Fantastic Quotes About Math

13 06 2013

“Prime numbers are what is left when you have taken all the patterns away. I think prime numbers are like life. They are very logical but you could never work out the rules, even if you spent all your time thinking about them.”
Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

“I’ve got a few ideas,” (Amy) admitted. “But I don’t know where we’re going in the long term. I mean – have you ever thought about what this ultimate treasure could be?”
“Something cool.” (Dan)
“Oh, that’s real helpful. I mean, what could make somebody the most powerful Cahill in history? And why thirty-nine clues?”
Dan shrugged. “Thirty-nine is a sweet number. It’s thirteen times three. It’s also the sum of five prime numbers in a row – 3,5,7,11,13. And if you add the first three powers of three, 3 to the first, 3 to the second, and s to the third, you get thirty-nine.”
Amy stared at him. “How did you know that?”
“What do you mean? It’s obvious.”
Rick Riordan, The Maze of Bones

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

“Philosophy [nature] is written in that great book which ever is before our eyes — I mean the universe — but we cannot understand it if we do not first learn the language and grasp the symbols in which it is written. The book is written in mathematical language, and the symbols are triangles, circles and other geometrical figures, without whose help it is impossible to comprehend a single word of it; without which one wanders in vain through a dark labyrinth.”
Galileo Galilei

“Statement: A girl and a boy jump into a river. The boy swims over to the girl and says, “God, it’s cold.”
Question: What’s the probability they will kiss?”
Jenny Downham, You Against Me

“It has become almost a cliché to remark that nobody boasts of ignorance of literature, but it is socially acceptable to boast ignorance of science and proudly claim incompetence in mathematics.”
Richard Dawkins

“Mathematics expresses values that reflect the cosmos, including orderliness, balance, harmony, logic, and abstract beauty.”
Deepak Chopra

“The formulation of the problem is often more essential than its solution, which may be merely a matter of mathematical or experimental skill.”
Albert Einstein

“It is the story that matters not just the ending.”
Paul Lockhart, A Mathematician’s Lament: How School Cheats Us Out of Our Most Fascinating and Imaginative Art Form

“It is impossible to be a mathematician without being a poet in soul.”
― Sophia Kovalevskaya

“The only reason I don’t know more about love is because there just isn’t more to know. In fact, I’ve reduced love to a mathematical formula: Hdgk(X)=H2k(X,Q)∩Hk,k(X). Actually, that’s not right. That’s the statement piece of the Hodge conjecture, but I’m sure you already knew that.
Jarod Kintz, The Days of Yay are Here! Wake Me Up When They’re Over.

“The vast majority of us imagine ourselves as like literature people or math people. But the truth is that the massive processor known as the human brain is neither a literature organ or a math organ. It is both and more.”
John Green

“A mathematician is a device for turning coffee into theorems”
Paul Erdos

“The accumulation of birthdays is the leading cause of death in the United States and other large land masses. Now while that may not be 100% accurate, it is at least 88% accurate. Actually, the last sentence itself might not have been 100% accurate, but I’m 88% sure it was. Maybe I should just brush up on fractions and percentages before making statements that are liable to hurt the funeral industry, because if birthdays aren’t killing people then it’s bad for the mortality business. And if you can’t trust somebody to die, then you can’t trust somebody. But I’m somebody you can trust. I’m at least 88% trustworthy, at least 88% of the time. 
Jarod Kintz, At even one penny, this book would be overpriced. In fact, free is too expensive, because you’d still waste time by reading it.


“I can see patterns in events, and behaviors; in mathematics, I follow slower”
Jacqueline Carey, Kushiel’s Chosen


“Pray tell us, what’s your favorite number?”…
“Shiva jumped up to the board, uninvited, and wrote 10,213,223″…
“And pray, why would this number interest us?”
“It is the only number that describes itself when you read it, ‘One zero, two ones, three twos, two threes’.”
Abraham Verghese, Cutting for Stone

“When things get too complicated, it sometimes makes sense to stop and wonder: Have I asked the right question?”
Enrico Bombieri

“No mathematician in the world would bother making these senseless distinctions: 2 1/2 is a “mixed number ” while 5/2 is an “improper fraction.” They’re EQUAL for crying out loud. They are the exact same numbers and have the exact same properties. Who uses such words outside of fourth grade?”
Paul Lockhart, A Mathematician’s Lament: How School Cheats Us Out of Our Most Fascinating and Imaginative Art Form


“I’ll tell you once,
and I’ll tell you again.
There’s always a prime
between n and 2n.”
Paul Erdos, Topics in the Theory of Numbers


“Yes, but you need to learn your maths.”
“I don’t need to, really. I already know how to count to a hundred. And I’m sure I’ll never need more than a hundred of anything.”
Lisa Kleypas, Love in the Afternoon


“Infinite is a meaningless word: except – it states / The mind is capable of performing / an endless process of addition.”
Louis Zukofsky


