“What do you call 6.022 times 10 to the 23… wait I messed up. Why did the 6.022 times 10 to the 23rd ester get arrested? Because it was a mole-ster!”
My informant doesn’t remember where he heard this from, but it’s his favorite Chemistry joke.
This is a joke that is usually said in a casual setting between friends since it is slightly crude.
This joke is probably spread between people of higher intelligence, since it does require basic Chemistry knowledge to understand. It’s a bit crude, which is an interesting juxtaposition against the topic of Chemistry, but that’s probably why the punch line is unexpected.
A neutron walks into a bar and orders a drink. When it tries to pay, the barman says, “for you, no charge”
My informant first learned this joke during Orientation at USC the summer before her freshman year. She introduced herself as a biochemistry major and another student responded with this joke. The other student told the joke as an attempt to connect with my informant over the only personal information he knew about her. My informant warned me that the joke was silly before telling it to me, but the silliness of the joke was what allowed it to work as an effective icebreaker. The very familiar structure of the joke contributes to its cheesiness. At first, the audience is confused at the absurdity of a neutron walking into a bar. The “no charge” punchline, though, validates the “walks into a bar” setup. The joke plays off two denotations of the word “charge”: an electrical charge and a requested payment. The joke requires only a basic knowledge of chemistry (a neutron has a net electrical charge of zero), so the teller could be confident that my informant, as a declared biochem major, would understand the joke, and that they could then laugh about (or at) it together.
This is like a piece of I guess tradition from my high school and Im from Arlington, Virginia but I dont really know if that has to do with it necessarily but just in my high school uh, so uh you know you have your regular classes and I took chemistry in tenth grade, I think yeah and in eleventh grade I decided to take AP Chemistry and of course AP classes are always, AP sciences are always hard for high schoolers so I took it and uh, before, like in ah spring before the end of my sophomore year, so when I was gonna go into my junior year and starting it we had like this initiation ceremony. So like it was really funny like I didnt know what was going on there was just like this list that the teacher sent out to all of us that were going to be in the class the next year and there were like all these random things like three tins of cat food and a bikini and like a, like fishhooks and like, uh, it was really random and uh, people like knew not to bring that stuff cause it was so ridiculous but one guy actually did bring all that stuff. It was really funny. So uh we all got together at the school and like I had no idea what it was. Like uh, my friend before had done it but he wouldnt tell me what it was because it was like this secret. So we all got in the uh, the, like the students who had already taken AP Chem, we all got into their cars and then we drove and we drove and we drove and we drove and we drove in like half an hour into D.C. cause Arlingtons really close to D.C. and its kinda northern D.C. area and it was actually a, ah, swing dance thing. Like I guess they have these every once and a while in D.C. like they just really like swing dancing so we did that for like four hours at night. And like everybody was having a good time and it was really hot because it was like 95 degrees. And the guy with the the poor guy with the ti-cat food. No it was really fun. So yeah, that was our initiation.
The informant is a 20-year-old Neuroscience student at the University of Southern California. Her mother is Slovenian and her father is Mexican. She is from Arlington, Virginia.
When asked about what she thought of this initiation she thought the random random, crazy fun quality of it was typical of her school, which was basically run by 30- and 40-something-year-old hippies. The atmosphere of the school was fun while still being academically rigorous. As mentioned in her description of the initiation itself is that an initiation for AP Chemistry was reasonably appropriate because she and her other rising-AP Chemistry peers were entering a time of grueling academics that represented a new intensity of schooling.
I surmise that this initiation is as much an expression of school identity as much as it was a rite of passage. Not only were these rising juniors about to enter the grueling world of Advanced Placement classes but also entering these classes at this particular school with a unique balance of idiosyncratic fun and academics.