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Past jokes (or quotes) of the month

Some past headlines from The Onion:
  • San Diego Zoo Lays Off 2,000 Animals (subtitle: Animals Let Out of Cages, Producing 'Leaner, Healthier' Zoo)
  • New Documentary Reveals SeaWorld Forced Orca Whales To Perform Nude
  • Winner Didn't Even Know It Was Pie-Eating Contest
  • Underfunded Scientists Force Lipstick-Covered Rat With Cancer To Run Through Maze
  • Drugs Win Drug War
  • CIA Realizes It's Been Using Black Highlighters All These Years

Some more headlines from The Onion:
  • Dolphin Spends Amazing Vacation Swimming With Stockbroker
  • Study Reveals Dolphins Lack Capacity To Mock Celebrity Culture
  • God Answers Prayers of Paralyzed Little Boy: `No,' Says God
  • World Death Rate Holding Steady at 100 Percent
  • President Lincoln Sick Of Time Travelers
  • Scientists Successfully Teach Gorilla It Will Die Someday

A logician's wife is having a baby. The doctor hands the newborn to the dad and the wife asks "Is it a boy or a girl?".

"Yes", replies the logician.

Two theoretical physicists are lost at the top of a mountain. Theoretical physicist No 1 pulls out a map and peruses it for a while. Then he turns to theoretical physicist No 2 and says: "Hey, I've figured it out. I know where we are."
"Where are we then?"
"Do you see that mountain over there?"
"Yes."
"Well… THAT'S where we are."

A woman asks her husband, a programmer, to go shopping.
Wife: "Dear, please, go to the grocery store to buy some bread. Also, if they have eggs, buy 6."
Husband: "O. K., hun."
Half hour later the husband comes back bringing 6 loaves of bread. His wife is flabbergasted.
Wife: "Dear, why on earth did you buy 6 loaves of bread?"
Husband: "They had eggs."

From Nuts&Volts magazine (www. nutsvolts. com), with thanks to member #108180 (Richard in Florida) for sending this to us.

Put off your imagination, as you put off your overcoat, when you enter the laboratory. But put it on again, as you put on your overcoat, when you leave. -- Attributed to Claude Bernard (French physiologist, 1813-1878)

Famous insults, Part 1 of 4
  • "He has all the virtues that I dislike and none of the vices that I admire." -- Winston Churchill
  • "I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it." -- Mark Twain
  • "His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork." -- Mae West
  • "He loves nature in spite of what it did to him." -- Forrest Tucker

Famous insults, Part 2 of 4
  • "I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend. If you have one." -- George Bernard Shaw to Churchill
  • "Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second... if there is one." -- Churchill to Shaw
  • "I've had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn't it." -- Groucho Marx
  • "He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp posts; for support rather than illumination." -- Andrew Lang

Famous insults, Part 3 of 4
  • "He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary." -- William Faulkner about Hemingway
  • "Does he really think big emotions come from big words?" -- Hemingway about Faulkner
  • "He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends." -- Oscar Wilde
  • "Some of my best leading men have been dogs and horses." -- Elizabeth Taylor

Famous insults, Part 4 of 4
  • "There's nothing wrong with you that reincarnation won't cure." -- Jack E. Leonard
  • "He inherited some good instincts from his Quaker forebearers, but by diligent hard work, he overcame them." -- James Reston about Nixon
  • "I've learned about his illness. Let's hope it's nothing trivial." -- Irvin S. Cobb
  • "The woman speaks eight languages, and can't say 'no' in any of them." -- Dorothy Parker
  • "He has delusions of adequacy". -- Walter Kerr

Here's a joke from ancient Rome:

A guy meets his friend on the street and says "But I heard you were dead!".

"Well, I'm not. You can see me. Here I am."

"But the person who told me you were dead is much more reliable than you are."

Some book-related and literary quotes:

Someone told me that each equation I included in the book would halve the sales.
— Stephen Hawking, 'A Brief History of Time', 1988

Literature is mostly about having sex and not much about having children; life is the other way round.
— David Lodge

Mr J Ruskin is about to begin a work of great importance and, therefore, begs that in reference to calls and correspondence you will consider him dead for the next two months.
— John Ruskin (circular, attrib.)

Here is that marriage of style and content we look for in all great writing. A shatteringly vulgar and worthless life captured in shatteringly vulgar and worthless prose.
— Stephen Fry, 'Paperweight', 1992

The covers of this book are too far apart.
— Ambrose Bierce

I have been commissioned to write an autobiography and I would be grateful to any of your readers who could tell me what I was doing between 1960 and 1974.
— Jeffrey Bernard

My favorite poem is 'Thirty days hath September' because it actually tells you something.
— Groucho Marx (attrib.)

