Quotes


Words of Wisdom

  • Words of Wisdom from John Preskill
  • Words of Wisdom from Predrag Cvitanovic'
  • Words of Wisdom from Maciej Zworski

  • Other Quotes (by famous people, normal people, and me)

  • Imaginary D & D character: "You resurrected the wrong person!" Imaginary response (by a cleric): "It was a clerical error. I apologize for the inconvenience." (Me, invented on 1/28/16)
  • "It would almost be easier to believe that you were hatched from an egg." (One of my colleagues in Oxford's Mathematical Institute, reacting to seeing a picture of me as a young child)
  • "People are always sticking their children in annoying places -- like in my way!" (Me)
  • "The amount of pain is conserved. [nontrivial pause, while I think about the accuracy of my statement] (Well, technically, the amount of pain is non-decreasing.)" (Me, to my graduate-level ODE students in office hours, 11/03/17)
  • "There are infinitely many methods, more than half of which have not yet been discovered." (Me, 10/03/12)
  • "Network science is the nuclear physics of the 21st century." (Me, 1/09/17)
  • "Those infection dynamics are pathological, so we can ignore them." (Me, 12/26/14)
  • "Typically one needs to do a weighted random walk through paper space." (Me, giving advice to one of my students, 2/12/15)
  • "I tend to do a weighted random walk through problem space." (Me)
  • "I think I'll take one piece of candy for each paper of mine that you've rejected." (Me, to the people manning the Physical Review booth, 3/15/10, APS March Meeting)

  • "I reject your definition of 'good'." (Me)
  • "If I do that, do I have to talk to you again?" (Me, on the phone with Expedia customer service, 9/17/10)
  • "If it has a name, there's probably a theorem about it." (Me, 5/24/11)
  • "Good, then we can correct a long-standing inadequacy." [slightly approximate] (Me, responding to yet another annoying Oxford comment about going against precedent in how we do things, 1/25/12)
  • "Do you think that sugar, caffeine, and fury is enough to power me for an entire day?" (Me, 3/09/11)
  • "You know you're in trouble if the different cases for your differential-equation solutions start sounding like the names of Star Wars robots." (Me, 10/16/17)
  • "Stories about aliens that are any good are actually about peoople. And stories about physicists that are any good are actually also about people." (Me, adapting a comment by Harlan Ellison, 6/08/12)
  • "He went to a magical land called the 70s." (Me, accidentally inventing a new euphemism for death, 1/06/15)
  • "I take volunteers where I can get them." (Me, 1/20/15)
  • "My mind may be warped, but I prefer to think of it as using an appropriate metric space." (Me, 8/02/16)
  • "That's retarded, but I accept it. And I am more anal than he could possibly imagine..." (Me, 7/06/11)
  • "You don't need to be in love with a problem, but you should at least be willing to have a one-night stand." (Me, referring to a PhD project, 3/16/14)
  • "... where I have switched the order of summation and integration without justifying it because I am an applied mathematician and we sometimes just do that sort of thing." (Me, 2014)
  • "I think that we should leave that as an exercise for the publishers." (Me, 7/23/12)
  • "I'm showing you this slide mostly in order to induce epilepsy." (Me, 2/06/13)
  • "Another way to look at it is that I am giving you a pointer to knowledge rather than actual knowledge." (Me, 11/19/13)
  • "An advisor's role is to get you out of a local minimum into a different local minimum." (Me, 6/27/14)
  • "I have not even begun to snark." (Me, 1/25/17)
  • "Between the playoffs and finally buying a Nintendo Switch, this is great timing for the NSF DMS grant proposal deadline." (Me, 10/24/17)
  • "My friends care about me. My colleagues are merely polite." (Me)
  • "Please also make it clearer in the future what method of communication you would like from me for declining review requests." (Me)
  • "I offer an endearing mixture of naivete and cynicism." (Me)
  • "Few things are deadlier than me armed with a red pen." (Me, 6/06/12)
  • "I don't know; it was some old British guy. I can't tell them apart." (Me)
  • "I have not yet begun to theorize!" (Me, 8/09/17)
  • "How unique could you possibly be? You're an old white guy, and there are thousands of people just like you in this city alone." (Me)
  • "She's kind of like me when I was less calm than I am now." (Me, 3/15/07)
  • "Apparently, slow is the new fast." (Me, 8/29/13, desribing the internet connection I purchased in a posh hotel)
  • "Oh! I need to go to my computer to get some money." (Me) "Do you also need a printer?" (Konstantin Mischaikow, in response) [2/04/13]
  • "Sorry. My mind is working much faster than I can talk at the moment." (Me, after a coughing spasm interrupted what I was saying to Renaud Lambiotte) "Probably this will be good for the audience." (Marc Timme, matter-of-factly) [9/18/13]
  • "I know your reservations about his stuff, i.e. I can still remember your facial expressions during one of his talks ... ;)" (Felix Reed-Tsochas, 3/22/13, about a talk that occurred several years prior to that)
  • "When you hear someone talking about a Golden Age of something, usually they're full of shit. Not always. But usually." (Rob Neyer, 5/23/17, echoing similar comments that I assume have been uttered by numerous people)
  • "So if you're a physicist and a Yankees fan, then don't even talk to me." (Nina Fefferman, 12/12/14)
  • "In order to suppress sexual passion, I entered the faculty of mathematics." (Response in a Moscow student sex survey, 1903)
  • "That is from '54, or '59, depending on how many mistakes you're willing to overlook." (Tim Austin, in deadpan, 3/16/17, referring in a colloquium to a result by Kolmogorv and Sinai on KS entropy)
  • "Luck is statistics taken personally." (Penn Jillette)
  • "I have neither the time nor the crayons to explain this to you." (adapted from a quote by Jimmy Carr)
  • "I'll call this the 'Mother Functional'." (Charlie Doering, 3/23/15)
  • "Professors get erased when they leave UCLA." (UCLA undergrad Jessica Tran, 9/29/16)
  • "If you're an analyst, square root of (log N) is large. If you're more applied, it's like... 4." (Jared Bronski, plenary talk, 8/11/14)
  • "Nothing focuses the mind like righteous indignation." (Karen Nielsen, 2/08/16)
  • "During my time as a department chair, I received roughly 20K *work-related* (e.g., not personal and not spam) emails each year... Mason occasionally accounts for just over 2K of those himself." (Peter Mucha, 12/11/14)
  • "On a scale from Mason Porter to Kanye West, what kind of sweatpants were they?" (Christine Klymko)
  • "We have to reboot the aircraft." (Airline staff member at the Columbus, OH airport, 11/13/14)
  • "You don't want the full definition of 'derivator'. It would take five journal pages." (Algebraist) "I think it would be fine to have a five-page article for the definition as long as it includes a picture of The Terminator." (Me, after conversation about this continues among others for a bit]) [2/06/13]
  • "I don't want him writing the screenplay for my movie!" (Me)
  • "His voice was as monotonic as the functions he was studying." (Me, 8/12/14)
  • "Given that I've drowned a wasp in a berry smoothie, I'm not sure if my cruelty knows any bounds." (Me)
  • "You try to feed me bullshit, and I won't just throw you to the lions --- I will be the lion." (Me, 4/122/14)
  • "I was born with an exclamation point." (Me, 2/17/12)
  • ""Not to spoil the ending, but he dies." (Me, after my cousin said she didn't want to hear what was in the Steve Jobs biography before she read it, 1/13/13)
  • Question: "What is in stuffing?" Answer: "Stuff. Hence the name." (Me, making up an imaginary High Table conversation, 12/06/12)
  • "The worst they can excuse me of is being impractical and a pain in the ass. And I wouldn't deny either of these things." (Me, 6/10/12)
  • "I'll comment on scientific things after I finish going through all of your e-mails. Snark first, science later." (Me, 1/30/13)
  • "Few things are deadlier than me armed with a red pen." (Me)
  • "We were playing arcade games and plotting revolution, just like when we were kids." (Me)
  • "I don't give a shit if people think I'm smart. I have a job." (Me)
  • "You know what they say about the size of a man's tombstone..." (Me)
  • "Wisdom is what you give if you can't give practical advice." (Me, 12/04/12)
  • "Both medicine and physics include operations, but many more of them are reversible in physics." (Me, 5/02/14)
  • "The sound you heard in my e-mail to [censored] is my palm once again hitting my face." (Me, 3/27/12)
  • "Thankfully I am good at pissing people off and bad at keeping track of money. My personality sometimes comes in handy." (Me, 6/22/12)
  • "I don't know. Maybe the knowledge of asymptotic analysis will lead to less starvation among African children?" (Me, in an early draft of a grant proposal when asked to address how the project will help with the socio-economic development of third-world countries)
  • "I've been saying for years that you need to find a nice Asian girl and settle down." (Ben Williamson to me, 7/04/12)
  • "Does it always smell like this?" (imaginary question) And one good response is: "Oh, that depends on who is on sabbatical."
  • "He keeps switching between rows and columns." (Physicist, whining; 11/18/13) To which I responded with the following deadpan comment: "That's because he's applying the time-dependent Hermitian transpose."
  • "If your friend is close to everybody, then you're fucking close to everybody." (A centrality expert, 2/18/15)
  • "Mason was always very precise and dryly funny. When he was 9 years old, he would leave a message on our answering machine..and say it was "Mason A. Porter". This was so I could distinguish him from Mason B. Porter, I presumed." (Gregg Schneider, 11/18/13)
  • "I come, bearing possibly off-putting chocolates." (Me, 12/09/12)

