As with inside jokes, we often appreciate intellectual jokes because we understand them in a way that others may not.
You don’t have to be a genius to understand these, but you may have to know a thing or two about physics, literature, sociology, and more. Luckily, we’ve also included explanations if some of the jokes go over your head.
Here are 18 jokes and puns that made us laugh, groan, and smirk in satisfaction:
1. Who is this Rorschach guy and why does he paint so many pictures of my parents fighting?
- Wikimedia Commons
Here’s why it’s funny: The Rorschach test is a projective psychological test created by Swiss psychologist Hermann Rorschach in 1921. During the test, a psychologist shows you several inkblot cards and records your perception of each one. It’s typically used to examine a patient’s subconscious or unconscious thoughts, personality traits, and hidden emotions.
So a person thinking they see their parents fighting when they see a Rorschach test? They probably have some unconscious thoughts to work out.
Source: Deleted user, Reddit
2. Two sociologists are sitting by the pool. One turns to the other and asks, “Have you read Marx?” to which he replies, “Yes, it’s these damn wicker chairs.”
Here’s why it’s funny: Sociologists are likely well-acquainted with Karl Marx’s theories about economics, politics, and society. But this joke isn’t about Marx or his ideas, but about how wicker chairs tend to leave red indentations on your skin.
While the sociologist who asked the question meant, “Have you read Marx?” the other sociologist heard it as, “Have you red marks?”
Source: tall_where_it_counts, Reddit
3. Pavlov is sitting at a pub enjoying a pint. The phone rings and he jumps up shouting, “Oh s—, I forgot to feed the dog!”
Here’s why it’s funny: Originally told by comedian Irwin Barker, this joke draws upon Ivan Pavlov’s groundbreaking research on classical conditioning and behavioral psychology.
In his experiments, Pavlov – who had previously observed that dogs drooled at the sight of food – conducted trials in which he rang a bell before he fed a dog. Eventually, the dogs, who had been conditioned to associate the sound of the bell with food, started drooling at the sound of the bell alone.
This joke turns the experiment on its ear with Pavlov hearing a sound and remembering to feed the dogs.
Source: disposableaccountass, Reddit
4. A man walks up to a librarian and asks, “Do you have any books on Pavlov’s dogs and Schrödinger’s cat?” The librarian responds, “It rings a bell but I’m not sure if it’s here or not.”
- Stephen Woods/Flickr
Here’s why it’s funny: We’ve just discussed Pavlov and his bells in the last joke, but the second part of this joke is about physicist Erwin Schrödinger who proposed the following thought experiment, now known as Schrödinger’s cat, in 1935 to illustrate the properties of quantum mechanics.
Imagine that you’ve placed a cat inside a closed box, along with a Geiger counter, a flask of poison, a hammer, and a radioactive substance which decays at random. If the Geiger counter detects radioactivity, the hammer shatters the flask, which releases the poison and kills the cat. In simplest terms, quantum mechanics maintains that until you open the box – until you can actually observe what’s happening inside – the cat is simultaneously alive and dead.
That’s why the librarian wasn’t sure if the book was there or not. She won’t know, in fact, until she finds it.
Source: chocoyo1, Reddit
5. Question: Who does Polyphemus hate more than Odysseus?
Here’s why it’s funny: This one’s nice and simple if you’ve read “The Odyssey” by Homer. In the epic, the Greek hero Odysseus tells a Cyclops called Polyphemus that his name is “Nobody” (or “No man”).
Later, when some fellow Cyclops ask Polyphemus who blinded him – spoiler alert: it was Odysseus – Polyphemus yelled, “Nobody!”
Source: shannman, Reddit
6. There are two types of people in the world: Those who can extrapolate from incomplete data sets.
- Matej Kastelic/Shutterstock
Here’s why it’s funny: When you extrapolate from a data set, you predict trends or values based on what you already know and observe. People who can extrapolate from an incomplete data set can finish the joke themselves (“… and those who cannot.”)
People who can’t extrapolate from an incomplete data set – well, they’re left hanging.
Source: cynognathus, Reddit
7. Einstein, Newton, and Pascal decide to play hide-and-seek. Einstein is “It,” closes his eyes, counts to 10, and then opens them. Pascal is nowhere to be seen. Newton is sitting right in front of Einstein, with a piece of chalk in his hand. He’s sitting in a box drawn on the ground, a meter to one side. Einstein says, “Newton, you’re terrible, I’ve found you!” Newton says, “No no, no. You’ve found one Newton per square meter. You’ve found Pascal!”
- Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Here’s why it’s funny: The pascal (Pa) is a unit used to measure pressure and stress, among other things. One pascal is equal to one newton (N) of force applied over an area of one square meter, or 1 Pa = 1 N/m2. The pascal and newton are named after mathematician Blaise Pascal and physicist Sir Isaac Newton, respectively.
Source: IWatchGifsForWayToo, Reddit
8. A biologist, a chemist, and a statistician are out hunting. The biologist shoots at a deer and misses 5 feet to the left. The chemist takes a shot and misses 5 feet to the right. The statistician yells, “We got ’em!”
Here’s why it’s funny: Statisticians spend much of their time calculating averages. Mathematically, +5 and -5 average out to zero.
In other words, the joke is that the statistician took the average of both shots and figured they hit the target.
Source: Arcadian5656, Reddit
9. Question: What do you get when you put root beer in a square glass?
- Ben Nigh/INSIDER
Here’s why it’s funny: The square root of a squared number is the number itself. For example, the square root of 22 is 2.
Thus, when you put root beer in a square glass – in other words, square root beer or take the square root of beer – you get beer.
Source: hotdogcolors, Reddit
10. A photon checks into a hotel and the bellhop asks him if he has any luggage. The photon replies, “No, I’m traveling light.”
- Paula Bronstein/Getty Images
Here’s why it’s funny: Very smart people disagree on what exactly a photon is – some call it a “particle of light” while others say it’s not because it behaves like a wave. Light is really complex (just ask Albert Einstein, who in 1921 won the Noble Prize partly for his explanation of the photoelectric effect), but that’s the key term here you need to know to understand the joke: Light.
Whatever you want to call a photon, it involves light and is almost always moving. Meanwhile the phrase “traveling light” indicates traveling without much (if any) luggage.
I object to this on the grounds that photons experience no time within their own reference frame and therefore could not possibly respond.
The best they could do is give a wave.
That’s probably the closest most of us will ever come to understanding photons.
Source: JMorgasm, Reddit
11. Did you hear about the man who got cooled to absolute zero? He’s 0K now.
- Paxson Woelber/Flickr
Here’s why it’s funny: Absolute zero is a theoretical temperature scientists decided was the coldest possible temperature. It corresponds to −273.15° on the Celsius scale, −459.67° on the Fahrenheit scale, and 0 on the Kelvin scale.
In other words, absolute zero could also be written as 0 Kelvin. So the man who was cooled to absolute zero? His temperature would literally be 0K.
Source: the_breadlord, Reddit
12. There are only two hard things in computer science: cache invalidation, naming things, and off-by-one errors.
- ShutterStock / timofey123
Here’s why it’s funny: The off-by-one error happens pretty commonly when a computer programmer makes a mistake, causing an iterative loop to happen either one time too many or too few.
In this case, because the joke asked for two examples and we were given three, we were off by one too many examples. Whoops!
Source: smickie, Reddit
13. A classics professor goes to a tailor to get his pants mended. The tailor asks, “Euripides?” The professor replies, “Yes. Eumenides?”
- Michael Loccisano/Getty Images
Here’s why it’s funny: You need to pronounce “Euripides” and “Eumenides” in a fake Italian accent (“you-rip-a-these” and “you-mend-a-these,” respectively) to begin to understand this joke.
Euripides was an Athenian playwright in 400 BCE while “The Eumenides” was the third part of a Greek tragedy by Aeschylus. A classics professor would know both, so it’s funny that they also sound a lot like a tailor asking, “You ripped these?” and the professor responding, “Yes. You mend these?”
Source: suid, Reddit
14. Two chemists walk into a bar. The first says, “Can I have a glass of H2O?” The second chemist says, “Can I have a glass of water, too?” The first chemist breaks down in tears — his assassination attempt has failed.
Here’s why it’s funny: Water’s chemical formula is written as “H2O.” The first scientist was hoping his colleague would say, “I’ll have some H2O, too” and that the bartender would serve him hydrogen peroxide, which has a chemical formula of “H202.”
Instead, the second chemist said “water” instead of “H2O, too,” foiling the first chemist’s grand scheme at this very strange bar.
Source: TheWill2Live, Reddit
15. Question: Why do engineers confuse Halloween and Christmas?
- Jemal Countess/Getty Images
Here’s why it’s funny: This joke was over our heads, but according to iD Tech, it involves two number systems known as Octal and Decimal that have different bases.
Basically, Octal 31 (which can be abbreviated to Oct. 31) is equal to Decimal 25 (or Dec. 25). And because these look like month abbreviations, the joke is that engineers think October 31 is the same as Decemeber 25, and vice versa.
Source: Taldoable, Reddit
16. Question: What do you get when you cross a mosquito with a rock climber?
- Anton Ferreira/Reuters
Here’s why it’s funny: You need to have an understanding of biology, math, and word play to find this joke humorous.
First, the word play. A vector in math is an object with a size and direction. Meanwhile, a disease vector is an agent, like a mosquito, that can transmit infectious pathogens into other organisms.
A scalar in math is a quantity measured with a single number, such as temperature or length. A “scalar” sounds a lot like a “scaler,” which is a person or thing that scales something, like climbing a pile of rocks.
Source: ColoradoScoop, Reddit
17. It’s hard to explain puns to kleptomaniacs because they always take things literally.
Here’s why it’s funny: People with kleptomania suffer from a pathological compulsion to steal items that they generally don’t need. In other words, they take things – literally!
Source: t3hcurs3, Reddit
18. Question: What does the “B” stand for in Benoit B. Mandelbrot?
- Steve Jurvetson/Flickr
Here’s why it’s funny: Benoit B. Mandelbrot discovered “fractal geometry,” which is this beautiful meeting of art and mathematics. It involves, as Reddit user HTdestroyer explains, things with “repeating patterns and multiple iterations inside itself.”
Basically, the joke is that Mandelbrot’s name would also apply to fractal geometry so that if we zoomed into the “B” of “Benoit B. Mandelbrot,” we’d find his name again, and so on.
This diagram also clears it up.
Source: HTdestroyer, Reddit