I recently returned from Washington, DC, where approximately 5,000 researchers, policy-makers, journalists and science communicators from around the world gathered for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
From morning to night, in Washington’s sprawling convention centre and nearby hotels, speakers explored practically every imaginable branch of science, from space exploration and climate change to robotics and oral hygiene. And thankfully there were plenty of workshops aimed at people like me, whose jobs require translating the complex minutiae of scientific research into clear, compelling English.
This is easier said than done, particularly when it comes to quantum science, since trying to explain quantum processes in simple English is like trying eat soup with chopsticks. The language we use to describe the everyday world tends to fall short of accurately conveying all the counter-intuitive goings-on of the subatomic realm.
So I sought the advice of self-described “science comedian” Brian Malow, who delivered an insightful and refreshingly funny talk during the conference (much funnier than the session on the global shortage of Helium3). Malow has made a career of studying scientific research and mining it for unlikely nuggets of comedic gold. When communicating science, he says, accuracy is always king, but a court jester can certainly help get a message across.
As Isaac Asimov once wrote: “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’, but ‘That’s funny…'”
During his talk, Malow elicited some laughs (and groans) with some nerdilicious one-liners, including:
Helium walks into a bar and orders a beer. The bartender says “We don’t serve noble gases in here.” The Helium doesn’t react.
A neutrino walks into a bar. The bartender says “We don’t serve neutrinos in here.” The neutrino says “I was just passing through.”
If you can make people laugh (or just groan), Malow said, you’re much more likely to get your points heard. So I’ve decided to start collecting quantum jokes, quips and one-liners. Here are a few more of Malow’s:
Schrodinger’s cat walks into a bar and doesn’t.
A higgs-boson walks into a church. The priest says “Higgs-bosons aren’t allowed in here.” The higgs-boson says “But without me, how can you have mass?”
Know any other quantum yuks? Leave comments!