  • "Somebody else needs to send the message. I am physically incapable of writing a message like that without being sarcastic." (Me, 6/24/13).
  • "We make a network of networks to try to build a 'supermodel'." (Jürgen Kurths) To which I immediately responded: "There was a movie about that." (4/6/10).
  • "Some would call it [chaos] horrible, but others would call it wonderful." (Me) To which my student responded: "Some people just want to watch the world burn."
  • "She bumped into me! It was her fault, and I am not going to apologize just because she's old!" (Me) To which Sandra González-Bailón gave the deadpan response: "Mason, you're making friends again."
  • "I have an alternative type of charisma." (Me)
  • "I think those are disparate thoughts of mine in very nearby places when projected onto the piece of paper." (Me, 2/17/12)
  • "We use so many fucking letters in here." (Me, trying to find a symbol my coauthors and I hadn't yet used in a paper so that we could write an equation without introducing an ambiguity, 6/17/12)
  • "You underestimate how anal I am at your own peril." (Me)
  • "I think that the cynical point of view has not yet been properly heard." (Me)
  • "I don't take that kind of shit from audience members." (Me, 3/09/10)
  • "It's surprising that there are two gaps... I'm too tired to calculate exactly how surprising it is." (Me, 1/04/10)
  • "Four years at Cornell made me a man." (Me, 3/05/10)
  • "Now we have to pay 1500 pounds and go to Sheffield." (Fellow Oxford don) "Which one's worse?" (Me, responding to the above statement, 8/05/10)
  • "Please excuse my chasing you up but please would you be kind enough to answer my email." (Other person) "I already answered the e-mail below, and you already responded to my answer. Would you like me to forward to you the response you gave to my response?" (Me, responding to the above statement, 2/21/12)
  • "That's my new excuse, and I'm sticking to it." (Me, 9/14/10)
  • "Asymptotics is the Terminator 3 of mathematics; it's only partially mechanical." (Me)
  • "My comment is long and there isn't enough space to put it here." (Me, on a Facebook status update, 5/01/13; though I was nice and appended an indication of where people could find the comment instead of purely pulling a Fermat)
  • "By the way, I think my letter to them was a fucking work of art." (Me, 2/01/12)
  • "I've been scaring the mother of one of my friends with my napkin fetish." (Me)
  • "If you have any doubts about the influence I had at Georgia Tech, I feel compelled to point out that both my official and my unofficial postdoc advisors there have now quoted Yogi Berra in seminars that they've given." (Me)
  • "When you fall in love, sometimes you have to make a reflex save to get the stuff off." (Me)
  • "I would argue using the Perogi Principle that that is an entirely reasonable thing to do." (Me)
  • "I can do anything as long as it doesn't require tact, charm, coordination, or athletic ability." (Me)
  • "The text below has a very low-magnitude eigenvalue on my rant spectrum." (Me)
  • "Home is where the internet connection is." (Me)
  • "Apathy makes the world go 'round (at the exact same velocity it was going before)." (Me)
  • "People who are somewhat neurotic when they're young typically become very neurotic when they're old. I think this follows from the Second Law of Thermodynamics or something." (Me)
  • "Close only counts in surgery and hand grenades." (Me)
  • "Would you mind terribly if I made an insensitive comment?" (Me)
  • "The url containing the composite pictures of what our children will look like was a site to behold." (Me; pun intended)
  • "Love fades away, but a paper citation lasts forever." (Me)
  • "I am an academic. I am supposed to think about frivolous things!" (Me)
  • "If you don't mind, I'd like to distinguish the events of my sordid past from those of my sordid present." (Me)
  • "I can't work in libraries; they're too quiet. The only places that should be that quiet are cemetaries and I sure as Hell am not going to try to get my work done in one of those!" (Me, on my preferences for working conditions)
  • "There's a sense of narcissim, but I do it for myself... [pause] Oh wait! That is narcissism!" (Me, on the narcissim involved in including many of my own quotes on this very web page
  • "We've got 15 minutes left. What should we do? I could let you leave early or we could start another problem from the next sheet." (Me) "You could have a 15-minute digression." (One of my students)
  • "Do guns kill people or does physics kill people?" (Me)
  • "I find it easier to tell a Nobel Laureate that he should have shared his Nobel prize with someone else than I do asking someone out on a date." (Me, 2/15/09)
  • "After that, it may make sense for me to go before Dimitri rather than the other way around (which is what I suggested earlier), so that Dimitri sees something closer to confusion." (Me, in one of my more impressive e-mail comments, 8/25/06; obviously, this was an accident; the context was deciding the order of going through drafts of a paper)
  • "I'm tempted to rant about George Bush tonight, but I really want to play some New Super Mario Brothers before I go to bed." (Me)
  • "Given that particles can have corresponding antiparticles, it stands to reason that social networks can have corresponding antisocial networks." (Me)
  • "I'm more on the croissant-hunt rather than the man-hunt." (Me)
  • "It reads more like a fucking philosophy thesis rather than a math thesis." (Me)
  • "You come in here with a skull full of mush... and you leave thinking like a [Mathematician]." (My modification of a quote by John Houseman's character in The Paper Chase)
  • "I'm going to have a fucking cookie. I earned it." (A post-seminar comment from one of my colleagues in 2014)
  • "His theory is retarded." (Catalin Turc, giving a post-seminar comment during my postdoc years at Caltech)
  • "Do we have the software in Oxford to perform such flirtations?" (Peter Gindrod, who meant to write "filtrations", 2/19/14)
  • "The juvenile sea squirt wanders through the sea searching for a suitable rock or hunk of coral to cling to and make its home for life. For this task, it has a rudimentary nervous system. When it fi nds its spot and takes root, it doesn't need its brain anymore so it eats it! (It's rather like getting tenure.)" (Daniel Dennett, 1991)
  • "Experimentalists are dangerous because they go and measure stuff." (Robert Laughlin, 5/2/13)
  • "The reality of Scientific Endeavor is profoundly messy, often illogical, deeply emotional, and driven by individual personalities involved as they sleepwalk their way to a temporary scientific truth." (Jim Baggott, The Quantum Story: A History in 40 Moments)
  • "The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which means never losing your enthusiasm." (Aldous Huxley)
  • "Physics is everything, and everything is physics." (Teenage or college-age guy) "I thought everything is math." (Young girl of maybe 13 or 14)
  • "I was late because the person in front of me was trying to illustrate Zeno's [dichotomy] paradox."
  • "When I read about the step that causes the power spectrum to whiten, I want to ask if it also gives it minty fresh breath." (Peter Mucha, 12/11/12)
  • "Hell hath no fury like a Bash Brother scorned." (Jerry Crasnick, 5/18/11)
  • "There was also a video about power-laws in the middle that induced more than a few people to look around in terror to check that you weren't there, Mason." (Martin Gould)
  • "The life of a postdoc is not for the weak." (Michael ("Don") Howard)
  • "Cemeteries are filled with irreplaceable people." (a Polish saying)
  • "A strong nation, like a strong person, can afford to be gentle, firm, thoughtful, and restrained. It can afford to extend a helping hand to others. It's a weak nation, like a weak person, that must behave with bluster and boasting and rashness and other signs of insecurity." (Jimmy Carter)
  • "The present letter is a very long one, simply because I had no leisure to make it shorter." (Blaise Pascal, Provincial Letters, Letter XVI)
  • "Wilson is an avid home brewer, blogger, and Christian, and his beer-only quest merged these passions." (Eric Marrapodi, in his CNN.com article, 4/27/11)
  • "I don't know if anyone on the editorial board is here. Do not submit to this journal." (Rick Durrett, 8/29/10)
  • "I don't have to get all dressed up like I'm going to Wal-Mart or something." (Somebody named Debra Jackson, as quoted in a newspaper)
  • Other person: "Who is that guy? Is he an FRS?", Me: "No, he only looks like one." (the first of these two quotes is approximate)
  • "Cinema, phonograph, radio, television -- these instruments considered to be substitutes for the book have become in fact the new book, the most powerful of means for the diffusion of human thought. By radio not only will one be everywhere able to hear, one will everywhere be able to speak. By means of television not only will one be able to see what is happening everywhere, but everyone will be able to view what he would like to see from his own vantage point. From his armchair, everyone will hear, see, participate, will even be able to applaud, give ovations, sing in the chorus, add his cries of participation to those of all the others." (Paul Otlet, who died in 1944)
  • "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man." (George Bernard Shaw)
  • "I remember one trade dead-line when the Yankees sent malaria and smallpox to the Indians in exchange for acres and acres of land." (@OldHossRadbourn)
  • "We all grow up at our own pace." (Rob Neyer, though presumably this has been uttered by myriad people before him)
  • "The verb in the sentence is the equal sign." (Uttered by an old Oxford professor---who shall not be named---in a properly stuffy British accent. The context is awesome as well.)
  • "Here, have an invitation." (A friend handing me an invitation to her wedding, 3/13/10)
  • "Scratch any cynic and you'll find a disappointed idealist." (George Carlin)
  • "God created war so that Americans would learn geography." (Mark Twain)
  • "Patriotism is supporting your country all of the time, and your government when it deserves it." (Mark Twain)
  • "It is by logic that we prove, but by intuition that we discover." (Henri Poincaré)
  • "I like work; it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours." (Jerome K. Jerome)
  • "Any road followed precisely to its end leads precisely nowhere." (Bene Gesserit proverb, from Frank Herbert's Dune)
  • "Am I a bad Christian because I like Mason's t-shirt?" (Christina Chow)
  • "Mason, this is your fault. I can't get [name] to stop talking about modularity." (the current advisor of one of my former students, 2/22/10)

