Selected Excogitations and General Exegesis
Go to Newest Quotes
"a certain impression I had of mathematicians was ... that they spent immoderate amounts of time declaring each other's work trivial."
From his prize winning article
The Mountains of Pi,
New Yorker, March 9, 1992.
"It's about as interesting as going to the beach and counting sand. I wouldn't be caught dead doing that kind of work."
"The universe contains at most 'two to the power fifty' grains of sand."
"Americans are broad-minded people. They'll accept the fact that a person can be alcoholic, a dope fiend or a wife-beater, but if a man doesn't drive a car, everybody thinks that something is wrong with him."
"Caution, skepticism, scorn, distrust and entitlement seem to be intrinsic to many of us because of our training as scientists... . These qualities hinder your job search and career change."
"Consider a precise number that is well known to generations of parents and doctors: the normal human body temperature of 98.6 Farenheit. Recent investigations involving millions of measurements reveal that this number is wrong; normal human body temperature is actually 98.2 Farenheit. The fault, however, lies not iwth Dr. Wunderlich's original measurements - they were averaged and sensibly rounded to the nearest degree: 37 Celsius. When this temperature was converted to Farenheit, however, the rounding was forgotten and 98.6 was taken to be accurate to the nearest tenth of a degree. Had the original interval between 36.5 and 37.5 Celsius been translated, the equivalent Farenheit temperatures would have ranged from 97.7 to 99.5. Apparently, discalculia can even cause fevers."
"When Gladstone was British Prime Minister he visited Michael Faraday's laboratory and asked if some esoteric substance called 'Electricity' would ever have practical significance.
" "the proof is left as an exercise" occurred in 'De Triangulis Omnimodis' by Regiomontanus, written 1464 and published 1533. He is quoted as saying "This is seen to be the converse of the preceding. Moreover, it has a straightforward proof, as did the preceding. Whereupon I leave it to you for homework." "
"As the fading light of a dying day filtered through the window blinds, Roger stood over his victim with a smoking .45, surprised at the serenity that filled him after pumping six slugs into the bloodless tyrant that had mocked him day after day, and then he shuffled out of the office with one last look back at the shattered computer terminal lying there like a silicon armidillo left to rot on the information highway."
"I imagine most of that stuff on the information highway is roadkill anyway."
"It's going to be about bad news. It's going to be about the future of this country, about foreign policy, about defense policy. There are a lot of issues left. I'm certain something will pop up in November. So we'll be able to put it together."
"My dearest Miss Dorothea Sankey
"I believe that the motion picture is destined to revolutionize our educational system and that in a few years it will supplant largely, if not entirely, the use of textbooks."
"Keynes distrusted intellectual rigour of the Ricardian type as likely to get in the way of original thinking and saw that it was not uncommon to hit on a valid conclusion before finding a logical path to it.
"One major barrier to entry into new markets is the requirement to see the future with clarity. It has been said that to so fortell the future, one has to invent it. To be able to invent the future is the dividend that basic research pays."
" 'Ace, watch your head!' hissed Wanda urgently, yet somehow provocatively, through red, full, sensuous lips, but he couldn't, you know, since nobody can actually watch more than part of his nose or a little cheek or lips if he really tries, but he appreciated her warning."
"Because the Indians of the high Andes were believed to have little sense of humor, Professor Juan Lyner was amazed to hear this knee-slapper that apparently had been around for centuries at all of the Inca spots: 'Llama ask you this. Guanaco on a picnic? Alpaca lunch.' "
"We know [smoking is] not good for kids. But a lot of other things aren't good. Drinking's not good. Some would say milk's not good."
"I feel so strongly about the wrongness of reading a lecture that my language may seem immoderate .... The spoken word and the written word are quite different arts .... I feel that to collect an audience and then read one's material is like inviting a friend to go for a walk and asking him not to mind if you go alongside him in your car."
"I know, it's hard to believe that Microsoft would release a product before it was ready, but there you have it. A Seattle cyberwag says, "At Microsoft, quality is job 1.1." We had him killed. "
"No presidential candidate in the future will be so inept that four of his major speeches can be boiled down to these four historic sentences: Agriculture is important. Our rivers are full of fish. You cannot have freedom with out liberty. The future lies ahead."
the (no doubt partisan) Louisville Courier-Journal on Thomas Dewey in 1948, quoted in Jack Beatty's review of James Patterson's Grand Expectations, The United States, 1945-1974. Beatty goes on to say:
'Tom Dewey, make room for Bob ("like everyone else in this room I was born") Dole.'
and lists many other fine quotes from Patterson's book.
"Writers often thank their colleagues for their help. Mine have given none. .. Writers often thank their typists. I thank mine. Mrs George Cook is not a particularly good typist, but her spelling and grammar are good. The responsibility for any mistakes is mine, but the fault is hers. Finally, writers too often thank their wives. I have no wife."
Acknowledgement by Edward Ingram in The Beginning of the Great Game in Asia, 1828-1834.
"I see some parallels between the shifts of fashion in mathematics and in music. In music, the popular new styles of jazz and rock became fashionable a little earlier than the new mathematical styles of chaos and complexity theory. Jazz and rock were long despised by classical musicians, but have emerged as art-forms more accessible than classical music to a wide section of the public. Jazz and rock are no longer to be despised as passing fads. Neither are chaos and complexity theory. But still, classical music and classical mathematics are not dead. Mozart lives, and so does Euler. When the wheel of fashion turns once more, quantum mechanics and hard analysis will once again be in style."
Freeman Dyson's review of Nature's Numbers by Ian Stewart (Basic Books, 1995).
"I was sitting by Dr. Franklin, who perceived that I was not insensible to these mutilations. I have made a rule, said he, whenever in my power, to avoid becoming the draughtsman of papers to be reviewed by a public body."
Jefferson writing in 1818 of the drafting of the Declaration of Independence.
["The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."
(Jefferson quoted on Oklahoma bomb suspect McVeigh's T-shirt.)]
"My morale has never been higher than since I stopped asking for grants to keep my lab going."
Robert Pollack, Columbia Professor of biology. Speaking on "the crisis in scientific morale", September 19, 1996 at GWU's symposium Science in Crisis at the Millennium.
Cecil Rhodes own sardonic paraphrase of the criteria for a Rhodes Scholarship:
"The dictum that everything that people do is 'cultural' ... licenses the idea that every cultural critic can meaningfully analyze even the most intricate accomplishments of art and science. ... It is distinctly weird to listen to pronouncements on the nature of mathematics from the lips of someone who cannot tell you what a complex number is!"
Norman Levitt, from "The flight From Science and Reason," New York Academy of Science.
"Church discipline is also somewhat of a remove from the time when the Emperor Henry IV was made to stand in the snow for three days outside the Pope's castle at Canossa, awaiting forgiveness. A French Bishop, Jacques Gaillot, because of his ultra-liberal views was recently transferred from his position at Evreux, in Normandy, and given charge instead of the defunct dioscese of Partenia, in Southern Algeria, which has been covered by sand since the Middle Ages. Gaillot has retaliated by creating a virtual dioscese on the Internet, which can be reached at http://www.partenia.fr "
Cullen Murphy, "Broken Covenant?"
"We were a polite society and I expected to lead a quiet life teaching mechanics and listening to my senior colleagues gently but obliquely poking fun at one another. This dream of somnolent peace vanished very quickly when Rutherford came to Cambridge. Rutherford was the only person I have met who immediately impressed me as a great man. He was a big man and made a big noise and he seemed to enjoy every minute of his life. I remember that when transatlantic broadcasting first came in, Rutherford told us at a dinner in Hall how he had spoken into a microphone to America and had been heard all over the continent. One of the bolder of our Fellows said "Surely you did not need to use apparatus for that." "
Geoffrey Fellows, 1952, as quoted by George Batchelor in The Life and Legacy of G.I. Taylor (Cambridge University Press).
"Then, owls and bats,
From Robert Browning's (1841) Pippa Passes, which also contains "God's in his Heaven, all's right with the world."
He goes on to say about "this disconcerting quote" that
"Browning had apparently somewhere come across the word twat - which meant precisely the same as it does now - but somehow took it to mean a piece of head gear for nuns. The verse became a source of twittering amusement for generations of schoolboys and a perennial embarrassment to their elders, but the word was never altered and Browning was allowed to live out his life in wholesome ignorance because no one could think of a suitably delicate way of explaining his mistake to him."
"Two major advances are responsible for both the recent progress and current optimism. First, recombinant DNA technology has made it possible to identify every gene and protein in an organism and to manipulate them in order to explore their functions. Second, it has been discovered that the molecular mechanisms of development have been conserved during animal evolution to a far greater extent than had been imagined. This conservation means that discoveries about the development of worms and files, which come from the kind of powerful genetic studies that are not possible in mammals, greatly accelerate the rate at which we can discover the mechanisms and molecules that operate during our own development.
Neural Development: Mysterious No More? written by Martin Raff (University College, London).
[It is hard to imagine a better case for "basic science" than that afforded by this conservation principle -- if worms were good enough for Darwin ... !]
"3. SPACE SYMPOSIUM: THEOLOGIANS JOIN SCIENTISTS AT WHITE HOUSE.
WHAT'S NEW is published every Friday by the AMERICAN PHYSICAL SOCIETY.
"As the test beds begin to prove WDM ('wavelength division multiplexing') networks feasible, telephone company executives will have to judge whether they are wise. If a single glass fiber can carry all the voice, fax, video and data traffic for a large corporation yet costs little more than today's high-speed Internet connections, how much will they be able to charge for telephone service? Peter Cochrane of BT Laboratories in Ipswich, England, predicts that "photonics will transform the telecoms industry by effectively making bandwidth free and distance irrelevant." Joel Birnbaum, director of Hewlett-Packard Laboratories, expects that this will relegate telephone companies to the role of digital utilities. "You will buy computing like you now buy water or power," he says.
In the January 1997 on-line Scientific American.
"Before Canada jeopardizes its scientific future and compromises its scientific community to achieve short-term budgetary solutions, it must recognize that the funding of university sicence is both a government responsibility and a long-range investment. Without government support, Canada's university science infrastructure will erode, and along with it, the country's competitiveness in a world economy increasingly based on knowledge."
Canada's Crisis: Can Business Rescue Science? written by Albert Aguyo and Richard A. Murphy (McGill, Montreal Neurological).
1. SENATOR GRAMM EMERGES AS THE CHAMPION OF BASIC RESEARCH
WHAT'S NEW is published every Friday by the AMERICAN PHYSICAL SOCIETY. It is interesting to contrast a conservative US senator (an ex-academic) from a liberal Canadian government.
"a British officer told a sergeant to post four lookouts to watch for the German army which was advancing through Belgium. Later, the officer discovered that the sergeant had posted only three. Asked to explain his lapse, the soldier said he had judged the fourth guard unnecessary. 'The enemy would hardly come from that direction,' he explained, 'it's private property.' "
From page 59 in MACLEANS Magazine of February 10, 1997.
"Admirers of Thomas Jefferson have long quoted his statement about black men and women that is inscribed on the Jefferson Memorial: 'Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people are to be free.' But they and the inscription, as Conor Cruise O'Brien pointed out in 'Thomas Jefferson: Radical and Racist' (October, 1996, Atlantic), omit Jefferson's subsequent clause: 'Nor is it less certain that the two races, equally free, cannot live in the same government.'"
From page 60 in the Atlantic Monthly of March, 1997. [There are well established copyright notions of "paternity" and "integrity" in the use of material -- the later which this clearly violates!]
"A centre of excellence is, by definition, a place where second class people may perform first class work."
Excerpted from "Michael Faraday -- and the Royal Institution, the genius of man and place", by J.M. Thomas, Adam Hilger, Bristol, 1991.
"The body of mathematics to which the calculus gives rise embodies a certain swashbuckling style of thinking, at once bold and dramatic, given over to large intellectual gestures and indifferent, in large measure, to any very detailed description of the world. It is a style that has shaped the physical but not the biological sciences, and its success in Newtonian mechanics, general relativity and quantum mechanics is among the miracles of mankind. But the era in thought that the calculus made possible is coming to an end. Everyone feels this is so and everyone is right."
From David Berlinski's "A Tour of the Calculus" (Pantheon Books, 1995)
" 94m:94015 Beutelspacher, Albrecht Cryptology. An introduction to the art and science of enciphering, encrypting, concealing, hiding and safeguarding described without any arcane skullduggery but not without cunning waggery for the delectation and instruction of the general public. Transformation from German into English succored and abetted by J. Chris Fisher. MAA Spectrum. Mathematical Association of America, Washington, DC, 1994. xvi+156 pp. ISBN: 0-88385-504-6 94A60 (94-01)"
A serious "best title" candidate...
"It's generally the way with progress that it looks much greater than it really is."
The epigraph that Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) ("whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent") had wished for an unrealized joint publication of Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1922) and Philosophical Investigations (1953): suggesting the two volumes are not irreconcilable.
Compare the following for which I have no good source:
"The world will change. It will probably change for the better. It won't seem better to me."
"In 1965 the Russian mathematician Alexander Konrod said "Chess is the Drosophila of artificial intelligence." However, computer chess has developed as genetics might have if the geneticists had concentrated their efforts starting in 1910 on breeding racing Drosophila. We would have some science, but mainly we would have very fast fruit flies."
He goes on to point out that of three features of human chess play two were used in early programs (forward pruning, identifying parallel moves, and partitioning (never used)). None survives in present programs. Material on Making computer chess scientific is available from John McCarthy's web site
"A research policy does not consist of programs, but of hiring high-quality scientists. When you hire someone good, you've made your research policy for the next 20 years."
"Mathematicians are like pilots who maneuver their great lumbering planes into the sky without ever asking how the damn things stay aloft.
in The Sciences, July/August 1997, pages 37-41)
Korner is a careful and stimulating writer/teacher.
"If I can give an abstract proof of something, I'm reasonably happy. But if I can get a concrete, computational proof and actually produce numbers I'm much happier. I'm rather an addict of doing things on the computer, because that gives you an explicit criterion of what's going on. I have a visual way of thinking, and I'm happy if I can see a picture of what I'm working with."
Page 78 of Who got Einstein's Office? by Ed Regis, Addison-Wesley, 1986. A history of the Institute for Advanced Study. The answer is Arnie Beurling.
"The term "reviewed publication" has an appealing ring for the naive rather than the realistic... Let's face it: (1) in this day and age of specialization, you may not find competent reviewers for certain contributions; (2) older scientists may agree that over the past two decades, the relative decline in research funds has been accompanied by an increasing number of meaningless, often unfair reviews; (3) some people are so desperate to get published that they will comply with the demands of reviewers, no matter how asinine they are."
From Organizing Scientific Meetings quoted on page 400 of Science October 17, 1997.
"The NYT also has a stunning revelation about the way the Ivy League used to do business. Last Friday, the President of Darmouth used the occasion of dedicating a campus Jewish student center to haul out a 1934 letter between an alumnus of the school and the director of admissions. The alum complained that "the campus seems more Jewish each time I arrive in Hanover. And unfortunately many of them (on quick judgment) seem to be the 'kike' type." And the Dartmouth admissions man wrote back, "I am glad to have your comments on the Jewish problem, and I shall appreciate your help along this line in the future. If we go beyond the 5 percent or 6 percent in the Class of 1938, I shall be grieved beyond words." In reacting to the revelation, Elie Wiesel summons a simple fact that suggests how much times have changed: the current presidents of Harvard, Yale, and Princeton are Jewish."
"This is the essence of science. Even though I do not understand quantum mechanics or the nerve cell membrane, I trust those who do. Most scientists are quite ignorant about most sciences but all use a shared grammar that allows them to recognize their craft when they see it. The motto of the Royal Society of London is 'Nullius in verba' : trust not in words. Observation and experiment are what count, not opinion and introspection. Few working scientists have much respect for those who try to interpret nature in metaphysical terms. For most wearers of white coats, philosophy is to science as pornography is to sex: it is cheaper, easier, and some people seem, bafflingly, to prefer it. Outside of psychology it plays almost no part in the functions of the research machine."
