## Archive for February, 2012

### Look Before You Leap

Too predictable?

Why do frogs, kangaroos, lords and leopards like 2012?
Because it’s a leap year!
(Did you know that a group of leopards is called a “leap”?)

Speaking of leaps, a friend and I were recently discussing the following problem:

A flea can jump up to 350 times its own length. If the same were true of humans, how far would a person whose height is 5′ 6″ be able to jump?

Though the intent is clear, the problem assumes that the length of a flea is analogous to the height of a human. A would-be solver who overthinks this problem might reason that a flea’s length is approximately twice its height, in which case it could jump 350 × length = 350 × (2 × height) = 700 times its own height. Solving the proportion required by the problem, a 5′ 6″ human would be able to jump 3,850 feet, which is twice the intended answer.

Not that it matters. Even long jumper Mike Powell, who holds the world record with a jump of 29′ 4″, was not able to leap even five times his height.

But the problem reminded me of this joke…

A team of engineers was required to measure the height of a flag pole. They only had a measuring tape, and they were frustrated that they couldn’t slide the tape up the pole. After a while, a mathematician happens by, hears about their problem, removes the pole from the ground, and proceeds to measure it easily.

When he leaves, one engineer says, “That is just like a mathematician! We need to know the height, and he gives us the length!”

### 10 Jokes for an Ordinally Day

Ten of my favorite jokes, in order. Sort of.

A mathematician calls the hospital and says, “My wife is in labor! What should I do?”
“Calm down,” the nurse tells him. “Is this her first child?”
“No,” the man replies. “This is her husband.”

Did you hear about the hungry clock?
It goes back four seconds.

Three mathematicians walk into a bar. You’d think the third one would have ducked.

First, second, third… and so fourth.

Wherever there are four mathematicians, you’ll usually find a fifth.

Thank you for calling Sixth Sense Analytics. We are unable to answer your call at this time, but we already know who you are, what you want, and where you live, so please hang up at the beep.

The topologist said, “If I had known that I’d feel this full after all those doughnuts, I would have eaten the seventh one first.”

Your mama’s so fat, she could be the eighth continent.

Several bass violinists had too much wine before their performance of Beethoven’s masterpiece. They performed reasonably well through most of the piece, but near the end, they began to miss some notes. The conductor lamented, “It’s the bottom of the Ninth, and the bassists are loaded.”

A minister told his congregation, “I know it’s difficult to tithe, but don’t worry. If you can’t afford to give a tenth of your salary to the church, then just give a ninth or even an eighth.”

### Sentences Are Commutative, Words Are Not

While playing Scrabble® on my phone today, I had a rack with following letters:

AABEILN

Near the top of the board was TAVERNA, and it was possible to hook above the first six letters or below the first two letters. There were other spaces on the board to place words, but this was clearly the most fertile. The full board looked like this:

On my rack, the letters weren’t in alphabetical order (as above), so I missed a seven-letter word that would have garnered 78 points. Instead, I played ABLE for a paltry 13 points.

After my turn, the Teacher feature showed me the word I should have played:

ABELIAN

Kickin’ myself. I’ll get over not seeing BANAL, LANAI, or even LEV. But how does a math guy miss ABELIAN? I would not put up a fight if someone wanted to rescind my Math Dorkdom membership card.

What loves letters and commutes?
An abelian Scrabble player.

(That’s a joke. Please don’t play Scrabble while driving.)

Too cold to run to the convenient store for a six-pack? Too many Allen wrenches necessary for you to put together that Vrådal loft bed that you bought from Ikea? Want someone to walk Fido while you finish the last 1,126 pages of War and Peace?

If you need something done but you’re too lazy or unqualified to do it yourself — and if you live in certain metropolitan areas — then you can have one of the “runners” at TaskRabbit do it for you. It’s a service that turns grunt work into a game. Simply post the task that needs to be done, and runners bid for the opportunity to do it.

There is no limit to the types of tasks that are listed. A recent posting asked, “Do you know a Girl Scout from whom I can place a cookie order?” One of the top runners completed the task “Prank Call Our Customer Service Rep” in which he posed as an animal-welfare activist who sought donations to buy Viagra for soon-to-be-extinct Siberian tigers [“Call of Duty,” Wired, Aug 2011].

That’s funny stuff.

