i. “Progress in science is often built on wrong theories that are later corrected. It is better to be wrong than to be vague.” (Freeman Dyson)

ii. “The teacher’s equipment gives him an everlasting job. His work is never done. His getting ready for this work is never quite complete.” (George Trumbull Ladd)

iii. “The crust of our earth is a great cemetery, where the rocks are tombstones on which the buried dead have written their own epitaphs.” (Louis Agassiz)

iv. “Fortunately science, like that nature to which it belongs, is neither limited by time nor by space. It belongs to the world, and is of no country and of no age. The more we know, the more we feel our ignorance […] there are always new worlds to conquer.” (Humphrey Davy)

v. “Nothing is so fatal to the progress of the human mind as to suppose that our views of science are ultimate; that there are no mysteries in nature; that our triumphs are complete, and that there are no new worlds to conquer.” (-ll-)

vi. “The best way to learn Japanese is to be born as a Japanese baby, in Japan, raised by a Japanese family.” (Dave Barry)

vii. “What makes a date so dreadful is the weight of expectation attached to it. There is every chance that you may meet your soulmate, get married, have children and be buried side by side. There is an equal chance that the person you meet will look as if they’ve already been buried for some time.” (Guy Browning)

viii. “Always judge your fellow passengers to be the opposite of what they strive to appear to be. […] men never affect to be what they are, but what they are not.” (Thomas Chandler Haliburton)

ix. “Some folks can look so busy doin’ nothin’ that they seem indispensable.” (Kin Hubbard)

x. “Men are not punished for their sins, but by them.” (-ll-)

xi. “Do what we will, we always, more or less, construct our own universe. The history of science may be described as the history of the attempts, and the failures, of men “to see things as they are.”” (Matthew Moncrieff Pattison Muir)

xii. “You simply cannot invent any conspiracy theory so ridiculous and obviously satirical that some people somewhere don’t already believe it.” (Robert Anton Wilson)

xiii. “You know you are getting old when work is a lot less fun and fun is a lot more work.” (Joan Rivers)

xiv. “When I was a little boy, I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realised, the Lord, in his wisdom, doesn’t work that way. So I just stole one and asked Him to forgive me.” (Emo Philips)

xv. “I was walking down Fifth Avenue today and I found a wallet, and I was gonna keep it, rather than return it, but I thought: “Well, if I lost a hundred and fifty dollars, how would I feel?” And I realized I would want to be taught a lesson.” (-ll-)

xvi. “When I said I was going to become a comedian, they all laughed. Well, they’re not laughing now, are they?” (Robert Monkhouse)

xvii. “Things said in embarrassment and anger are seldom the truth, but are said to hurt and wound the other person. Once said, they can never be taken back.” (Lucille Ball)

xviii. “The beginning of wisdom for a programmer is to recognize the difference between getting his program to work and getting it right. A program which does not work is undoubtedly wrong; but a program which does work is not necessarily right. It may still be wrong because it is hard to understand; or because it is hard to maintain as the problem requirements change; or because its structure is different from the structure of the problem; or because we cannot be sure that it does indeed work.” (Michael Anthony Jackson)

xix. “One of the difficulties in thinking about software is its huge variety. A function definition in a spreadsheet cell is software. A smartphone app is software. The flight management system for an Airbus A380 is software. A word processor is software. We shouldn’t expect a single discipline of software engineering to cover all of these, any more than we expect a single discipline of manufacturing to cover everything from the Airbus A380 to the production of chocolate bars, or a single discipline of social organization to cover everything from the United Nations to a kindergarten. Improvement in software engineering must come bottom-up, from intense specialized attention to particular products.” (-ll-)

xx. “Let the world know you as you are, not as you think you should be, because sooner or later, if you are posing, you will forget the pose, and then where are you?” (Fanny Brice)


July 30, 2018 Posted by | Quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment


i. “I only study the things I like; I apply my mind only to matters that interest me. They’ll be useful — or useless — to me or to others in due course, I’ll be given — or not given — the opportunity of benefiting from what I’ve learned. In any case, I’ll have enjoyed the inestimable advantage of doing things I like doing and following my own inclinations.” (Nicolas Chamfort)

ii. “Every day I add to the list of things I refuse to discuss. The wiser the man, the longer the list.” (-ll-)

iii. “There are more fools than wise men, and even in a wise man there is more folly than wisdom.” (-ll-)

iv. “People are always annoyed by men of letters who retreat from the world; they expect them to continue to show interest in society even though they gain little benefit from it. They would like to force them be present when lots are being drawn in a lottery for which they have no tickets.” (-ll-)

v. “Eminence without merit earns deference without esteem.” (-ll-)

vi. “Not everyone is worth listening to.” (Alain de Botton)

vii. “Innovation comes from those who see things that other don’t.” (Steve Blank)

viii. “Writing improves in direct ratio to the number of things we can keep out of it that shouldn’t be there.” (William Zinsser)

ix. “Good approximations often lead to better ones.” (George Pólya)

x. “Children have to be educated, but they have also to be left to educate themselves.” (Ernest Dimnet)

xi. “Intellectual brilliance is no guarantee against being dead wrong.” (David Fasold)

xii. “Doubt is the beginning of wisdom. It means caution, independence, honesty and veracity. […] The man who never doubts never thinks.” (George William Foote)

xiii. “The idea that all problems either have a solution or can be shown to be pseudo-problems is not one I share.” (Raymond Geuss)

xiv. “Asking what the question is, and why the question is asked, is always asking a pertinent question.” (-ll-)

xv. “In many of the cases of conceptual innovation, … creating the conceptual tools is a precondition to coming to a clear understanding of what the problem was in the first place. It is very difficult to describe the transition after it has taken place because it is difficult for us to put ourselves back into the situation of confusion, indeterminacy, and perplexity that existed before the new “tool” brought clarity and this means it is difficult for us to retain a vivid sense of what a difference having the concept made.” (-ll-)

xvi. “I’m not a mathematician, but I’ve been hanging around with some of them long enough to know how the game is played.” (Brian Hayes)

xvii. “None is so deaf as those that will not hear.” (Matthew Henry)

xviii. “People who habitually speak positively of others tend to do so in all circumstances. Those who tend to criticize others in your presence and recruit you to agree with their cutting remarks will probably criticize you when you are out of the room.” (John Hoover (consultant))

xix. “People don’t learn much about themselves or others while they’re succeeding in spite of poor practices. When the real outcomes reflect the real work being done, the real learning begins.” (-ll-)

xx. “Respect yourself, if you want others to respect you.” (Adolph Freiherr Knigge)

July 12, 2018 Posted by | Quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment


i. “At a high level of universality, to write anything well, whether it be intellectual or imaginative, is to assume at least two obligations: to be intelligible and to be interesting.” (Norman Maclean)

ii. “If any man seeks for greatness, let him forget greatness and ask for truth, and he will find both.” (Horace Mann)

iii. “Generosity during life is a very different thing from generosity in the hour of death; one proceeds from genuine liberality and benevolence, the other from pride or fear.” (-ll-)

iv. “The most ignorant are the most conceited. […] it is quite as important for a man to know the extent of his own ignorance as it is to know any thing else. To know how much there is that we do not know, is one of the most valuable parts of our attainments; for such knowledge becomes both a lesson of humility and a stimulus to exertion.” (-ll-)

v. “Books are not made for furniture but there is nothing else that so beautifully furnishes a house.” (-ll-)

vi. “Affectation hides three times as many virtues as charity does sins.” (-ll-)

vii. “It is well to think well. It is divine to act well.” (-ll-)

viii. “A new technology sometimes creates more than it destroys. Sometimes, it destroys more than it creates. But it is never one-sided. […] Technological change, in other words, always results in winners and losers.” (Neil Postman)

ix. “Apart from a few macroscopic quantum effects, at the moment fundamental physics is relatively useless in understanding biology, the mind, or society. Similar mistakes occur in genetics, when DNA is incorrectly framed as something that can explain all the features, diseases, and behaviours of humans. In general, the results of basic science should not be taken beyond their real range of effectiveness, and it should be acknowledged that more specialized disciplines can give much deeper insights beyond that range.” (Guido Caldarelli)

x. “Society is not just the product of its individual members; it is also the product of its constituent groups. The aggregate relations among individuals and groups, among individuals within groups, and among groups forms a network of astonishing complexity.” (Clay Shirky)