Reactions to books:
  • "Once you've put one of his books down, you simply can't pick it up again." — Mark Twain (of Henry James)
  • "This is not a book to be laid aside lightly. It must be thrown with great force." — Dorothy Parker
  • "I shall lose no time in reading your book." — Benjamin Disraeli
  • "From the time I picked up your book until I put it down I was convulsed with laughter. Some day I intend reading it." — Groucho Marx

Here is the last installment of actual headlines from newspapers:

Here are more actual headlines from newspapers (part 3 of 4 parts; continued in next newsletter):

Here are more actual headlines from newspapers (part 2 of 4 parts; continued in next newsletter):

No flies on some of our friends in the news media, as the following headlines show (part 1 of 4 parts; continued in next newsletter):

They have just found the gene for shyness. They would have found it earlier, but it was hiding behind two other genes.

A group of wealthy investors wanted to be able to predict the outcome of a horse race. So they hired a group of biologists, a group of statisticians, and a group of physicists. Each group was given a year to research the issue.

After one year, the groups all reported to the investors. The biologists said that they could genetically engineer an unbeatable racehorse, but it would take 50 years and $100 billion. The statisticians reported next. They said that they could predict the outcome of any race, at a cost of $100 million per race, and they would only be right 10% of the time.

Finally, the physicists reported that they could also predict the outcome of any race, and that their process was cheap and simple. The investors listened eagerly to this proposal. The head physicist continued, "We have made several simplifying assumptions: first, let each horse be a perfect rolling sphere… "

William Randolph Hearst, always in search of sensational stories, once sent a telegram to a leading astronomer: "Is where life on Mars?" it read. "Please cable 1000 words."

The astronomer's reply? "Nobody knows" — repeated 500 times.

Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937) was a New Zealand-born British physicist who became known as the father of nuclear physics. One student in Rutherford's lab was very hard-working. Rutherford had noticed it and asked one evening:
"Do you work in the mornings too?"
"Yes", the student proudly answered, sure he would be commended.
"But when do you think?" replied the amazed Rutherford.

You might be a grad student if ...
  • you can analyze the workings of appliances you cannot operate.
  • your carrel 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 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 referring to stories like "Snow White et al."
  • you sometimes wonder how long you can live on pasta without getting scurvy.
  • you find the bibliographies of books more interesting than the actual text.
  • you look forward to taking some time off to do laundry.
  • you have accepted guilt as an inherent feature of relaxation.
  • you wonder if APA style allows you to cite talking to yourself as "personal communication".
[David McKay and Philip Clarke]

"Blood samples were spun at 1500rpm because the centrifuge made a scary noise at higher speeds."

See this and other disarmingly frank explanations from scientists of their methodologies: here.

Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible; thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions and comfortable habit. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid. Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man.

— Bertrand Russell

From a compilation* of newspaper corrections:
  • "Due to a typing error, Saturday's story on local artist Jon Henninger mistakenly reported that Henninger's band mate, Eric Lyday, was on drugs. The story should have read that Lyday was on drums." — Morning Sentinel, Illinois, 2012
  • "An earlier version of this article misidentified the number of years E. B. White wrote for The New Yorker. It was five decades, not centuries." — New York Times, 2012
  • "The Ottawa Citizen and Southam News wish to apologize for our apology to Mark Steyn, published Oct. 22. In correcting the incorrect statements about Mr. Steyn published Oct. 15, we incorrectly published the incorrect correction. We accept and regret that our initial regrets were unacceptable and we apologize to Mr. Steyn for any distress caused by our previous apology." — Ottawa Citizen, 2001
  • "There was an error printed in a story titled ‘Pigs float down the Dawson' on Page 11 of yesterday's Bully. The story, by reporter Daniel Burdon, said ‘more than 30,000 pigs were floating down the Dawson River'. What Baralaba piggery owner Sid Everingham actually said was '30 sows and pigs', not '30,000 pigs'. The Morning Bulletin would like to apologise for this error, which was also reprinted in today's Rural Weekly CQ before the mistake was known." — Morning Bulletin, Australia
* Toby Manhire, The Internaut

A mathematician is a device for turning coffee into theorems. — Paul Erdos

This post happily existed in all states before you observed it.

Now it has collapsed into a single state.

I hope you're satisfied.

Here is a teaching tip for physics professors: When a student tries to paraphrase something you have just taught, feed her or him the following line: "I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant." This will guarantee that the student will not interrupt your class again until the next semester.

RENEWABLE AND NON-RENEWABLE RESOURCES

Two anecdotes demonstrate the difference between renewable and non-renewable resources. First the non-renewable:

The congregation of a small stone church (in England?) decided that the stone which formed the step up to the front door had become too worn by its years of use, and would have to be replaced. Unfortunately, there were hardly any funds available for the replacement. Then someone came up with the bright idea that the replacement could be postponed for many years by simply turning the block of stone over.

They discovered that their great-grandparents had beaten them to it.

------------------------------------------------

Now the renewable:

An entomologist at New College, Oxford ("New" because its only a few centuries old), discovered beetles infesting the oak beams supporting the roof of the Great Hall. It was fairly urgent that these be replaced before the roof collapsed -- but anyone who has looked at the price of oak lately can tell you that this was not something the college budget was prepared for.

Since oak from a commercial supplier was out of the question, someone suggested that the college Forester be sent for. His job was to administer the various scattered tracts of land that had been deeded to the college when it was founded. The trustees hoped he might know of suitable trees on college land.