  • "Ludwig Boltzmann, who spent much of his life studying statistical mechanics, died in 1906, by his own hand. Paul Ehrenfest, carrying on the work, died similarly in 1933. Now it is our turn to study statistical mechanics. Perhaps it will be wise to approach the subject cautiously." (David Goodstein, in the opening lines of States of Matter)
  • "I can make a theory for that." (Economist Lord Desai, after drawing an incomprehensible squiggle during his Alan Taylor lecture on 11/30/09)
  • "The award has gone to obscure Europeans three of the past four years." (CNN.com sidebar in an article on the 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature)
  • "Tom is a big cuddly teddy bear compared to you." (Peter Howell, on the relative grading styles of Tom Witelski and me)
  • "There go the people. I must follow them, for I am their leader." (French politician Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin)
  • "The world is made for people who aren't cursed with self awareness." (Annie Savoy, Bull Durham)
  • "When all is said and done, there's nothing left to say or do." (Darryl Dawkins, supposedly)

  • "There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come." (Victor Hugo)
  • "His beard alone has experienced more than a lesser man's entire body." (from a commercial for Dos Equis)
  • "Last Sunday, I cleaned my apartment up through O(epsilon). [I see no reason why cleanliness can't be expressed as an asymptotic quantity.]" (Me)
  • "I'm good at stalking in general." (Me, 3/22/07, in response to a comment by Gil Refael that I am good at stalking experimentalists)
  • Gil Refael: [[asks a question]]

    Ryan Barnett: "That's a whole other issue."

    Gil Refael: "So how are we handling it?"

    Ryan Barnett: "We're ignoring it."

    (3/22/07, in the same meeting as above)

  • Jesus Cuevas (main organizer of the conference LENCOS 09, when he met me for the first time in person): "I thought you were older."

    My response: "I hope I will be some day." (Jesus was speechless after that and the conversation abruptly ended.) (7/14/09)

