Posts Tagged ‘science jokes’

My 25 Mundane Neutrino Explanations

Today I had the most fun I’ve ever had on Twitter, thanks to the OPERA experiment working out of CERN, home of the Large Hadron Collider.

The blogosphere is ablaze with news that they seem to have detected neutrinos traveling faster than light.  If true, it would be the biggest science news of the century, overturning one of the most fundamental concepts in physics.  There is obviously much skepticism amongst scientists.  For a typically insightful explanation, check out Bad Astronomer Phil Plait‘s post:  Faster-than-light travel discovered? Slow down, folks

The Twitter fun began when a discussion between two physicist/mathematician-types, Blake Stacey (@blakestacey) and S.C. Kavassalis (@sc_k) led Blake to tweet:

@sc_k Maybe we need to counterbalance the HEP blogohedron with a Twitter meme? e.g., #mundaneneutrinoexplanations

Then he spun out a few funny examples of more mundane explanations for the unusual neutrino measurement:

  • #CERN physicists did arithmetic on old Pentium computers
  • #CERN physicists let undergrads near the experiment
  • Calculations done by visiting Americans who still don’t get the metric system.

…  all with the #mundaneneutrinoexplanations hashtag appended.

I think I was the first one to follow his lead with:

  • Forgot to carry the one
  • Confused neutrino with one sent later
  • Study published by Wakefield et al

Then @drskyskull and @physicsdavid and others joined in (even astophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and the Bad Astronomer) and, before you know it, the Twitterverse was alive with funny explanations, some of which may be as likely as superluminal neutrinos.  I ended up spitting out about 25 of them, which I present here, as they were tweeted, in reverse chronological order (so start from the bottom).  Enjoy!




Wherein Science Comedian Interviews Science Writer Carl Zimmer

I am guest hosting Dr. Kiki’s Science Hour today while Dr. Kiki is on maternity leave.  My guest this week is science writer Carl Zimmer, whom I met at the ScienceOnline2011 conference in January.  Hm.  In fact, that’s where I met last week’s guest, Greg Gbur, as well.  Good thing I went to that.

Carl is an amazing writer.  I’m currently reading his book Microcosm: E. coli and the New Science of Life.  It’s about life and evolution, as seen through the lens of the most well-researched microorganism.

His latest book is Planet of Viruses which will be out in hardcover from University of Chicago Press on May 1.

Carl also has a book about science tattoos coming out later this year.  Here is a recent post about Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.

His growing collection of science tattoos resides at his Science Tattoo Emporium.

Visit his blog The Loom on Discover Magazine’s website.

He’s also written on evolution (Evolution: Triumph of an Idea and the textbook The Tangled Bank: An Introduction to Evolution).  And I just received the brand new edition of his ten-year-old book about parasites:  Parasite Rex.

I also have his first book (which he says is his favorite):  At the Water’s Edge: Fish with Fingers, Whales with Legs, and How Life Came Ashore but Then Went Back to Sea

Here is a recent (Sept. 2010) article on consciousness at the

A list of great science books for high school students.

Carl’s Slate article about the controversy surrounding the NASA study of arsenic-based life – “This Paper Should Not Have Been Published”

Follow me and Carl on Twitter:  @sciencecomedian and @carlzimmer.

My “Virus Walks Into A Bar” series of jokes on YouTube.

Dr. Richard Lenski’s Experimental Evolution Lab at Michigan State University has an evolution odometer on the front page, tracking how many generations of E.coli the lab has bred – over 50,000 generations, so far!

Oh – and listen for me on NPR’s Science Friday tomorrow.  The show streams live (and airs on your local public radio station, too, probably) from 11am-1pm Pacific/2-4pm Eastern.  Listen here.

Science Comedian on BoingBoing

I’m on BoingBoing!

Maggie Koerth-Baker posted a YouTube clip of me this morning.  It’s an excerpt from my performance two weeks ago at Wonderfest, the Bay Area science festival.

The entire festival was videotaped by  You can see the rest of my 15-minute performance here.

Also, a dialogue I moderated entitled Do Robots Make Better Astronauts? (featuring Chris McKay of NASA Ames and Kanna Rajan of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute).

If you’re visiting from BoingBoing… Welcome!

It’s odd to be judged just by these admittedly – purposely – corny bar jokes.  They aren’t exactly representative of my entire act.  They were the silly end to my presentation.

And they also cut the routine short – there are a few more, including the final bar joke which is arguably the best one….  about Helium.

Check out the rest of that performance or see my other YouTube clips: .  Subscribe!

I’m @sciencecomedian on Twitter.  Follow me!

And check out the science videos I’ve been making for Time Magazine’s website.

Thank you, goodnight!

Mike Brotherton and the Science Comedian

Mike Brotherton has a really nice blog post about me.  Mike is a science fiction writer who also happens to be an associate professor at the University of Wyoming in the department of Physics and Astronomy.  Quasars are his specialty!  And there’s a lot of great content in his blog.  Check it out.

I’m ecstatic that, of the two jokes he singled out for mention, one is an analogy that rarely gets the laugh I wish for it.  It’s about the ability of a virus to take down a human.  We must outweigh them by a factor of a billion or more.  It’s the ultimate David and Goliath…  “It’s like Luke Skywalker taking out the Death Star in a little X-Wing Fighter.”

Well, it is, isn’t it?

He also says this about the embedded video:

Next time I teach an introductory science class, I’m going to show some of these. I might be able to deliver a couple of the simpler jokes and fit them into lectures. I’m a good lecturer, but not great, and waking people up with a smart joke that has some real science in it isn’t pandering, it’s educating.

Too often I think thatI just get depressed about the never ending battle with ignorance and science illiteracy, with the folks who reject our best knowledge because it contradicts their political or religious beliefs.  Getting people to laugh and want in on the joke is probably a better method of doing something other than preaching to the choir and bringing in some people who want to chuckle, too.

Thanks, Mike!

I haven’t read his two novels yet – Star Dragon and Spider Star – but they’ve been praised by David Brin and Paul Di Filippo.  They are hard SF and have been compared to the books of Larry Niven and Robert L. Forward.  Sounds good to me!