It turned out that there was indeed a suitable stand of mighty oaks. They had been planted when the college was founded, and down the centuries each Forester had told his successor: "You don't cut those oaks; those are for when the beetles get into the beams in the Main Hall."

From: dgil#NoSpam.ipsaint.ipsa.reuter.com (Gillett, David)

Not science related, but we liked these letters to the Editor of Toronto's Globe & Mail on the topic of signs:

Signboard outside a pub in England's Lake District: "I wandered lonely as a cloud. Then I thought, sod it, I'm stopping for a pint."

Plaque on a house in Hamilton's Durand neighbourhood (which includes many old heritage homes): "On this site in 1893, nothing happened."

Years ago, on a farm east of Calgary, as a warning to thieves: "Anyone found here at night will be found here in the morning."

Sign in the Shwendagon Pagoda in Rangoon (now Yangon): "Do not go putting on your shoes. Foot wearing prohibited. Sox not allowed."

Seen on a sign in a Toronto deli in front of a bin of dinner rolls: "Please handle buns with the thongs provided."

Seen on a sign at a Toronto restaurant: "Reputable since 1955." What was it before then?

Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937), New Zealand physicist, noticed that one student in his lab was very hard-working. He asked him one evening:
"Do you work in the mornings too?"
"Yes", proudly answered the student sure he would be commended.
"But when do you think?" responded Rutherford, amazed.

Paul Erdos, currently most prolific mathematician in history, is always making jokes about how old he is. (He says, for example, that he is two and a half billion years old, because in his youth the age of the Earth was known to be two billion years and now it is known to be 4. 5 billion years.)

He observed one day that the audiences at his talks had been getting larger and larger, to the point where they filled halls so big that his old and feeble voice could not be heard. Erdos speculated as to the cause of this.

"I think," he said, "it must be that everyone wants to be able to say 'I remember Erdos; why, I even attended his last lecture!'"

Red Alert! Red Alert!

NaCl
NaOH

A base is under a salt!

by Mark Lorch (a chemist at the University of Hull). Condensed/adapted from The Guardian

Scientists take to Twitter to reveal their less than scientific methods

Scientists are a precise bunch. Our experiments are carefully planned down to the last detail, the methods we use are selected with great care and forethought and our sample sizes are perfectly calibrated to ensure statistically valid results. But first our hypotheses are constructed only after carefully reading our peers' work.

Recently, scientists from all four corners of the twitterverse have shaken that image with 140-character salvos all bearing the hashtag #overlyhonestmethods. Most of these tweets are jokes that rail against the stuffy and sometimes unclear way that scientific papers are written, but they contain more than a grain of truth.

It all started with a neuropharmacologist researcher and blogger called Leigh when she tweeted "incubation lasted three days because this is how long the undergrad forgot the experiment in the fridge #overlyhonestmethods". It didn't take long for the hashtag to go viral. More tweets along similar lines followed including "…the chemicals were combined & stirred by hand for 2 hours by our project students as they were getting on our nerves" from @Simonleighuk, "The experiment was left for the precise time that it took for us to get a cup of tea" from @mahzabin and my favourite from @sciliz "the eppendorf tubes were 'shaken like a polaroid picture' until that part of the song ended". So maybe those reasons for particular reaction times aren't based on quite so sound scientific reasons after all?

What about our equipment and sample sizes? Ecologists @biosciencemum and @bgrassbluecrab had something to say about that: "Our experimental equipment was a paddling pool, a bucket with a hole in, some gaffer tape and three cardboard boxes", and "we didn't test as many clams as oysters because we're pretty sure someone found the samples and ate them". You don't see that appearing in journals now do you? (But maybe you should)

Then there's that nice narrative describing that logical series of steps. Well, guess what: "The logical sequence of experiments and ideas expressed in this paper may not have actually occurred in the order given" from @upulie, and "There was no plan - we just tried stuff we thought would be interesting until something interesting happened" by @russelgarwood.

As for those carefully read papers from our peers, well sometimes budget cuts get in the way: "We didn't read half of the papers we cite because they are behind a paywall," wrote @devillesylvain.

So what started as a single tweet from a frustrated scientist has ended up becoming one of the most fabulous, frank and funny pieces of science communication I've seen in a long time. Some might worry that these tweets have presented scientists as hapless and undermined confidence in science. But I think they have provided a rare insight into the everyday lives of scientists and demonstrated that we are human like everyone else. Moreover, #overlyhonestmethods has managed to demystify science in a way that no other example of science reporting, blogging or broadcasting can quite manage.

"For NASA, space is still a high priority." — Dan Quayle

"When I find myself in the company of scientists, I feel like a shabby curate who has strayed by mistake into a room full of dukes."
W. H. Auden

Inanimate objects can be classified scientifically into three major categories: those that don't work, those that break down and those that get lost. — Russell Baker

"He is so old that his blood type was discontinued." — Bill Dana

The scientific theory I like best is that the rings of Saturn are composed entirely of lost airline luggage.