  • "I'm not being paid to think. I am paid to lecture." (Edriss Titi, in the middle of a lecture, answering a question regarding whether he thinks a certain conjecture is true, 1/24/07) (The question, "Do you think the conjecture is true?" came from Jonathan Mattingly.)
  • "I deform the contour -- just like I do in surgery." (Tom Hou, during an ACM 210b lecture at Caltech, 4/11/07)
  • "Being a professional is doing the things you love to do, on the days you don't feel like doing them." (Julius Erving)
  • "Unfortunately, the immutable laws of physics contradict the whole premise of your account." (Jerry Seinfeld, the baseball spit story, Seinfold)
  • "Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten." (B. F. Skinner, New Scientist, May 21, 1964)
  • "I believe I made myself position quite clear in only a few words and with hardly any profanity." (Prof. E. J. McShane, in the middle of a letter to Prof. Ed Beagle, 11/22/1961)
  • "Who says there's an unemployment problem in this country? Just take the five percent unemployed and give them a statistic to follow.'' (Andy Van Slyke, who said this while an outfielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates)
  • "Optimism seems to be highly recommendable, especially for losers." (last sentence in the abstract of the paper physics/0703189)
  • "If I had a pocket protector and breasts, I would have been more likely to see you by now." (Daniel Schwarzblatt, talking on the phone to me)
  • "With the new school year looming, I was increasingly worried I would never reach my goal. My daughter had already started on fractions and decimals, which were still as incomprehensible to me as Poincare's conjecture. I discussed my distress with Shah, but she said doing the same problem multiple times was essential to mastering the material. I accept that this unshakable attachment to drills and repetition may be why the Japanese are better at math than Americans. But it may also be why the Japanese invented ritual seppuku." (Emily Yoffe, Slate, 11/14/06)
  • "Children, Aristotle, the authors of the Bible, and the designers of Super Mario Brothers, among many others, imagine such worlds for us (in some cases, while mistakenly thinking they are describing our world)." (Frank Wilczek, "Reference Frame", Physics Today, November 2006)
  • "Excuse me, but I think you're more or less full of crap." (an imaginary scenario that starts with an audience member raising his/her hand with a question for a speaker in a mathematics colloquium; this idea came from a line by Catalin Turc; Tim Elling was also involved in the conversation)
  • "If it helps, I can tell you your personality flaws with 10 digit accuracy." (slightly paraphrased from Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy)
  • "Personally, I liked the university. They gave us money and facilities, we didn't have to produce anything! You've never been out of college! You don't know what it's like out there! I've *worked* in the private sector. They expect *results*." (Dr. Ray Stanz (Dan Akroyd), _Ghostbusters_)
  • "The death knight broke into a chill sweat, not an easy thing to do when one has no shivering flesh, palpitating heart, or clenching bowels." (Margaret Weis, Amber and Iron)
  • "Hell is other people." (Jean-Paul Sartre, No Exit)
  • "By string theory standards, evolution is completely understood." (Daniel Fisher, at the beginning of his Caltech physics colloquium on 11/30/06)
  • "I like my women the way I like my coffee: cold and bitter." (Tim Elling, adapting a line from Airplane)
  • "Nothing says 'I'm important' like screaming 'I'm important!' into your cell phone." (adapted from a Budweiser radio commerical)
  • "Love doesn't last as long as an Oxford degree." (Attribution withheld, 9/19/08; note additionally that I don't remember the exact quote, but this line gives the basic gist)
  • "Physicists don't believe in wizards--a fact that I, being a wizard, find highly insulting. I have taken my revenge, therefore, by refusing to believe in physicists." (Zifnab, Elven Star)
  • "Pure mathematics is a branch of applied mathematics." (Joe Keller's definition of applied mathematics)
  • "If you have to choose between two evils, pick the cuter one." (from a radio commercial for Busch Beer)
  • "Physics is to math what sex is to masturbation." (Richard Feynman)
  • "Physics is like sex: sure, it may give some practical results, but that's not why we do it." (Richard Feynman)
  • "Animals don't feel death. That's been proven by the scientists at Black Angus." (Homer Simpson, The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror 2005)
  • "The scores are low enough that I can't tell who doesn't know shit from who really doesn't know shit!" (Me)
  • "Honk if you're in an excited state." (A bumper sticker that I really want to see)
  • "It just didn't occur to me to phrase it intelligently." (Me)
  • "I use teaching to take a break from research and vice versa." (Me)
  • "I have lots of opinions. They're not always logical or well-founded, but I have them anyway." (Me)
  • "Caltech collects Nobel Laureates the way prostitutes collect STDs." (Me)
  • "Hold on a second. I'm not quite done staring at them indignantly." (Me)
  • Me: "What does TCU stand for again? I keep forgetting." Other person: "Texas Christan University." Me: "Oh, OK. No wonder I keep blanking it out. It has both 'Texas' and 'Christian' in the same name."
  • "In an alternate universe, Jews took over the world and Betamax beat out VHS." (Me)
  • "This week, Caltech's condensed matter physics group is celebrating its annual Hazardous Material Abatement Week. In celebration, we are giving away free asbestos and Uranium." (Me)
  • "Tact is for wimps. It's much more interesting to try to get through life by being tactless." (Me)
  • "OK, fine. You're right! This is apathy, but it's a very proactive apathy." (Me)
  • "Today I received a letter addressed to 'Caring Neighbor,' so I threw it away. They must have had the wrong address." (Me)
  • "Two days ago, my grant proposal needed a shitload of work, and now it only needs an assload. (A week or so ago, I needed a veritable fuckload.) I hope to shortly progress to words I can say on network television. (There's actually a whole hierarchy here.)" (Me)
  • "Have you ever noticed that people seem to equate romance with poor lighting conditions?" (Me)
  • "Determining where mathematics ends and science begins is as difficult, and as pointless, as mapping the edge of a morning mist." (Peter Atkins)
  • "Ten billion ants in this world, and I'm having trouble with just one." (The Aardvark from "The Ant and the Aardvark" cartoon)
  • "To appreciate these advantages, the system should be overlooked as a whole." (from a paper posted on the arXiv in July 2005)
  • "All my scientific articles were produced without the help of steroids." (Me)
  • "He's like that sign on the Statue of Liberty: Give me your sick, your lame, your lazy - or whatever it is." (Rangers General Manager John Hart, on pitching coach Orel Hershiser)
  • "I was gratified to be able to answer promptly. I said I don't know." (Mark Twain)
  • "I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying that I approved of it." (Mark Twain)
  • "In religion and politics, people's beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second hand, and without examination." (Mark Twain)
  • "If you sit at the singularity and look at the world, the world looks very vast." (Marcelo Viana, during his talk at NCTS in Taiwan)
  • "I have a question: What's 'chaos in the sense of Li-Yorke'?" (Jim Yorke, 5/17/05 at NCTS in Taiwan, asking a question during the talk of somebody who kept referring to this term).
  • "Imagine you can't see that picture. What are you supposed to see?" (Jim Yorke, who couldn't see Leon Glass's picture of a biological network)
  • "In two days, we've doubled a new highest salary. I don't like the exponentiality of that." (Sandy Alderson on the contracts signed by Mike Hampton and Alex Rodriguez, December 2000)
  • "So far, I've kissed up through the letter 'N'." (Me)
  • "Oh well, I think I should grade at least 5 more papers before the next rant." (Me)
  • "Your ever-changing actions are so subtle that they escaped my notice." (Me)
  • "The job application process has been one giant geography lesson." (Me)
  • "I don't feel intimidated at all when I sit in a classroom at Caltech and don't understand a single thing the speaker said. I just feel nostalgic." (Me)
  • "I am making no effort more emphatically than usual." (Me)
  • "When I'm really stressed out, sometimes I just need to calm down and kill something." (Me)
  • "Do you even realize how many units of kissing up I have this term?" (Me)
  • "They are no match for me! I can see through their deceptions with my mad quantum chaos skillz!" (Me)
  • "Question: How many analysts does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Answer: Three. One to prove existence, one to prove uniqueness, and one to derive a nonconstructive algorithm to do it." (a piece of mathematical folklore)
  • "Some of us who were picked on in high school eventually grew up to become professional mathematicians, so there actually is hope." (Me. Postscript: After thinking up this one-liner, upon walking home from seeing Napoleon Dynamite, somebody decided to elbow me just to be an asshole. I was 28 when this happened and have a rather keen appreciation for irony [the point of the line in the first place, of course].)
  • "Being tactful takes effort that I would rather expend on other things." (Me)
  • "I'm from Los Angeles, so I become suspiscious whenever somebody is nice to me." (Me)
  • "As usual, I'm just going to attempt to be snide rather than contribute anything useful. I have to be me, you know?" (Me)
  • "I like being a U.S. citizen. It prevents me from being deported." (Me)
  • "At this stage of my career, I basically just need to kiss up to as many people as possible." (Me)
  • "Taking a shit is one of the best times to ponder life, and such opportunities are few and far between (unless, of course, one has diarrhea, in which case such opportunities are plentiful)." (Me)
  • "I was unusually tactful two days ago, and now I have to make up for that." (Me)
  • "I don't understand why they have chapels at airports. Do people have praying emergencies like they have bathroom emergencies?" (Me)
  • "I can't overstate what that does to my internal bullshit detectors." (Me)
  • "We pretend to offer a comprehensive and realistic picture of a material or megacluster formation in d-dimension." (the last line in an abstract that appeared on the cond-mat arXiv; this appears to be a very interesting example of a malaprop, as I believe the authors actually meant "attempt" rather than "pretend")
  • "It's 96%! I developed a theory of weak forces with less than that!" (Math professor in the show Numb3rs)
  • "I find thinking before speaking to be very inhibitive." (Me)
  • "I've definitely passed the obedient stage of my life." (Me)
  • "I can tolerate religious fanatics; I'm just disappointed that evolution hasn't gotten rid of them yet." (Me)
  • "I'm not here to contribute to this discussion; my purpose in this conversation is to make occasional snide remarks." (Me)
  • "I can't abide intolerant people. I think they should all be shot." (Me)
  • "He studies conformal mappings, and I study quasiconformal mappings, so clearly we have nothing in common." (Me)
  • "The depth to my sarcasm is boundless." (Me)
  • "I'm feeling especially neurotic today. Do you want to play?" (Me)
  • "The foundation of my life has been built with bitterness and sarcasm." (Me)
  • "I'm finding it very frustrating that people dressed better than I am keep asking me for money." (Me)
  • "I don't do things in a half-assed manner, but I will sometimes settle for three quarters of an ass." (Me)
