Two mathematicians, let’s call them Bert and Ernie, were in a café discussing the woeful state of mathematical ignorance amongst the general public. Bert excused himself to visit the restroom and Ernie beckoned over the waitress.
“Would you mind helping me with a small bet?” he asked. “When my friend returns I’m going to ask you a question, and I’d like you to reply ‘X cubed’. OK?”
The waitress looked mystified but agreed to do as requested. A few minutes later, Bert returned and the two men resumed their earlier conversation.
“It’s not all that bad,” said Ernie. “I bet you 10 pounds that even this slack-jawed troll of a waitress can do basic calculus”.
“You’re on!” scoffed Bert.
So they beckoned the waitress over. Ernie gave her a surreptitious wink and said “I wonder if you could help my friend and I settle an argument – can you tell me the integral of three X squared?”
The waitress pondered for a moment and replied “Easy: X cubed”.
Ernie grinned smugly at Bert as the waitress walked away. And then, over her shoulder, she added: “Oh yes: plus a constant”.