— Mark Russell

RENEWABLE AND NON-RENEWABLE RESOURCES

Two anecdotes demonstrate the difference between renewable and non-renewable resources. First the non-renewable:

The congregation of a small stone church (in England?) decided that the stone which formed the step up to the front door had become too worn by its years of use, and would have to be replaced. Unfortunately, there were hardly any funds available for the replacement. Then someone came up with the bright idea that the replacement could be postponed for many years by simply turning the block of stone over.

They discovered that their great-grandparents had beaten them to it.

------------------------------------------------

Now the renewable:

An entomologist at New College, Oxford ("New" because its only a few centuries old), discovered beetles infesting the oak beams supporting the roof of the Great Hall. It was fairly urgent that these be replaced before the roof collapsed -- but anyone who has looked at the price of oak lately can tell you that this was not something the college budget was prepared for.

Since oak from a commercial supplier was out of the question, someone suggested that the college Forester be sent for. His job was to administer the various scattered tracts of land that had been deeded to the college when it was founded. The trustees hoped he might know of suitable trees on college land.

It turned out that there was indeed a suitable stand of mighty oaks. They had been planted when the college was founded, and down the centuries each Forester had told his successor: "You don't cut those oaks; those are for when the beetles get into the beams in the Main Hall."

From: dgil#NoSpam.ipsaint.ipsa.reuter.com (Gillett, David)

Albert Szent-Gyorgyi once submitted a paper describing his isolation of a new sugar molecule to the noted scientific journal Nature. His discovery, like all sugars, required a name ending in "-ose" (as, for example, sucrose, glucose, and fructose). Given its uncertain structure, Szent-Gyorgyi suggested the name "ignose."

The journal's sober editors promptly rejected the frivolous name and asked Szent-Gyorgyi to endow the sugar with a new one before resubmitting the paper. His new suggestion? "Godnose!"

Around the time when Cold War started, Bertrand Russell was giving a lecture on politics in England. Being a leftist in a conservative women's club, he was not received well at all: the ladies came up to him and started attacking him with whatever they could get their hands on. The guard, being an English gentleman, did not want to be rough to the ladies and yet needed to save Russell from them. He said, "But he is a great mathematician!" The ladies ignored him. The guard said again, "But he is a great philosopher!" The ladies ignore him again. In desperation, finally, he said, "But his brother is an earl!" Bert was saved.

Seen on the door to a light-wave lab:
"Do not look into laser with remaining good eye."

"It was absolutely marvelous working for [Wolfgang] Pauli. You could ask him anything. There was no worry that he would think a particular question was stupid, since he thought all questions were stupid."
— Victor Frederick Weisskopf

"I am afraid the knockabout comedy of modern atomic physics is not very tender towards our aesthetic ideals. The stately drama of stellar evolution turns out to be more like the hair-breadth escapades in the films. The music of the spheres has a painful suggestion of — jazz."

— Arthur S. Eddington, Stars and Atoms, 1928.

Quote from Charles Babbage (1792-1871, English mathematician and inventor of computer):
"On two occasions I have been asked [by members of Parliament], 'Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?' I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question."

It is not conclusive yet, but the NASA believes the Mars Pathfinder has found proof of life on Mars. The cd player was stolen.

Q: What weapon can you make from the elements Potassium, Nickel and Iron?
A: KNiFe.

You've probably heard about the Mars Pathfinder probe. Once it lands on the red planet, Pathfinder will release the Sojourner rover, a little laboratory on wheels. Sojourner will cruise about the Martian surface performing experiments. It turns out that Sojourner and Pathfinder will communicate using two standard, off-the-shelf 9600 baud radio modems.

According to Jet Propulsion Laboratory program manager Donna Shirley, the modem manufacturer warned JPL that sending the modem to Mars would void the warranty.

Thoughts on physics:

Physics is like sex: sure, it may give some practical results, but that's not why we do it. -- Richard Feynman.

Physics is not a religion. If it were, we'd have a much easier time raising money. -- Leon Lederman

To this day, lab directors keep a physics lecture on hand [to disperse rabble-rousers]. Let us pray we never need to use it." -- Lederman

I know that this defies the law of gravity, but, you see, I never studied law.
— Bugs Bunny

One day our professor was discussing a particularly complicated concept. A pre-med student rudely interrupted to ask, "Why do we have to learn this pointless information?"

"To save lives." the professor responded quickly and continued the lecture.

A few minutes later, the same student spoke up again. "So how does physics save lives?" he persisted.

"It keeps the ignoramuses like you out of medical school," replied the professor.

On a paper submitted by a physicist colleague:
"This isn't right. This isn't even wrong."
-- Wolfgang Pauli, Austrian physicist (1900-1958)

"Why don't we break away from all this and lodge with my fleas in the hills... I mean, flee to my lodge in the hills?"

— Groucho Marx

Since one sometimes does not take the derivative of f with respect to x, does x feel insulted?

The experimentalist comes running excitedly into the theorist's office, waving a graph taken off his latest experiment. "Hmmm," says the theorist, "That's exactly where you'd expect to see that peak. Here's the reason: [long logical explanation follows]" In the middle of it, the experimentalist says "Wait a minute", studies the chart for a second, and says, "Oops, this is upside down." He fixes it. "Hmmm," says the theorist, "you'd expect to see a dip in exactly that position. Here's the reason...".

