Themes

Themes

  • “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data.  Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”
    – Sherlock Holmes, “A Scandal in Bohemia” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  • “Far better an approximate answer to the right question, which is often vague, than an exact answer to the wrong question, which can always be made precise.”
    – John Tukey
  • “To consult the statistician after an experiment is finished is often merely to ask him to conduct a post mortem examination.  He can perhaps say what the experiment died of.”
    – R.A. Fisher, 1938
  • Planning a statistical analysis after you’ve collected the data is like developing plans for a structure after you’ve purchased the materials.
  • “If it disagrees with experiment, it is wrong.” – Richard Feynman (1918 – 1988)
  • “It is easy to lie with statistics, but easier to lie without them.” – Fred Mosteller (1916 – 2006) Founding chairman of Harvard’s statistics department.
  • “If you are not confused then you are not paying attention” — Tom Peters
  • The law that entropy always increases holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature. If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations – then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations.  If it is found to be contradicted by observation – well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes.  But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation. – Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World (1927)
  • The greatest challenge to any thinker is stating the problem in a way that will allow a solution. – Bertrand Russell
  • Socrates thought people were more important than ideas … he though ideas existed for the benefit of people, not the other way around.  An intellectual is someone who thinks ideas are more important than people. – Paul Johnson, British historian (1928 – ) quoted in WSJ 5 March, 2011
  • They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” – Benjamin Franklin
  • Nothing is so typical of middling minds than to harp on the intellectual deficiencies of the slightly less smart and considerably more successful. – Bret Stephens, WSJ, 9 Aug. 2011
  • “If you think that statistics has nothing to say about what you do or how you could do it better, then you are either wrong or in need of a more interesting job.” – Stephen Senn (Dicing with Death: Chance, Risk and Health, Cambridge University Press, 2003)
  • “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” – Philip K. Dick
  • No!  Try not!  Do, or do not.  There is no “try.” – Jedi Master Yoda
  • Opportunity doesn’t knock.  It whispers.
  • Occam’s razor, “Pluralitas non est ponenda sine necessitate” (“Plurality should not be posited without necessity”), is the law of economy or law of parsimony.  More colloquially, “Don’t use a more complicated explanation when a simpler one will do the job.” – William of Occam (1285–1347/49)
  • Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats. – Howard Aiken
  • “If you want to make enemies, try to change something.” – Woodrow Wilson
  • “Science is the belief in the ignorance of the experts.” – Richard Feynman
  • “If you want something said, ask a man … if you want something done, ask a woman.”
    – Margaret Thatcher (1923-2013)
  • “Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.”
    – Margaret Thatcher (1923-2013)
  • The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.
    – paraphrased from a statement by Margaret Thatcher,
    in a television interview on February 5, 1976.
  • “Evil preaches tolerance until it is dominate, and then it seeks to silence good.” – Archibishop Chaput of Philadelphia
  • A job not worth doing is not worth doing well.
  • You cannot unsay an unkind word.
  • “The combination of some data and an aching desire for an answer does not ensure that a reasonable answer can be extracted from a given body of data.” –  John Tukey
  • “Are the effects of A and B different?  They are always different – for some decimal place.” – John Tukey
  • Action speaks louder than words but not nearly as often. – Mark Twain
  • “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around.  But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.” – Mark Twain
  • There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact –  Sherlock Holmes (The Boscombe Valley Mystery)
  • “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” -John F. Kennedy
  • “I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.” – James Madison, 4th president of US (1751-1836) in a speech to the Virginia Ratifying Convention, June 16, 1788
  • “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” – Louis Brandeis (1856-1941) Associate Justice of the Supreme Court from 1916 to 1939
  • “I would rather have questions that can’t be answered than answers that can’t be questioned” — Richard Feynman
  • “Job creation and destruction are relentless.  The small difference between the two is what we call prosperity.” – H.W. Jenkins, Jr., WSJ, 14 Jan. 2012.
  • In earlier times, they had no statistics, and so they had to fall back on lies. – unknown
  • For many people knowledge has the remarkable power of producing confidence instead of measureable aptitude. – Nassim Nicholas Taleb in The Black Swan (2007)
  • A couple of months in the laboratory can frequently save several hours in the library. – unknown
  • “Hard work never killed anybody, but why take a chance?” – Charlie McCarthy (Edgar Bergen, 1903 – 1978)
  • You can pretend to be serious; you can’t pretend to be witty. – Sacha Guitry (1885-1957) French film actor, director, screenwriter and playwright
  • The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not “Eureka!” but “That’s funny …” – Isaac Asimov
  • Often the choice is not between what you want and what you don’t want.  It’s between what you don’t want and what you REALLY don’t want.
  • There is none so blind as he who will not see. – unknown