A while ago, I posted some science jokes in my blog. I followed that by posting some terrible science jokes and puns, and then more terrible science jokes and puns. Today I present to you even more terrible science jokes and puns, along with (when necessary) an explanation of why they are funny.
The chemistry student e-mails his professor claiming that he has been able to react lithium with argon. The professor replies to the e-mail by writing, “You are a LiAr”.
Argon is an element that doesn’t react with any other element. The chemical symbols for lithium and argon are, “Li” and “Ar”, respectively. If lithium did react with argon the formula of the resulting compound would be “LiAr”. The play of words is with liar as in a person who utters falsehoods.
Q: What was the name of the first electricity detective?
A: Sherlock Ohms
The Ohm is a unit of electrical resistance named after the German physicist George Ohm. The play on words is with Holmes, the surname of the famous detective character created by the British writer Arthur Conan Doyle.
The wife of the logician says, “Can you please go to the grocery store and buy one carton of milk, and if they have eggs, get six.” The logician leaves and returns with six cartoons of milk. Puzzled, the wife inquires, “Why did you buy six cartoons of milk?” The logician replies, “They had eggs.”
As Sherlock Holmes would say, “Elementary.”
I blew up my lab doing a chemistry experiment. Oxidants happen.
A play on words on “accidents” and “oxidants”, which are chemicals that can react very strongly and can be hazardous if not handled safely.
The scientists Einstein, Newton, and Pascal are playing hide and seek. Einstein covers his eyes and counts while Pascal hides, but Newton stands behind Einstein and draws around himself a one meter by one meter square box in the ground. Einstein finishes counting, turns around, and opens his eyes. Upon seeing Newton in front of him he says, “I’ve found you Newton, now you’re it”. Newton says, no you haven’t found me, you’ve found Pascal.
A Newton is a unit of force named after the English scientist Isaac Newton. A Pascal is a unit of pressure named after the French scientist Blaise Pascal. A Pascal is a force of one Newton applied to a surface of one square meter. The joke is that because Newton was standing on a square meter, he was really a Pascal (a Newton applied to a square meter), so Einstein had found Pascal, not Newton.
Q: What kind of bear dissolves in water?
A: A polar bear!
Compounds that have positive and negative charges are said to be polar. These compounds can easily dissolve in water by interacting with the water molecules. The play on words is with the type of bear (a polar bear).
Heliocentric System: the Earth and the planets revolve around the sun.
Geocentric System: the sun and the planets revolve around the Earth.
Egocentric System: everything revolves around you.
I’ve met a few people during my lifetime who believed in this last system.
The chemist says, “Alcohol is not a problem. It's a solution.”
As in a liquid.
There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who can extrapolate from incomplete data...
And if you can’t figure this one out, you belong to the other kind.
Q: Who led the people of Israel across a semi-permeable membrane?
The process by which molecules of a solvent cross a semipermeable membrane from a less concentrated solution to a more concentrated solution is called osmosis. This is a play on words on the Moses of the Bible.
Q: What is BUNNY-O-BUNNY
A: Ether Bunny
An ether is a chemical entity where two identical molecules (R) are joined through a bond with an oxygen (O) in a manner described as “R-O-R”. In the above case the “R” molecule is “bunny”, and the resulting ether (ether bunny) is a play on words on Easter Bunny.
The professor said wryly to his students, “Remember, a couple of months spent in the laboratory can save you a couple of hours in the library.”
The normal advice goes in the opposite direction.
Q: What did the stamen say to the pistil?
A: “I like your style."
The stamen is the male organ of a flower, and the pistil the female organ. The style is part of the pistil. The play on words is with “style” as in elegance or refinement.
Sodium sodium, sodium sodium, sodium sodium, sodium sodium, sodium sodium, sodium sodium, sodium, BATMAN!
In the original Batman series from the 1960s staring Adam West as Batman, the lyrics of the show’s theme song featured a section (which can be heard 35 seconds into this video) that went: Na Na, Na Na, Na Na, Na Na, Na Na, Na Na, Na, Batman! The joke is that “Na” is the chemical symbol for sodium.
To impress a lady, the nerd says to her, “You must be made of uranium and iodine because all I can see is U and I.” The lady replies, “Wow you must be a germanium-nickel-uranium-sulfur, eh?”. They nerd says, “Well, yes, thank you.” The lady then adds, “You also obviously don’t understand sulfur-argon-calcium-samarium.”
The chemical symbol for the element uranium is “U” and the one for the element iodine is “I”. The chemical symbols for germanium-nickel-uranium-sulfur spell “Ge-Ni-U-S”, but the chemical symbols for sulfur-argon-calcium-samarium spell “S-Ar-Ca-Sm”.
The mathematician told a joke. He said, “There is a fine line between the numerator and the denominator”, but only a fraction of the people got it.
The top number of a fraction is the numerator while the bottom number is the denominator, and they are separated by a fine line (the division symbol).
The geology student said, “Of quartz I love geology, it’s just that I don’t take it for granite.”
Play of words of “of quartz” as in “of course”, and “granite” as in “granted”.
And now for the Grand Finale!
I think the name “Saturn” has a nice ring to it.
I am mindful of gravity because, after all, it’s the law.
I think that supernovas are a blast, but black holes suck.
I’m reading a book about anti-gravity, and I can’t put it down.
I have a new theory of inertia, but it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.
I told a story in science class to illustrate the effects of friction, but it was a drag.
I did not invest in the company that wants to build a time machine, because I think it has no future.
To my knowledge these jokes and puns are not copyrighted. If you hold the copyright to any of these jokes or puns, please let me know and I will acknowledge it. Image by Perlenmuschel from Pixabay is free for commercial use and was modified.
The statistics are grim. More than 235,000 Americans are dead. We are entering the dark winter of the second pandemic wave. And it seems the best strategy the government has been able to muster is “live with the virus”, which is a de facto herd immunity approach of sorts, but without the discipline and thought that was put into it by the Swedes (although even that didn’t go that well). So in this dire situation what can we do, apart from wearing a mask, social distancing, washing our hands, and avoiding crowded places? There is one more thing we can do which is in fact the one thing we have always done in in the face of tragedy: tell jokes!
Back when the Spanish Flu killed half a million Americans in 1918, people lightened the somber mood enveloping the country by composing poems and coming up with witticisms. One of my favorites is a children’s jump rope rhyme:
I had a little bird,
Its name was Enza.
I opened the window
And in flew Enza!
COVID-19 has been no exception to the unwillingness of the human spirit to suppress a laugh when confronted with misfortune. Today we will go over a few of the jokes spawned by this pandemic dealing with things ranging from quarantine, social distancing, masks, and vaccines to 2020, Zoom, alcohol, and the government’s response to the virus.
After weeks of staying indoors eating and drinking, the COVID-19 curve may be flattening, but the buttons of my shirt have started social distancing from each other!
Person #1: He’s a natural. Staying inside, social distancing, and cleaning himself are practically second nature to him.
Person #2: Whom are you talking about?
Person #1: My cat.
Social distancing guideline in Leon County, Florida: “This is a reminder that during COVID 19, please remember to keep at least 1 large alligator between you and everyone else at all times.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) announced that scientists have finally figured out that dogs cannot catch COVID-19, so all dogs previously held in quarantine can be released. The WHO let the dogs out.
During COVID-19, an epidemiologist, an infectious disease expert, and an ICU doctor walk into a bar…just kidding, they know better.
Remember the times when we used to eat the cake after someone had blown on it to snuff the candles?