From his review of How the Mind Works (by Steve Pinker) in The New York Review of Books (pages 13-14) November 6, 1997. [Two solitudes indeed! See below]
"If you have a great idea, solid science, and earthshaking discoveries, you are still only 10% of the way there,"
Quoted in Science page 1039, November 7, 1997. [On the vicissitudes of startup companies.]
"There he received his hardest job of the war - a rush request to convert typewriters to twenty-one different languages of Asia and the South Pacific.
Page 88 in Typewriter Man, the Atlantic Monthly, November 1997: "For Martin Tytell, the machinery of writing has been a life's work." [A fine example of convergence.]
The T-bone terror proves that ministers have no grasp of science or maths - let alone our liberties
Simon Jenkins on Boneless Wonders in the Times of London, Dec 6, 1997
"The common situation is this: An experimentalist performs a resolution analysis and finds a limited-range power law with a value of D smaller than the embedding dimension. Without necessarily resorting to special underlying mechanistic arguments, the experimentalist then often chooses to label the object for which she or he finds this power law a "fractal". This is the fractal geometry of nature."
From Is the geometry of nature fractal? in Science January 2, 1998, 39-40. Their review of all articles from 1990 to 1996 in Physical Reviews suggests very little substance for claims of fractility.
"Most nonscientists who like to think of themselves as knowledgeable about modern science really know only about technologies - and specifically those technologies likely to bring economic profits in the short term."
From Closing the Knowledge Gap Between Scientist and Nonscientist in Science August 7, 1998, 778-779.
"Another thing I must point out is that you cannot prove a vague theory wrong. ... Also, if the process of computing the consequences is indefinite, then with a little skill any experimental result can be made to look like the expected consequences."
Quoted by Gary Taubes in The (Political) Science of Salt, Science August 14, 1998, 898-907.
"Renyi would become one of Erdos's most important collaborators. ... Their long collaborative sessions were often fueled by endless cups of strong coffee. Caffeine is the drug of choice for most of the world's mathematicians and coffee is the preferred delivery system. Renyi, undoubtedly wired on espresso, summed this up in a famous remark almost always attributed to Erdos: "A mathematician is a machine for turning coffee into theorems." ... Turan, after scornfully drinking a cup of American coffee, invented the corollary: "Weak coffee is only fit for lemmas." "
On page 155 of My Brain is Open, Schechter's 1998 Simon and Schuster biography of Erdos. Schechter's Erdos is recognisable. The book contains interesting material on the Erdos-Selberg controversy (pp. 144-151). For more about the coffee see Dick Askey's recollection.
"Once the opening ceremonies were over, the real meat of the Congress was then served up in the form of about 1400 individual talks and posters. I estimated that with luck I might be able to comprehend 2% of them. For two successive weeks in the halls of a single University, ICM'98 perpetuated the myth of the unity of mathematics; which myth is supposedly validated by the repetition of that most weaselly of rhetorical phrases: "Well, in principle, you could understand all the talks." "
Describing the Berlin International Congress of Mathematicians in the October 1998 SIAM News.
"Looking over the past 150 years -- at the tiny garden at Brno, the filthy fly room at Columbia, the labs of the New York Botanical Garden, the basement lab at Stanford, and the sun-drenched early gatherings at Cold Spring Harbor -- it seems that the fringes, not the mainstream, are the most promising places to discover revolutionary advances."
In Inspired Choices, Science October 30, 1998, 873-874s, on the past 150 years of biological research.
"Should we teach mathematical proofs in the high school? In my opinion, the answer is yes...Rigorous proofs are the hallmark of mathematics, they are an essential part of mathematics' contribution to general culture."George Polya (1981). Mathematical discovery: On understanding, learning, and teaching problem solving (Combined Edition), New York, Wiley & Sons (p. 2-126)
"A mathematical deduction appears to Descartes as a chain of conclusions, a sequence of successive steps. What is needed for the validity of deduction is intuitive insight at each step which shows that the conclusion attained by that step evidently flows and necessarily follows from formerly acquired knowledge (acquired directly by intuition or indirectly by previous steps) ... I think that in teaching high school age youngsters we should emphasize intuitive insight more than, and long before, deductive reasoning." (ibid, p. 2-128)This "quasi-experimental" approach to proof can help to de-emphasis a focus on rigor and formality for its own sake, and to instead support the view expressed by Hadamard when he stated "The object of mathematical rigor is to sanction and legitimize the conquests of intuition, and there was never any other object for it" (J. Hadamard, in E. Borel, Lecons sur la theorie des fonctions, 3rd ed. 1928, quoted in Polya, (1981), (p. 2/127).
"intuition comes to us much earlier and with much less outside influence than formal arguments which we cannot really understand unless we have reached a relatively high level of logical experience and sophistication. Therefore, I think that in teaching high school age youngsters we should emphasize intuitive insight more than, and long before, deductive reasoning." (ibid, p. 2-128)
"The basic difference between playing a human and playing a supermatch against Deep Blue is the eerie and almost empty sensation of not having a human sitting opposite you. With humans, you automatically know a lot about their nationality, gender, mannerisms, and such minor things as a persistent cough or bad breath. Years ago we had to endure chain-smokers who blew smoke our way. But Deep Blue wasn't obnoxious, it was simply nothing at all, an empty chair not an opponent but something empty and relentless."
Kasparov writing on TechMate in Forbes (22/2/98) - a collection on super computing.
"All professions look bad in the movies ... why should scientists expect to be treated differently?"
Addressing the 1999 AAAS Meetings, and quoted in Science February 19, 1999, page 1111.
"the academy was a sort of club for retired Parisian scientists, happy to be able to come together once a week to talk about science for 2 hours after lunch and a little nap."
Inaugural speech as President to the French Academy of Science quoted in Science April 23, 1999, page 580.
"User-interface criticism is a genre to watch. It will probably be more influential and beneficial to the next century than film criticism was to the twentieth century. The twenty-first century will be filled with surprises, but one can safely count on it to bring more complexity to almost everything. Bearing the full brunt of that complexity, the great user-interface designers of the future will provide people with the means to understand and enrich their own humanity, and to stay human."
From page 43 of Interface-off in The Sciences May/June 1999, pages 38-43.
"A real number complexity model appropriate for this context is given in the recent landmark work of Blum, Cucker, Shub and Smale . In discussing their motivation for seeking a suitable theoretical foundation for modern scientific computing, where most of the algorithms are 'real number algorithms' the authors of this work quote the following illuminating remarks of John von Neumann, made in 1948: "There exists today a very elaborate system of formal logic, and specifically, of logic applied to mathematics. This is a discipline with many good sides but also serious weaknesses.... Everybody who has worked in formal logic will confirm that it is one of the technically most refactory parts of mathematics. The reason for this is that it deals with rigid, all-or-none concepts, and has very little contact with the continuous concept of the real or the complex number, that is with mathematical analysis. Yet analysis is the technically most successful and best-elaborated part of mathematics. Thus formal logic, by the nature of its approach, is cut off from the best cultivated portions of mathematics, and forced onto the most difficult mathematical terrain, into combinatorics.
Commentary thanks to Larry Nazareth
"Considerable obstacles generally present themselves to the beginner, in studying the elements of Solid Geometry, from the practice which has hitherto uniformly prevailed in this country, of never submitting to the eye of the student, the figures on whose properties he is reasoning, but of drawing perspective representations of them upon a plane. ...I hope that I shall never be obliged to have recourse to a perspective drawing of any figure whose parts are not in the same plane."
Adrian Rice (What Makes a Great Mathematics Teacher?) from page 540 of The American Mathematical Monthly, June-July 1999
"In 1831, Fourier's posthumous work on equations showed 33 figures of solution, got with enormous labour. Thinking this is a good opportunity to illustrate the superiority of the method of W. G. Horner, not yet known in France, and not much known in England, I proposed to one of my classes, in 1841, to beat Fourier on this point, as a Christmas exercise. I received several answers, agreeing with each other, to 50 places of decimals. In 1848, I repeated the proposal, requesting that 50 places might be exceeded: I obtained answers of 75, 65, 63, 58, 57, and 52 places."
Adrian Rice from page 542 of The American Mathematical Monthly, June-July 1999
"I think we need more institutes, but then you run into the question, Is it better to spend $2 million and have another institute or to fund another twenty-five or so researchers each year? It's a question of trying to keep the discipline alive and thriving. There's no doubt the really big ideas in mathematics come from maybe 5 percent of the people, but you need a broad base to nourish the 5 percent and to work out all the details as they move on to more adventuresome things. Look at, say, mathematicians at Group III universities. It's a rarity when they get funding. How do you keep them in the system? ... We're under terrific pressure to increase the size of our grants. If we did what the [National Science] board wants us to do, we would fund 800 people instead of 1,400. It's a question of whether DMS did the right thing when they pulled so many people down to one month of summer support. This took some of the pressure off the Foundation to put more money in mathematics. Suppose we funded 800 people. How much noise would it create? Would there be a march on Washington? I often think that's the way to go. See whether mathematicians would stand up for themselves or whether they'd just meekly accept. In chemistry, people get declined, and in two months they turn around with another proposal. Mathematicians --- they get declined twice, and they fold. I think mathematicians have such a personal investment in their problems that if you turn down their proposals, they take it as if you're judging them as mathematicians. They're not as flexible and often don't seem to be able to move to another class of problems. We fund proposals, not individuals."
Interview with Allyn Jackson from page 669 of The Notices of The AMS, June-July 1999
"Notices: After your time at the NSF, do you have any advice for the math community about what they should be doing to try to improve the funding for mathematics?
Interview with Allyn Jackson from page 672 of The Notices of The AMS, June-July 1999
From String Theorists Find a Rosetta Stone on page 513 of Science, 23rd July, 1999
'where almost one quarter hour was spent, each beholding the other with admiration before one word was spoken: at last Mr. Briggs began "My Lord, I have undertaken this long journey purposely to see your person, and to know by what wit or ingenuity you first came to think of this most excellent help unto Astronomy, viz. the Logarithms: but my Lord, being by you found out, I wonder nobody else found it out before, when now being known it appears so easy." '
Briggs, later the first Savelian Professor of Geometry in Oxford, is describing his first meeting with Napier whom he had traveled from London to Edinburgh to meet. From H.W. Turnbull's The Great Mathematicians, Methuen, 1929.
"Far better an approximate answer to the right question, which is often vague, than the exact answer to the wrong question, which can always be made precise."
From the Annals of Mathematical Statistics , Volume 33. Compare the 1964 Feynman quote above!
" One of the beauties of learning is that it admits its provisionality, its imperfections. This scholarly scrupulousness, this willingness to admit that even the best-supported of theories is still a theory, is now being exploited by the unscrupulous. But that we do not know everything does not mean we know nothing. Not all theories are of equal weight. The moon, even the moon over Kansas, is not made of green cheese. Genesis, as a theory, is bunk.
From his article "Locking out that disruptive Darwin fellow" in the Globe and Mail , September 2, 1999
"The mental maps, gave rise to industries that could not have been predicted, and created a new class of technological workers whom wise societies took pains to nurture. Are we about to go through this process again? A renowned social analyst and management philosopher looks to history for insights."
Beyond the Information Revolution in The Atlantic Monthly Online November 3, 1999
"When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?"
Quoted in The Economist, December 18 1999, page 47
"Look miss, if I disagree with Darwin, he's not going to send me to hell."
Quoted in The Globe and Mail, January 1, 2000, page D22 by Laura Penny describing a first year University class in Buffalo in which one third of the students were creationists.
" Most working scientists may be naive about the history of their discipline and therefore overly susceptible to the lure of objectivist mythology. But I have never met a pure scientific realist who views social context as entirely irrelevant, or only as an enemy to be expunged by the twin lights of universal reason and incontrovertible observation. And surely, no working scientist can espouse pure relativism at the other pole of the dichotomy. (The public, I suspect, misunderstands the basic reason for such exceptionless denial. In numerous letters and queries, sympathetic and interested nonprofessionals have told me that scientists cannot be relativists because their commitment to such a grand and glorious goal as the explanation of our vast and mysterious universe must presuppose a genuine reality "out there" to discover. In fact, as all working scientists know in their bones, the incoherence of relativism arises from virtually opposite and much more quotidian motives. Most daily activity in science can only be described as tedious and boring, not to mention expensive and frustrating. Thomas Edison was just about right in his famous formula for invention as 1% inspiration mixed with 99% perspiration. How could scientists ever muster the energy and stamina to clean cages, run gels, calibrate instruments, and replicate experiments, if they did not believe that such exacting, mindless, and repetitious activities can reveal truthful information about a real world? If all science arises as pure social construction, one might as well reside in an armchair and think great thoughts.)
From the article: 'Deconstructing the "Science Wars" by Reconstructing an Old Mold'
in Science, Jan 14, 2000: 253-261.
" caused Thorstein Veblen to comment acerbically in 1908 that "business principles" were transforming higher education into "a merchantable commodity, to be produced on a piece-rate plan, rated, bought, and sold by standard units, measured, counted and reduced to staple equivalence by impersonal, mechanical tests. "
From The Kept University in The Atlantic Monthly Online, March 2000. Which quote better reflects Science in 2001?
"Most important to Fox was a young instructor who had arrived at Cornell two years before from Williams and Mary. William Lloyd Garrison Williams had written his Ph.D thesis under Leonard Dickson at Chicago in 1920. Born in Friendship, Kansas, Williams, who was named for the famous abolitionist William LLoyd Garrison, attended a small Quaker school in Indiana, taught school briefly in North Dakota and then attended Haverford College where he earned a B.A. degree. From 1910-13 he attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, and after receving a B.A. and M.A., he took a faculty position at Miami University of Ohio. His Ph.D. work at Chicago was done during the summers. He also taught briefly at Gettysburg College and William and Mary before coming to Cornell.
From "Elbert F. Fox: An Early Pioneer", American Math Monthly 107 (2000) 105-128.
From ScienceNow May 5, 2000.
"Imagine Dostoyevsky. There are some incidents like this, two boys killing other children, in his famous diary. Imagine what Dostoyevsky would do with that. He would deal with the transcendentally important question of evil in the child. Today the editor would say, "Fyodor, tomorrow, please, your piece. Don't tell me you need ten months for thinking. Fyodor, tomorrow!" "
Quoted in James Gleick's Faster (Pantheon 1999), pages 97-88, on instant opinion -- sound bites and 'hurry sickness'.
"So my reaction surprises me. I tell Natalie that math is important and relevant and that I wished I'd made the effort to understand. I wish somebody had found a way of making sense of it all. This revelation comes from reading a stack of magazines about the future, about computers and artificial intelligence, cars and planes, food production and global warming. And I have come to the conclusion that Mr. Kool was right.
Quoted from "The Numbers Game," The Globe and Mail July 13, 2000, page A14.
" Mathematics is the language of high technology. Indeed it is, but I think it is also becoming the eyes of science."
Addressing the MITACS NCE annual general meeting June 6, 2000.
"This is fundamentally wrong. We are not entering a time when copyright is more threatened than it is in real space. We are instead entering a time when copyright is more effectively protected than at any time since Gutenberg. The power to regulate access to and use of copyrighted material is about to be perfected. Whatever the mavens of the mid-1990s may have thought, cyberspace is about to give the holders of copyrighted property the biggest gift of protection they have ever known.
Quoted from page 127 of his book: "Code and other laws of Cyberspace", Basic Books, 1999.
"An informed list of the most profound scientific developments of the 20th century is likely to include general relativity, quantum mechanics, big bang cosmology, the unraveling of the genetic code, evolutionary biology, and perhaps a few other topics of the reader's choice. Among these, quantum mechanics is unique because of its profoundly radical quality. Quantum mechanics forced physicists to reshape their ideas of reality, to rethink the nature of things at the deepest level, and to revise their concepts of position and speed, as well as their notions of cause and effect. "
Quoted from the article "One Hundred Years of Quantum Physics" in Science August 11, pages 893-898.
