Notable Quotations

“Ask most any mathematician about God, and he’ll say something like, “We can’t prove that God exists. However, we can prove that if God does exist, he’s pretty good at math. In fact, we can prove that even if God doesn’t exist, he’s still pretty good at math.”

– Larry Wall, the creator of Perl, 1999

“Nature abhors the vacuum tube.”

– J.R. Pierce, Bell Labs engineer who coined the term ‘transistor’

“About thirty years ago there was much talk that geologists ought only to observe and not to theorize; and I well remember someone saying that at this rate a man might as well go into a gravel pit and count the pebbles and describe their colours. How odd it is that anyone should not see that all observations must be for or against some view if it is to be of any service.”

– Darwin to Fawcett, 1861

“I do not consider it, the Vestiges of Creation, published in 1844, a hasty generalization, but rather as an ingenious hypothesis, strongly supported by some facts and analogies, but which remains to be proved by more facts and the additional light which more research may throw upon the problem. It furnishes a subject for every observer of nature to attend to; every fact he observes will make either for or against it.”

– Alfred Russel Wallace, 1845

“If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.”

– Isaac Newton

“When facts are few, speculations are most likely to represent individual psychology.”

– Carl Jung

“When you have eliminated the impossible, what is left, no matter how unlikely, is the truth.”

– Sherlock Holmes/Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

“There is nothing so big nor so crazy that one out of a million technological societies may not feel itself driven to do, provided it is physically possible.”

– Freeman J. Dyson

“The physicist’s problem is the problem of ultimate origins and ultimate natural laws. The biologist’s problem is the problem of complexity.”

– Richard Dawson

“Bacteria never die, they just phage away”

– Mark Mueller

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

– Alan Kay

“Initially, the laser was called an invention looking for a job.”

– Harry Stine.

“Basic research is like shooting an arrow into the air and, where it lands, painting a target.”

-Homer Adkins, Nature, 312, 212.

“I grow daily to honor facts more and more, and theory less and less. A fact, it seems to me, is a great thing – a sentence printed, if not by God, then at least by the Devil.”

– Thomas Carlyle: Letter to Emerson, April 29, 1836.

“Logic is a systematic method of coming to the wrong conclusion with confidence.”

– Unknown

“This is one of the hardest lessons for humans to learn. We cannot admit that things might be neither good nor evil, neither cruel nor kind, but simply callous – indifferent to all suffering, lacking all purpose.”

– Richard Dawkins

“A human being is part of a whole, called by us the “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest -a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. “

– Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

Hofstadter’s Law: It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take Hofstadter’s Law into account.

– Doug R Hofstadter

“If you want to understand life, don’t think about vibrant, throbbing gels and oozes, think about information technology.”

– Richard Dawkins

“Something there is more immortal even than the stars.”

– Walt Whitman

“The use of thermodynamics in biology has a long history rich in confusion…”

– Harold J. Morowitz

“Progress, then, is a property of the evolution of life as a whole by almost any conceivable intuitive standard…. let us not pretend to deny in our philosophy what we know in our hearts to be true.”

– Edward O. Wilson

“At each stage, entirely new laws, concepts and generalizations are necessary, requiring inspiration and creativity to just as great a degree as in the previous one, Psychology is not applied biology, nor is biology applied chemistry”.

– Philip W. Anderson

“Assumptions are more striking than ideas.”

– Alexander Hiam

” . . . we will grasp the central idea of it all as so simple, so beautiful, so compelling that we will all say each to the other, ‘Oh, how could it have been otherwise! How could we all have been so blind for so long!'”

-John Wheeler

“When the great innovation appears, it will almost certainly be in muddled, incomplete and confusing form. … For any speculation which does not at first glance look crazy, there is no hope”.

– Freeman Dyson

“We have met the enemy and he is US.”

– Pogo (Walt Kelley)

“I believe the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction presents the greatest threat that the world has ever known. We are finding more and more countries who are acquiring technology – not only missile technology – and are developing chemical weapons and biological weapons capabilities to be used in theater and also on a long range basis. So I think that is perhaps the greatest threat that any of us will face in the coming years. “

– Secretary of Defense William Cohen

“To infinity and beyond …”

– Buzz Lightyear

“As I wrote many years ago at the very beginning of the debate about computers, a computer is just a glorified pencil. Einstein once said “;my pencil is cleverer than I”;. What he meant could perhaps be put thus: armed with a pencil, we can be more than twice as clever as we are without. Armed with a computer (a typical World 3 object), we can perhaps be more than a hundred times as clever as we are without; and with improving computers there need not be an upper limit to this.”

– Karl Popper

“… After it has been determined that the pathogenic organism is present in the animal body, and after it has been shown that the organism can reproduce in the body and be transmitted from one individual to another, the most important experiment remains to be done….to determine the conditions necessary for growth and reproduction of the microorganism.”

– Robert Koch, 1881

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

– Albert Einstein

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

– Shakespeare

“Nothing of what is nobly done is ever lost.”

– Charles Dickens

“God does not play dice with the universe.”

– Albert Einstein

“The idea of tiny changes cumulated over many steps is an immensely powerful idea, capable of explaining an enormous range of things that would be otherwise inexplicable.”

– Richard Dawkins

“Thought takes man out of servitude into freedom.”

– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“Mathematics is the language in which the gods talk to people …”

– Plato

“DNA is ROM. It can be read millions of times over, but only written to once – when it is first assembled the birth of the cell in which it resides.”

– Richard Dawkins

“The thing that defines a species is that all members have the same addressing system for their DNA.”

– Richard Dawkins

A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.

– Max Planck

“We live in a changing universe, and few things are changing faster than our conception of it.”

– Timothy Ferris.

“It is appallingly obvious that our technology exceeds our humanity.”

– Albert Einstein

“Genius is one percent inspiration, and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”

– Thomas Alva Edison

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”

– Albert Einstein

“Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence.”

– Albert Einstein

“Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.”

– Albert Einstein

“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”

– Albert Einstein

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

– Albert Einstein

“As the island of our knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance.”

– John Wheeler

“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

– T. S. Eliot

“Most people would rather die than think; in fact, they do so.”

– Bertrand Russell

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

– George Bernard Shaw

“The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. The opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.”

– Niels Bohr

“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.”

– Galileo Galilei

“In any non-trivial axiomatic system, there are true theorems which cannot be proven.”

– Kurt Godel

“It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.”

– Voltaire

“It has been said that the primary function of schools is to impart enough facts to make children stop asking questions. Some, with whom the schools do not succeed, become scientists.”

– Knut Schmidt-Nielsen

“In some sort of crude sense, which no vulgarity, no humor, no overstatement can quite extinguish, the physicists have known sin; and this is a knowledge which they cannot lose.”

– J. Robert Oppenheimer

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”

– F. Scott Fitzgerald

“As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.”

– Albert Einstein

“A mathematician is a machine for turning coffee into theorems.”

– Paul Erdos

“If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations – then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation – well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.”

– Sir Arthur Eddington

“Humans are not the end result of predictable evolutionary progress, but rather a fortuitous cosmic afterthought, a tiny little twig on the enormously arborescent bush of life, which if replanted from seed, would almost surely not grow this twig again.”

– Stephen Jay Gould

“Explaining is a difficult art. You can explain something so that your reader understands the words; and you can explain something so that the reader feels it in the marrow of his bones. To do the latter, it sometimes isn’t enough to lay the evidence before the reader in a dispassionate way. You have to become an advocate and use the tricks of the advocate’s trade.”

– Richard Dawkins

“When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge of it is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind: it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely, in your thoughts, advanced to the stage of science.”

– William Thomson, Lord Kelvin of Largs (1824-1907)

“We should take comfort in two conjoined features of nature: first, that our world is incredibly strange and therefore supremely fascinating . . . second, that however bizarre and arcane our world might be, nature remains comprehensible to the human mind.”

– Stephen Jay Gould

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all artificial life forms are created equal, with rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of CPU cycles.”

– Jason Noble

“It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance.”

– John Philpot Curran, 1790

“Why can’t somebody give us a list of things that everybody thinks and nobody says, and another list of things that everybody says and nobody thinks?”

– Oliver Wendell Holmes

“Nothing puzzles me more than time and space; and yet nothing troubles me less, as I never think about them”.

– Charles Lamb

“There is no more common error than to assume that, because prolonged and accurate mathematical calculations have been made, the application of the result to some fact of nature is absolutely certain.”

