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This page should eventually be split into: Jokes to convey ideas, Humor,  Satire. 

All Odd Numbers Are Prime (The Polya Conjecture)

An engineer, a physicist, a mathematician, a psychologist, a sociologist, a law professor, and a grievance studies professor walk into a bar, and someone offers to buy a drink for whoever has the best proof that all numbers are prime.

The engineer says, "1’s a prime, 3’s a prime, 5’s a prime, 7’s a prime, so all odd numbers are prime."

The physicist says: ‘1’s a prime, 3’s a prime, 5’s a prime, 7’s a prime, 9’s not a prime --hmmm, but let's go on---11's a prime, 13's a prime.. It must be that 9 was measurement error.

The mathematician says: "1’s a prime, 3’s a prime, 5’s a prime, 7’s a prime. Therefore, by induction, all odd numbers are prime."

The psychologist says: "I told my R.A. the result we wanted, and having rechecked his work, he now reports that 1’s a prime, 3’s a prime, 5’s a prime, 7’s a prime, 9's a prime, 11's a prime, 13's a prime, 15's a prime, and so is every other odd number."

The sociologist says: "1’s a prime, 3’s a prime, 5’s a prime, 7’s a prime, 9's a prime,..."

The law professor says,"First of all, my billing rate is $400/hour, and it runs for every 15-minute increment..."

The grievance studies professor says: "What's a prime number?"


1. A prime number is a number greater than 1 that is evenly divisible only by itself and 1.
2. Engineers are known for being satisfied with equations and other mathematical conclusions that are only approximately true, not exactly true. Physicists are known for thinking a lot about how precisely their instruments measure things. Mathematicians are known for being very proud of how exact and rigorous they are, but for making mistakes sometimes anyway. Psychologists are known for publishing fraudulent results and for pressuring subordinates to make up data. Sociologists are known for lack of mathematical ability. Lawyers are known for their high fees. Grievance studies professors ar known for being even worse at math than sociologists. All of these are stereotypes; whether the stereotypes have any truth in them, you must judge. Someone is free to add my own field, "economics" to the joke. Accounting may have possibilities too.
3. The 1919 Polya Conjecture, made by the author of the famous 1945 book, How To Solve It, was that over half of the numbers less than any number N have an odd number of prime factors. For example there are eight numbers less than N = 9. Of those eight numbers, the number 1 has an even number of prime factors--- 0 of them. The number 2 has an odd number (1 of them), as do 3 (1 of them), 5 (1 of them), 7 (1 of them), and 8 (3 of them--- 2, 2, and 2, the 2's being counted three times for this conjecture). The number 4 has an even number (2 of them--- 2 and 2), as does 6 (2 of them--- 2 and 3). So over 50% of numbers less than 9--- five out of eight--- have an odd number of prime factors. Professor Connell wrote Mathematica code to check N = 10,000,000 and found that 5,000,421 of the numbers less than that have an odd number of prime factors, which is still more than half. But the Polya Conjecture is false. C. Brian Haselgrove disproved it in 1958. R. Sherman Lehman found the first explicit counterexample in 1960: N = 906,180,359. The smallest counterexample is N = 906,150,257, found by Minoru Tanaka in 1980.
4. See here for a script for performance of this joke by junior high kids.

The Glass Is Half Empty

Pessimist: The glass is half empty.
Optimist: The glass is half full.
Engineer: The glass is twice as big as it needs to be.
--- Jens Foell, (2021)

The Black Sheep in Scotland

A philosopher, a physicist, a mathematician and a computer scientist were travelling on a train through Scotland when they saw a black sheep through the window of the train. "Aha," says the philosopher, "I see that Scottish sheep are black." "Hmm," says the physicist, "You mean that *some* Scottish sheep are black." "No," says the mathematician, "All we know is that there is *at least one* sheep in Scotland, and that *at least one side* of that one sheep is black!"

Packed Sports Stadiums and Covid

Q. Why haven't packed sports stadiums caused massive covid outbreaks?

A. Because of all the fans.

The Politics of the Value-Added Tax (attributed to Larry Summers)

The reason the United States, unlike European countries and Canada, doesn't have a value-added tax is that the Democrats think it's regressive and the Republicans think it makes raising tax revenue easy.
When *will* the United States get a value-added tax? Once the Republicans realize it's regressive and the Democrats realize it makes raising tax revenue easy.

College Graduates without Practical Skills

Boss Father: Son, after you finish writing that compliance memo, will you sweep up the stock room? .
Newly Hired Son: But Dad, I’m a college graduate. .
Boss Father: Of course; I forgot. Bring me the broom, and I’ll show you how.

The Hand of God Knocking off the Chair

A college professor stood up on his chair and said, "If God really exists, then knock me off this chair". Nothing happened and he said, "See, I'll give it a couple more minutes". A MARINE vet stood up, punched the professor and knocked him off the chair, and then sat back down. The professor said, "What did you do that for?" The vet said, "GOD was busy protecting my buddies still fighting for your right to say and do stupid stuff like this, so HE SENT ME!

Elephants Hiding in Trees

"Elephants are really great in camouflage. They hide in the tops of trees!"

"That's ridiculous. I have NEVER seen an elephant in a tree!"

"EXACTLY! See how well they hide?"

Why Are Corporations Like Vampires?

Corporations and vampires have much in common: (i) immortality; (ii) personhood; and (iii) issues with stakeholders. Is there a way to do something with veil-piercing? Certainly you have to design their bonds very carefully to restrain them from evil.

Can you plan the violin?