"A wealthy (15th Century) German merchant, seeking to provide his son with a good business education, consulted a learned man as to which European institution offered the best training. "If you only want him to be able to cope with addition and subtraction," the expert replied, "then any French or German university will do. But if you are intent on your son going on to multiplication and division -- assuming that he has sufficient gifts -- then you will have to send him to Italy."
From page 577 of "The Universal History of Numbers: From Prehistory to the Invention of the Computer", translated from French, John Wiley, 2000. (Emphasizing quite how great an advance positional notation was!)
"2000 was a banner year for scientists deciphering the "book of life"; this year saw the completion of the genome sequences of complex organisms ranging from the fruit fly to the human.
From "BREAKTHROUGH OF THE YEAR: Genomics Comes of Age." Cover story in Science of December 22, 2000.
"Not until the creation and maintenance of decent conditions of life for all people are recognized and accepted as a common obligation of all people and all countries - not until then shall we, with a certain degree of justification, be able to speak of humankind as civilized."
"Capitalism is the extraordinary belief that the nastiest of men, for the nastiest of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all."
"When we have before us a fine map, in which the line of the coast, now rocky, now sandy, is clearly indicated, together with the winding of the rivers, the elevations of the land, and the distribution of the population, we have the simultaneous suggestion of so many facts, the sense of mastery over so much reality, that we gaze at it with delight, and need no practical motive to keep us studying it, perhaps for hours altogether. A map is not naturally thought of as an aesthetic object... And yet, let the tints of it be a little subtle, let the lines be a little delicate, and the masses of the land and sea somewhat balanced, and we really have a beautiful thing; a thing the charm of which consists almost entirely in its meaning, but which nevertheless pleases us in the same way as a picture or a graphic symbol might please. Give the symbol a little intrinsic worth of form, line and color, and it attracts like a magnet all the values of things it is known to symbolize. It becomes beautiful in its expressiveness."
From "The Sense of Beauty", 1896.
"If my teachers had begun by telling me that mathematics was pure play with presuppositions, and wholly in the air, I might have become a good mathematician, because I am happy enough in the realm of essence. But they were overworked drudges, and I was largely inattentive, and inclined lazily to attribute to incapacity in myself or to a literary temperament that dullness which perhaps was due simply to lack of initiation."
From pp. 238-9 "Persons and Places", 1945.
"He designed and built chess-playing, maze-solving, juggling and mind-reading machines. These activities bear out Shannon's claim that he was more motivated by curiosity than usefulness. In his words 'I just wondered how things were put together.' "
From Claude Shannon's (1916-2001) obituary.
"The price of metaphor is eternal vigilance"
Quoted by R. C. Leowontin, in Science page 1264, Feb 16, 2001 (The Human Genome Issue).
"What is particularly ironic about this is that it follows from the empirical study of numbers as a product of mind that it is natural for people to believe that numbers are not a product of mind!"
On page 81 of Where Mathematics Comes From, Basic Books, 2000.
Recent Discoveries about the Nature of Mind. In recent years, there have been revolutionary advances in cognitive science ---- advances that have a profound bearing on our understanding of mathematics. Perhaps the most profound of these new insights are the following:
On page 5 of Where Mathematics Comes From, Basic Books, 2000.
"The early study of Euclid made me a hater of geometry."
quoted in D. MacHale, "Comic Sections" (Dublin 1993).
"a thrill which is indistinguishable from the thrill I feel when I enter the Sagrestia Nuovo of the Capella Medici and see before me the austere beauty of the four statues representing 'Day', 'Night', 'Evening', and 'Dawn' which Michelangelo has set over the tomb of Guiliano de'Medici and Lorenzo de'Medici."
"All physicists and a good many quite respectable mathematicians are contemptuous about proof."
A century after biology started to think physically:
"The idea that we could make biology mathematical, I think, perhaps is not working, but what is happening, strangely enough, is that maybe mathematics will become biological,!"
"The waves of the sea, the little ripples on the shore, the sweeping curve of the sandy bay between the headlands, the outline of the hills, the shape of the clouds, all these are so many riddles of form, so many problems of morphology, and all of them the physicist can more or less easily read and adequately solve."
In Philip Ball's "The Self-Made Tapestry: Pattern Formation in Nature,"
"A doctorate compels most of us to be detailed and narrow, and to carve out our own specialities, and tenure commitees rarely like boldness. Later, when our jobs are safe we can be synthetic, and generalize."
Writing critically about A.J.P. Taylor ('The Nonconformist') in the Atlantic Monthly April 2001, page 114.
"... it is no doubt important to attend to the eternally beautiful and true. But it is more important not to be eaten."
Distinguishing effortless early learning of language and social customs from later labourious general purpose concept acquisition, Egan writes:
In Kieran Egan's, Getting it Wrong from the Beginning -- Major Mistakes in the Project to Educate Everybody (in press).
This is what Albert Einstein said quoting Max Planck
"...a new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents die and a new generation grows up that's familiar with it."
Max Planck, in THE QUANTUM BEAT by F.G.Major, Springer (1998).
"And Max Planck, surveying his own career in his Scientific Autobiography, sadly remarked that '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.'"
On page 151 of T.S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 3rd ed., Univ. of Chicago Press, 1996. (Quoting: Max Planck, Scientific Autobiography and Other Papers, trans. F. Gaynor (New York, 1949), pp. 33-34. See also "Conversations with a Mathematician" by Greg Chaitin.)
"the idea that we could make biology mathematical, I think, perhaps is not working, but what is happening, strangely enough, is that maybe mathematics will become biological, not that biology will become mathematical, mathematics may go in that direction!"
(Interview with Gregory Chaitin by Hans-Ulrich Obrist (Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris), Paris/CDG Airport, October 2000.)
"The message is that mathematics is quasi-empirical, that mathematics is not the same as physics, not an empirical science, but I think it's more akin to an empirical science than mathematicians would like to admit."
"Mathematicians normally think that they possess absolute truth. They read God's thoughts. They have absolute certainty and all the rest of us have doubts. Even the best physics is uncertain, it is tentative. Newtonian science was replaced by relativity theory, and then---wrong!---quantum mechanics showed that relativity theory is incorrect. But mathematicians like to think that mathematics is forever, that it is eternal. Well, there is an element of that. Certainly a mathematical proof gives more certainty than an argument in physics or than experimental evidence, but mathematics is not certain. This is the real message of Godel's famous incompleteness theorem and of Turing's work on uncomputability."
"You see, with Godel and Turing the notion that mathematics has limitations seems very shocking and surprising. But my theory just measures mathematical information. Once you measure mathematical information you see that any mathematical theory can only have a finite amount of information. But the world of mathematics has an infinite amount of information. Therefore it is natural that any given mathematical theory is limited, the same way that as physics progresses you need new laws of physics."
"Mathematicians like to think that they know all the laws. My work suggests that mathematicians also have to add new axioms, simply because there is an infinite amount of mathematical information. This is very controversial. I think mathematicians, in general, hate my ideas. Physicists love my ideas because I am saying that mathematics has some of the uncertainties and some of the characteristics of physics. Another aspect of my work is that I found randomness in the foundations of mathematics. Mathematicians either don't understand that assertion or else it is a nightmare for them... ":
"This skyhook-skyscraper construction of science from the roof down to the yet unconstructed foundations was possible because the behaviour of the system at each level depended only on a very approximate, simplified, abstracted characterization at the level beneath1. This is lucky, else the safety of bridges and airplanes might depend on the correctness of the "Eightfold Way" of looking at elementary particles.
On page 16 of "The Sciences of the Artificial," MIT Press, 1996.
" Hardy 'asked 'What's your father doing these days. How about that esthetic measure of his?' I replied that my father's book was out. He said, 'Good, now he can get back to real mathematics'."
Quoted in Towering Figures, 1890-1950, by David E. Zitarelli on page 618 of MAA Monthly Aug-Sept, Vol 108, (2001), 606-635 : regarding G. D. Birkhoff's Aesthetic Measures (1933).
"I DO CONSIDER it appropriate to pay one's tribute to Prof. Subramanyan Chandrasekhar at the outset, before taking a plunge into the aesthetics of macro-causality, based on his book Truth and Beauty: Aesthetics and Motivations in Science. Brought up on the refined diet of music, mathematics and aesthetics, Chandrasekhar's own writing is probably the most appropriate mirror of his personality. I quote: "When Michelson was asked towards the end of his life, why he had devoted such a large fraction of his time to the measurement of the velocity of light, he is said to have replied 'It was so much fun'." Prof. Chandrasekhar goes on to some length to explain the term quoting even the Oxford Dictionary -- "fun" means "drollery", what Michelson really meant, Chandrasekhar asserts is "pleasure" and "enjoyment" - evidently "fun" in the colloquial sense, a concept, so familiar in our so called ordinary life has no place in Chandrasekhar's dictionary..."
" 'His peculiar gift was the power of holding continuously in his mind a purely mental problem until he had seen straight through it. I fancy his preeminence is due to his muscles of intuition being the strongest and most enduring with which a man has ever been gifted. Anyone who has ever attempted pure scientific or philosophical thought knows how one can hold a problem momentarily in one's mind and apply all one's powers of concentration to piercing through it, and how it will dissolve and escape and you find that what you are surveying is a blank. I believe that Newton could hold a problem in his mind for hours and days and weeks until it surrendered to him its secret. Then being a supreme mathematical technician he could dress it up, how you will, for purposes of exposition, but it was his intuition which was pre-eminently extraordinary---"so happy in his conjectures", said de Morgan, "as to seem to know more than he could possibly have any means of proving."'-- J. M. Keynes 1956
'For Poincare, ignoring the emotional sensibility, even in mathematical demonstrations "would be to forget the feeling of mathematical beauty, of the harmony of numbers and forms, of geometric elegance. This is a true esthetic feeling that all real mathematicians know, and surely it belongs to emotional sensibility" (p. 2047).'
Quoting Henri Poincare's "Mathematical creation" (1956). In J. Newman (Ed.), The World of Mathematics ( pp. 2041-2050). Simon and Schuster.
"The controversy between those who think mathematics is discovered and those who think it is invented may run and run, like many perennial problems of philosophy. Controversies such as those between idealists and realists, and between dogmatists and sceptics, have already lasted more than two and a half thousand years. I do not expect to be able to convert those committed to the discovery view of mathematics to the inventionist view. However what I have shown is that a better case can be put for mathematics being invented than our critics sometimes allow. Just as realists often caricature the relativist views of social constructivists in science, so too the strengths of the fallibilist views are not given enough credit. For although fallibilists believe that mathematics has a contingent, fallible and historically shifting character, they also argue that mathematical knowledge is to a large extent necessary, stable and autonomous. Once humans have invented something by laying down the rules for its existence, like chess, the theory of numbers, or the Mandelbrot set, the implications and patterns that emerge from the underlying constellation of rules may continue to surprise us. But this does not change the fact that we invented the game in the first place. It just shows what a rich invention it was. As the great eighteenth century philosopher Giambattista Vico said, the only truths we can know for certain are those we have invented ourselves. Mathematics is surely the greatest of such inventions."
From Is Mathematics Discovered or Invented? (THES, 1996 and after).
" Who owns the Internet? Until recently, nobody. That's because, although the Internet was "Made in the U.S.A.," its unique design transformed it into a resource for innovation that anyone in the world could use. Today, however, courts and corporations are attempting to wall off portions of cyberspace. In so doing, they are destroying the Internet's potential to foster democracy and economic growth worldwide. "
From Who Owns The Internet? Foreign Policy, November-December 2001.
"Predicting the future is an activity fraught with error. Wilbur Wright, co-inventor of the motorized airplane that successfully completed the first manned flight in 1903, seems to have learned this lesson when he noted: "In 1901, I said to my brother Orville that man would not fly for 50 years. Ever since I have ... avoided predictions." Despite the admonition of Wright, faulty future forecasting seems a favored human pastime, especially among those who would presumably avoid opportunities to so easily put their feet in their mouths.
From "The Future is Ours," Communications of the ACM, March 2001, pg. 46.
" Computation with Roman numerals is certainly algorithmic - it's just that the algorithms are complicated.
Martin Davis, Visiting Scholar UC Berkeley, Professor Emeritus, NYU. Following up on queries on the Historia Mathematica list, Jan 12, 2002.
"  If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of everyone, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it.  Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lites his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.  That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density at any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement, or exclusive appropriation.  Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property. "
Letter from Thomas Jefferson to Issac McPherson (August 13, 1813), in The Writings of Thomas Jefferson 6 quoted from page 94 of the future of ideas by Lawrence Lessig, Random House, 2001.
The question of the ultimate foundations and the ultimate meaning of mathematics remains open: we do not know in what direction it will find its final solution or even whether a final objective answer can be expected at all. 'Mathematizing' may well be a creative activity of man, like language or music, of primary originality, whose Historical decisions defy complete objective rationalisation."
In "Obituary: David Hilbert 1862 - 1943", RSBIOS, 4, 1944, pp. 547 - 553; and American Philosophical Society Year Book, 1944, pp. 387 - 395, p. 392.
Thus mathematics may be defined as the subject in which we never know what we are talking about, nor whether what we are saying is true. People who have been puzzled by the beginnings of mathematics will, I hope, find comfort in this definition, and will probably agree that it is accurate."
From "Recent Work on the Principles of Mathematics in International Monthly, 4 (July, 1901), 83-101. (Collected Papers, v3, p.366; revised version in Newman's World of Mathematics, v3, p. 1577.)
"The problems of mathematics are not problems in a vacuum. There pulses in them the life of ideas which realize themselves in concreto through our [or throught] human endeavors in our historical existence, but forming an indissoluble whole transcending any particular science."
In "David Hilbert and his mathematical work," Bull. Am. Math. Soc., 50 (1944), p. 615.
THE FUTURE OF E-PUBLISHING. Although e-publishing has suffered a series of setbacks this year, Wired magazine still found plenty of optimism about the future of e-books. Michael S. Hart of Project Guttenberg, which offers books in electronic form, says: "The number of e-books available for free download on the Net will pass 20,000. The number of Net users will start heading towards 1 billion." Librarian Cynthia Orr, a co-founder of BookBrowser.com, thinks e-publishers should pay more attention to libraries, and says that if the major publishers worked with librarians or distributors "to figure out how to let libraries purchase or license their e-books, and let readers 'check them out' for free," that would help build "a market that otherwise threatens to just collapse for lack of interest. Librarians have been careful defenders of copyright over the years ... and our budgets are far higher than they realize." And Mark Gross, president of Data Conversion Laboratory, thinks that the e-publishing has already won a stealth war: ""What people forget is e-books were going strong before they were called e-books and they went on to sweep into many aspects of business and publishing. Most of this has gone unnoticed by the media. Probably because it has been a kind of backdoor revolution. To cite one example: Print law books are just about gone. People don't use them in law firms anymore. It's all electronic books or online. A revolution has occurred, but no one's noticed."
Samuel Taylor Coleridge then launches into an ode on mathematics, the first verses of which are as follows:
" On a given finite line
In a letter to his brother the Reverend George Coleridge.
"There is a story, no doubt exaggerated, that the Pope once remarked that two types of proposals exist for peace in the Middle East: The realistic and the miraculous. The realistic solution is divine intervention. The miraculous involves a voluntary agreement between the two sides."
From his article "Israel, Palestinians now further apart than two years ago" in the The Globe and Mail, Monday, April 15,2002
"Moreover a mathematical problem should be difficult in order to entice us, yet not completely inaccessible, lest it mock our efforts. It should be to us a guidepost on the mazy path to hidden truths, and ultimately a reminder of our pleasure in the successful solution.
