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Quotations about Math & Numbers


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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"


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


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


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]


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


I don't agree with mathematics; the sum total of zeros is a frightening figure. ~Stanisław Jerzy Lec (1909–1966), translated by Jacek Gałązka


Math is radical! ~Bumper sticker


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


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


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


      ...the Red Queen remarked: "but I daresay you 've not had many lessons in manners yet?"
      "Manners are not taught in lessons," said Alice. "Lessons teach you to do sums, and things of that sort."
      "Can you do Addition?" the White Queen asked. "What's one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one?"
      "I don't know," said Alice. "I lost count."
      "She can't do Addition," the Red Queen interrupted. "Can you do Subtraction? Take nine from eight."
      "Nine from eight I can't, you know," Alice replied very readily: "but—"
      "She can't do Substraction," said the White Queen. "Can you do Division? Divide a loaf by a knife — what's the answer to that?"
      "I suppose—" Alice was beginning, but the Red Queen answered for her. "Bread-and-butter, of course..."
      Alice... couldn't help thinking to herself, "What dreadful nonsense we are talking!"
      "She can't do sums a bit!" the Queens said together, with great emphasis.
      ~Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There


Plato said that God geometrizes continually. ~Plutarch


But it would be a grievous wrong to mathematical, as indeed to any, science, to rest its importance mainly on a utilitarian basis. The great truths with which it deals, are clothed with an austere grandeur, far above all purposes of immediate convenience or profit. It is in them that our limited understandings approach nearest to the conception of that absolute and infinite, toward which in most other things they aspire in vain. In the pure mathematics we contemplate absolute truths, which existed in the divine mind before the morning stars sang together, and which will continue to exist there, when the last of their radiant host shall have fallen from heaven. They existed not merely in metaphysical possibility, but in the actual contemplation of the supreme reason. The pen of inspiration, ranging all nature and life for imagery to set forth the Creator's power and wisdom, finds them best symbolized in the skill of the surveyor. "He meted out heaven as with a span;" and an ancient sage, neither falsely nor irreverently, ventured to say, that "God is a geometer." Yes, precisely by the same calculus by which I might number the individuals on this platform, has the Omniscient mind numbered the leaves in the interminable forest, the sands on the sea-shore, the particles of light that radiate from a universe of suns, the atoms of the ethereal medium, if such there be, which fills the infinite of space. ~Edward Everett, "Academical Education," 1857


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


God is real, unless declared integer. ~Author unknown


I don't give a √D²... ~Gelett Burgess  [Frankly, my dear... —tg]


...we arrive at the mathematical laws of the physical world. 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


Yet what are all such gaieties to me
Whose thoughts are full of indices and surds?
 x 2 + 7 x + 53
             = 11/3.
~Lewis Carroll, "A Double Acrostic," 1869


Trigonometry is a sine of the times. ~Author unknown


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, because in arithmetic there is knowledge, but in theology there is only opinion. ~Bertrand Russell


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]


Round numbers are always false. ~Johnsoniana: Life, Opinions, and Table-Talk of Samuel Johnson, arranged and collected by R. W. Montagu, 1884


God delights in odd numbers. ~Virgil


The odd number is held to be immortal, because it cannot well be divided. ~Virgil


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]


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
Our blessings.
~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]


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


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


...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.
~Robinson Jeffers


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


      "I only took the regular course."
      "What was that?" inquired Alice.
      "Reeling and Writhing, of course, to begin with," the Mock Turtle replied: "and then the different branches of Arithmetic — Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision."
      ~Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland


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


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¢"


I agree with you quite upon mathematics too, and must be content to admire them at an incomprehensible distance, always adding them to the catalogue of my regrets. I know that two and two make four, and should be glad to prove it too, if I could, — though, I must say, if by any sort of process I could convert 2 and 2 into 5, it would give me much greater pleasure. The only part I remember which gave me much delight were those theorems (is that the word), in which, after ringing the changes upon A B and C D, etc., I at last came to "which is absurd" — "which is impossible," and at this point I have always arrived and fear always shall... ~Lord Byron, letter to Miss Milbanke, 1813


The Happy Way Bus leaves at 4:42
On the banks of the beautiful River Wah-Hoo
Where they never have troubles. At least, very few...
~Dr. Seuss, I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew, 1965 [It appears that Geisel knew the magical number before D. Adams did. And did you know that ASCII code 42 is for an asterisk, which is a wildcard for everything? –tg]



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