Daniel Lemire's blog

4 min read

My favorite quotes

  • Corruptissima re publica plurimae leges. (Tacitus)
    (“The more corrupt the state, the more laws.”)
  • “…by no means every view may be expressed. A whole school of thought… is morally forbidden, not merely in lectures but in private conversation. And the more “liberated” the company, the more heavily this tacit prohibition weighs on it.”(November 1916, Solzhenitsyn)
  • The way forward is downward, to less abstraction and more compute, one painful step at a time. (Peter Turney)
  • Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts. (Richard Feynman)
  • Nobody ever figures out what life is all about, and it doesn’t matter. Explore the world. Nearly everything is really interesting if you go into it deeply enough. (Richard Feynman)
  • A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be patched up to make it work. You have to start over with a working simple system. (John Gall)
  • Don’t ever make the mistake [of thinking] that you can design something better than what you get from ruthless massively parallel trial-and-error with a feedback cycle. That’s giving your intelligence much too much credit. (Linus Torvalds)
  • Jugez un homme par ses questions plutôt que par ses réponses. (Voltaire)
  • Never do anything that bores you. My experience in science is that someone is always telling to do something that leaves you flat. Bad idea. (James D. Watson)
  • It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer (Albert Einstein)
  • Someone younger at heart should replace you, and that should be you. (George Church)
  • Anybody who doesn’t change their mind a lot is dramatically underestimating the complexity of the world we live in. (…) Only through experimentation can you get real invention. The most important inventions come from trial and error with lots of failure. (Jeff Bezos)
  • Think before you speak is criticism’s motto; speak before you think, creation’s. (E. M. Forster)
  • It doesn’t seem to conventional-minded people that they’re conventional-minded. It just seems to them that they’re right. (Paul Graham)
  • I would rather have questions that cannot be answered, than answers that cannot be questioned. (Richard Feynman)
  • Running a successful open source project is just Good Will Hunting in reverse, where you start out as a respected genius and end up being a janitor who gets into fights. (Byrne Hobart)
  • In programming, simplicity and clarity are a crucial matter that decides between success and failure. (Edsger Dijktra)
  • People who discover the power and beauty of high-level, abstract ideas often make the mistake of believing that concrete ideas at lower levels are worthless and might as well be forgotten. On the contrary, the best computer scientists are thoroughly grounded in basic concepts of how computers actually work. The essence of computer science is an ability to understand many levels of abstraction simultaneously. (Donald Knuth)
  • Science is not what experts think. It’s a method for challenging what experts think. (Bret Weinstein)
  • There is no such thing as a unique scientific vision, any more than there is a unique poetic vision. Science is a mosaic of partial and conflicting visions. (…) It belongs to everybody who is willing to make the effort to learn it. (Freeman Dyson)
  • From Galileo to today’s amateur astronomers, scientists have been rebels. Like artists and poets, they are free spirits who resist the restrictions their cultures impose on them. In their pursuit of nature’s truths, they are guided as much by imagination as by reason, and their greatest theories have the uniqueness and beauty of great works of art. (Freeman Dyson)
  • Let not any one pacify his conscience by the delusion that he can do no harm if he takes no part, and forms no opinion. Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing. He is not a good man who, without a protest, allows wrong to be committed in his name, and with the means which he helps to supply, because he will not trouble himself to use his mind on the subject. (John Stuart Mill)
  • If there is one “scientific” discovery I am proud of, it is the discovery of the habit of writing without publication in mind. I experience it as a liberating habit: without it, doing the work becomes one thing and writing it down becomes another one, which is often viewed as an unpleasant burden. When working and writing have merged, that burden has been taken away. (Dijkstra)
  • The purpose of abstraction is not to be vague, but to create a new semantic level in which one can be absolutely precise. (Dijkstra)