Saturday, April 11, 2015

Favorite Quotes from Programming, Math, Philosophy, and Writing

Hi, after quite a hiatus... It's always a lot of fun to write and, more importantly, to connect with readers. At this time, I'm resurrecting a draft that has languished for far too long. So here goes—Again, this is a compilation of some of my favorite quotes:
  • In mathematics, you don't understand things. You just get used to them.~ John von Neumann
  • Make no mistake about it: Computers process numbers, not symbols. We measure our understanding (and control) by the extent to which we can arithmetize an activity.~ Alan J. Perlis
  • Newton was the first to succeed in finding a clearly formulated basis from which he could deduce a wide field of phenomena by means of mathematical thinkinglogically, quantitatively, and in harmony with experience.~ Albert Einstein
  • It is hard enough to remember my opinions, without also remembering my reasons for them! ~ Friedrich Nietzsche, as quoted in Cristopher Moore's and Stephan Mertens' The Nature of Computation (Oxford University Press, 2011)
  • Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.~ George Santayana
  • It’s deja vu all over again.~ Yogi Berra
  • We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are.~ Anais Nin
  • Software is under a constant tension. Being symbolic it is arbitrarily perfectible; but also it is arbitrarily changeable.~ Alan J. Perlis
  • The contents of the mental stream are not as important as the consciousness that knows them.~ Mark Epstein
  • Man's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.~ Oliver Wendell Holmes
  • Within a computer, natural language is unnatural.~ Alan J. Perlis
  • I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.~ Anna Quindlen
  • If knowledge can create problems, it is not through ignorance that we can solve them.~ Isaac Asimov
  • Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.~ Arthur C. Clarke
  • The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking that was used when we created them.~ Albert Einstein
  • Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.~ Thomas A. Edison
  • "Genius"—To know without having learned; to draw just conclusions from unknown premises; to discern the soul of things.~ Ambrose Bierce
  • I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor.~ Henry David Thoreau
  • If people never did silly things, nothing intelligent would ever get done.~ Ludwig Wittgenstein
  • If a man will kick a fact out of the window, when he comes back he finds it again in the chimney corner.~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. For all one knows that demon is simply the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention. And yet it is also true that one can write nothing readable unless one constantly struggles to efface one's own personality. Good prose is like a windowpane.~ George Orwell, Why I Write (England Your England and Other Essays)
In the end, I leave you with a haunting and ethereal poem by Emily Dickinson; I must confess that the subject of software concurrency—coordinating computer programs when more than one task can start and complete in overlapping time periods—rose to the forefront of my mind as I selected these ineffable words of poetry!

I felt a clearing in my mind
As if my brain had split;

I tried to match it, seam by seam,
But could not make them fit.

The thought behind I strove to join
Unto the thought before;

But sequence raveled out of reach
Like balls upon a floor.

~ Emily Dickinson, The Lost Thought (The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson)