Mathematical and Academic Jokes

I have decided to start making a collection of mathematics jokes so if you have any you would like to contribute, please send them to me. Your name will appear on the site as credit for the joke (unless you're shy in which case I 'll leave it off.). Of course, those who have passed me the joke are unlikely to be the orginators. I am also interested in academic jokes in general - particularly ones about Oxbridge or the arts/ science divide.

My e-mail address is mark at markjoshi dot com .

Courtesy of Aaron Pitluck 12/12/96

An engineer, a physicist, and a mathematician are shown a pasture with a herd of sheep, and told to put them inside the smallest possible amount of fence. The engineer is first. He herds the sheep into a circle and then puts the fence around them, declaring "a circle will use the least fence for a given area, so this is the best solution." The physicist is next. She creates a circular fence of infinite radius around the sheep, and then draws the fence tight around the herd, declaring, "This will give the smallest circular fence around the herd." The mathematician is last. After giving the problem a little thought, he puts a small fence around himself and then declares,"I define myself to be on the outside."

Courtesy of Nittai Madrid 19/12/96


1) No known species of reindeer can fly. BUT there are 300,000 species of living organisms yet to be classified, and while most of these are insects and germs, this does not COMPLETELY rule out flying reindeer which only Santa has ever seen.

2) There are 2 billion children (persons under 18) in the world. BUT since Santa doesn't (appear) to handle the Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and Buddhist children, that reduces the workload to 15% of the total - 378 million according to Population Reference Bureau. At an average (census) rate of 3.5 children per household, that's 91.8 million homes. One presumes there's at least one good child in each.

3) Santa has 31 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks to the different time zones and the rotation of the earth, assuming he travels east to west (which seems logical). This works out to 822.6 visits per second.

This is to say that for each Christian household with good children, Santa has 1/1000th of a second to park, hop out of the sleigh, jump down the chimney, fill the stockings, distribute the remaining presents under the tree, eat whatever snacks have been left, get back up the chimney, get back into the sleigh and move on to the next house. Assuming that each of these 91.8 million stops are evenly distributed around the earth (which, of course, we know to be false but for the purposes of our calculations we will accept), we are now talking about .78 miles per household, a total trip of 75-1/2 million miles, not counting stops to do what most of us must do at least once every 31 hours, plus feeding and etc.

This means that Santa's sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second, 3,000 times the speed of sound. For purposes of comparison, the fastest man- made vehicle on earth, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a poky 27.4 miles per second - a conventional reindeer can run, tops, 15 miles per hour.

4) The payload on the sleigh adds another interesting element. Assuming that each child gets nothing more than a medium-sized lego set (2 pounds), the sleigh is carrying 321,300 tons, not counting Santa, who is invariably described as overweight. On land, conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds. Even granting that "flying reindeer" (see point #1) could pull TEN TIMES the normal amount, we cannot do the job with eight, or even nine. We need 214,200 reindeer. This increases the payload - not even counting the weight of the sleigh - to 353,430 tons. Again, for comparison - this is four times the weight of the Queen Elizabeth.

5) 353,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance - this will heat the reindeer up in the same fashion as spacecrafts re-entering the earth's atmosphere. The lead pair of reindeer will absorb 14.3 QUINTILLION joules of energy.

Per second.


In short, they will burst into flame almost instantaneously, exposing the reindeer behind them, and create deafening sonic booms in their wake. The entire reindeer team will be vaporized within 4.26 thousandths of a second. Santa, meanwhile, will be subjected to centrifugal forces 17,500.06 times greater than gravity. A 250-pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim) would be pinned to the back of his sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force.

In conclusion -

If Santa ever DID deliver presents on Christmas Eve, he's dead now.

Courtesy of Aaron Pitluck 30/1/97 (another version C.B. Thomas)

Story : Scene: It's a fine, sunny day in the forest, and a rabbit is sitting outside his burrow, tippy-tapping on his typewriter. Along comes a fox, out on a walk.

Fox: "What are you working on?"

Rabbit:"My thesis."