I received no compensation from TaskRabbit to write this post, nor am I an angel investor; I just think it’s a great idea. There ought to be a similar service for intellectual tasks…

• Statistician needed to massage data from a research study to get the results we’d like.
• Geometer needed to square a circle and/or trisect an angle.
• Looking for contractor to build real-life version of Waterfall by M. C. Escher.
• Puzzler needed to solve the following slider puzzle:
• Logician needed to figure out who shaves the Barber of Seville.
• Number theorist needed to rationalize the denominator of a fraction with sqrt(pi) in the denominator.
• Spatial geometrician needed to get Dirk Gently’s couch unstuck, or to walk through a revolving door with a pair of skis on her shoulder.
• Engineer and hopeless romantic needed to kiss a girl by walking halfway to her, then halfway again, then halfway again, …

### A Date to Appreciate

I’ve been thinking about dates recently. No, not the really horrific evenings that women used to spend with me. I’m talking about calendar dates. And I’ve been thinking about them a lot. Like several-hours-per-night, going-to-bed-much-later-than-is-prudent a lot. More on that in a future post, though. For now, here’s an odd little poem about today’s date:

Two, four, six, eight —
A four-digit number that’s really great!
Now multiply by nine, and you’ll calculate
The value of today’s calendar date!

Big props to my friend and colleague Fred Dillon for pointing out this cool fact.

In translation: 2,468 × 9 = 22,212, which is today’s date, 2/22/12.

Rock on.

### Math Joke in Popular Press

Gene Weingarten, a columnist for the Washington Post, used a math joke in his column this week.

Refuting disgustologists’ contentions that “much of human behavior can be explained by our instinctive desire to avoid things that disgust us,” he offered the following joke as proof:

Did you hear about the constipated mathematician?
He worked it out with a pencil!

I was ecstatic that a math joke got some love; though I was a little bummed that he didn’t include the follow-up joke:

What kind of pencil did he use?
A No. 2 pencil!

I sent a note to Mr. Weingarten to let him know about this sin of omission. But that wasn’t until I stopped laughing after reading the non-math joke that he included in the column:

Woman walks into a bar, says: “I’ll have an entendre. Make it a double.” So the bartender gives it to her.

I do not expect to get a response to my message. But if I do, you’ll be the first to know!

### Love Thy Dilbert!

Why do I make fun of engineers so often? Well, mainly because they deserve it, but also because it’s so damn easy.

Today is the first day of National Engineers Week, an annual celebration to honor those who ensure that things don’t fall over, blow up, or go flying off the rails unexpectedly, as well as to honor those who make sure that things do fall over, blow up, and go flying off the rails when they’re supposed to.

Engineers receive an inordinate amount of abuse. Well, inordinate might not be the right word. Perhaps a better word would be, um, appropriate. But most of it is in good fun, and it is widely acknowledged that there are lots of reasons to love engineers…

• They can handle stress and strain in a relationship.
• They understand that it’s not the length of the vector, it’s how you apply the force.
• They understand the motion of rigid bodies.
• They can teach you what those other “buttons” on your “calculator” do.
• They understand fluid flow and heat transfer.
• They excel at erections.
• The world revolves around them, literally — they chose the coordinate system.
• Just like beams, they elongate when they get loaded.
• They understand projectile motion.
• They do it right the first time.
• They can go all night with no sign of fatigue.
• They know the right-hand rule.
• They have significant figures.

Of course, there are lots of reasons not to, as well…

• They won’t buy anything without a cost-benefit analysis.
• They file for divorce if you call while they’re debugging.
• Pocket protectors, slide rules, and Star Trek.
• They talk in acronyms.
• They touch their cars more often than they touch their spouses.
• They only listen to classic rock, and they generally hate everything from Bach to Prince.
• No matter how hard you cry and how loud you yell, they’ll just calmly discuss your emotions in terms of mathematical logic.
• They work from 6:30am to 7:30pm daily; there are no morning kisses and no evening walks.
• The only social life they know consists of posting and “talking” on the Internet.
• T-shirts and jeans are their formal dress.
• A hot dog and a six-pack is their seven-course meal.

Though most of us harbor a high level of disdain toward engineers, the following synopsis explains why most humans respect them. This explanation is borrowed from The Dilbert Principle by Scott Adams:

Engineers are widely recognized as superior marriage material: intelligent, dependable, employed, honest, and handy around the house. While it’s true that many normal people would prefer not to “date” an engineer, most normal people harbor an intense desire to “mate” with them, thus producing engineer-like children who will have high-paying jobs long before losing their virginity.

Finally, I leave you with the funniest thing that I ever heard uttered by an engineer…

### Matters of the Cardioid

It’s Valentine’s Day. Uh-oh… you didn’t forget to get your sweetie something nice, did you? No worries. MJ4MF is here to help.

Of course, you could make a Magic Heart for your special someone. But if Arts ‘n Crafts aren’t your thing, just copy one of the following poems onto a blank card, and your sweetie will be swooning!

Roses are #FF0000,
Violets are #0000FF,
And so are you!

Roses are #FF0000,
Leaves are #00C000,
We express colors
In powers of 16!

What’s that? You don’t speak RGB? Okay, then try this poem by Michael Stueben called Valentine:

You are the fairest of your sex,
I love you as one over x,
as x approaches zero.

For my money, though, the best math love poem is “Square Root of Three” from Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay.

Maybe you’ve been together a long time, and you no longer need to woo your sweetie. In that case, just make him or her smile with this poem from John McClelland…

A lady of 80 named Gertie
Had a boyfriend of 60 named Bertie.
She told him emphatically
That viewed mathematically
By modulo 50, she’s 30.

Or perhaps you’ve just gotten out of a relationship and are currently single. Here’s a poem you can send to your ex.

Rose are red,
Violets are blue,
Our love is like a poem
That doesn’t rhyme.

Or maybe you really don’t feel like celebrating. You’ve been jilted, and you are officially anti‑Valentine’s Day. The following MJ4MF original poem might be more to your liking.

My belief in love was completely destroyed
The day you ripped out my cardioid.
Your actions and words never equated;
Up and down again, like the curve of sine —
My screwed-up, degenerate Valentine.
So I’ll tell you abruptly, and this you can quote:
F**k this day, and kiss my asymptote!

### 4 Math Jokes for Valentine’s Day

[Ed. Note: Yes, I know it’s only Lincoln’s Birthday and not Valentine’s Day yet. Just wanted you to have time to practice telling these jokes to your mirror before the big day. There will be more V-Day humor shared on the 14th.]

Let’s start with one of the coolest pictures I’ve ever seen. I found it at the Math Fail blog, but I am not certain that Math Fail deserves credit for it. Whatever. Enjoy.

And from a demotivational poster comes the following:

VALENTINE’S DAY
Because relationships aren’t hard enough already.

Here are the four jokes that the title promises.

The frequency of our dating would amplify if you’d be my valentine.

I received a B- on my math mid-term. Thinking that my professor might be willing to negotiate since it was close to Valentine’s Day, I gave her a box of chocolates with the inscription “BE MINE.” The next class, I received a valentine from my professor that read, “Happy Valentine’s Day to you, too, but it’s still a BE MINE-US.” [Adapted from a story in Reader’s Digest]

An electron is courting an atom and keeps flying around it to get its attention. The atom finally asks, “Why do you keep running circles around me?” The electron replies, “I can’t help it. I’m strangely attracted to you.”

A math student is having dinner alone at his favorite restaurant on Valentine’s Day. The place is filled with happy couples, but an attractive young woman is sitting alone at a table across the room. He finally musters his courage and approaches her. “Mind if I join you?” he asks.

“Of course I won’t sleep with you! I don’t even know you!” she screams.

Confused, he slinks back to his table. The woman comes over a few minutes later. “I’m sorry if I embarassed you,” she says. “I’m a psychology student, and I’m studying how people react to embarassing situations.”

“Oh, no problem,” he says. Then at the top of his lungs, he yells, “What do you mean, \$300?”

### Calculated Risk

If someone tells you that you don’t know what 1269 × 6 is, just tell them to go to…

Can’t hear the humor in that joke? Turn it up!

A few more calculator jokes…

What did the boxer do to the calculator?
He punched some buttons!

I have a digital calculator. Every time I want to count, I use my fingers.

Did you hear about the new calculator for dumb people?
It’s a giant hand with ten-thousand fingers.

“I can’t use this calculator,” said the student to his teacher. “It never does what I want it to. It only does what I tell it to.”

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.