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1. Sit up. Say, “time to make the donuts.” Leave. Do this often.
2. Every five minutes, get up, open the door, peek out, close the door and look relieved.
3. Express an extreme fear of sunlight. Move away from and flinch at areas of the room that are sunny.
4. Pick up the phone every five minutes and say, “hello.” Look confused and hang up.
5. Unwrap a candy bar. Eat the wrapper and throw the chocolate away.
6. When listening to the radio, sing along with different lyrics and a different tune.
7. Address your roommate by a different name every time you talk to him or her.
8. Constantly drink from an empty glass.
9. Every time you handle something of your roommate’s, use a tissue or gloves.
10. While unlocking your door with the key, complain that the engine won’t start.
11. Name your animal crackers. Mourn for them after you eat them.
12. Get a pet rabbit. At a designated time every day, take the rabbit into the bathroom and engage in loud shouting matches. If your roommate inquires, refuse to discuss the situation.
13. Try to make meals using your roommate’s electric blanket.
14. Put black tape over the eyes of the people in your roommate’s pictures. Complain that they were staring at you.
15. Everytime your roommate falls asleep, wait ten minutes, wake him or her up and say, “it’s time to go to bed now.”

A teacher was having trouble teaching arithmetic to one little boy. So she said, “if you reached in your right pocket and found a nickel, and you reached in your left pocket and found another one, what would you have?”
“Somebody else’s pants.”

Activation Energy: The useful quantity of energy available in one cup of coffee.

Atomic Theory: A mythological explanation of the nature of matter, first proposed by the ancient Greeks, and now thoroughly discredited by modern computer simulation. Attempts to verify the theory by modern computer simulation have failed. Instead, it has been demonstrated repeatedly that computer outputs depend upon the color of the programmer’s eyes, or occasionally upon the month of his or her birth. This apparent astrological connection, at last, vindicates the alchemist’s view of astrology as the mother of all science.

Bacon, Roger: An English friar who dabbled in science and made experimentation fashionable. Bacon was the first science popularizer to make it big on the banquet and talk-show circuit, and his books even outsold the fad diets of the period.

Biological Science: A contradiction in terms.

Bunsen Burner: A device invented by Robert Bunsen (1811-1899) for brewing coffee in the laboratory, thereby enabling the chemist to be poisoned without having to go all the way to the company cafeteria.

Butyl: An unpleasant-sounding word denoting an unpleasant-smelling alcohol.

CAI: Acronym for “Computer-Aided Instruction”. The modern system of training professional scientists without ever exposing them to the hazards and expense of laboratory work. Graduates of CAI-based programs are very good at simulated research.

Cavendish: A variety of pipe tobacco that is reputed to produce remarkably clear thought processes, and thereby leads to major scientific discoveries; hence, the name of a British research laboratory where the tobacco is smoked in abundance.

Chemical: A substance that: 1) An organic chemist turns into a foul odor; 2) an analytical chemist turns into a procedure; 3) a physical chemist turns into a straight line; 4) a biochemist turns into a helix; 5) a chemical engineer turns into a profit.

Chemical Engineering: The practice of doing for a profit what an organic chemist only does for fun.

Chromatography: (From Gr. chromo [color] + graphos [writing]) The practice of submitting manuscripts for publication with the original figures drawn in non-reproducing blue ink.

Clinical Testing: The use of humans as guinea pigs. (See also PHARMACOLOGY and TOXICOLOGY)

Compound: To make worse, as in: 1) A fracture; 2) the mutual adulteration of two or more elements.

Computer Resources: The major item of any budget, allowing for the acquisition of any capital equipment that is obsolete before the purchase request is released.

Eigen Function: The use to which an eigen is put.

En: The universal bidentate ligand used by coordination chemists. For years, efforts were made to use ethylene-diamine for this purpose, but chemists were unable to squeeze all the letters between the corners of the octahedron diagram. The timely invention of en in 1947 revolutionized the science.