Reopening feels so good and liberating. No more lockdowns, social distancing, or masks! I went to the bar and ate and drank and sang with my buddies. My only complaint is that they must have changed the food because I couldn’t taste anything.
COVID-19 Scientists: If we provide the American people with the facts, they will all do what is sensible.
Climate Scientists: Ha, Ha, Ha…
Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that it would be considered OK to walk into a bank wearing a mask and ask the teller for money.
One dog to another: Why are they wearing muzzles?
Americans: I have to cover my face. I can’t interact with people, and I am told to stay at home. This is terrible!
Women in Islamic Countries: First time?
Saying that wearing a mask during the pandemic is living in fear is like saying that using oven mittens means you’re afraid of the oven.
Pssst, Hey, the government has placed hidden cameras with facial recognition software everywhere. The only way to prevent them from tracking you is to wear face masks. Pass it on!
Some people fear that the COVID-19 vaccine will have a microchip that will allow the government to track them, and all these people own smart phones.
I have received the Russian coronavirus vaccine, and I have had no problemы. Я think что vaccine подействует на всех, кто ее получит.
Today I attended a Zoom conference wearing my work pajamas.
Due to COVID-19, they had the first remote trial via Zoom. It’s seems that things will be settled out of court.
I told a joke during my Zoom meeting, but people didn’t find it remotely funny.
I thought the year 2020 would fly by, but I didn’t know it would Zoom.
The Government (or Lack Thereof)
The 16 people of the White House Coronavirus Task Force got up on a tightly packed stage and recommended avoiding social gatherings of more than 10 people.
Q: How is COVID-19 like a disaster movie?
A: Every disaster movie starts with the government ignoring the scientists.
Person #1: I just received a very detailed, thorough, and thoughtful plan to deal with the virus.
Person#2: Did you get it from the government?
Person #1: No, from the owner of my gym.
Who do you believe? The guy who spent his life studying viruses, or the guy who wonders out loud during a press conference whether the virus inside the body can be treated with bleach or ultraviolet light?
Whenever you think that no one listens to you, and feel irrelevant and useless, just remember that somewhere Dr. Fauci is trying to advise the government about COVID-19.
Quarantine and Working from Home
Q: What type of jokes do people tell during quarantine?
A: Inside jokes!
Thirteen years from now, the babies born during the coronavirus baby boom will be known as the quaranteens.
People who are bored during quarantine have no imagination. For example, I’ve found out that while one bag of rice that I purchased had 10,537 grains, another had 10,339.
This is your pilot speaking. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic I’m working remotely from home today.
Quarantine is getting on my nerves. Today I swear I heard my dog say to me, “See? This is why I chew the furniture”.
Son: Dad, why is my sister named “Paris”?
Father: Because your mom and I conceived her in Paris.
Son: Oh, OK, thanks Dad.
Father: No problem, Quarantine.
I ran out of toilet paper during quarantine, so I started using lettuce leaves. Today was the tip of the iceberg, tomorrow romaines to be seen.
I was once told that I would never accomplish anything by lying in bed all day, but look at me now. I’m flattening the curve and saving the world!
My heart goes out to all those husbands that told their wives, “I’ll do it when I have the time”.
Quarantine is getting on my nerves. Today I had to ask my husband to blink a little more quietly.
Now everyone wants to know what introverts do for fun.
If this quarantine goes on too long it will be very hard to go back to a society where we are required to wear pants and bras.
Beer and Spirits
What do you know? I tried to make my own hand sanitizer and it came out a margarita!
Even people really into booze were astonished to find out their hands were consuming more alcohol than their mouths!
Person #1: I thought you said you were sick, but here you are drinking beer.
Person #2: Well, that’s not what I meant when I said “I have a case of Corona”.
I got small supporting role in a movie they are going to make about COVID-19. I’m going to be a Corona Extra.
Your quarantine alcoholic name is your first name followed by your last name.
Customer: I’ll take a Corona minus the virus, ha, ha, ha.
It’s as if Camus, Kafka, Beckett, Ionesco, Vonnegut, Orwell, and Brecht all got drunk together, wrote a play, and entitled it “2020”.
Optimist: The glass is half full with beer.
Pessimist: The glass is half empty of beer.
2020: That’s pee.
Man, what a year 2020 has been! Just yesterday the Pentagon confirmed that UFOs exist, Elvis was cloned, and the moon landing was faked, and it barely made the news!
13 says, “I’m the worst number!”
666 says, “No, I’m the worst number!”
2020 says, “Bitches, please.”
Image from ph used under a CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) Public Domain Dedication license.
The year before graduating from my university, I did an internship in a research laboratory. It was exciting because I got to participate in real research, as opposed to just performing experiments predesigned for students as part of a lab class. The laboratory where I worked was trying to figure out how vitamin A was handled by the body and was performing tracer experiments in rats employing vitamin A labeled with radioactive carbon. Part of the experiment involved passing aqueous samples prepared from the tissues of rats given the radioactive vitamin through a column to separate and collect the different forms of the vitamin in vials and then counting the radioactivity present in the vials. I was sitting at a lab bench handling the vials in front of me when I mishandled one of them which tilted towards me and spread its fluid over the crotch area of my jeans.
I was new to working with radioactivity and was quite alarmed by this incident as well as the anatomical area over which it had occurred, so I made a ruckus. The principal investigator of the lab came over and calmed me down. She asked me about the vial that was spilled, and figured out that it was one that did not contain a lot of radioactive material. Then she told me to go home for the day, change my clothes, and wash my jeans. Next day when I came into the lab, I was told to report to another lab where they would take a blood sample to “make sure I was OK”.
I showed up at the lab and was kept waiting in an office. After a while a somber-looking technician asked me to walk over to the adjacent lab where a group of the graduate and postdoctoral students and investigators in the institute had congregated. Many had smirks on their faces and talked with each other in hushed tones. This should have tipped me off, but I was a newbie who knew nothing of the scientific environment outside the classroom. The technician pulled out a large syringe with an equally large needle and holding it up in the air asked me where the radioactivity had fallen in my body. With a look of apprehension I asked why he needed this information. He proceeded to tell me that he had to draw the blood sample from the anatomical site that had been contaminated!
With eyes wide open I directed a terrified look at the needle and syringe in his hand, and covering my groin with my left hand, I raised my right hand, and shaking a finger at him I yelled, “Noooooo!” while backing away. The room erupted in laughter. The technician couldn’t keep a straight face anymore and started laughing too. I had been pranked!
Many laboratories, research institutes, and universities throughout the world have long traditions of pranks and mischief. These pranks range from sporadic events involving one or more individuals, to well-planned (and sometimes institutionalized) regular practices involving dozens of people. The victims of these pranks are often new arrivals, but sometimes they are perpetrated on members of the general public or even members of other institutions. Let me share a few with you.
The Nobel Prize winning German-British biochemist Hans Krebs had a chattering windup teeth toy which he would use to prank new arrivals to his lab. He would also show them a picture of a goat’s nest with an egg and a baby goat emerging from the egg and swear it was real.
On April fool’s day in 1976, British astronomer Patrick Moore appeared on TV and announced that due to a conjunction of the planets Pluto and Jupiter the Earth’s gravity would be slightly reduced at exactly 9:47 AM, and anyone that jumped at that moment would experience a floating sensation. The TV station was inundated with calls from people who claimed to have experienced just that!
The Nobel Prize winning French physicist Jean Baptiste Perrin was into pranking people. He once hid a spinning gyroscope in a suitcase and placed it in a train station in Paris. A porter saw the seemingly abandoned suitcase and picked it up to store it, but found that the suitcase resisted being turned around. When he dropped it, the suitcase landed and stood up at an odd angle. This made the alarmed porter scream that the devil was inside!
