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February 14, 2002

Insider Humor

Every discipline has it's own jokes and anecdotes. In a sufficiently broad discipline, such as computer science, you'll get 'sub-disciplinary' humor (BOFH, for instance). When I was getting my undergraduate degree in computer science at University of Akron, the computer science curriculum was directed by the Mathematics Department. The professor who got me into NASA, Dr. Young, was an award-winning mathematician. My advisor, Dr. Hajjafar, was perhaps the greatest teacher of mathematics (numerical analysis, in this case) that I have ever had the pleasure to learn under.

Suffice to say, as I got deeper into the program I began to hear 'math jokes'. I shouldn't inflict them on you, but here's a sample:

An engineer, a chemist and a mathematician are staying in three adjoining cabins at an old motel. First the engineer's coffee maker catches fire. He smells the smoke, wakes up, unplugs the coffee maker, throws it out the window, and goes back to sleep.

Later that night the chemist smells smoke too. He wakes up and sees that a cigarette butt has set the trash can on fire. He says to himself, "Hmm. How does one put out a fire? One can reduce the temperature of the fuel below the flash point, isolate the burning material from oxygen, or both. This could be accomplished by applying water." So he picks up the trash can, puts it in the shower stall, turns on the water, and, when the fire is out, goes back to sleep.

The mathematician, of course, has been watching all this out the window. So later, when he finds that his pipe ashes have set the bedsheet on fire, he is not in the least taken aback. He says: "Aha! A solution exists!" and goes back to sleep.

There were more than you could imagine, with a sprinkling of engineering jokes to lend variety. Anyway, whenever I get beyond the surface of any hobby or discipline, I discover that the little club has it's own jokes and humor. I've had a digital camera for awhile now (on my second one, actually) and I just bought a P&S to round things out. So I was reading Photo.net this evening, when I ran across this, an "Ode to a Negative (Apologies to Robert Burns)". Even to my journeyman ear, this poem rings true, both as photography humor, and as a pastiche of Robert Burns. Read it, it's good.

Posted by dpwakefield at February 14, 2002 08:44 PM