  • "Sarcasm is not just an art. It's a way of life." (Me)
  • "Back then I was a child. Now I'm a child who knows a little physics." (Me, 2/28/04)
  • "Congrats on the award. I hope my sarcasm eventually gets me as far in life as yours has apparently gotten you." (Me)
  • "When I have disdain for something, I have to fight an often irresistable urge to express it." (Me)
  • "95% of all people hit by lightning are struck down within 2 blocks of home." (Me, although I don't currently remember why I thought this was a funny snarky comment; I wish I remembered what I was thinking; ah well...)
  • "I'm not going for the Jesus hairstyle; I'm going for the wookie hairstyle." (Me)
  • "Let the wookie win." (C3PO to R2D2, Star Wars [episode 4 or 5])
  • "My maturity level fluctuates between the ages of 3 and 17 depending on the phases of the moon, the hour of the day, and how much caffeine and sugar I have in my system." (Me)
  • "We interrupt this heated political discussion with a snide remark." (Me)
  • "You cannot develop a personality with physics alone, the rest of life must be worked in." (Richard Feynman, responding to a student's request for advice)
  • "Unless handled with tranquility this equation can result in considerable stress, ulcers and even death." (Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy)
  • "Anything that is in the world when you're born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works. Anything that's invented between when you're fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it. Anything invented after you're thirty-five is against the natural order of things." (Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt)
  • "There are three things in life at which I'm particularly bad: focus, succinctness, and tact." (Me)
  • "I'm trying to progress from very disheveled to slightly disheveled." (Me)
  • "My current objectives are as follows: (1) Smile more; (2) Don't trip; (3) Obsess less; and (4) Be less goal-oriented." (Me)
  • "The main conflict in life isn't good versus evil. It's fun versus boring." (Me)
  • "This particular poem was inspired by a combination of arrogance and caffeine." (Me)
  • "We usually honor the prices we quote." (Kinko's employee) [Postscript: I came back the next day, and they didn't honor the price they quoted.]
  • "It's hard to be properly indignant when you don't understand the insult." (Christopher Wittig, in a letter that appeared in the 10/03 issue of Computer Gaming World)
  • "English is just what we use to fill in between the equations." (attributed to H. David Politzer)
  • "I have systematically purged the earth of evil. I fear only sunlight and girls." (from a 1up.com ad and presumably originally from another source that I can't identify; it is supposedly from something/someone called 'The Average Gamer' that sounds vaguely familiar)
  • "And a 4.25 MB jpg file. Do you realize how much porn I had to delete to make room for it?" (Michael Ontiveros, on the color scanned .jpg of the espn article about ranking football teams with monkeys)
  • "If God wanted us to do mathematics, He would have given us more fingers and toes." (fake but realistic quote by George Bush)
  • "Grade inflation is an issue that is best not discussed with a student at Georgia Tech." (the opening sentence in a write-up of a group project on grade inflation in a mathematical modeling class I taught at GA Tech in spring 2004)
  • "All I know is he's folder number 405." (Anonymous Georgia Tech math professor, responding to a question I had about an interviewee for a faculty position)
  • "Doctor, can I have a double-strength placebo?" (Me)
  • "He's wearing spandex. He must be powerful." (Me)
  • "I am the type of person who---when confronted with a round hole---will apply a chainsaw liberally to a square peg just so I can prove that it will fit in the hole." (Me)
  • "Caution is the first step towards paranoia." (Me)
  • "I'm like Madonna. I only need one name." (Me)
  • "The best I can say is that I've had a few brushes with not being a loser." (Me)
  • "Foresight is not my forte." (Me)
  • "I was mocking you in the privacy of my own head." (Me)
  • "I have very little patience for certain things---such as other people." (Me)
  • "Why should I say something intelligent when it's so much more fun to say something snide?" (Me)
  • "I'm a little bit neurotic on my good days. On my bad days, I'm very neurotic." (Me)
  • "The feeling of confusion will pass." (Jing Xu)
  • "I got better at English when I started drinking." (Jing Xu)
  • "Do you think Mason is a good place to have babies?" (Jing Xu)
  • "Back then I was much more demanding in terms of wanting other people to understand that I understand. Needless to say that ego has been ripped apart, systematically chopped, minced, stomped upon, and squarshed into a pulpish goo. But I digress." (Jing Xu, expressing a sentiment that is rather common among former Caltech undergrads)
  • "I've been writing and have reached a critcal point of illiteracy." (Jing Xu)
  • "And, you need to come to Irvine. There's nothing here as far as I can tell." (Jing Xu, trying to convince me to visit her in Irvine)
  • "...professors ought to be shot at the age of fifty." (Torsten Carleman)
  • "I am sure there is also a Russian version of history. There always is." (Predrag Cvitanovic, in an e-mail sent to two Russian mathematicians and me)
  • "We're beatin' that fuckin' 6th inning shit to death. Do you want us to keep beatin' it?" (Mark Grace, Diamondbacks broadcaster, 4/30/04)
  • "Life is like a sewer. What you get out of it depends upon what you put into it." (Tom Lehrer)
  • "Ordinarily he was insane, but he had lucid moments when he was merely stupid." (Heinrich Heine)
  • "I'm a dumbass, and you can quote me on that!" (Me)
  • "Here's an interesting paradox: I always want to get work done, yet I never want to do work." (Me)
  • "Bravery is for people who aren't intelligent enough to be cowards." (Me, but almost certainly inspired by somebody else's quote)
  • "I come in two flavors: caffeinated and decaffeinated. This message was sent while caffeinated." (Me)
  • "If you're not sacrilegious, you're not trying hard enough." (Me)
  • "Sorry I missed church. I've been busy practicing witchcraft and becoming a lesbian." (Actual bumper sticker)
  • "So many gerbils, so little time." (Actual bumper sticker)
  • "I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize." (on a t-shirt I once saw on a Georgia Tech student)
  • "One round per level---that's just not good sex!" (a comment responding to one of my comments during a D & D session, 11/25/03)
  • "I didn't get where I am today by being intelligent." (Me)
  • "I'm sarcastic even when I'm in a good mood. It's just a kinder, gentler type of sarcasm." (Me)
  • "I wouldn't describe myself as overbearing. I would describe myself as hyper." (Me)
  • "It doesn't mean I'm not a mathematician. It means I'm a mathematician who actually wants to do something other than jerk off." (Me, on the fact that doing mathematics does not necessarily mean proving theorems)
  • "Rigor is sometimes useful, but it can also be a crutch that prevents you from solving problems or contributing scientifically." (Me)
  • "Mathematicians use the term 'natural' whenever possible to cover up their own feelings of inadequacy." (Me)
  • "I am fighting a losing battle with signal-to-noise ratio." (Me)
  • "I am dismayed that not a single string theory paper cites the Manual of the Planes, as many of the ideas contained therein seem to have inspired many of the notions that have been developed in string theory." (Me)
  • "Let me be clear: Umbrellas are to be used as bludgeoning devices first and protective gear second." (Me)
  • "Bluntness is a virtue. Unless you're a surgical instrument." (Ben Williamson)
  • "Dr. Porter? I could never imagine calling you that!" (One of my friends---a former staff member in Georgia Tech's math department---discussing being on a first-name basis with me but none of the other faculty members)
  • "There is no spork." (Me, inspired by The Matrix)
  • "I don't see what I stand to gain by growing up." (Me)
  • "I'm waiting to see a flyer advertising a 'Masturbate for Peace' rally. People seem to be getting together to do just about everything else for peace." (Me)
  • "I'm a theorist! I don't know how to deal with data!" (Me)
  • "If I can't get my physics published, at least I can demonstrate my wit to the entire physics community." (Me)
  • "If you're damned if you do and damned if you don't, then the Principle of Least Effort tells you that you shouldn't." (Me)
  • "In Los Angeles, traffic signals basically serve as a leading-order approximation." (Me)
  • "It may be wrong, but at least it's a new idea." (Important words said by several applied mathematicians)
  • "What is that? It looks horrible!" (The reaction of a random Berkeley undergrad upon seeing a journal article I was in the process of generalizing)
  • "It's nonlinear dynamics, and it is horrible." (My response to the above question)
  • "There was this one time, at math camp..." (Me, inspired by American Pie)
  • "Has anybody else noticed the strong correlation between being a mathematician and having an acute case of OCD?" (Me)
  • "Patience comes to those who wait." (UGCS Tip)
  • "I would long for the good old days if they hadn't sucked as much as they did." (Anonymous Caltech Student or Alum)
  • "Yeah, yeah, yeah: patience. How long will that take?" (Ed Gruberman, Tai Quan Leap)
  • "I'll join you in a couple minutes. First, I'll study some more." (a student of mine, popping his head in the door 15 minutes after the start of his class's final, 12/10/03)
  • "White man is a devil and the biggest devil amongst white men is Mason." (from the autobiography of Malcolm X)
  • "Back to you, Fuckers!" (Jim Carey, Bruce Almighty)
  • "A tan fades. A high score lasts forever." (from a Dave & Buster's advertisement)
  • "My inferiority complex is not as good as yours." (Steven Wright)
  • "If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to serve as a horrible warning." (Catherine Aird)
  • "Bisexuality immediately doubles your chances for a date on Saturday night." (Woody Allen)
  • "I can remember when the air was clean and sex was dirty." (George Burns)
  • "To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." (Theodore Roosevelt)
  • "It isn't premarital sex if you have no intention of getting married." ('Matt' [Dave?] Barry)
  • "This chaos is killing me." (David Bowie, "Hallo Spaceboy")
  • "Got enough guilt to start my own religion." (Tori Amos, "Crucify")
  • "Is that a parable or a very subtle joke?" (The Crash Test Dummies, "God Shuffled his Feet")
  • "This is the second female I've slain or murdered by proxy in the brief time since our adventure began, and I didn't particularly want to kill either one of them. Do you suspect an underlying metaphysical significance?" (a drow in Dissolution)
  • "Splendid! We must toast our homicidal designs with something stronger than juice." (...) "May we see the wine list, please?" (a drow in Dissolution)
  • "Obviously, you understand the fundamentals of illithid society," said Syrzan. "You probably also know that we prefer to dine on the brains of lesser sentients and that we share your own race's fondness for torture. Still, some of your folk will fare all right. I can't eat or flay everyone, can I?" (an alhoon [illithilich] in Dissolution)
  • "It's too sensitive and human for you." (Predrag Cvitanovic, answering my question about whether a certain movie was any good)
  • "We must preserve the world's supply of precious bodily fluids." (from Dr. Strangelove)
  • "Oh wow, that's so cool!!! And you came ahead of a lot of actually important articles!" (Amy Mucha, reacting to the Nature Science Update "official" e-mailing posting that mentioned their article about our random-walking ranking algorithm)

