Books : reviews

Keith Selkirk, William Wynne Willson.
Fifty per cent Proof: an anthology of mathematical humour.
Mathematical Association, Stanley Thornes. 1989

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 10 June 1998

ISBN 0 7487 0166 4

This slim volume is a collection of mathematical jokes, quotations, and humorous items. Some of the jokes are good (but none as good as the unaccountably absent Impure Mathematics -- aka The Adventures of Polly Nomial), but many are rather strained. And the best ones are reprinted from Weber's much superior A Random Walk in Science.

One of the better entries is a mathematical paper on "Busprongs" -- which I probably appreciated because I have recently had to read a (real) paper that had a lot in common with it. The entry comprises not much more than a bunch of arbitrary definitions and unmotivated proofs, and is a great spoof of the sort of paper that gets mathematics a bad name.