# On Math Jokes (with a new re-telling of my favorite one, about a balloon race)

Math jokes are almost universally awful — or, at least, it seems that way to me, since I spend a lot of time around ninth graders. Hearing “Gee, I’m a tree” or “Pi are square? No, pies are round, and cake are square!” will generally elicit a groan from me, and each new cadre of students seems to think they invented these fossilized puns. An even worse “joke” is the giggling one should expect from, say, 7th graders, if one squares the number thirteen in their presence.

I do know exactly one good math joke, though. I didn’t hear it from a student. If you’re curious, read on. Only the embellishments are original; I didn’t make up the joke, itself, though, nor do I know who did.

My source for the image below is this fellow WordPress blogger’s photography blog.

So a physicist, chemist, and a lawyer enter a balloon race together. Theirs is the last balloon to leave, because the lawyer had been in court, arrived late, and caused a short delay in departure. The consequences of this were serious, though, for a sudden cross-wind blew them off course, right after takeoff. Soon, they couldn’t even see any of the other balloons in the race, and none of them recognized any landmarks in the landscape below.

Soon, they had no idea where they were, and started getting worried about making it to their next classes  on time — or back to court, in the case of the lawyer. The chemist was particularly worried. “What are we going to do?” asked the chemist.

The physicist replies, “I have an idea!” He cups his hands, leans out, and yells, as loud as he can, “Hello! Where are we?”

The balloon flies on for at least two long, anxious minutes as the trio waits, silently, for an answer. Eventually, they hear, from a great distance, a voice. “Hello! You’re lost!”

The physicist looks at the other two, and says, “That, my friend, was a mathematician.”

“How,” asked the lawyer, “could you possibly know that?”

“Three things,” replied the physicist. He held up one finger. “First, it took him a long time to answer.”

“Second,” he continued, holding up two fingers, “the answer, when it finally came, was absolutely correct.”

A third finger joined the first two. “Third, the answer, when it finally came, was completely useless!”

# The Tragedy of Modern American History

The tragedy of modern American history: we fought our bloodiest war to date, and ended slavery, in the 1860s. Race, a difficult issue in the USA, to say the least, could have started to become less of an issue — at that point.

But . . . this didn’t happen. Instead, the “Jim Crow” era began, and, as a nation, we foolishly let it run for roughly another century before fixing that, and even then, we’ve left large parts of this problem unfixed, to this day — such as the problems that underlie high-profile police-brutality cases, which usually involve Black men being clobbered, to, or near, the point of death — by alleged “public servants,” who do a great disservice to the actual men and women of honor (yes, they do exist) who wear police uniforms. It is the fault of these “criminal cops” that police officers are not widely trusted, nor liked, in many African American communities.

All this, and Americans actually wonder why such things as an academic achievement gap still exist? Hint: DNA has absolutely nothing to do with it. The cause of this “gap” is easy to see: entrenched, pervasive racism, and the perfectly-understandable reaction to it, from a population with every reason to be utterly sick of being treated as less than fully human.

It’s 2015: well into the 21st Century. This situation is both absurd, and shameful.

# Can Defenders of the Police in Ferguson, Missouri Explain These Numbers?

The source of this image is an official website of Missouri’s state government: http://ago.mo.gov/VehicleStops/2013/reports/161.pdf.

As shown above, when white residents of Ferguson, Missouri are stopped by the police, there is a higher contraband hit rate than is the case with Black residents. However, Blacks there have traffic-stop rates, search rates, and arrest rates far higher than those of whites.

Blacks in Ferguson are 63% of the population. In 2013, Blacks were stopped by the police there 4,632 times, compared to only 686 times for white drivers.

If anyone wants to convince me that the Ferguson Police Department is not a racist organization, operating, as a group, to continue America’s long history of oppression by skin color, they’ll need to explain these numbers first.

DWB (“Driving While Black”) should never be a cause for a traffic stop, but it still is, all over the USA. If you don’t believe me, conduct this simple test:  ask a Black person, old enough to drive, what a “DWB” is, and then ask if it really happens, in America, in 2014.

It would be going too far to state that all police officers are racist criminals. The fact is that many police officers do not fit that description at all. However, it is also true that many other police officers are criminals of this type, and they tarnish the reputation of all police officers, and police departments, by their actions. America should do something, now, about our “criminal police” problem. It isn’t limited just to Ferguson, nor only to Missouri.

[Credit:  Thank you, to the Tumblr-bloggers at http://sassygayklavierspieler.tumblr.com/ and http://fishingboatproceeds.tumblr.com/, for bringing this chart to my attention.]