A chemist walks into a pharmacy and asks the pharmacist, "Do you have any acetylsalicylic acid?" "You mean aspirin?" asked the pharmacist. "That's it, I can never remember that word."

Genetics explain why you look like your father and if you don't, why you should.

Every Friday afternoon, a mathematician goes down to the bar, sits in the second-to-last seat, turns to the last seat, which is empty, and asks a girl who isn't there if he can buy her a drink.

The bartender, who is used to weird university types, always shrugs but keeps quiet. But when Valentine's Day arrives, and the mathematician makes a particularly heart-wrenching plea into empty space, curiosity gets the better of the bartender, and he says, "I apologize for my stupid questions, but surely you know there is NEVER a woman sitting in that last stool. Why do you persist in asking out empty space?"

The mathematician replies, "Well, according to quantum physics, empty space is never truly empty. Virtual particles come into existence and vanish all the time. You never know when the proper wave function will collapse and a girl might suddenly appear there."

The bartender raises his eyebrows. "Really? Interesting. But couldn't you just ask one of the girls who comes here every Friday if you could buy HER a drink? Never know... she might say yes."

The mathematician laughs. "Yeah, right -- how likely is THAT to happen?"

from Kevin L. Schwartz ( Kvschwartz#NoSpam. aol. com)

As reported in the Massachusetts Bar Association Lawyers Journal, the following are questions actually asked of witnesses by attorneys during trial, and in certain cases, the responses given by insightful witnesses:


"Now doctor, isn't it true that when a person dies in his sleep, he doesn't know about it until the next morning?"


"The youngest son, the twenty-year-old, how old is he?"


"Were you present when your picture was taken?"


"Were you alone or by yourself?"


"Was it you or your younger brother who was killed in the war?"


"Did he kill you?"


"How far apart were the vehicles at the time of the collision?"


"You were there until the time you left, is that true?"


"How many times have you committed suicide?"


Q: "So the date of conception [of the baby] was August 8th?"
A: "Yes."
Q: "And what were you doing at the time?"


Q: "She had three children, right??"
A: "Yes."
Q: "How many were boys?"
A: "None."
Q: "Were there any girls?"


Q: "You say the stairs went down to the basement?"
A: "Yes."
Q: "And these stairs, did they go up also?"


Q: "Mr. Slatery, you went on a rather elaborate honeymoon, didn't you?"
A: "I went to Europe, Sir."
Q: "And you took your new wife?"


Q: "How was your first marriage terminated?"
A: "By death."
Q: "And by whose death was it terminated?"


Q: "Can you describe the individual?"
A: "He was about medium height and had a beard."
Q: "Was this a male, or a female?"


Q: "Is your appearance here this morning in answer to a deposition notice which I sent you your attorney?"
A: "No, this is how I dress when I go to work."


Q: "Doctor, how many autopsies have you performed on dead people?"
A: "All my autopsies are performed on dead people."


Q: "All your responses must be oral, OK? What school did you go to?"
A: "Oral."


Q: "Do you recall the time that you examined the body?"
A: "The autopsy started around 8:30 pm."
Q: "And Mr. Dennington was dead at the time?"
A: "No, he was sitting on the table wondering why I was doing an autopsy."


Q: "You were shot in the fracas?"
A: "No, I was shot midway between the fracas and the navel."


Q: "Are you qualified to give a urine sample?"
A: "I have been since early childhood."


Q: "Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse?"
A: "No."
A: "Did you check to breathing?"
A: "No."
Q: "So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy?"
A: "No."
Q: "How can you be so sure, Doctor?"
A: "Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar."
Q: "But could the patient have been alive nevertheless?"
A: "It is possible that he could have been alive and practising law somewhere."

IT'S OFFICIAL: CHEMISTRY LECTURES ARE A YAWN.
October 9, 1995

A scientist has come up with proof of something students have known for years -- chemistry lectures are boring. In an article published in the current issue of Chemistry in Britain, a university chemistry lecturer introduced a guest lecturer to a class of 50 doctoral candidates.

Then, he and his colleagues studied variations in head-to-floor distance (HTFD) and discovered an effect he calls the HTFDR -- "head-to-floor distance reduction". After about an hour, the average HTFD dropped from 135cm to 121cm, said the author of the study, who preferred to remain anonymous.

The HTFD immediately bounced back to normal when the speaker uttered the magic words: "And in conclusion ..."

An engineer, a physicist, a mathematician, and a mystic were asked to name the greatest invention of all times.
The engineer chose fire, which gave humanity power over matter.
The physicist chose the wheel, which gave humanity the power over space.
The mathematician chose the alphabet, which gave humanity power over symbols.

The mystic chose the thermos bottle.
"Why a thermos bottle?" the others asked.
"Because the thermos keeps hot liquids hot in winter and cold liquids cold in summer."
"Yes -- so what?"
"Think about it," said the mystic reverently. "That little bottle -- how does it know?"