In his '23' Mathematische Probleme lecture to the Paris International Congress, 1900 (see Yandell's, fine account in The Honors Class, A.K. Peters, 2002).
"... waved his manuscript and confessed his publishing woes. ... "I said, 'I'm afraid no one's going to get to read these words. And I love these words.'"
Quoted from "Lunch with Michael Moore - A smart white guy with attitude," The Globe and Mail May 18, 2002, page F2.
" Old ideas give way slowly; for they are more than abstract logical forms and categories. They are habits, predispositions, deeply engrained attitudes of aversion and preference. Moreover, the conviction persists-though history shows it to be a hallucination that all the questions that the human mind has asked are questions that can be answered in terms of the alternatives that the questions themselves present. But in fact intellectual progress usually occurs through sheer abandonment of questions together with both of the alternatives they assume an abandonment that results from their decreasing vitality and a change of urgent interest. We do not solve them: we get over them.
Quoted from The Influence of Darwin on Philosophy, 1910.
"The first [axiom] said that when one wrote to the other (they often preferred to exchange thoughts in writing instead of orally), it was completely indifferent whether what they said was right or wrong. As Hardy put it, otherwise they could not write completely as they pleased, but would have to feel a certain responsibility thereby. The second axiom was to the effect that, when one received a letter from the other, he was under no obligation whatsoever to read it, let alone answer it, - because, as they said, it might be that the recipient of the letter would prefer not to work at that particular time, or perhaps that he was just then interested in other problems.... The third axiom was to the effect that, although it did not really matter if they both thought about the same detail, still, it was preferable that they should not do so. And, finally, the fourth, and perhaps most important axiom, stated that it was quite indifferent if one of them had not contributed the least bit to the contents of a paper under their common name; otherwise there would constantly arise quarrels and difficulties in that now one, and now the other, would oppose being named co-author."
Hardy and Littlewood's Four Axioms for Collaboration quoted from the preface of Bella Bollobas' 1988 edition of Littlewood's Miscellany. (Other quotes from the Miscellany.)
"I got into a research project which can be very simply described as concerned with the realization of the "Nash program" (making use of words made conventional by others that refer to suggestions I had originally made in my early works in game theory).
On page 241 of "The Essential John Nash", edited by Harold W. Kuhn and Sylvia Nasar, Princeton Univ. Press, 2001.
"A proof is a proof. What kind of a proof? It's a proof. A proof is a proof. And when you have a good proof, it's because it's proven."
"No man can worthely praise Ptolemye ... yet muste ye and all men take heed, that both in him and in all mennes workes, you be not abused by their autoritye, but evermore attend to their reasons, and examine them well, ever regarding more what is saide, and how it is proved, than who saieth it, for autorite often times deceaveth many menne."
The great textbook writer in his cosmology text 'The castle of knowledge' (1556) quoted on page 47 of Oxford Figures, Oxford University Press, 2000.
"The future has arrived; it's just not evenly distributed."
On his Vancouver home page.
"The plural of 'anecdote' is not 'evidence'."
Science's publisher speaking at the Federal S&T Forum, Oct 2, 2002.
" ... Several years ago I was invited to contemplate being marooned on the proverbial desert island. What book would I most wish to have there, in addition to the Bible and the complete works of Shakespeare? My immediate answer was: Abramowitz and Stegun's Handbook of Mathematical Functions. If I could substitute for the Bible, I would choose Gradsteyn and Ryzhik's Table of Integrals, Series and Products. Compounding the impiety, I would give up Shakespeare in favor of Prudnikov, Brychkov And Marichev's of Integrals and Series ... On the island, there would be much time to think about waves on the water that carve ridges on the sand beneath and focus sunlight there; shapes of clouds; subtle tints in the sky... With the arrogance that keeps us theorists going, I harbor the delusion that it would be not too difficult to guess the underlying physics and formulate the governing equations. It is when contemplating how to solve these equations - to convert formulations into explanations - that humility sets in. Then, compendia of formulas become indispensable."
"Why are special functions special?" Physics Today, April 2001.
"I will be glad if I have succeeded in impressing the idea that it is not only pleasant to read at times the works of the old mathematical authors , but this may occasionally be of use for the actual advancement of science."
Speaking to an MAA meeting in 1936.
"I have myself always thought of a mathematician as in the first instance an observer, a man who gazes at a distant range of mountains and notes down his observations. His object is simply to distinguish clearly and notify to others as many different peaks as he can. There are some peaks which he can distinguish easily, while others are less clear. He sees A sharply, while of B he can obtain only transitory glimpses. At last he makes out a ridge which leads from A, and following it to its end he discovers that it culminates in B. B is now fixed in his vision, and from this point he can proceed to further discoveries. In other cases perhaps he can distinguish a ridge which vanishes in the distance, and conjectures that it leads to a peak in the clouds or below the horizon. But when he sees a peak he believes that it is there simply because he sees it. If he wishes someone else to see it, he points to it, either directly or through the chain of summits which led him to recognize it himself. When his pupil also sees it, the research, the argument, the proof is finished.
From the Preface to David Broussoud's recent book "Proofs and Confirmation: The Story of the Alternating Sign Matrix Conjecture," MAA, 1999. Broussoud cites Hardy's "Rouse Ball Lecture of 1928".
"[T]o suggest that the normal processes of scholarship work well on the whole and in the long run is in no way contradictory to the view that the processes of selection and sifting which are essential to the scholarly process are filled with error and sometimes prejudice."
From E. Roy Weintraub and Ted Gayer, "Equilibrium Proofmaking," Journal of the History of Economic Thought, 23 (Dec. 2001), 421-442.
"Mathematical proofs like diamonds should be hard and clear, and will be touched with nothing but strict reasoning."
From The Mathematical Universe by William Dunham, John Wiley, 1994.
"In his review of Winchester's previous book, The Map That Changed the World (3), Stephen Jay Gould wrote:
Review entitled "Clouded Picture of a Big Bang" from Science, July 4, 2003, page 50-51)
"Again, I have to repeat the dictum of Harvard's president, Larry Summers: "In the history of the world, no one has ever washed a rented car." Most Iraqis still feel they are renting their own country --- first from Saddam and now from us. They have to be given ownership. If the Bush team is ready to put in the time, energy and money to make that happen --- great. But if not, it's going to have to make the necessary compromises to bring in the U.N. and the international community to help. "
New York Times August 26, 2003.
"The paomnnehil pweor of the hmuan mnid. Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a total mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe."
Psased on by Kevin Hare, Spetmber 2003.
" "The great tragedy of science," the biologist Thomas Henry Huxley lamented, is "the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact." By that standard, political science is going through a homely phase. It's not even three weeks since the Iowa caucuses, and voters have wiped out several decades' worth of conventional wisdom about presidential primaries."
Some columnist in February 2004.
"By 1948, the Marxist-Leninist ideas about the proletariat and its political capacity seemed more and more to me to disagree with reality ... I pondered my doubts, and for several years the study of mathematics was all that allowed me to preserve my inner equilibrium. Bolshevik ideology was, for me, in ruins. I had to build another life."
From his autobiography With Trotsky in Exile, quoted in Anita Feferman's From Trotsky to Godel
"Numbers are not the only thing that computers are good at processing. Indeed, only a cursory familiarity with fractal geometry is needed to see that computers are good at creating and manipulating visual representations of data. There is a story told of the mathematician Claude Chevalley, who, as a true Bourbaki, was extremely opposed to the use of images in geometric reasoning. He is said to have been giving a very abstract and algebraic lecture when he got stuck. After a moment of pondering, he turned to the blackboard, and, trying to hide what he was doing, drew a little diagram, looked at it for a moment, then quickly erased it, and turned back to the audience and proceeded with the lecture. It is perhaps an apocryphal story, but it illustrates the necessary role of images and diagrams in mathematical reasoning-even for the most diehard anti-imagers. The computer offers those less expert, and less stubborn than Chevalley, access to the kinds of images that could only be imagined in the heads of the most gifted mathematicians, images that can be coloured, moved and otherwise manipulated in all sorts of ways. "
From Making the Connection: Research and Practice in Undergraduate Mathematics, M. Carlson and C. Rasmussen (Eds), MAA Notes, in press.
Tucker: It is probably false.
Greenwood: ... my apologies to Professor Lefschetz, look for a proof and for
a counterexample at the same time.
Rosser: In his lectures he was painstakingly careful. There
was a story that went the rounds. If Church said it's obvious, then
everybody saw it a half hour ago. If Weyl says it's obvious, von
Neumann can prove it. If Lefschetz says it's obvious, it's false.
Tucker: It is probably false.
Greenwood: ... my apologies to Professor Lefschetz, look for a proof and for a counterexample at the same time.
Rosser: In his lectures he was painstakingly careful. There was a story that went the rounds. If Church said it's obvious, then everybody saw it a half hour ago. If Weyl says it's obvious, von Neumann can prove it. If Lefschetz says it's obvious, it's false.
From the Princeton Oral History Project
Excerpts from Google's filing with the SEC
-- Google is not a conventional company. We do not intend to become one.
From San Francisco Chronicle, Friday, April 30, 2004
"The discussion was going beautifully until I discovered that he was talking about the Peloponnesian War while I was discussing WW II."
Katzenbach writing in the The American Oxonian, describing his first meeting with his tutor Lord Lindsay in Balliol around 1948. The subject was the effect of war upon morals.
"A coded message, for example, might represent gibberish to one person and valuable information to another. Consider the number 14159265... Depending on your prior knowledge, or lack thereof, it is either a meaningless random sequence of digits, or else the fractional part of pi, an important piece of scientific information."
On page 11 of his recent book Information The New Language of Science, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2003.
The metaphor of shooting naturally became a familiar one in writings about his photography. Cartier-Bresson himself used it often: "approach tenderly, gently . . . on tiptoe even if the subject is a still life," he said. "A velvet hand, a hawk's eye these we should all have." He also said: "I adore shooting photographs. It's like being a hunter. But some hunters are vegetarians which is my relationship to photography." And later, explaining his dislike of the automatic camera, he said, "It's like shooting partridges with a machine gun."
From Henri Cartier-Bresson's New York Times Obituary of August 4, 2004.
"Despite the narrative force that the concept of entropy appears to evoke in everyday writing, in scientific writing entropy remains a thermodynamic quantity and a mathematical formula that numerically quantifies disorder. When the American scientist Claude Shannon found that the mathematical formula of Boltzmann defined a useful quantity in information theory, he hesitated to name this newly discovered quantity entropy because of its philosophical baggage. The mathematician John Von Neumann encouraged Shannon to go ahead with the name entropy, however, since "no one knows what entropy is, so in a debate you will always have the advantage."
From The American Heritage Book of English Usage, p. 158.
"The connections between chemical science and technology in the new synthetic-dye industry that began to develop after William Henry Perkin's synthesis of mauve in 1856 are complex. But one contribution of the science of carbon chemistry to the synthetic-dye industry was clearly crucial: chemical theory embodied in chemical formulae. Linear chemical formulae, like H2O for water, had been introduced by the Swedish chemist Jacob Berzelius (1779-1848) in 1813. They presented the composition of chemical compounds according to a theory of definite quantitative units or portions of substances. With atomism, this new quantitative theory shared the assumption of discontinuous composition of substances. But the algebraic form of Berzelian formulae avoided narrow definitions in terms of "atoms," which many chemists rejected as metaphysical entities. Letters, numbers, and additivity were sufficient to represent quantitative units of elements and discontinuous composition of compounds. Different arrangements of letters visually showed how units of elements were combined with each other. The structural formulae of the 1860s displayed chemical and spatial arrangements in an even more pictorial form.
In "Not a Pure Science: Chemistry in the 18th and 19th Centuries" Science, 5 November 2004
"Whether we scientists are inspired, bored, or infuriated by philosophy, all our theorizing and experimentation depends on particular philosophical background assumptions. This hidden influence is an acute embarrassment to many researchers, and it is therefore not often acknowledged. Such fundamental notions as reality, space, time, and causality--notions found at the core of the scientific enterprise--all rely on particular metaphysical assumptions about the world."
In "Thinking About the Conscious Mind," a review of John R. Searle's Mind. A Brief Introduction, OUP 2004.
"And it is one of the ironies of this entire field that were you to write a history of ideas in the whole of DNA, simply from the documented information as it exists in the literature - that is, a kind of Hegelian history of ideas - you would certainly say that Watson and Crick depended on Von Neumann, because von Neumann essentially tells you how it's done. But of course no one knew anything about the other. It's a great paradox to me that this connection was not seen. Of course, all this leads to a real distrust about what historians of science say, especially those of the history of ideas."
2002 Nobelist Sidney Brenner talking about von Neumann's essay on The General and Logical Theory of Automata on pages 35--36 of My life in Science as told to Lewis Wolpert.
"Sometime in the 1970s Paul Turan spent part of a summer in Edmonton. I wanted to meet him so went there. He was a few days late so I had arrived a couple of days earlier. A group went to the airport to meet him, and stopped at a coffee shop before going to the university. It was very hot so I offered to stay in the car and keep the windows down. I said I did not drink coffee. Turan then told the joke about mathematicians being machines which turn coffee into theorems, and then added: "You prove good theorems. Just think how much better they would be if you drank coffee". I have heard the statement attributed to Renyi by more than one Hungarian, but this was somewhat later. Turan just stated it."
The definitive version of "Erdos and Coffee"? As told to the historia mathematica list on Feb 3, 2005.
Elsewhere Kronecker said "In mathematics, I recognize true scientific value only in concrete mathematical truths, or to put it more pointedly, only in mathematical formulas." ... I would rather say "computations" than "formulas", but my view is essentially the same.
On page 1 of Essays on Constructive Mathematics, Springer 2005. Edwards comments elswhere that his own preference for constructivism was forged by experience of computing in the fifties---"trivial by today's standards".
"One little know piece of Mayr's history, Rubinoff said, was his service on a National Research Council committee, which formed in the late 1960's, to examine the consequences of building a sea-level canal through the Isthmus of Panama. Mayr was accused by one of the committee engineers of "having an elastic collision with reality." But, said Rubinoff, if it weren't for Mayr's tenacity, the proposed canal would have destroyed 3 million years of isolated evolution.
February 3, 2005 obituary of Ernst Meyr. (See www.biomedcentral.com/news/20050204/01.)
"Dear Friend Wollstein, By the time you receive these lines, we three will have solved the problem in another way - in the way which you have continually attempted to dissuade us. ... What has been done against the Jews in recent months arouses well-founded anxiety that we will no longer be allowed to experience a bearable situation. ... Forgive us, that we still cause you trouble beyond death; I am convinced that you will do what you are able to do (and which perhaps is not very much). Forgive us also our desertion! We wish you and all our friends will experience better times.
MacTutor gives more of Felix Hausdorff's last letter written on the eve of suicide (January 25, 1942).
About H.E. Smith: In the book "Elementary Number Theory" (Chelsea, New York, 1958. An English translation of vol. 1 of the German book Vorlesungen ueber Zahlentheorie), p.31, the author, Edmund Landau, mentions the question whether the infinite series $\sum \mu(n)/n$ converges (TEX notation; \mu is the Moebius function). After giving a reference to the answer in Part 7 of the same V.u.Z, and without saying what the answer is, Landau writes: "Gordan used to say something to the effect that 'Number Theory is useful since one can, after all, use it to get a doctorate with.' In 1899 I received my doctorate by answering this question."
A copy of the book is available on the Project Gutenberg website:
"By its own count, Wal-Mart has 460 terabytes of data stored on Teradata mainframes, made by NCR, at its Bentonville headquarters.
In "What Wal-Mart Knows About Customers' Habits", NYT November 14, 2004.
