Math Humor:

           I have heard some of the jokes below from friends and colleagues.  I have tried to indicate the source/origin whenever possible. In some cases, I simply do not know/remember the source.



             1.  Homework Exercise:   Show that the determinant of a triangular matrix is equal to the product of entries on the diagonal.

                  Student’s Reaction:     What you mean a triangular matrix, matrices are always rectangular!

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             2. Wilhelm Magnus: “I don’t mind writing student’s thesis, but I object when they come to check the rate of my progress”


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             3. S.Abhyankar: Towards the end of my first summer at Harvard, i.e. late August or early September of 1952, one day I met Zariski riding home on his bicycle. Seeing me he got down and we chatted a bit. Then I asked him if I could have a reading course with him that fall. Whereupon he asked me if I was going to register for his course on algebraic curves. When I said I did not know, he responded that then he would not give me a reading course. To that I shrugged my shoulders, and he started riding away. After going a bit he returned. Getting down from his bicycle , he asked me if I was going to work with him. Again, when I said I did not know, he repeated that he would not give me a reading course and started riding away. After riding off a short distance he again returned. Again getting down from his bicycle, he said:”All right, you may have a reading course”.


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             4. THEOREM: There exist infinitely many composite numbers.

                 Proof: Assume there are only finitely many of them: q1, q2, ... , qn. Take their product and do not add 1.


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             5.  The point has non-zero zero homology and zero non-zero homology. (Igor Mineyev)


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             6.  From the preface of one graduate textbook in mathematics: "This book is dedicated to my wife and to my daughter, without whom it would have been written a year earlier".


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             7.  Quiz Question: "Give an example of an elliptic curve".
                  Answer: "Ellipse!"

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             8. There are not many perfect men, just like perfect numbers.


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             9.   AMS Subject Classification List -

                     1. Functional Analysis.
                     2. Analytical Functions.

                     3. Geometric Algebra.
                     4. Algebraic Geometry.

                     5. Algebraic Topology.
                     6. Topological Algebra.

                     7. Geometric Analysis.
                     8. Analytical Geometry.

                     9. Geometric Topology.
                    10. Topological Geometry???

                    11. Algebraic Analysis.
                    12. Analytical Algebra.

                    13. Topological Analysis.
                    14. Analytical Topology???

          The question marks will be deleted as mathematics keeps developing!  If you have never heard of areas like "topological analysis" check with google.

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     10. For simplicity, let us assume that Earth is a torus... (L.Butler)

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   11. My friend E. found a postdoctoral position in Beer-Sheva, Israel. Someone else asked him:"E, I heard you found a job somewhere in the Midwest!"."No", said E, "I actually found it in the Middle East".

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  12. Vladimir Retakh: We continued the game with formulas in Gelfand’s kitchen in Moscow. Once a government official phoned Gelfand. He complained that his thirteen-year-old son hated mathematics and asked Gelfand for advice. I expected to hear a cascade of Gelfand’s jokes, but he was dead serious. He asked the boy to pick up the phone and said, “I will give you just three problems: multiply one by one, one by negative one, and negative one by negative one.” The teenager gave the correct answer to the first two questions and then stopped. “That’s great,” Gelfand said, “you already know two thirds of all mathematics; you just need to try a little bit to get the rest of it”.

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13. An equivalence relation is the one which is reflexive, symmetric and transitive. For example, the friendship is not an equivalence relation; it is not transitive. But it is also not symmetric, and not even reflexive; not every person is his/her own friend…

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14. A US senator (apparently a fiscal conservative): the NSF is spending money on lie theory, for God’s sake…

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15. Paul Erdȍs is often quoted saying: “mathematicians are machines which convert coffee into theorems”. Once, attending a conference in US, Erdȍs sips coffee and sighs: “this is not going to produce even a lemma…”

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16. The primary reason Bourbaki stopped writing books was the realization that Lang was a single person.  (told by Faraad Armwood)

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17. When you dip a doughnut in a brandy it becomes a Kelin Bottle… because it looses its orientation.

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18. Hilbert had a student who one day presented him with a paper purpoting to prove the Riemann Hypothesis. Hilbert studied the paper carefully and was impressed by depth of the argument; but unfortunately he found an error in it which even he could not eliminate. The following year the student died. Hilbert asked the grieving parents if he might be permitted to make a funeral oration. While the student’s relatives and friends were weeping beside the grave in the rain, Hilbert came forward. He began by saying what a tragedy it was that such a gifted young man had died before he had had an opportunity to show what he could accomplish. But, he continued, in spite of the fact that this young man’s proof contained an error, it was still possible that one day a proof of the famous problem would be obtained along the lines which the deceased had indicated. “In fact”, he continued with enthusiasm, standing there in the rain by the dead student’s grave, “let us consider a function of a complex variable…”  (told by Faraad Armwood)

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19. – What is the middle name of Benoit B. Mandelbrot?

     -- Benoit B. Mandelbrot.

 (told by Morgan O’Brien).

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20. -- Can you make an anagram of Banach Tarski?

      -- Banach Tarski Banach Tarski.

(Morgan O’Brien)

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21. One then checks that the following diagram commutes

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22. Should you ask a question during a seminar?