Top Flight Math Jokes
I’ve used the following joke as the opening for many local presentations:
I’m so thankful that I was able to drive here this morning. I’ve been flying a lot for work recently, and last week I had a really horrible flight. I had just finished four long days at a math conference, and I was exhausted when I boarded the plane. We took off, and as soon as we levelled out, I put my head back and closed my eyes.
And then… a thud.
Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard a thud while on an airplane, but I didn’t particularly like it. Immediately, the pilot’s voice came over the loudspeaker. “Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. I know you heard that sound, and I want to assure you that everything is all right. We’ve lost an engine, but we can still safely make it to our destination with the three remaining engines. However, instead of the flight taking 3 hours, it will now take 4 hours.”
This was unsettling, but after 20 minutes of smooth flying, I closed my eyes once more.
Again, the pilot’s voice. “Ladies and gentlemen, it appears we’ve lost a second engine. Let me assure you, we will still make it to our final destination safely, but instead of 4 hours, it will now take 6 hours.”
We then flew smoothly for another 30 minutes… but I was unwilling to close my eyes again.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve lost a third engine. We can make it safely with just one engine, but it will now take us 12 hours to reach our final destination.”
Upon hearing this, the guy next to me leaned over and said, “My gosh! I sure hope we don’t lose that fourth engine, or we’ll be up here all day!”
I use that joke because I think it’s funny, but also because it allows me to ask this question: “Consider the pattern. When there were 4 engines in use, the flight was supposed to take 3 hours. When reduced to 3 engines, the flight time increased to 4 hours. Just 2 engines, 6 hours. Only 1 engine, 12 hours. If the pattern continued, what length of time would correspond to 0 engines?”
The joke can serve as a lead-in to inverse variation, and I rather like the answer. With 0 engines, the duration would be infinity. And isn’t that appropriate? If the plane crashes, you won’t reach your final destination for all of eternity!
Speaking of planes, Skyscanner recently conducted a survey about air travel preferences. According to their study, flyers think that 6A is the perfect seat. That shouldn’t be shocking… a perfect seat has to be in Row 6, doesn’t it?
Forty-five percent of respondents said they prefer to sit in the first six rows, and 60% said they prefer the window, so it makes sense that 6A would come out the winner. But there were some surprising results from this survey:
- Nearly 7% said they would choose to sit in the last row. (Really? What kind of person prefers a non-reclining seat by the bathroom?)
- Approximately 62% of respondents said they prefer an even seat number. (Who knew that parity played a role?)
- The worst seat? That distinction belongs to 31E, a middle seat near the back.
- Frequent flyers prefer the left side of the plane. (“Why,” you ask? Because the windows on that side of the plane are off-center, which allows for wall space to rest your head while sleeping.)
- Less than 1% prefer the middle seat. (The surprising part is that anyone prefers the middle seat.)
My guess is that people who prefer the middle seat also think median is better than mode. I assume this result was a statistical error, however. My suspicion is that they asked the preference of two people simultaneously; one responded, “I prefer the aisle seat,” another responded, “I prefer the window seat,” and the survey taker wrote, “On average, these two people prefer the middle seat.”
Recently, I was in seat 6A during an international flight. Halfway home, the entire flight crew got ill from the food. The pilot and co-pilot passed out, so the flight attendants began asking if anyone could fly the plane.
An elderly gentleman, who had flown prop planes over Warsaw many years ago, raised his hand. When he got to the cockpit, he looked at all the displays and controls, and he realized he was in over his head. The flight attendant noticed the look on his face and asked if he was okay. “I don’t think I can fly this aircraft,” he said. “I am just a simple Pole in a complex plane.”