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  Written by
  Mary Ruth Yoe

  Illustrations by
  Richard Thompson

  > > Liberal talk, realist thinking
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The winning punch line
  > > Physics for breakfast
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The young and studious


And the winning punch line is...
How many U of C students does it take to change a lightbulb? To this illuminating inquiry, Magazine readers provided answers that were many and various.

IMAGE:  And the winning punch line is...

There's a glaring lacuna in the annals of lightbulb humor. The world has long known how many Harvard students it takes to change a lightbulb (One-he holds the bulb and the world revolves around him) and how many Berkeley students (Seventy-six-one to change it, 50 to protest the lightbulb's right to choose, and 25 to counter-protest). But nowhere could the Magazine's editors find the answer for Chicago. So we turned to our readers.

When asking a Chicago grad a simple question, don't expect a simple answer. Of the scores of responses, a fair number considered more pressing matters, giving validity to the solution proffered by Eleanor R. Smith, AB'85: "None-this is strictly a theoretical school."

"What is it we mean when we say 'change'?" pondered Edith K. Knowlton, AB'71.

"Change it to what?" countered Michel P. Richard, AB'51, AM'55. "We were taught to define terms."

Speaking of terms: "The answer is pi-which is after all a circle of inquiry divided by diametric perspectives composed of an infinite number of points of reference," noted Nisan Chavkin, X'83. "Of course," Chavkin continued, "the actual value of p is still being calculated, so changing the lightbulb might have to wait."

Some readers did do the math. Jane Chapman Martin, AM'90, started by dividing the question itself in two. First she calculated the number of undergrads involved: "Four-one to change it, and three to complain about how hard it was." Then she moved on to the number of graduate changers: "One-but it takes seven years."

That's a clear gain over the line Teresa Davidian, PhD'88, heard lamented on the quads in the 1980s: "One-it just takes ten years."

In his reckoning of the count, Ben Ostrov, AM'77, PhD'87, reflected Chicago's attention to the bottom line: "Ten-one to change the bulb and nine to consider the economic feasibility of this mode of illumination."

But the grand prize-and with it the honor of having one's winning punch line immortalized on a T-shirt to be awarded to everyone whose response is printed here-goes to Paul L. Sandberg, JD'82, MBA'82, who underscored the unblinking focus of true Chicago students with his retort:

"Quiet! We're studying in the dark."

IMAGE:  And the winning punch line is...

In an effort to up the ha-ha quotient, the Magazine gave readers the chance to contribute to two other genres of low-brow humor. Thus we can provide the following explanations of life at the mind-body intersection. In other words, Why did the Chicago student cross the road?

Again theory takes precedence over fact:

"To see if it would alter his/her consciousness in a determinate, predeterminate, indeterminate, or non-determinate fashion," opined Rob Gushurst, AB'66, PhD'71.

No one, however, was in doubt about the factual answer:

"To get to the Reg. Of course." John G. Stackhouse, PhD'87; Steven M. Meralevitz, AB'90; Vivienne J. Kattapong, AB'82, AM'84; and H. Mark Delman, AB'84, MBA'92, all played variations on the library theme.

Meanwhile, Margaret W. Palu, AB'71, retooled a staple of Internet humor, answering the old chicken-crossing riddle in the style of past and present notables. For "chicken," she inserted "Chicago" in some 50 one-liners, including Aristotle's "It's in the nature of Chicago students to cross roads." Because she lives in France, a good share of Palu's zingers had a French accent. Take François Mitterand's petulant "Imbecile! He crossed the road and got run over, just as I predicted."

And although we asked for Maroon Knock Knock jokes, no readers seemed willing or able to pun on their school color. Instead we offer this, also contributed by road-crosser Mark Delman:

IMAGE:  And the winning punch line is...Knock, knock.
Who's there?
Kant who?
Kant you stop these terrible jokes?





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