. Prove your thesis.

Write a piano concerto. Orchestrate it and perform it with flute and drum. You will find a piano under your desk.

Based on your knowledge of their works, evaluate the emotional stability, degree of adjustment, and repressed frustrations of each of the following: Alexander of Aphrodites, Ramses II, Gregory of Nicea, and Hammurabi.
Support your evaluation with quotations from each man’s work, making appropriate references. It is not necessary to translate.

Estimate the sociological problems which might accompany the end of the world. Construct and experiment to test your theory.

The disassembled parts of a high-powered rifle have been placed on your desk. You will also find and instruction manual, printed in Swahili. In ten minutes a hungry Bengal tiger will be admitted to the room. Take whatever action you feel appropriate. Be prepared to justify your decision.

Develop a realistic plan for refinancing the national debt. Trace the possible effects of your plan in the following areas: Cubism, the Donatist controversy, and the wave theory of light. Outline a method for preventing these effects. Criticize this method from all possible points of view. Point out the deficiencies in your point of view, as demonstrated in your answer to the last question.

There is a red telephone on the desk beside you. Start World War III. Report at length on its social-political effects, if any.

Take a position for or against truth. Prove the validity of your position.

Create a small rapidly rotating black hole. Investigate and report on its effects on the opto-electric properties of Seaborgium (element #106). Clean up your experiment after you’ve finished.

Sketch the development of human thought and estimate its significance.
Compare with the development of any other kind of thought.

Define the universe. Give three examples.

Describe in detail. Be objective and specific.


Thesis advice

Filed under: Academic humor, Animal farm — Travis @

One sunny day a rabbit came out of her hole in the ground to enjoy the fine weather. The day was so nice that she became careless and a fox sneaked up behind her and caught her.

“I am going to eat you for lunch!”, said the fox.

“Wait!” replied the rabbit, “You should at least wait a few days.”

“Oh yeah? Why should I wait?”

“Well, I am just finishing my thesis on ‘The Superiority of Rabbits over Foxes and Wolves’.”

“Are you crazy? I should eat you right now! Everybody knows that a fox will always win over a rabbit.”

“Not really, not according to my research. If you like, you can come into my hole and read it for yourself. If you are not convinced, you can go ahead and have me for lunch.”

“You really are crazy!” But since the fox was curious and had nothing to lose, it went with the rabbit. The fox never came out.

A few days later the rabbit was again taking a break from writing and sure enough, a wolf came out of the bushes and was ready to set upon her.

“Wait!” yelled the rabbit, “you can’t eat me right now.”

“And why might that be, my furry appetizer?”

“I am almost finished writing my thesis on ‘The Superiority of Rabbits over Foxes and Wolves’.”

The wolf laughed so hard that it almost lost its grip on the rabbit. “Maybe I shouldn’t eat you. You really are sick…in the head. You might have something contagious.”

“Come and read it for yourself. You can eat me afterward if you disagree with my conclusions.” So the wolf went down into the rabbit’s hole…and never came out.

The rabbit finished her thesis and was out celebrating in the local lettuce patch. Another rabbit came along and asked, “What’s up? You seem very happy.”

“Yup, I just finished my thesis.”

“Congratulations. What’s it about?”

“‘The Superiority of Rabbits over Foxes and Wolves’.”

“Are you sure? That doesn’t sound right.”

“Oh yes. Come and read it for yourself.”

So together they went down into the rabbit’s hole. As they entered, the friend saw the typical graduate student abode, albeit a rather messy one after writing a thesis. The computer with the controversial work was in one corner. To the right there was a pile of fox bones, to the left a pile of wolf bones. And in the middle was a large, well fed lion.

The moral of the story: The title of your thesis doesn’t matter. The subject doesn’t matter. The research doesn’t matter.

All that matters is who your adviser is.

Sent to me by Dan Curtis.


New element discovered!

Filed under: Academic humor — Travis @

The heaviest element known to science was recently discovered by university physicists. The new element, tentatively named administratium, has no protons and no electrons, and thus has an atomic number of 0. However, it does have one neutron, 15 assistant neutrons, 70 vice-neutrons, and 161 assistant vice-neutrons. This gives it an atomic mass of 247. These 247 particles are held together by a force that involves a constant exchange of a special class of particles called morons.