Fox:"Hmm. What is it about?"

Rabbit:"Oh, I'm writing about how rabbits eat foxes."

(incredulous pause)

Fox:"That's ridiculous! Any fool knows that rabbits don't eat foxes!"

Rabbit:"Come with me, and I'll show you!"

They both disappear into the rabbit's burrow. After a few minutes, gnawing on a fox bone, the rabbit returns to his typewriter and resumes typing. Soon a wolf comes along and stops to watch the hardworking rabbit.

Wolf:" What's that you are writing?"

Rabbit:" I'm doing a thesis on how rabbits eat wolves."

(loud guffaws)

Wolf:" You don't expect to get such rubbish published, do you?"

Rabbit:" No problem. Do you want to see why?"

The rabbit and the wolf go into the burrow, and again the rabbit returns by himself, after a few minutes, and goes back to typing.

Finally a bear comes along and asks, "What are you doing? "

Rabbit: "I'm doing a thesis on how rabbits eats bears."

Bear: "Well that's absurd!

Rabbit: "Come into my home and I'll show you"

SCENE: Inside the rabbit's burrow. In one corner, there is a pile of fox bones. In another corner, a pile of wolf bones. On the other side of the room a huge lion is belching and picking his teeth.

------------------------- THE END -------------------------


-- It doesn't matter what you choose for a thesis subject. -- It doesn't matter what you use for your data. -- What does matter is who you have for a thesis advisor.

Courtesy of Aaron Pitluck 30/1/97

A boy was crossing a road one day when a frog called out to him and said, "If you kiss me, I'll turn into a beautiful princess." He bent over, picked up the frog and put it in his pocket.

The frog spoke up again and said, "If you kiss me and turn me back into a beautiful Princess, I will stay with you for one week." The boy took the frog out of his pocket, smiled at it and returned it to the pocket. The frog then cried out, "If you kiss me and turn me back into a Princess, I'll stay with you and do *Anything* you want." Again the boy took the frog out, smiled at it and put it back into his pocket.

Finally the frog asked, "What is it? I've told you I'm a beautiful Princess, that I'll stay with you for a week and do *Anything* you want. Why won't you kiss me?"

The boy said, "Look, I'm a graduate student. I don't have time for girlfriends, but a talking frog is really cool."

Courtesy of Aaron Pitluck 30/1/97


- You can analyze the significance of appliances you cannot operate.

- Your cubicle is better decorated than your apartment.

- You have ever, as a folklore project, attempted to track the progress of your own joke across the Internet.

- You are startled to meet people who neither need nor want to read.

- You have ever brought a scholarly article to a bar.

- You rate coffee shops by the availability of outlets for your laptop.

- Everything reminds you of something in your discipline.

- You have ever discussed academic matters at a sporting event.

- You have ever spent more than $50 on photocopying while researching a single paper.

- There is a microfilm reader in the library that you consider "yours."

- You actually have a preference between microfilm and microfiche.

- You can tell the time of day by looking at the traffic flow at the library.

- You look forward to summers because you're more productive without the distraction of classes.

- You regard ibuprofen as a vitamin.

- You consider all papers to be works in progress.

- Professors don't really care when you turn in work anymore.

- You find the bibliographies of books more interesting than the actual text.

- You have given up trying to keep your books organized and are now just trying to keep them all in the same general area.

- You have accepted guilt as an inherent feature of relaxation.

- You reflexively start analyzing those greek letters before you realize that it's a sorority sweatshirt, not an equation.

- You find yourself explaining to children that you are in "20th grade".

- You start refering to stories like "Snow White et al."

