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Quotations about Math & Numbers

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If people do not believe that mathematics is simple, it is only because they do not realize how complicated life is.  ~John Louis von Neumann

Arithmetic is where the answer is right and everything is nice and you can look out of the window and see the blue sky - or the answer is wrong and you have to start over and try again and see how it comes out this time.  ~Carl Sandburg

Pure mathematics is, in its way, the poetry of logical ideas.  ~Albert Einstein

Mathematics are well and good but nature keeps dragging us around by the nose.  ~Albert Einstein

Black holes result from God dividing the universe by zero.  ~Author Unknown

Mathematics - the unshaken Foundation of Sciences, and the plentiful Fountain of Advantage to human affairs.  ~Isaac Barrow

I never did very well in math - I could never seem to persuade the teacher that I hadn't meant my answers literally.  ~Calvin Trillin

I don't agree with mathematics; the sum total of zeros is a frightening figure.  ~Stanislaw J. Lec, More Unkempt Thoughts

If you think dogs can't count, try putting three dog biscuits in your pocket and then giving Fido only two of them.  ~Phil Pastoret

[A mathematician is a] scientist who can figure out anything except such simple things as squaring the circle and trisecting an angle.  ~Evan Esar, Esar's Comic Dictionary

"Every minute dies a man, Every minute one is born;"  I need hardly point out to you that this calculation would tend to keep the sum total of the world's population in a state of perpetual equipoise, whereas it is a well-known fact that the said sum total is constantly on the increase.  I would therefore take the liberty of suggesting that in the next edition of your excellent poem the erroneous calculation to which I refer should be corrected as follows:  "Every moment dies a man, And one and a sixteenth is born."  I may add that the exact figures are 1.067, but something must, of course, be conceded to the laws of metre.  ~Charles Babbage, letter to Alfred, Lord Tennyson, about a couplet in his "The Vision of Sin"

Math is radical!  ~Bumper Sticker

There was a blithe certainty that came from first comprehending the full Einstein field equations, arabesques of Greek letters clinging tenuously to the page, a gossamer web.  They seemed insubstantial when you first saw them, a string of squiggles.  Yet to follow the delicate tensors as they contracted, as the superscripts paired with subscripts, collapsing mathematically into concrete classical entities - potential; mass; forces vectoring in a curved geometry - that was a sublime experience.  The iron fist of the real, inside the velvet glove of airy mathematics.  ~Gregory Benford, Timescape

It is a mathematical fact that fifty percent of all doctors graduate in the bottom half of their class.  ~Author Unknown

If two wrongs don't make a right, try three.  ~Author Unknown

Arithmetic is where numbers fly like pigeons in and out of your head.  ~Carl Sandburg, "Arithmetic"

Arithmetic is numbers you squeeze from your head to your hand to your pencil to your paper till you get the answer.  ~Carl Sandburg, "Arithmetic"

If equations are trains threading the landscape of numbers, then no train stops at pi.  ~Richard Preston

Even stranger things have happened; and perhaps the strangest of all is the marvel that mathematics should be possible to a race akin to the apes.  ~Eric T. Bell, The Development of Mathematics

So if a man's wit be wandering, let him study the mathematics; for in demonstrations, if his wit be called away never so little, he must begin again.  ~Francis Bacon, "Of Studies"

The essence of mathematics is not to make simple things complicated, but to make complicated things simple.  ~S. Gudder

The human mind has never invented a labor-saving machine equal to algebra.  ~Author Unknown

The mathematics are distinguished by a particular privilege, that is, in the course of ages, they may always advance and can never recede.  ~Edward Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

Go down deep enough into anything and you will find mathematics.  ~Dean Schlicter

It is not the job of mathematicians... to do correct arithmetical operations.  It is the job of bank accountants.  ~Samuil Shchatunovski

Trigonometry is a sine of the times.  ~Author Unknown

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.  ~W.S. Anglin

A mathematician is a device for turning coffee into theorems. ~Paul Erdos

Let us grant that the pursuit of mathematics is a divine madness of the human spirit, a refuge from the goading urgency of contingent happenings.  ~Alfred North Whitehead

The tantalizing and compelling pursuit of mathematical problems offers mental absorption, peace of mind amid endless challenges, repose in activity, battle without conflict, "refuge from the goading urgency of contingent happenings," and the sort of beauty changeless mountains present to sense tried by the present-day kaleidoscope of events.  ~Morris Kline, Mathematics in Western Culture

Mathematics is as much an aspect of culture as it is a collection of algorithms.  ~Carl Boyer, 1949, calculus textbook

The cowboys have a way of trussing up a steer or a pugnacious bronco which fixes the brute so that it can neither move nor think.  This is the hog-tie, and it is what Euclid did to geometry.  ~Eric Bell, The Search for Truth

Sometimes it is useful to know how large your zero is.  ~Author Unknown

The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings.  ~Eric Hoffer, Reflections On The Human Condition

Mathematics is the only good metaphysics.  ~William Thomson Baron Kelvin of Largs

The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way.  Persecution is used in theology, not in arithmetic.  ~Bertrand Russell

I prefer zeroes on the loose
to those lined up behind a cipher.
~Wisława Szymborska (1923–2012), "Possibilities," 1997, translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh and Stanisław Barańczak

Music is the pleasure the human mind experiences from counting without being aware that it is counting.  ~Gottfried Leibniz

How many times can you subtract 7 from 83, and what is left afterwards?  You can subtract it as many times as you want, and it leaves 76 every time.  ~Author Unknown

To most outsiders, modern mathematics is unknown territory.  Its borders are protected by dense thickets of technical terms; its landscapes are a mass of indecipherable equations and incomprehensible concepts.  Few realize that the world of modern mathematics is rich with vivid images and provocative ideas.  ~Ivars Peterson

With my full philosophical rucksack I can only climb slowly up the mountain of mathematics.  ~Ludwig Wittgenstein, Culture and Value

But mathematics is the sister, as well as the servant, of the arts and is touched with the same madness and genius.  ~Harold Marston Morse

Still more astonishing is that world of rigorous fantasy we call mathematics. ~Gregory Bateson

Everybody who knew anything about ciphering was called in to consider it. A young man from a high school near here, who made a specialty of mathematics and pimples, and who could readily tell how long a shadow a nine-pound ground-hog would cast at 2 o'clock and 37 minutes P.M., on ground-hog day, if sunny, at the town of Fungus, Dak., provided latitude and longitude and an irregular mass of red chalk be given to him, was secured to jerk a few logarithms in the interests of trade. He came and tried it for a few days, covered the interior of the Exposition Building with figures and then went away. ~Bill Nye, "Seeking to be Identified," Nye and Riley's Railway Guide by Edgar W. Nye and James Whitcomb Riley, 1888

Anyone who cannot cope with mathematics is not fully human. At best he is a tolerable subhuman who has learned to wear shoes, bathe, and not make messes in the house. ~Robert Heinlein, Time Enough for Love

You may be an engineer if your idea of good interpersonal communication means getting the decimal point in the right place.  ~Author Unknown

The trouble with integers is that we have examined only the very small ones.  Maybe all the exciting stuff happens at really big numbers, ones we can't even begin to think about in any very definite way.  Our brains have evolved to get us out of the rain, find where the berries are, and keep us from getting killed.  Our brains did not evolve to help us grasp really large numbers or to look at things in a hundred thousand dimensions.  ~Ronald L. Graham

We could use up two Eternities in learning all that is to be learned about our own world and the thousands of nations that have arisen and flourished and vanished from it.  Mathematics alone would occupy me eight million years.  ~Mark Twain

Can you do Division?  Divide a loaf by a knife - what's the answer to that?  ~Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

Mathematics is the supreme judge; from its decisions there is no appeal.  ~Tobias Dantzig

Although he may not always recognize his bondage, modern man lives under a tyranny of numbers.  ~Nicholas Eberstadt, The Tyranny of Numbers: Mismeasurement and Misrule

The mathematics are usually considered as being the very antipodes of Poesy.  Yet Mathesis and Poesy are of the closest kindred, for they are both works of the imagination.  ~Thomas Hill

The temperature of Heaven can be rather accurately computed.  Our authority is Isaiah 30:26, "Moreover, the light of the Moon shall be as the light of the Sun and the light of the Sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days."  Thus Heaven receives from the Moon as much radiation as we do from the Sun, and in addition 7*7 (49) times as much as the Earth does from the Sun, or 50 times in all.  The light we receive from the Moon is one 1/10,000 of the light we receive from the Sun, so we can ignore that....  The radiation falling on Heaven will heat it to the point where the heat lost by radiation is just equal to the heat received by radiation, i.e., Heaven loses 50 times as much heat as the Earth by radiation.  Using the Stefan-Boltzmann law for radiation, (H/E) temperature of the earth (-300K), gives H as 798K (525C).  The exact temperature of Hell cannot be computed....  [However] Revelations 21:8 says "But the fearful, and unbelieving...shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone."  A lake of molten brimstone means that its temperature must be at or below the boiling point, 444.6C.  We have, then, that Heaven, at 525C is hotter than Hell at 445C.  ~From Applied Optics, vol. 11, A14, 1972

I used to love mathematics for its own sake, and I still do, because it allows for no hypocrisy and no vagueness.... ~Stendhal (Henri Beyle), The Life of Henri Brulard

As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.  ~Albert Einstein, Sidelights on Relativity