Just what does it mean to prove something? Although the Annals will publish Dr Hales's paper, Peter Annals, an editor of the Annals, whose own work does not involve the use of computers, says that the paper will be accompanied by an unusual disclaimer, stating that the computer programs accompanying the paper have not undergone peer review. There is a simple reason for that, Dr Sarnak says-it is impossible to find peers who are willing to review the computer code. However, there is a flip-side to the disclaimer as well-Dr Sarnak says that the editors of the Annals expect to receive, and publish, more papers of this type-for things, he believes, will change over the next 20-50 years. Dr Sarnak points out that maths may become "a bit like experimental physics" where certain results are taken on trust, and independent duplication of experiments replaces examination of a colleague's paper.
In Proof and beauty, the Economist, March 31, 2005
Writers we admire and re-read are absorbed into the fine print of our consciousness, into the white noise of our thoughts, and in this sense, they can never die. Saul Bellow started publishing in the 1940's, and his work spreads across the century he helped to define. He also redefined the novel, broadened it, liberated it, made it warm with human sense and wit and grand purpose. Henry James once proposed an obvious but helpful truth: "the deepest quality of a work of art will always be the quality of the mind of the producer." We are saying farewell to a mind of unrivalled quality. He opened our universe a little more. We owe him everything.
Master of the Universe, an obituary for Saul Bellow (1915-2005) NYT April 7, 2005.
Why should I refuse a good dinner simply because I don't understand the digestive processes involved?
Heaviside (1850-1925) when criticized for his daring use of operators before they could be justified formally.
Die Mathematiker sind eine Art Franzosen; redet man mit ihnen, so übersetzen sie es in ihre Sprache, und dann ist es alsobald ganz etwas anderes. [Mathematicians are a kind of Frenchman: whatever you say to them they translate into their own language, and right away it is something entirely different.]
Maximen und Reflexionen, no. 1279, on page 160 of the Penguin classic edition.
Ask Dr. Edward Witten of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey what he does all day, and it's difficult to get a straight answer.
CNN June 27, 2005.
"I don't think biochemists are going to be the least bit interested in what philosophers think about genes," Jones replies. "As I've said in the past, philosophy is to science as pornography is to sex: It's cheaper, easier, and some people prefer it.", Moving swiftly along, Jones and Stangroom ponder racial differences in IQ, the debate over genetically modified crops, health insurance, and the future of the human race.
The Scientist describing What (some) scientists say (Routledge Press). June 20th, 2005. [For earlier quote See above]
Harald Bohr is reported to have remarked "Most analysts spend half their time hunting through the literature for inequalities they want to use, but cannot prove."
On page 575 of his very positive review of Michael Steele's The Cauchy Schwarz Master Class in the MAA Monthly, June-July 2005, 575-579.
"How ridiculous to make evolution the enemy of God. What could be more elegant, more simple, more brilliant, more economical, more creative, indeed more divine than a planet with millions of life forms, distinct and yet interactive, all ultimately derived from accumulated variations in a single double-stranded molecule, pliable and fecund enough to give us mollusks and mice, Newton and Einstein? Even if it did give us the Kansas State Board of Education, too."
In "Phony Theory, False Conflict. 'Intelligent Design' Foolishly Pits Evolution Against Faith." The Washington Post 18/11/2005
"The chief aim of all investigations of the external world should be to discover the rational order and harmony which has been imposed on it by God and which He revealed to us in the language of mathematics. "
Johannes Kepler (1571 - 1630)
"[Maxwell asked whether he would like to see an experimental demonstration of conical refraction] No. I have been teaching it all my life, and I do not want to have my ideas upset."
Isaac Todhunter (1820 - 1884)
"Rigour is the affair of philosophy, not of mathematics."
Bonaventura Cavalieri (1598 - 1647)
"How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either as a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men.
Speech by Churchill in The River War, ed 1, Vol. II, pages 248-50 (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1899).
"How extremely stupid not to have thought of that!"
Thomas Henry Huxley (1825--1895). Huxley, known as 'Darwin's Bulldog' for his tireless defense of Darwin, was initially unconvinced of evolution. Converted by the 'Origin of Species', he is recorded (much like Briggs) as saying "How extremely stupid not to have thought of that!"
"All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them."
Galileo's view is apparently not a view shared by all. The following thoughts on quantum theory by various scientists come from the NYT of Dec 26, 2005.
"On quantum theory, I use up more brain grease than on relativity." (Albert Einstein to Otto Stern in 1911)
"Logic is the hygiene the mathematician practices to keep his ideas healthy and strong."
Weyl brings us full circle back to rigour.
Math Will Rock Your World. A generation ago, quants turned finance upside down. Now they're mapping out ad campaigns and building new businesses from mountains of personal data.
Business Week Cover Story January 23, 2006.
"The formulas move in advance of thought, while the intuition often lags behind; in the oft-quoted words of d'Alembert, "L'algebre est genereuse, elle donne souvent plus qu'on lui demande.""
Edward Kasner, "The Present Problems of Geometry," Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society, (1905) volume XI, p.285.
"Science is a differential equation. Religion is a boundary condition."
I'm not sure what it means, but I like it!
'Thirst for knowledge' may be opium craving
"We [Kaplansky and Halmos] share a philosophy about linear algebra: we think basis-free, we write basis-free, but when the chips are down we close the office door and compute with matrices like fury."
Quoted in Paul Halmos' Celebrating 50 Years of Mathematics.
"The war became more and more bitter. The Dominican Father Caccini preached a sermon from the text, "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven?" and this wretched pun upon the great astronomer's name ushered in sharper weapons; for, before Caccini ended, he insisted that "geometry is of the devil," and that "mathematicians should be banished as the authors of all heresies." The Church authorities gave Caccini promotion."
From A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom by Andrew Dickson White, Chapter 3, Section 3. An online copy is at: www.cscs.umich.edu/~crshalizi/White/.
"Equations are more important to me, because politics is for the present, but an equation is something for eternity."
Like so many Einstein quotes, this appears everywhere and seemingly without direct attribution.
This is now also called Hanlon's Razor (1980).
I'm here to help. (With the Poincare conjecture. As for the family, you're on your own.) Poincare conjectured that three-dimensional shapes that share certain easy-to-check properties with spheres actually are spheres. What are these properties? My fellow geometer Christina Sormani describes the setup as follows:
"The Poincare Conjecture says, Hey, you've got this alien blob that can ooze its way out of the hold of any lasso you tie around it? Then that blob is just an out-of-shape ball. [Grigory] Perelman and [Columbia University's Richard] Hamilton proved this fact by heating the blob up, making it sing, stretching it like hot mozzarella, and chopping it into a million pieces. In short, the alien ain't no bagel you can swing around with a string through his hole."
In Who Cares About Poincare Million-dollar math problem solved. So what? from Slate Posted Friday, Aug. 18, 2006, at 11:59 AM ET
Thank you for your reply. I certainly understand what it means to recall something and have the trail disappear!
The reason I inquired, as in my Tobias conversations with George and his comments re how Tobias influenced him by "feeding" him thousands of geometry problems to solve (see More Mathematical People, Albers et al. (eds.) , Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1990), he never indicated that he (George) had any input to Tobias' work. In fact, it went the other way in one important instance. As you may not have encountered it, I cite the following. George wrote in his paper "Reminiscences about the origins of linear programming," 1, 2, Operations Research Letters, April 1982 (p. 47):
"The term Dual is not new. But surprisingly the term Primal, introduced around 1954, is. It came about this way. W. Orchard-Hays, who is responsible for the first commercial grade L.P. software, said to me at RAND one day around 1954: 'We need a word that stands for the original problem of which this is the dual.' I, in turn, asked my father, Tobias Dantzig, mathematician and author, well known for his books popularizing the history of mathematics. He knew his Greek and Latin. Whenever I tried to bring up the subject of linear programming, Toby (as he was affectionately known) became bored and yawned. But on this occasion he did give the matter some thought and several days later suggested Primal as the natural antonym since both primal and dual derive from the Latin. It was Toby's one and only contribution to linear programming: his sole contribution unless, of course, you want to count the training he gave me in classical mathematics or his part in my conception."
A lovely story. I heard George recount this a few times and, when he came to the "conception" part, he always had a twinkle in his eyes.
In a September 2006 SIAM book review, I asserted George Dantzig assisted his father Tobias---for reasons I believed but cannot now reconstruct. I also called Lord Chesterfield, Chesterton (gulp!).
"Nothing has afforded me so convincing a proof of the unity of the Deity as these purely mental conceptions of numerical and mathematical science which have been by slow degrees vouchsafed to man, and are still granted in these latter times by the Differential Calculus, now superseded by the Higher Algebra, all of which must have existed in that sublimely omniscient Mind from eternity."
Quoted in Martha Somerville, Personal Recollections of Mary Somerville (Boston, 1874)
Today's outcome may end the interest in future chess matches between human champions and computers, according to Monty Newborn, a professor of computer science at McGill University in Montreal. Professor Newborn, who helped organize the match between Mr. Kasparov and Deep Blue, said of future matches: "I don't know what one could get out of it at this point. The science is done."
Mr. Newborn said that the development of chess computers had been useful.
"If you look back 50 years, that was one thing we thought they couldn't do," he said. "It is one little step, that's all, in the most exciting problem of what can't computers do that we can do."
Speculating about where research might go next, Mr. Newborn said, "If you are interested in programming computers so that they compete in games, the two interesting ones are poker and go. That is where the action is."
From a report of the defeat of world champion Vladimir Kramnik by Deep Fritz in Once Again, Machine Beats Human Champion at Chess NYT, December 5, 2006.
"Je n'ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parceque je n'ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte.(I have only made this letter rather long because I have not had time to make it shorter.)"
From Pascal's Lettres provinciales, 16, Dec 14, 1656. [Cassell's Book of Quotations, London,1912. P.718.] Similar quotes are due to Goethe and perhaps to Augustine and Cicero.
Of course, identifying with one's captors is nothing new. Perhaps the most famous example is the 1973 Norrmalmstorg bank robbery in Stockholm. During the five days they were held hostage, the bank employees came to sympathize with the robbers and defended them against the police.
"Bulls don't run reviews. Bulls of 25 don't marry old women of 55 and expect to be invited to dinner. Bulls do not get you cited as co-respondent in Society divorce trials. Bulls don't borrow money. Bulls are edible after they have been killed."
From Napoleon's love letter found in laundry room (Toronto Star, June 4, 2007). "Another lot of interest is a letter written by Ernest Hemingway to the American poet and critic Ezra Pound in 1925, explaining why bulls are better than literary critics."
Posted by Joanna Sugdden, July 24th London Times. Franklin's epitaph has been banned in Texas school texts (it is clearly anti-Christian).
And Bloomberg can also flash a hard-edged candor. At the breakfast with business leaders, he scoffed at a question about whether the schools' emphasis on math and reading testing was taking away from the "richness" of education in subjects such as art and music. "Well, I don't know about the 'richness of education,' " he said, his voice thick with sarcasm. "In my other life, I own a business, and I can tell you, being able to do 2-plus-2 is a lot more important than a lot of other things."
"This computer, although assigned to me, was being used on board the International Space Station. I was informed that it was tossed overboard to be burned up in the atmosphere when it failed."
Science, August 3, 2007, p. 579: "A NASA employee's explanation for the loss of a laptop, recorded in a recent report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office documenting equipment losses of more than $94 million over the past 10 years by the agency."
"Rick Wilson, a Republican consultant based in Florida who has worked for Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York mayor, and Katherine Harris, the former Florida congresswoman, among others, said that most states have their own expressions for the circumstances under which open secrets stay secret. In Florida, he said, it's the 'Three County Rule': no girlfriends within three counties of your home district. In New York, it's the 'Bear Mountain Compact': nobody talks about what politicians do with their free time once they've crossed the Bear Mountain Bridge en route to Albany from points south."
From Oh, everyone knows that (except you) in the NYT of Sept 2, 2007.
Easy as 1, 2, 3 -- Except for The Maybes. Why No One Can Count On Those Delegates
From Washington Post Friday, April 25, 2008.
"the problem of course presents itself already when you are a student and I was thinking about the problem on and off, but the situation was more interesting than that. The great authority in those days was Zygmund and he was completely convinced that what one should produce was not a proof but a counter-example. When I was a young student in the United States, I met Zygmund and I had an idea how to produce some very complicated functions for a counter-example and Zygmund encouraged me very much to do so. I was thinking about it for about 15 years on and off, on how to make these counter-examples work and the interesting thing that happened was that I realised why there should be a counter-example and how you should produce it. I thought I really understood what was the background and then to my amazement I could prove that this "correct" counter-example couldn't exist and I suddenly realised that what you should try to do was the opposite, you should try to prove what was not fashionable, namely to prove convergence. The most important aspect in solving a mathematical problem is the conviction of what is the true result. Then it took 2 or 3 years using the techniques that had been developed during the past 20 years or so. .. "
From 1966 IMU address on his positive solution of Luzin's 1913 conjecture that the Fourier series of every square integrable function converges a.e. to the function.
"In a mathematical conversation, someone suggested to Grothendieck that they should consider a particular prime number. "You mean an actual number?" Grothendieck asked. The other person replied, yes, an actual prime number. Grothendieck suggested, "All right, take 57."
From a two-part biography in the Notices of the AMS.
From a letter by Einstein auctioned in May 2008 as described on CBC.
"It is not knowledge, but the act of learning, not possession but the act of getting there, which grants the greatest enjoyment. When I have clarified and exhausted a subject, then I turn away from it, in order to go into darkness again; the never-satisfied man is so strange if he has completed a structure, then it is not in order to dwell in it peacefully,but in order to begin another. I imagine the world conqueror must feel thus, who, after one kingdom is scarcely conquered, stretches out his arms for others."
From an 1808 letter to his friend Farkas Bolyai (the father of Janos Bolyai).
"The difficulty lies, not in the new ideas, but in escaping the old ones, which ramify, for those brought up as most of us have been, into every corner of our minds"
Quoted in K E Drexler, Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology, New York, 1987.
"He is like the fox, who effaces his tracks in the sand with his tail."
Regarding Gauss' mathematical writing style quoted in G. F. Simmons, Calculus Gems New York: Mcgraw Hill, 1992, p. 177.
"We have a habit in writing articles published in scientific journals to make the work as finished as possible, to cover up all the tracks, to not worry about the blind alleys or describe how you had the wrong idea first, and so on. So there isn't any place to publish, in a dignified manner, what you actually did in order to get to do the work."
In his 1966 Nobel acceptance lecture.
"Gauss could be a stern, demanding individual, and it is reported that this resulted in friction with two of his sons that caused them to leave Germany and come to the United States; they settled in the midwest and have descendants throughout the plains states. I was living in Greeley, Colorado, when I read this in 1972; looking in the phone book, I found a listing for a Charlotte Gauss living two blocks from my apartment! After considerable internal debate, I called her and found that she was indeed related to Gauss.
Quoted from http://www.wfu.edu/~kuz/Stamps/Gauss/Gauss.html.
"Forget the 'precautionary principle.' The amount of risk to which the public should be exposed is greater than zero."
Quoted from "Too cautious" in the Financial Post, June 20, 2008.
"Knowing things is very 20th century. You just need to be able to find things."
On how Google has changed the way we think as quoted in Achenblog, July 1 2008.
"McCain would also be wise to study the etymology of his "maverick" image. The term entered the political lexicon because of one Samuel Augustus Maverick, a land owner, legislator, and former mayor of San Antonio who was the grandfather of Maury Maverick, the famous New Dealer who described democracy as "liberty plus groceries." Samuel Maverick stubbornly refused to brand his calves and let them roam wherever they wanted. Other ranchers who encountered these free-spirited yearlings referred to them as "mavericks." Journalists later employed the term to describe politicians who bucked the party line and struck an independent course."
From 'The Maverick' gets the branding iron in the Politico July 17, 2008.
"Of course I believe in luck. How otherwise to explain the success of those you dislike?"
From Making His Own Luck. Eugene Robinson writing about Obama, July 17, 2008.
His ambition to write may have prompted an exchange with T. S. Eliot, then in his late 50s, on the day they met in 1946, when Mr. Giroux, "just past 30," as he recalled the moment in "The Oxford Book of Literary Anecdotes," was an editor at Harcourt, Brace. "His most memorable remark of the day," Mr. Giroux said, "occurred when I asked him if he agreed with the definition that most editors are failed writers, and he replied, 'Perhaps, but so are most writers.'"
From Robert Giroux, Publisher, Dies at 94 . New York Times, Sept 5, 2008.
" For those who had realized big losses or gains, the mania redistributed wealth. The largest honest fortune was made by Thomas Guy, a stationer turned philanthropist, w ho owned £54,000 of South Sea stock in April 1720 and sold it over the following six weeks for £234,000. Sir Isaac Newton, scientist, master of the mint, and a certifiably rational man, fared less well. He sold his £7,000 of stock in April for a profit of 100 percent. But something induced him to reenter the market at the top, and he lost £20,000. "I can calculate the motions of the heavenly bodies," he said, "but not the madness of people."
"When asked about the interruptions to her career caused by three marriages and three divorces, she shrugs. "You can like 'em," she jokes about men, "but it doesn't mean you have to sample every single one."
Quoted by Susan Renolds in "Annie Proulx no longer at home on the range", LA Times, October 18, 2008.
"Genetics by second nature Growing up in Arlington, Virginia, Buckler had unlimited access to a personal computer, on which he designed his own games. To him, genetics is basically life's equivalent of computer programming. "There are not many rules: You get to recombine and to mutate, but you can make incredibly complex things." Buckler laughs, giving his boyish smile: "And it's more rewarding to do genetics than programming."."
Quoted by Elizabeth Pennisi in "EDWARD BUCKLER PROFILE: Romping Through Maize Diversity", Science, 3 October 2008, pp. 40 - 41.
"Every once in while during a crisis or history-altering event, you run across a quote or an observation that sort of summarizes events on the ground, in a nutshell. Former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker articulated one such observation during a recent chat he had with PBS' Charlie Rose. "It seems to me what our nation needs is more civil engineers and electrical engineers and fewer financial engineers," Volker said."
Posted Oct 24th 2008 3:56pm at www.bloggingstocks.com.
EDITOR'S ENDNOTES "Jeffrey Lagarias (University of Michigan), Colin Mallows (Avaya Labs), and Allan Wilks (AT&T Labs-Research) submitted the following correction to their article "Beyond the Descartes Circle Theorem," which appeared in the April, 2002 issue: We have an historical and a mathematical correction. First, it has been brought to our attention that Frederick Soddy, who won a Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1921) for the discovery of isotopes, did not receive a knighthood (in the English honours list). Davies [loc. cit.] quotes a letter from his nephew, Dr. Kenneth Soddy: "He suffered a good deal of what might be termed persecution during the first World War . . . It was the recollection of these troubles that made him decline Honours later on." Besides his scientific work, Soddy loved mathematics and worked on it as a hobby. He also wrote several books setting forth unpopular economic views. Our awarding him a spurious knighthood is an example of the "Matthew effect" the phenomenon by which famous people become more famous, and less famous people become less famous. Unfortunately this error has propagated to Mumford et al. [Indra's Pearls]"
American Mathematical Monthly, Oct 2008, page 769. See also Robert K. Merton, "The Matthew effect in science," Science 159 (1968) 56-63.
"Considering that past, perhaps the most incisive comment on Mr. Obama's election actually came long ago. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. addressed the Hawaii Legislature in 1959, two years before Mr. Obama was born in Honolulu, and declared that the civil rights movement aimed not just to free blacks but "to free the soul of America."
From "The Obama Dividend," NYT, November 5, 2008.
""The collapse of communism pushed China to the center and [America] to the extreme," said Ben Simpfendorfer, chief China economist at Royal Bank of Scotland.
From "The Great Unravelling," NYT, December 16, 2008.
"The orbit of any one planet depends on the combined motions of all the planets, not to mention the actions of all these on each other. To consider simultaneously all these causes of motion and to define these motions by exact laws allowing of convenient calculation exceeds, unless I am mistaken, the forces of the entire human intellect."
Both Cosmology and Commerce are complicated. See G. Lake, T. Quinn and D. C. Richardson, "From Sir Isaac to the Sloan Survey: Calculating the Structure and Chaos Due to Gravity in the Universe,"Proceedings of the Eighth Annual ACM-SIAM Symposium on Discrete Algorithms, SIAM, Philadelphia, 1997, pg. 1-10.
"John Tierney always wanted to be a scientist but went into journalism because its peer-review process was a great deal easier to sneak through. Now a columnist for the Science Times section, Tierney previously wrote columns for the Op-Ed page, the Metro section and the Times Magazine. Before that he covered science for magazines like Discover, Hippocrates and Science 86.From http://tierneylab.blogs.nytimes.com.
"I don't think of myself as having gone squishy. I think of myself as having grown sober. And my conservative critics? On them, I think the most apt verdict was delivered by Niccolo Macchiavelli, 500 years ago: "This is the tragedy of man. Circumstances change, and he does not."
From "Lies about me, and the lying liars who tell them," National Post, March 28, 2009. Compare various of quotes above by Keynes and those of some of the many bankers and economists who are now suffering buyer's remorse.
"The late Huw Wheldon of the BBC once described to me a series, made in the early days of radio, about celebrated exiles who had lived in London. At one stage, this had involved tracking down an ancient retiree who had toiled in the British Museums reading room during the Victorian epoch. Asked if he could remember a certain Karl Marx, the wheezing old pensioner at first came up empty. But when primed with different prompts about the once-diligent attendee (monopolizing the same seat number, always there between opening and closing time, heavily bearded, suffering from carbuncles, tending to lunch in the Museum Tavern, very much interested in works on political economy), he let the fount of memory be unsealed.Oh Mr. Marx, yes, to be sure. Gave us a lot of work e did, with all is calls for books and papers. His interviewers craned forward eagerly, to hear the man say: And then one day e just stopped coming. And you know whats a funny fing, sir? A pregnant pause. Nobodys ever eard of im since! This, clearly, was one of those stubborn proletarians for the alleviation of whose false consciousness Marx had labored in vain.
In the The Revenge of Karl Marx in The Atlantic, April 2009.
Here endeth the Seder.
From A Facebook Haggadah.
"If you're worried that lions are eating too many zebras, you don't say to the lions, 'You're eating too many zebras.' You have to build a fence around the lions. They're not going to build it."
"One of the most prominent proponents of free-market capitalism is having second thoughts" in Huffington Post, April 20, 2009. A week earlier he wrote in "Shorting Reason" (The New Republic of April 15):
"They want a pedigree, or a sacred text, to lend authority to their thesis, and they want to champion the liberal Keynes over the conservative Friedman.
"John Maynard Keynes wrote that ideas, "both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else." This idea popularized by Professor Singer - that we have ethical obligations that transcend our species - is one whose time appears to have come."
in Humanity Even for Nonhumans (for better or worse) in NYT, April 8 2009.
"Maddox was always a believer in the possibilities of science, reluctant to accept that it could cause problems as well as solve them. When a wave of environmental pessimism swept over the Western world in the early 1970s he was one of the few to resist. He published a book, The Doomsday Syndrome (1972), denouncing the gloom as overdone.
From the London Times obituary of John Maddox (1925-2009).
""6. We have a patriotic duty to stand up against Washington taxes!" Just the opposite. We have a patriotic duty to pay taxes. As multi-billionaire Warren Buffett put it, "If you stick me down in the middle of Bangladesh or Peru or someplace, you'll find out how much this talent is going to product in the wrong kind of soil. I will be struggling thirty years later. President Teddy Roosevelt made the case in 1906 when he argued in favor of continuing the inheritance tax. "The man of great wealth owes a particular obligation to the state because he derives special advantages from the mere existence of government.""
From "A Short Citizen's Guide to Kooks, Demagogues, and Right-Wingers," in the Huffington Post April 15 (Tax Day).
"The most complete unfolding of his later sense of things can probably be found in a quite astonishing book-length interview published by the magazine Research as the self-standing Research No 8/9 (1984) but he remained unfailingly eloquent until the end of his life, as the interviews assembled in Conversations (2005) attest. "At times", he said in 2004, "I look around the executive housing estates of the Thames Valley and feel that [a vicious and genuinely mindless neo-fascism] is already here, quietly waiting its day, and largely unknown to itself ... What is so disturbing about the 9/11 hijackers is that they had not spent the previous years squatting in the dust on some Afghan hillside ... These were highly educated engineers and architects who had spent years sitting around in shopping malls in Hamburg and London, drinking coffee and listening to the muzak."
April 21 Obituary of JG Ballard.
"A heavy warning used to be given [by lecturers] that pictures are not rigorous; this has never had its bluff called and has permanently frightened its victims into playing for safety. Some pictures, of course, are not rigorous, but I should say most are (and I use them whenever possible myself)."
From Littlewood's Miscellany (p 35 in 1953 edition). Said long before the current graphic, visualization and geometric tools were available.
"Roberts's opinion drew an incredulous dissent from Stevens, who said that the Chief Justice's words reminded him of "Anatole France's observation" that the "majestic equality" of the law forbade "rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal their bread.""
Anotole France's famous observation in an incisive if depressing analysis of the Chief Justice: No More Mr. Nice Guy in the New Yorker.
"France has neither winter nor summer nor morals. Apart from these drawbacks it is a fine country. France has usually been governed by prostitutes." --Mark Twain.
"I would rather have a German division in front of me than a French one behind me."---General George S. Patton.
"Going to war without France is like going deer hunting without your accordion."---Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
"We can stand here like the French, or we can do something about it."---Marge Simpson.
"As far as I'm concerned, war always means failure."---Jacques Chirac, President of France.
"As far as France is concerned, you're right."---Rush Limbaugh.
"The only time France wants us to go to war is when the German Army is sitting in Paris sipping coffee."---Regis Philbin.
"The French are a smallish, monkey-looking bunch and not dressed any better, on average, than the citizens of Baltimore.
"You know, the French remind me a little bit of an aging actress of the 1940s who was still trying to dine out on her looks but doesn't have the face for it."---John McCain, U.S. Senator from Arizona.
"You know why the French don't want to bomb Saddam Hussein? Because he hates America, he loves mistresses, and wears a beret. He is French, people."--- Conan O'Brien.
"I don't know why people are surprised that France won't help us get Saddam out of Iraq. After all, France wouldn't help us get Hitler out of France either."---Jay Leno.
"The last time the French asked for 'more proof' it came marching into Paris under a German flag." ---David Letterman
"Only thing worse than a Frenchman is a Frenchman who lives in Canada."---Ted Nugent.
"The favorite bumper sticker in Washington D.C. right now is one that says, 'First Iraq, then France.'"---Tom Brokaw.
"What do you expect from a culture and a nation that exerted more of its national will fighting against Disney World and Big Macs than the Nazis?"---Dennis Miller.
"It is important to remember that the French have always been there when they needed us."---Alan Kent.
"They've taken their own precautions against al-Qa'ida. To prepare for an attack, each Frenchman is urged to keep duct tape, a white flag, and a three-day supply of mistresses in the house."---Argus Hamilton.
"Somebody was telling me about the French Army rifle that was being advertised on eBay the other day--the description was, 'Never shot. Dropped once.'"---Rep. Roy Blunt (MO) ).
"The French will only agree to go to war when we've proven we've found truffles in Iraq."---Dennis Miller.
"Question: What did the mayor of Paris say to the German army as they entered the city in WWII?
"Do you know how many Frenchmen it takes to defend Paris? It's not known, it's never been tried."---Rep. R. Blount (MO).
"Do you know it only took Germany three days to conquer France in WWII? And that's because it was raining."--John Xereas, Manager, DC Improv.
"The AP and UPI reported that the French Government announced after the London bombings that it has raised its terror alert level from Run to Hide. The only two higher levels in France are Surrender and Collaborate."
"The rise in the alert level was precipitated by a recent fire which destroyed France's white flag factory, effectively disabling their military."
"French Ban Fireworks at Euro Disney (AP), Paris, March 5, 2003, The French government announced today that it is imposing a ban on the use of fireworks at Euro Disney. The decision comes the day after a nightly fireworks display at the park, located just 30 miles outside of Paris, caused the soldiers at a nearby French army garrison to surrender to a group of Czech tourists."
"During the three years which I spent at Cambridge my time was wasted, as far as the academical studies were concerned, as completely as at Edinburgh and at school. I attempted mathematics, and even went during the summer of 1828 with a private tutor (a very dull man) to Barmouth, but I got on very slowly. The work was repugnant to me, chiefly from my not being able to see any meaning in the early steps in algebra.This impatience was very foolish, and in after years I have deeply regretted that I did not proceed far enough at least to understand something of the great leading principles of mathematics, for men thus endowed seem to have an extra sense. "
From the Autobiography of Charles Darwin.
"He made little in public of his famous grandfather, Sigmund, who in 1938 followed other members of his family in migrating to Britain beginning in 1933, the year Hitler came to power - "refugees from the Nazis before the habit caught on," as Sir Clement, a secular Jew like many in his family, said many years later. He said he remembered his grandfather, who died in London in 1939, mostly as a faltering old man with oral cancer. "He was not, to me, famous," he said, but rather "a good grandfather in that he didn't forget my birthdays."
In "Clement Freud, Wit, Politician and Grandson of Famous Psychoanalyst, Dies at 84", NYT, April 16, 2009.
"The first of the three laws, previously termed Clarke's Law, was proposed by Arthur C. Clarke in the essay "Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination", in Profiles of the Future (1962). The second law is offered as a simple observation in the same essay; its status as Clarke's Second Law was conferred on it by others. In a 1973 revision of his compendium of essays, Profiles of the Future, Clarke acknowledged the Second Law and proposed the Third in order to round out the number, adding "As three laws were good enough for Newton, I have modestly decided to stop there." Of the three, the Third Law is the best known and most widely cited. [It was used by JPL reporting on gravitational boosting]"
"It was because Hopkins's superiors in England had so little use for him...that they encouraged him to take a position as Professor of Greek and Examiner in Classics at the Royal University of Ireland, in Dublin. This prestigious-sounding post actually involved teaching elementary Latin and grading a truly staggering number of tests: six examinations times seven hundred and fifty students, according to Hopkins, for a total of forty-five hundred papers every year.
Review of of "Gerard Manley Hopkins" by Paul Mariani in the New Yorker May 11, 2009.
"Such reversals have led the veteran Silicon Valley technology forecaster Paul Saffo to proclaim: "never mistake a clear view for a short distance.""
A look at Strong AI being back in style in The Coming Superbrain NYT, May 23, 2009.
"These aspects of exploratory experimentation and wide instrumentation originate from the philosophy of (natural) science and have not been much developed in the context of experimental mathematics. However, I claim that e.g. the importance of wide instrumentation for an exploratory approach to experiments that includes concept formation also pertain to mathematics."
From his 2008 preprint "How Experimental is Experimental Mathematics?" discussing Franklin's argument that Steinle's notion of "exploratory experimentation" facilitated by "widening technology" (as in pharmacology, astrophysics, medicine, and biotechnology) is leading to a reassessment of what legitimates experiment; in that even a "local model" is not now prerequisite.
Relatedly, as Dave Bailey and I wrote recently
In a provocative 2008 article entitled "The End of Theory:" The Data Deluge Makes the Scientific Method Obsolete" Chris Anderson, the Editor-in-Chief of Wired, heralds a new mode of scientific inquiry where exploding repositories of data, analyzed using advanced mathematical and statistical techniques in the same manner as Google has analyzed the Internet, are sufficient to render the traditional scientific method (hypothesize, model, test) obsolete:And it may not be there in some circumstances; both in mathematics and in what we properly call reality."The new availability of huge amounts of data, along with the statistical tools to crunch these numbers, offers a whole new way of understanding the world. Correlation supersedes causation, and science can advance even without coherent models, unified theories, or really any mechanistic explanation at all. There's no reason to cling to our old ways. It's time to ask: What can science learn from Google?"
