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Who said: “We are here to celebrate the completion of the first survey of the entire human genome. Without a doubt, this is the most important, most wondrous map ever produced by human kind.”
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Joke Quotes (74 quotes)

27% des statistiques sont fausses. Et 95% des plaisanteries sur les statistiques sont éculées.
27% of statistics are false. And 95% of jokes about statistics are stale.
Translated from cartoon in magazine Pour la Science (Feb 2004), No. 316. Éculées may also be translated as corny, banal, or worn out.
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Das ist nicht Mathematik, das ist Theologie!
This is not mathematics; this is theology.
[Remark about David Hilbert's first proof of his finite basis theorem.]
Attributed. It does not seem to appear in Gordan’s written work. According to Colin McClarty, in 'Theology and its Discontents: the Origin of the Myth of Modern Mathematics' (2008), “The quote first appeared a quarter of a century after the event, as an unexplained side comment in a eulogy to Gordan by his long-time colleague Max Noether. Noether was a reliable witness, but he says little about what Gordan meant.” See Noether's obituary of Gordan in Mathematische Annalen (1914), 75, 18. It is still debated if the quote is pejorative, complimentary or merely a joke.
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Q: What did the fish say when he hit a concrete wall? A: Dam!
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Q: What is the definition of a tachyon?
A: It’s a gluon that’s not completely dry.
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Q: Why did the chicken cross the road?
A: Pierre de Fermat: I just don’t have room here to give the full explanation.
[Note: Pierre de Fermat is famous for an enigmatic marginal note in his notebook, “I have discovered a truly remarkable proof which this margin is too small to contain.”]
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The Annotated Alice, of course, does tie in with math, because Lewis Carroll was, as you know, a professional mathematician. So it wasn’t really too far afield from recreational math, because the two books are filled with all kinds of mathematical jokes. I was lucky there in that I really didn’t have anything new to say in The Annotated Alice because I just looked over the literature and pulled together everything in the form of footnotes. But it was a lucky idea because that’s been the best seller of all my books.
In Anthony Barcellos, 'A Conversation with Martin Gardner', The Two-Year College Mathematics Journal (Sep 1979), 10, No. 4, 241.
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A good mathematical joke is better, and better mathematics, than a dozen mediocre papers.
In A Mathematician’s Miscellany (1953), reissued as Béla Bollobás, Littlewood’s Miscellany (1986), 24.
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A man is flying in a hot air balloon and realizes he is lost. He reduces height, spots a man down below and asks,“Excuse me, can you help me? I promised to return the balloon to its owner, but I don’t know where I am.”
The man below says: “You are in a hot air balloon, hovering approximately 350 feet above mean sea level and 30 feet above this field. You are between 40 and 42 degrees north latitude, and between 58 and 60 degrees west longitude.”
“You must be an engineer,” says the balloonist.
“I am,” replies the man.“How did you know?”
“Well,” says the balloonist, “everything you have told me is technically correct, but I have no idea what to make of your information, and the fact is I am still lost.”
The man below says, “You must be a manager.”
“I am,” replies the balloonist,“but how did you know?”
“Well,” says the engineer,“you don’t know where you are, or where you are going. You have made a promise which you have no idea how to keep, and you expect me to solve your problem.The fact is you are in the exact same position you were in before we met, but now it is somehow my fault.”
In Jon Fripp, Michael Fripp and Deborah Fripp, Speaking of Science (2000), 199.
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A metallurgist is an expert who can look at a platinum blonde and tell whether she is virgin metal or common ore.
In Evan Esar, 20,000 Quips and Quotes, 703.
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A polar bear is a rectangular bear after a coordinate transform.
In Jon Fripp, Michael Fripp and Deborah Fripp, Speaking of Science (2000), 47.
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After eating, do amphibians need to wait an hour before getting OUT of the water?
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After two days in the hospital, I took a turn for the nurse.
