Research Aphorisms

Don't undertake a project unless it is manifestly important and nearly impossible.
- Edwin Land
One of the principal objects of theoretical research in any department of knowledge is to find the point of view from which the subject appears in its greatest simplicity.
- J. Willard Gibbs
Gentlemen, we have no money, we must use our brains!
- Lord Rutherford
Reserve Friday afternoons for thinking great thoughts.
- R. W. Hamming (paraphrase by BJM)
When senior scientists say something can be done, they are usually right. When they something cannot be done, they are often wrong.
- R. W. Hamming (paraphrase by BJM)
When the experiment doesn't work, distrust the experiment; when the experiment works, distrust the theory.
- Edwin Land (reported by Stewart Wilson)
Science is a method to keep yourself from kidding yourself.
- Edwin Land (reported by Stewart Wilson)
No matter how original, innovative or crazy your idea, someone else is also working on that idea. Furthermore, they are using notation very similar to your's.
When Linus Pauling was asked, "How do you have good ideas?" he replied, "You have a lot of ideas, and you throw away the bad ones."
When Edison was searching for a material to use for the filament of the first incandescent lamp, his foreman came to him and said, "Mr. Edison, I am sorry to say we have done a thousand experiments and worked thousands of hours to find this filament and I am afraid to say, it has all been for nothing." Edison replied, "Nonsense, we know a thousand ways in which it doesn't work!"
Dans les champs de l'observation le hasard ne favorise que les esprits préparés. (Where observation is concerned, chance favors only the prepared mind.)
- Louis Pasteur
A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.
- Max Planck
One of the founders of quantum mechanics said, "Science advances funeral by funeral."
Continuous mathematics is simpler than discrete mathematics.
- BJM after R. W. Hamming
The most interesting mathematics involves the interplay between the continuous and the discrete.
- Paul Schupp
Mathematicians do it continuously and discretely.
- a bumper-sticker by Robert L. Dawes
Veritatis simplex oratio est.
The language of truth is simple.
- Seneca
Algebra which cannot be translated into good English and sound common sense is bad algebra.
- W. K. Clifford
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Last updated: Fri Aug 4 15:20:09 EDT 2000