"The empirical spirit on which the Western democratic societies were founded is currently under attack, and not just by such traditional adversaries as religious fundamentalists and devotees of the occult. Serious scholars claim that there is no such thing as progress and assert that science is but a collection of opinions, as socially conditioned as the weathervane world of Paris couture. "
From The Whole Shebang: A State of the Universe(s) Report, Simon and Shuster, 1998, pg. 1.
"My larger target is those contemporaries who-in repeated acts of wish-fulfillment-have appropriated conclusions from the philosophy of science and put them to work in aid of a variety of social cum political causes for which those conclusions are ill adapted. Feminists, religious apologists (including "creation scientists"), counterculturalists, neo-conservatives, and a host of other curious fellow-travelers have claimed to find crucial grist for their mills in, for instance, the avowed incommensurability and underdetermination of scientific theories. The displacement of the idea that facts and evidence matter by the idea that everything boils down to subjective interests and perspectives is-second only to American political campaigns-the most prominent and pernicious manifestation of anti-intellectualism in our time."
From Science and Relativism, University of Chicago Press, 1990, pg. x.
"So to summarise, according to the citation count, in order of descent, the authors are listening to themselves, dead philosophers, other specialists in semiotic work in mathematics education research, other mathematics education research researchers and then just occasionally to social scientists but almost never to other education researchers, including mathematics teacher education researchers, school teachers and teacher educators. The engagement with Peirce is being understood primarily through personal engagements with the original material rather than as a result of working through the filters of history, including those evidenced within mathematics education research reports in the immediate area. The reports, and the hierarchy of power relations implicit in them, marginalise links to education, policy implementation or the broader social sciences."
From "Signifying "students", "teachers" and "mathematics": a reading of a special issue Published online: 28 May 2008, Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2008.
Enter Don Tapscott, who is looking at the challenges the digital revolution poses to the fundamental aspects of the University.
The Edge describing his article The impending demise of the university.
In one of the few commentaries written by a man, Thomas Sutcliffe at The Independent draws uncomfortable parallels with the treatment of the insane in the 18th century.
From a Financial Post compendium on June 2, 2009.
Based on decades of personal experience.
"And yet since truth will sooner come out of error than from confusion."
From The New Organon (1620) in The Works of Francis Bacon, James Spedding, Robert Ellis and Douglas Heath (eds.) (1887-1901), Vol. 4, p. 149.
"In closing, I offer two examples from economics of what I hope to have said. Marx said that quantitative differences become qualitative ones, but a dialogue in Paris in the 1920's sums it up even more clearly:
Writing in "More Is Different," Science, New Series, Vol. 177, No. 4047. (Aug. 4, 1972), pp. 393-396.
"Who ever became more intelligent," Gödel answered, "by reading Voltaire?"
In Palle Yourgrau's, A World Without Time, Basic Books, 2005, p. 15 and p. 5 respectively.
"In all likelihood, our post-modern habit of viewing science as only a paradigm would evaporate if we developed appendicitis. We should look for a medically trained surgeon who knew what an appendix was, where it was, and how to cut it out without killing us. Likewise, we should be happy to debate the essentially fictive nature of, let us say, Newton's Laws of Gravity unless and until someone threatened to throw us out of a top-storey window. Then the law of gravity would seem very real indeed."
Quoted from God's Funeral, Norton, 1999, p. 178, in Richard C. Brown, Are Science and Mathematics Socially Constructed? World Scientific, 2009, p 207.
"Philosophical theses may still be churned out about it,
Brown is discussing constructivism and intuitionism in Are Science and Mathematics Socially Constructed? World Scientific, 2009, p 239.
A QUOTE BY ALBERT EINSTEIN When Paul Newman died, they said how great he was but they failed to mention he considered himself Jewish (born half-Jewish).
When Helen Suzman (who fought apartheid and helped Nelson Mandela) died recently, they said how great she was, but they failed to mention she was Jewish.
On the other side of the equation, when Ivan Boesky or Andrew Fastow or Bernie Madoff committed fraud, almost every article mentioned they were Jewish.
However, when Ken Lay, Jeff Skilling, Martha Stewart, Randy Cunningham, Gov. Edwards, Conrad Black, Senator Keating, Gov Ryan, and Gov Blagojevich messed up; no one reported what religion or denomination they were, because they were not Jewish.
All of this leads to a famous Einstein quote: In 1921, Albert Einstein presented a paper on his then-infant Theory of Relativity at the Sorbonne, the prestigious French university.
"If I am proved correct," he said,
It was time to leave, but not before raising one last subject. Obama started his campaign in the shadow of the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Ill., where Lincoln had delivered his famous "House Divided" speech, warning that the nation could not survive half-slave and half-free. Now, as he prepared to return to Washington, his transition team had announced plans for him to follow the last part of Lincoln's train ride to Washington before his inauguration. We wondered how Lincoln, an Illinois lawyer with little national experience, affected Obama's thoughts about his own presidency as another young Illinois lawyer with limited national experience soon to take his oath of office.
From 'The Battle for America 2008: The Story of an Extraordinary Election' By Dan Balz and Haynes Johnson, Washington Post, Friday, July 31, 2009. How well will this mesh with general perceptions in 2012?
"Progress had always been made, but the nature of the progress could never be divulged."
From The Trial page 138.
"Bean, who had said of Monash "We do not want Australia represented by men mainly because of their ability, natural and inborn in Jews, to push themselves", conspired with Keith Murdoch to undermine Monash, and have him removed from the command of the Australian Corps. They misled Prime Minister Billy Hughes into believing that senior officers were opposed to Monash. Hughes arrived at the front before the Battle of Hamel prepared to replace Monash, but after consulting with senior officers, and after seeing the superb power of planning and execution displayed by Monash, he changed his mind."
From Wikipedia entry on John Monash.
"Almodóvar was vague, saying, "Everything that isn't autobiographical is plagiarism.""
From an NYT interview with Pedro Almodóvar on Sept 5, 2004.
"As Aldous Huxley opined, the strict materialist cannot yet derive Shakespeare from the advanced biochemistry of mutton."
From letters on Nicholas Wade's review of Richard Dawkin's Greatest Show on Earth.
Understanding Human Origins
Editorial in Science 2 October 2009: Vol. 326. no. 5949, p. 17.
"One mathematician rushes into the office of another and says 'Have you got a minute? I am a bit stuck on this problem. You see ... [goes on for many minutes explaining details] ... ah! Thanks very much!' and leaves; the colleague has said nothing, and has not needed to say anything. This behaviour is quite typical. "
On page 127 of "Learning from Listening to yourself" in Listening Figures, Trentham Books, 2009.
"In Farrell v. Burke, Sotomayor, resisting the temptation to wax about the First Amendment, chose simply to include the following exchange from the testimony of a police officer who had charged a convicted sex offender for violating the terms of his probation by possessing obscene materials:
From The Life of Sonia Sotomayor. The New Yorker, Jan 11, 2010.
"And so Einstein and his new wife, Elsa, set sail in late March 1921 for their first visit to America. On the way over, Einstein tried to explain relativity to Weizmann. Asked upon their arrival whether he understood the theory, Weizmann gave a puckish reply: "Einstein explained his theory to me every day, and by the time we arrived I was fully convinced that he really understands it." "
From How Einstein Divided America's Jews in the Atlantic, December 2009.
"That is a brute, cold, hard fact of the universe. When you pull the battery out of your computer, it shuts off. When you end a life, it shuts off. And I think that's just it."
From The Listener by Timothy Lavin in the Atlantic, January 2010.
"Why can't people just have complex views about food without resorting to extremist ideas that both fit as fashions and act as cure-all's for the health of America? Eating and nutrition are complex algorithms to get right! Michael Pollan knows this, because he wrote a great book [In Defense of Food] with a great mantra-Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.- that stood in the middle. And guess what happened? He heard from every asshole with a fully organic nightshade garden or a meat locker of terror in their brownstone because he wasn't on one side or the other:
A sensible sentiment from Of Early Birds and Cavemen: The Two Dumbest Hipster Food Trends You'll Read About This Week in the Gawker.
"Initiations are welcome, of course, but we do not give children a high school diploma simply for showing up for school on the first day of the first grade. For the same reasons "born-again" moral characters should probably wait a similar period of time before celebrating their moral achievement or pressing their moral authority."
From Neurophilosophy at Work, Cambridge University Press 2007 (Locations 10199-25 of the Kindle version).
"Now my mum had no interest whatsoever in science, and I was forever trying to explain to her why, for instance, people in Australia did not fall off the other side of the world. So when I arrived at Caltech, I had an idea: plucking up my courage, I knocked on Feynman's office door and asked, nervously, whether he would write to my mum.
From Quantum theory via 40-tonne trucks: How science writing became popular in the Independent January 17, 2010.
Serendipitous Astronomy "Many of the seminal discoveries in astronomy have been unanticipated."
"So our celestial science seems to be primarily instrument-driven, guided by unanticipated discoveries with unique telescopes and novel detection equipment. With our current knowledge, we can be certain that the observed universe is just a modest fraction of what remains to be discovered. Recent evidence for dark, invisible matter and mysterious dark energy indicate that the main ingredients of the universe remain largely unknown, awaiting future, serendipitous discoveries."
More evidence for "Exploratory Experimentation and Widening Technology" from Science, 1 January 2010: Vol. 327. no. 5961, pp. 39-40. DOI: 10.1126/science.1183653.
"Even mathematics would not be entirely safe. (Apparently, in the early 1900's, one legislator in a southern state proposed a bill to redefine the value of pi as 3.3 exactly, just to tidy things up.)"
Writing about the creationist sagas of the Kansas school board in Neurophilosophy at Work (Cambridge, 2007); at location 1589 of the Kindle edition. This is a fascinating set of essays and full of interesting anecdotes --- which I have no particular reason to doubt --- but this one quote contains four inaccuracies.
As often this makes me wonder whether mathematics popularization is especially prone to error or if the other disciplines just seem better described because of my relative ignorance.
"The spread of information networks is forming a new nervous system for our planet.
"This is not to say that I am not interested in the quest for intelligent machines. My many exhibitions with chess computers stemmed from a desire to participate in this grand experiment. It was my luck (perhaps my bad luck) to be the world chess champion during the critical years in which computers challenged, then surpassed, human chess players. Before 1994 and after 2004 these duels held little interest. The computers quickly went from too weak to too strong. But for a span of ten years these contests were fascinating clashes between the computational power of the machines (and, lest we forget, the human wisdom of their programmers) and the intuition and knowledge of the grandmaster."
In The Chess Master and the Computer a review of Chess Metaphors: Artificial Intelligence and the Human Mind by Diego Rasskin-Gutman. (In the New York Review of Books Volume 57, Number 2 · February 11, 2010.)
"The reference to Tokyo Rose was probably lost on many of Justice Stevens's readers. But the concluding sentence of what may be his last major dissent could not have been clearer.
In After 34 Years, a Plainspoken Justice Gets Louder NYT Jan 26, 2010.
"Only two years ago, Jobs contemptuously predicted that the Kindle would flop: "It doesn't matter how good or bad the product is," he told The New York Times, because "the fact is that people don't read anymore. Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don't read anymore."
In Steve Jobs: Flip-Flopper, Daily Beast of Jan 26, 2010.
Cut This Story!
"There's an old joke about the provincial newspaper that reports a nuclear attack on the nation's largest city under the headline "Local Man Dies in NY Nuclear Holocaust." Something similar happens at the national level, where everything is filtered through politics. ("In what was widely seen as a setback for Democrats just a year before the midterm elections, nuclear bombs yesterday obliterated seven states, five of which voted for President Obama in the last election ...")"
Writing instructively in the Atlantic (Feb-March 2010) about the fact that "Newspaper articles are too long" and massively formulaic.
"I started drinking the Kool-Aid so long ago that I can no longer taste it. I am sure I will continue my unbroken streak of mindless devotion to Apple and find a way to love the iPad, no matter how expensive and unnecessary it is. Knowledge of self is no fun."
One of many entertaining snippets in the New Yorker's survey of their staffers immediate responses to the IPAD (Jan 27, 2010).
"As Garry Trudeau (who is not on Twitter) has his Washington "journotwit" Roland Hedley tweet at the end of "My Shorts R Bunching. Thoughts?," ... "The time you spend reading this tweet is gone, lost forever, carrying you closer to death. Am trying not to abuse the privilege."
From Neither Luddite nor Biltonite February 4, 2010. One can google "Biltonite".
"Emerson was a touchstone, and Salinger often quoted him in letters. For instance, "A man must have aunts and cousins, must buy carrots and turnips, must have barn and woodshed, must go to market and to the blacksmith's shop, must saunter and sleep and be inferior and silly." Writers, he thought, had trouble abiding by that, and he referred to Flaubert and Kafka as "two other born non-buyers of carrots and turnips."
The distinguished editor, journalist, and author on My long friendship with J. D. Salinger.
"Fifth, society is too transparent. Since Watergate, we have tried to make government as open as possible. But as William Galston of the Brookings Institution jokes, government should sometimes be shrouded for the same reason that middle-aged people should be clothed. This isn't Galston's point, but I'd observe that the more government has become transparent, the less people are inclined to trust it."
Five observations on the growing insensitivity of The Power Elite to societal pressures in the NYT February 18, 2010.
"My specific aims didn't have 'discover telomerase'. I didn't even know I wanted to discover telomerase," she said."
"My feeling is not to get too cross-disciplinary and shallow and spread all over the place too quick." Blackburn tells the HES while visiting Monash University, where she is a distinguished visiting professor.This is an opinion I've been expressing: see Innovation and Creativity.
"Math came naturally to Martin, and he sought sports with similar elements, anything with angles, geometry, calculations. He smacked his first pool ball the day he could see over the table. He played billiards for hours at the local senior center, and after the employees there grew tired of unlocking the door at odd times, they made him a key.
See The Pride of Canada, Especially the Grandmas -- an article about Canadian Olympic curling skipper Kevin Martin (K-Mart) in the NYT of Feb 25, 2010.
"My name is Odd-Bjoern Hjelmeset. I skied the second lap and I fucked up today. I think I have seen too much porn in the last 14 days. I have the room next to Petter Northhug and every day there is noise in there. So I think that is the reason I fucked up. By the way, Tiger Woods is a really good man."
Proving that some athletes are still kids. He did also manage to share a silver relay medal. See Norwegian skier walks away with Quote of the Games. (February 25, 2010)
"Writing in a 2005 Wired article that "new technologies redefine us," William Gibson hailed audience participation and argued that "an endless, recombinant, and fundamentally social process generates countless hours of creative product." Indeed, he said, "audience is as antique a term as record, the one archaically passive, the other archaically physical. The record, not the remix, is the anomaly today. The remix is the very nature of the digital."
From Texts Without Context, NYT, March 21, 2010.
'Bonkers' Crochet book knits up oddest title prize
Others in the running include: Afterthoughts of a Worm Hunter. Governing Lethal Behavior in Autonomous Robots. The Changing World of Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Last year's winner was The 2009-2014 World Outlook for 60-Milligram Containers of Fromage Frais by Philip M. Parker. Winners are chosen through a public vote. More than 4,500 people voted online this year, Stone said. (Read more.)
"Harold Macmillan, prime minister of Britain from 1957 to 1963, used to quote the opinion of his classics tutor at Oxford: "Nothing you will learn in the course of your studies will be of the slightest possible use to you in after life, save only this: That if you work hard and diligently you should be able to detect when a man is talking rot. And that, in my view, is the main, if not the sole purpose of education.""
" But the Senate is supposed to be above the game, I tell him [Bob Bennett], at least in the election off-season. Richard Russell, the legendary Democrat from Georgia, had a saying - -
From Mr Woebegone goes to Washington, NY Magazine, April 4, 2010; a useful article on the US Senate's total disfunction.