  • "Evolution is chaos with feedback." (Joseph Ford)
  • "To avoid getting mired in mathematical questions beyond human capabilities, perhaps you should stay closer to physics." (David Ruelle, "Conversations on Nonequilibrium Physics With an Extraterrestrial", Physics Today, May 2004)
  • "I don't care as long as you don't call me Dickhead." (Joel Franklin, after being asked by a student what he should be called)
  • "Don't get me wrong, I dig sluts. If only because sluts dig me, and pretty much everybody else has higher standards. But man can not live on sluts alone, thus my new heuristic." (Ben Williamson)
  • "Many people would list things such as height, spiders, snakes, or death by being set on fire - for top fears. My top fear is math and having to use math." (one of my math modeling students, Spring 2004, answering a question in the first homework assignment)
  • "One must still have chaos within oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star." (Friedrich Nietzsche)
  • "That which does not kill us makes us stronger." (Friedrich Nietzsche)
  • "And so I approached Miss Kelly's gravitational field and could feel my strings vibrating. All I knew was that I wanted to wrap my weak-gauge bosons around her gluons, slip through a wormhole, and do some quantum tunneling." (Woody Allen, "Strung Out")
  • "I could feel my coupling constant invade her weak field as I pressed my lips to her wet neutrinos." (Woody Allen, "Strung Out")
  • "If it weren't for the coffee, I'd have no identifiable personality whatsoever." (David Letterman)
  • "It is herein proposed that for the MA 4320 term paper, the subject of elliptic functions be researched." (The first line in one of my student's project proposals)
  • "God plays dice with the universe. But they're loaded dice. And the main objective of physics now is to find out by what rules were they loaded and how can we use them for our own ends." (Joseph Ford)
  • "Apart from the fact that I can't stand looking or listening to myself, I have no objection to this sort of thing." (David Ruelle)
  • "Solving the Navier-Stokes equation is like sex. It's possible that a week ago they found a better way to do it." (CNS Seminar speaker at Georgia Tech, 4/08/04)
  • "In Georgia, it's 'your Daddy.'" (a Georgia Tech professor, indicating the local term for 'academic father')
  • "This is a statement you can't really understand the way it's written." (a seminar speaker [who shall remain anonymous] concerning an argument he just wrote that constitutes a step in a proof)
  • "At the moment, it is all covered in darkness." (words of wisdom from a different seminar speaker talking about the general case of something he proved)
  • "Notice that I tried to make the introductory portion of my talk as long as possible... In the last 15 minutes, I'll have to hit hard." (later in the talk immediately above)
  • "There are lots of mistakes here---Not mistakes; error terms!" (later in the same talk)
  • "Unless you are the lead dog, the view never changes." (A Well-known Saying)
  • "When it comes to professors, the following happens with a nontrivial frequency: He/she will say one thing, write something else, mean a third thing. A fourth thing will turn out to be correct." (Me, adapting from Joel Franklin
  • "The brain is a wonderful organ; it starts working the moment you get up in the morning and does not stop until you get into the office." (Robert Frost)
  • "In the end, there is no capitalism without conscience, no wealth without character." (George W. Bush) [note: I'm using this statement to criticize Bush]
  • "In response to the statement that Bush is not that bad, I'd just like to point out that we'd be better off with a chimp as president. I'd even vote for the Ice Princess (Hillary) over King George II, although I'd prefer the chimp to her as well." (Another of my own quips, published in Creative Loafing)
  • "Mathematicians are like Frenchmen: whatever you say to them they translate into their own language, and forthwith it is something entirely different." (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)
  • "Incidentally, am I alone in finding the expression 'it turns out' to be incredibly useful? It allows you to make swift, succint, and authoritative connections between otherwise randomly unconnected statements without the trouble of explaining what your source or authority actually is. It's great. It's hugely better than its predecessors 'I read somewhere that...' or the craven 'they say that...' because it suggests not only that whatever flimsy bit of urban mythology you are passing on is actually based on brand new, ground breaking research, but that it is research in which you yourself were intimately involved. But again, with no actual authority anywhere in sight." (Douglas Adams, The Independent on Sunday, December 1999.)

