Arts & Culture

Viral Video Of The Week: New “New Math”

Julian Sanchez has no reason to fear being struck down by the gods: Bo Burnham's new "New Math" is funnier than Tom Lehrer's old "New Math"; if you think that's blasphemy, you don't know what makes either of them funny … Read More

By / June 9, 2008

Julian Sanchez has no reason to fear being struck down by the gods: Bo Burnham's new "New Math" is funnier than Tom Lehrer's old "New Math"; if you think that's blasphemy, you don't know what makes either of them funny in the first place. Here's Burnham:

One quibble: "What's domain, domain, range?" Burnham asks. "A kid with too much in his pants." That's because the domain of a function is usually represented by x and the range by y. Hence "domain, domain, range" becomes «x,x,y» becomes XXY, or Klinefelter's Syndrome. But most Klinefelter's cases aren't true hermaphrodites; they're men with smaller than usual equipment. Which means that such kids usually have too little in their pants (at least if you buy into traditional gender norms).

Still, Burnham's new math is powerful stuff. It defines the unnatural log ("duraflame"), extends over complex numbers ("Santa Claus ?i" is an imaginary times an imaginary, so it's real), and allows the construction of a factor tree of the factors that caused his girl to leave him ("a tree full of Asian porn"). It's no insult to Lehrer to say he didn't cover that much ground. In fact, it's a tribute to Lehrer that his stuff is still so fresh forty years on with the odd update here and there. Just look at what can be done with his "National Brotherhood Week":

Oh the Feminists hate Republicans And Republicans hate the Feminists To mock all Feminazis Is an old G.O.P. rule

But during Islamo-Fascism Week Islamo-Fascism Week You’ll see Ann Coulter On Our Backs at USC She’s helping Muslims seek Their Feminine Mystique Simone De Beauvoir’s really very cool

So true. If Burnham really wants to threaten Lehrer's position, he'll have to come up with a Ratzinger-remix of "Vatican Rag." And don't try to tell me that a new arrangement of "Wehrner von Braun" for present circumstances isn't long overdue:

Maybe something like: "Don't call them torture fetishists./ Say rather they're lifelong fraternity pledges./ 'Stick foreign objects into prisoners/ And information comes out./ Who cares if it's nonsense?'/ Says Rumsfeld the lout.'"

On the other hand, nobody will ever improve on Lehrer's cheer for his alma mater:

Fight fiercely Harvard, fight, fight, fight!

Demonstrate to them our skill.

Albeit they possess the might,

Nonetheless we have the will.

Although that's not a huge exaggeration of Harvard's actual fight songs. To which the only response is, "Break through that Crimson line/ Their strength to defy." Pwns them every time.

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