Last modified on 29 October 2013, at 07:53


Return to "Mathematics" page.

Stephen Tanner quoteEdit

I added the quotation back in because Wikiquote doesn't have formal notability requirements for people being quoted. The very existence of a template for quoting Usenet articles suggests a Usenet article is an okay source. The guideline is interestingness of quotations, not notability of the author. Also, when you remove a quotation, you're supposed to post it here on the talk page for discussion. Catamorphism 22:13, 1 March 2006 (UTC)

Now I have deleted this quote again. Here it is on the talk page. Apologies for not listing it here before. Coming as I do from wikipedia I am not used to the local customs.

You observe that wikiquote does not have formal notability requirements. However the fact that it does not does not automatically mean that any quote ought to be admissable. Otherwise I could quote my friends endlessly on wikiquote in a manner that no one but my in crowd could understand.

I shall put down a reasonable test I feel that quotes on this page ought to meet:

  • The quote ought to be understandable outside of its original context (or the context ought to be well enough known that most people (aquainted with the subject matter) will still understand it.
  • The quote ought to be one of the following:
    • Known by many people.
    • Uttered by a famous person.
    • NB: Both of the above need to be tempered by the context of the quote. I.e a quote need only be known by many people familiar with its subject matter.
  • The quote ought to be one of the following:
    • Interesting
    • Funny
    • Rude
    • Of significance on its own
    • Of significance given its source or some additional context

Now furthermore one might be able to argue that a quote which meets only some of these requirements is acceptable. However the quote in question is not understandable outside of its original context. I do not know of this quote (neither do any of the PhD maths students I asked) and its only google hit is on this wikiquote page. I am willing to entertain any evidence that more than a handfull of people have heard this quote however I can find no such evidence myself. The quote is not from any famous source even when we restrict attention to mathematicians or even philosophers of mathematics. If I am wrong about this (and I have made enquiries) then do provide evidence to prove the contrary. I don't consider the quote to be interesting, funny or rude but I do consider it to be curiously bizaar. Hence this quote meets none of the above criteria except perhaps being of significance.

Now having read the usenet post carefully I can see the point that the quote attempts to make. However its hardly the most eloquent way of making this point and its hardly a quote about mathematics! So this quote would meet the the significance criteria if it were on the page concerning cryptography or maybe RSA encryption.

Now of course you may not agree with my precise criteria. If so I would challenge you to provide a criterion under which this would be admissable without my friends quotes concerning mathematics also being liable for inclusion. You may also disagree with my application of my own criteria in which case you can point out my error.

Otherwise I would think its quite clear that the article has been improved by this quotes removal. Barnaby Dawson 11:15 GMT 02-03-06 (ddmmyy)

Notability requirementsEdit

The fact that Wikiquote does not have a matching article for each Wikipedia policy article should not be taken to mean it doesn't have a formal policy on the subject. Our policy pages tend to be much fewer and more specific than Wikipedia's. Wikiquote is a much younger, vastly less active project, and so makes do with a minimal set of policy pages and an essential assumption of Wikipedia practices in the absence of specific policy to the contrary. On the matter of notability, we not only follow Wikipedia's guidelines, but we have some specific statements on the subject:

  • From Main Page: "Welcome to Wikiquote, a free online compendium of quotations from notable people and creative works…" [emphasis mine]
  • From Wikiquote:Wikiquote: "Notable: We limit ourselves to quotations which are notable. A quotation can be notable either because it has achieved fame by itself, but more usually because it was said by someone notable, or appeared in a notable work."
  • From WQ:NOT: Wikiquote is not… a place for quotations by you and your friends. (However, you can put such quotations on your user page.)

The clause about a quote having "achieved fame by itself" should not be taken as a license to add anything that's on Usenet or any other WP-unreliable source. It's more for famous anonymous quotes and proverbs, and even that is currently controversial. Take a look at Wikiquote:Votes for deletion on any given day and you'll find quite a few articles nominated because they about unnotable subjects; the same notability requirement applies to individual quotes.

It would be reasonable to expect Wikiquote to improve its policy pages to avoid this confusion. (I note that Wikiquote:Policies and guidelines is currently virtually useless, as it's almost completely a copy of Wikipedia's old version, which doesn't provide much Wikiquote-specific information.) The problem is that there are less than half a dozen editors at any given time (of the 3,000+ registered editors and who-knows-how-many anonymous ones) who are working on this badly needed area of maintenance, and most of their time is spent doing other, even more critical maintenance (like vandal reversions, VfDs, Main Page updating, etc.). Until Wikiquote "grows up", we must make do with a few specific policies and a general assumption that if it doesn't fly on Wikipedia, it won't on Wikiquote. ~ Jeff Q (talk) 17:41, 3 March 2006 (UTC)

Random questionEdit

I came here because I was trying to find the source of a particular quote. I cannot have the words correct (otherwise I would have found it by now) but it was approximately "Mathematics is the study of all possible universes". Does anyone know what the correct quote is and by whom it was uttered? Barnaby Dawson

Maybe C. Taubes in ?