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An engineer passing a pond heard a frog say, “If you kiss me, I’ll turn into a beautiful princess.” He picked up the frog, looked at it, and put it in his pocket. The frog said, “Why didn’t you kiss me?” Replied the engineer, “Look, I’m an engineer. I don’t have time for a girlfriend, but a talking frog is cool.”
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An engineer, a physicist and a mathematician find themselves in an anecdote, indeed an anecdote quite similar to many that you have no doubt already heard.
After some observations and rough calculations the engineer realizes the situation and starts laughing.
A few minutes later the physicist understands too and chuckles to himself happily, as he now has enough experimental evidence to publish a paper.
This leaves the mathematician somewhat perplexed, as he had observed right away that he was the subject of an anecdote, and deduced quite rapidly the presence of humor from similar anecdotes, but considers this anecdote to be too trivial a corollary to be significant, let alone funny.
In 'Zero Gravity: The Lighter Side of Science' APS News (Jun 2003), 12 No. 6.
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An old paleontological in joke proclaims that mammalian evolution is a tale told by teeth mating to produce slightly altered descendant teeth.
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Are part-time band leaders semi-conductors?
Seen, for example, collected in Stephen Motway, Jokes, Quotes, and Other Assorted Things (2010), 327.
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Arithmetically speaking, rabbits multiply faster than adders add.
In Evan Esar, 20,000 Quips and Quotes, 509.
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Depression is merely anger without enthusiasm.
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Did you hear Oxygen cheated on Magnesium? OMg.
Joke found on the Web
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DNA that used to have some function way back in evolution but currently does not (and might possibly be revived if, say, an ancient parasite reappeared), DNA that controls how genes switch their protein manufacturing on and off, DNA that controls those, and so on. Some may actually be genuine junk. And some (so the joke goes) may encode a message like ‘It was me, I’m God, I existed all along, ha ha.
In Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen, The Science of Discworld (2014), 218.
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Do Roman paramedics refer to IVs as “4s”?
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Four college students taking a class together, had done so well through the semester, and each had an “A”. They were so confident, the weekend before finals, they went out partying with friends. Consequently, on Monday, they overslept and missed the final. They explained to the professor that they had gone to a remote mountain cabin for the weekend to study, but, unfortunately, they had a flat tire on the way back, didn’t have a spare, and couldn’t get help for a long time. As a result, they missed the final. The professor kindly agreed they could make up the final the following day. When they arrived the next morning, he placed them each in separate rooms, handed each one a test booklet, and told them to begin. The the first problem, was simple, worth 5 points. Turning the page they found the next question, written: “(For 95 points): Which tire?”
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Half the people you know are below average.
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I am not a scientist.
Denying that his 1984 directive target of 24 shuttle missions per year put pressure on the program that resulted in the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger, Reagan said he only approved the schedule as it was provided by the scientists at NASA. From 'Interview With Representatives of the Baltimore Sun' (12 Mar 1986). Collected in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Ronald Reagan, 1986 (1988), 332. Earlier, Reagan had also said “I’m not a scientist,” in an 'Exchange With Reporters on the Explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger' (28 Jan 1986), ibid. 93.
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I studied for my degree in Calcium Anthropology: the study of milkmen.
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I think it’s in my basement… let me go upstairs and check. —M.C. Escher [joke attribution]
Widely seen feral on the web. Webmaster has not yet found a primary source for this a quote, and regards it as an anonymous joke, with a false attribution to Escher as part of the joke (because Escher’s work is known for distorted reality). Compare the authentic quote, “Are you really sure that a floor can’t also be a ceiling?” on the M.C. Escher Quotes page of this site.
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If the universe is everything, and scientists say that the universe is expanding, what is it expanding into?
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If your car could travel at the speed of light, would your headlights work?
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In mathematics, fractions speak louder than words.
In Evan Esar, 20,000 Quips and Quotes, 509.
