“Things like linear algebra, group theory, and probability have so many uses throughout science that learning them is like installing a firmware upgrade to your brain — and even the math you don’t use will stretch you in helpful ways.”
“I like mathematics because it is not human and has nothing particular to do with this planet or with the whole accidental universe — because, like Spinoza’s God, it won’t love us in return.”
Bertrand Russell (1872—1970).
“I knew a mathematician who said ‘I do not know as much as God. But I know as much as God knew at my age’.”
“Now, you might be impatient to actually see the master equation, but that would be rash. The true master doesn’t need to see the master equation. It sounds like a Zen proverb, but it’s true. The raw beginner in mathematics wants to see the solutions of an equation. The more advanced student is content to prove that the solution exists. But the master is content to prove that the equation exists.”
“There’s a lot of room in infinity for shit to get fucked up.”
Abstract algebra professor
“It’s possible to prove that no three-scalar parametrization of 3D orientation exists that doesn’t suck, for some suitably mathematically rigorous definition of “suck”.”
“The goal of physicists is to find a use for every branch of mathematics. The goal of mathematicians is to invent a new field of mathematics that has absolutely no practical use.”
“Mathematics is the Queen of Science but she isn’t very Pure; she keeps having babies by handsome young upstarts and various frog princes.”
Donald Kingsbury (In “psychohistorical crisis”, 2001)
“One geometry cannot be more true than another; it can only be more convenient. Geometry is not true, it is advantageous.”
Robert T. Pirsig. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
« Arithmétique ! Algèbre ! Géometrie ! Trinité grandiose ! Triangle lumineux ! Celui qui ne vous a pas connues est un insensé ! »
Lautréamont, Les chants de Maldoror
“Arithmetic! Algebra! Geometry! Awe-inspiring trinity! Luminous triangle! He who has not known you is a fool! He would deserve the ordeal of the greatest of tortures; for there is blind disdain in his ignorant indifference; but he who knows you and appreciates you no longer wants the goods of the earth and is satisfied with your magical delights; and, borne on your sombre wings, wishes only to rise in effortless flight, constructing as he does a rising spiral, towards the spherical gate of the heavens. Earth only offers him illusions and moral phantasmagoria, but you, concise mathematics, by the rigorous sequence of your unshakable propositions and the consistency of your iron rules, give to the dazzled eye a powerful reflection of that supreme truth whose imprint can be seen in the order of the universe. But the order surrounding you, represented by the perfect regularity of the square, Pythagoras’ friend, is greater still; for the Almighty has revealed himself and his attributes completely in this memorable work, which consisted in bringing from the bowels of chaos the treasure of your theorems and your magnificent splendours. In ancient epochs and in modern times more than one man of great imagination has been awestruck by the contemplation of your symbolic figures traced on paper, like so many mysterious signs, living and breathing in hidden ways not understood by profane multitudes; these signs were only the glittering revelations of eternal axioms and hieroglyphs which existed before the universe and will remain after the universe has passed away…..”
Lautréamont, Les chants de Maldoror
“Jesus and his disciples were walking around one day, when Jesus said, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like 3x squared plus 8x minus 9.” The disciples looked very puzzled, and finally asked Peter, “What on earth does Jesus mean – the Kingdom of Heaven is like 3x squared plus 8x minus 9? Peter said, “Don’t worry. It’s just another one of his parabolas.”
A mathematician is showing a new proof he came up with to a large group of peers. After he’s gone through most of it, one of the mathematicians says, “Wait! That’s not true. I have a counter-example!”
He replies, “That’s okay. I have two proofs.”
“According to my calculations, this problem doesn’t exist.”
“A polar bear is a rectangular bear after a coordinate transform.”
“I’d like a large order of FiboNachos.”
“Okay sir, that’ll cost as much as a small order and a medium order combined.”
“Mathematicians do in fact understand non-Euclidian geometry and so do I. A mathematician deals with things that would drive H. P. Lovecraft (yes, the author) insane on a daily basis.
* Given the sheer scope of Lovecraft’s phobias and neuroses, that really isn’t saying very much.”
A: “What is the integral of 1/cabin?”
B: “log cabin.”
A: “Nope, houseboat—you forgot the C.”
As he cleaned the board,
chalk-dust rose like parched mist.
A dry profession, he mused as morosely
they shuffled settling tier upon tier.
Now, almost half-way through the course,
(coughs, yawns, and automatic writing)
the theorem is ready.
Moving to the crucial point,
the sly unconventional twist,
a quiver springs his voice and breast;
soon the gambit will appear
opposed to what’s expected.
The ploy will snip one strand
the entire skein sloughing to the ground.
His head turns sympathetically
from board to class.
They copy copiously.
But two, perhaps three pause and frown,
wonder will this go through,
questioning this entanglement
– yet they nod encouragement.
Then the final crux; the ropes relax and fall.
His reward: two smile, maybe three,
and one is visibly moved.
Q.E.D., the theorem is proved.
This was his sole intent.
Leaving the symbols on the board
he departs with a swagger of achievement.
Bill Parry (1934-2006)