- You frequently wonder how long you can live on pasta without getting scurvy

- You look forward to taking some time off to do laundry

- You have more photocopy cards than credit cards

- You wonder if APA style allows you to cite talking to yourself as "personal communication"

"Always remember you're unique, just like everyone else." Michael Ludwig Spittel University of Wisconsin Department of Sociology/Rural Sociology

Yet another Courtesy of Aaron Pitluck 10/2/97

The Top Ten Lies Told by Graduate Students -- taken from the Harvard Crimson

10. It doesn't bother me at all that my college roommate is making $80,000 a year on Wall Street.

9. I'd be delighted to proofread your book/chapter/article.

8. My work has a lot of practical importance.

7. I would never date an undergraduate.

6. Your latest article was so inspiring.

5. I turned down a lot of great job offers to come here.

4. I just have one more book to read and then I'll start writing.

3. The department is giving me so much support.

2. My job prospects look really good.

1. No really, I'll be out of here in only two more years.


Top Five Lies Told by Teaching Assistants:

5. I'm not going to grant any extensions.

4. Call me any time. I'm always available.

3. It doesn't matter what I think; write what you believe.

2. Think of the midterm as a diagnostic tool.

1. My other section is much better prepared than you guys.

Courtesy of Aaron Pitluck 18/04/97

A Mathematician, a Biologist and a Physicist are sitting in a street cafe watching people going in and coming out of the house on the other side of the street. First they see two people going into the house. Time passes. After a while they notice three persons coming out of the house. The Physicist: "The measurement wasn't accurate". The Biologists conclusion: "They have reproduced". The Mathematician: "If now, exactly 1 person enters the house then it will be empty again."

Courtesy of Charles Fox 07/04/01

How many Oxbridge dons does it take to change a lightbulb? "Change!!!??"

How many Oxbridge students does it take to change a lightbulb? Only one; he holds in in the air and waits for the world to revolve around him

At MIT the preceding joke is told about Harvard students. At Harvard, the students tell it about the professors...

Courtesy of John Whittamore 08/05/03

A PROFESSOR OF MATHEMATICS SENT A FAX TO HIS WIFE ... IT READ: Dear Wife: You must realise that you are 54 years old and I have certain needs which you are no longer able to satisfy. I am otherwise happy with you as a wife. I sincerely hope you will not be hurt or offended to learn that, by the time you receive this fax, I will be at the Grand Hotel with my 18 year old teaching assistant. I'll be home before midnight. Your Husband.

When he arrived at the hotel, there was a fax waiting for him which read as follows: Dear Husband: You, too, are 54 years old and by the time you receive this, I will be at the Breakwater Hotel with the 18 year old pool boy. Being the brilliant mathematician that you are, you can easily appreciate the fact that 18 goes into 54 a lot more times than 54 goes into 18, so don't wait up. Your Wife.

Courtesy of Kevin Lim 15/01/04

Dr. Schambaugh, of the University of Oklahoma School of Chemical Engineering, Final Exam question for May of 1997. Dr. Schambaugh is known for asking questions such as, "why do airplanes fly?" on his final exams.

His one and only final exam question in May 1997 for his Momentum, Heat and Mass Transfer II class was: "Is hell exothermic or endothermic? Support your answer with proof." Most of the students wrote proofs of their beliefs using Boyle's Law or some variant. One student, however, wrote the following:

"First, we postulate that if souls exist, then they must have some mass. If they do, then a mole of souls can also have a mass. So, at what rate are souls moving into hell and at what rate are souls leaving? I think we can safely assume that once a soul gets to hell, it will not leave. Therefore, no souls are leaving.

As for souls entering hell, let's look at the different religions that exist in the world today. Some of these religions state that if you are not a member of their religion, then you will go to hell. Since there are more than one of these religions and people do not belong to more than one religion, we can project that all people and souls go to hell. With birth and death rates as they are, we can expect the number of souls in hell to increase exponentially.

Now, we look at the rate of change in volume in hell. Boyle's Law states that in order for the temperature and pressure in hell to stay the same, the ratio of the mass of souls and volume needs to stay constant. Two options exist:

1. If hell is expanding at a slower rate than the rate at which souls enter
hell, then the temperature and pressure in hell will increase until all hell
breaks loose.
2. If hell is expanding at a rate faster than the increase of souls in hell,
then the temperature and pressure will drop until hell freezes over.