Mathematician Nate Eldredge wrote a program (MATHGEN) to generate professional looking mathematical research articles using complex jargon stitched together in a random fashion. The articles thus generated were nothing but gibberish. He sent one such article under the name of a bogus author to a mathematics journal of dubious reputation, and to his surprise was informed it had been accepted for publication! He had a good laugh and memorialized the event on his website.
The Nobel Prize winning American physicist Richard Feynman who became a celebrity when he demonstrated on live television the reason why the Challenger space shuttle had exploded, also developed a hobby of prying locks and cracking the combinations of safes during the time he worked in the Manhattan Project (which would give the United States its first atomic bomb). As a prank he would break into safes and remove documents containing all kinds of nuclear secrets leaving a note behind stating that he had borrowed such and such a document and signing it “Feynman the Safecracker”.
A biochemistry department of an important university had an award that they would confer to the person who made the most stupid research mistake during the academic year. For example, one of the winners reported that he had succeeded in crystallizing a protein only to find that the "crystals" were nothing but fragments of a broken glass pipette. The award consisted of a plaque from which a naked rear end protruded bearing the name of the awardee over it. The plaque was awarded in a formal ceremony with a lot of pomp and circumstance.
The students of the California Institute of Technology (CALTECH) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are famous for their pranks, some of which have attained legendary status. For example, CALTECH students once modified the famous “HOLLYWOOD” sing in Hollywood, Los Angeles, to read “CALTECH”, and MIT students once buried a large balloon sporting the words “MIT” in the middle of a football field and proceeded to inflate it during a Harvard-Yale game.
So you see, scientists do have a sense of humor, even if it is sometimes at someone’s expense!
The image from pixy#org is used under an Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) license.
With all the anxiety and uncertainty around us, I think it is again time to bring some levity to my blog. A while back I posted some terrible science jokes and puns that people seemed to like, so here I present you with more terrible science jokes and puns along with explanations of why they are funny.
A man got cooled to absolute zero. He's 0K now.
The so called “absolute zero” (the temperature at which molecular motion ceases) is reached at -459.67°F and is measured in units called Kelvins symbolized by a “K”. Absolute zero is reached at zero Kelvins or “0K” (zero degrees Kelvin), which is used as a pun for “OK” as in “all right”.
A scientist started reading a book about Helium, and he just couldn't put it down.
Helium is a gas which is lighter than air, so it rises.
Q: What is a cation afraid of?
A: A dogion!
A cation is an atom that has lost an electron and thus has acquired a positive charge. The joke is a play on words with the animal, “cat”, and its traditional nemesis, the dog.
The nerd says, “My girlfriend is like the square root of -100, a solid 10, but also imaginary.”
An imaginary number is a number that is multiplied by the square root of -1, which is symbolized as “i”. The square root of -100 is 10 multiplied by “i”, in other words, “10i” (ten, but also imaginary).
The elements oxygen, hydrogen, sulfur, sodium, and phosphorous walk into a bar. The bartender sees them and rolling his eyes says, “Oh, snap!”
The chemical symbols for these elements are: oxygen (O), hydrogen (H), sulfur (S), sodium (Na), and phosphorous (P).
The old professor had studied endothermic reactions way before they were cool.
Endothermic reactions are chemical reactions that take up a net amount of heat from the environment. The joke exploits the play on words of “cool” as in low temperature and “cool” as trendy.
The name's Bond, Ionic Bond. Taken, not shared
The joke is a play on words on some James Bond quotes. One is providing his name (The name’s Bond, James Bond), and the other is ordering a martini “shaken, not stirred”. The joke is based on the fact that when two atoms are bound by an ionic bond (as opposed to a covalent bond), they don’t share electrons; rather one atom takes an electron and acquires a negative charge while the atom that loses the electron acquires a positive charge.
There is an argument at the scientists’ bar. Newton threateningly says to Einstein, “I don’t think you understand the gravity of this situation”. Einstein smiling cheekily replies, “Oh, I believe I’m relatively aware of it.” Darwin steps between them and says, Hey, guys, don’t let this evolve into a fight.”
Newton formulated the law of universal gravitation, Einstein the theory of relativity, and Darwin the theory of evolution. Despite the joke, Newton (1642-1726), Einstein (1879-1955), and Darwin (1809-1882) were not contemporaries (Darwin died when Einstein was 3 years old).
If you are a student struggling with calculus, just remember that Isaac Newton also struggled with calculus…when he invented it.
After many years of effort, Einstein developed a theory about space, and it was about time too.
Einstein’s theory was about both space and time, which were merged into a single entity called “spacetime”. Here the play on words is made with the phrase “it was about time too” as in promptness.
The doctoral student turned in the first draft of his thesis on Darwin’s theory of evolution. His professor said it would be decent with modification.
Darwin defined evolution as “descent with modification”.
A newlywed couple visiting Yellowstone National Park engages in a game to see which of them can get closer to a wild buffalo. The question is: who wins? The answer is: Darwin.
Darwin’s stated mechanism for evolution, natural selection, is a process by which those organisms that are fit, survive and have progeny. The implication of the joke is that if you do something stupid that gets you killed you will not be able to pass your genes to the next generation (you will be selected against).
Despite their popularity, antibiotics will never go viral.
Antibiotics are not useful for viral infections, but the word “viral” is used as in when a meme spreads in social media.
When life gives you mold, make penicillin.
This is a play on word on the phrase, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” It is an allusion to the accidental discovery by Alexander Fleming that certain molds secrete a substance with antibacterial properties. This substance is penicillin, the first antibiotic. In 1945 Fleming was corecipient of the Nobel Prize for the discovery of penicillin.
A chemist and a biologist go hunting, and a statistician tags along with them. They find a deer and the chemist and the biologist shoot it at the same time. The biologist’s shot misses the deer by a foot to the left. The chemist’s shot misses the deer by a foot to the right. The statistician yells, “We got him!”
The average of both shots is, of course, smack in the middle of the deer.
A medical student hit another student in the head with a human bone during anatomy class. It was humerus.
Humerus, the bone vs, humorous, the funny situation.
Are you a carbon sample? I’m asking because I would love to date you.
This is a play on words on dating as in determining the age of something and dating the social interaction.
Gregor Mendel received the Nobel Peas Prize.
Gregor Mendel is considered the father of genetics due to his ground-breaking work in figuring out the laws of inheritance by breeding peas. He died in 1886. The first Nobel Prizes were awarded in 1901. One of the Nobel prizes is the Nobel Peace Prize.
The thymocyte wailed in despair, “Oh my God, I can’t do this alone! Please, is there anyone out there who will assist me?” It was a Helpless T Cell.
Immune cells originating in the bone marrow and reaching maturity in the thymus are called thymocytes or “T cells”. Some T cells differentiate into a type of cell called “Helper T cells” which have important roles in immunity. The one featured in the joke was obviously not up to par.
I told a joke involving the elements, cobalt, radon, and yttrium. People thought it was corny.
The chemical symbols for these elements are: cobalt (Co), radon (Rn), and yttrium (Y).
OK, I'm out of Science jokes, maybe I should Zinc of a new one.
Zinc/think, get it?
Wait don’t go, I’ve got another joke. It’s on the tip of my tungsten.
Tungsten/tongue, get it?
To my knowledge these jokes and puns are not copyrighted. If you hold the copyright to any of these jokes or puns, please let me know and I will acknowledge it. Image by Perlenmuschel from Pixabay is free for commercial use and was modified.
