## Reading the Comics, December 3, 2016: Cute Little Jokes Edition

Comic Strip Master Command apparently wanted me to have a bunch of easy little pieces that don’t inspire rambling essays. Message received!

Mark Litzler’s **Joe Vanilla** for the 27th is a wordplay joke in which any mathematical content is incidental. It could be anything put in a positive light; numbers are just easy things to arrange so. From the prominent appearance of ‘3’ and ‘4’ I supposed Litzler was using the digits of π, but if he is, it’s from some part of π that I don’t recognize. (That would be any part after the seventeenth digit. I’m not obsessive about π digits.)

Samson’s **Dark Side Of The Horse** is whatever the equivalent of punning is for Roman Numerals. I like Horace blushing.

John Deering’s **Strange Brew** for the 28th is a paint-by-numbers joke, and one I don’t see done often. And there is beauty in the appearance of mathematics. It’s not appreciated enough. I think looking at the tables of integral formulas on the inside back cover of a calculus book should prove the point, though. All those rows of integral signs and sprawls of symbols after show this abstract beauty. I’ve surely mentioned the time when the creative-arts editor for my undergraduate leftist weekly paper asked for a page of mathematics or physics work to include as an picture, too. I used the problem that inspired my “Why Stuff Can Orbit” sequence over on my mathematics blog. The editor loved the look of it all, even if he didn’t know what most of it meant.

Niklas Eriksson’s **Carpe Diem** for the 29th is a joke about life, I suppose. It uses a sprawled blackboard full of symbols to play the part of the proof. It’s gibberish, of course, although I notice how many mathematics cliches get smooshed into it. There’s a 3.1451 — I assume that’s a garbed digits of π — under a square root sign. There’s an “E = m^{c}”, I suppose a garbled bit of Einstein’s Famous Equation in there. There’s a “cos 360”. 360 evokes the number of degrees in a circle, but mathematicians don’t tend to use degrees. There’s analytic reasons why we find it nicer to use radians, for which the equivalent would be “cos 2π”. If we wrote that at all, since the cosine of 2π is one of the few cosines everyone knows. Every mathematician knows. It’s 1. Well, maybe the work just got to that point and it hasn’t been cleaned up.

Eriksson’s **Carpe Diem** reappears the 30th, with a few blackboards with less mathematics to suggest someone having a creative block. It does happen to us all. My experience is mathematicians don’t tend to say “Eureka” when we do get a good idea, though. It’s more often some vague mutterings and “well what if” while we form the idea. And then giggling or even laughing once we’re sure we’ve got something. This may be just me and my friends. But it is a real rush when we have it.

Dan Collins’s **Looks Good On Paper** for the 29t tells the Möbius strip joke. It’s a well-rendered one, though; I like that there is a readable strip in there and that it’s distorted to fit the geometry.

Henry Scarpelli and Craig Boldman’s **Archie** rerun for the 2nd of December tosses off the old gag about not needing mathematics now that we have calculators. It’s not a strip about that, and that’s fine.

Mark Anderson’s **Andertoons** finally appeared the 2nd. It’s a resistant-student joke. And a bit of wordplay.

Ruben Bolling’s **Super-Fun-Pak Comix** from the 2nd featured an installment of **Tautological But True**. One might point out they’re using “average” here to mean “arithmetic mean”. There probably isn’t enough egg salad consumed to let everyone have a median-sized serving. And I wouldn’t make any guesses about the geometric mean serving. But the default meaning of “average” is the arithmetic mean. Anyone using one of the other averages would say so ahead of time or else is trying to pull something.

## Reply