“On a plaque attached to the NASA deep space probe we [human beings] are described in symbols for the benefit of any aliens who might meet the spacecraft as “bilaterly symmetrical, sexually differentiated bipeds, located on one of the outer spiral arms of the Milky Way, capable of recognizing the prime numbers and moved by one extraordinary quality that lasts longer than all our other urges—curiosity.”
David Wells


“Dreams are what guide us, art is what defines us, math is what makes it all possible, and love is what lights our way.”
Mike Norton

“The best way to be appreciative for your life is to live it; don’t die for any other reason but love. Dreams are what guide us, art is what defines us, math is makes it all possible, and love is what lights our way.”
Mike Norton, White Mountain

“…now Eli was my new neighbor. Which was fine with me because I sucked at Math. Math and I were not on speaking terms.”
Shelly Crane, Consume

“When a student comes and asks, “Should I become a mathematician?” the answer should be no. If you have to ask, you shouldn’t even ask.”
Paul Halmos


“What a shame,” signed the Dodecahedron. “They’re so very useful. Why, did you know that if a beaver two feet long with a tail a foot and a half long can build a dam twelve feet high and six feet wide in two days, all you would need to build Boulder Dam is a beaver sixty-eight feet long with a fifty-one-foot tail?”

“Where would you find a beaver that big?” grumbled the Humbug as his pencil point snapped.

“I’m sure I don’t know,” he replied, “but if you did, you’d certainly know what to do with him.”

“That’s absurd,” objected Milo, whose head was spinning from all the numbers and questions.

“That may be true,” he acknowledged, “but it’s completely accurate, and as long as the answer is right, who cares if the question is wrong? If you want sense, you’ll have to make it yourself.”
Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth

“God has the Big Book, the beautiful proofs of mathematical theorems are listed here.”
Paul Erdos

“‎”There are two ways to do great mathematics. The first is to be smarter than everybody else. The second way is to be stupider than everybody else — but persistent.”
Raoul Bott

“Doing mathematics should always mean finding patterns and crafting beautiful and meaningful explanations.”
Paul Lockhart, A Mathematician’s Lament: How School Cheats Us Out of Our Most Fascinating and Imaginative Art Form

“Some people believe in imaginary friends. I believe in imaginary numbers.”
R.M. ArceJaeger

“Math is like water. It has a lot of difficult theories, of course, but its basic logic is very simple. Just as water flows from high to low over the shortest possible distance, figures can only flow in one direction. You just have to keep your eye on them for the route to reveal itself. That’s all it takes. You don’t have to do a thing. Just concentrate your attention and keep your eyes open, and the figures make everything clear to you. In this whole, wide world, the only thing that treats me so kindly is math.”
Haruki Murakami, 1Q84

“I think scientists have a valid point when they bemoan the fact that it’s socially acceptable in our culture to be utterly ignorant of math, whereas it is a shameful thing to be illiterate.”
Jennifer Ouellette, The Calculus Diaries: How Math Can Help You Lose Weight, Win in Vegas, and Survive a Zombie Apocalypse

“The greatest mathematics has the simplicity and inevitableness of supreme poetry and music, standing on the borderland of all that is wonderful in Science, and all that is beautiful in Art.”
Robert Turnbull

“The point about zero is that we do not need to use it in the operation of daily life. No one goes out to buy zero fish.”
Alfred North Whitehead

“Another mistaken notion connected with the law of large numbers is the idea that an event is more or less likely to occur because it has or has not happened recently. The idea that the odds of an event with a fixed probability increase or decrease depending on recent occurrences of the event is called the gambler’s fallacy. For example, if Kerrich landed, say, 44 heads in the first 100 tosses, the coin would not develop a bias towards the tails in order to catch up! That’s what is at the root of such ideas as “her luck has run out” and “He is due.” That does not happen. For what it’s worth, a good streak doesn’t jinx you, and a bad one, unfortunately , does not mean better luck is in store.”
Leonard Mlodinow, The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives

“Be honest: did you actually read [the above geometric proof]? Of course not. Who would want to?

The effect of such a production being made over something so simple is to make people doubt their own intuition. Calling into question the obvious by insisting that it be ‘rigorously proved’ … is to say to a student ‘Your feelings and ideas are suspect. You need to think and speak our way.”
Paul Lockhart, A Mathematician’s Lament: How School Cheats Us Out of Our Most Fascinating and Imaginative Art Form

“Senator, I make it a point never to do math in public.”
― Paul W.

“There are infinite numbers between 0 and 1.”
John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

“He walked straight out of college into the waiting arms of the Navy.

They gave him an intelligence test. The first question on the math part had to do with boats on a river: Port Smith is 100 miles upstream of Port Jones. The river flows at 5 miles per hour. The boat goes through water at 10 miles per hour. How long does it take to go from Port Smith to Port Jones? How long to come back?

