Lead by Counterexample

March 30, 2011 at 3:03 pm Leave a comment

A wonderful, handwritten sign hangs on the door to my friend’s office:

There is no way of falsifying, “Unicorns exist.”


This is a good example of the nature of mathematics. Although providing just one counterexample is proof that something is not true, the inability to provide a counterexample is not proof that something is true. Understanding this concept is fundamental to understanding mathematics. Perhaps this guy could use a refresher…

At a conference, a mathematician proves a theorem. A young woman in the audience interrupts him. “Excuse me, sir, but I believe that your proof must be wrong. I have found a counterexample to your theorem.”

“Not a problem,” the speaker replies. “I have another proof.”


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The Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks blog is an online extension to the book Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks. The blog contains jokes submitted by readers, new jokes discovered by the author, details about speaking appearances and workshops, and other random bits of information that might be interesting to the strange folks who like math jokes.

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