## Posts tagged ‘poem’

### The Beer Paradox

From Gene Weingarten’s recent column, “Rhymes Against Humanity,” in the January 28 edition of the *Washington Post Magazine*:

An infinite number of mathematicians

Walked into a bar on one recent night,

And, under the strangest of barroom conditions,

What followed quite nearly became a big fight.“I’ll have a pint,” said the first to the ’tender.

“I’ll have a half,” said the next fellow down.

“I’ll have a quarter,” said the third (no big spender).

“Give me an eighth,” said the next, like a clown.The bartender fumed and grew suddenly pale

Then, calmly, he turned and he went to the spout

Drew up two pints, set them down at the rail.

Said, “Enough of this nonsense — you all work it out.”

This is an MJ4MF original, though like Gene’s, it’s based on a stale, old joke:

With my head in an oven

And my feet on some ice,

I’d say that, on average,

I feel rather nice!

What other classic math jokes can be easily converted to poems? Or have already been?

### Mo’ Math Limericks

I’ve posted limericks to this blog before. Quite a few, in fact.

But a friend recently sent me *The Mathematical Magpie*, a collection of math essays, stories and poems assembled by Clifton Fadiman and published by Simon and Schuster in 1962. Coincidentally, one section of the book is titled *Comic Sections*, the name of a mathematical joke book written by Des MacHale in 1993. (I contacted Professor MacHale several years ago, and he suggested that we swap books. Best. Trade. Ever.) Des MacHale is Emeritus Professor at the University of Cork, a mere 102 km from Limerick, Ireland… which brings us full circle to today’s topic.

*The Mathematical Magpie* contains quite a few limericks, one of which you have likely heard before:

There was a young lady named Bright,

Who traveled much faster than light.

She started one day

In the relative way,

And returned on the previous night.

Despite a variety of other claims, that limerick was written by Professor A. H. Reginald Buller, F.R.S., a biologist who received £2 when the poem was published in *Punch*, and he “was more excited at the check than he was later when his book on fungi was published.”

You may not, however, be familiar with Professor Buller’s follow-up limerick about Miss Bright:

To her friends said the Bright one in chatter,

“I have learned something new about matter:

As my speed was so great

Much increased was my weight,

Yet I failed to become any fatter!”

Here are a few other limericks that appear in *The Mathematical Magpie*:

There was an old man who said, “Do

Tell me how I’m to add two and two?

I’m not very sure

That it doesn’t make four —

But I fear that is almost too few.

Anon.The topologist’s mind came unguided

When his theories, some colleagues derided.

Out of Möbius strips

Paper dolls he now snips,

Non-Euclidean, closed, and one-sided.

Hilbert Schenck, Jr.A mathematician named Ray

Says extraction of cubes is child’s play.

You don’t need equations

Or long calculations

Just hot water to run on the tray.

L. A. GrahamFlappity, floppity, flip!

The mouse on the Möbius strip.

The strip revolved,

The mouse dissolved

In a chronodimensional skip.

Frederick Winsor

And though it’s not a limerick, this one is just too good not to include for your enjoyment:

A diller, a dollar,

A witless trig scholar

On a ladder against a wall.

If length over height

Gives an angle too slight,

The cosecant may prove his downfall.

L. A. Graham

Finally, I leave you with a MJ4MF original:

With my head in an oven

And my feet on some ice,

I’d say that, on average,

I feel rather nice!

**Got any math poems or limericks you’d like to share? We’d love to hear them!**

### Pigs in the Gutter

Finals are just around the corner, and another semester will soon be in the books. Here’s a poem to relieve the tension for all of you preparing for final exams — whether taking or administering them.

Late in the fall semester,

Dressed in suede and polyester,

I was thinking ‘bout a theorem I’d derived;

So drunk was I with mathy passion,

Into the gutter I went crashin’,

And a pig came up and lay down at my side.Yes, I lay there on my rear end

With my stinky, pinky new friend

When a woman passing by did softly say,

“You can tell a mathy creep

By the company he’ll keep” —

And the pig got up and slowly walked away.

I don’t want to, but I gotta…

We lay side-by-side in the gutter for quite some time — swine and co-swine.

### Humorous Math Poem Contest Winner

Winner will be announced below; but first, I’ve got to say this:

May the Fourth be with you.

(Hee-hee.)

Congratulations to Lucie, a student in Russ Holstein’s class. She was one of 36 entrants in the Humorous Math Poem contest, and her name was randomly selected to receive a signed copy of *Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks*. Lucie’s entry was a haiku:

Don’t be dramatic;

It is just mathematics.

Easy: 1, 2, 3.

[Editor’s Note: The middle line was changed from, “It’s just…,” to, “It is just…,” to give it the requisite seven syllables.]

Other noteworthy entries were the following:

Dear Math,

I’m sick and tired of finding your x.

Just accept the fact that she is gone…

Move on, dude!

by Susanne

3.14159

Oh, these numbers make me whine!

2653589

7932384

I am really doing poor.

62643383279

If I learn this, will I shine?

3.14159

by AngelaDear Aunt Sally,

Please excuse me

For not following the rules;

I don’t have the right tools.

from wawrorlI have a really geeky clock;

It has a special chime:

At 2, 3, 5, 7 and 11 o’clock,

It shouts out, “It’s prime time!”

by Chris

And my favorite, which seems to be a commentary on standardized testing…

Today we had a test, it was mathematical.

Which is very tragical.

And wasn’t all that fantastical.

I rather it be biographical.

Does it come from the capitol?

by Marie

Thanks to the folks at Thinkfinity for promoting this contest. All of the entries can be read in the Thinkfinity Community.

### 2012 Math Poem Contest

April is Math Awareness Month, National Poetry Month, and National Humor Month.

I tried to run a humorous math poem contest last year, and it was a remarkable failure. There were only two entries, and one of them was submitted after the contest ended. The winning entry can be found at the link above; the other, submitted after deadline by Chris Smith, is worth sharing, too:

Some folks, they dream of wealth and fame,

Or that some girl would know their name —

Pathetic! I reserve my slumber

For imagining my favourite number.

As rapid movement stirs my eyes,

No need for me to fantasize

Of infinitely distant wishes.

Instead I feast on π — delicious!

Not very good at learning lessons, I’m trying it again. But this time, I’m letting the good folks in the Thinkfinity Community run the contest, and maybe there will be more entrants when it’s announced to their 50,000+ members. That’s where you can learn more about this year’s humorous math poem contest, and you should post your entries in this discussion forum. If you’re a math teacher, you might also want to check out the discussions in the Learning Math group.

Got math? Got rhyme? Got iambic pentameter? Then let the world share your treasure! Post your entry **here**.

### 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.

### 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,

Hexadecimal is awesome,

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,

Let me be your hero;

I love you as one overx,

asxapproaches 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;

Your emotions, randomly generated.

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!

### 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 OneNumbers 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, ….

### Up and Down — That’s Collatz For Ya

The Collatz Problem goes by many names — some call it the 3*n* + 1 problem, though it’s also called the Hailstone Problem, Hasse’s algorithm, and others. The Collatz Problem can be stated as follows:

Let *a*_{0} be a positive integer. Then, *a _{n}* = 0.5

*a*

_{n – 1}if

*a*

_{n – 1}is even,

and

*a*= 3

_{n}*a*

_{n – 1}+ 1 if

*a*

_{n – 1}is odd.

The Collatz Conjecture states that no matter what number you start with, the sequence will eventually reach 1. Originally posed in 1937 by Lothar Collatz, the problem is still unsolved.

Randall Munroe stated the following truth about the Collatz Conjecture at xkcd.com:

In line with this week’s earlier post about the MJ4MF Humorous Math Poem Contest, the following poem about the Collatz Conjuecture comes from poet and retired mathematician Joanne Growney. Growney uses a slightly different statement of the Collatz Problem; in her version, *a _{n}* = 1.5

*a*

_{n – 1}+ 0.5 if

*a*

_{n – 1}is odd.

**A Mathematician’s Nightmare **

*by JoAnne Growney*

Suppose a general store —

items with unknown values

and arbitrary prices,

rounded for ease to

whole-dollar amounts.

Each day Madame X,

keeper of the emporium,

raises or lowers each price —

exceptional bargains

and anti-bargains.

Even-numbered prices

divide by two,

while odd ones climb

by half themselves —

then half a dollar more

to keep the numbers whole.

Today I pause before

a handsome beveled mirror

priced at twenty-seven dollars.

Shall I buy or wait

for fifty-nine days

until the price is lower?

### Humorous Math Poem Contest

April is:

- Math Awareness Month (www.mathaware.org)
- National Poetry Month (www.poets.org/npm)
- National Humor Month (www.humormonth.com)

With such a glorious coincidence^{1} of human-created holidays, I feel like I have to do something big. Monumental, even. But what? I thought about preparing a major April Fools prank, such as preparing a fake video about spaghetti growing on trees or publishing an article about how the Alabama legislature passed a law setting π = 3. But since those have already been done, I decided on something a little different…

Announcing the **MJ4MF Humorous Math Poem Contest**!

That’s right! Submit your original entries of humorous math poems.

The format is entirely up to you.

- Try your hand at the highly mathematical haiku.
- Author a sonnet about your love of numbers.
- Use ALGEBRA to create an acrostic poem.
- Or, get a little seedy with a limerick about doing problem sets late at night.

The only rule, really, is that **your submission must be completely original**. Please don’t copy a poem from another website or transcribe one of J. A. Lindon’s gems.

Post your poem in the comments section, or send it to me privately at mj4mf@verizon.net. Next week, I’ll compile all entries into a single post and create a poll so visitors can vote for their favorite. The author of the best poem, as selected by the readers of the MJ4MF blog, will receive an autographed copy of *Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks*, as well as a special secret prize.

Good luck, and have fun!

To get the creative juices flowing, you can read a few classics below, or check out *The Square Root of Three*.

Pi goes on and on and on…

Andeis likewise cursed.

I wonder: Which is larger

When the digits are reversed?

– J. A. LindonI used to think math was no fun,

‘Cause I couldn’t see how it was done.

But Euler’s my hero

For I now see why zero

Equalse^{iπ}+ 1.

– Paul NahinWith my hands in a fire

And my arse on some ice

I’d say that, on average,

I feel rather nice.

– an MJ4MF original (sort of)

^{1} Speaking of coincidence, John Allen Paulos wrote, “…though it is unlikely that any *particular* sequence of events specified beforehand will occur, there is a high probability that *some* remarkable sequence will be observed subsequently” (*A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper*, p. 50). You might also like his first book, *Innumeracy*.