Some Favorite Quotes

Granting the importance of this pioneering research, how can it best be promoted? The method of direct endowment will not work, for if you pay a man (sic) a salary for doing research, he and you will want to have something to point to at the end of the year to show that the money has not been wasted. In promising work of the highest class, however, results do not come in this regular fashion, in fact years may pass without any tangible results being obtained, and the position of the paid worker would be very embarrassing and he would naturally take to work on a lower, or at any rate a different plane where he could be sure of getting year by year tangible results which would justify his salary. The position is this: You want this kind of research, but, if you pay a man to do it, it will drive him to research of a different kind. The only thing to do is to pay him for doing something else and give him enough leisure to do research for the love of it. Now this kind of research has been done in the past and will, I think, for some time continue to be done mainly in Universities; and the best way to promote it would be to ensure that University teachers have leisure and opportunities for research and that their salaries are not so low that they have to spend all their spare time in examining if they are to earn enough to live upon.
J. J. Thomson, quoted in The Life of Sir J. J. Thomson, 1916 speech.

If you write a personal statement that admits, "I want to attend your school because I need a strong signal to advance my career, and you're selling the thirteenth-best signal on the market," you won't be getting in.
Bryan Caplan, Our Homeschooling Odyssey, EconLog Blog, 13 Sept 2021.

[In the early days of quantum mechanics] ... it was a good description to say that it was a game, a very interesting game one could play. Whenever one solved one of the little problems, one could write a paper about it.

It was very easy in those days for any second-rate physicist to do first-rate work. There has not been such a glorious time since. It is very difficult now for a first-rate physicist to do second-rate work.
Paul Dirac, The Development of Quantum Mechanics. (Published in Directions in Physics, 1978)

With no copyright obstacles, GCC reverted to the original Pac-Man visual schemes but changed Crazy Otto into a female character. The title morphed from Crazy Otto to Super Pac-Man to Pac-Woman to Miss Pac-Man, but was ultimately changed to Ms. Pac-Man after Midway executives noticed that the game's interstitial cartoons featured a pac-baby and wanted to avoid controversy around an unwed pac-mother.
Christina Couch, Game on: How MIT students outfoxed Atari and made one of the world's best-selling arcade games. MIT Technology Review, 21 August 2019.

Often in the evening or at weekends I would bring my young daughter, Lauren, into work with me. One day, she was with me when I was doing a simulation of a mission to the moon. She liked to imitate me — playing astronaut. She started hitting keys and all of a sudden, the simulation started. Then she pressed other keys and the simulation crashed. She had selected a program which was supposed to be run prior to launch — when she was already "on the way" to the moon. The computer had so little space, it had wiped the navigation data taking her to the moon. I thought: my God — this could inadvertently happen in a real mission. I suggested a program change to prevent a prelaunch program being selected during flight. But the higher-ups at MIT and Nasa said the astronauts were too well trained to make such a mistake. Midcourse on the very next mission — Apollo 8 — one of the astronauts on board accidentally did exactly what Lauren had done. The Lauren bug! It created much havoc and required the mission to be reconfigured. After that, they let me put the program change in, all right.
Margaret Hamilton, Interview in The Guardian, 13 July 2019.

A full formal framework with details of the tedious proofs included in our submitted version is omitted in this presentation - undoubtedly to the relief of many.
Donald Beaver, Precomputing oblivious transfer, CRYPTO 1995.

In the same survey, 93% of economists with an opinion on the issue agreed that the economic benefits of robots will be so great that they could be used to compensate the workers who were negatively effected. But in a survey I conducted in my imagination, 100% of people who have not been living in a cave the past two hundred years agreed that this will never happen in real life.
Scott Alexander, Technological Unemployment: much more than you wanted to know, Slate Star Codex.

I hope everyone realized that my previous remark about non-use of joke markers was a joke, and was flagged as such by the absence of a marker. This message is not a joke, as indicated by the exclamation point.
Guy Steele, in the Discussion thread that introduced the :-) emoticon, 1982.