Evaporation Allowance: The volume of alcohol that the graduate students can drink in a year’s time.

Exhaustive Methylation: A marathon event in which the participants methylate until they drop from exhaustion.

First Order Reaction: The reaction that occurs first, not always the one desired. For example, the formation of brown gunk in an organic prep.

Flame Test: Trial by fire.

Genetic Engineering: A recent attempt to formalize what engineers have been doing informally all along.

Grignard: A fictitious class of compounds often found on organic exams and never in real life.

Inorganic Chemistry: That which is left over after the organic, analytical, and physical chemists get through picking over the periodic table.

Mercury: (From L. Mercurius, the swift messenger of the gods) Element No. 80, so named because of the speed of which one of its compounds (calomel, Hg2Cl2) goes through the human digestive tract. The element is perhaps misnamed, because the gods probably would not be pleased by the physiological message so delivered.

Monomer: One mer. (Compare POLYMER).

Natural Product: A substance that earns organic chemists fame and glory when they manage to systhesize it with great difficulty, while Nature gets no credit for making it with great ease.

Organic Chemistry: The practice of transmuting vile substances into publications.

Partition Function: The function of a partition is to protect the lab supervisor from shrapnel produced in laboratory explosions.

Pass/Fail: An attempt by professional educators to replace the traditional academic grading system with a binary one that can be handled by a large digital computer.

Pharmacology: The use of rabbits and dogs as guinea pigs. (See also CLINICAL TESTING, TOXICOLOGY).

Physical Chemistry: The pitiful attempt to apply y=mx+b to everything in the universe.

Pilot Plant: A modest facility used for confirming design errors before they are built into a costly, full-scale production facility.

Polymer: Many mers. (Compare MONOMERS).

Prelims: (From L. pre [before] + limbo [oblivion]) An obligatory ritual practiced by graduate students just before the granting of a Ph.D. (if the gods are appeased) or an M.S. (if they aren’t).

Publish or Perish: The imposed, involuntary choice between fame and oblivion, neither of which is handled gracefully by most faculty members.

Purple Passion: A deadly libation prepared by mixing equal volumes of grape juice and lab alcohol.

Quantum Mechanics: A crew kept on the payroll to repair quantums, which decay frequently to the ground state.

Rate Equations: (Verb phrase) To give a grade or a ranking to a formula based on its utility and applicability. H=E, for example, applies to everything everywhere, and therefore rates an A. pV=nRT, on the other hand, is good only for nonexistent gases and thus receives only a D+, but this grade can be changed to a B- if enough empirical virial coefficients are added.

Research: (Irregular noun) That which I do for the benefit of humanity, you do for the money, he does to hog all the glory.

Sagan: The international unit of humility.

Scientific Method: The widely held philosophy that a theory can never be proved, only disproved, and that all attempts to explain anything are therefore futile.

SI: Acronym for “Systeme Infernelle”.

Spectrophotometry: A long word used mainly to intimidate freshman nonmajors.

Spectroscope: A disgusting-looking instrument used by medical specialists to probe and examine the spectrum.

Toxicology: The wholesale slaughter of white rats bred especially for that purpose. (See also CLINICAL TESTING, PHARMACOLOGY).

X-Ray Diffraction: An occupational disorder common among physicians, caused by reading X-ray pictures in darkened rooms for prolonged periods. The condition is readily cured by a greater reliance on blood chemistries; the lab results are just as inconclusive as the X-rays, but are easier to read.

Ytterbium: A rare and inconsequential element, named after the village of Ytterby, Sweden (not to be confused with Iturbi, the late pianist and film personality, who was actually Spanish, not Swedish). Ytterbium is used mainly to fill block 70 in the periodic table. Iturbi was used mainly to play Jane Powell’s father.

College is basically a bunch of rooms where you sit for roughly two thousand hours and try to memorize things. The two thousand hours are spread out over four years; you spend the rest of the time sleeping and trying to get dates.

