Quotations

Some of my favourite quotations. Click the source link for further and related information.

"It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit."
possibly Harry Truman?

This is the most famous and pleasing version of the quotation, and is generally attributed to Harry Truman. However, Benjamin Jowett, about a century earlier, had said, “The way to get things done is not to mind who gets the credit for doing them”.

I suppose this rather nicely illustrates the point.

"An apostrophe is the difference between a business that knows its shit and a business that knows it's shit."
Kathryn Williams

A lovely example, if not always appropriate for polite company! See also this discussion.

"Art without engineering is dreaming. Engineering without art is calculating."
"Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened."
"Curiosity is simply the first derivative of knowledge."
Paul Graham

From Paul’s article “Great Hackers” in The Best Software Writing I, edited by Joel Spolsky.

"If we knew what we were doing, it wouldn't be called research, would it?"
possibly Albert Einstein

This is very widely attributed to Einstein on the web, though there’s no real evidence to attribute it to him, or indeed to anyone else. There’s a nice reference on this page to a variant from an anonymous source: “If we knew what we were doing, we wouldn’t need research”.

"Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity."
known as Hanlon's Razor

So who was Hanlon? See my blog post for more info.

"Never pay any attention to what critics say. Remember that a statue has never been set up in honour of a critic."
"Orville Wright didn't have a pilot's license."
Gordon MacKenzie

from “Orbiting the Giant Hairball”

"People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like."
possibly Abraham Lincoln

Usually attributed (but probably incorrectly) to Abraham Lincoln.

"There's a set of rules that anything that was in the world when you were born is normal and natural. Anything invented between when you were 15 and 35 is new and revolutionary and exciting, and you'll probably get a career in it. Anything invented after you're 35 is against the natural order of things."
"You wouldn't worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do."
"No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavors to establish."
Hume's Maxim

From David Hume’s essay, “Of Miracles”.

He goes on to say that even in that case, you should subtract the two likelihoods to establish the level of assurance you can still have that the miracle took place.

"If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room."
Anon

I love this one, and it has guided my career, or what passes for one, on numerous occasions.

"The sun never asks the earth for thanks."
Hafiz

I like this simple version, though it’s actually a misquotation.

Daniel Ladinsky’s ‘The Gift’, a book of translations of poems by Hafiz, includes the following:

Even
After
All this time
The sun never says to the earth,

“You owe Me.”

Look
What happens
With a love like that,
It lights the
Whole Sky.

"The elementary rules of logic...\[are\] that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and that what can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence."
"The public interest is not necessarily the same as what interests the public."
"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."
"Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities."
Voltaire.

Actually, he said ‘Certainement qui est en droit de vous rendre absurde est en droit de vous rendre injuste.’, which is not quite the same thing, but the above version is the better known.

"When the facts change, I change my mind."
John Maynard Keynes

As a piece of incidental trivia, as a student in Cambridge, I lived in the room where Keynes was supposed to have been born.

"You know you have reached perfection in design, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to be taken away."