What's the problem with jokes about quantum physics?

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×You either get them and you don't.

Dr. John Newell was a widely-respected set theorist, known for his precision and care. After making millions writing a very successful series of introductory textbooks*, he spent his time tracking down rare mathematical books to expand his personal library.

*Yes, you can indeed make millions and buy a mansion with math books.
Dr. Newell was a big believer in the mathematical community, so his library quickly gained a reputation since he would let any mathematician who came by peruse his collection. He had an idiosyncratic sorting system that few understood, but let him locate any book within moments; even when his collection grew to occupy an entire floor of his mansion. He eventually gained quite a reputation as a librarian.

Remarkably, despite this success, Dr. Newell still had not been given tenure. By whatever stroke of luck, he constantly got passed over. This didn't really bother Dr. Newell, as he didn't really need to work any more anyway. So it was never a significant thing for him.

This changed with the recent financial crash, though. The University had to trim its budget, and someone suggested a brilliant, magnificent way of dealing with this. They were going to impose mandatory volunteerism on tenure-track professors, so that they could perform some duties previously relegated only to graduate students.

Not wanting to miss an opportunity, the University administration decided that Dr. Newell's volunteer service would be to reorganize the University's library, hopefully increasing the library's efficiency, meaning that the University could save money and synergize more, or something like that.

Dr. Newell was not a very big fan of this proposition. He complained about it, but his fate seemed set. Faced with the loss of his job, which he still enjoyed, he begrudgingly agreed to help resort the University's library. The administration was overjoyed, looking forward to a library that would be easier to find books in.

One month later, it was abundantly clear that the whole affair was a disaster. No one, not even Dr. Newell, could find a book anywhere in the library. The University hastily switched back to its old system, at great expense, and struck a post-mortem committee to figure out what went wrong. Naturally, they interviewed Dr. Newell, curious why his sorting system had failed, when it had worked so well at his home, and he was famous for it.

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×Dr. Newell's explanation was, to the committee's surprise, quite brief. He simply told them that "I can only order well when I'm given the choice."

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