# The 14 Funniest Math Jokes Ever Told

Forget about Pi Day puns and your favorite gags from *Donald Duck in Mathmagic Land*. We’re talking about the deep cuts that will make milk spray out of every nose in the *Futurama* writers’ room.

## The Father of Modern Dork Lingo

“Calculator spelling” is that age-old practice of making mathematical numbers and figures spell out funny stuff, from BOOBIES to hILLBILLIES. This is the precursor to other forms of geek expression like emoticons, ASCII art and leetspeak.

## ‘All Horses Are the Same Color’

I won’t pretend to follow the logic, but this is a paradox designed to prove that mathematical induction has its limitations. Using math logic, you can “prove” the false statement that “all horses are the same color.” Other famous arguments that *technically* have no logical contradiction include “all girls have the same eye color,” and “Alexander the Great did not exist, *and* he had infinite limbs.”

## Vacuous Truths

A similar proof of the absurdity of using math logic IRL is something called a “vacuous truth.” It’s possible to “prove” mathematically that “all cell phones in the room are turned on *and* turned off,” “all pigs with wings speak Chinese” and “all my children are goats.” Trust me, this stuff gets a huge laugh in a room full of math dweebs.

## Zenzizenzizenzic

Back before squares and powers were written like “*x*^{2},” each power had its own word. “Zenzizenzizenzic” referred to the 8th power. That’s patently absurd. What’s *funny* is how 16th century mathematician Robert Recorde defined zenzizenzizenzic. In his hilariously titled book, *The Whetstone of Witte, Whiche Is the Seconde Parte of Arithmetike: Containyng Thextraction of Rootes: The Coßike Practise, with the Rule of Equation: and the Woorkes of Surde Nombers*, he explains that the 8th power “doeth represent the square of squares squaredly.”

## Tupper’s Self-Referential Formula

Mathematician Jeff Tupper created a formula-graphing program that, when you enter this formula:

…will plot out the following graph:

Get it?!

## Joke Books for Hardcore Mathematicians

Random numbers are notoriously hard, if not impossible, to generate via computer. So when mathematicians and cryptographers need a string of numbers that have no mathematical connection to one another, they turn to books like the 1955 staple *A Million Random Digits with 100,000 Normal Deviates*.

## Gabriel’s Horn

This formula plots a geometric shape that, for reasons far beyond my understanding, has a finite volume but an *in*finite surface area. The *hilarious* implication is that the horn could paradoxically be filled to the brim with paint, and its surface would still not be fully painted.

## Legendre’s Constant: The Occam’s Razor of Math

In 1801, French mathematician Adrien-Marie Legendre constructed a complicated formula that was intended to measure *something* having to do with the apparently random and infinite digits of Pi. Legendre himself took a look at the first 100,000 elements in the sequence spit out by his formula, and declared the value of Legendre’s Constant to be 1.08366.

After 91 years, other researchers dug deeper, all the way to 10,000,000 elements. The big punchline? After nine decades, the actual value of Legendre’s Constant couldn’t have been simpler: it turned out to be exactly 1.

## 2^{11} · 3^{3} · 5^{2} · 13 = 17,971,200

What’s so funny about this finite simple group of order? To you and me, nothing. But any hardcore mathematician will recognize this as the Tits Group, named after 20th century French mathematician Jacques Tits. He’s also responsible for Tits Buildings, the Tits Alternative and the Tits Metric.

## Sexy Primes

Sexy Primes are any two prime numbers with a difference of six. Eleven and five, for example, are Sexy Primes. There’s no functional or institutional reason for calling them Sexy Primes — “sex-” is a Latin prefix meaning six, and math hounds just thought it sounded funny.

## Graham’s Number: The Number That’s Literally Too Big

You’ve heard of some funny-sounding, humongous numbers, like googol (10 to the power of 100), or googolplex (10 to the power of 10 to the power of 100). Beyond that are concepts like Skewes’ number and Moser’s number, formulas that represent *unimaginably* large numbers. Graham’s number has them all beat: It’s an integer so large, the *entire universe* isn’t big enough to express it in decimal form, or even in scientific notation.

## Belphegor’s Prime: The Most Metal Number Ever Devised

Electrical engineer and mathematician Harvey Dubner “discovered” this extra spooky number: a 1, followed by 13 0’s, the number 666, 13 0’s again, and 1. It’s designed to make religious numerology weirdos go nuts: It’s a palindrome stuffed to the brim with demonic numbers. For style points, he named it after Belphegor, one of the Seven Princes of Hell.

## The Cox-Zucker Machine

This is an algorithm that determines “whether a given set of sections provides a basis for the Mordell-Weil group of an elliptic surface E → S.” If that makes no sense, it doesn’t matter. What’s important is that it was developed by two first-year Princeton grad students, David A. Cox and Steven Zucker, who decided when they first met that they *had* to figure out a way to author a paper together. Dreams do come true!

## The Indiana Pi Bill

In 1897, the state of Indiana got sick of working with the infinite, unpredictable digits of Pi, and tried to pass legislation declaring that the value of Pi is simply 3.2. It actually passed the state’s House of Representatives, but the Indiana Senate made fun of it for half an hour before indefinitely postponing it. Technically, it could be resurrected at any time.