So which is it? If we accept the quote given to me by Theresa Manyan during Freshman year, "that it will be a cold night in hell before I sleep with you" and take into account the fact that I still have NOT succeeded in having sexual relations with her, then Option 2 cannot be true... Thus, hell is exothermic."

The student, Tim Graham, got the only A.

Courtesy of Kevin Lim 15/01/04

An urban legend: (there seem to be many versions of this one floating around)

The following concerns a question in a physics degree exam at the University of Copenhagen:

"Describe how to determine the height of a skyscraper with a barometer."

One student replied:

"You tie a long piece of string to the neck of the barometer, then lower the barometer from the roof of the skyscraper to the ground. The length of the string plus the length of the barometer will equal the height of the building."

This highly original answer so incensed the examiner that the student was failed immediately. He appealed on the grounds that his answer was indisputably correct, and the university appointed an independent arbiter to decide the case.

The arbiter judged that the answer was indeed correct, but did not display any noticeable knowledge of physics.

To resolve the problem it was decided to call the student in and allow him six minutes in which to provide a verbal answer which showed at least a minimal familiarity with the basic principles of physics.

For five minutes the student sat in silence, forehead creased in thought. The arbiter reminded him that time was running out, to which the student replied that he had several extremely relevant answers, but couldn't make up his mind which to use.

On being advised to hurry up the student replied as follows:

"Firstly, you could take the barometer up to the roof of the skyscraper, drop it over the edge, and measure the time it takes to reach the ground. The height of the building can then be worked out from the formula H =0.5g x t squared. But bad luck on the barometer.

Or if the sun is shining you could measure the height of the barometer, then set it on end and measure the length of its shadow. Then you measure the length of the skyscraper's shadow, and thereafter it is a simple matter of proportional arithmetic to work out the height of the skyscraper.

"But if you wanted to be highly scientific about it, you could tie a short piece of string to the barometer and swing it like a pendulum, first at ground level and then on the roof of the skyscraper. The height is worked out by the difference in the gravitational restoring force T = 2 pi sqrroot (l / g).

"Or if the skyscraper has an outside emergency staircase, it would be easier to walk up it and mark off the height of the skyscraper in barometer lengths, then add them up.

"If you merely wanted to be boring and orthodox about it, of course, you could use the barometer to measure the air pressure on the roof of the skyscraper and on the ground, and convert the difference in millibars into feet to give the height of the building.

But since we are constantly being exhorted to exercise independence of mind and apply scientific methods, undoubtedly the best way would be to knock on
the janitor's door and say to him 'If you would like a nice new barometer, I will give you this one if you tell me the height of this skyscraper'."

- The student was Niels Bohr, the only Dane to win the Nobel Prize for Physics

Courtesy of Joseph Wehbe 18/08/04

Q : Why aren't statisticians healthy?

A : Because they get broken down by age and sex!

Courtesy of Alexandre Caldeira 21/12/04

An exhaustive study has revealed 62.381527% of all statistics are made up on the spot.

Courtesy of Antonio 19/09/05

Investment bank Dog competition:

A researcher (ex mathematician), a risk manager and a trader each bring a dog to a competition.

The first one to display is the researcher's dog. The researcher brought a bottle of milk a bowl and placed it all on the floor. Then he commanded the dog to take the bottle and pour the milk into the bowl until the maximum amount it could hold. And that is exactly what his dog did.

The second one to display is the risk manager's dog. The risk manager's brought a bottle of milk a bowl and placed it all on the floor. Then he commanded the dog to take the bottle and pour the milk into the bowl until two thirds of the maximum it could hold and without spilling any milk during the whole process. And that is exactly what his dog did.

The third one to display is the trader's dog. The trader did not bring anything other than the dog. Then he commanded the dog to do what he taught. The dog stands up and walks in the direction of each one of the bowls and drinks all the milk.

Courtesy of Aaron Bornstein 07/10/05

An engineer, a mathematician, and a physicist went to the races one Saturday and laid their money down.  Commiserating in the bar after the race, the engineer says, "I don't understand why I lost all my money.  I measured all the horses and calculated their strength and mechanical advantage and figured out how fast they could run..."

