I asked a question related to a math joke, and there are different reactions. Are math jokes strictly prohibited here?

From my comment:

I already knew the answer, but there could be new learners that don't know the answer, and these kind of posts could be alluring for them.


5 Answers 5


Consider your intention when you posted the question. If it is to merely entertain, than I dont think it belongs here. If you are seriously confused as to why this appears like a paradox, then I think we could consider entertaining it.

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    $\begingroup$ The picture is from wikipedia. Mehper is just being obnoxious. $\endgroup$
    – 97832123
    Jul 21, 2010 at 8:12
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    $\begingroup$ I already knew the answer, but there could be new learners that don't know the answer, and these kind of posts could be alluring for them. $\endgroup$ Jul 21, 2010 at 8:13
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    $\begingroup$ @Harry Gindi: I told you to be nice. You are the one being obnoxious. What's your problem? We are here to ask questions and give answers. If you think a question is not suited to here, then just vote to close. Your insolent comments will get you nowhere. $\endgroup$ Jul 21, 2010 at 8:17
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    $\begingroup$ @Harry Gindi: Your thoughts are worthless to me. Keep them for yourself. $\endgroup$ Jul 21, 2010 at 8:26
  • $\begingroup$ My thoughts are useful to the community. Questions like this will cause the community to degrade very quickly indeed. They lower the signal-to-noise ratio. $\endgroup$
    – 97832123
    Jul 21, 2010 at 8:28
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    $\begingroup$ @Harry Gindi: Then you should tell your thoughts in proper words without insulting people of this community. In the FAQ of Stackexchange sites, it says "be nice". As you decline to be nice, this is not useful to the community. Of course you can make every kind of criticism, but only in proper words. The problem is not your thoughts, but the behavior you're showing. I won't fight you anymore as this won't be helpful for anyone. A final note: I'm not whoring (with your expression) for reputation. You'll see it in time if you may follow my reputation. $\endgroup$ Jul 21, 2010 at 8:37
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    $\begingroup$ @Melpher: @Harry: See my answer for my explanation of why this could be considered an appropriate question. And no matter how rude or disrespectful you think another person is being, please try to refrain from doing the same. $\endgroup$
    – Larry Wang
    Jul 21, 2010 at 12:15

Especially in the beta, it is natural that people will ask questions they know the answer to. See all of my questions. One of the purposes of the beta is for committed users to seed the site with questions and answers. Knowing the answer to a question you posted does not mean you shouldn't ask the question. Heck, you can even post the answer yourself!

For similar reasons, questions should not be disallowed just because they are 'easy to Google'. First of all, I think that, like StackOverflow, it is part of the goal of this site that when someone has a math question, they should be able to type it into Google and get the related page here, with detailed correct answers, as the top result. Sure, other sites may have the answer, but if we can answer it better, there is still value in reposting the question.
However, that point applies somewhat less to the 32.5=31.5 question. 'Easy to Google' depends on the individual. For this particular question, what would someone stumped by the puzzle for the first time type into Google to find an answer? Or if someone were to ask this question on math.stackexchange, what keywords would they be likely to use, so that the automatic duplicate finder could recognize the question? As far as this goes, the 32.5=31.5 question is a poor one.

Possibly legitimate questions being prohibited because someone might find them fun is just silly to me. There's no way to police that. If it's a real question, and an interesting one, to someone else, it has a place on this site, even if its a joke to you. A more appropriate solution would be to downvote it, or to adjust the tags so that you aren't troubled by such questions.

I think the question is a fair one, but poorly asked. A large part of the justification behind this type of question being asked is to serve as a reference for future users who will want to know the answer. As far as that is concerned, the question is not useful: the majority of the question is in the form of a picture, and there are no unique keywords or tags. If the wording can adjusted to provide a searchable statement of the question, I think it should stay open.


I voted to reopen. Copied from my comment:

If this site is to become the best and most complete resource on Mathematics for non-mathematicians, I'm guessing at some point someone will be looking for an answer to this question here, which makes this a valid question.

If Mehper isn't really looking for the answer to this question and is just posting it as a joke, then he should think twice before asking it.

On the other hand, other people could legitimately ask this question here, and it shouldn't be closed. Considering that we're in private beta, where the whole point is to post as much as possible so we can define our boundaries, I think it's fair to post something like this, and it should be allowed.

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    $\begingroup$ In order to even begin to answer the question it must be worded differently. Something along the lines of "I've tried such and such - and I am still confused. What is happening when I derive X from Y?" Rather than "How come?" Second, as Harry has pointed out - this comes directly from wikipedia - so at best we are duplicating information by answering it. $\endgroup$ Jul 21, 2010 at 8:20
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    $\begingroup$ I agree that the wording of the question should be changed. As for duplicating, that's fine: the purpose is to become the ultimate reference for any Maths question, I doubt we'll be adding much original content to the world. We're just making it much more accessible. $\endgroup$
    – Edan Maor
    Jul 21, 2010 at 8:22
  • $\begingroup$ @Edan: Mehper said himself that he was only posting it as a joke. You should revise your initial decision based on this salient fact. $\endgroup$
    – 97832123
    Jul 21, 2010 at 8:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Harry - I agree that posting for the laughs is not a good idea, but I'm trying to make "long-term" decisions, i.e. decide whether this kind of question should be allowed in the future. And, because of the reasons I already stated, I think it should be (albeit with different wording, like Tom suggested). $\endgroup$
    – Edan Maor
    Jul 21, 2010 at 8:37
  • $\begingroup$ I think intent has as much to do with it as content. $\endgroup$
    – 97832123
    Jul 21, 2010 at 8:43
  • $\begingroup$ @Harry - We only know Mepher's intent because he stated it. We can not ascertain the intent of every poster in the site. I think we should try to answer with candor. $\endgroup$
    – Wilhelm
    Jul 22, 2010 at 2:43
  • $\begingroup$ @Wilhelm: No, we knew Mepher's intent because he posted the picture from the wikipedia page. <inappropriate comment removed -KH> $\endgroup$
    – 97832123
    Jul 22, 2010 at 3:09

I don't think this is a true mathematical question, and if it occurred in the future I would vote to close it. An explanation of the illusion can, of course, be posted in the comments.

I do think, however, that a community wiki style question asking people to list their favorite math jokes can be successful. (This has happened on MO.) It is a soft, big-list question, the type that is not strictly encouraged here, but sufficiently universal that most will enjoy it.

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    $\begingroup$ Has anyone else noticed that this is a completely unfunny joke? $\endgroup$
    – 97832123
    Jul 22, 2010 at 6:35

Rather than hijack the question, I'll just "answer"...

I would like to see/start a "soft" question (whether on meta or main, I care not) that is a "big list" of math jokes. I enjoy humor, especially humor that is related to other passions of mine.

There are already some jokes on other sites where I troll, e.g.

a thread I started on MMF

Hmm... MathHelpForum is down (as a site), but you get the point.

So can we have such a thread? Maybe a more diplomatic user would care to initiate it...


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