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Jokes for serious people

Zhigang Suo's picture

This semester I'm teaching an undergraduate course on functions of a complex variable.  A student has just sent me a message:

Q: Why did the mathematician name his dog "Cauchy"?
A: Because the dog left a residue at every pole.

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I received an email several weeks ago with the following quote:

Engineering is the art of modelling materials we do not wholly understand, into shapes we cannot precisely analyse so as to withstand forces we cannot properly assess, in such a way that the public has no reason to suspect the extent of our ignorance.
- Dr AR Dykes, British Institution of Structural Engineers, 1976.

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The following quote was attributed to Norman Augustine:

Early birds get the worms.  Early worms...get eaten.

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There must be many good jokes and quotes for serious people.  Let us hear from you if you recall any.


A long time ago, I came across this set of jokes of mathematics.  Enjoy.

Arun Prakash's picture

A couple more, which are "common" knowledge in the scientific world 


1. Theory is you know something and it does not work. In practice something works  and you don't know why. Programming combines both theory and practice, something doesn't work and you don't know why.


2. Simulation is something and  except you as the simulator, nobody else believes. Experiment is something that except you everyone else believes.

I call this function "The Imposter".  It is a close fit to y=sin(x), save for the derivative at y=0.  Do not be fooled.

Nachiket, thanks for the heads up on the four-dimensional dog.  I'm sure it has eaten homework in just about every neighborhood.

yoursdhruly's picture

Doesn't this seem to happen all the time? Smile

More at


Andrew Norris's picture

There is a funny story about the theoretical physicist and mathematician Theodor Kaluza, of Kaluza-Klein fame.    It is usually argued that any new theory must be confirmed by experiment.  But some theoreticians have the opposite opinion - that experiments are meaningless unless backed up by good theory.  Kaluza was definitely in the second camp.  He was also a non-swimmer, but in order to prove his point about the power of theoretical knowledge, he claimed that he could learn to swim from reading a book.   So in his thirties he read up on swimming, and one day without any lessons, he jumped in the deep end and sure enough started swimming. 

I thought the story so hilarious that I had to check it out - and it is true .    I came across the Kaluza anecdote  in the book "Faster than the speed of light" (2003) written by a young theoretical physicist - Joao Magueijo - who proposed an alternative theory to the "accepted" model of cosmology.  The book is about his struggles to have his theory gain acceptance in the theoretical physics community.   Along the way he offers many anecdotes and sharp comments on scientific research.    A great read.

MichelleLOyen's picture

Hopefully most iMech'ers wouldn't resort to this!comic

(from xkcd )

Andrew Norris's picture

Nice one! And here is a great graphic that I love to show people

great graph


Use it in your talk to show the perils of correlating data!

MichelleLOyen's picture

Fattaneh Morshedsolouk's picture

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