Q. Can you play the violin? A. I don't know; I've never tried.

Should I give him a book?

Joe: What should I get Florian for his birthday? Moe: How about a book? Joe: No, he's already got a book.

People with Negative Heights

Via Dick Thaler at
Q: If height is normally distributed, why aren't there people with negative heights? A: There are. We just can't see them.

For the Work of a Lifetime

John Ruskin: 'The labour of two days is that for which you ask two hundred guineas?' Whistler: 'No. I ask it for the knowledge I have gained in the work of a lifetime.' Whistler v. Ruskin (1878)

Two and Two Continue To Make Four

"Two and two continue to make four, in spite of the whine of the amateur for three, or the cry of the critic for five." --Whistler v. Ruskin (1878)

Freedom of Speech in Russian Social Media

A Russian meets up with an American.

"We have freedom of speech," the Russian says. "I can post that Russian elections are falsified on social media."

"What's the big deal?" asks the American. "I too can write that Russian elections are falsified on social media."

Explosion in a Cheese Factory

Did you hear about the explosion in the cheese factory? There was nothing left but debris.

I haven't laughed so hard since the suggestion that Joe and Kamala run off to Las Vegas and get inaugurated without telling anybody.

Those who study the moon are real optimists, they tend to look at the bright side.

Eggs Benedict on a Hubcap

Why should you eat eggs benedict on a hubcap for Christmas dinner?
--because there's no plate like chrome for the hollandaise.

==The Joke Convention==

(Here write my better version, the Joke Convention, with the jolly guy rolling ont he floor who hadn't heard it befre.)

George Stigler's version in "The Conference Handbook" Journal of Political Economv, 1977, vol. 85, no. 2, is

There is an ancient joke about the two traveling salesmen in the age of the train. The younger drummer was being initiated into the social life of the traveler by the older. They proceeded to the smoking parlor on the train, where a group of drummers were congregated. One said, "87," and a wave of laughter went through the group. The older drummer explained to the younger that they traveled together so often that they had numbered their jokes. The younger drummer wished to participate in the event and diffidently ventured to say, "36." He was greeted by cool silence. The older drummer took him aside and explained that they had already heard that joke. (In another version, the younger drummer was told that he had told the joke badly.)

Stigler published an economists' version. I've improved it here, in the spirit of joketelling: 

Introductory Remarks
A. Here is what the author was trying to say.
B. The paper admirably solves the problem which it sets for itself. Unfortunately, this was the wrong problem.
C. What a pity that the vast erudition and industry of the author were so misdirected

D. I am an amateur in this field so my remarks must be diffident and tentative. However, even a novice must find much to quarrel with in this piece. E. I can be very sympathetic with the author; until 2 years ago I was thinking along similar lines. F. It is good to have a nonspecialist looking at our problem. There is always a chance of a fresh viewpoint, although usually, as in this case, the advantages of the division of labor are reaffirmed. G. This paper contains much that is new and much that is good. H. Although the paper was promised 3 weeks ago, I received it as I entered this room. Comments 1. Adam Smith said that. 2. Unfortunately, there is an identification problem which is not dealt with adequately in the paper. 3. The residuals are clearly nonnormal and the specification of the model is incorrect. 4. Theorizing is not fruitful at this stage: we need a series of case studies. 5. Case studies are a clue, but no real progress can be made until a model of the process is constructed. 6. The second-best consideration would of course vitiate the argument. 7. That is an index number problem (obs., except in Cambridge). 8. Have you tried two-stage least squares? 9. The conclusions change if you introduce uncertainty. 10. You didn't use probit analysis? 11. I proved the main results in a paper published years ago. 12. The analysis is marred by a failure to distinguish transitory and permanent components. 13. The market cannot, of course, deal satisfactorily with that externality. 14. But what if transaction costs are not zero? 15. That follows from the Coase theorem. 16. Of course, if you allow for the investment in human capital, the entire picture changes. 17. Of course the demand function is quite inelastic. 18. Of course the supply function is highly inelastic. 19. The author uses a sledgehammer to crack a peanut. 20. What empirical finding would contradict your theory? 21. The central argument is not only a tautology, it is false. 22. What happens when you extend the analysis to the later (or earlier) period? 23. The motivation of the agents in this theory is so narrowly egotistic that it cannot possibly explain the behavior of real people. 24. The flabby economic actor in this impressionistic model should be replaced by the utility-maximizing individual. 25. Did you have any trouble in inverting the singular matrix? 2 6. It was unfortunate that the wrong choice was made between M1 and M2. 27. That is alright in theory, but it doesn't work out in practice (use sparingly). 28. The speaker apparently believes that there is still one free lunch. 29. The problem cannot be dealt with by partial equilibrium methods: it requires a general equilibrium formulation. 30. The paper is rigidly confined by the paradigm of neoclassical economics, so large parts of urgent reality are outside its comprehension. 31. The conclusion rests on the assumption of fixed tastes, but of course tastes have surely changed. 32. The trouble with the present situation is that the property rights have not been fully assigned.

Babylon Bee reports:


Alex Kontorovich

Claim: 10 + 10 = 11 + 11

10+10 = twenty
11+11 = twenty too

Curing the Common Cold

Patient: Doctor, what should I do to get over my cold?
Doctor: I'm afraid we have no cure for the common cold.
Patient: Surely you can think of something!
Doctor: Well, yes: take a shower and then go naked into your yard in the 20-degree weather for half an hour.
Patient: But then I'll get pneumonia!
Doctor: Right. And *that*, we can cure.