I am a little troubled about the tea service in the electronic computer building. Apparently the members of your staff consume several times as much supplies as the same number of people do in Fuld Hall and they have been especially unfair in the matter of sugar.... I should like to raise the question whether it would not be better for the computer people to come up to Fuld Hall at the end of the day at 5 o'clock and have their tea here under proper supervision.
Letter to John von Neumann (shown in George Dyson's talk on The birth of the computer)

I was bold in the pursuit of knowledge, never fearing to follow truth and reason to whatever results they led, and bearding every authority which stood in their way.
Thomas Jefferson

These are just a few of the innovations developed for Live Search by our people, some of whom didn't even pass calculus. Imagine that.
Microsoft advertisement for Windows Live

If you steal property, you must report its fair market value in your income in the year you steal it unless in the same year, you return it to its rightful owner.
Your Federal Income Tax, IRS Publication 17 (p. 90)

In mathematics you don't understand things, you just get used to them.
John Von Neumann

In the future we won't think for ourselves at all.
Luke Hughes, PC Computing, Feb 2000

Microsoft, in any case, is not the source of all bugs.
Business Week, December 6, 1999

The virtual shopping spree was a first for the President who has a reputation for being "technologically challenged." But White House sources insist that the First Shopper used his own laptop and even "knew how to use the mouse."
Business Week Online, December 22, 1999

Due to problems with both Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.5 and Netscape Communicator 6, many users may find it helpful to download and make use of the latest Netscape Communicator browser in the 4.7x series, Netscape Communicator 4.76.
NSF FastLane Download Instructions

In Washington, it's dog eat dog. In academia, it's exactly the opposite.
Robert Reich

The reason universities have students is so they can teach the professors.
John Wheeler

If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; But the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of everyone, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light with- out darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density at any point, and like the air in which we breath, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property.
Thomas Jefferson

A doctor can bury his mistakes but an architect can only advise his client to plant vines.
Frank Lloyd Wright

As far as I know, there is no eldricth altar at which students are sacrificed to nameless gods. But then, I was never a professor, so I can't be sure.
Dave Lebling

Always code as if the guy who ends up maintaining your code will be a violent psychopath who knows where you live.
John F. Woods (on Matthias Felleisen's Home Page)

Achilles: I wish you'd tell me what a "meta-wish" is!
Genie: But THAT is a meta-meta-wish, Achilles—and I don't grant them, either.
Douglas R. Hofstadter, Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid

Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. Few people are interested and the frog dies of it.
E. B. White

We are much more like flies in our development than you might think.
Lewis Wolpert, Principles of Development

People think less like sea urchins than they are.
Sea urchins are more like people than they think.

Steve Jobs, back in 1984, introduced the Macintosh by saying that we were going to make the personal computer as easy to use as the telephone. What we've done instead over the past fifteen years is make the telephone harder to use.
Michael Rogers, Why is Easy-to-Use so Hard to Do?

If you keep proving stuff that others have done, getting confidence, increasing the complexities of your solutions — for the fun of it — then one day you'll turn around and discover that nobody actually did that one! And that's the way to become a computer scientist.
Richard Feynman, Lectures on Computation

There's no business like show business, but there are several businesses like accounting.
David Letterman

In their capacity as a tool, computers will be but a ripple on the surface of our culture. In their capacity as intellectual challenge, they are without precedent in the cultural history of mankind.
Edsger Dijkstra, 1972 Turing Award Lecture

If you have difficulty remembering when to use effected and when to use affected, this sentence from a US government handbook on "Eleven Steps to Survival" should help:

If you were near the explosion without adequate protection, you would be seriously affected by the immediate radiation, in addition to being killed.
Five dollars is an easy sell. It's a pitcher of beer. Five dollars for three professors is quite a deal.
Brian Cannon, the president of the Student Assembly at William & Mary, quoted in Virginia Pilot article.

It is necessary for technical reasons that these warheads be stored upside down, that is, with the top at the bottom and the bottom at the top. In order that there be no doubt as to which is the bottom and which is the top, for storage purposes, it will be seen that the bottom of each warhead has been labeled 'TOP'.
Instructions accompanying a shipment of ballistic missiles from British Admiralty (reported in The Humus Report)

This generation of students got into Harvard by doing exactly and precisely what teacher wants. If teacher is vague about what he wants, they work a lot harder to figure out what they want and whether or not it is good. The vaguer the directions, the more likely the opportunity for serendipity to happen. It drives them nuts!
Harvard Professor John Stilgoe (on "60 Minutes", 4 January 2004)

There is no clear answer to that question. Younger and aggressive (or American) players tend to favour the Rock crushing Scissors view. More liberal-minded players take the view that scissors are dulled by the Rock. The World RPS Society created a task force in 1987 with a hope of eventually resolving the issue but it has been locked in debate and we no longer hold much hope of quick resolution.
World Rock Paper Scissors Society, Frequently Asked Questions answer to the question, Does Rock crush Scissors or is Scissors dulled by Rock?

The central purpose of the University of Virginia is to enrich the mind by stimulating and sustaining a spirit of free inquiry directed to understanding the nature of the universe and the role of mankind in it. Activities designed to quicken, discipline, and enlarge the intellectual and creative capacities, as well as the aesthetic and ethical awareness, of the members of the University and to record, preserve, and disseminate the results of intellectual discovery and creative endeavor serve this purpose. In fulfilling it, the University places the highest priority on achieving eminence as a center of higher learning.
Institutional Purpose of The University of Virginia, Board of Visitors Manual (adopted in 1985)

The first principle was security... A consequence of this principle is that every occurrence of every subscript of every subscripted variable was on every occasion checked at run time against both the upper and the lower declared bounds of the array. Many years later we asked our customers whether they wished us to provide an option to switch off these checks in the interests of efficiency on production runs. Unanimously, they urged us not to—they already knew how frequently subscript errors occur on production runs where failure to detect them could be disastrous. I note with fear and horror that even in 1980, language designers and users have not learned this lesson. In any respectable branch of engineering, failure to observe such elementary precautions would have long been against the law.
Tony Hoare, describing Elliott Brothers' Algol 60 implmenetation in The Emperor's Old Clothes (1980 Turing Award Speech)

DDT killed bald eagles because of its persistence in the environment. ''Silent Spring'' is now killing African children because of its persistence in the public mind.
New York Times Magazine, What the World Needs Now Is DDT , 11 April 2004.

"Ideologically, I am not opposed to the creation of a union,
especially when working conditions are poor or hazardous," he said.
"But quite frankly, being a teaching assistant at Columbia falls into neither of these categories."

Jason Governale, a fourth-year graduate student in history, quoted in Graduate Students Walk Out at Columbia, New York Times, 20 April 2004

Please only ordain others with their permission. (This includes public figures
as well as cartoon and other fictional characters.)

Universal Life Church, Ordination Notice

Whatever else history may say about me when I'm gone, I hope it will record that I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears; to your confidence rather than your doubts. My dream is that you will travel the road ahead with liberty's lamp guiding your steps and opportunity's arm steadying your way.
Ronald Wilson Reagan, 1911-2004

Our plan and our hope was that the next generation of kids would come along and do something better than Smalltalk around 1984 or so. We all thought that the next level of programming language would be much more strategic and even policy-oriented and would have much more knowledge about what it was trying to do. But a variety of different things conspired together, and that next generation actually didn't show
Alan Kay, Queue Interview