xi. “The way of truth is along the path of intellectual sincerity.” (Henry Smith Pritchett)

xii. “Disproving a claim that something exists is often quite difficult, and this difficulty is often mistaken for evidence that the claim is true … Presented as I am periodically with these and other fantastical claims, I sometimes feel a little like a formally dressed teetotaler at a drunken orgy for reiterating that not being able to conclusively refute the claims does not constitute evidence for them.” (John Allen Paulos)

xiii. “If we’re not keenly aware of the choices we’re making, we’re not likely to work for better ones.” (-ll-)

xiv. “Bad things happen periodically, and they’re going to happen to somebody. Why not you?” (-ll-)

xv. “There is no such thing as free lunch, and even if there were, there’d be no guarantee against indigestion.” (-ll-)

xvi. “An unknown but certainly significant proportion of the population has almost completely given up on learning. These people seldom, if ever engage in deliberate learning and see themselves as neither competent at it nor likely to enjoy it. The social and personal cost is enormous… Deficiency becomes identity: “I can’t learn French, I don’t have an ear for languages;” “I could never be a businessman, I don’t have a head for figures;”… These beliefs are often repeated ritualistically, like superstitions… Although these negative self-images can be overcome, in the life of and individual they are extremely robust and powerfully self-reinforcing. If people believe firmly enough that they cannot do math, they will usually succeed in preventing themselves from doing whatever they recognize as math. The consequences of such self-sabotage is personal failure, and each failure reinforces the original belief. And such beliefs may be most insidious when held not only by individuals, but by our entire culture.” (Seymour Papert)

xvii. “We should be very careful to distinguish between our knowledge of phenomena and our interpretations of them.” (Alfred Stillé)

xviii. “Secure web servers are the equivalent of heavy armored cars. The problem is, they are being used to transfer rolls of coins and checks written in crayon by people on park benches to merchants doing business in cardboard boxes from beneath highway bridges. Further, the roads are subject to random detours, anyone with a screwdriver can control the traffic lights, and there are no police.” (Gene Spafford)

xix. “The first object of any act of learning, over and beyond the pleasure it may give, is that it should serve us in the future. Learning should not only take us somewhere; it should allow us later to go further more easily.” (Theodore Sizer)

xx. “Tradition is a persuasive teacher, even when what it teaches is erroneous.” (Sherwin Nuland)

June 20, 2018 Posted by | Quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment


i. “Never esteem anything as of advantage to you that will make you break your word or lose your self-respect.” (Marcus Aurelius)

ii. “Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.” (-ll-)

iii. “If it is not right, do not do it, if it is not true, do not say it.” (-ll-)

iv. “Nothing has such power to broaden the mind as the ability to investigate systematically and truly all that comes under thy observation in life.” (-ll-)

v. “The best revenge is not to be like your enemy.” (-ll-)

vi. “Memories are like flagstones, time and distance work upon them like drops of acid.” (Ugo Betti)

vii. “We have all forgot more than we remember.” (Thomas Fuller)

viii. “The free market in ideas has never been free, but always a market.” (Russell Jacoby)

ix. “Practical politics consists in ignoring facts.” (Henry Adams)

x. “Nowhere do men remain loyal for long when Fortune proves unstable.” (Silius Italicus)

xi. “The sin of thousands always goes unpunished.” (Lucan)

xii. “Software engineering is the part of computer science which is too difficult for the computer scientist.” (Friedrich Bauer)

xiii. “What we call human reason, is not the effort or ability of one, so much as it is the result of the reason of many, arising from lights mutually communicated, in consequence of discourse and writing.” (Hugh Blair)

xiv. “Universities should be safe havens where ruthless examination of realities will not be distorted by the aim to please or inhibited by the risk of displeasure.” (Kingman Brewster, Jr.)

xv. “To be left alone is the most precious thing one can ask of the modern world.” (Anthony Burgess)

xvi. “It is no great accomplishment to take people as they are, and we must always do so eventually, but to wish them to be as they are, that is a genuine love.” (Émile Chartier)

xvii. “In religion, faith is a virtue. In science, faith is a vice.” (Jerry Coyne)

xviii. “No one will ever follow you down the street if you’re carrying a banner that says, “Onward toward mediocrity.”” (Martin de Maat)

xix. “Blame the process, not the people.” (W. Edwards Deming)

xx. “One of life’s best coping mechanisms is to know the difference between an inconvenience and a problem. If you break your neck, if you have nothing to eat, if your house is on fire, then you’ve got a problem. Everything else is an inconvenience. Life is inconvenient. Life is lumpy. A lump in the oatmeal, a lump in the throat and a lump in the breast are not the same kind of lump. One needs to learn the difference.” (Robert Fulghum)

May 10, 2018 Posted by | Quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment


i. “La vérité ne se possède pas, elle se cherche.” (‘You cannot possess the truth, you can only search for it.’ – Albert Jacquard)

ii. “Some physicist might believe that ultimately, we will be able to explain everything. To me, that is utterly stupid […] It seems to me that, if you accept evolution, you can still not expect your dog to get up and start talking German. And that’s because your dog is not genetically programmed to do that. We are human animals, and we are equally bound. There are whole realms of discourse out there that we cannot reach, by definition. There are always going to be limits beyond which we cannot go. Knowing that they are there, you can always hope to move a little closer – but that’s all.” (James M. Buchanan)

iii. “Physics is a wrong tool to describe living systems.” (Donald A. Glaser)

iv. “In the seventeenth century Cartesians refused to accept Newton’s attraction because they could not accept a force that was not transmitted by a medium. Even now many physicists have not yet learned that they should adjust their ideas to the observed reality rather than the other way round.” (Nico van Kampen)

v. “…the human brain is itself a part of nature, fanned into existence by billions of years of sunshine acting on the molecules of the Earth. It is not perfectible in the immediate future, even if biologists should wish to alter the brain […]. What men make of the universe at large is a product of what they can see of it and of their own human nature.” (Nigel Calder)

vi. “If you torture the data enough, nature will always confess.” (Ronald Coase)

vii. “If economists wished to study the horse, they wouldn’t go and look at horses. They’d sit in their studies and say to themselves, “what would I do if I were a horse?”” (-ll-)

viii. “Nothing is as simple as we hope it will be.” (Jim Horning)

ix. “There’s an old saying in politics: anyone dumb enough to run for the job probably is too stupid to have it.” (Ralph Klein)

x. “I never felt the need to do what everyone else did. And I wasn’t troubled by the fact that other people were doing other things.” (Saul Leiter)

xi. “Think wrongly, if you please, but in all cases think for yourself.” (Doris Lessing)

xii. “All political movements are like this — we are in the right, everyone else is in the wrong. The people on our own side who disagree with us are heretics, and they start becoming enemies. With it comes an absolute conviction of your own moral superiority.” (-ll-)

xiii. “An ideological movement is a collection of people many of whom could hardly bake a cake, fix a car, sustain a friendship or a marriage, or even do a quadratic equation, yet they believe they know how to rule the world.” (Kenneth Minogue)

xiv. “The natural order of organisms is a divergent inclusive hierarchy and that hierarchy is recognized by taxic homology.” (Alec Panchen)

xv. “Don Kayman was too good a scientist to confuse his hopes with observations. He would report what he found. But he knew what he wanted to find.” (Frederik Pohl)

xvi. “A barbarian is not aware that he is a barbarian.” (Jack Vance)

xvii. “I do not care to listen; obloquy injures my self-esteem and I am skeptical of praise.” (-ll-)

xviii. “People can be deceived by appeals intended to destroy democracy in the name of democracy.” (Robert A. Dahl)

xix. “If we gather more and more data and establish more and more associations, […] we will not finally find that we know something. We will simply end up having more and more data and larger sets of correlations.” (-ll-)

xx. “Thoughts convince thinkers; for this reason, thoughts convince seldom.” (Karlheinz Deschner)