  • "Social correctness has traditionally had nothing whatever to do with reason, logic, or physics." (Douglas Adams, "Tea")
  • "I know even less about handguns than I do about clothes. I'd be completely hopeless in Los Angeles." (Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt)
  • "The bits are all that remain of the original monastery, inhabited for a couple of centuries or so by a devout order of calligraphers and pederasts." (Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt)
  • "A learning experience is one of those things that says, 'You know that thing you just did? Don't do that.'" (Douglas Adams, interview in The Daily Nexus, 4/5/00)
  • "It's quicker, easier, and involves less licking." (Douglas Adams, on the benefits of speaking to his fans via e-mail)
  • "I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by." (Douglas Adams)
  • "Is it true? ..." (Jim Healy)
  • "Remember that every good friend was once a stranger" (unknown source)
  • "A certain fraction of them are crazy and can't teach anything." (One member [who shall remain nameless] of Berkeley's department of mathematics on the department's faculty as a whole)
  • "Every time I learn a student's name, I forget a fish." (David Starr Jordan, ichthyologist and first president of Stanford University)
  • "Anyone who quotes profits of a baseball club is missing the point. Under generally accepted accounting principles, I can turn a $4 million profit into a $2 million loss, and I can get every national accounting firm to agree with me." (Paul Beeston, then VP of Business Operations for the Blue Jays, about 1980)
  • "It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt." (often attributed to Mark Twain, but apparently this is an incorrect attribution)
  • "I honestly think it is better to be a failure at something you love than to be a success at something you hate." (George Burns)
  • "It's not that I don't know how to keep my mouth shut. I just actively elect not to exercise that knowledge." (Me)
  • "You can't spell 'analysis' without the word 'anal'." (Me)
  • "You can't spell 'assignment' without the word 'ass'." (Me)
  • "He doesn't look intimidating as much as just...I don't know...constipated." (Me)
  • "One in the hand is worth two in the bush." (Trite saying that gets an entirely new meaning when the topic of conversation is masturbation.)