Remember, if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate!

tag-line on usenetmessages:

This message was written entirely with recycled electrons.

Q : Why aren't statisticians healthy?

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

A very shy guy goes into a bar and sees a beautiful woman sitting at the bar. After an hour of gathering up his courage, he finally goes over to her and asks, tentatively, "Um, would you mind if I chatted with you for a while?"

She responds by yelling, at the top of her lungs, "NO! I won't sleep with you tonight!" Everyone in the bar is now staring at them. Naturally, the guy is hopelessly and completely embarrassed and he slinks back to his table.

After a few minutes, the woman walks over to him and apologizes. She smiles at him and says, "I'm sorry if I embarrassed you. You see, I'm a graduate student in psychology, and I'm studying how people respond to embarrassing situations."

To which he responds, at the top of his lungs, "What do you mean $200?!"

A biologist was filling in an application for grant money after spending an entire day in the field, so he was pretty tired. Under family name, he wrote "Hominidae"

Thinkers Anonymous

It started out innocently enough. I began to think at parties now and then to loosen up. Inevitably, though, one thought led to another, and soon I was more than just a social thinker. I began to think alone "to relax," I told myself but I knew it wasn't true.

Thinking became more and more important to me, and finally I was thinking all the time. That was when things began to sour at home. One evening I had turned off the TV and asked my wife about the meaning of life. She spent that night at her mother's.

I began to think on the job. I knew that thinking and employment don't mix, but I couldn't stop myself. I began to avoid friends at lunch time so I could read Thoreau and Kafka. I would return to the office dizzied and confused, asking, "What is it exactly we are doing here?"

One day the boss called me in. He said, "Listen, I like you, and it hurts me to say this, but your thinking has become a real problem. If you don't stop thinking on the job, you'll have to find another job."

This gave me a lot to think about.

I came home early after my conversation with the boss. "Honey," I confessed, "I've been thinking ..." "I know you've been thinking," she said, "and I want a divorce!" "But Honey, surely it's not that serious."

"It is serious," she said, lower lip aquiver. "You think as much as college professors, and college professors don't make any money, so if you keep on thinking, we won't have any money!"

"That's a faulty syllogism," I said impatiently. She exploded in tears of rage and frustration, but I was in no mood to deal with the emotional drama.

"I'm going to the library," I snarled as I stomped out the door. I headed for the library, in the mood for some Nietzsche. I roared into the parking lot with NPR on the radio and ran up to the big glass doors... They didn't open. The library was closed. To this day, I believe that a Higher Power was looking out for me that night. As I sank to the ground, clawing at the unfeeling glass, whimpering for Zarathustra, a poster caught my eye. "Friend, is heavy thinking ruining your life?" it asked. You probably recognize that line. It comes from the standard Thinker's Anonymous poster. Which is why I am what I am today: a recovering thinker. I never miss a TA meeting.

At each meeting we watch a non-educational video; last week it was "Porky's." Then we share experiences about how we avoided thinking since the last meeting. I still have my job, and things are a lot better at home.

Life just seemed ... easier, somehow, as soon as I stopped thinking. I think the road to recovery is nearly complete for me.

[Author unknown: cited in various websites. Brought to our attention by SC member]

Q:  Why did the chicken cross the road?

A:  To show the opossum it could be done.

"Always remember, you're unique, just like everyone else."

Michael Ludwig Spittel, University of Wisconsin Department of Sociology/Rural Sociology

YOU JUST MIGHT BE A GRAD STUDENT IF:
  • 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 have ever brought a scholarly article to a bar.
  • Everything reminds you of something in your discipline.
  • You have ever discussed academic matters at a sporting event.
  • You look forward to summers because you're more productive without the distraction of classes.
  • 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 referring 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 wonder if APA style rules allow you to cite talking to yourself as "personal communication".
Credited to Aaron Pitluck 30/1/97

Psychiatrist to his nurse: "Just say we're very busy. Don't keep saying 'It's a madhouse.'"

A young physicist, upon learning that he was denied tenure after six productive years at a University in San Francisco, requested a meeting with the Provost for an explanation, and a possible appeal.

At the meeting, the Provost told the young physicist, "I'm sorry to tell you that the needs of the University have shifted somewhat during the past six years leading up to your tenure decision. In point of fact, what we now require is a female, condensed-matter experimentalist. Unfortunately, you are a male, high-energy theorist!"

Dejected but not defeated, the young physicist thought for a moment about the implications of the Provost's words. "Sir," he said, "I would be willing to convert in two of the three categories you mention, but ... I'll never agree to become an experimentalist!"

A biologist, a statistician, a mathematician and a computer scientist are on a photo-safari in Africa. They drive out into the savannah in their jeep, stop and scour the horizon with their binoculars.

The biologist: "Look! There's a herd of zebras! And there, in the middle: a white zebra! It's fantastic! There are albino zebras! We can publish this!"

The statistician: "It's not significant. We only know there's one white zebra."

The mathematician: "Actually, we know there exists a zebra which is white on one side."

The computer scientist: "Oh no! A special case!"