March 24, 2018 Posted by | Quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment


i. “One ground for suspicion of apparently sincere moral convictions is their link with some special interest of those who hold them. The questions cui bono and cui malo are appropriate questions to raise when we are searching for possible contaminants of conscience. Entrenched privilege, and fear of losing it, distorts one’s moral sense.” (Annette Baier)

ii. “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” (Stephen Covey)

iii. “Plastic surgery is a way for people to buy themselves a few years before they have to truly confront what ageing is, which of course is not that your looks are falling apart, but that you are falling apart and some-day you will have fallen apart and ceased to exist.” (Nora Ephron)

iv. “Just because you know a thing is true in theory, doesn’t make it true in fact. The barbaric religions of primitive worlds hold not a germ of scientific fact, though they claim to explain all. Yet if one of these savages has all the logical ground for his beliefs taken away — he doesn’t stop believing. He then calls his mistaken beliefs ‘faith’ because he knows they are right. And he knows they are right because he has faith. This is an unbreakable circle of false logic that can’t be touched. In reality, it is plain mental inertia.” (Harry Harrison)

v. “A taste is almost defined as a preference about which you do not argue — de gustibus non est disputandum. A taste about which you argue, with others or yourself, ceases ipso facto being a taste – it turns into a value.” (Albert O. Hirschman)

vi. “I will be ashamed the day I feel I should knuckle under to social-political pressures about issues and research I think are important for the advance of scientific knowledge.” (Arthur Jensen)

vii. “My theory is that we are all idiots. The people who don’t think they’re idiots — they’re the ones that are dangerous.” (Erik Sykes)

viii. “What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” (Zig Ziglar)

ix. “If you go looking for a friend, you’re going to find they’re very scarce. If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere.” (-ll-)

x. “The rights of individuals to the use of resources (i.e., property rights) in any society are to be construed as supported by the force of etiquette, social custom, ostracism, and formal legally enacted laws supported by the states’ power of violence of punishment. Many of the constraints on the use of what we call private property involve the force of etiquette and social ostracism. The level of noise, the kind of clothes we wear, our intrusion on other people’s privacy are restricted not merely by laws backed by police force, but by social acceptance, reciprocity, and voluntary social ostracism for violators of accepted codes of conduct.” (Armen Alchian)

xi. “Whenever undiscussables exist, their existence is also undiscussable. Moreover, both are covered up, because rules that make important issues undiscussables violate espoused norms…” (Chris Argyris)

xii. “Experience can be merely the repetition of […the? – US] same error often enough.” (John Azzopardi)

xiii. “Empathize with stupidity and you’re halfway to thinking like an idiot.” (Ian Banks)

xiv. “A man in daily muddy contact with field experiments could not be expected to have much faith in any direct assumption of independently distributed normal errors.” (George E. P. Box)

xv. “There is nothing that makes the mind more elastic and expandable than discovering how the world works.” (Edgar Bronfman, Sr.)

xvi. “I don’t give advice. I can’t tell anybody what to do. Instead I say this is what we know about this problem at this time. And here are the consequences of these actions.” (Joyce Diane Brothers)

xvii. “Don’t fool yourself that you are going to have it all. You are not. Psychologically, having it all is not even a valid concept. The marvelous thing about human beings is that we are perpetually reaching for the stars. The more we have, the more we want. And for this reason, we never have it all.” (-ll-)

xviii. “We control fifty percent of a relationship. We influence one hundred percent of it.” (-ll-)

xix. “Being taken for granted can be a compliment. It means that you’ve become a comfortable, trusted element in another person’s life.” (-ll-)

xx. “The world at large does not judge us by who we are and what we know; it judges us by what we have.” (-ll-)

March 5, 2018 Posted by | Quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment


i. “Culture hides more than it reveals, and strangely enough what it hides, it hides most effectively from its own participants.” (Edward T. Hall)

ii. “A new idea becomes believable when it predicts something that has not yet been measured or explained, especially when the idea is really trying to explain other facts.” (Peter Molnar, Plate Tectonics: A Short Introduction)

iii. “…when something seems complicated, we do not understand it, but when we do understand something, it has become simple.” (-ll-)

iv. “Ninety percent of the politicians give the other ten percent a bad reputation.” (Henry Kissinger)

v. “There are many examples of old, incorrect theories that stubbornly persisted, sustained only by the prestige of foolish but well-connected scientists. … Many of these theories have been killed off only when some decisive experiment exposed their incorrectness. […] the yeoman work in any science, and especially physics, is done by the experimentalist, who must keep the theoreticians honest.” (Michio Kaku)

vi. “The relation between experimentalists and theorists is often one of healthy competition for truth and less healthy competition for fame.” (Alvaro De Rujula)

vii. “Divided minds, getting lost on different paths, are losing the huge advantage that would result from their combined forces.” (Jean-Baptiste Biot)

viii. “If we are honest — and scientists have to be — we must admit that religion is a jumble of false assertions, with no basis in reality. The very idea of God is a product of the human imagination. It is quite understandable why primitive people, who were so much more exposed to the overpowering forces of nature than we are today, should have personified these forces in fear and trembling. But nowadays, when we understand so many natural processes, we have no need for such solutions. I can’t for the life of me see how the postulate of an Almighty God helps us in any way.” (Paul Dirac)

ix. “On your way towards becoming a bad theoretician, take your own immature theory, stop checking it for mistakes, don’t listen to colleagues who do spot weaknesses, and start admiring your own infallible intelligence.” (Gerardus ‘t Hooft, How to become a bad theoretical physicist)

x. “In practice, quantum mechanics merely gives predictions with probabilities attached. This should be considered as a normal and quite acceptable feature of predictions made by science: different possible outcomes with different probabilities. In the world that is familiar to us, we always have such a situation when we make predictions. Thus the question remains: What is the reality described by quantum theories? I claim that we can attribute the fact that our predictions come with probability distributions to the fact that not all relevant data for the predictions are known to us, in particular important features of the initial state.” (Gerardus ‘t Hooft)

xi. “Ask anyone today working on foundational questions in quantum theory and you are likely to hear that there is still no consensus on many of these questions—all the while, of course, everybody seems to be in perfect agreement on how to apply the quantum formalism when it comes to making experimental predictions.” (Maximilian Schlosshauer)

xii. “The last bastions of resistance to evolutionary theory are organized religion and cultural anthropology.” (Napoleon Chagnon)

xiii. “There are always alternative interpretations of the same data. It is often the case, however, that the alternatives that are rejected are treated as if they don’t exist. But they do. And we should be aware not only of their existence and potential viability, but of the possibility that the hypotheses that we might embrace so strongly today may very well be the rejects of tomorrow.” (Jeffrey H. Schwartz)

xiv. “Roughly, religion is a community’s costly and hard-to-fake commitment to a counterfactual and counterintuitive world of supernatural agents who master people’s existential anxieties, such as death and deception. […] The more one accepts what is materially false to be really true, and the more one spends material resources in displays of such acceptance, the more others consider one’s faith deep and one’s commitment sincere.”  (Scott Atran)

xv. “Cultures and religions do not exist apart from the individual minds that constitute them and the environments that constrain them, any more than biological species and varieties exist independently of the individual organisms that compose them and the environments that conform them. They are not well-bounded systems or definite clusters of beliefs, practices, and artifacts, but more or less regular distributions of causally connected thoughts, behaviors, material products, and environmental objects. To naturalistically understand what “cultures” are is to describe and explain the material causes responsible for reliable differences in these distributions.” (-ll-)

xvi. “If making money is a slow process, losing it is quickly done.” (Ihara Saikaku)

xvii. “Mankind has always made too much of its saints and heroes, and how the latter handle the fuss might be called their final test.” (Wilfrid Sheed)

xviii. “The bad debater never knows that one explanation is better than five.” (-ll-)

xix. “They say the first sentence in any speech is always the hardest. Well, that one’s behind me, anyway.” (Wisława Szymborska, Nobel lecture)

xx. “If you are a hard drinking man with lots of swastikas tattooed all over your torso you may want to consider that you are at risk for perforating your ulcer and that the good Dr. Rosenberg will be called in to save your life resulting in an awkward situation for everyone.” (‘docB’, things I learn from my patients)

December 22, 2017 Posted by | Books, Quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment


i. “The party that negotiates in haste is often at a disadvantage.” (Howard Raiffa)

ii. “Advice: don’t embarrass your bargaining partner by forcing him or her to make all the concessions.” (-ll-)

iii. “Disputants often fare poorly when they each act greedily and deceptively.” (-ll-)

iv. “Each man does seek his own interest, but, unfortunately, not according to the dictates of reason.” (Kenneth Waltz)

v. “Whatever is said after I’m gone is irrelevant.” (Jimmy Savile)

vi. “Trust is an important lubricant of a social system. It is extremely efficient; it saves a lot of trouble to have a fair degree of reliance on other people’s word. Unfortunately this is not a commodity which can be bought very easily. If you have to buy it, you already have some doubts about what you have bought.” (Kenneth Arrow)

vii. “… an author never does more damage to his readers than when he hides a difficulty.” (Évariste Galois)

viii. “A technical argument by a trusted author, which is hard to check and looks similar to arguments known to be correct, is hardly ever checked in detail” (Vladimir Voevodsky)

ix. “Suppose you want to teach the “cat” concept to a very young child. Do you explain that a cat is a relatively small, primarily carnivorous mammal with retractible claws, a distinctive sonic output, etc.? I’ll bet not. You probably show the kid a lot of different cats, saying “kitty” each time, until it gets the idea. To put it more generally, generalizations are best made by abstraction from experience. They should come one at a time; too many at once overload the circuits.” (Ralph P. Boas Jr.)

x. “Every author has several motivations for writing, and authors of technical books always have, as one motivation, the personal need to understand; that is, they write because they want to learn, or to understand a phenomenon, or to think through a set of ideas.” (Albert Wymore)

xi. “Great mathematics is achieved by solving difficult problems not by fabricating elaborate theories in search of a problem.” (Harold Davenport)

xii. “Is science really gaining in its assault on the totality of the unsolved? As science learns one answer, it is characteristically true that it also learns several new questions. It is as though science were working in a great forest of ignorance, making an ever larger circular clearing within which, not to insist on the pun, things are clear… But as that circle becomes larger and larger, the circumference of contact with ignorance also gets longer and longer. Science learns more and more. But there is an ultimate sense in which it does not gain; for the volume of the appreciated but not understood keeps getting larger. We keep, in science, getting a more and more sophisticated view of our essential ignorance.” (Warren Weaver)

xiii. “When things get too complicated, it sometimes makes sense to stop and wonder: Have I asked the right question?” (Enrico Bombieri)

xiv. “The mean and variance are unambiguously determined by the distribution, but a distribution is, of course, not determined by its mean and variance: A number of different distributions have the same mean and the same variance.” (Richard von Mises)

xv. “Algorithms existed for at least five thousand years, but people did not know that they were algorithmizing. Then came Turing (and Post and Church and Markov and others) and formalized the notion.” (Doron Zeilberger)

xvi. “When a problem seems intractable, it is often a good idea to try to study “toy” versions of it in the hope that as the toys become increasingly larger and more sophisticated, they would metamorphose, in the limit, to the real thing.” (-ll-)

xvii. “The kind of mathematics foisted on children in schools is not meaningful, fun, or even very useful. This does not mean that an individual child cannot turn it into a valuable and enjoyable personal game. For some the game is scoring grades; for others it is outwitting the teacher and the system. For many, school math is enjoyable in its repetitiveness, precisely because it is so mindless and dissociated that it provides a shelter from having to think about what is going on in the classroom. But all this proves is the ingenuity of children. It is not a justifications for school math to say that despite its intrinsic dullness, inventive children can find excitement and meaning in it.” (Seymour Papert)

xviii. “The optimist believes that this is the best of all possible worlds, and the pessimist fears that this might be the case.” (Ivar Ekeland)

xix. “An equilibrium is not always an optimum; it might not even be good. This may be the most important discovery of game theory.” (-ll-)

xx. “It’s not all that rare for people to suffer from a self-hating monologue. Any good theories about what’s going on there?”

“If there’s things you don’t like about your life, you can blame yourself, or you can blame others. If you blame others and you’re of low status, you’ll be told to cut that out and start blaming yourself. If you blame yourself and you can’t solve the problems, self-hate is the result.” (Nancy Lebovitz & ‘The Nybbler’)

December 1, 2017 Posted by | Mathematics, Quotes/aphorisms, Science, Statistics | 4 Comments


i. “Much of the skill in doing science resides in knowing where in the hierarchy you are looking – and, as a consequence, what is relevant and what is not.” (Philip Ball – Molecules: A very Short Introduction)

ii. “…statistical software will no more make one a statistician than a scalpel will turn one into a neurosurgeon. Allowing these tools to do our thinking is a sure recipe for disaster.” (Philip Good & James Hardin, Common Errors in Statistics (and how to avoid them))

iii. “Just as 95% of research efforts are devoted to data collection, 95% of the time remaining should be spent on ensuring that the data collected warrant analysis.” (-ll-)

iv. “One reason why many statistical models are incomplete is that they do not specify the sources of randomness generating variability among agents, i.e., they do not specify why otherwise observationally identical people make different choices and have different outcomes given the same choice.” (James J. Heckman, -ll-)

v. “If a thing is not worth doing, it is not worth doing well.” (J. W. Tukey, -ll-)

vi. “Hypocrisy is the lubricant of society.” (David Hull)

vii. “Every time I fire a linguist, the performance of our speech recognition system goes up.” (Fred Jelinek)

viii. “For most of my life, one of the persons most baffled by my own work was myself.” (Benoît Mandelbrot)

ix. “I’m afraid love is just a word.” (Harry Mulisch)

x. “The worst thing about death is that you once were, and now you are not.” (José Saramago)

xi. “Sometimes the most remarkable things seem commonplace. I mean, when you think about it, jet travel is pretty freaking remarkable. You get in a plane, it defies the gravity of an entire planet by exploiting a loophole with air pressure, and it flies across distances that would take months or years to cross by any means of travel that has been significant for more than a century or three. You hurtle above the earth at enough speed to kill you instantly should you bump into something, and you can only breathe because someone built you a really good tin can that has seams tight enough to hold in a decent amount of air. Hundreds of millions of man-hours of work and struggle and research, blood, sweat, tears, and lives have gone into the history of air travel, and it has totally revolutionized the face of our planet and societies.
But get on any flight in the country, and I absolutely promise you that you will find someone who, in the face of all that incredible achievement, will be willing to complain about the drinks. The drinks, people.” (Jim Butcher, Summer Knight)

xii. “The best way to keep yourself from doing something grossly self-destructive and stupid is to avoid the temptation to do it. For example, it is far easier to fend off inappropriate amorous desires if one runs screaming from the room every time a pretty girl comes in.” (Jim Butcher, Proven Guilty)

xiii. “One certain effect of war is to diminish freedom of expression. Patriotism becomes the order of the day, and those who question the war are seen as traitors, to be silenced and imprisoned.” (Howard Zinn)

xiv. “While inexact models may mislead, attempting to allow for every contingency a priori is impractical. Thus models must be built by an iterative feedback process in which an initial parsimonious model may be modified when diagnostic checks applied to residuals indicate the need.” (G. E. P. Box)

xv. “In our analysis of complex systems (like the brain and language) we must avoid the trap of trying to find master keys. Because of the mechanisms by which complex systems structure themselves, single principles provide inadequate descriptions. We should rather be sensitive to complex and self-organizing interactions and appreciate the play of patterns that perpetually transforms the system itself as well as the environment in which it operates.” (Paul Cilliers)

xvi. “The nature of the chemical bond is the problem at the heart of all chemistry.” (Bryce Crawford)

xvii. “When there’s a will to fail, obstacles can be found.” (John McCarthy)

xviii. “We understand human mental processes only slightly better than a fish understands swimming.” (-ll-)

xix. “He who refuses to do arithmetic is doomed to talk nonsense.” (-ll-)

xx. “The trouble with men is that they have limited minds. That’s the trouble with women, too.” (Joanna Russ)


November 10, 2017 Posted by | Books, Quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment


i. “…when a gift is deserved, it is not a gift but a payment.” (Gene Wolfe, The shadow of the torturer)

ii. “All the greatest blessings are a source of anxiety, and at no time is fortune less wisely trusted than when it is best […] everything that comes to us from chance is unstable, and the higher it rises, the more liable it is to fall.” (Seneca the Younger, On the shortness of life)

iii. “Debunking bad science should be constant obligation of the science community, even if it takes time away from serious research or seems to be a losing battle.” (Martin Gardner)

iv. “Happy is he that grows wise by other men’s harms.” (James Howell)

v. “The deadliest foe to virtue would be complete self-knowledge.” (F. H. Bradley)

vi. “A good book is never exhausted. It goes on whispering to you from the wall.” (Anatole Broyard)

vii. “The great writers of aphorisms read as if they had all known each other very well.” (Elias Canetti)

viii. “The story of your youth must not turn into a catalog of what became important in your later life. It must also contain the dissipation, the failure, and the waste.” (-ll-)

ix. “You keep taking note of whatever confirms your ideas — better to write down what refutes and weakens them!” (-ll-)

x. “Windbags can be right. Aphorists can be wrong. It is a tough world.” (James Fenton)

xi. “Science should be distinguished from technique and its scientific instrumentation, technology. Science is practised by scientists, and techniques by ‘engineers’ — a term that in our terminology includes physicians, lawyers, and teachers. If for the scientist knowledge and cognition are primary, it is action and construction that characterises the work of the engineer, though in fact his activity may be based on science. In history, technique often preceded science.” (Hans Freudenthal)

xii. “There are some books which cannot be adequately reviewed for twenty or thirty years after they come out.” (John Morley)

xiii. “Success depends on three things: who says it, what he says, how he says it; and of these three things, what he says is the least important.” (-ll-)

xiv. “Every uneducated person is a caricature of himself.” (Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel)

xv. “It is surely one of the strangest of our propensities to mark out those we love best for the worst usage; yet we do, all of us. We can take any freedom with a friend; we stand on no ceremony with a friend.” (Samuel Laman Blanchard)

xvi. “Everybody’s word is worth Nobody’s taking.” (-ll-)

xvii. “Credulity lives next door to Gossip.” (-ll-)

xviii. “As success converts treason into legitimacy, so belief converts fiction into fact” (-ll-)

xix. “In academia much bogus knowledge is tolerated in the name of academic freedom – which is like allowing for the sale of contaminated food in the name of free enterprise. I submit that such tolerance is suicidal: that the serious students must be protected against the “anything goes” crowd.” (Mario Bunge)

xx. “At all times pseudoprofound aphorisms have been more popular than rigorous arguments.” (-ll-)

October 28, 2017 Posted by | Books, Quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment


i. “Power breeds responsibilities […] To dodge or disclaim these responsibilities is one form of the abuse of power.” (Irving Kristol)

ii. “An intellectual may be defined as a man who speaks with general authority about a subject on which he has no particular competence.” (-ll-)

iii. “One must be very naïve or dishonest to imagine that men choose their beliefs independently of their situation.” (Claude Lévi-Strauss)

iv. “I may be subjected to the criticism of being called ‘scientistic’ or a kind of blind believer in science who holds that science is able to solve absolutely all problems. Well, I certainly don’t believe that, because I cannot conceive that a day will come when science will be complete and achieved.” (-ll-)

v. “This century has been so rich in discovery and so packed with technical innovation that it is tempting to believe that there can never be another like it. That conceit betrays the poverty of our collective imagination.” (John Maddox, 1998)

vi. “[Y]ou have to study and learn so that you can make up your own mind about history and everything else but you can’t make up an empty mind. Stock your mind, stock your mind. You might be poor, your shoes might be broken, but your mind is a palace.” (Frank McCourt)

vii. “I suppose that writers should, in a way, feel flattered by the censorship laws. They show a primitive fear and dread at the fearful magic of print.” (John Mortimer)

viii. “Real winners do not compete.” (Samuli Paronen)

ix. “In a calm sea every man is a pilot.” (John Ray)

x. “Yes, I know Marcus Aurelius or Vauvenargues or Chesterton has already said this, and far better; but let’s face it — you weren’t listening then either.” (Don Paterson)

xi. “I never fail to be mystified by those who regard the revision of a former opinion as a sign of weakness.” (-ll-)

xii. “The audience will always feel far more generous if, as some point in the evening, a little time has been found for them to applaud themselves.” (-ll-)

xiii. “Smashing things is the violent way stupid mortal monkeys solve their problems.” (Kage Baker)

xiv. “True believers aren’t real receptive to the idea that what they’re telling you is just mythology.” (-ll-)

xv. “Every failure is a step to success. Every detection of what is false directs us towards what is true: every trial exhausts some tempting form of error.” (William Whewell)

xvi. “Man is the interpreter of nature, science the right interpretation.” (-ll-)

xvii. “If an argument is a good one, dissonant deeds do nothing to contradict it. In fact, the hypocrite may have something to be said for him; it would be worrying if his ideals were not better than the way he lives.” (David Fleming)

xviii. “‘The harder I work, the luckier I get’. It was Thomas Jefferson who started the stream of variations on that theme. He should have added, ‘The harder I work on one thing, the unluckier I get on all the other commitments I haven’t had time for’.” (-ll-)

xix. “Men of power have not time to read; yet men who do not read are unfit for power” (Michael Foot)

xx. “So-called electronic communities encourage participation in fragmented, mostly silent, micro-groups who are primarily engaged in dialogues of self-congratulation. In other words, most people lurk; and the ones that post are pleased with themselves.” (Carmen Hermosillo)

October 21, 2017 Posted by | Quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment


i. “Man seeks objectives that enable him to convert the attainment of every goal into a means for the attainment of a new and more desirable goal. The ultimate objective in such a sequence cannot be obtainable; otherwise its attainment would put an end to the process. An end that satisfies these conditions is an ideal… Thus the formulation and pursuit of ideals is a means by which to put meaning and significance into his life and into the history of which he is part.” (Russell Ackoff)

ii. “Successful problem solving requires finding the right solution to the right problem. We fail more often because we solve the wrong problem than because we get the wrong solution to the right problem.” (-ll-)

iii. “A good deal of the corporate planning I have observed is like a ritual rain dance; it has no effect on the weather that follows, but those who engage in it think it does. Moreover, it seems to me that much of the advice and instruction related to corporate planning is directed at improving the dancing, not the weather.” (-ll-)

iv. “Over time, every way of thinking generates important problems that it cannot solve.” (-ll-)

v. “The only problems that have simple solutions are simple problems. The only managers that have simple problems have simple minds. […] Complex problems do not have simple solutions.” (-ll-)

vi. “The constant questioning of our values and achievements is a challenge without which neither science nor society can remain healthy.” (Aage Niels Bohr)

vii. “You can’t build a peaceful world on empty stomachs and human misery.” (Norman Borlaug)

viii. “In the past century, and even nowadays, one could encounter the opinion that in physics nearly everything had been done. There allegedly are only dim ‘cloudlets’ in the sky or theory, which will soon be eliminated to give rise to the ‘theory of everything’. I consider these views as some kind of blindness. The entire history of physics, as well as the state of present-day physics and, in particular, astrophysics, testifies to the opposite. In my view we are facing a boundless sea of unresolved problems.” (Vitaly Ginzburg)

ix. “Suspect each moment, for it is a thief, tiptoeing away with more than it brings.” (John Updike)

x. “That a marriage ends is less than ideal; but all things end under heaven, and if temporality is held to be invalidating, then nothing real succeeds.” (-ll-)

xi. “Life is a hill that gets steeper the more you climb.” (-ll-)

xii. “Learning should not only take us somewhere; it should allow us later to go further more easily.” (Ted Sizer)

xiii. “I have actually programmed a fair bit in Perl, like I have C++ code published with my name on it. Other things I have tried and have no intention to do again if I can at all avoid it include smoking, getting drunk enough to puke and waste the whole next day with hang-over, breaking a leg in a violent car crash, getting mugged in New York City, or travel with Aeroflot.” (Erik Naggum)

xiv. “Languages shape the way we think, or don’t.” (-ll-)

xv. “The secret to feeling great about yourself is not to be found in searching for people who are less than you and then show yourself superior to them, but in searching for people who are more than you and then show yourself worthy of their company.” (-ll-) [The secret to feeling terrible about yourself is to try to do the above, and fail miserablyUS]

xvi. “Duty largely consists of pretending that the trivial is critical.” (John Fowles)

xvii. “A model is a qualitative or quantitative representation of a process or endeavor that shows the effects of those factors which are significant for the purposes being considered.” (Harold Chestnut)

xviii. “If two objects or human beings show similar behaviour in all their relevant aspects open to observation, the assumption of some unobservable hidden difference between them must be regarded as a completely gratuitous hypothesis and one contrary to sound scientific method.” (John Harsanyi)

xix. “We cannot stem linguistic change, but we can drag our feet.” (Willard van Orman Quine)

xx. “Treat a child as though he already is the person he’s capable of becoming.” (Haim Ginott)

October 14, 2017 Posted by | Quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment


i. “We live on an island surrounded by a sea of ignorance. As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance.” (John Archibald Wheeler)

ii. “There are many modes of thinking about the world around us and our place in it. I like to consider all the angles from which we might gain perspective on our amazing universe and the nature of existence.” (-ll-)

iii. “A couple of months in the laboratory can frequently save a couple of hours in the library.” (Frank Westheimer)

iv. “Those who do monumental work don’t need monuments.” (Baba Amte)

v. “Science is the most exciting and sustained enterprise of discovery in the history of our species. It is the great adventure of our time. We live today in an era of discovery that far outshadows the discoveries of the New World five hundred years ago.” (Michael Crichton)

vi. “Let’s be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results.” (-ll-)

vii. “The romantic view of the natural world as a blissful Eden is only held by people who have no actual experience of nature. People who live in nature are not romantic about it at all. They may hold spiritual beliefs about the world around them, they may have a sense of the unity of nature or the aliveness of all things, but they still kill the animals and uproot the plants in order to eat, to live. If they don’t, they will die.” (-ll-)

viii. “Age does not bring you wisdom, age brings you wrinkles.” (Estelle Getty)

ix. “Political correctness is tyranny with manners.” (Charlton Heston)

x. “At least half of my life’s many mistakes can be safely put down to impetuosity: the other half derive from inertia.” (Donald James)

xi. “Everybody is forever saying that the essay is dead. This is always said in essays.” (John Leonard)

xii. “I’ve been accused of being aloof. I’m not. I’m just wary.” (Paul Newman)

xiii. “Simple calculations based on a range of variables are better than elaborate ones based on limited input.” (Ralph Brazelton Peck)

xiv. “The most fruitful research grows out of practical problems.” (-ll-)

xv. “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.” (Randy Pausch)

xvi. “Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment.” (-ll-)

xvii. “You don’t find time for important things, you make it.” (-ll-)

xviii. “When you’re screwing up and nobody says anything to you anymore, that means they’ve given up on you.” (-ll-)

xix. “The less we understand a phenomenon, the more variables we require to explain it.” (Russell Ackoff)

xx. “Things that people learn purely out of curiosity can have a revolutionary effect on human affairs.” (Frederick Seitz)

October 7, 2017 Posted by | Quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment


i. “I’m opposed to any sport that reduces the coefficient of friction between me and the ground.” (Alan Kotok)

ii. “If God wanted us to believe in him, he’d exist.” (Linda Smith)

iii. “[A] man who contradicts himself may have succeeded in exercising his vocal chords. But from the point of view of imparting information, of communicating facts (or falsehoods) it is as if he had never opened his mouth. He utters words, but does not say anything.” (P. F. Strawson)

iv. “What is very important to me is two points: A theory should be internally consistent and it should have some contact with observation. Well, I’m told by all the experts that this theory [String theory] is internally consistent, although they think up new interpretations every time I turn my back. But contact with reality? Nobody’s given me anything. I just watch. I’m somewhat unhappy that so many people are working on it. To me, as a physicist, it’s sort of sad that so many people at the same time work at something that doesn’t seem to have any contact with experiment.” (Valentine Telegdi)

v. “By definition, the conventional wisdom of the day is widely accepted, continually reiterated and regarded not as ideology but as reality itself. Rebelling against “reality,” even when its limitations are clearly perceived, is always difficult. It means deciding things can be different and ought to be different; that your own perceptions are right and the experts and authorities wrong; that your discontent is legitimate and not merely evidence of selfishness, failure or refusal to grow up. […] rebels risk losing their jobs, failing in school, incurring the wrath of parents and spouses, suffering social ostracism. Often vociferous conservatism is sheer defensiveness: People are afraid to be suckers, […] to be branded bad or crazy.” (Ellen Willis)

vi. “If you want truth, you should begin by giving it.” (Lloyd Alexander)

vii. “All the greatest blessings are a source of anxiety, and at no time is fortune less wisely trusted than when it is best” (Seneca the Younger, On the shortness of life)

viii. “Killing oneself is, anyway, a misnomer. We don’t kill ourselves. We are simply defeated by the long, hard struggle to stay alive. When somebody dies after a long illness, people are apt to say, with a note of approval, “He fought so hard.” And they are inclined to think, about a suicide, that no fight was involved, that somebody simply gave up. This is quite wrong.” (Sally Brampton)

ix. “…to make the mistakes of youth is no crime, but not to learn from them is.” (Jim Butcher, Summer Knight)

x. “…a guest is a jewel on the cushion of hospitality” (Rex Stout, A right to die)

xi. ““Mr. Wolfe is in the middle of a fit. It’s complicated. There’s a fireplace in the front room, but it’s never lit because he hates open fires. He says they stultify mental processes. But it’s lit now because he’s using it. He’s seated in front of it, on a chair too small for him, tearing sheets out of a book and burning them. The book is the new edition, the third edition, of Webster’s New International Dictionary, Unabridged, published by the G. & C. Merriam Company of Springfield, Massachusetts. He considers it subversive because it threatens the integrity of the English language. In the past week he has given me a thousand examples of its crimes. He says it is a deliberate attempt to murder the— I beg your pardon. I describe the situation at length because he told me to bring you in there, and it will be bad. Even if he hears what you say, his mental processes are stultified. Could you come back later? After lunch he may be human.”
She was staring up at me. “He’s burning up a dictionary?”
“Right. That’s nothing. Once he burned up a cookbook because it said to remove the hide from a ham end before putting it in the pot with lima beans.” (Rex Stout, Gambit)

xii. “A friend in need is a friend to be avoided.” (David Gemmell)

xiii. “Virtually all ideologues, of any variety, are fearful and insecure, which is why they are drawn to ideologies that promise prefabricated answers for all circumstances.” (Jane Jacobs)

xiv. “To science, not even the bark of a tree or a drop of pond water is dull or a handful of dirt banal. They all arouse awe and wonder.” (-ll-)

xv. “Hydrogen is a light, odorless gas, which, given enough time, turns into people.” (Edward Robert Harrison)

xvi. “There is an obesity epidemic. One out of every three Americans… weighs as much as the other two.” (Richard Jeni)

xvii. “We learn, when we learn, only from experience, and then we only learn from our mistakes. Our successes only serve to reinforce our superstitions.” (Arthur Jones)

xviii. “How old am I? Old enough to know it’s impossible to change the thinking of fools, but young and foolish enough to keep on trying.” (-ll-)

xix. “There is no greater impotence in all the world like knowing you are right and that the wave of the world is wrong, yet the wave crashes upon you.” (Norman Mailer)

xx. “We never have any understanding of any subject matter except in terms of our own mental constructs of “things” and “happenings” of that subject matter.” (Douglas T. Ross)

September 14, 2017 Posted by | Books, Quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment


i. “A theorist can explain any correlation, and its inverse.” (Thomas Gold)

ii. “The utility of a language as a tool of thought increases with the range of topics it can treat, but decreases with the amount of vocabulary and the complexity of grammatical rules which the user must keep in mind. Economy of notation is therefore important.” (Kenneth Iverson)

iii. “Paradoxically, it has turned out that game theory is more readily applied to biology than to the field of economic behavior for which it was originally designed” (John Maynard Smith)

iv. “It is an occupational risk of biologists to claim, towards the end of their careers, that the problems which they have not solved are insoluble.” (-ll-)

v. “Curiosity is the beginning of all wisdom.” (Françoise Sagan)

vi. “To be gentle, tolerant, wise and reasonable requires a goodly portion of toughness.” (Peter Ustinov)

vii. “Once we are destined to live out our lives in the prison of our mind, our one duty is to furnish it well.” (-ll-)

viii. “Her virtue was that she said what she thought, her vice that what she thought didn’t amount to much.” (-ll-)

ix. “Politicians only get to the top because they have no qualifications to detain them at the bottom.” (-ll-)

x. “A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep.” (Saul Bellow)

xi. “All science is full of statements where you put the best face on your ignorance, where you say: true enough, we know awfully little about this, but more or less irrespective of the stuff we don’t know about, we can make certain useful deductions.” (Hermann Bondi)

xii. “…the final test of a theory is its capacity to solve the problems which originated it.” (George Dantzig)

xiii. “A success that has outlived its usefulness may, in the end, be more damaging than failure.” (Peter Drucker)

xiv. “Unperformed experiments have no results.” (Asher Peres)

xv. “Ideas appropriate to a past social order have a strange power of influencing thought and action within a later institutional frame work.” (Eric Roll)

xvi. “…the ‘size’ of science has doubled steadily every 15 years. In a century this means a factor of 100. For every single scientific paper or for every single scientist in 1670, there were 100 in 1770, 10,000 in 1870 and 1,000,000 in 1970.” (John Ziman)

xvii. “One of the big secrets of finding time is not to watch television.” (Robert Keeshan)

xviii. “Dying is something we human beings do continuously, not just at the end of our physical lives on this earth.” (Elisabeth Kübler-Ross)

xix. “I told my psychiatrist that everyone hates me. He said I was being ridiculous, everyone hasn’t met me yet.” (Rodney Dangerfield)

xx. “In the country of the blind, who are not as unobservant as they look, the one-eyed is not king, he is spectator.” (Clifford Geertz)

August 31, 2017 Posted by | Quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment


i. “If you don’t understand something, break it apart; reduce it to its components. Since they are simpler than the whole, you have a much better chance of understanding them; and when you have succeeded in doing that, put the whole thing back together again.” (Hans Christian Von Baeyer)

ii. “It is the great glory of the quest for human knowledge that, while making some small contribution to that quest, we can also continue to learn and to take pleasure in learning.” (William A. Fowler)

iii. “The younger we are, the more each individual object represents for us the whole class to which it belongs.” (Arthur Schopenhauer)

iv. “You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough.” (William Blake)

v. “The least offensive way of refusing a request is not to let it be made.” (Rex Stout)

vi. “Memory is the medium of the must-have-been.” (Julian Jaynes)

vii. “Words do not change their meanings so drastically in the course of centuries as, in our minds, names do in the course of a year or two.” (Marcel Proust)

viii. “In all pointed sentences, some degree of accuracy must be sacrificed to conciseness.” (Samuel Johnson)

ix. “An infant of two or three months will smile at even half a painted dummy face, if that half of the face is fully represented and has at least two clearly defined points or circles for eyes; more the infant does not need, but he will not smile for less. The infant’s instinctive smile seems to have exactly that purpose which is its crowning effect, namely, that the adult feels recognized, and in return expresses recognition in the form of loving and providing.” (Erik Homburger Erikson)

x. “It is death, and not what comes after death, that men are generally afraid of.” (Samuel Butler)

xi. “All I desire for my own burial is not to be buried alive.” (Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield)

xii. “Every man who deserves to be famous knows it is not worth the trouble.” (Fernando Pessoa)

xiii. “We cannot tear out a single page of our life, but we can throw the whole book in the fire.” (George Sand)

xiv. “People pontificate, “Suicide is selfishness.” Career churchmen like Pater go a step further and call it a cowardly assault on the living. Oafs argue this specious line for varying reasons: to evade fingers of blame, to impress one’s audience with one’s mental fiber, to vent anger, or just because one lacks the necessary suffering to sympathize. Cowardice is nothing to do with it – suicide takes considerable courage. Japanese have the right idea. No, what’s selfish is to demand another to endure an intolerable existence, just to spare families, friends, and enemies a bit of soul-searching” (David Mitchell)

xv. “Those who do not feel pain seldom think that it is felt.” (Samuel Johnson)

xvi. “In quarreling, the truth is always lost.” (Publilius Syrus)

xvii. “La recherche de la vérité est la plus noble des occupations, et sa publication un devoir.” (Anne Louise Germaine De Staël)

xviii. “The present enables us to understand the past, not the other way round.” (Alan John Percivale Taylor)

xix. “The long habit of living indisposeth us for dying.” (Thomas Browne)

xx. “People who think they’re generous to a fault usually think that’s their only fault.” (Sydney J. Harris)

August 26, 2017 Posted by | Quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment


i. “Mathematics is a tool which ideally permits mediocre minds to solve complicated problems expeditiously.” (Floyd Alburn Firestone)

ii. “Growing old’s like being increasingly penalized for a crime you haven’t committed.” (Anthony Dymoke Powell)

iii. “To make a discovery is not necessarily the same as to understand a discovery.” (Abraham Pais)

iv. “People usually take for granted that the way things are is the way things must be.” (Poul William Anderson)

v. ” Space isn’t remote at all. It’s only an hour’s drive away if your car could go straight upwards.” (Fred Hoyle)

vi. “One can never pay in gratitude; one can only pay “in kind” somewhere else in life.” (Anne Morrow Lindbergh)

vii. “When a nice quote comes to mind, I always attribute it to Montesquieu, or to La Rochefoucauld. They’ve never complained.” (Indro Montanelli)

viii. “Program testing can be a very effective way to show the presence of bugs, but it is hopelessly inadequate for showing their absence.” (Edsger Wybe Dijkstra)

ix. “History teaches us that men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives.” (Abba Eban)

x. “Scientific research is not conducted in a social vacuum.” (Robert K. Merton)

xi. “No man knows fully what has shaped his own thinking” (-ll-)

xii. “I write as clearly as I am able to. I sometimes tackle ideas and notions that are relatively complex, and it is very difficult to be sure that I am conveying them in the best way. Anyone who goes beyond cliche phrases and cliche ideas will have this trouble.” (Raphael Aloysius Lafferty)

xiii. “Change should be a friend. It should happen by plan, not by accident.” (Philip B. Crosby)

xiv. “The universe of all things that exist may be understood as a universe of systems where a system is defined as any set of related and interacting elements. This concept is primitive and powerful and has been used increasingly over the last half-century to organize knowledge in virtually all domains of interest to investigators. As human inventions and social interactions grow more complex, general conceptual frameworks that integrate knowledge among different disciplines studying those emerging systems grow more important.” (Gale Alden Swanson & James Grier Miller, Living Systems Theory)

xv. “When I die it’s not me that will be affected. It’s the ones I leave behind.” (Cameron Troy Duncan)

xvi. “I was always deeply uncertain about my own intellectual capacity; I thought I was unintelligent. And it is true that I was, and still am, rather slow. I need time to seize things because I always need to understand them fully. […] At the end of the eleventh grade, I […] came to the conclusion that rapidity doesn’t have a precise relation to intelligence. What is important is to deeply understand things and their relations to each other. This is where intelligence lies. The fact of being quick or slow isn’t really relevant. Naturally, it’s helpful to be quick, like it is to have a good memory. But it’s neither necessary nor sufficient for intellectual success.” (Laurent-Moïse Schwartz)

xvii. “A slowly moving queue does not move uniformly. Rather, waves of motion pass down the queue. The frequency and amplitude of these waves is inversely related to the speed at which the queue is served.” (Anthony Stafford Beer)

xviii. “It is terribly important to appreciate that some things remain obscure to the bitter end.” (-ll-)

xix. “Definitions, like questions and metaphors, are instruments for thinking. Their authority rests entirely on their usefulness, not their correctness. We use definitions in order to delineate problems we wish to investigate, or to further interests we wish to promote. In other words, we invent definitions and discard them as suits our purposes. […] definitions are hypotheses, and […] embedded in them is a particular philosophical, sociological, or epistemological point of view.” (Neil Postman)

xx. “There’s no system foolproof enough to defeat a sufficiently great fool.” (Edward Teller)

July 15, 2017 Posted by | Quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment


(The Pestallozzi quotes below are from The Education of Man, a short and poor aphorism collection I can not possibly recommend despite the inclusion of quotes from it in this post.)

i. “Only a good conscience always gives man the courage to handle his affairs straightforwardly, openly and without evasion.” (Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi)

ii. “An intimate relationship in its full power is always a source of human wisdom and strength in relationships less intimate.” (-ll-)

iii. “Whoever is unwilling to help himself can be helped by no one.” (-ll-)

iv. “He who has filled his pockets in the service of injustice will have little good to say on behalf of justice.” (-ll-)

v. “It is Man’s fate that no one knows the truth alone; we all possess it, but it is divided up among us. He who learns from one man only, will never learn what the others know.” (-ll-)

vi. “No scoundrel is so wicked that he cannot at some point truthfully reprove some honest man” (-ll-)

vii. “The man too keenly aware of his good reputation is likely to have a bad one.” (-ll-)

viii. “Many words make an excuse anything but convincing.” (-ll-)

ix. “Fashions are usually seen in their true perspective only when they have gone out of fashion.” (-ll-)

x. “A thing that nobody looks for is seldom found.” (-ll-)

xi. “Many discoveries must have been stillborn or smothered at birth. We know only those which survived.” (William Ian Beardmore Beveridge)

xii. “Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend.” (Theophrastus)

xiii. “The only man who makes no mistakes is the man who never does anything.” (Theodore Roosevelt)

xiv. “It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.” (-ll-)

xv. “From their appearance in the Triassic until the end of the Creta­ceous, a span of 140 million years, mam­mals remained small and inconspicuous while all the ecological roles of large ter­restrial herbivores and carnivores were monopolized by dinosaurs; mammals did not begin to radiate and produce large species until after the dinosaurs had al­ready become extinct at the end of the Cretaceous. One is forced to conclude that dinosaurs were competitively su­perior to mammals as large land vertebrates.” (Robert T. Bakker)

xvi. “Plants and plant-eaters co-evolved. And plants aren’t the passive partners in the chain of terrestrial life. […] A birch tree doesn’t feel cosmic fulfillment when a moose munches its leaves; the tree species, in fact, evolves to fight the moose, to keep the animal’s munching lips away from vulnerable young leaves and twigs. In the final analysis, the merciless hand of natural selection will favor the birch genes that make the tree less and less palatable to the moose in generation after generation. No plant species could survive for long by offering itself as unprotected fodder.” (-ll-)

xvii. “… if you look at crocodiles today, they aren’t really representative of what the lineage of crocodiles look like. Crocodiles are represented by about 23 species, plus or minus a couple. Along that lineage the more primitive members weren’t aquatic. A lot of them were bipedal, a lot of them looked like little dinosaurs. Some were armored, others had no teeth. They were all fully terrestrial. So this is just the last vestige of that radiation that we’re seeing. And the ancestor of both dinosaurs and crocodiles would have, to the untrained eye, looked much more like a dinosaur.” (Mark Norell)

xviii. “If we are to understand the interactions of a large number of agents, we must first be able to describe the capabilities of individual agents.” (John Henry Holland)

xix. “Evolution continually innovates, but at each level it conserves the elements that are recombined to yield the innovations.” (-ll-)

xx. “Model building is the art of selecting those aspects of a process that are relevant to the question being asked. […] High science depends on this art.” (-ll-)

June 19, 2017 Posted by | Biology, Books, Botany, Evolutionary biology, Paleontology, Quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment


i. “Fools hate knowledge.” (Joseph Heller)

ii. “Most people like to believe something is or is not true. Great scientists tolerate ambiguity very well. They believe the theory enough to go ahead; they doubt it enough to notice the errors and faults so they can step forward and create the new replacement theory. If you believe too much you’ll never notice the flaws; if you doubt too much you won’t get started. It requires a lovely balance.” (Richard Hamming)

iii. “It is not easy to become an educated person.” (-ll-)

iv. “The world attributes its misfortunes to the schemes and plottings of the very evil and powerful. I think stupidity is underestimated.” (Adolfo Bioy Casares)

v. “Life’s hard. To be in peace with oneself, one must speak the truth. To be in peace with others, one must lie.” (-ll-)

vi. “An information retrieval system will tend not to be used whenever it is more painful and troublesome for a customer to have information than for him not to have it… Where an information retrieval system tends not to be used, a more capable information retrieval system may tend to be used even less.” (Calvin Mooers)

vii. “I believe that there are very few scientists who deliberately falsify their work, cheat on their colleagues, or steal from their students. On the other hand, I am afraid that a great many scientists deceive themselves from time to time in their treatment of data, gloss over problems involving systematic errors, or understate the contributions of others. These are the ‘honest mistakes’ of science. The scientific equivalent of the ‘little white lie’ of social discourse. The scientific community has no way to protect itself from sloppy or deceptive literature except to learn whose work is suspect as unreliable.” (Lewis M. Branscomb. Related link.)

viii. “Scientists lie, especially if the result reinforces what they want to be true. Contemporary scientists strongly trend in a certain ideological direction, and so there’s a blizzard of false results pointing in that direction. The replication crisis produces correlated noise.” (A slightly different take on this issue, I figured I should include both quotes here… This quote is by Gregory Cochran)

ix. “The young always have the same problem — how to rebel and conform at the same time. They have now solved this problem by defying their elders and copying each other.” (Quentin Crisp)

x. “Even a monotonously undeviating path of self-examination does not necessarily lead to self-knowledge. I stumble towards my grave confused and hurt and hungry.” (-ll-)

xi. “There is no substitute for the comfort supplied by the utterly taken-for-granted relationship.” (Iris Murdoch)

xii. “Bereavement is a darkness impenetrable to the imagination of the unbereaved.” (-ll-)

xiii. “Serious reflexion about one’s own character will often induce a curious sense of emptiness; and if one knows another person well, one may sometimes intuit a similar void in him. (This is one of the strange privileges of friendship.)” (-ll-)

xiv. “An ignorant doctor is the aide-de-camp of death.” (Avicenna)

xv. “The universal aptitude for ineptitude makes any human accomplishment an incredible miracle.” (John Stapp)

xvi. “Forget whatever should be forgotten, so that you can remember what should be remembered.” (Bing Xin)

xvii. “War has been with us ever since the dawn of civilization. Nothing has been more constant in history than war.” (Robert Aumann)

xviii. “A fundamental value in the scientific outlook is concern with the best available map of reality. The scientist will always seek a description of events which enables him to predict most by assuming least.” (Anatol Rapoport)

xix. “There may be occasions when it is best to behave irrationally, but whether there are should be decided rationally.” (Irving J. Good)

xx. “Why should I worry about dying? It’s not going to happen in my lifetime!” (Raymond Smullyan)

May 28, 2017 Posted by | Quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment


i. “The rare individual who has learned to govern himself is too fed up with the labor of it to want to govern anybody else.” (Henry S. Haskins)

ii. “I prefer true but imperfect knowledge, even if it leaves much indetermined and unpredictable, to a pretence of exact knowledge that is likely to be false.” (Friedrich Hayek)

iii. “The history of science shows that the progress of science has constantly been hampered by the tyrannical influence of certain conceptions that finally came to be considered as dogma. For this reason, it is proper to submit periodically to a very searching examination, principles that we have come to assume without any more discussion.” (Louis de Broglie)

iv. “The circle of knowledge commences close round a man and thence stretches out concentrically.” (Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi)

v. “It is easier to forgive an Enemy than to forgive a Friend.” (William Blake)

vi. “Life is not long, and too much of it must not pass in idle deliberation how it shall be spent.” (Samuel Johnson)

vii. “For an idea ever to be fashionable is ominous, since it must afterwards be always old-fashioned.” (George Santayana)

viii. “Give a small boy a hammer, and he will find that everything he encounters needs pounding. It comes as no particular surprise to discover that a scientist formulates problems in a way which requires for their solution just those techniques in which he himself is especially skilled.” (Abraham Kaplan)

ix. “Friendship is like money, easier made than kept.” (Samuel Butler)

x. “With most men, unbelief in one thing springs from blind belief in another.” (Georg Christoph Lichtenberg)

xi. “To many people virtue consists chiefly in repenting faults, not in avoiding them.” (-ll-)

xii. “A man has virtues enough if, on account of them, he deserves forgiveness for his faults.” (-ll-)

xiii. “What is a committee? A group of the unwilling, picked from the unfit, to do the unnecessary” (Richard Harkness)

xiv. “There is nothing so easily made offensive as good reasoning; and men of clear logical minds, if not gifted at the same time with tact, make more enemies than men with bad hearts and unsound understandings.” (Arthur Helps)

xv. “Nothing so sharpens the thought process as writing down one’s arguments. Weaknesses overlooked in oral discussion become painfully obvious on the written page.” (Hyman G. Rickover)

xvi. “The outcome of any serious research can only be to make two questions grow where only one grew before.” (Thorstein Veblen)

xvii. “A celebrity is one who is known to many persons he is glad he doesn’t know.” (Henry Louis Mencken)

xviii. “Harpo, she’s a lovely person. She deserves a good husband. Marry her before she finds one.” (Harpo Marx, Harpo Speaks!)

xix. “A minimum of comfort is necessary for the practice of virtue.” (Patrice Lumumba)

xx. “Blind commitment to a theory is not an intellectual virtue: it is an intellectual crime.” (Imre Lakatos)

May 16, 2017 Posted by | Quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment