# Zero Gravity: The Lighter Side of Science

## Didja hear the One About... Celebrating the Art of Bad Physics Jokes

The Odd Primes joke

There was a mad social scientist who kidnapped three colleagues, an *engineer*, a *physicist*, and a *mathematician*, and locked each of them in separate cells with plenty of canned food and water but no can opener.

A month later, returning, the mad scientist went to the *engineer's* cell and found it long empty. The engineer had constructed a can opener from pocket trash, used aluminum shavings and dried sugar to make an explosive, and escaped.

The *physicist* had worked out the angle necessary to knock the lids off the tin cans by throwing them against the wall. She was developing a good pitching arm and a new quantum theory.

The *mathematician* had stacked the unopened cans into a surprising solution to the kissing problem; his desicated corpse was propped calmly against a wall, and this was inscribed on the floor in blood:

**Theorem:** If I can't open these cans, I'll die.

**Proof:** Assume the opposite...

A *physicist*, an *engineer* and a *mathematician* were asked how much three times three is.

The *engineer* grabbed his pocket calculator, eagerly pressed a couple of buttons and announced: "9.0000".

The *physicist* made an approximation (with an error estimate) and said: "9.00 q 0.02".

The *mathematician* took a piece of paper and a pencil and sat quietly for half an hour. He then proudly declared: 'There is a solution and I have proved that it is unique!'

A *physicist*, an *engineer* and a *mathematician* were all in a hotel sleeping when a fire broke out in their respective rooms.

The *physicist* woke up, saw the fire, ran over to her desk, pulled out her CRC, and began working out all sorts of fluid dynamics equations. After a couple minutes, she threw down her pencil, got a graduated cylinder out of his suitcase, and measured out a precise amount of water. She threw it on the fire, extinguishing it, with not a drop wasted, and went back to sleep.

The *engineer* woke up, saw the fire, ran into the bathroom, turned on the faucets full-blast, flooding out the entire room, which put out the fire, and went back to sleep.

The *mathematician* woke up, saw the fire, ran over to his desk, began working through theorems, lemmas, hypotheses , you-name-it, and after a few minutes, put down his pencil triumphantly and exclaimed, "I have "proven" that I "can" put the fire out!" He then went back to sleep.

In the high school gym, all the girls in the class were lined up against one wall, and all the boys against the opposite wall. Then, every ten seconds, they walked toward each other until they were half the previous distance apart.

A *mathematician*, a *physicist*, and an *engineer* were asked, "When will the girls and boys meet?"

The *mathematician* said: "Never."

The *physicist* said: "In an infinite amount of time."

The *engineer* said: "Well...in about two minutes, they'll be close enough for all practical purposes."

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* 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* 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* puts a small fence around himself and then declares, "I define myself to be on the outside!"

An *astronomer*, a *physicist* and a *mathematician* were holidaying in Scotland. Glancing from a train window, they observed a black sheep in the middle of a field.

"How interesting," observed the *astronomer*, "all Scottish sheep are black!"

To which the *physicist* responded, "No, no! Some Scottish sheep are black!"

The *mathematician* intoned, "In Scotland there exists at least one field, containing at least one sheep, at least one side of which is black."

What is the difference between and *engineer*, a *physicist*, and a *mathematician*?

An *engineer* believes equations approximate the world.

A *physicist* believes the world approximates equations.

A *mathematician* sees no connection between the two.

A *farmer*, an *engineer*, and a *physicist* were all asked to build a chicken coop.

The *farmer* says, "Well, last time I had so many chickens and my coop was so and so big and this time I have this many chickens so I'll make it this much bigger."

The *engineer* tackles the problem by surveying, costing materials, reading up on chickens and their needs, writing down a bunch of equations to maximize chicken-to-cost ratio, taking into account the lay of the land and writing a computer program.

The *physicist* looks at the problem and says, "Let's start by assuming spherical chickens....".

A *physicist*, an *engineer*, and a *statistician* were out game hunting.

The *engineer* spied a bear in the distance, so they got a little closer. "Let me take the first shot!" said the engineer, who missed the bear by three meters to the left.

"You're incompetent! Let me try" insisted the *physicist*, who then proceeded to miss by three meters to the right.

"Ooh, we got him!!" said the *statistician*.

**How they knew it was a deer:**

The *physicist* observed that it behaved in a deer-like manner, so it must be a deer.

The *mathematician* asked the physicist what it was, thereby reducing it to a previously solved problem.

The *engineer* was in the woods to hunt deer, therefore it was a deer.

*And finally, we offer our readers* **"The Metajoke"**:

An *engineer*, a *physicist* and a *mathematician* find themselves in an anecdote, indeed an anecdote quite similar to many that you have no doubt already heard.

After some observations and rough calculations the *engineer* realizes the situation and starts laughing.

A few minutes later the *physicist* understands too and chuckles to himself happily, as he now has enough experimental evidence to publish a paper.

This leaves the *mathematician* somewhat perplexed, as he had observed right away that he was the subject of an anecdote, and deduced quite rapidly the presence of humor from similar anecdotes, but considers this anecdote to be too trivial a corollary to be significant, let alone funny.

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Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette