A Mathematician Walked Into a Bar

Today is Tax Day in the United States, with far too many people having procrastinated until the last possible minutes to file. A large percentage of those still file manually — pencil, paper, and calculator in hand.

A such, I declare the necessity of a few math and accountant jokes:

  • Several gifted minds in varying mental disciplines were posed with the following question: What is 2 times 2? The engineer of the group whipped out his slide rule, shuffled it back and forth, and announced that the answer was 3.99. The physicist consulted his technical references, set up the problem on his laptop computer, and announced “it lies between 3.98 and 4.02”. The mathematician cogitated for a while, oblivious to the rest of the world, then announced, “I don’t know what the answer is, but I can prove an answer exists!” The philosopher asked, “What do you mean by 2 times 2?” The accountant closed the doors and windows, looked around carefully, and then asked, “What do you want the answer to be?”
  • An engineer, a physicist, and a mathematician were staying in three separate hotels while attending a technical seminar. The engineer woke up and smelled smoke. He went out into the hallway and saw a fire, so he filled a trashcan from his room with water and doused the flames. He then went back to bed. The physicist woke up in his hotel room and smelled smoke. He opened his door and saw a fire in the hallway. He walked down the hall to a fire hose and, after calculating the flame velocity, distance, water pressure, trajectory, etc., he extinguished the fire with the minimum amount of water and energy needed. The mathematician woke up on the other side of town and smelled smoke. He went into the hall, saw the fire and then the fire hose. He thought for a moment and then exclaimed, “Ah, a solution exists!” and then went back to bed.
  • There was an Indian chief, and he had three squaws that he kept in three separate teepees. When he would come home late from hunting, he would not know which teepee contained which squaw, as it was very dark. One day, he went hunting and killed a hippopotamus, a bear, and a buffalo. He put a hide from each animal into a different teepee so that when he came home late, he could feel inside the teepee and he would know which squaw was inside. After about a year, all three squaws had produced children. The squaw on the bear had a baby boy; the squaw on the buffalo hide had a baby girl. But the squaw on the hippopotamus had both a girl AND a boy. So what is the moral of the story? The squaw on the hippopotamus is equal to the sum of the squaws on the other two hides.
  • Suppose a mathematician parks his car, locks it with his key and walks away. After walking about 50 yards the mathematician realizes that he has dropped his key somewhere along the way. What does he do? If he is an applied mathematician he walks back to the car along the path he has previously traveled looking for his key. If he is a pure mathematician he walks to the other end of the parking lot where there is better light and looks for his key there.
  • A team of engineers was required to measure the height of a flag pole. They only had a measuring tape, and were getting quite frustrated trying to keep the tape along the pole. It kept falling down. A mathematician came upon them cogitating on their problem, and he proceeded to remove the pole from the ground and thus measured it easily. As he left, one engineer said to the other: “Just like a mathematician! We need to know the height, and he gives us the length!”
  • One day a farmer called up an engineer, a physicist, and a mathematician and asked them to fence off the largest possible area with the least amount of fence. The engineer made the fence in a circle and proclaimed that he had the most efficient design. The physicist made a long, straight line and proclaimed, “We can assume the length is infinite…” and pointed out that fencing off half of the Earth was certainly a more efficient way to do it. The mathematician just laughed at them. He built a tiny fence around himself and said, “I declare myself to be on the outside.”

I studied mathematics in college, served my stint in accounting for far too many years, and have been an engineer for the past decade or so. I am therefore entitled to poke fun at them all.

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