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In the summer of 1937, … I told Banach about an expression Johnny [von Neumann] had once used in conversation with me in Princeton before stating some non-Jewish mathematician’s result, “Die Goim haben den folgendenSatzbewiesen” (The goys have proved the following theorem). Banach, who was pure goy, thought it was one of the funniest sayings he had ever heard. He was enchanted by its implication that if the goys could do it, Johnny and I ought to be able to do it better. Johnny did not invent this joke, but he liked it and we started using it.
In Adventures of a Mathematician (1976, 1991), 107. Von Neumann, who was raised in Budapest by a Jewish family, knew the Yiddish word “goy” was equivalent to “gentile” or a non-Jew. Stefan Banach, a Polish mathematician, was raised in a Catholic family, hence “pure goy”. Ulam thus gives us the saying so often elsewhere seen attributed to von Neumann without the context: “The goys have proved the following theorem.” It is seen anecdotally as stated by von Neumann to begin a classroom lecture.
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Lord Kelvin, unable to meet his classes one day, posted the following notice on the door of his lecture room, “Professor Thomson will not meet his classes today.” The disappointed class decided to play a joke on the professor. Erasing the “c” they left the legend to read, “Professor Thomson will not meet his lasses today.” When the class assembled the next day in anticipation of the effect of their joke, they were astonished and chagrined to find that the professor had outwitted them. The legend of yesterday was now found to read, “Professor Thomson will not meet his asses today.”
From Address (2 Nov 1908) at the University of Washington. Footnote: E.T. Bell attributes the same anecdote to J.S. Blackie, Professor of Greek at Aberdeen and Edinburgh. As quoted and cited in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-Book (1914), 180.
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Making out an income tax is a lesson in mathematics: addition, division, multiplication and extraction.
In Evan Esar, 20,000 Quips and Quotes, 419.
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Mathematics is strange: many make thousands but not many make millions.
In Evan Esar, 20,000 Quips and Quotes, 250.
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Modern music, headstrong, wayward, tragically confused as to what to say and how to say it, has mounted its horse, as the joke goes, and ridden off in all directions. If we require of an art that it be unified as a whole and expressed in a universal language known to all, if it must be a consistent symbolization of the era, then modern music is a disastrous failure. It has many voices, many symbolizations. It it known to one, unknown to another. But if an art may be as variable and polyvocal as the different individuals and emotional regions from which it comes in this heterogeneous modern world, then the diversity and contradiction of modern music may be acceptable.
In Art Is Action: A Discussion of Nine Arts in a Modern World (1939), 81.
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Mssr. Fermat—what have you done?
Your simple conjecture has everyone
Churning out proofs,
Which are nothing but goofs!
Could it be that your statement’s an erudite spoof?
A marginal hoax
That you’ve played on us folks?
But then you’re really not known for your practical jokes.
Or is it then true
That you knew what to do
When n was an integer greater than two?
Oh then why can’t we find
That same proof…are we blind?
You must be reproved, for I’m losing my mind.
In 'Fermat's Last Theorem', Mathematics Magazine (Apr 1986), 59, No. 2, 76.
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My theory of evolution is that Darwin was adopted.
In The Fourth—and by Far the Most Recent—637 Best Things Anybody Ever Said (1990).
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Old mathematicians never die; they just lose some of their functions.
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One day the zoo-keeper noticed that the orangutan was reading two books—the Bible and Darwin’s Origin of Species. In surprise, he asked the ape,“Why are you reading both those books?”
“Well,” said the orangutan, “I just wanted to know if I was my brother’s keeper, or my keeper’s brother.”
In Jon Fripp, Michael Fripp and Deborah Fripp, Speaking of Science (2000), 27.
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One of the first things a boy learns with a chemistry set is that he'll never get another one.
In Evan Esar, 20,000 Quips and Quotes, 128.
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Organic chemistry is the study of organs; inorganic chemistry is the study of the insides of organs.
Barefoot Boy with Cheek (1943), 129.