Since it does not have electrons, administratium is inert. However, it can be detected chemically as it impedes every reaction it comes in contact with. According to the discoverers, a minute amount of administratium added to one reaction caused it to take over four days to complete. Without the administratium, the reaction ordinarily occurred in less than one second.

Administratium has a half-life of approximately three years, after which it does not normally decay but instead undergoes a complex nuclear process called “reorganization.” In this little understood process, assistant neutrons, vice-neutrons, and assistant vice-neutrons appear to exchange places. Early results indicate that the atomic mass actually increases after each “reorganization.”

Research at other laboratories indicates that administratium occurs naturally in the atmosphere. It tends to concentrate at certain points such as government, large companies, health facilities and universities; and will often be found in the newest, best maintained buildings.

Scientists point out that administratium is known to be toxic at any level of concentration and can easily destroy any productive reactions where it is allowed to accumulate. Attempts are being made to determine how administratium can be controlled to prevent irreversible damage, but results to date are not promising.



Filed under: Academic humor, Discontinuous humor, Goofy graphs, Puns — Travis @

Here are two interesting sentences for you to ponder over (and over and over…). The first is quite cute and efficient:

The second is a little more erudite:

…It’s an extremely clever implementation of Quine’s paradox. Neat.


Nebraska to repeal the law of gravity

Filed under: Academic humor, Urban legends — Travis @


LINCOLN, NE. Today legislators in the Nebraska State Senate have begun debate on a controversial measure to forbid the teaching of gravity in all institutions accepting state funds.

Wilburt F. Harsheill, co-chair of the Religious Freedom Union of America, testified before the Senate Education Sub-Committee that “gravity is just one of many possible explanations why water flows downhill. To eliminate the possibility of Divine Intervention is an affront to the millions of church-goers in our country.”

In a long and impassioned presentation Harsheill went on to assert that “the secular humanists in charge of education policy in our nation have no explanation for the Ascension of Christ or Old Faithful and that students should be exposed to all sides equally.”

By Massimo Pigliucci.


Los Angeles High School math proficiency exam

Filed under: Academic humor — Travis @

GANG NAME______________

1. Little Johnny has an AK 47 with a 30 round clip. He usually misses 6 out of every 10 shots and he uses 13 rounds per drive-by shooting. How many drive-by shootings can Little Johnny attempt before he has to reload?

2. Jose has 2 ounces of cocaine. If he sells an 8 ball to Antonio for $320 and 2 grams to Juan for $85 per gram, what is the street value of the rest of his hold?

3. Rufus pimps 3 hos. If the price is $85 per trick, how many tricks per day must each ho turn to support Rufus’s $800 per day crack habit?

4. Jerome wants to cut the pound of cocaine he bought for $40,000 to make 20% profit. How many ounces will he need?

5. Willie gets $200 for a stolen BMW, $150 for stealing a Corvette, and $100 for a 4×4. If he steals 1 BMW, 2 Corvettes and 3 4×4’s, how many more Corvettes must he have to steal to have $900?

6. Raoul got 6 years for murder. He also got $10,000 for the hit. If his common-law wife spends $100 per month, how much money will be left when he gets out?

Extra credit bonus: how much more time will he get for killing the ho that spent his money?

7. If an average can of spray paint covers 22 square feet and the average letter is 3 square feet, how many letters can be sprayed with 3 eight ounce cans of spray paint with 20% paint free?

8. Hector knocked up 3 girls in the gang. There are 27 girls in his gang. What is the exact percentage of girls Hector knocked up?

9. Bernie is a lookout for the gang. Bernie has a Boa Constrictor that eats 3 small rats per week at a cost of $5 per rat. If Bernie makes $700 a week as a lookout, how many weeks can he feed the Boa on one week’s income?

10. Billy steals Joe’s skateboard. As Billy skates away at 25 mph, Joe loads his .357 Magnum. If it takes Joe 12 seconds to load his magnum, how far away will Billy be when he gets whacked?


