Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Software gets slower faster than hardware gets faster

--- Niklaus Wirth, cited by Scott Rosenberg

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

"I have only made this letter rather long because I have not had time to make it shorter."

--- Pascal, "Lettres provinciales," 16, Dec.14,1656. Cassell's Book of Quotations,London,1912. P.718. "Je N'ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parceque je n'ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte." Source. See also link.

"Please forgive this long letter, I didn't have time to write a short one."

--- George Bernard Shaw, who used to write 10 letters per day, who after writing a 50-page letter to someone, link

Monday, February 19, 2007

The political expert who bores you with an cloud of "howevers" is probably right about what's going to happen. The charismatic expert who exudes confidence and has a great story to tell is probably wrong.

--- Stewart Brand, paraphrasing Philip Tetlock's Long Now Foundation seminar on "Why Foxes Are Better Forecasters Than Hedgehogs"

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The moment programs grow beyond smallness, their brittleness becomes the most prominent feature, and software engineering becomes Sisyphean

--– Jaron Lanier, Why Gordian Software has convinced me to believe in the reality of cats and apples [11.19.03], A Talk with Jaron Lanier,,
The moral I want to draw from this reading [of Salvador DalĂ­’s The Tragic Myth of Millet’s Angelus], and from each of the other uncontrolled and unbelievable interpretations I have described in the course of the book, is that an engaged imagination is finally what compels conviction. Indisputable facts and irrefutable discoveries are only the skeleton of art history: what counts both initially and ultimately is the ability to put a full emotional and intellectual commitment on the page, and bring the apparatus of interpretation to bear in the most forceful possible manner.

--- James Elkins, Why are our pictures puzzles?: On the modern origins of pictorial complexity (1999), p. 244

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

No lesson seems to be so deeply inculcated by the experience of life as that you should never trust the experts. If you believe the doctors, nothing is wholesome: if you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent: if you believe the soldiers, nothing is safe.

--- British prime minister Lord Salisbury, to Lord Lytton, 15 June 1877, Lytton Papers, E.218/4A, cited in John Ferris, "Salisbury, Intelligence, and British Policy" in Keith Neilson & B. J. C. McKercher, Go Spy the Land: Military Intelligence in History, Praeger, 1992

Monday, February 05, 2007

When Escher's inventiveness stalled, he tackled the obstacle much as a mathematician does an intractable problem -- with obstinacy. Mathematicians pose questions that nag and pester, they keep chipping away at a problem, until truth, a solution, presents itself (or the enterprise crumbles and proves impossible.)

--- S. Roberts, King of Infinite Space, Walker & Company, 2006, cited in

Thursday, February 01, 2007

My own suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.

--- Attrib. to JBS Haldane. Quoted passim, e.g. in Queerer than we can suppose?, The Economist, Jan 3rd 2002