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People do more talking than listening: under the law of gravity, it takes more energy to shut one's mouth than to open it.
In Evan Esar, 20,000 Quips and Quotes, 267.
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Professor, how can you bring yourself to enter this chemical building that has Ionic columns?
[Kahlenberg, a physical chemist, was an opponent of ionic theory.]
Quoted in Ralph Oesper, The Human Side of Scientists (1975), 106.
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Scientists have come up with a fantastic invention for looking through solid walls. It’s called a window.
Found feral on the web attributed (spuriously?) to Richard Feynmann, but Webmaster has not yet found a primary source for Feynmann saying or writing this.
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Since light travels faster than sound, isn’t that why some people appear bright until you hear them speak?
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So, what’s the speed of dark?
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Someone poring over the old files in the United States Patent Office at Washington the other day found a letter written in 1833 that illustrates the limitations of the human imagination. It was from an old employee of the Patent Office, offering his resignation to the head of the department His reason was that as everything inventable had been invented the Patent Office would soon be discontinued and there would be no further need of his services or the services of any of his fellow clerks. He, therefore, decided to leave before the blow fell.
Written jokingly, to contrast with the burgeoning of American inventions in the new century. In 'Nothing More to Invent?', Scientific American (16 Oct 1915), 334. Compare that idea, expressed in 1915, with the classic myth still in endless recirculation today, “Everything that can be invented, has been invented,” for example, in Chris Morgan and David Langford, Facts and Fallacies (1981), on the Charles Duell Quotations page on this website, which includes references debunking the myth.
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Someone sent me a postcard picture of the earth. On the back it said, “Wish you were here.”
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The first law of Engineering Mathematics: All infinite series converge, and moreover converge to the first term.
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The gods are too fond of a joke.
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The joke in aviation is, “If you want to make a million, you’d better start with £10m.”
As quoted on imdb.com biography page for Bruce Dickinson. Webmaster has not yet found a primary source for this quote. Can you help?
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The most difficult problem in mathematics is to make the date of a woman's birth agree with her present age.
In Evan Esar, 20,000 Quips and Quotes, 22.
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The only place where a dollar is still worth one hundred cents today is in the problems in an arithmetic book.
In Evan Esar, 20,000 Quips and Quotes, 509.
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The problem with the gene pool is that there is no lifeguard.
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There’s a joke among cosmologists that romantics are made of stardust, but cynics are made of the nuclear waste of worn-out stars.
As co-author with Nancy Ellen Abrams, in The View from the Center of the Universe: Discovering Our Extraordinary Place in the Cosmos (2006), 279. With less clarity (with no reference to the worn-out stars), this was expressed earlier by Simon Singh, in Big Bang: The Most Important Scientific Discovery of All Time and Why You Need To Know About It (2004), 389, as: “Romantics might like to think of themselves as being composed of Stardust. Cynics might prefer to think of themselves as nuclear waste.”
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These parsons are so in the habit of dealing with the abstractions of doctrines as if there was no difficulty about them whatever, so confident, from the practice of having the talk all to themselves for an hour at least every week with no one to gainsay a syllable they utter, be it ever so loose or bad, that they gallop over the course when their field is Botany or Geology as if we were in the pews and they in the pulpit ... There is a story somewhere of an Englishman, Frenchman, and German being each called on to describe a camel. The Englishman immediately embarked for Egypt, the Frenchman went to the Jardin des Plantes, and the German shut himself up in his study and thought it out!
Letter to Asa Gray (29 Mar 1857). Quoted in Leonard Huxley, Life and Letters of Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker (1918), Vol. 1, 477.
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Three engineering students were discussing who designed the human body. One said, “It was a mechanical engineer. Just look at all the joints and levers.” The second said, “No, it was an electrical engineer. The nervous system has thousands of electrical connections.” The last said, “Obviously, it was a civil engineer. Who else would run a toxic waste pipeline through a major recreation area?”
