Saturday, March 01, 2008

Humor for mathematical folks

Attention all you readers with some mathematical flair or knowledge. Or even without. (I don't have a whole lot of that myself and enjoyed it.) Here is a video you'll want to watch for relaxation and laughs.

I had never heard of Tom Lehrer until the other day, but I'm told that he taught statistics at MIT for quite a number of years in the Political Science department (he mentions that on the video) and then apparently made a living as a musician. Here's the Wiki article. I gather he was/is a flaming liberal and was best known years ago for his political satire against the "conservative establishment" and on subjects like nuclear proliferation. I must say that he doesn't seem as sensitive on all that stuff as liberals are nowadays in the video (made in 1997); he makes a joke in one of the songs about having a more inclusive mathematics so as not to discriminate against numbers to the left of the origin. A sense of humor is a saving grace that too many liberals lack.

The archive.org video is thirteen minutes long. He begins to introduce my favorite song of the lot at about 7 minutes, 15 seconds. It's "Sociology" and is sung to the tune of "Choreography" from the movie White Christmas. I've always loved "Choreography," sung in the movie by Danny Kaye, which in its turn mocks pretentious, pseudo-intellectual dance forms. Lehrer's version makes fun of the attempt to disguise the fact that one is talking nonsense by putting it in mathematical terms to make it look scientific. You should be able to let the video load while watching the first few minutes, then push the slider to the right until the timer reads about 8 minutes, if you want to skip to the later song. I just tried it, and it worked, though that may be because I already watched the whole thing through once on this computer. But the whole video is funny if you have the time to enjoy it.

3 comments:

Christine said...

If you like this introduction to the fabulous Tom Lehrer, you might want to take a peek at some of the stuff we've got on our Tom Lehrer community.

Its moderator is the same fella who uploaded the archive.org entry you link/refer to in your post.

He's a busy li'l bugger, though, whose time is limited now due to attendance at Cambridge (UK) and other endeavors. Therefore, I tend to monopolize the community when I get a chance, which is occurring less and less now that I administer the forum for the Brian Epstein movie being made, "The Fifth Beatle."

Anyway...enjoy. :)
c~

Lydia McGrew said...

Christine, if you happen to see this follow-up, do you happen to know if Lehrer ever knew Richard Feynman?

It seems to me that those two would have had a lot in common, and Lehrer would have been only a few years younger than Feynman.

Christine said...

My goo'ness, I have no idea, but you make a great assumption.

It is probably most probable ;D

... however, knowing what a virtual hermit Tom is, I don't think he'd come right out and admit it unless asked directly.

The old poop!
*kisses the old poop*