Friday, February 27, 2009

Math Major

My 12th grade math teacher told me this joke. I’ve always liked it, because I believe that there is a lot of truth in it.

Two engineers are sitting in the basket of a balloon. For hours, they have been drifting through a thick layer of clouds, and they have lost orientation completely. Suddenly, the clouds part, and the two men see the top of a mountain with a man standing on it.
"Hey! Can you tell us where we are?!"
The man doesn't reply. The minutes pass as the balloon drifts past the mountain. When the balloon is about to be swallowed again by the clouds, the man on the mountain shouts: "You're in a balloon!"
"That must have been a mathematician."
"He thought long and thoroughly about what to say. What he eventually said was irrefutably correct. And it was of no use whatsoever..."

In one of my classes this week, the professor was demonstrating how to combine two assets into a portfolio. She showed us four portfolios, each with a different ratio of assets, and asked us how many combinations could exist. Everyone in the class knew that the answer was infinite. Before anyone else said anything, one student answered, “at least four.” I looked up, and saw that this was a friend of mine who is majoring in math. Of course, the math major would give an answer of no use whatsoever, just because it was irrefutably correct.

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