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Quotations about Math & Numbers
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NOTE: Some of the quotes on this page were submitted to me by visitors, and not all have been verified for original source or wording. I'm working hard to confirm everything, but in the meantime please be aware of the possibility for errors. —ღ Terri, March 2021
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
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 machine for turning coffee into theorems. ~Rényi Alfréd (1921–1970) [Bruce Schechter, My Brain is Open, 1998, claims this was said by was Rényi and not his compatriot & fellow mathematician Paul Erdős (1913–1996) although they were both avid coffee drinkers. –tg]
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
Charlie Brown: How much is three times zero?
Sally: Four thousand? Six? Eleventy twelve? Fifty-quillion? Overly-eight? Twiddely-two?
~Charles M. Schulz, Peanuts, 1967
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
Yet what are all such gaieties to me
Whose thoughts are full of indices and surds?
x 2 + 7 x + 53
~Lewis Carroll, "A Double Acrostic," 1869
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
Numbers are beautiful… I like twos the best… they're sort of gentle… threes and fives are mean, but a four is always pleasant… I like sevens and eights, too, but nines always scare me… tens are great… ~“Peppermint Patty” (Charles M. Schulz), Peanuts, 1968 [I'm the exact opposite. Odd numbers have always been calming to me, but the evens make me feel uncomfortable. Peppermint Patty appears to have ordinal personification associative synesthesia. Here are another couple of big words I learned recently: Imparnumerophobia is the fear of odd numbers, and omalonumerophobia is the fear of even numbers. —tg]
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
I am too little to contain my joy,
It flows above the narrow banks, Aurelia:
What shall I say? let me bathe here eternally,
And study new arithmetic, to count
~James Shirley, Changes, or Love in a Maze, 1631 ["The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings." ~Eric Hoffer, Reflections on the Human Condition, 1973 —tg]
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
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
Is God just an algorithm?
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
...Science and mathematics
Run parallel to reality, they symbolize it, they squint at it,
They never touch it: consider what an explosion
Would rock the bones of men into little white fragments and unsky the world
If any mind should for a moment touch truth.
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.
I don't give a √D²... ~Gelett Burgess [Frankly, my dear... —tg]
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, c.1600 [V, 1, Falstaff]
Ninety nine is a famous number
For at the market the seller knows
In our minds it's so much softer
Than its bigger brother the dollar!
~Terri Guillemets, "99¢"
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!
Last saved 2021 Apr 11 Sun 17:40 PDT