Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Mathematics and Humor: A Study of the Logic of Humor” as Want to Read:
Mathematics and Humor: A Study of the Logic of Humor
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Mathematics and Humor: A Study of the Logic of Humor

3.38  ·  Rating Details ·  89 Ratings  ·  16 Reviews
John Allen Paulos cleverly scrutinizes the mathematical structures of jokes, puns, paradoxes, spoonerisms, riddles, and other forms of humor, drawing examples from such sources as Rabelais, Shakespeare, James Beattie, René Thom, Lewis Carroll, Arthur Koestler, W. C. Fields, and Woody Allen.

"Jokes, paradoxes, riddles, and the art of non-sequitur are revealed with great perc
Paperback, 124 pages
Published November 15th 1982 by University Of Chicago Press (first published 1980)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Mathematics and Humor, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Mathematics and Humor

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
I've always felt that one of the really big philosophical questions concerns the nature of humour. What is humour? What purpose, if any, does it serve? Why are some things funny, and others not? I've thought about this stuff, on and off, for ages. The other day, I was poking around on Google and stumbled over this little book, which I immediately ordered from Amazon. It arrived yesterday and only took an evening to read.

Well... if you've got a mathematical background and you're as interested as
I'm moving on. Call this read. Maybe nobody will notice that it isn't.

But it has made me discuss humour with people and I've been given some great ideas along the way. And I would like to preserve bits and pieces here.

My mother said that when we were little we were really funny but that other kids aren't. My first thought was that's what all mothers think. But actually, we were raised to think that laughing at life and ourselves is so important.

My family was experimental and this somewhat bother
Oct 24, 2016 dejah_thoris rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
It's small, well-written, and the math behind the concepts is also presented well. I'm not great at math, but was able to follow along. The diagrams help too. Overall, a VERY compelling read for anyone interested in linguistics and the construction of narrative. Definitely motivated to keep reading this author's other books to see what sort of insights he has regarding storytelling, etc.
Jul 01, 2012 Dave rated it liked it
John Allen Paulos has written a number of books on Mathematics, and “Mathematics and Humor” was his first, published originally in 1980. It is a short book, at just a little over 100 pages, and that is with plenty of drawings and graphs. I had high hopes going into it of an interesting read, but it just didn’t deliver. Paulos has some interesting thoughts and ideas, but the writing was a detriment to the communication of his points to the reader.

In the introduction, Paulos looks at various defin
Andrew Breslin
Oct 17, 2009 Andrew Breslin rated it it was ok
I was a little disappointed in this, but then again, I tend to form unreasonably high expectations. I've read a lot of Paulos' stuff, so I was already beyond being impressed by the fact that here is a mathematician who can actually write well and express detailed technical material in something very close to English.

I was initially intrigued by the use of Rene Thom's catastrophe theory to model the logic of humor in another book, the title of which escapes me at the moment. Its reference to the
Aug 09, 2011 Brian rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Very short; more an essay than a book. It's a strong and powerful essay, an attempt to model humor mathematically. It does this through the tools of catastrophe theory (which I'd never heard of, but Paulos does a great job of explaining it) and brings together modern topology with the classic literary analyses of humor to provide a compelling baseline for future mathematical/comedic study. I know I must be making this sound terribly dull, but it was actually riveting. Paulos wrote the fantastic ...more
Dec 13, 2014 Bill rated it it was ok
Interesting, but the book seems unsure of its audience: is it for a mathematician or for a lay reader. On the one hand, the lay reader will have to muddle through some ideas expressed in logical symbolism that it seems could have been as easily expressed in simple sentences. On the other hand, it doesn't look like there is enough math here to engage someone with a more comprehensive maths background. I am a lay reader, so maybe I just missed something.

Still, the chapter on jokes and their relat
Mike Bularz
Jan 08, 2009 Mike Bularz rated it it was amazing
If you are looking for an in depth look at the logical structure and psychology of humor, this is it. I've seen other attempts at a book like this and this definitely takes the cake.
The book finds solid explanations for various kinds of humor, cultural differences, uses logical / cognitive theories used in other fields and applies them to humor, all the while providing insight into what is funny, what isn't, comedians, culture, etc.