The physicist interrupted him: "...but you didn't take individual variations into account.  I did a statistical analysis of their previous performances and bet on the horses with the highest probability of winning..."

" if you're so hot why are you broke?" asked the engineer.  But before the argument can grow, the mathematician takes out his pipe and they get a glimpse of his well-fattened wallet.  Obviously here was a man who knows something about horses.  They both demanded to know his secret.

"Well," he says, between puffs on the pipe, "first I approximated all the horses as identical spheres..."

Courtesy of Aaron Bornstein 21/10/05

Too Much Linear Algebra

You know too much linear algebra when...

   You look at the long row of creamer pitchers at Peet's--soy, skim, low-fat, whole, and half-and-half--and think: "Why so many? Aren't soy, skim, and half-and-half a basis?"

Courtesy of Henry Ashworth 24/10/05

Several scientists were all posed the following question: "What is 2 * 2 ?"

The engineer whips out his slide rule (so it's old) and shuffles it back and forth, and finally announces "3.99".

The physicist consults his technical references, sets up the problem on his computer, and announces "it lies between 3.98 and 4.02".

The mathematician cogitates for a while, then announces: "I don't know what the answer is, but I can tell you, an answer exists!".

Philosopher smiles: "But what do you mean by 2 * 2 ?"

Logician replies: "Please define 2 * 2 more precisely."

The sociologist: "I don't know, but is was nice talking about it".

Behavioral Ecologist: "A polygamous mating system".

Medical Student: "4"
All others looking astonished: "How did you know ??"
Medical Student: "I memorized it."

Courtesy of Jonathan Prince 14/03/06

1). Q) Why was the FX quant so unlucky with the ladies?
A) Because he always kept his dates short.

2). Q) Why do quants always have the best gardens?
A) Because they spend time so much time working on their trees and hedging!

3) Q) Why are quants so lucky?
A) Because they get to work with models all day.  

4) Q) Why do quants never get ripped off in Bangkok?
A) Because they are experts in pricing exotics.    

5) Q) Why did one quant say hush to the other?
A) Because he was working on the library!

6) Q) Why are quants always happy?
A) Because they are always working on their smiles.

7) Q) Who is a quant's favourite actor?
A) Heston

8) Q) Why was the quant willing to sell his own mother?
A) Because he figured out relative value!

Courtesy of Henry Ashworth 17/06/06

What do you get if you integrate one over a cabin?

- A log cabin…..

Courtesy of Joseph Cumming 27/07/06

A Polish peasant wins a trip on Concorde.

When the captain asks if he would like to come see the cockpit he refuses:

"No no", he says, "I am just a simple pole in a complex plane"


Courtesy of Kanshukan Rajaratnam 07/05/2007

 A priest, a doctor, and an engineer were waiting one morning for a particularly slow group of golfers.

Engineer: What's with these guys? We must have been waiting for 15 minutes!

Doctor: I don't know but I've never seen such ineptitude!

Priest: Hey, here comes the greenskeeper. Let's have a word with him.

Priest: Hi George. Say George, what's with that group ahead of us? They're rather slow aren't they?

George: Oh yes. That's a group of blind fire fighters. They lost their sight while saving our club house last year. So we let them play here anytime free of charge!


Priest: That's so sad. I think I will say a special prayer for them tonight.

Doctor: Good idea. And I'm going to contact my ophthalmologist buddy and see if there's anything he can do for them.

Engineer: Why can't these guys play at night?


Courtesy of Nilesh Panandikar 21/05/2007 

"A molecular biologist with a PhD at University of Birmingham, in the UK, quits his lab position to become a plumber, since a plumber apparently earns twice what he currently makes (~US$42K)." True story.

The following is a joke. One professor of mathematics noticed that his kitchen sink at his home broke down. He called a plumber. The plumber came on the next day, sealed a few screws and everything was working as before. The professor was delighted. However, when the plumber gave him the bill a minute later, he was shocked. "This is one third of my monthly salary!" he yelled. Well, he paid and then the plumber said to him:

"I understand your position as a professor. Why don't you come to our company and apply for a plumber position? You will earn three times as much as a professor. But remember, when you apply tell them that you completed only the seventh grade. They don't like educated people."

So it happened. The professor got a plumber job and his life significantly improved. He just had to seal a screw or two occasionally, and his salary went up significantly.

One day, the board of the plumbing company decided that every plumber has to go to evening classes to complete the eighth grade. So, our professor had to go there too. It just happened that the first class was math. The evening teacher, to check students' knowledge, asked for a formula for the area of the circle. The person who was asked was the professor. He jumped to the board, and then he realized that he forgot the formula.

He started to reason it and soon filled the board with integrals, differentials and other advanced formulas to conclude the result that he had forgotten. As a result he got "negative pi times r squared." He didn't like the negative, so he started all over again. He got the negative sign again.

No matter how many times he tried, he always got a negative. He was frustrated. He looked a bit scared at the class and saw all the plumbers whisper:

"Switch the limits of the integral!!"

Courtesy of Nilesh Panandikar 21/05/2007 

Last week I purchased a burger at Burger King for $1.58. The counter girl took my $2 and I was digging for my change when I pulled 8 cents from my pocket and gave it to her. She stood there, holding the nickel and 3 pennies, while looking at the screen on her register.

I sensed her discomfort and tried to tell her to just give me two quarters, but she hailed the manager for help. While he tried to explain the transaction to her, she stood there and cried.

Why do I tell you this?

Please read more about the "history of teaching math" in the US:


Teaching Math In 1950 .....

A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price. What is his profit?


Teaching Math In 1960 .....

A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price, or $80. What is his profit?


Teaching Math In 1970 .....

A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80. Did he make a profit?


Teaching Math In 1980 .....

A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80 and his profit is $20. Your assignment: Underline the number 20.


Teaching Math In 1990 .....

By cutting down beautiful forest trees, the logger makes $20. What do you think of this way of making a living? Topic for class participation after answering the question: How did the forest birds and squirrels feel as the logger cut down the trees. (There are no wrong answers.)

Teaching Math In 2005 .....

El hachero vende un camion carga por $100. La cuesta de production es.............


MJ: By the way, it's not just the US where standards have slipped, the following happened to me in a central London department store:

Me: how much is the table?

Shop assistant: it's 100 pounds, but 70% percent off. Are you any good at percentages?

Me: Oh, I think that comes to 30 pounds. I'll take two.

Shop assistant: I think you're right.

We go to the till. The tables come up at 21 pounds each for a total of 42 pounds.

Shop assistant: We must have got our sums wrong.

I just smile.

Courtesy of Tejas Joshi 1/9/2008


Courtesy of Jeff Newman 18/10/2008

Q: What is the difference between an introverted Quantitative Developer and an extroverted Quantitative Developer?

A: The Extroverted Developer looks at YOUR shoes when he is talking to YOU!

Courtesy of William Butler 29/10/2008

A Native American chief goes to his medicine man and states I have
three squaws and many daughters.  I need a son to become chief when I
die.  What can I do to beget a son?


The medicine man goes to the holy mountain and fasts, chants, and
beats himself with sacred branches.  After several weeks, he returns
to the chief and says It has been revealed to me.  You shall gird
your loins and save your seed until the next full moon.  Then, when
the moon is full you should lie with each of your squaws in her turn.
You will be rewarded for your obedience.


The Chief follows these directions and when the moon is next full,
goes first to the squaw in the teepee on the antelope hide.  He next
goes to the squaw in the teepee on the buffalo hide.  And finally he
goes to the third squaw, the one in the teepee on the hippopotamus

Nine moons later, as the full moon shines on the encampment, all three
squaws go into labor.

The chief awaits the outcome in his teepee, smoking the sacred pipe.

Finally, a messenger comes.  The squaw on the antelope hide has
had a boy papoose!

The Chief has barely begun to celebrate when the second messenger
comes.  The squaw on the buffalo hide has had another boy

And before his elation can really hit him, the third messenger
announces: the squaw on the hippopotamus hide has had twin boy

The Chief is overcome, and hurries to the medicine man.  I have been
without a male offspring for many, many moons.  Now I suddenly have
four.  What is the meaning of this great sign?

The medicine man hurries to the sacred mountain and begins his chants,
fasts, and self-beatings.  A few days later he returns to the Chief.

The meaning of this great sign has been revealed to me:

The sum of the sons of the squaw on the hippopotamus is equal to the
sum of the sons of the squaws on the other two hides.

Courtesy of Edward J. Grace 11/8/2009

Q) Why did the mathematician call his dog Cauchy?

A) He always left a residue at every pole.

Courtesy of Edward J. Grace 11/8/2009

An engineer and  mathematician are both aimlessly wandering the infinite complex plane when lo and behold they both spy a buxom young lady Physicist draped around a pole at the origin.

On approaching her she shouts at them to stop and points to the unit circle just in front of them.

"Ok guys, here's the deal" she says, "starting on the unit circle, every minute each one of you can halve the distance between your position and mine".

"Whoever gets to me first can have me!"

The mathematician thinks for a moment, recognising that this is an asymptotic series and that it will take an infinite amount of time for him to get to the origin. He walks off in disgust -- besides he'd heard rumours that there's a pub at  15+7i.

The engineer thinks for a moment, recognising that this is an asymptotic series and that it will take an infinite amount of time for him to get to the origin. He walks on muttering -- "Stuff it, I can get close enough!".

Courtesy of Edward J. Grace 11/8/2009

An engineer, mathematician and physicist are all seated in a car munching their lunch.  After sitting in awkward silence for twenty minutes with nothing happening they all spot a man enter a building next to the car. The engineer, quips "Ah a state change!".

A few minutes later a woman enters the same building and almost immediately after both her and the man hurriedly  emerge, this time accompanied by another man.  The engineer again quips "Hey, they've been breeding." to which the physicist replies "And they've got a time machine!".

The mathematician, silent until this point, pipes up -- "None of you understand the deep significance of this,  now we need someone to go in to that building to make it empty again"!

Courtesy of Bill Lionheart 24/8/2009

A mathematical biologist was out walking in the countryside and met a shepherd with a large flock of sheep. He says to the shepherd

"If I can tell you exactly how many sheep you have in this field will you give me one?"

The shepherd looks surprised but agrees. The mathematician looks around and by applying some clever methodology says


"That's exactly right" says the astonished shepherd "choose which ever you like."

The mathematician chooses his prize and picks it up. The shepherd then says

"If I can say exactly what you do for a living will you give me the animal back."

They agree on the bet and the shepherd says

"mathematical biologist"

"How ever did you know that?" replies the dumbfounded academic.

"Well, you obviously had some clever method for counting sheep so I thought you were some kind of mathematician. But what really clinched it was when you picked up my sheep dog".

Courtesy of Mitya Boyarchenko 3/9/2010

Q. What is the definition of an American Hotel California call option?

A. You can exercise it any time you like, but you can never get the underlying.

Courtesy of Audrey Tan 29/10/2010

An engineer, a physicist and a mathematician were stranded on a desert island and hadn't eaten for days.  They found a can of baked beans but had nothing with which to open it.  

The engineer took the can of baked beans and bashed it hard against a rock several times.  The can didn't open.  

The physicist took the can of baked beans, climbed up a coconut tree and dropped the can from a great height.  He tried this several times but still, the can didn't open.  

After their repeated failed attempts, the engineer and physicist looked over at the mathematician who was perfectly calm and not the slightest bit concerned.  "Aren't you going to do something??", they asked.

 Eventually, the mathematician pulled out a pencil and a piece of paper and started writing, 'Suppose we have a can opener...


Courtesy of  Matthias Fahrenwaldt 25/11/2010

How many Cambridge rowers does it take to change a light bulb? Nine: one holds it in the air and the other eight drink until the room starts spinning round.

Courtesy of Steven Flintham 15/2/2011

I was an undergrad at Bristol University. 

We had a third year lecture on mathematical logic in a lecture theatre which obviously served a number of departments. 

The lecture before ours was obviously philosophical.

One day the lecturer turned up, looked at the blackboards and said 

"I see the philosophers have been proving the existence of God. Our proofs today won't be quite so exciting." 

He turned his back on us and started to clean the blackboards. A minute later he turned back to us and said

"But our proofs will at least be valid."


Courtesy of John FItzherbert 15/2/2011

Q: Why didn't Newton invent group theory
A: He wasn't Abel
Q: Why is the contour integral of western Europe equal to zero
A: All the Poles are in the east...
Q: What's purple and commutes
A: An abelian grape
And, a final thought...
Old mathematicians never die, they just lose some of their functions.


Courtesy of Leland Harriger 09/08/2011

A Cambridge student, an Oxford student, and a University of Bristol student are climbing a mountain and arguing about who loves their school the most. The Bristol student insists that he is the most loyal.

''This is for the University of Bristol!'' he yells, and jumps off the mountain.

Not to be out done, the Cambidge student is next to profess his love for his school. He yells, "This is for Cambidge!" and pushes the Oxford student off the mountain.



Courtesy of Ulrik J. Nørreris 28/11/2011

This is a true story from the Department of Mathematics at the University of Aarhus, Denmark.

During one of our lectures a janitor enters the theater and starts walking around looking at the ceiling. After a while our professor stopped lecturing and asked the janitor if something was wrong. "Not at all," the janitor replied. "I'm just counting the lights in the ceiling." "Why don't you just count the number along the length and breadth of the room and just multiply the results?" our professor asked. "That may be good enouh, if you are in a hurry," the janitor replied, "but I have to have the exact number."



Courtesy of Andrea Libbi 23/2/2012


A piece of land is offered to an engineer, a mathematician and a developer, but only the area they will be able to surround with a given rope. Everyone's attempt is then to draw the largest circle, in order to buy up more land. The developer rather impulsively takes the rope and tries to form a circle as large as possible. The engineer reflects a moment, takes the rope and starts to cut it down into thinner pieces, then he ties the pieces to each other and draws a circle even bigger.

The mathematician simply puts the rope on the ground, draws a circle around his feet and says "I declare myself to be on the outside."


Three researchers - an engineer, a physicist and a mathematician are in a hotel for an international conference.
Towards midnight the engineer wakes up and smells smoke. He walks down the hall and sees a fire. Runs up to his room, fills the garbage can with water and puts out the fire. Then he goes back to bed.

An hour after the physicist wakes up and smells smoke. He opens the door of his room and sees a fire in the lobby. He takes the anti-fire emergency pump and, after calculating the speed of the flames, the distance, water pressure, trajectory, etc.., extinguishes the fire with the least expenditure of energy and water. Then he goes back to bed.

An hour after the mathematician wakes up and smells smoke. He walks down the hall, sees a fire and the fire extinguisher. He reflects a moment and then exclaims: "Ah, a solution exists!" . Then he goes back to sleep.


A student of Mathematics, who usually went on foot, arrived one day in a fantastic new bicycle.

"Where did you get that bike?" his friends asked.

"An undergrad girl gave it to me because I gave her so me private lessons. She phoned me yesterday to tell me she had passed the exam and she wanted to thank me in person. She came to my house by bike. When I let her in, she took off all her clothes, smiled and said, 'Take what you want!' "

One of the friends said: "You have done well getting her bike."

Another added: "It 's true. Imagine how you'd be ridiculous wearing women's clothes! That maybe were not even your size!"

Why are young mathematicians nervous and do little sex?
Because they are told that nothing is better than sex and that coffee is better than nothing, and then they claim that coffee is better than sex ...

Courtesy of Ian Prior 26/7/2012

I just poured a root beer into a square glass, and now it's just beer!


Courtesy of Manny Rayner 9/6/2014

Q: What's yellow and equivalent to the Axiom of Choice?

A: Zorn's Lemon.


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