» Three Jokes about Mathematicians #

Paul R. Brown @ 2008-11-23

The first joke is a riddle:

Q: How can you tell an extroverted mathematician?

A: .sǝoɥs ɹnoʎ ʇɐ ʞooן ʎǝɥʇ 'noʎ oʇ ʞןɐʇ ʎǝɥʇ uǝɥʍ

The second joke is a classic mathematician/physicist/engineer tryptych:

A mathematician, a physicist, and an engineer meet up at their 20th college reunion. The physicist asks the engineer how life been, and the engineer says, "It's been great. I reached partner in the firm by 30, have a dozen patents, great kids, a spouse, and a lover. The spouse doesn't know about the lover, and the lover doesn't know about the spouse; so it's all good."

The physicist and the mathematician nod knowingly, and the engineer asks the physicist the reciprocal quesition. The physicist answers, "Life has been good to me, too. I have an endowed chair, a well-funeded lab, a couple of generations of strong graduate students, a spouse, and a lover. The spouse doesn't know about the lover, but the lover knows about the spouse and is OK with the arrangement; so it's all good."

The mathematician and the engineer nod knowingly, and the physicist asks the mathematician about life since college. The mathematician answers, "I've done well. I was hired with tenure right out of graduate school, have a dozen papers in the Annals, and don't have to teach calculus. I have a lover and a spouse, too, and the lover and the spouse know about each other; so it's all good.

The physicist and the engineer stare blankly at their old friend. "So, with the lover and spouse knowing about each other, how is that OK?"

The mathematician responds, "Well, when I'm not with the spouse, they assume I'm with the lover, and when I'm not with the lover, they assume I'm with the spouse. Between the two, I'm able to get a lot of work done."

Neither of these is originally mine. I heard them over conference dinners more than a decade ago, so I'm not sure who deserves credit.


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