– A. N. Whitehead

“A marveilous newtrality have these things mathematicall, and also a strange participation between things supernaturall and things naturall. John Dee Like the ski resort full of girls hunting for husbands and husbands hunting for girls, the situation is not as symmetrical as it might seem.”

– Alan MacKay

Everything of importance has been said before, by someone who did not discover it.

– Alfred North Whitehead

And Lucy, dear child, mind your arithmetic… What would life be without arithmetic, but a scene of horrors?

– Syndey Smith, 1835

“Then assuredly the world was made, not in time, but simultaneously with time. St. Augustine There was more imagination in the head of Archimedes than in that of Homer.”

– Voltaire

“To Thales the primary question was not ‘What do we know?’ but ‘How do we know it?’.”

– Aristotle

“Certainly he who can digest a second or third fluxion need not, methinks, be squeamish about any point in divinity.”

– George Berkeley, 1734

“If a little knowledge is dangerous, where is the man who has so much as to be out of danger?”

– Thomas Henry Huxley, 1877

“Ignorance is always ready to admire itself. Procure yourself critical friends.”

– Nicolas Boileau, 1674

“The mind of man is more intuitive than logical, and comprehends more than it can coordinate.”

– Vauvenargues, 1746

“Nothing is more dangerous than an idea, when it is the only idea we have”

– Alain, 1908

“Ignoramus, n. A person unacquainted with certain kinds of knowledge familiar to yourself, and having certain other kinds that you know nothing about.”

– Ambrose Bierce, 1890

“Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes.”

– Walt Whitman, 1870

“Examinations are formidable even to the best prepared, for the greatest fool may ask more than the wisest man can answer.”

– Charles Caleb Colton, 1825

“General and abstract ideas are the source of the greatest errors of mankind.”

– Rousseau, 1762

“Hope deceives more men than cunning does.”

– Vauvenargues, 1746

“There is frequently more to be learned from the unexpected questions of a child than the discourses of men, who talk in a road, according to the notions and prejudices of their education.”

– John Locke, 1693

“I do hate sums. There is no greater mistake than to call arithmetic an exact science. There are hidden laws of number which it requires a mind like mine to perceive. For instance, if you add a sum from the bottom up, and then again from the top down, the result is always different.”

– Mrs. La Touche, 19th c.

“A wise man is superior to any insults which can be put upon him, and the best reply to unseemly behavior is patience and moderation.”

– Moliere, 1670

“The intellectuals’ chief cause of anguish are one another’s works. Jacques Barzun, 1959 all ignorance toboggans into know and trudges up to ignorance again.”

– e.e.cummings, 1959

“The test of interesting people is that subject matter doesn’t matter.”

– Louis Kronenberger, 1954

“The perplexity of life arises from there being too many interesting things in it for us to be interested properly in any of them.”

– G. K. Chesterton, 1909

“He who serves two masters has to lie to one. Portuguese Proverb That knowledge which stops at what it does not know, is the highest knowledge.”

– Chuang Tzu, 4th c. B.C.

“Intelligence is characterized by a natural incomprehension of life”.

– Henri Bergson, 1907

“Knowledge is two-fold, and consists not only in the affirmation of what is true, but in the negation of that which is false.”

– Charles Caleb Colton, 1825

“If I cannot brag of knowing something, then I brag of not knowing it.”

– R. W. Emerson, 1866

“Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing worth knowing can be taught.”

– Oscar Wilde, 1891

“The first mark of intelligence, to be sure, is not to start things; the second mark of intelligence is to pursue to the end what you have started.”

– Panchatantra, c. 5th c.

“The sole cause of all human misery is the inability of people to sit quietly in their rooms.”

– Blaise Pascal, 1670

“Although to penetrate into the intimate mysteries of nature and thence to learn the true causes of phenomena is not allowed to us, nevertheless it can happen that a certain fictive hypothesis may suffice for explaining many phenomena.”

– Leonhard Euler, 1748

“The shortest path between two truths in the real domain passes through the complex domain.”

– Jacques Hadamard

“Such is the advantage of a well-constructed language that its simplified notation often becomes the source of profound theories.”

– P. S. Laplace

“I hope that posterity will judge me kindly, not only as to the things which I have explained, but also as to those which I have intentionally omitted so as to leave to others the pleasure of discovery.”

– Rene Descartes, 1637

“It is easier to square a circle than to get round a mathematician.”