  • "I'm not a totally selfish fuck, just mostly." (Name Withheld)
  • "I've been good and I've been bad, but common sense I've never had." (New Order, "Shellshock")
  • "I'll take my clothes off. That will be more revealing." (Elliot Lieb's response to Bill Miller's comment concerning part of the former's talk that "Some ways [of derivation] are more revealing than others.")
  • "Finish your argument. I have an objection about this." (Jean Bellissard, 10/16/03, previewing his strong objection towards the end of a talk by Bob Dorfman)
  • "Cosmologists are often wrong, but never in doubt." (Lev Landau)
  • "His life shows that his unruly spirit found expression, joy, and satisfaction in scientific thinking and creation." (Einar Carl Hille, writing about Thomas Hakon Gronwall)
  • "It seems absurd to consider macroscopic objects such as apples and pears as identical particles in different states of quantum fruitness (P)." (Michael Berry and Jonathan Robbins, "Quantum Indistinguishability: Spin-statistics without Relativity or Field Theory?")
  • "We submit to the majority because we have to. But we are not compelled to call our attitude of subjection a posture of respect." (Ambrose Bierce)
  • "There are four kinds of Homicide: felonious, excusable, justifiable, and praiseworthy." (Ambrose Bierce)
  • "The small part of ignorance that we arrange and classify we give the name of knowledge." (Ambrose Bierce)
  • "If you make people think they're thinking, they'll love you; but if you really make them think, they'll hate you." (Don Marquis)
  • "Only wimps specialize in the general case. Real scientists pursue examples." (Sir Michael V. Berry, adapting a remark from Beresford Parlett)
  • "The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless." (Steven Weinberg)
  • "Everything of importance has been said before by someone who did not discover it." (Whitehead's Law, as quoted by Max Dresden at the beginning of his biography of Kramers)
  • "A fact is a simple statement that everyone believes. It is innocent, unless found guilty. A hypothesis is a novel suggestion that no one wants to believe. It is guilty, until found effective. (Edward Teller)
  • "No endeavor that is worthwhile is simple in prospect; if it is right, it will be simple in retrospect." (Edward Teller)
  • "Two paradoxes are better than one; they may even suggest a solution." (Edward Teller)
  • "Something is probably wrong, but I don't have time for that now; I need to pack." (One of my students, commenting on a nonsensical result he obtained for the last part of the last problem of the last homework set of the semester in a class I was TAing.)
  • "If you can't find it, it can just as well not exist." (A mathematician [who shall remain anonymous] explaining why a result he was presenting in his talk was new)
  • "There is a natural law. Physics tells us, that for every action, there must be an equal and opposite reaction. They hate us, we hate them, they hate us back. And so, here we are, victims of mathematics." (Londo Mollari, A Voice in the Wilderness)
  • "Placing one's faith on a failing stock can be no less disastrous than placing one's faith on a down-trending diety." (Harlan Ellison, "Corpse")
  • "The suspicion has been growing on me of late that Columbia University is registering not human beings, but chacma baboons. And they all seem to have cars." (Harlan Ellison, "Corpse")
  • "The great tragedy of my life is that in my search for the Holy Grail everyone calls True Love, I see myself as Zorro, a romantic and mysterious highwayman--and the women I desire see me as Porky Pig." (Harlan Ellison, "Grail")
  • "Now isn't that a good story. And fuck you, too." (Harlan Ellison, "Ecowareness")
  • "The end of this paper is in sight, and we must start drawing conclusions." (Giorgio Mantica, "Quantum algorithmic integrability: The metaphor of classical polygonal billiards")
  • "Tact is the art of lying to stay out of trouble." (Me)
  • "When your car's GPS receiver starts giving you directions in Ebonics, you know you're in a bad neighborhood." (adapted from a comment I once heard from a resident of the greater Atlanta area; I know this is a bit insensitive but it's funny. Please keep in mind that what I find funny and what I believe are not necessarily the same. My sense of humor is sometimes quite politically incorrect.)
  • "In a large metropolis, you can tell whether or not the area you're in is dangerous based on whether the Starbucks density is below some critical threshhold." (Me)
  • "If an infinite number of rednecks, riding in an infinite number of pick-up trucks, fire an infinite number of shotgun rounds at an infinite number of highway signs, they will eventually produce all the world's great literary works in Braille." (Anonymous)
  • "Nothing defines humans better than their willingness to do irrational things in the pursuit of phenomenally unlikely payoffs. This is the principle behind lotteries, dating, and religion." (Scott Adams)
  • "Every great scientific truth goes through three stages. First, people say it conflicts with the Bible. Next they say it had been discovered before. Lastly they say they always believed it." (Louis Agassiz)
  • "... Candidates should have all sorts of wonderful qualities in addition to demonstrated ability ..." (excerpt from a University of Maryland job advertisement for an academic position)
  • "If man is made in God's image, then God must be a chimpanzee." (Allan Wilson, a UCLA professor)
  • "Bathroom closed due to stripping." (Signs once found on the bathroom doors on the 6th floor of Rhodes Hall at Cornell)
  • "I remind me of myself less than I did before." (Me)
  • "These days, I think I spend close to one fifth of my work day kissing up to people." (Me)
  • "The fundamental difference between fantasy and science fiction is that science fiction has a lot more anal probing." (Me)
  • "I am sitting in the smallest room of my house. I have your review before me. In a moment it shall be behind me." (Max Reger, composer)
  • "A mathematician is a machine for turning coffee into theorems." (Paul Erdös)
  • "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)
  • "Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler." (Albert Einstein)
  • "The formulation of a problem is often more essential than its solution, which may be merely a matter of mathematical or experimental skill." (Albert Einstein)
  • "This work was not supported by any military agency." (Sir Michael Berry, the last line in his seminal work on geometric phases)
  • "Friends are those into whose souls you've looked, and therein glimpsed a oneness with yourself. They are a part of you, and you are a part of them. They own a piece of you." (Harlan Ellison)
  • "If you don't like the world in which you live, you should create one of your own." (Me)
  • "For me to think before I speak would require a fundamental shift in my personality that I am unwilling to endure." (Me)
  • "Throughout my entire life, people have suggested that I keep my mouth shut. I've been ignoring this sound advice for years, so why should I stop now?" (Me)
  • "I've found the link between apes and civilized men--it's us." (anthropologist Konrad Lorenz)
  • "[Physical quantity] is usually--which really means always (in cases of practical interest)--zero." (Anonymous Physics Professor)
  • "As always, when we are not able to calculate something, we give it a name." (the same Anonymous Physics Professor)
  • "I chose applied mathematics over pure mathematics in order to minimize my dealings with the rigor gestapo." (Me)
  • "When the news media reported that they were changing Florida from Gore to undecided, I checked to make sure I was wearing a condom." (Bill Maher)
  • "I didn't become a mathematician for the sole purpose of engaging in intellectual masturbation." (Me)
  • "I'm a theorist! I get paid to drink coffee and masturbate!" (Me)
  • "For every problem you cannot solve, there is also a simpler problem you cannot solve." (A Famous Mathematician)
  • "Sometimes it seems like life has bitten you in the ass when it really has just taken a little nibble." (Me)
  • "For no apparent reason, there is an increasing tendency for people to disavow knowledge of my existence." (Me)
  • "Failure is not an option, but success is not a possibility." (A fellow Techer)
  • "It must be trivial. It just requires a moment of concentration." (A mathematician discussing a conjecture he hasn't yet proven during a talk he was giving at a conference.)
  • "This is a conjecture that is 80% a theorem." (The same mathematician discussing one of his results that was somewhat further along in its verification.)
  • "Now, how do you do prove this... I won't tell you." (The same mathematician changing his mind about what he was going to discuss during his talk.)
  • "It's less than or equal to really 2, but I'll put 4." (The same mathematician changing one of his bounds in the middle of his talk "to be safe.")
  • "...which is an expression of consecration of ``angular momentum''." (written by one of my students working on a draft of a paper; this student, of course, meant 'conservation' of angular momentum)
  • "The function of an expert is not to be more right than other people, but to be wrong for more sophisticated reasons." (David Butler)
  • "These people want to use the vagina as a telescope through which to view the world. That is not its natural function; it's too narrow." (Ernst Mach on Freud's [and followers'] psychoanalysis)
  • "In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is." (Yogi Berra)
  • "When you come to a fork in the road, take it." (Yogi Berra)
  • "Now you listen to me. I'm going to say this again. I did not--have--sexual--relations--with that woman. I never told anyone to lie, not a single time--never. These allegations are false. Now I need to get back to work for the American people." (Bill Clinton)
  • "Perversion is expressed as divergence from the norm. You'll find I diverge from the norm in all categories but basic anatomy." (Ben Williamson)
  • "You can't kick someone in the nuts and say 'oops.'" (Ben Williamson)
  • "Sadly, if you ever see me on anything, it'll probably be The Smoking Gun, next to some ridiculous crime report resulting from me forgetting to take my meds." (Ben Williamson)
  • "I have to get really pissed off...to resort to physical violence, given how likely I am to lose..." (Me)
  • "Sometimes I feel as though the act of living is the same as pouring acid on the paper cut of my soul." (Me)
  • "Next time, I promise to write to you when I'm sober." (The last line in a long, rambling e-mail from one of my friends.)
  • "Please don't jump. Life will be better." (actual sign posted on a Japanese bridge)
  • "Ambition is a poor excuse for not having sense enough to be lazy." (Charlie McCarthy)
  • "The Tokyo skyline is a 'floating jumble of electric Lego, studded with odd shapes you somehow wouldn't see elsewhere, as if you'd need special Tokyo add-ons to build this at home." (William Gibson, Pattern Recognition, as quoted in Wired)
  • "Experience is that marvelous thing that enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again." (F. P. Jones)
  • "I'm a simple man. All I want is enough sleep for two normal men, enough whiskey for three, and enough women for four." (Joel Rosenberg, The Warrior Lives)
  • "You're only innocent for about ten years. You can be cynical for a lifetime." (Me)
  • "In place of infinity, we usually put some really big number, like 15." (Anonymous Computer Science Professor)
  • "It is always the best policy to tell the truth, unless, of course, you are an exceptionally good liar." (Jerome K. Jerome)
  • "Man invented language to satisfy his deep need to complain." (Lily Tomlin)
  • "Middle age is when you've met so many people that every new person you meet reminds you of someone else." (Ogden Nash)
  • "No poor bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making other bastards die for their country." (George Patton)
  • "Numbers are like people; torture them enough, and they'll tell you anything." (Anonymous)
  • "Science keeps moving us away from the Apes. Of course, if one wants to be an ape, one objects to the movement." (Anonymous)
  • "People don't ask for facts in making up their minds. They would rather have one good, soul-satisfying emotion than a dozen facts." (Robert Keith Leavitt)
  • "Sex is hereditary. If your parents never had it, chances are you won't either." (Joseph Fischer)
  • "The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you've got it made." (Groucho Marx)
  • "Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die." (Mel Brooks)
  • "Sometimes it is more important to listen to that which is not said rather than to that which is said." (Lots of people)
  • "When the student is ready, the teacher will come." (Lots of people)
  • "It may seem like I goof off 100% of the time, but it's actually much closer to 80%." (Me)
  • "I felt that writing wasn't sufficiently lucrative, so I decided on a career in mathematics." (Me)
  • "My connection with the outside world is tenuous at best." (Me)
  • "Interesting... but a mistake." (Me, imagining that this had been said by a doctor upon my birth)
  • "If you laugh at yourself often enough, you might make the world think you understand its private joke." (Me)
  • "Blessed are they who can laugh at themselves, for they shall never cease to be amused." (Anonymous)
  • "I get my kicks above the waistline, Sunshine." (Murray Head, One Night in Bangkok)
  • "My ocarina is bigger than yours." (Me, inspired by The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
  • "Life is like a used vacuum cleaner. Sometimes it sucks, and sometimes it doesn't." (Me. One can also substitute "blows" for "sucks" as well as speak of things that are like new vacuum cleaners, which always suck.)
  • "Life is like a toilet. Take heed not to get flushed." (Me, after optimizing the line back and forth with a friend)
  • "We did not fail. We merely circumvented success!" (A politician in an old beer commercial.)
  • "I'm not insignificant; it only seems that way." (Me)
  • "What are you, Colonel Sandurz? Chicken?" (Dark Helmet, Spaceballs)
  • "Go back to the golf course and work on your putz." (President Scroob, Spaceballs)
  • "It's Megamaid! She's gone from suck to blow!" (Colonel Sanders, Spaceballs)
  • "Don't shoot Mongo. It will only make him mad." (from Blazing Saddles)
  • "We spend the first twelve months of our children's lives teaching them to walk and talk and the next twelve telling them to sit down and shut up." (Phyllis Diller)
  • "When the President does it, that means it is not illegal." (Richard Nixon)
  • "I don't like reporters. Sometimes they write what I say and not what I mean." (Pedro Guerrero, former Los Angeles Dodger)
  • "First I think: 'I hope they don't hit it to me.' Then I think: 'I hope they don't hit it to Sax.'" (Pedro Guerrero, on playing third base)
  • "You can sum it up in one word: You never know." (Joaquin "One Tough Dominican!" Andujar)
  • "If at first you don't succeed, run away as fast as possible." (Me)
  • "Look at this from my point of view. I am the one who's normal. Everybody else is weird." (Me)
  • "I'm going to go home tonight, put a coin under my pillow, and pray that the clue fairy comes and visits my students." (Me)
  • "I'm going to go home tonight, put my homework under my pillow, and pray for a visit from the clue fairy." (Me, in a variant of the above that I used when I was in college)
  • "Let me be the one you want to dismember." (Tom Lehrer, "The Masochism Tango")
  • "When correctly view, everything is lewd. I could tell you things about Peter Pan and the Wizard of Oz--there's a dirty old man!" (Tom Lehrer, "Smut")
  • "To forgive is human; to punish, divine." (Me)
  • Person A: "To be great is to be misunderstood." ------- Person B: "Huh?" (Me, although I suspect tons of variants of this have been used before)
  • Oleg Kogon: "I heard he's a really deep guy." ------- Me: "Why? Because he studies field theory?"
  • "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former." (Albert Einstein)
  • "I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours." (Stephen F. Roberts)
  • "Fighting for peace is like fucking for virginity." (Unknown)
  • "And you may ask yourself: 'Am I right; am I wrong?' And you may say to yourself: 'My God! What have I done!'" (The Talking Heads, "Once in a Lifetime")
  • "Maybe you'll dance the Funky Chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary." (Baz Luhrmann, "Everybody's Free to Wear Sunscreen")
  • "Never feel guilty about anything ever. Feeling guilty is just another way of saying, 'I'm your bitch!'" (Buzz Turdman, "Everybody's Free to Use Deodorant")
  • "Procrastination [Techers should substitute the word 'flicking'] is an art, not a science." (Me)
  • "Go to abstinence rallies and ask people, 'Who wants to fuck?'" (Buzz Turdman, "Everbody's Free to Use Deodorant")
  • "If it were proven that there is no God, there would be no religion... But also if it were proven that there is a God, there would be no religion..." (Ursula K. LeGuin, The Left Hand of Darkness)
  • "I do not know with what weapons World War 3 will be fought, but World War 4 will be fought with sticks and stones." (Albert Einstein)
  • "It's called natural selection. Those who don't have it die, and I'm happy about that." (Bill Maher on common sense, Politically Incorrect)
  • "The advantage of a bad memory is that one enjoys several times the same good things for the first time." (Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche)
  • "I don't know. I've never smoked artificial turf." (Former pitcher Bill "Spaceman" Lee, when asked if he preferred grass or artifical turf. This quote is sometimes also attributed to Tug McGraw.)
  • "I am a victim of circumcision." (Pirates coach Pete Vukovich on being ejected from a game.)
  • "If the system is changed to legalize what has been defined as unlawful, then opportunities for cheating will plummet." (From an article that appeared several years ago in The Sporting News)
  • "I sent [John Kruk] one of those fruit and nut baskets when he was in the hospital. I don't know if he'll eat the fruit, but I know he'll appreciate the nuts." (Former pitcher Larry Anderson, after John Kruk had a cancerous testicle removed.)