Lawrence immediately saw that it was a trick question. You would have to be some kind of idiot to make the facile assumption that the current would add or subtract 5 miles per hour to or from the speed of the boat. Clearly, 5 miles per hour was nothing more than the average speed. The current would be faster in the middle of the river and slower at the banks. More complicated variations could be expected at bends in the river. Basically it was a question of hydrodynamics, which could be tackled using certain well-known systems of differential equations. Lawrence dove into the problem, rapidly (or so he thought) covering both sides of ten sheets of paper with calculations. Along the way, he realized that one of his assumptions, in combination with the simplified Navier Stokes equations, had led him into an exploration of a particularly interesting family of partial differential equations. Before he knew it, he had proved a new theorem. If that didn’t prove his intelligence, what would?

Then the time bell rang and the papers were collected. Lawrence managed to hang onto his scratch paper. He took it back to his dorm, typed it up, and mailed it to one of the more approachable math professors at Princeton, who promptly arranged for it to be published in a Parisian mathematics journal.

Lawrence received two free, freshly printed copies of the journal a few months later, in San Diego, California, during mail call on board a large ship called the U.S.S. Nevada. The ship had a band, and the Navy had given Lawrence the job of playing the glockenspiel in it, because their testing procedures had proven that he was not intelligent enough to do anything else.”
Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon

“My birthday is coming up. I was born on March 5th, 1982. Humans have come a long way since then—nearly 30 years, if my math is good. And my math better be good, because if my math’s no good, what’s that leave? I mean aside from English, art, science, social studies, history, geography, P.E., recess, and of course, lunch.
Jarod Kintz, At even one penny, this book would be overpriced. In fact, free is too expensive, because you’d still waste time by reading it.

“In any case, do you really think kids even want something that is relevant to their daily lives? You think something practical like compound interest is going to get them excited? People enjoy fantasy, and that is just what mathematics can provide — a relief from daily life, an anodyne to the practical workaday world.”
Paul Lockhart, A Mathematician’s Lament: How School Cheats Us Out of Our Most Fascinating and Imaginative Art Form

“So how does one go about proving something like this? It’s not like being a lawyer, where the goal is to persuade other people; nor is it like a scientist testing a theory. This is a unique art form within the world of rational science. We are trying to craft a “poem of reason” that explains fully and clearly and satisfies the pickiest demands of logic, while at the same time giving us goosebumps.”
Paul Lockhart, A Mathematician’s Lament: How School Cheats Us Out of Our Most Fascinating and Imaginative Art Form 

“There is a largeness about mathematics that transcends race and time; mathematics may humbly help in the market-place, but it also reaches to the stars.”
Robert Turnbull

“Incompetence in mathematics is no proof of brilliance. You must be ignorant of science and geography as well. That is the gold standard of American education.”
Bauvard, The Prince Of Plungers

“Why don’t we want our children to learn to do mathematics? Is it that we don’t trust them, that we think it’s too hard? We seem to feel that they are capable of making arguments and coming to their own conclusions about Napoleon. Why not about triangles?”
Paul Lockhart, A Mathematician’s Lament: How School Cheats Us Out of Our Most Fascinating and Imaginative Art Form

“I’m 30% in love, and if I ever rise to 70%, then I’ll be 100% in love. But I’ll still be mathematically challenged.
Jarod Kintz, Whenever You’re Gone, I’m Here For You

“Here’s the thing. Math and I broke up two years ago, and now whenever we get together it’s just weird and awkward for both of us.”
Sariah Wilson, The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back

“In life two negatives don’t make a positive. Double negatives turn positive only in math and formal logic. In life things just get worse and worse and worse.”
Robert McKee, Story: Style, Structure, Substance, and the Principles of Screenwriting

“Oh, figures!’ answered Ned. ‘You can make figures do whatever you want.”
Jules Verne, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea

“The language of categories is affectionately known as “abstract nonsense,” so named by Norman Steenrod. This term is essentially accurate and not necessarily derogatory: categories refer to “nonsense” in the sense that they are all about the “structure,” and not about the “meaning,” of what they represent.”
Paolo Aluffi, Algebra: Chapter 0 

“Looking at numbers as groups of rocks may seem unusual, but actually it’s as old as math itself. The word “calculate” reflects that legacy — it comes from the Latin word calculus, meaning a pebble used for counting. To enjoy working with numbers you don’t have to be Einstein (German for “one stone”), but it might help to have rocks in your head.”
Steven H. Strogatz, The Joy of x: A Guided Tour of Math, from One to Infinity

“Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty—a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture, without appeal to any part of our weaker nature, without the gorgeous trappings of painting or music, yet sublimely pure, and capable of a stern perfection such as only the greatest art can show.”
Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy

“He doesn’t seem to mind at all that he’s stupid about math.”
Wendy Lichtman, Secrets, Lies, and Algebra




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