Joel Cohen
Mathematical Biologist, Rockefeller University

An Ecologist, an Economist, and a Statistician Go on a Deer Hunt…

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The world of comedy hasn't exactly been kind to scientists, but here are a couple of jokes in which math nerds get the last laugh.

Joel Cohen

Joel E. Cohen is a mathematical biologist and Professor of Populations at Rockefeller and Columbia Universities. His research deals with the demography, ecology, epidemiology and social organization of human and non-human populations and with mathematical concepts useful in these fields. The author of 14 books, he has been honored with numerous awards, including the Sheps Award from the Population Association of America, the Distinguished Statistical Ecologist Award, the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement in 1999 and the Mayor's Award for Excellence in Science and Technology from the Mayor of the City of New York, Michael R. Bloomberg in 2002. Professor Cohen has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. He lives in New York. 
QuestionWhat are some of your favorite science jokes

Joel Cohen: Let me tell you the joke that got me into this trouble in the first place. I went to the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and I was at a dinner party and so I told the following sexist joke, this is a sexist joke. There are three men in a bar, a doctor, a lawyer, and a mathematician. By the way, I get my just desserts at the end of this, so don't worry. A doctor, lawyer, and a mathematician, and they are discussing whether it's better to have a wife or a lover, a mistress, a wife or a mistress. The doctor says, "It's much better to have a wife because you work all day, you come home at the end of the day, you want to have a steady, settled family life." And the lawyer says, "No, no, no, no, no. It's much better to have a mistress because maybe for the first 5, 10, 20, 30 years you'd like to have a steady family life, but if you change your mind, it gets incredibly complicated, so it's much, much better to have a mistress." And they're going back and forth, they can't agree, so they turn to the mathematician. "What do you think?" And the mathematician says, "It's better to have a wife and a mistress. And the reason is, your wife will be afraid to ask if you are spending time with your mistress and your mistress will know that of course you have to spend some time with your wife. Which means you can spend your time doing mathematics!" 

Okay. All right? Not sexist, okay. Okay, so I'm sitting at the table and this lady, Betsy Devine, is at the table, she's married to Frank Willcheck. At that time, she and Frank were living in Einstein's house, this is the truth, I'm not making this up. They were living in Einstein's house in Princeton. Then they moved to MIT and he goes and gets the Nobel Prize in physics. So anyway, two weeks later, she comes around, she is raising money for the Institute for Advanced Studies' softball team—you probably haven't heard of them in the Major Leagues. And she is selling this mimeographed handout. I opened it up, what is this? Three women are in a bar, a lawyer, an engineer, and a computer scientist. And they're debating whether it's better to have a husband or a lover. So I got my comeuppance, so I said to her, "Look, you stole my joke." She said, "Yeah, I stole your joke." So I said, "You should have stolen more of my jokes, I have a lot more." So we collaborated and that's how we did this book. Now, I will tell you a couple more jokes from that book. 

Here is a limerick which I made up myself and published in this book. There once was a mathematician who preferred an exotic position; twas the joy of his life to explore with his wife, topologically complex coition. So that was a very successful. And here's the last one and then I'm going to quit on this nonsense. Well, actually I have two more, but anyway, all right. 

An ecologist, an economist, and a statistician go on a deer hunt and they're creeping through the forest and they're hunting with bow and arrow and suddenly they see a deer right straight in front of them. And the ecologist says, "Me, first." Takes careful aim, fires, and the arrow goes 5 meters to the left of the deer, because ecologists are leftists. Then the economist takes careful aim and fires, and the arrow goes 5 meters to the right of the deer, because the economists are rightists. The statistician looks at the two arrows and looks at the deer and jumps and down and says, "We got it! We got it!" On the average.