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A mathematical joke is a form of humor which relies on aspects of mathematics or a stereotype of mathematicians to derive humor. The humor may come from a pun , or from a double meaning of a mathematical term, or from a lay person's misunderstanding of a mathematical concept. Mathematician and author John Allen Paulos in his book Mathematics and Humor described several ways that mathematics, generally considered a dry, formal activity, overlaps with humor, a loose, irreverent activity: Humor of mathematicians may be classified into the esoteric and exoteric categories.
Esoteric jokes rely on the intrinsic knowledge of mathematics and its terminology. Exoteric jokes are intelligible to the outsiders, and most of them compare mathematicians with representatives of other disciplines or with common folk. Some jokes use a mathematical term with a second non-technical meaning as the punchline of a joke.
What's purple and commutes? A pun on abelian group. When Noah sends his animals to go forth and multiply, a pair of snakes replies "We can't multiply, we're adders " — so Noah builds them a log table. This invokes four double meanings: Other jokes create a double meaning from a direct calculation involving facetious variable names, such as this retold from Gravity's Rainbow: No, a houseboat; you forgot to add the C! The second part is then based on the fact that the antiderivative is actually a class of functions, requiring the inclusion of a constant of integration , usually denoted as C —something which calculus students may forget.
There are only 10 types of people in the world: This joke mocks phrases that begin with "there are two types of people in the world Why do mathematicians confuse Halloween and Christmas? In mathematics, the imaginary number i is a number such that:.
A complex number is a quantity which can be written as the sum of a real number plus an imaginary number. While a pun has been based upon the constant's name "complex numbers are all fun and games until someone loses an i" , most jokes treat an imaginary number as if it were a fictional entity. A telephone intercept message of "you have dialed an imaginary number, please rotate your handset ninety degrees and try again" is a typical example.
What did pi say to i? Some jokes are based on stereotypes of mathematicians tending to think in complicated, abstract terms, causing them to lose touch with the "real world". These compare mathematicians to physicists , engineers , or the "soft" sciences in a form similar to an Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman , showing the other scientist doing something practical, while the mathematician proposes a theoretically valid but physically nonsensical solution.
First they see two people entering the house. After a while they notice three people leaving the house. The physicist says, "The measurement wasn't accurate. Mathematicians are also shown as averse to making hasty generalizations from a small amount of data, even if some form of generalization seems plausible:. An astronomer, a physicist and a mathematician are on a train in Scotland.
The astronomer looks out of the window, sees a black sheep standing in a field, and remarks, "How odd. All the sheep in Scotland are black! If I have to show you how to do this, you're in the wrong class" and "Similarly: At least one line of the proof of this case is the same as before.
This category of jokes comprises those that exploit common misunderstandings of mathematics, or the expectation that most people have only a basic mathematical education, if any.
A museum visitor was admiring a Tyrannosaurus fossil, and asked a nearby museum employee how old it was. The joke is that the employee fails to understand the scientist's implication of the uncertainty in the age of the fossil and uses false precision. A form of mathematical humor comes from using mathematical tools both abstract symbols and physical objects such as calculators in various ways which transgress their intended scope. These constructions are generally devoid of any substantial mathematical content, besides some basic arithmetic.
A set of equivocal jokes applies mathematical reasoning to situations where it is not entirely valid. Many of these are based on a combination of well-known quotes and basic logical constructs such as syllogisms:.
Another set of jokes relate to the absence of mathematical reasoning, or misinterpretation of conventional notation:. That is, the limit as x goes to 8 from above is a sideways 8 or the infinity sign, in the same way that the limit as x goes to three from above is a sideways 3 or the Greek letter omega conventionally used to notate the smallest infinite ordinal number.
A number of mathematical fallacies are part of mathematical humorous folklore. Many numbers have been given humorous names , either as pure numbers or as units of measurement. Sagan has been defined as "billions and billions", a metric of the number of stars in the observable universe.
The mathematical constant 42 appears throughout the Douglas Adams trilogy The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy , where it is portrayed as "the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything".
Calculator spelling is the formation of words and phrases by displaying a number and turning the calculator upside down. Other letters can be used as numbers too with 8 and 9 representing B and G, respectively. A mathematical limerick is an expression which, when read aloud, matches the form of a limerick. The following example is attributed to Leigh Mercer: A dozen , a gross , and a score Plus three times the square root of four Divided by seven Plus five times eleven Is nine squared and not a bit more.
An oft-repeated joke is that topologists cannot tell a coffee cup from a doughnut ,  since a sufficiently pliable doughnut could be reshaped by a homeomorphism to the form of a cup by creating a dimple and progressively enlarging it, while shrinking the hole into a handle. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. School of hard sums".
Retrieved February 28, Archived from the original on Aldus Corporation and Microsoft Corporation. The number 42 was chosen for its deep philosophical significance. A Dynamical Systems Approach: Retrieved from " https: Views Read Edit View history.