"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."

attributed to Groucho Marx

"An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes, which can be made, in a very narrow field."

- Niels Henrik David Bohr (1885-1962)

"Nobody in football should be called a genius. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein."

-- Football commentator and former player Joe Theisman.

"It is now quite lawful for a Catholic woman to avoid pregnancy by a resort to mathematics, though she is still forbidden to resort to physics and chemistry."

— H.L. Mencken (1880-1956)

Susan Landau:

"There's a touch of the priesthood in the academic world, a sense that a scholar should not be distracted by the mundane tasks of day-to-day living. I used to have great stretches of time to work. Now I have research thoughts while making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Sure it's impossible to write down ideas while reading Curious George to a two-year-old. On the other hand, as my husband was leaving graduate school for his first job, his thesis advisor told him, 'You may wonder how a professor gets any research done when one has to teach, advise students, serve on committees, referee papers, write letters of recommendation, interview prospective faculty. Well, I take long showers.'

In Her Own Words: Six Mathematicians Comment on Their Lives and Careers Notices of the AMS, V. 38, no. 7 (September 1991), p. 704

I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it.

-- Groucho Marx

"As an adolescent I aspired to lasting fame, I craved factual certainty, and I thirsted for a meaningful vision of human life -- so I became a scientist. This is like becoming an archbishop so you can meet girls." -- Matt Cartmill

I got drunk at math club last night, but fortunately there was a designated deriver.

From: "Buffalo Chilkat" (mammal#NoSpam.watering.hole)

A promising PhD candidate was presenting his thesis at his final examination. He proceeded with a derivation and ended up with something like:

F = -MA

He was embarrassed, his supervising professor was embarrassed, and the rest of the committee was embarrassed. The student coughed nervously and said "I seem to have made a slight error back there somewhere."

One of the mathematicians on the committee replied dryly, "Either that or an odd number of them."

"I was married by a judge. I should have asked for a jury."

— Groucho Marx

Higgledy piggledy Herr Werner Heisenberg
Said "Now Your Honour it just isn't fair,
That I was speeding is unascertainable,
Or if I was, then I can't have been there!"

[This old verse was recalled by a SciCon member.]

Q:   Divide 14 sugar cubes into 3 cups of coffee so that each cup has an odd number of sugar cubes.

A:   1, 1, 12

Riposte:   12 isn't odd!

A:   It's an odd number of cubes to put in a cup of coffee!

"I learnt very quickly that the only reason that would be accepted for not attending a committee meeting was that one already had a previous commitment to attend a meeting of another organization on the same day. I therefore invented a society, the Orion Society, a highly secret and very exclusive society that spawned a multitude of committees, subcommittees , working parties, evaluation groups and so on that, regrettably, had a prior claim on my attention. Soon people wanted to learn more about this club and some even decided that they would like to join. However, it was always made clear to them that applications were never entertained and that if they were deemed to qualify for membership they would be discreetly approached at the appropriate time."

- Sydney Brenner (South African/British molecular biologist, 1927-...) in Loose Ends From Current Biology (1997)

A Short History of Medicine:

"I have an earache."

2000 B.C. Here, eat this root.
1000 A.D. That root is heathen. Here, say this prayer.
1850 A.D. That prayer is superstition. Here, drink this potion.
1940 A.D. That potion is snake oil. Here, swallow this pill.
1985 A.D. That pill is ineffective. Here, take this antibiotic.
2000 A.D. That antibiotic is artificial. Here, eat this root.

Something tells me that no matter how good a series of experiments on reproductive technologies, the paper written about the work will never be described as seminal.

Three men are waiting to be hung: a priest, a lawyer and an engineer. The priest steps up. He is asked, "Father, any last words before you die?" "No, my son," he says. His head goes in the noose, and the hangman pulls, but the equipment fails. "God's Almighty Grace!" cries the crowd. And he is saved.

The lawyer steps up and is asked "Any last words?" "No, let's just be done with it," he says. The hangman pulls and nothing happens. "Another sign from GOD!" the crowd exclaims. Both men are released into a welcoming crowd.

The engineer steps up and is asked, "Any final words to say?" "Well, as a matter of fact," he says, "the reason it's not working is that that bolt up there is ..."

Astronomer #1: .... so anyway, the cop pulls me over and asks if I realized that I had just run a red light. So I said that I did not see the light as being red, because it must have blue-shifted as I was approaching it.

Astronomer #2: And he let you go?

Astronomer #1: No. He gave me a speeding ticket instead.

A guy walks into a podiatrist's office and says, "Doc, you gotta help me! I think I'm a moth!"

The doctor says, "You don't need a podiatrist. You need a psychiatrist. What did you come in here for?"

The guy says, "Well, your light was on..."

(Tim Myers, Grand Rapids, Michigan)

A priest, a doctor, and an engineer were waiting one morning at the third tee (par 3, 285 yards, slight dog-leg to the left, water hazard on the right), while a particularly slow group of golfers were flailing away ahead of them.