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Three train travelers, passing through Scottish countryside, saw a black sheep through the window.
Engineer: Aha! I see that Scottish sheep are black.
Physician: Hmm. You mean that some Scottish sheep are black.
Mathematician: No, 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.
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To most ... of us, Russia was as mysterious and remote as the other side of the moon and not much more productive when it came to really new ideas or inventions. A common joke of the time [mid 1940s] said that the Russians could not surreptitiously introduce nuclear bombs in suitcases into the United States because they had not yet been able to perfect a suitcase.
In Richard Rhodes, The Making of the Atomic Bomb (1986), 760.
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Two managers decided they would go moose hunting. They shot a moose, and as they were about to drag the animal by the hind legs, a biologist and an engineer came along.
The Biologist said, “You know, the hair follicles on a moose have a grain to them that causes the hair to lie toward the back.”
The Engineer said, “So dragging the moose that way increases your coefficient of friction by a tremendous amount. Pull from the other end, and you will find the work required to be quite minimal.”
The managers thanked the two and started dragging the moose by the antlers.
After about an hour, one manager said, “I can’t believe how easy it is to move this moose this way. I sure am glad we ran across those two.”
“Yeah,” said the other.“But we’re getting further and further away from our truck.”
In Jon Fripp, Michael Fripp and Deborah Fripp, Speaking of Science (2000), 193.
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We already have anions and cations and now the biochemists and nutritionists are speaking of rat-ions.
Quoted in Ralph Oesper, The Human Side of Scientists (1975), 106.
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When I was eight, I played Little League. I was on first; I stole third; I went straight across. Earlier that week, I learned that the shortest distance between two points was a direct line. I took advantage of that knowledge.
In Comic Relief (1996).
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When Oxygen and Potassium went on a date, it went OK.
Joke found on the Web
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Why do scientists call it research when looking for something new?
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Why is the world five—or ten or twenty—billion years old?
Because it took that long to find that out.
Reflecting on the time before the man existed, and have consciousness of the the world to answer the question. Unattributed joke given by George Wald in lecture, 'Life and Mind in the Universe', versions of which he delivered throughout the 1980s. On the website of his son, Elijah Wald, who states it was the last of his father's major lectures.
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You can't go by mathematics: the dollar you borrow is never as big as the dollar you pay back.
In Evan Esar, 20,000 Quips and Quotes, 240.
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[A woman waiting for him in the Kremlin asked Gobachev] “Was communism invented by a politician or a scientist?” [He replied] “Well, a politician.” She said, “That explains it. The scientist would have tried it on mice first.”
A story concluding his 'Remarks to Jewish Leaders During a White House Briefing on United States Assistance for the Nicaraguan Democratic Resistance', (5 Mar 1986). He said was “told in the Communist countries among themselves, which reveals the cynicism of their own people,” and it was brought to him by George Shultz returning from the Soviet Union. Collected in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Ronald Reagan, 1986 (1988), 297. He repeated this joke during 'Remarks to Elected Officials During a White House Briefing on United States Assistance for the Nicaraguan Democratic Resistance' (14 Mar 1986), ibid. 340.
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[About his invention of an invisible paint, Pop Porter (Victor Moore):] You paint something with it and you can't see it. I'm worried about it though ... I painted the can with it and now I can't find it.
From movie True to Life (1943). Writers, Don Hartman and Harry Tugend. In Larry Langman and Paul Gold, Comedy Quotes from the Movies (2001), 289.
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[As a science hobbyist, hoping to become famous someday, Artie Pinsetter (Lou Costello):] They also laughed at Einstein and his theory of relativity. Now everyone has relatives.
From movie The 30-foot Bride of Candy Rock (1959). Writers, Rowland Barber and Arthur A. Ross. In Larry Langman and Paul Gold, Comedy Quotes from the Movies (2001), 289. This movie, (with its rare appearance of Costello without Bud Abott, his usual comedy partner), was released later in the year of Costello's death.