Mathematics consists of the study of all possible worlds, with the goal of uncovering transcendent, universal relationships and underlying symmetries. - 21:21, 25 April 2006 (UTC)

George Polya attributionEdit

I doubt the un-sourced attribution to George Polya of "Mathematics consists of proving the most obvious thing in the least obvious way." Anyone familiar with his pedagogical work would know that if he ever said such a thing at all it could only have been with ironic intent. He did indeed employ irony, but if he said this then taking it out of context is a gross misrepresentation of his views. ~ Ningauble 22:08, 24 September 2008 (UTC)

Afterthought: At least this scurrilous graffito spurred me to start an article on George Polya. I can't believe there was not one already. ~ Ningauble 17:33, 25 September 2008 (UTC)


  • Mathematics is music for the mind; Music is mathematics for the soul.
  • Mathematics is man's attempt on understanding nature.
  • A mathematician is a blind man in a dark room looking for a black cat which isn't there.
  • Mathematics seems to endow one with something like a new sense.
  • As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality. (**see section below)
  • Do not worry about your problems with mathematics, I assure you mine are far greater.[1]
  • God does not care about our mathematical difficulties. He integrates empirically.
  • I don't believe in mathematics.
  • Since the mathematicians have invaded the theory of relativity, I do not understand it myself anymore.
  • A mathematician is a device for turning coffee into theorems.
  • As long as algebra is taught in school, there will be prayer in school.
  • He who can properly define and divide is to be considered a god.
  • The knowledge of which geometry aims is the knowledge of the eternal.
  • Mathematics is like checkers in being suitable for the young, not too difficult, amusing, and without peril to the state.
  • I admit that mathematical science is a good thing. But excessive devotion to it is a bad thing.
  • I am accustomed, as a professional mathematician, to living in a sort of vacuum, surrounded by people who declare with an odd sort of pride that they are mathematically illiterate.
  • I have no faith in political arithmetic.
  • If I feel unhappy, I do mathematics to become happy. If I am happy, I do mathematics to keep happy.
  • In great mathematics there is a very high degree of unexpectedness, combined with inevitability and economy.
  • In mathematics you don't understand things. You just get used to them.
  • It is easy to lie with statistics. It is hard to tell the truth without it.
  • Life is good for only two things, discovering mathematics and teaching mathematics.
  • Mathematical proofs, like diamonds, are hard and clear, and will be touched with nothing but strict reasoning.
  • Mathematicians are like lovers. Grant a mathematician the least principle, and he will draw from it a consequence which you must also grant him, and from this consequence another.
  • Mathematics is a divine madness of the human spirit, a refuge from the goading urgency of contingent happenings.
  • [Mathematics] is an independent world created out of pure intelligence.
  • Mathematics is not yet capable of coping with the naïveté of the mathematician himself.
  • Mathematics is the only instructional material that can be presented in an entirely undogmatic way.
  • Mathematics is the science of what is clear by itself.
  • Mathematics may be defined as the subject in which we never know what we are talking about, nor whether what we are saying is true. (referring to the axiomatic method, where certain properties of an (otherwise unknown) structure are assumed and consequences thereof are then logically derived)
  • Mathematics takes us into the region of absolute necessity, to which not only the actual word, but every possible word, must conform.
  • How dare we speak of the laws of chance? Is not chance the antithesis of all law?
  • To those who do not know mathematics it is difficult to get across a real feeling as to the beauty, the deepest beauty, of nature ... If you want to learn about nature, to appreciate nature, it is necessary to understand the language that she speaks in.
  • Measure what is measurable, and make measurable what is not so.
  • No human investigation can be called real science if it cannot be demonstrated mathematically.
  • Now I feel as if I should succeed in doing something in mathematics, although I cannot see why it is so very important...The knowledge doesn't make life any sweeter or happier, does it?
  • One cannot escape the feeling that these mathematical formulas have an independent existence and an intelligence of their own, that they are wiser than we are, wiser even than their discoverers, that we get more out of them than was originally put into them.
  • Sex is the mathematics urge sublimated.
  • The art of doing mathematics consists in finding that special case which contains all the germs of generality.
  • The infinite! No other question has ever moved so profoundly the spirit of man.
  • Mathematics is a game played according to certain simple rules with meaningless marks on paper.
  • The imaginary number is a fine and wonderful recourse of the divine spirit, almost an amphibian between being and not being.
  • The mathematician has reached the highest rung on the ladder of human thought.
  • The science of mathematics presents the most brilliant example of how pure reason may successfully enlarge its domain without the aid of experience.
  • The simplest schoolboy is now familiar with facts for which Archimedes would have sacrificed his life.
  • There is no branch of mathematics, however abstract, which may not some day be applied to phenomena of the real world.
  • There is something I don't understand about algebra: It has been around for thousands of years, yet no one has ever found out what the value of "x" or "y" really is.
    • Anonymous

one of the Einstein attributionsEdit

In 'unsourced' above is

  • As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.

The WP article w:Mathematics gives this note for that quote: 'Einstein, p. 28. The quote is Einstein's answer to the question: "how can it be that mathematics, being after all a product of human thought which is independent of experience, is so admirably appropriate to the objects of reality?" ' and gives source 'Einstein, Albert (1923). Sidelights on Relativity (Geometry and Experience). P. Dutton., Co.' -R. S. Shaw 01:52, 28 January 2012 (UTC)

Can be confirmed via Google Books, page 28: [1] -- 11:12, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
    • Letter to high school student Barbara Lee Wilson (7 January 1943), Einstein Archives 42-606