Engineer: "What's with these guys? We've been waiting for 15 minutes!"
Doctor: "I don't know, but I've never seen such ineptitude!"
Engineer: "Hey, here comes the greenskeeper. Let's have a word with him."
Priest: "Hi George. Say George, what's with the 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 clubhouse last year, so we let them play here any time, free of charge!"

Doctor: "Wow! Thanks for the scoop, George."
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 opthalmalogist buddy to see if there's anything he can do for them." After a short pause...
Engineer: "Why can't these guys play at night?"

Q. Can free radicals be isolated under ordinary laboratory conditions?

A. NO.

A physicist and a mathematician are in the faculty lounge having a cup of coffee when, for no apparent reason, the coffee machine bursts into flames. The physicist rushes over to the wall, grabs a fire extinguisher, and fights the fire successfully.

The same time next week, the same pair are there drinking coffee and talking shop when the new coffee machine goes on fire. The mathematician stands up, fetches the fire extinguisher, and hands it to the physicist, thereby reducing the problem to one already solved...

Two guys in prison talking:

"I still don't understand how they found out it was you. All they knew was that the guy was an amateur astronomer?"

"The interrogator started talking about how he bought this great department store scope that could go up to 800x...."

Q: How do you know when an engineer is flirting with you?

A: He stares at your shoes.

From: snispilbor#NoSpam.yahoo.com (Snis Pilbor)

Q: What is the physicist's definition of a vector space?

A: A set V satisfying the axiom that for any x in V, x has a little arrow drawn over it.

Q: How many economists does it take to change a light bulb?

A: None. The market will take care of it.

Q: How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?

A: One - but it has to want to change.

There are 10 kinds of people in the world: those who understand binary addition and those who don't.

The head of our department was a professor who liked his titles very much. The name tag on his office door read "professor PhD engineer xxx, director of the laboratories of petrochemical engineering". And he always introduced himself as "professor, PhD engineer xxx". He used to work in the industry and was still very keen on "shaking hands", as he called it, with people from the industry (no doubt to get research funds).

One fine day, we had a plant visit and we drove there by bus (our whole chemical engineering group was about 7 people, so we had a mini-bus) but the professor came directly from his home. We were there first and were introduced to some people, then they offered us a drink, while waiting for our professor to arrive.

About fifteen minutes later, he arrived, looked around the room and went to the first person he saw and didn't recognize as one of his students or assistants, shaking hands and introducing himself in his familiar way. We all turned our heads to hear the reply:

"Nice to meet you, I'm Jeff, the bus driver."

A priest, a doctor, and an engineer were waiting one morning at the third tee (par 3, 285 yards, slight dog-leg to the left, water hazard on the right), while a particularly slow group of golfers were flailing away ahead of them.

Engineer: "What's with these guys? We've been waiting for 15 minutes!"
Doctor: "I don't know, but I've never seen such ineptitude!"
Engineer: "Hey, here comes the greenskeeper. Let's have a word with him."
Priest: "Hi George. Say George, what's with the 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 clubhouse last year, so we let them play here any time, free of charge!"

Doctor: "Wow! Thanks for the scoop, George."
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 opthalmalogist buddy to see if there's anything he can do for them." After a short pause...
Engineer: "Why can't these guys play at night?"

From: "George Maxwell" on http://www.xs4all.nl/~jcdverha/scijokes/

A great way of getting through boring practicals: We squirted acetone on the backs of our hands, and brushed them against a lit bunsen. The acetone lit up impressively and burned for about twenty seconds, but because it evaporates as it gets warm, our hands remained intact. This was a particularly popular trick when visiting parents or prospective students were visiting (complete with hysterical screaming and panic).

The Science Behind a Wildlife Biologist's Pay

The "Salary Theorem" states that "Wildlife Biologists can never earn as much as business executives and sales people." This theorem can now be supported by a mathematical equation based on the following two postulates: 1. Knowledge is Power. 2. Time is Money. Now, recall from physics class: Power = Work / Time. Since Knowledge = Power, and Time = Money, then Knowledge = Work/Money. Solving for Money, we get: Money = Work / Knowledge. Thus, as Knowledge approaches zero, Money approaches infinity, regardless of the amount of work done. Conclusion: The less you know, the more you make.

from http://home.comcast.net/~wildlifebio/Jokes.htm

The larger the sample size (n) the more confident you can be that your sample mean is a good representation of the population mean. In other words, the "n" justifies the means.

— Ancient Kung Foole Proverb   (thanks to: Philip the Foole)

The Harvard Law

Under the most rigorously controlled conditions of pressure, temperature, light, humidity, and other variables, the organism will do as it damn well pleases.

A little neurological put down:

You've only got two neurons--and one of them's inhibitory.

A biologist, a physicist and a mathematician are sitting at the window of a restaurant looking at a building that they believe to be empty and which has a single entrance that is in view.

They see two people enter the building. A while later they see three people leave the building. Here are their ensuing remarks:

Biologist: "They must have reproduced."

Physicist: "There must have been a measurement error."

Mathematician: "If one more person goes into the building, it will be empty."

Two hydrogen atoms walk into a pub.
One says, "I think I've lost an electron."
The other says "Are you sure?"
The first says, "Yes, I'm positive..."

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