Glossary for research reports

Filed under: Academic humor, Science humor — Travis @

A. Terms used in writing research papers

It has long been known that
I haven’t bothered to look up the original reference

Of great theoretical and practical importance
Interesting to me

While it has not been possible to provide definite answers to these questions
The experiments didn’t work out, but I figured I could at least get a publication out of it

The W-Pb system was chosen as especially suitable to show the predicted behavior
The fellow in the next lab had some already made up

High purity / very high purity / extremely high purity / super-purity / specroscopically pure
Composition unknown except for the exaggerated claims of the supplier

A fiducial reference line
A scratch

Three of the samples were chosen for detailed study
The results on the others didn’t make sense and were ignored

Accidentally strained during mounting
Dropped on the floor

Handled with extreme care throughout the experiments
Not dropped on the floor

Typical results are shown
The best results are shown

Although some detail has been lost in the reproduction, it is clear from the original micrograph that
It is impossible to tell from the micrograph that

Presumably at longer times
I didn’t take the time to find out

The agreement with the predicted curve is excellent




As good as could be expected

These results will be reported at a later date
I might possibly get around to this sometime

The most reliable values are those of Jones
Jones was a student of mine

It is suggested that / It is believed that / It may be that
I think

It is generally believed that
A couple of other guys think so too

It might be argued that
I have such a good answer to this objection that I shall now raise it

It is clear that much additional work will be required before a complete understanding…
I don’t understand it

Unfortunately, a quantitative theory to account for these effects has not been formulated
Neither does anybody else

Correct within an order of magnitude

It is hoped that this work will stimulate further work in the field
This paper isn’t very good, but neither are any of the others in this miserable subject

Thanks are due to Joe Glotz for assistance with the experiments and to John Doe for valuable discussions
Joe Glotz did the work and John Does explained what it meant

B. Terms used in presenting research papers

A reference to work of an author whose work is to be attacked

A surprising finding
We barely had time to revise the abstract. Of course we fired the technician.

Preliminary experiments have shown that
We did it once but couldn’t repeat it

The method, in our hands
Somebody didn’t publish all the directions

A survey of the earlier literature
I even read through some of last year’s journals

Careful statistical analysis
After going through a dozen books, we finally found one obscure test that we could apply

We are excited by this finding
It looks publishable

We have a tentative explanation
I picked this up in a bull session last night

We didn’t carry out the long-term study
We like to go home by 5 pm. What do you think we are, slaves?

The mechanism is not clear
We plan to do a second experiment as soon as we get home

C. Terms used in discussing research presentations

We say this with trepidation
(a) We are going out on a limb when in the presence of an author whose work is to be, or has been, attacked, or
(b) We are about to make a statement about something we know nothing about

Could you discuss your findings?
Tell us know. Don’t hide it in some obscure journal.

Have you considered the possibility…?
Have you read my work?

Have you any ideas at all…?
What are you keeping from us?

Would you care to speculate…?
I wonder if you agree with me?

Why do you believe…?
You’re out of your mind

I would like to make one comment on these suggestions

We cannot reconcile the data
Are you telling the truth?

We have repeated your experiments in our lab
Brother, were we surprised!

Did I read your slide correctly?
Did you write it correctly? I never make mistakes.

D. Conclusion

It is evident that the field of scientific semantics offers ground for fruitful investigation (which means “I never expect to do it myself, but if someone does, this statement will give me a claim of priority”).

The material in Part A is from C. D. Graham, Jr., from Metal Progress, 71, 75 (1957). The material in Parts B and C is from David Kritchevsky and R. J. van der Wal, from Proceedings of the Chemical Society, May 1960, p. 173.


Etch-A-Sketch compliance

Filed under: Academic humor, CS silliness — Travis @


The Mathematics Department has determined that, in order to cut operational costs, the Department no longer has any need for any computers in the classrooms.

The goal is to remove all computers from the desktop by Jan 1, 2001. Instead, everyone will be provided with an Etch-A-Sketch. For those of you who had deprived childhoods, Etch-A-Sketches are those fun square like toys where you get to draw things in a sand like environment using little knobs.

Our dean has determined that the following action is being taken for the following reasons.

  1. No technical glitches keeping work from being done.
  2. No more wasted time reading and writing emails.
  3. No more games with “Boss” Buttons.
  4. No more need for network or software applications support.

Since we no longer will be having internal technical support, we are supplying you with the following guidelines for using your new equipment.

FAQ for Etch-A-Sketch Technical Support

Q: My Etch-A-Sketch has all of these funny little lines all over the screen.
A: Pick it up and shake it.

Q: How do I create a New Document window?
A: Pick it up and shake it.

Q: What is the proper procedure for re-booting my Etch-A-Sketch?
A: Pick it up and shake it.

Q: How do I delete a document on my Etch-A-Sketch?
A: Pick it up and shake it.

Q: How do I save my Etch-A-Sketch document?
A: Don’t shake it.

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