Highly recommend
Omar Aittakalla
Apr 21, 2013 Omar Aittakalla rated it liked it
I just finished reading this book. It starts with a brief summary of the most famous theories on humor. But the second and the third chapters are very vague full of mathematical equations. Quite boring. That's ironic, since this book supposed to be the art of laughter. Anyway, this book still have some greats insights about the psychology of humor, wordplay and paradoxes. But for his attempt to try to explain humor with mathematics, Allen Paulos deserve a smile and a nod.
Adrian Herbez
Sep 04, 2008 Adrian Herbez rated it it was amazing
I thought this was going to be some mildly interesting collection of math-themed humor, but it's much better than that. It's an absolutely fascinating application of mathematics to model how humor works. That might sound ridiculous, but I thought a lot of it made sense, especially the example of using catastrophe theory to model how punchlines work.
Jan 29, 2012 Leighton rated it did not like it
This book is all over the place. While I liked Innumeracy this is just a weird jumbling of "hey this is humor at an algorithmic layer" and then "hey here is some geometry".

Also, most jokes are horrible.
Jul 04, 2015 Frank rated it really liked it
Does a surprisingly good job of pointing out non-trivial isomorphisms between mathematics and humour.
Robin Dawes
Jul 22, 2016 Robin Dawes rated it liked it
It contains interesting ideas and is (as expected from Dr. Paulos) well-written, erudite and witty ... but there's just not very much of it.
Cornelia rated it it was amazing
Aug 30, 2016
May 24, 2012 Zrinka rated it it was ok
Shelves: science, philosophy
not as funny as i imagined it. sometimes even dull
Ben rated it really liked it
Jul 25, 2011
Chris rated it it was amazing
Aug 13, 2012
Jacob Westman
Jacob Westman rated it liked it
Dec 02, 2015
Cami rated it really liked it
Feb 04, 2015
Jonathan Weiss
Jonathan Weiss rated it really liked it
Feb 22, 2012
Michaël rated it liked it
Jan 14, 2016
Alvin Raj
Alvin Raj rated it really liked it
Feb 09, 2012
Hakan rated it it was amazing
Aug 01, 2012
Juuso-jesperi Aro
Juuso-jesperi Aro rated it liked it
Jul 24, 2015
natalia rated it it was ok
Jan 06, 2013
Harun rated it really liked it
Dec 10, 2014
James Marland
James Marland rated it liked it
Aug 10, 2013
Neil rated it really liked it
Jun 06, 2015
Bill Cruise
Bill Cruise rated it liked it
Dec 22, 2013
Becky rated it it was ok
Mar 29, 2009
« previous 1 3 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • A Certain Ambiguity: A Mathematical Novel
  • Mathematics for the Million: How to Master the Magic of Numbers
  • Policy Analysis: Concepts and Practice
  • The New York Times Book of Mathematics: More Than 100 Years of Writing by the Numbers
  • Figments of Reality: The Evolution of the Curious Mind
  • Why Johnny Can't Tell Right from Wrong: And What We Can Do About It
  • On Humour
  • The Fluoride Deception
  • Differential Geometry
  • إدارة التفكير : فكر بطريقة مختلفة، فكر بقوة، حقق مستويات جديدة من النجاح
  • Mathematics: The Loss of Certainty
  • Little House on a Small Planet: Simple Homes, Cozy Retreats, and Energy Efficient Possibilities
  • A Symphony in the Brain: The Evolution of the New Brain Wave Biofeedback
  • Heart of the Mind: Engaging Your Inner Power to Change with Neuro-Linguistic Programming
  • The Many Worlds of Hugh Everett III: Multiple Universes, Mutual Assured Destruction, and the Meltdown of a Nuclear Family
  • Anthropic Bias: Observation Selection Effects in Science and Philosophy
  • Gravity
  • Philosophy of Mathematics and Natural Science

Share This Book