Once again, time to lighten my blog up a bit with some science jokes and puns!
Many science jokes and puns are not only funny but also quite sophisticated, and require a certain amount of knowledge of the scientific field from which they originate in order to be understood. I have provided a sampler of some good ones in a previous post.
However, even in science you have jokes and puns that are really bad, and the fact that some require a technical explanation that is often longer than the joke or pun itself, makes them even worse. So without further ado, here is a sampler of terrible science jokes and puns.
Two chemists are in a restaurant, and they decide to show off their chemical knowledge. The first one says, “I’ll have some H2O”. The second one says, “I’ll have some H2O too”. The waiter, who is also versed in chemistry, brings them exactly what they ordered. When the chemists drink, the second one dies.
H2O is of course water, but “H2O too” sounds like “H2O2” which is hydrogen peroxide.
Q: What do you do with chemists who are very sick?
A: If you can’t helium, and you can’t curium, you will have to barium.
The elements helium, curium, and barium are used as puns for “heal them”, “cure them”, and “bury them”, respectively.
Q: How do you determine the sex of a chromosome?
A: Pull down its genes.
Genes here is used as a pun for “jeans”.
A physiology professor teaching a lecture said, “You may think mucus is gross, but it’s not”.
“Snot”, get it?
A mad scientist creates a replica of a full grown human being in a lab. To his horror, as soon as it gains consciousness, his creation starts talking using very vulgar language and making rude gestures. For several days the scientist tries to teach some manners to his potty-mouthed spawn, but is unsuccessful. Finally in a rage, the scientist grabs his creation and hurls it out the window of his lab. The creation falls 20 stories cursing all the way down to its death. The police arrive and arrest the scientist for making an obscene clone fall.
The physics and biology professors started dating, but it didn’t work because there was no chemistry.
Q: You know what really makes my day?
A: The Earth’s rotation.
The physics professor stated, “Time flies like an arrow”. The biology professor replied, “Well, fruit flies like a banana.”
OK, this one’s clever. The first “like” is as in “in the manner of”. The second “like” is as in “enjoy”.
Q: Where does bad light end up?
A: In prism.
Prism is used as a pun for “prison”.
A tectonic plate bumped into another and said, “Sorry, my fault”.
The outer crust of the Earth is divided into sections called tectonic plates which move very slowly. Areas where one plate slides past another can give rise to earthquakes and create fractures in the rocks were the plates interact with each other called “faults”.
I took root beer, poured it into a square glass, and I ended up with regular beer!
In mathematics squaring a number (raising it to the power of two), is the opposite function of taking the square root of a number. Squaring and taking the square root cancel each other out. The implication is that the square glass cancelled the “root” in rootbeer.
Dear Algebra. Please stop asking us to find your “X”. She’s never coming back, and don’t ask “Y”.
Students of algebra are often asked to find the value of “X” when provided with a value for “Y”. “X” and “Y” are symbols used to signify variables in equations. Here they are used as puns for “Ex”, as in ex-wife, and the question “why”.
If at first you don’t succeed, try two more times so that you failure is statistically significant.
In statistics, increasing the sample size increases the chances of detecting an effect as statistically significant. The joke reflects the (false) notion that one should at least have a sample size of three to achieve statistical significance.
Dr. Frankenstein registered for the body building competition, but when he got there he realized he had misunderstood the objective.
Ha, ha, ha
The biochemist placed a tooth from the back of the mouth into a liter of a strong acid. After a few days it dissolved forming a molar solution.
In science, a mole is a widely used unit of measure corresponding to a specific number of molecules. A solution comprising a mole of molecules dissolved in a volume of one liter is called a “molar solution”. Here the joke is that a tooth from the back of the mouth is called a molar.
If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the precipitate.
In chemistry, those things that don’t go into solution and instead descend (precipitate) to the bottom of a flask are called the precipitate.
Water Molecule: Hey lipid, want to hang out with me?
Lipid: Sorry, but I don’t mix with your kind.
Water Molecule: Hydrophobe!
Like oil and vinegar, fats (lipids) repel water, a phenomenon called hydrophobicity from the Greek hýdrophóbos (fear of water).
I wish I was adenine, because then I could pair up with U.
Adenine is one of the chemical constituents of the molecule that carries the blueprint of life, DNA. When this blueprint gets executed, a molecule called RNA is made using DNA as a template. One of the chemical constituents of RNA is “uridine”, which is symbolized with a “U”. To form RNA, adenine pairs up with uridine, “U”, which is used here as a pun for the word “you”.
A hug without U is toxic.
If you take away the letter “u” from the word “hug”, you are left with “hg”, and Hg is the chemical symbol of mercury, a toxic element.
Oxygen went on a date with potassium. It went OK.
I was going to tell a joke about sodium, but Na.
I heard that oxygen went out with magnesium, and I was like OMg!
He made a weapon using potassium, nickel, and iron: a KNiFe!
Cesium and Iodine love to sit on the sofa together and watch their favorite show: CSI.
You want to hear a joke about nitric oxide? NO!
These are based on the symbols in the periodic table for the elements mentioned above: oxygen (O), potassium (K), sodium (Na), magnesium (Mg), Nickle (Ni), iron, (Fe), cesium (Ce), and iodine (I). CSI is the anagram for the show “Crime Scene Investigation”. The formula of the molecule “nitric oxide” is “NO”.
I told my audience a joke about noble gases, but I got no reaction.
The so-called-noble gases (helium, neon, argon, krypton, xenon, and radon) are elements that do not react chemically with other elements.
If a king has a bout of flatulence, does he release a noble gas?
Noble as in nobility, get it?
Yes, I know these jokes are terrible, but all the good ones argon!
The element argon is used as a pun for “are gone”.
These jokes and puns to my knowledge are not copyrighted. If you hold the copyright to any of these jokes or puns, please let me know and I will acknowledge it.
Image by Perlenmuschel from Pixabay is free for commercial use and was modified from the original.
Many people employ mnemonic devices to remember things. Mnemonic devices are techniques that are used to make it easier to memorize and recall information. For example, when I was in high school, we were trying to remember the names of the Great Lakes for our geography class. The professor asked if anyone’s name begun with an “e”. Promptly a girl named Ester raised her hand. The professor then told us to remember the phrase “Only Ester Has Much Sense” because the first letters stood for the name of the Great Lakes (Ontario, Erie, Huron, Michigan, and Superior).
In many disciplines of human knowledge generations of students have used these mnemonic devices, and science is no exception. Many mnemonics are outrageous, silly, or naughty on purpose to maximize the memory process, while others are quite bland. Today we shall take a look at several of the most interesting mnemonic devices used in the sciences.
In the chemical sciences, students and researchers often have to dilute strong acids with water to prepare solutions. But this process carries a dangerous pitfall. When water is added to a strong acid, a vigorous reaction occurs that releases heat and quickly converts the water to gas. This can make the acid splash with dangerous consequences. Interestingly, the reaction obtained when doing the opposite, adding the strong acid to water, is not as strong. Therefore chemistry students are taught the mnemonic rule: “Do like you ought’er, add acid to water”. This is often changed to the more humorous expression, “Do like you otter, add acid to water”.
In electrochemistry, the process by which an element loses (oxidation) or gains (reduction) electrons and where this takes place (anode or cathode), can be remembered by the mnemonic Red Cat (Reduction at Cathode) and An Ox (Anode for Oxidation).
The most prolific area for mnemonic devices in chemistry is that devoted to remembering the elements of the periodic table and their order. An example covering the first 18 elements is Here He Lies Beneath Bed Clothes, Nothing On, Feeling Nervous. Naughty Margaret Always Sighs, "Please Stop Clowning Around." This corresponds to Hydrogen, Helium, Lithium, Beryllium, Boron, Carbon, Nitrogen, Oxygen, Fluoride, Neon, Natrium (sodium), Magnessium, Aluminum, Silicon, Phosphorous, Sulphur, Chloride, and Argon.
The field of medicine boasts a huge list of mnemonic devices as medical students have to memorize a prodigious amount of names corresponding to things ranging from structures in the human body to the symptoms of diseases or conditions.
One example is Some Lovers Try Positions That They Can't Handle, which is the mnemonic to remember the names of the bones of the wrist: Scaphoid, Lunate, Triquetrum, Pisiform, Trapezium, Trapezoid, Capitate, and Hamate. Another is Old People From Texas Eat Spiders, which is the mnemonic to remember the bones of the skull: Occipital, Parietal, Frontal, Temporal, Ethnoid, and Sphenoid.
Some medical mnemonic devices are not that elaborate. An example is the possible causes of abdominal swelling which is coded in “The 9 F’s”: Fat, Feces, Fluid, Flatus, Fetus, Full-sized tumors, Full bladder, Fibroids, and False pregnancy.
A few medical mnemonics are even funny in a dark humor sort of way. The primary causes of urinary incontinence, Delirium, Infection, Atrophic vaginitis, Pharmaceuticals, Excess excretion, Restricted mobility, and Stool impaction, are remembered by the mnemonic DIAPERS. The activities that an individual needs to perform in order to function independently, Dressing, Eating, Ambulation, Toileting, and Hygiene, are remembered by employing the mnemonic DEATH.
Students of astronomy have to memorize the names of many celestial bodies and systems of classification.
The name and order of the planets in the solar system could be memorized using My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas, which of course refers to Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. This was at least during the time Pluto was considered a bona fide planet. Now, that the official planets in the solar system stop at Neptune, the very educated mother probably Just Served Us Noodles.
A particular mnemonic famous in the astronomical community is that for remembering the spectral classification of stars. Depending on the spectrum of the light emitted by stars, they are classified as O, B, A, F, G, K. and M. The mnemonic traditionally used to remember this is Oh, Be A Fine Girl Kiss Me. Since the mnemonic was coined, not only have new categories been created in the classification, but also efforts have been made to make the mnemonic less sexist (for example: Only Boys Accepting Feminism Get Kissed Meaningfully). There are many alternative versions of this mnemonic.
Living things and their complexity have given rise to many names that biology students must remember.
For example, in biology the levels of classification of living things, Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species, can be remembered by the mnemonic King Phillip Came Over From Germany Stoned, or many of its watered down versions to avoid the reference to intoxicating substances.
In cell biology the different stages of the cell cycle are remembered through mnemonics such as Idiot, Pass Me Another Tequila, which corresponds to the phases of mitosis (Interphase, Prophase, Metaphase, Anaphase, and Telophase), or “the cat Peed on a MAT”, which corresponds to the phases of meiosis (Prophase, Metaphase, Anaphase, Telophase).
In math, mnemonics are used to remember formulas and solutions to different equations. One particular example is from the area of trigonometry where the value of the sine, cosine, and tangent of an angle of a right-angled triangle can be derived from mathematical equations performed on the length of the sides of the triangle. The formulas can be remembered using the mnemonic Some Old Hippie, Caught Another Hippie, Tripping On Acid.
Sine = Opposite side ÷ Hypotenuse (Some Old Hippie)
Cosine = Adjacent side ÷ Hypotenuse (Caught Another Hippie)
Tangent = Opposite side ÷ Adjacent side (Tripping On Acid)
The geology fact that most people wish to remember concerns the orientation of stalactites and stalagmites. Many geology students remember this by using a mnemonic that envisions someone wearing tights being accosted by an army of mites crawling up their legs, thus: When the mites go up, the tites (tights) come down.
But hardcore geology students have to memorize many complex names regarding rocks, their properties, and the different geologic times. For example, Pregnant Cows Often Sit Down Carefully. Perhaps Their Joints Creak. Possibly Early Oiling Might Prevent Premature Rheumatism. This mnemonic stands for the geological time periods: Precambrian, Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, Carboniferous, Permian, Triassic, Jurrasic, Cretaceous, Pliocene, Eocene, Oligocene, Myocene, Pileocene, Pleistocene, and Recent (Holocene).
I could go on, but you get the idea of the richness and ingenuity of science students trying to remember the vast amounts of information that is necessary to succeed in their fields. Do you have a favorite mnemonic? Please share it here by leaving a comment.
Otter picture modified from the original, by Marshal Hedin and used here under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) license.
A while ago I went to the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Silver Spring, Maryland.There are many interesting exhibits in this museum such as slides made of Einstein’s brain and the bullet that killed President Lincoln. During my visit I saw an exhibit comprising a human skeleton. The skeleton belonged to an army veteran named Peter Cluckey who before his death in 1925 at age 43 donated his remains to the Museum. The unfortunate Mr. Cluckey had developed a disease that led to the stiffening and fusion of every joint bone in his body. The disease was severe chronic progressive ankylosing rheumatoid arthritis and spondylitis.
Most people are bewildered by some of these medical terms. Medical names can be indeed vexing, even for clinicians. The first few months of medical school involve learning a new language which medical students need to master to be able to participate in the diagnosis of diseases. In medicine, most terms for anatomical names or procedures are composed of Greek or Latin roots combined with prefixes and suffixes. For example the word pericarditis is made up of the prefix “peri” (meaning around), the root word “card” (heart), and the suffix “itis” (inflammation). Thus pericarditis means “inflammation around the heart”. It describes the inflammation of a layer of tissue called the “pericardium” which surrounds the heart. Additionally, as new diseases are discovered and new procedures are developed, new terms are generated which more often than not end up shortened to acronyms (for example, AIDS is acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). At the same time, some of old terms fall out of use. For example, the term “apoplexy” has been replaced by the term “stroke”. All of this generates great complexity, but it is something that most doctors seem to master, even if the patients are often perplexed.
In principle, terms used for medical diagnosis should communicate in a concise manner exactly what the patient has, and their meaning should be clear even to doctors who speak different languages. However, sometimes one feels that the doctors are overdoing it. Here is a look at some medical terms. If you have trouble pronouncing these words you can input them into this website which will pronounce them for you.
Have you ever experienced “ice cream headache” or “brain freeze”? This happens when a very cold foodstuff comes in contact with the roof of the mouth. Well in medicine this is called sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia.
If you ever had hiccups, what you really had was a synchronous diaphragmatic flutter.
If your intestines ever made noise due to too much fluid or gas, then you had borborygmus. And if you ever felt a sharp pain in the butt, you had proctalgia fugax, which sounds to me like a more sophisticated thing to have than a sharp pain in the butt.
Have you ever had an ingrown toenail? Well, for your information, you had either onychocryptosis or unguis incarnates depending on whether you choose the Greek or Latin terms.
Have you ever experienced formication (with an “m”)? This is the sensation that bugs are crawling on your skin. And if you ever had goosebumps, what you really had was horripilation.
Most people have experienced the sensation of their arm “falling asleep” due to having slept on top of it and blocked blood flow, this is called obdormition. The prickling sensation you experience when blood flow returns is called paresthesia.
If you have ever vomited, you experienced emesis. If you have ever belched, then you engaged in eructation. And if you ever had a hangover, you really had veisalgia.
Whereas the above words are relatively short, some of the big words in medicine are reserved for medical procedures or diseases.
If you ever had your tonsils removed, then you had a uvulopalatopharyngoplasty.
People who have a simultaneous inflammation of the urinary track, the bladder, and the kidneys have cystoureteropyelonephritis.
In men, low levels of sperm that display little movement and are irregular in shape is called oligoasthenoteratozoospermia.
An inherited condition of the thyroid gland that causes short stature and many problems with the joints is called pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism.
The procedure of imaging the esophagus, stomach, and a part of the small intestine called duodenum with a specialized scope is called an Esophagogastroduodenoscopy.
The longest word in Gould’s Medical Dictionary is hepaticocholangiocholecystenterostomy. It is a surgical procedure that creates a connection between the gall bladder and the hepatic duct and between the gall bladder and the intestine.
The most ironic of medical names is hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia. Believe it or not, this social phobia is the fear of long words! People with this phobia may feel dizzy, tremble, break out in sweat, and develop nausea, shortness of breath, and headaches when reading a long word. The singer-songwriter Bryant Oden composed a song using this word.
Finally, as if the above were not enough, groups of medical practitioners and medical centers develop slangs of their own. For example, the procedure of coronary artery bypass grafting, or CABG, is called “cabbage” by some. Not all slang is innocuous. When some patients end up in the intensive care unit because they did an incredibly stupid thing, some exasperated doctors that would rather be elsewhere than treating a dummy refer to the patient as having fecal encephalopathy (sh*t for brains)! Some doctors even use slang for each other. Thus the psychiatrists are the “Freud Squad”, the anesthesiologists are the “Gassers”, and the general surgeons are the “Slashers".
Medicine is an ancient profession with a vocabulary which has been influenced by many cultures that keeps shifting as knowledge evolves. While this creates some challenges for both doctors and patients, medical terminology is vital for communicating information accurately within the medical profession. So next time you see one of those medical terms, please don’t engage in lachrymation (crying) or bruxism (grinding your teeth) or experience hyperhidrosis (excess sweating). Just calm down and look up the term. You will most likely find it has a very precise and logical meaning.
The Big Bang Theory is one of the highest quality sitcoms I have ever seen due to its superb acting, screenwriting, filming, editing etc. I also like the fact that the show features a lot of science and technology, but I treasure it mostly because it is a show about nerds, their quirks, and their struggle to deal with the social minefield of modern society. Being a nerd myself, I can relate to the characters in the show. I knew people like Sheldon Cooper, Amy Farrah Fowler, Leonard Hofstader, Howard Wolowitz, Bernadette Rostenkowski, and Raj Koothrappali, as well as people who were perplexed when interacting with them, like Penny.
Since the Big Bang Theory has ended, I thought I would write a blog post with my list of the best episodes, but the problem is that everyone and his dog is doing that. So, instead I present to you here the 5 best Big Bang Theory Nerd themes and the episodes that best exemplify them. Note that because these are themes and each episode features more than one storyline, some episodes are included in more than one theme. In each entry “S” refers to the season, and “E” refers to the episode.
Spoiler Alert! Before you keep reading please note that I need to reveal some aspects of the episodes to properly present the themes.
The Fiction, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Comic Book, Gaming, and Movie Lore Theme
Like any good show about nerds, the Big Bang Theory features cultural items related to fiction, science fiction, fantasy, comic books, and gaming. Some of the top episodes representing this theme are:
The Bakersfield Expedition (S6, E13): The guys head to a comic book convention dressed as Star Trek Next Generation characters, but it turns into a fiasco. The ladies, on the other hand, stay home pondering about the seemingly stupid things that the men in their lives like.
The Love Spell Potential (S6, E23): After a failed attempt to get to Las Vegas, the ladies join the guys to play a raucous game of Dungeons and Dragons that is a must see!
The Barbarian Sublimation (S2, E3): Penny’s apparent failure in life leads her to become addicted to a role playing game, which is something that many gamers can relate to.
The Creepy Candy Coating Corollary (S3, E5): Sheldon participates in a Mystic Warriors of Kaa card tournament so he can get revenge at being let down by former idol Will Wheaton (Star Trek: The Next Generation), but needless to say things don’t go as planned.
The Precious Fragmentation (S3, E17): A ring from the Lord of the Rings movie exerts a dark influence upon our heroes. Indeed, one ring to rule them all, one ring to find them, one ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them.
The Socially Awkward and Incompetent for Anything but Science Nerd Theme
The trope of the socially awkward nerd has been the butt of many jokes, but in the show Sheldon takes this concept to new heights.
The Bath Item Gift Hypothesis (S2, E11): Sheldon is forced to deal with the seemingly hopeless complexity involved in reciprocating Penny for a gift she has obtained for him. The final scene of the episode is one of the most loved moments in the Big Bang Theory.
The Euclid Alternative (S2, E5): This episode documents Sheldon’s unwillingness and inability to learn to drive. In the end he doesn’t give up, but merely “transcends” the situation.
The Egg Salad Equivalency (S6, E12): Sheldon gives his female assistant Alex some advice on how to handle what he perceives as her “urges”. He naturally ends up reported for inappropriate behavior to human resources, but that’s only the beginning of the debacle.
The Adhesive Duck Deficiency (S3, E8): Sheldon clumsily comes to Penny’s rescue after she falls in the shower hurting her shoulder. The relevant quote from the episode is: “The hero always peeks.”
The Friendship Algorithm (S2, E13): Sheldon tries to come up with an algorithm for making friends. Leonard states that there is no such thing, but Howard says, “Hear him out. If he is really on to something, we can open a booth at Comic-Con and make a fortune!”
The Creepy, Sex-Starved, Pathetic Nerd Theme
What is a nerd to do when his mating calls go unanswered? Howard is involved in the best episodes exemplifying this theme. The things he does range from the merely pathetic and ridiculous, to the truly objectionable. The best episodes are:
The Killer Robot Instability (S2, E12): The guys build a robot to participate in a robot jousting tournament, but Howard crosses the line with Penny, and she rightfully puts him in his place. Howard retires to his room to cry, and the guys are left without their engineer to face a robot duel challenge from coworker Barry Kripke. In this episode Kripke delivers the most memorable line in all of Nerdom regarding the unsuccessful travails of the Nerd in his quest for affection.
The Panty Piñata Polarization (S2, E7): Using a military spy drone that he diverted from its mission, Howard tracks the house of the babes participating in the show America’s Next Top Model. Does the end justify the means? Yes, he IS creepy.
The Hot Troll Deviation (S4, E4): Bernadette learns that Howard’s character in the role playing game World of Warcraft was having sex with a Troll, and breaks up with Howard. To add insult to injury, Howard’s solitary bedroom fantasy with Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica) is interrupted by an unlikely character.
The Robotic Manipulation (S4, E1): Howard uses a robot hand to, uhm…”address his love blues”, but a glitch in the technology leads to some unforeseen consequences.
The Hofstadter Isotope (S2, E20): After seeing Penny leave on a date with Stuart, Leonard asks Howard to take him to a bar with women. Howard tries to teach Leonard the basics of his method. It involves letting the lawyers and jocks thin the herd and then going after the weak, the old, and the lame.
The Juvenile Nerd Theme
Nerds and scientists in general are often perceived to age more slowly than the general population displaying juvenile behavior well into adulthood, and often suffering the consequences of not knowing their limits. This is nicely addressed in several episodes in the show.
The Nerdvana Annihilation (S1, E14): The guys unknowingly purchase a real size time machine prop from a 1960s movie that messes up Penny’s day. So she lets them have it: “My God, you are grown men! How can you waste your life with these stupid toys, and costumes, and comic books...pathetic, all of you, completely pathetic!” (Ouch).
