Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Scientists have humor too...unintentional though

Anecdotes from a few famous scientists -

(1) The English mathematician John Wallis (1616-1703) was
a friend of Isaac Newton. According to his diary, Newton
once bragged to Wallis about his little dog Diamond.

"My dog Diamond knows some mathematics. Today he
proved two theorems before lunch."

"Your dog must be a genius," said Wallis.

"Oh I wouldn't go that far," replied Newton. "The
first theorem had an error and the second had a
pathological exception."

(2) Isadora Duncan suggests to G.B. Shaw: What do you say, professor, shouldn't
we make a little baby together: what a baby it would be - my looks and your
intelligence! G.B. Shaw: I'm afraid, dear lady, it might be the other way

(3) When Einstein's Wife told him to dress properly when going to the office
he argued:
"Why should I? Everyone knows me there."

When he was told to dress properly for his first big conference:
"Why should I? No one knows me there."

(4) The story is that Albert Einstein's driver used to sit at the back of the
hall during each of his lectures, and after a period of time, remarked to
AE that he could probably give the lecture himself, haveing heard it
several times. So at the next stop on the tour, AE & the driver switched
places, with AE sitting at the back, in driver's uniform. The driver gave
the lecture, flawlessly. At the end, a member of the audience asked a
detailed question about some of the subject matter, upon which the lecturer
replied, 'well, the answer to that question is quite simple, I bet that my
driver, sitting up at the back, there, could answer it...'

(5) Justus von Liebig (1803-1873) one day was approached by his assistant who
all excited informed him that he had just discovered a universal solvent.
Liebig asked: - "And what is a universal solvent?" Assistant: - "One that
dissolves all substances." Liebig: - "Where are you going to keep that
solvent, then?!!!"

(6) Over a hundred years ago a university student found himself seated in
a train by the side of a person who seemed to be well-to do peasant.
He was praying the rosary and moving the beads in his fingers.

"Sir, do you still believe in such outdated things?" asked the student
of the old man."

"Yes, I do. Do you not?" asked the man.

The student burst out into a laughter and said, "I do not believe in
such silly things. Take my advice. Throw the rosary out through this
window, and learn what science has to say about it".

"Science? I do not understand this science? Perhaps you can explain it
to me.", the man said humbly with some tears in his eyes.

The student saw that the man was deeply moved. So to avoid further
hurting the feelings of the man, he said:

"Please give me your address and I will send you some literature to
help you on the matter."

The man fumbled in the inside pocket of his coat and gave the boy his
visiting card. On glancing at the card, the student, lowered his head
in shame and became silent. On the card he read:

"Louis Pasteur, Director of the Institute of Scientific Research,

(7) The zoologist William Buckland was known for tasting everything. During a
visit to Italy he was shown a stain on the floor of a church on the spot
where a saint had died. He was told that the the stain renewed itself
every morning with fresh blood. Buckland immediately kneeled on the floor
and licked the moist patch. He informed his host that it was not blood,
but nothing more than bats' urine.

Yes, William Buckland tastes everything.

(8) Albert Einstein (1879-1955) [German physicist] Albert Einstein, who
fancied himself as a violinist, was rehearsing a Haydn string quartet.
When he failed for the fourth time to get his entry in the second movement,
the cellist looked up and said, "The problem with you, Albert, is that you
simply can't count."

(9) Wiener was in fact very absent minded. The following story is told about
him: When they moved from Cambridge to Newton his wife, knowing that he
would be absolutely useless on the move, packed him off to MIT while she
directed the move. Since she was certain that he would forget that they
had moved and where they had moved to, she wrote down the new address on a
piece of paper, and gave it to him. Naturally, in the course of the day,
an insight occurred to him. He reached in his pocket, found a piece of
paper on which he furiously scribbled some notes, thought it over, decided
there was a fallacy in his idea, and threw the piece of paper away. At the
end of the day he went home (to the old address in Cambridge, of course).
When he got there he realized that they had moved, that he had no idea
where they had moved to, and that the piece of paper with the address was
long gone. Fortunately inspiration struck. There was a young girl on the
street and he conceived the idea of asking her where he had moved to,
saying, "Excuse me, perhaps you know me. I'm Norbert Wiener and we've just
moved. Would you know where we've moved to?" To which the young girl
replied, "Yes daddy, mommy thought you would forget."

(10) Paul Erdös had another version of this story, how Kummer calculated 7 x 9:
Kummer said to himself: "Hmmm the product cannot be 61, because 61 is
prime, it cannot be 65, because 65 is a multiple of 5, 67 is a prime, 69 is
too big - Only 63 is left."

(11) On one occasion, Erdös met a mathematician and asked him where he was
from. "Vancouver," the mathematician replied. "Oh, then you must know my
good friend Elliot Mendelson," Erdös said.

The reply was "I AM your good friend Elliot Mendelson."

(12) Von Neumann and Norbert Wiener were both the subject of many dotty
professor stories. Von Neumann supposedly had the habit of simply writing
answers to homework assignments on the board (the method of solution being,
of course, obvious) when he was asked how to solve problems. One time one
of his students tried to get more helpful information by asking if there
was another way to solve the problem. Von Neumann looked blank for a
moment, thought, and then answered, "Yes".



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