Basically, you learn two kinds of things in college:

1. Things you will need to know in later life (two hours).

2. Things you will not need to know in later life (1,998 hours). These are the things you learn in classes whose names end in -ology, -osophy, -istry, -ics, and so on. The idea is, you memorize these things, then write them down in little exam books, then forget them. If you fail to forget them, you become a professor and have to stay in college for the rest of your life.

It’s very difficult to forget everything. For example, when I was in college, I had to memorize — don’t ask me why — the names of three metaphysical poets other than John Donne. I have managed to forget one of them, but I still remember that the other two were named Vaughan and Crashaw. Sometimes, when I’m trying to remember something important like whether my wife told me to get tuna packed in oil or tuna packed in water, Vaughan and Crashaw just pop up in my mind, right there in the supermarket. It’s a terrible waste of brain cells.

After you’ve been in college for a year or so, you’re supposed to choose a major, which is the subject you intend to memorize and forget the most things about. Here is a very important piece of advice: be sure to choose a major that does not involve Known Facts and Right Answers. This means you must not major in mathematics, physics, biology, or chemistry, because these subjects involve actual facts. If, for example, you major in mathematics, you’re going to wander into class one day and the professor will say: “Define the cosine integer of the quadrant of a rhomboid binary axis, and extrapolate your result to five significant vertices.” If you don’t come up with exactly the answer the professor has in mind, you fail. The same is true of chemistry: if you write in your exam book that carbon and hydrogen combine to form oak, your professor will flunk you. He wants you to come up with the same answer he and all the other chemists have agreed on.

Scientists are extremely snotty about this.

So you should major in subjects like English, philosophy, psychology, and sociology — subjects in which nobody really understands what anybody else is talking about, and which involve virtually no actual facts. I attended classes in all these subjects, so I’ll give you a quick overview of each:

ENGLISH: This involves writing papers about long books you have read little snippets of just before class. Here is a tip on how to get good grades on your English papers: Never say anything about a book that anybody with any common sense would say. For example, suppose you are studying Moby-Dick. Anybody with any common sense would say that Moby-Dick is a big white whale, since the characters in the book refer to it as a big white whale roughly eleven thousand times. So in your paper, you say Moby-Dick is actually the Republic of Ireland.

Your professor, who is sick to death of reading papers and never liked Moby-Dick anyway, will think you are enormously creative. If you can regularly come up with lunatic interpretations of simple stories, you should major in English.

PHILOSOPHY: Basically, this involves sitting in a room and deciding there is no such thing as reality and then going to lunch. You should major in philosophy if you plan to take a lot of drugs.

PSYCHOLOGY: This involves talking about rats and dreams. Psychologists are obsessed with rats and dreams. I once spent an entire semester training a rat to punch little buttons in a certain sequence, then training my roommate to do the same thing. The rat learned much faster. My roommate is now a doctor. If you like rats or dreams, and above all if you dream about rats, you should major in psychology.

SOCIOLOGY: For sheer lack of intelligibility, sociology is far and away the number one subject. I sat through hundreds of hours of sociology courses, and read gobs of sociology writing, and I never once heard or read a coherent statement. This is because sociologists want to be considered scientists, so they spend most of their time translating simple, obvious observations into scientific-sounding code. If you plan to major in sociology, you’ll have to learn to do the same thing. For example, suppose you have observed that children cry when they fall down. You should write: “Methodological observation of the sociometrical behavior tendencies of prematurated isolates indicates that a casual relationship exists between groundward tropism and lachrimatory, or ‘crying,’ behavior forms.” If you can keep this up for fifty or sixty pages, you will get a large government grant.

Teacher: Can anyone tell me how many seconds there are in a year?
Pupil: 12 – 2nd January, 2nd February…!
Teacher: This is the third time I’ve had to tell you off this week, what have you got to say about that?
Pupil: Thank heavens it’s Friday!

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