The Hot Troll Deviation (S4, E4): Raj installs a “brobdingnagian monstrosity of a desk” in the office he shares with Sheldon, and this escalates into a full-fledged conflict.
The Transporter Malfunction (S5, E20): It’s a collector’s item. Opening it would destroy its value, but what is the purpose of a toy? To be played with. It’s only logical. You tell him Spock!
The Einstein Approximation (S3, E14): Sheldon’s lack of sleep leads to one of the most memorable gags in the series showcasing his trademark expression: “bazinga”!
The Pants Alternative (S3, E18): Sheldon has to give a presentation in front of too many people, so he drinks to develop some courage: very big mistake!
The Nerd Redemption Theme
In the end, however, things do work out for most nerds. Not only do they find their soulmates, have a relationship, and settle into adult lives, but they also end up being better persons.
Howard and Bernadette
Howard goes through a few ups and down with Bernadette, but finally she agrees to marry him. However, during the bachelor party (The Stag Convergence: S5, E22) a drunken Raj reveals details of Howard’s seedy past that make Bernadette reconsider. Nevertheless, at the end of the episode, in one of the most beautiful scenes of the show, Howard reveals that he has abandoned his questionable ways for good because of her.
Sheldon and Amy (Shamy)
The antics of Amy trying to make Sheldon more “human” and get him to show affection for her are one of the great sources of humor in the show. This effort goes at a snail’s pace from spanking (The Fish Guts Displacement: S6, E10), to kissing (The Locomotive Manipulation, S7, E15), coitus (The Opening Night Excitation: S9, E11), and marriage (The Bow Tie Asymmetry: S11, E24). But the true culmination of Sheldon’s transformation occurs in the very last episode while Amy and he are receiving the Nobel Prize. It’s there he realizes that those who love him have played a crucial role in his life (The Stockholm Syndrome: S12, E24).
Leonard and Penny
Whereas in the relationships I mentioned above it is mostly the guys who are improved, Leonard and Penny seem to elevate each other equally. Penny, who before meeting Leonard had had a string of dumb boyfriends, in one episode complains to Leonard that because of him she has lost her ability to tolerate idiots (The Lunar Excitation: S3,E23). However, Penny apparently has a hard time dealing with the notion that she is dating someone who is smart and cares about her, and she freaks out when Leonard tells her he loves her (The Wheaton Recurrence: S3, E19) or asks her to marry him (The Launch Acceleration: S5, E23). Leonard on the other hand falls hopelessly in love with her and struggles to deal with her ambivalence as well as her disinterest in the ways of science (The Psychic Vortex: S3, E12). But everything ends well, and they both finally tie the knot in The Matrimonial Momentum (S9, E1).
Amy and Penny
Amy’s friendship with Penny turns Amy from a female version of Sheldon into a more normal human being. Not that Penny sees it that way. She finds Amy’s fascination with her somewhat disturbing. However, in the end she realizes that Amy is indeed her best friend (The Matrimonial Metric: S11, E12).
Raj also experienced a lot of improvement during the show. At the beginning he could not talk to women, but he found he could overcome that by drinking (The Grasshopper Experiment: S1, E8), and then in The Bon Voyage Reaction (S6, E24) he was cured for good. However, the show ends without Raj having found his soulmate (I wrote: “for most nerds”).
So what are your favorite Big Bang Theory episodes or themes? Leave a comment and let me know!
Note: My Blog is not affiliated with CBS, Chuck Lorre Productions or Warner Bros. I do not hold the copyright to material from The Big Bang Theory TV show. This post is intended to celebrate this great sitcom and promote it to people who have not yet seen it. As such, the screenshots employed here as well as quotes from some episodes are used under the legal doctrine of Fair Use. The reader interested in watching the show is encouraged to go to the CBS Big Bang Theory website and subscribe to watch the episodes.
The limerick is a short verse made up of 5 lines where the first second and fifth line usually share one rhyme while the third and fourth have a different rhyme. This form of verse arose in the 18th century and was popularized by the English artist Edward Lear. The limerick has become very popular in English speaking countries, and millions of them have been written. Although quite a few limericks are naughty or dirty, many limericks are used in several areas of human endeavors to convey, in a short and witty manner, important or humorous messages, or to highlight or celebrate occurrences of renown. In science, limericks have been used for many purposes and they range from those that are readily accessible to the layperson, to those that are highly technical.
Today we will take a look at some science limericks.
The limerick has been used by teachers as a teaching tool to help students remember their facts. An example is the following limerick by engineering Profesor Annraoi de Paor:
“Of electrical worth it’s the stamp
To distinguish the volt from the amp:
Should your class nod, ‘That’s true –
Volts across and amps through,’
It’s sure that you’re in the right camp.
This limerick is employed to tell the difference between the AMP, a unit of electrical current (through), and the VOLT, a unit of potential difference or abundance of electric charges from one point to another (across).
Limericks have also been used to highlight or celebrate great discoveries. For example, this limerick is about the discovery by Paul Ehrlich of the drug Salvarsan which was controversially used to treat the venereal disease syphilis (the limerick ends with the chemical name of the drug).
A chemist named Ehrlich, unclean
Engaged in researches obscene
He injected the poxy
The next limerick celebrates the discovery of X-Rays by Wilhelm Röntgen.
The integument used so to hide
The organs and bones deep inside
‘Till Röntgen discovered
Rays that uncovered
Whatever was wounded, save pride.
The many accomplishments of Albert Einstein, especially his theory of relativity, produced several limericks including the following one:
There was a young lady named Bright,
Who travelled much faster than light;
She set out one day,
In a relative way,
And came back the previous night.
Although it is impossible and nonsensical, the point of the limerick is that if someone could travel at speeds faster than light, they might theoretically experience time running backwards.
Some discoveries celebrated in limericks did not turn out so good, such as the limerick below by D. D. Perrin.
A mosquito was heard to complain
That a chemist had poisoned his brain.
The cause of his sorrow
Paradichloro-Diphenyltrichloroethane is the chemical name of the insecticide known as DDT. It was effective at controlling the mosquito populations and reduced the incidence of malaria, but was found to be harmful for the environment, and its use was banned.
There are some discoveries or ideas that just fire up the imagination. The following limerick is about Werner Heisenberg’s famous Uncertainty principle, which states that the speed or the position of a particle can be known, but not both:
A quantum mechanic's vacation
Had his colleagues in dire consternation.
For while studies had shown
That his speed was well known,
His position was pure speculation.
A favorite topic for limericks is the perplexing cat in Edwin’s Schrodinger’s famous thought experiment. For example this limerick by Karen Reid:
The cat in the box still has growth
Or it's dead, and infested with sloth
One should not get unnerved
Till the cat is observed
It's a superposition of both.
There is also the discovery of the structure of DNA by Watson and Crick featured in limericks such as the one below by Paul Chernoff.
Two bright boffins named Watson and Crick
Puzzled out what makes DNA tick.
It's just like spiral stairs
With the bases in pairs:
How on earth did God think of that trick?
And limericks inspired by Darwin’s discovery of evolution.
Said an ape as he swung by his tail,
To his offspring both female and male,
Your descendants, my dears,
In a few million years,
May evolve to professors at Yale.
Some illustrious scientists are known to have had a favorite limerick. The favorite limerick of the Nobel Prize winning biochemist Hans Krebs dealt with the phenomenon of fermentation.
There was a young woman from Hyde,
Who ate some green apples and died;
The apples fermented
Inside the lamented,
And made cider inside her insides.
The evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins who coined the term “Selfish Gene” authored this limerick meant to highlight the controversial interpretation that ephemeral living things such as human beings are nothing but vessels that their immortal genes use to multiply.
An itinerant selfish gene
Said "bodies a-plenty I've seen
You think you're so clever
But I'll live for ever
You're just a survival machine".
The great science fiction writer and science popularizer Isaac Asimov wrote several books of what he called “Lecherous Limericks”, but he did manage to compose a few with some science like this one.
Said an ovum one night to a sperm,
"You're a very attractive young germ.
Come join me, my sweet,
Let our nuclei meet
And in nine months we'll both come to term.
Despite all the fun and games, limericks have also been used to criticize and humiliate people. The biochemist Stanley Prusiner proposed in 1982 a new theory to explain the cause of some diseases that were believed at the time to be produced by “slow viruses”. Prusiner claimed these diseases arose due to a pathogenic agent that, unlike viruses, contained no DNA or RNA (only protein) which he christened “Prion”. He was the object of much criticism and derision, and an anonymous limerick was circulated among several labs in the field and published in the press.
There was a young turk named Stan
Who embarked on a devious plan.
"If I simply rename it,
I'm sure I can claim it,"
Said Stan as he pondered his scam.
"Eureka!" Cried Stan, "I have found it.
Well...maybe not actually found it.
But I talked to the press
Of the slow virus mess,
And invented a name to confound it!"
However, Dr. Prusiner had the last laugh when he won the Nobel Prize in 1997!
And finally, a naughty limerick regarding Edmond Halley the astronomer who discovered what is now known as Halley’s Comet.
From the public, his discovery brought cheers.
From his wife, it drew nothing but tears.
"For you see," said Ms. Halley,
"He used to come daily,
Now he comes once every 70 years!"
I will let you figure this one out.
The image of the math limerick by Leigh Mercer, is by Dwight Sipler, and is used here under an Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license.
In the United States, there is now a growing movement to ban the dangerous chemical “dihydrogen monoxide”. What is this chemical?
Dihydrogen monoxide is widely used in industry for processing, washing, diluting, cooling, or transporting a variety of products. Specifically, it is used by smelting facilities, petroleum refineries, and industries producing metal, chemical, and paper products, but most alarmingly, it is also widely used by the food industry.
So what is the problem with this chemical? The problem is that it can kill people!
Accidental inhalation of dihydrogen monoxide kills several thousand Americans every year and over 2 million people worldwide. Oral ingestion of dihydrogen monoxide can result in dihydrogen monoxide intoxication which is characterized by headaches, confusion and disorientation, and nausea and vomiting. If left untreated, dihydrogen monoxide intoxication may lead to muscle weakness, spasms or cramps, and can cause seizures and loss of consciousness. Exposure to the solid form of dihydrogen monoxide can cause serious tissue damage. Pure dihydrogen monoxide injected intravenously to laboratory rats or mice will kill them.
Despite the above, get ready for this, there is no urgency whatsoever in the government to ban this chemical. It is dumped legally (!) as a waste product by multiple industries into our rivers and lakes, and even into the ocean. Dihydrogen monoxide in the environment contributes to global warming, and to the erosion of the landscape. It causes corrosion of metals, electrical failures, and millions of dollars in property damage each year. The acid form of dihydrogen monoxide (hydroxyl acid) is a component of acid rain which destroys our forests. The presence of dihydrogen monoxide can be detected in wildlife and in our own bodies!
Enough is enough! The time has come to ban the use of dihydrogen monoxide for good. Will you join our group of concerned citizens, donate to our cause, and help us pressure our government to vanish the use this dangerous chemical?
Let me answer that question for you. The answer is: NO. Why? Because dihydrogen monoxide is one of the chemical names of “water”.
What I wrote in this post about dihydrogen monoxide is just my version of a recurrent hoax /joke that has been going around for decades, and is meant to illustrate how the lack of scientific literacy, and the phrasing of alarmist claims, can affect public opinion. In the most extreme forms of this hoax, people are requested to sign a petition to ban dihydrogen monoxide, which often leads to the collection of many of signatures.
Choosing the right words, and saying things about any chemical in the right way, can make it look scary, and in this case, I didn’t even have to lie. Everything I wrote is true. For example, accidental inhalation of water can kill people (it’s called drowning), excessive ingestion of water can be hazardous (it’s called over hydration; there is a method of torture based on this), formation of water crystals (ice: solid form of water) inside the cells of your tissues can damage them (frostbite), and injection of the right amount of pure water into animals can wreak havoc on the body’s electrolyte balance and kill them.
In today’s vast scientific literature, where virtually every chemical has been tested in one way or another, it is very difficult not to find examples of a chemical having a deleterious effect on some parameter of some biological model. And with today’s unparalleled access to information, people who believe they know more than the experts can set out on a crusade against any chemical. All they have to do is pick and choose studies from the scientific literature, without any regard for their quality or relevance, and weave them into a narrative using innuendo and questionable association to other compounds, which will cast the chemical in the worst possible light. This approach combined with the right mix of emotions, exploitation of human suffering, and politics can prove very effective, and is not unlike selling snake oil.
A famous case of the above strategy is when those opposed to vaccination waged a campaign against the chemical thimerosal which was alleged to cause autism. Thimerosal is a chemical that was used in many vaccines to prevent the growth of germs. Once inside the body, thimerosal is degraded to a derivative of mercury called ethylmercury. Mercury by itself or in the form of methylmercury is toxic, but ethylmercury is not toxic at the levels delivered by vaccines and is cleared from the body faster than methylmercury. In many cases, the anti-vaccine popular literature engaged in the innuendo that because mercury is toxic and thimerosal contains mercury, then thimerosal must be toxic. However, the toxicity of an element like mercury is heavily dependent on the way it is combined with other elements in chemical compounds. For example, the explosive elemental sodium (Na) and the extremely toxic chlorine (Cl), when combined with each other form the innocuous NaCl which is table salt.
The pressure to ban thimerosal kept mounting, and the US Public Health Service decided to request that vaccine companies remove thimerosal from most childhood vaccines in 1999 as a precautionary measure to decrease overall exposure in infants to mercury derivatives. However, the best designed studies did not find any conclusive association between thimerosal (or vaccines for that matter) and autism. After thimerosal was removed from most childhood vaccines, the number of cases of autism has kept on increasing, indicating that thimerosal in vaccines was not responsible for this trend. However, none of this has been accepted by the anti-vaccine community, which is busy at work convincing more and more parents not to vaccinate their children and peddling conspiracy theories. Not unexpectedly, the number of measles cases in the United States has reached an all-time high since it was seemingly eliminated in 2000.
This is not to say that there aren’t legitimate cases where the public should be concerned about the use of certain chemicals in medicine and industry, or instances where politics or other influences have vitiated the established procedures to determine safety. But the answer is not to stoke people’s fears, enshrine faulty science as truth, and disavow the assessment of experts on complex scientific issues claiming they have “sold out” if they do not support alarmist theories. The dihydrogen monoxide hoax is a joke, but what happened to thimerosal isn’t. Our life is better today thanks to thousands of medicines and chemicals produced by our pharmaceutical companies and industries. If we are concerned about the safety of these products, we should work with our scientific and medical organizations, not against them. Human nature is flawed. There will always be individuals who will engage in deceit, but the vast majority of scientists are principled people who will accept the evidence when it is clear and reproducible.
The image from Pixabay is licensed for public use. The image of thimerosal by vaccinationist was taken from PubChem and is in the public domain.