God does not care about our mathematical difficulties; He integrates empirically.  ~Albert Einstein

Plato said that God geometrizes continually. ~Plutarch

An ancient sage, neither falsely nor irreverently, ventured to say that "God is a geometer." ~Edward Everett

If there is a God, he's a great mathematician.  ~Paul Dirac

There is no prophet which preaches the superpersonal God more plainly than mathematics. ~Paul Carus, 1906

To all of us who hold the Christian belief that God is truth, anything that is true is a fact about God, and mathematics is a branch of theology.  ~Hilda Phoebe Hudson

Pure mathematics is the magician's real wand. ~Novalis

[T]he different branches of Arithmetic — Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision.  ~Lewis Carroll

[G]eometry is not true, it is advantageous.  ~Henri Poincaré

Infinity is a floorless room without walls or ceiling.  ~Author Unknown

Physics is mathematical not because we know so much about the physical world, but because we know so little; it is only its mathematical properties that we can discover.  ~Bertrand Russell

God is real, unless declared integer.  ~Author Unknown

If a healthy minded person takes an interest in science, he gets busy with his mathematics and haunts the laboratory.  ~W.S. Franklin

Proof is an idol before whom the pure mathematician tortures himself.  ~Arthur Stanley Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World

There was a young man from Trinity,
Who solved the square root of infinity.
While counting the digits,
He was seized by the fidgets,
Dropped science, and took up divinity.
~Author Unknown

One cannot escape the feeling that these mathematical formulas have an independent existence and an intelligence of their own, that they are wiser than we are, wiser even than their discoverers...  ~Heinrich Hertz

In the binary system we count on our fists instead of on our fingers.  ~Author Unknown

There are 10 types of people in this world:  those who understand binary and those who don't.  ~Author Unknown

Round numbers are always false. ~Samuel Johnson

God in number odd rejoices. ~Virgil  [Or, "Uneven numbers are the gods' delight." —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]

I hope good luck lies in odd numbers.... They say there is divinity in odd numbers, either in nativity, chance, or death. ~William Shakespeare, Merry Wives of Windsor [V, 1, Falstaff]

The laws of nature are but the mathematical thoughts of God.  ~Euclid

In most sciences one generation tears down what another has built and what one has established another undoes.  In mathematics alone each generations adds a new story to the old structure.  ~Hermann Hankel

Twice two makes four seems to me simply a piece of insolence.  Twice two makes four is a pert coxcomb who stands with arms akimbo barring your path and spitting.  I admit that twice two makes four is an excellent thing, but if we are to give everything its due, twice two makes five is sometimes a very charming thing too.  ~Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky

I know that two and two make four - & should be glad to prove it too if I could - though I must say if by any sort of process I could convert 2 & 2 into five it would give me much greater pleasure.  ~George Gordon, Lord Byron

Mathematics may be defined as the economy of counting.  There is no problem in the whole of mathematics which cannot be solved by direct counting.  ~Ernst Mach

Nature does not count nor do integers occur in nature.  Man made them all, integers and all the rest, Kronecker to the contrary notwithstanding.  ~Percy William Bridgman, The Way Things Are

A man has one hundred dollars and you leave him with two dollars.  That's subtraction.  ~Mae West

I've dealt with numbers all my life, of course, and after a while you begin to feel that each number has a personality of its own.  A twelve is very different from a thirteen, for example.  Twelve is upright, conscientious, intelligent, whereas thirteen is a loner, a shady character who won't think twice about breaking the law to get what he wants.  Eleven is tough, an outdoorsman who likes tramping through woods and scaling mountains; ten is rather simpleminded, a bland figure who always does what he's told; nine is deep and mystical, a Buddha of contemplation....  ~Paul Auster, The Music of Chance

One of the endlessly alluring aspects of mathematics is that its thorniest paradoxes have a way of blooming into beautiful theories.  ~Philip J. Davis

Pure mathematics is the world's best game.  It is more absorbing than chess, more of a gamble than poker, and lasts longer than Monopoly.  It's free.  It can be played anywhere - Archimedes did it in a bathtub.  ~Richard J. Trudeau, Dots and Lines

I like mathematics because it is not human and has nothing particular to do with this planet or with the whole accidental universe - because like Spinoza's God, it won't love us in return.  ~Bertrand Russell, 1912

The man ignorant of mathematics will be increasingly limited in his grasp of the main forces of civilization.  ~John Kemeny

Although I am almost illiterate mathematically, I grasped very early in life that any one who can count to ten can count upward indefinitely if he is fool enough to do so.  ~Robertson Davies, "Of the Conservation of Youth," The Table Talk of Samuel Marchbanks

A million thanks to Norm & Andy for submitting some of these quotes!

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Last modified 2017 Mar 31 Fri 11:09 PDT

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