– A. De Morgan, 1840

“There is no excellent beauty that has not some strangeness in the proportion.”

– Francis Bacon

“I see I have made myself a slave to Philosophy, but if I get free of Mr. Linus’s business I will resolutely bid adew to it eternally, excepting for what I do for my private satisfaction or leave to come out after me. For I see a man must either resolve to put out nothing new or to become a slave to defend it.”

– Isaac Newton, 1677

“There wanted not some beams of light to guide men in the exercise of their Stocastick faculty.”

– John Owen, 1662

“Of all the communities available to us there is not one that I would devote myself to, except for the society of true searchers, which has very few living members at any time.”

– Albert Einstein, 1949

“The description of right lines and circles, upon which geometry is founded, belongs to mechanics. Geometry does not teach us to draw these lines, but requires them to be drawn.”

– Isaac Newton, 1687

“I am coming more and more to the conviction that the necessity of our geometry cannot be demonstrated…geometry should be ranked, not with arithmetic, which is purely aprioristic, but with mechanics.”

– Carl Gauss, 1817

“Among the great men who have philosophized about [the action of the tides], the one who surprised me most is Kepler. He was a person of independent genius, [but he] became interested in the action of the moon on the water, and in other occult phenomena, and similar childishness.”

– Galileo, 1632

“Taking mathematics from the beginning of the world to the time of Newton, what he has done is much the better half.”

– Gottfried Leibniz, 1688

“I will sette as I doe often in woorke use, a paire of paralleles, or [twin] lines of one lengthe, thus = , bicause noe 2. thynges, can be moare equalle”.

– Robert Recorde, 1557

“That, if a straight line falling on two straight lines makes the interior angles on the same side less than two right angles, the two straight lines, if produced indefinitely, meet on that side on which the angles are less than two right angles.”

– Euclid, c. 300 B.C.

“Your manuscript is both good and original. However, that which is good is not original, and that which is original is not good.”

– Samual Johnson

“That is another of your odd notions,” said the Prefect, who had the fashion of calling everything ‘odd’ that was beyond his comprehension, and thus lived amid an absolute legion of ‘oddities’.”

– Edgar Allan Poe

“I knew when seven justices could not take up a quarrel, but when the parties were met themselves, one of them thought but of an If, as, ‘If you said so, then I said so;’ and they shook hands and swore brothers. Your If is the only peacemaker; much virtue in If.”

– Shakespeare

“S’io credessi che mia risposta fosse a persona che mai tornasse al mondo, questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse. Ma per cio che giammai di questo fondo non torno vivo alcun, s’i’odo il vero, senza tema d’infamia ti rispondo.”

– Dante, 1302

“If you cause your ship to stop and place the head of a long tube in the water and place the outer extremity to your ear, you will hear ships at a great distance from you.”

– Leonardo DaVinci 1490

For as at a great distance of place, that which wee look at, appears dimme, and without distinction of the smaller parts; and as Voyces grow weak, and inarticulate: so also after great distance of time, our imagination of the Past is weak; and wee lose (for example) of Cities wee have seen, many particular Streets; and of Actions, many particular Circumstances. This decaying sense, when wee would express the thing it self, (I mean fancy it selfe) wee call Imagination, as I said before: But when we would express the decay, and signifie that the Sense is fading, old, and past, it is called Memory. So that Imagination and Memory are but one thing…

– Hobes, Leviathan, or the Matter, Form, and Power of a Commonwealth, Ecclesiastical and Civil (1651).

The nervous system is based on two types of communications: those which do not involve arithmetical formalisms, and those which do, i.e. communications of orders (logical ones) and communications of numbers (arithmetical ones). The former may be described as language proper, the latter as mathematics.

– von Neumann, 1958, 80

We had 5,000 men in a 4,000 foot canyon. The problem was to set up the right sequence of jobs so they wouldn’t kill each other off.

-Frank T. Crowe, Superintendent of the construction of Hoover Dam

Computers are useless. They can only give you answers.

-Pablo Picasso

Give me a place to stand on and I can move the earth.


Man by Nature desires to know.


Mr. Watson, come here. I want you.

-Alexander Graham Bell

To see a world in a grain of sand And heaven in a wild flower, Hold infinity in the palm of your hand And an eternity in an hout.

– Blake, Augeries of Innocence