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[Bobby Clark:] What causes the water in a watermelon?
[Paul McCullough:] They plant the seeds in the spring.
From short movie Love and Hisses (1934). Writer, Ben Holmes (6 Nov 1890 - 2 Dec 1943). In Larry Langman and Paul Gold, Comedy Quotes from the Movies (2001), 241.
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[During a violent dust storm, Bartender (Dewey Robinson):] You ain't aimin' to drive back to your farm tonight, mister?
[John Phillips (John Wayne):] Why not?
[Bartender:] Save time by stayin' put. Let the wind blow the farm to you.
From movie Three Faces West (1940). Writers, F. Hugh Herbert, Joseph Moncure March, Samuel Ornitz. In Larry Langman and Paul Gold, Comedy Quotes from the Movies (2001), 241.
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[May Morris (Joan Davis):] You know, I crossed the goldenrod with poison ivy once. What do you think I got? Hay fever and the seven-year itch.
From movie Josette (1938). Writer, James Edward Grant, from play by Paul Frank and Georg Fraser. In Larry Langman and Paul Gold, Comedy Quotes from the Movies (2001), 289. The phrase “seven-year itch” dates back to at least 1845, and was used as a film title in 1955.
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[Reporting after the now infamous 22 Jun 1969 burning of the Cuyahoga River:] Some River! Chocolate-brown, oily, bubbling with subsurface gases, it oozes rather than flows. “Anyone who falls into the Cuyahoga does not drown,” Cleveland's citizens joke grimly. “He decays”... The Federal Water Pollution Control Administration dryly notes: “The lower Cuyahoga has no visible signs of life, not even low forms such as leeches and sludge worms that usually thrive on wastes.” It is also—literally—-a fire hazard.
As reported in Time magazine (1 Aug 1969).
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[Richard Feynman] would be standing in front of the hall smiling at us all as we came in, his fingers tapping out a complicated rhythm on the black top of the demonstration bench that crossed the front of the lecture hall. As latecomers took their seats, he picked up the chalk and began spinning it rapidly through his fingers in a manner of a professional gambler playing with a poker chip, still smiling happily as if at some secret joke. And then—still smiling—he talked to us about physics, his diagrams and equations helping us to share his understanding. It was no secret joke that brought the smile and the sparkle in his eye, it was physics. The joy of physics!
Describing his experience as a student attending Feynman lectures, in Introduction to Richard P. Feynman Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! : Adventures of a Curious Character (1986, 2010), 9-10.
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[The 1957-1961 years of the U.S. space program] were the sad years in which the joke was that our countdowns ended in "Four, three, two, one, oh shit!"
In 'Vive l'Apollo', Space World (Mar 1985), No. 256, 4. Reprinted in They All Come to Geneva: And Other Tales of a Public Diplomat (1988), 82.
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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Ernest Rutherford
James Chadwick
Marcel Proust
William Harvey
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John Keynes
Carl Gauss
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- 90 -
Antoine Lavoisier
Lise Meitner
Charles Babbage
Ibn Khaldun
Ralph Emerson
Robert Bunsen
Frederick Banting
Andre Ampere
Winston Churchill
- 80 -
John Locke
Bronislaw Malinowski
Thomas Huxley
Alessandro Volta
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Louis Pasteur
Bertrand Russell
Jean Lamarck
- 70 -
Samuel Morse
John Wheeler
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Robert Fulton
Pierre Laplace
Humphry Davy
Thomas Edison
Lord Kelvin
Theodore Roosevelt
Carolus Linnaeus
- 60 -
Francis Galton
Linus Pauling
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Martin Fischer
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Karl Popper
Paul Dirac
James Watson
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- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
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- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
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Giordano Bruno
JJ Thomson
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Leonardo DaVinci
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- 30 -
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Richard Feynman
James Hutton
Alexander Fleming
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- 20 -
Carl Sagan
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Francis Bacon
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- 10 -
John Watson
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