## The Humor and Poetry of Jims Maher

Yesterday, I received an email from Jims Maher containing the following joke, which he said he thought up yesterday in a real “facepalm” moment:

There used to be seven bridges in Königsberg.
Two were lost to war. Another two were demolished in peace.
So what does that leave us with?

A slippery slope.

Coincidentally, Jims was also the only entrant in the MJ4MF Humorous Math Poem Contest. (I will assume that everyone chose not to submit an entry because I announced the contest on April 1, so all of you thought the contest was a joke. Please allow me to harbor this delusion — it’s easier on my ego that way.) Consequently, a signed copy of MJ4MF is on its way to Jims. He said that he plans to “put it to good use as a prize in some fundraiser.” I like your style, Jims!

Because enquiring minds want to know, here is Jims’ award-winning poem…

Start at One

Numbers are counted.
One, two, three…
But some numbers are skipped,
It’s plain to see.

We never count zero
Because it’s not there.
And the imaginary numbers
Are as visible as air.

It is only the natural numbers
That we will count,
From one on up
To any amount.

However, the last number
Can never be known,
Because you can always add one,
However high that you go.

And so we keep counting,
From one, to two, to three…
With the natural numbers we keep counting,
From one to infinity.

Forgive the commentary, but I could not help thinking about mathematical definitions when reading Jims’ poem. According to Wolfram MathWorld,

The term “natural number” refers either to a member of the set of positive integers 1, 2, 3, …, or to the set of nonnegative integers 0, 1, 2, 3, …. Regrettably, there seems to be no general agreement about whether to include 0 in the set of natural numbers.

Similarly, the James and James Mathematical Dictionary gives three different definitions for whole numbers: The set of positive integers 1, 2, 3, …; the set of nonnegative integers 0, 1, 2, 3, …; and the set of all positive and negative integers …, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, ….

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• 1. JimsMaher  |  May 6, 2011 at 4:23 am

Thank you.

Regarding the “natural numbers”, clearly that was planned obsolescence on my part … so that I can rewrite and enter the improved version again next year.

Perhaps “positive integers”, or maybe I’d acquiesce for the “counting numbers”, or better yet, “the set of all scalars congruent modulo one greater than or equal to one”. It doesn’t have to rhyme and the cadence is mutable, so the choice is yours.

• 2. venneblock  |  May 6, 2011 at 5:25 pm

Nah, Jims, I like “natural number” in your poem. I’m just constantly befuddled that a discipline as stictly defined as mathematics lacks rigor with these definitions. I think there should be universal consistency, but I’m not sure that’s possible when humans are making the decisions.

• 3. JimsMaher  |  May 7, 2011 at 2:41 pm

Actually, after some review … “counting numbers” adds some added levity. It increases the count count.

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.

## MJ4MF (offline version)

Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks is available from Amazon, Borders, Barnes & Noble, NCTM, Robert D. Reed Publishers, and other purveyors of exceptional literature.