Q. WHEN YOU GO TO A COCKTAIL PARTY, DO YOU TELL PEOPLE THAT YOU ARE A PHYSICIST? SOME PHYSICISTS WON'T.
Physicist Sean Carroll Talks School Science and Time Travel to Claudia Dreifus in NYT, April 19, 2010. We mathematicians are not alone!!
"Je n'ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parceque je n'ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte. (I have only made this letter so long because I did not had time to make it shorter.)"
From a postscript to his XVIe Lettre provinciale.
"What has happened? I once heard a seminar given by Grothendieck, which was described as "A telegram from Grothendieck to Serre." This should not happen."
In Mathematics and the Tower of Babel Notices of the AMS Jan 2010, pg. 5.
"In the realm of practical politics, two things must happen - both of which are likely. There must be one more General Election to disillusion Labour optimists as to the measure of their political strength, standing by themselves. But equally on our side there must be a certain change.
From a speech given to the Manchester Reform Club, February 1926.
" "One of the things we will be doing is taking apart the timekeepers Harrison made, which can give us an alternative version of the story. If you look inside the first clock, it quickly becomes clear that several people were involved in making it. Clearly this wasn't just about a lone genius working by himself," Mr Dunn said.
The Science editor of the Independent on How Britannia came to rule the waves
" In fact, among younger listeners, the lower-quality sound might actually be preferred. Jonathan Berger, a professor of music at Stanford, said he had conducted an informal study among his students and found that, over the roughly seven years of the study, an increasing number of them preferred the sound of files with less data over the high-fidelity recordings.
In Mobile Age, Sound Quality Steps Back in the NYT of May 9, 2010. Or maybe not.
"Canada is the linchpin of the English-speaking world. Canada, with those relations of friendly, affectionate intimacy with the United States on the one hand and with her unswerving fidelity to the British Commonwealth and the Motherland on the other, is the link which joins together these great branches of the human family, a link which, spanning the oceans, brings the continents into their true relation and will prevent in future generations any growth of division between the proud and the happy nations of Europe and the great countries which have come into existence in the New World."
A speech delivered at Mansion House, London, 4 September 1941, at a luncheon in honour of Mackenzie King, Prime Minister of Canada.
"Dr. John Ioannides, an epidemiologist at the University of Ioannina, in Greece, has noted that four of the six most frequently cited epidemiological studies published in leading medical journals between 1990 and 2003 were later refuted. Demonstrating the malleability of data, Peter Austin, a medical statistician at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, in Toronto, has retrospectively analyzed medical records of the more than ten million residents of Ontario. He showed that Sagittarians are thirty-eight per cent more likely to fracture an arm than people of other astrological signs, and Leos are fifteen per cent more likely to suffer a gastrointestinal hemorrhage. (Pisces were more prone to heart failure.)"
Writing about environmental additives in THE PLASTIC PANIC in the New Yorker, 31 May 2010.
"What we're experiencing is, in a metaphorical sense, a reversal of the early trajectory of civilization: We are evolving from cultivators of personal knowledge into hunters and gatherers in the electronic data forest. In the process, we seem fated to sacrifice much of what makes our minds so interesting. "
In Wired, and adapted from The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, W.W. Norton and Company, 2010.
'Fast entertainment' scared Wordsworth too: "A multitude of causes, unknown to former times," he wrote in 1800 in the preface to Lyrical Ballads,
In Always On, a London Review of Books article on the history and impact of social networking and much more.
A prolific writer, Edwards was actively involved in the ethical debates around IVF from the start. As early as 1971, he published a paper in Nature, still regarded as a classic, that laid out the ethical, social, and regulatory issues in human embryology. He liked taking provocative positions, if only to flush out counterarguments, Johnson says. He disagreed with the scientific community's decision to declare human cloning off-limits without discussing the potential benefits. "I've never met anyone worth cloning, including myself," Edwards once quipped. "But to him, closing the debate was the antithesis of scientific inquiry," says Johnson.
In Making babies. Edwards's research offered new hope to infertile couples. On the 2010 Medicine Nobel Robert G. Edwards in Science 8 October 2010: Vol. 330. no. 6001, pp. 158 - 159.
In that regard, this year's prize could be considered an anomaly. In the past, a few prizes have quickly spotlighted discoveries that upended the prevailing theory; others have recognized advances that over decades had led to ubiquitous applications. This year's prize, by contrast, honors physics that by all accounts is beautiful but not revolutionary. ""You don't need a new theory" to understand graphene, says Jeroen van den Brink, a theorist at the Institute for Materials Sciences at the Dresden University of Technology in Germany. At the same time, it celebrates the potential for applications yet to come." "Will this really come into the market?" Kim says. "I think it's really difficult to say. " Still, everyone interviewed by Science says Geim and Novoselov thoroughly deserve the prize.
In Still in Its Infancy, Two-Dimensional Crystal Claims Prize. On the 2010 Physics Nobels Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov in Science 8 October 2010: Vol. 330. no. 6001, pp. 159.
Cricket was the most-read story on The Australian website for 36 hours after the match. During the last session international attention was so great the enormous Bangalore-based, ESPN-backed Cricinfo web servers collapsed from exhaustion.
From Ugly, Ugly, Ugly in The Australian October 08, 2010.
In the 1960s, much of economic theory strived to prove that the results from idealized classical economics still held sway as economists made their models more realistic, Diamond said at an MIT press conference after the prize was announced. He preferred to let the improved models lead where they may. "It seemed to me that a better approach was to think about real dynamics and see where they go," he says. "Maybe they go to the [classical] equilibrium solution and maybe they don't."
In Why Some Unemployment Is Inevitable in Science 11 October 2010: Peter Diamond, 70, of MIT; Dale Mortensen, 71, of Northwestern; and Christopher Pissarides, 62, of the LSE shared the 2010 Economics prize.
He also lashes out at scientists who fail to communicate the significance of their work in human terms, regardless of how abstract their work might be. He reads plenty of science journals, he says, but finds "a lot of the stuff impenetrable," which is ridiculous, he says. "In particular, I think one needs narrative and history to relate how things have come about and how they've happened. ... It's not sufficient just to give the result and the conclusion. Even when you are dealing with things that are unimaginably remote from human experience, I think it's important to think about them in a human way," the doctor says, with a pause. "After all, we are the ones who are midway between the atoms and the stars."
'I now think of old age as a sort of disease' a profile of Oliver Sacks
in The Globe and Mail of November 5th 2010.
"The United States is the only nation in history which, miraculously, has gone directly from barbarism to degeneration without the usual interval of civilization." (George Clemenceau) ... "And Clemenceau was dealing with Wilson - what epigram would he have hung on Dubya's US?" "
In The Island That Dared: Journeys in Cuba. Eland Books, 2008, p106.
"... Born decided to investigate the simple ionic crystal-rock salt (sodium chloride)- using a ring model. He asked Lande to collaborate with him in calculating the forces between the lattice points that would determine the structure and stability of the crystal.
In The End of the Certain World: The Life and Science of Max Born, Basic Books, 2005, pp. 79-80. Max Born was Olivia-Newton John's maternal grandfather. Actually, soon after they discovered they had forgotten to divide by two in the compressibility analysis. This ultimately lead to the abandonment of the Bohr-Sommerfeld planar model of the atom.
"However he feels about his Jewish DNA, Holbrooke is held up as a compassionate Jew by countless Jewish organizations that have hailed his peace efforts. He has received prizes from the World Jewish Congress, the Anti-Defamation League, Jerusalem's Hebrew University, and Yeshiva University. "Les Gelb has this great joke that they're inventing Jewish organizations to give me awards," he says with a laugh. "Don't ask me. They invite me; I'm very proud to do it." "
Excerpted in The Tablet from Stars of David: Prominent Jews Talk About Being Jewish by Abigail Pogrebin, Broadway Books 2005.
"Quality control aside, a larger question remains: Does the act of data gathering really constitute science?
Excerpted in Managing Scientific Inquiry in a Laboratory the Size of the Web in NYT 2010/12/28.
"I don't think we need to worry anytime soon about the machines taking over. I work in robotics, and the robots we build haven't gotten rid of people. They just make them more productive. We can relax for a few hundred years, is my guess."
Rodney Brooks, roboticist and recently retired head of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT on NOVA: Will Watson Win at Jeopardy?. Posted 01.20.11.
On the other, his judgments could be pointed: the 1970s was intellectually the bleakest decade of the century: structuralism and deconstructionism came to the fore because their "inherently difficult vocabulary had achieved a level of expressive opacity that proved irresistibly appealing to a new generation of students and their teachers."
In Tony Judt's 2010 Guardian Obituary and quoting his remarkable 2005 book Postwar. More from the obituary: "You don't have to be Jewish to understand the history of Europe in the 20th century," Judt wrote, "but it helps." .... In two books, Judd used lines from Camus as epigraphs: "If there were a party of those who aren't sure they're right, I'd belong to it," and "Every wrong idea ends in bloodshed, but it's always the blood of others." They could stand as the mottoes of his own sadly abbreviated but splendid life's work.
You're a very naughty billionaire.
The creamer of the newly humble Rupert Murdoch quoted in The Independent of 20/07/2011. Or perhaps it was "You've been a naughty billionaire" or ... even two days later there is no agreement.
[O]nce we have accepted the authority of a particular scientific discipline, we cannot consistently reject its conclusions. To adapt Schopenhauer's famous remark about causality, science is not a taxi-cab that we can get in and out of whenever we like. Once we board the train of climate science, there is no alternative to taking it wherever it may go.
Concluding a July 12, 2011 climate change NY Times Op-ed piece by.
Write it down: Americans Elect. What Amazon.com did to books, what the blogosphere did to newspapers, what the iPod did to music, what drugstore.com did to pharmacies, Americans Elect plans to do to the two-party duopoly that has dominated American political life - remove the barriers to real competition, flatten the incumbents and let the people in. Watch out.
In Make Way for the Radical Center NYT July 23, 2011.
If there is a God, and he lacks a sense of irony, he will send Hitchens to the hottest precinct of hell. If God does have a sense of irony, Hitchens will spend eternity in a town that serves no liquor and has no library. Either way, heaven will be a less interesting place.
In Christopher Hitchens, a Man of His Words in the NYT of 9/9/11. "As Michael Kinsley has written in these pages, "God should be flattered: unlike most of those clamoring for his attention, Hitchens treats him like an adult.""
Perhaps in another quarter of a century, every nation will arrive at the World Cup with a home-grown coaching team. Now is not the time to yearn for it. As the great art historian Kenneth Clark noted, internationalism is accepted unquestioningly when something really matters.
In Where did all the minnows go? How the World Cup came of age in the Independent of 23/9/11.
"The idea of scaling down electronic circuits goes back at least to 1960, when a young electrical engineer named Douglas Engelbart spoke at a radio and electronics technical conference in Philadelphia. Dr. Engelbart had hit on the idea that shrinking the basic circuitry of the first digital computers could lead to a drastic increase in power. "Boy, are there going to be some surprises over there," he told his audience. It turned out to be an understatement"
In A High-Stakes Search Continues for Silicon's Successor NYT, Dec 6 2011. Doug Engelbart was the originator of the mouese and more.
"The historian's job is not to tell us what to think, but to tell us what he thinks, so that our own thoughts may be refined or rearranged by dint of the comparison and argument. But there is no arguing with Pevsner. The stare-you-in-the-face rigor of his systematizing intellect-those cold, clean pages with their hanging indents, their bolds and italics and SMALL-CAPS-has the effect of making what is only his taste look like the truth. One knew this abstractly, of course, before ever reading this biography; but having read the book one feels it in one's whole being-feels, moreover, that Pevsner himself wouldn't have a clue what one was talking about in criticizing him in this way. I don't for a moment think that she set out to tarnish her man, but Harries has changed the way we see him all the same. Pevsner wrote books about what men made with clay. Susie Harries has written one that proves at least a part of him was made of the same substance. "
Reviewing a life of the architectural critic (Nikolaus Pevsner: The Life by Susie Harries Chatto & Windus) in The Call to Order (New Republic, Nov 16, 2011). Our copy is dog-eared.
"Mathematics is not a careful march down a well-cleared highway, but a journey into a strange wilderness, where the explorers often get lost. Rigour should be a signal to the historian that the maps have been made, and the real explorers have gone elsewhere.
From his article "Mathematics and History", Mathematical Intelligencer, vol. 14, no. 4, (1992), 6-12.
"The theory of evolution is the fundamental backbone of all biological research," he said. "There is more evidence for evolution than there is for the theory of gravity, than the idea that things are made up of atoms, or Einstein's theory of relativity. It is the finest scientific theory ever devised."
Vincent Cassone, chairman of the University of Kentucky biology department quoted in Kentucky Evolution Fight: GOP Lawmakers Upset State Exams Test Students On 'Made Up' Theory
"It has been a disastrous half. His work has been far from satisfactory. His prepared stuff has been badly learnt, and several of his test pieces have been torn over; one of such pieces of prepared work scored 2 marks out of a possible 50. His other work has been equally bad, and several times he has been in trouble, because he will not listen, but will insist on doing his work in his own way. I believe he has ideas about becoming a Scientist; on his present showing this is quite ridiculous, if he can't learn simple Biological facts he would have no chance of doing the work of a Specialist, and it would be sheer waste of time, both on his part, and of those who have to teach him."
Undated photograph taken by Nobel prize winner Sir John Gurdon "of his Eton College Summer 1949 report card, which describes his idea for becoming a scientist 'on his present showing that is quite ridiculous' . The report card indicates that he was at that stage bottom of his class. Gurdon went on to study Zoology at Cambridge won the 2012 Nobel Prize for Medicine which he shared with Japanese scientist Shinya Yamanaka, that was announced in Stockholm, Monday Oct. 8, 2012."
". . . do you not find that the prime numbers are given, if you will, too much honour, so that so much energy is wasted on them, and does this refined taste of our century not repel you?"
From a 1778, letter to Euler's student Fuss. Quoted Tales of Mathematicians and Physicists by Simon Gindikin, Springer, p. 189.
"Some subjects can be roughly associated with geographic locations: graph theory is a Canadian subject, singular integrals is an Argentine subject, class field theory an Austrian subject, algebraic topology an American subject, algebraic geometry an Italian subject, special functions a Wisconsin subject, point-set topology a Southern subject, probability a Russian subject.
From p. 216 of Indiscrete thoughts, Birkhauser Boston, Inc., Boston, MA, 1997.
"There is charm to reading a philosopher who confesses to finding things bewildering. But I regret the appearance of this book. It will only bring comfort to creationists and fans of "intelligent design", who will not be too bothered about the difference between their divine architect and Nagel's natural providence. It will give ammunition to those triumphalist scientists who pronounce that philosophy is best pensioned off. If there were a philosophical Vatican, the book would be a good candidate for going on to the Index."
From p. 216 of Thomas Nagel: a philosopher who confesses to finding things bewildering Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False - review. See also a biologist's evolutionary NYR Review Feb 7, 2013:
"For there might be perfectly good reasons why you can't imagine a solution to the problem of consciousness. As the philosopher Colin McGinn has emphasized, your very inability to imagine a solution might reflect your cognitive limitations as an evolved creature. The point is that we have no reason to believe that we, as organisms whose brains are evolved and finite, can fathom the answer to every question that we can ask. All other species have cognitive limitations, why not us? So even if matter does give rise to mind, we might not be able to understand how..."
"Context is always important, but it's particularly important in this case. Here's the full quote from Keynes' A Tract on Monetary Reform:
From The Atlantic (May 7, 2013) on how cynically conservatives miscast and impugn Keynes. "If these are the best arguments conservatives have against running bigger deficits when interest rates are zero, then maybe we are all Keynesians now."
We start at the end where the most recent quotes lie.
Revised 10/05/13 by Jonathan Borwein.