Penny Post Science Competition Winner

Congratulations to Hilary Kelly from Hungerford, winner of the Penny Post Science Competition!

The challenge was to explain four science-based jokes (see below). As Albert Einstein himself said, “you don’t really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother.”

Many thanks to our three local science professionals who posed as Einstein’s grandmother:

Pete Scutt, Head of Science and Maths, John O’Gaunt School

Judith Bunting, Lib Dem Team Science, documentary filmmaker for Tomorrow’s World & Horizon science series

Patrick Shaw Stewart, Director of Douglas Instruments and pioneer of protein crystalization


Hilary has won free tickets to the Winchester Science Centre and three special editions of BBC Science & Technology Focus Magazine: Earth from Space; The Big Book of Top 10s; 20 Big Ideas

Congratulations also to runners up Callum and Luke Flanagan from Hungerford.

Hilary’s Winning Joke Explanations

1. A neutron walks into a bar and asks how much for a beer. Bartender replies “For you, no charge”.

2. Atom: “I’d like to report a missing electron”. Policeman: “Are you sure?” Atom: “Yes – I’m positive!”

Atoms contain protons, neutrons and electrons. Protons carry a single positive charge, electrons a single negative charge, neutrons are neutral (with no charge – see joke 1).

An atom with equal numbers of protons and electrons has no overall electrical charge. If an atom loses one or more electrons it becomes positively charged – the number of electrons it loses depends on its grouping within the Periodic Table. Thus the atom in Joke 2 is positive in that it has lost an electron, and also that it is certain of the “fact”.

3. There are 10 types of people in the world: those who understand binary and those who don’t.

Standard counting uses base 10 – we count using hundreds, ten and units, with digits 0 to 9 in each column, so “10” is one ten plus no units. Binary is base 2, using columns of units, 2, 4, 8 etc, doubling each time. Each column may contain only 0 or 1, thus “10” in binary is one 2 and no units, ie 2, the two types of people who either understand binary, or don’t.

4. A statistician and two friends are out hunting a deer. The first friend takes careful aim and fires but misses the deer by five feet to the left. The second friend fires and misses by five feet to the right. “Yeah” shouts the statistician. “We got it!”

Statistics examines patterns and relationships between sets of numbers. Statistical measures include averages, ranges and confidence intervals. One measure of “average” is the median: the midpoint in a series of numbers when put into order. Thus for the hunters, +5, -5 median 0 ie on target. A variation in this joke: a statistician has his head in the oven and his feet in the fridge. On average his body temperature is comfortable.

5. Biology – the only science where multiplication and division mean the same thing.

In biology, cells multiply (increase their numbers by producing identical copies of themselves, 1 cell becomes 2, then 4, 8, 16 etc) by the process of cell division (splitting apart).


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