A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercise, I advise the gun. While this gives a moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise, and independence to the mind. Games played with the ball, and others of that nature, are too violent for the body, and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun, therefore, be the constant companion of your walks. Never think of taking a book with you. The object of walking is to relax the mind. You should therefore not permit yourself even to think while you walk; but divert yourself by the objects surrounding you. Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate yourself to walk very far. The Europeans value themselves on having subdued the horse to the uses of man; but I doubt whether we have not lost more than we have gained, by the use of this animal. No one has occasioned so much the degeneracy of the human body. An Indian goes on foot nearly as far in a day, for a long journey, as an enfeebled white does on his horse; and he will tire the best horses. There is no habit you will value so much as that of walking far without fatigue. I would advise you to take your exercise in the afternoon: not because it is the best time for exercise, for certainly it is not; but because it is the best time to spare from your studies; and habit will soon reconcile it to health, and render it nearly as useful as if you gave to that the more precious hours of the day. A little walk of half an hour, in the morning, when you first rise, is advisable also. It shakes off sleep, and produces other good effects in the animal economy. Rise at a fixed and an early hour, and go to bed at a fixed and early hour also. Sitting up late at night is injurious to the health, and not useful to the mind. Having ascribed proper hours to exercise, divide what remain (I mean of your vacant hours) into three portions. Give the principal to History, the other two, which should be shorter, to Philosophy and Poetry.
Thomas Jefferson, letter to Peter Carr, 19 Aug 1785.

To receive tenure at 29 is to know, depending on your field, that you'll be guaranteed to earn $80,000, or $100,000, or $150,000 a year (in current dollars) for at least the next 36 years, that you'll receive pay raises, that you'll have the opportunity to earn extra cash through teaching, consulting, or writing textbooks. That you can go on sabbatical, or leave to work in the White House for a couple of years, and find your warm spot waiting for you on your return. That you can work into your 60s or 70s without any pressure to retire. And the perks? Tons of paid vacation, the free use of gyms and libraries, maybe even free tuition for your kids. Why, it's downright paternalistic! Welfare capitalism has long been on the decline, but it's alive and well at Harvard and other universities.

How many other professions make a similar promise today? Um, none.
Daniel Gross, Slate Magazine

I am confident that we can do better than GUIs because the basic problem with them (and with the Linux and Unix interfaces) is that they ask a human being to do things that we know experimentally humans cannot do well. The question I asked myself is, given everything we know about how the human mind works, could we design a computer and computer software so that we can work with the least confusion and greatest efficiency?
Jef Raskin, designer of Macintosh, 1943-2005 (Ubiquity Interview)

Firewalls, packet filters, intrusion detection systems, and the like often have difficulty distinguishing between packets that have malicious intent and those that are merely unusual. The problem is that making such determinations is hard. To solve this problem, we define a security flag, known as the "evil" bit, in the IPv4 header. Benign packets have this bit set to 0; those that are used for an attack will have the bit set to 1.
RFC 3514 - The Security Flag in the IPv4 Header, Steve Bellovin

It is rare that you find two players of the same team slugging it out with each other.
Sir Bobby Robson (on Newcastle teammates getting red cards for fighting each other)

Do not play in two halves. Rather play in one half or three halves in order to completely differentiate yourselves from the heretics, the polytheists, the corrupted and the disobedient.
God Is In the Rules, quoting a fatwa against football, New York Times, October 16, 2005

The real entertainment gimmick is the excitement, drama and mystery of the subject matter. People love to learn something, they are "entertained" enormously by being allowed to understand a little bit of something they never understood before. One must have faith in the subject and in people's interest in it. Otherwise just use a Western to sell telephones! The faith in the value of the subject matter must be sincere and show through clearly. All gimmicks, etc. should be subservient to this. They should help in explaining and describing the subject, and not in entertaining. Entertaininment will be an automatic byproduct.
Richard Feynman, Letter to Mr. Ralph Brown, Advisory Board in Connection with Programs on Science (in Perfectly Reasonable Deviations from the Beaten Track)

There's no sense in being precise when you don't even know what you're talking about.
John von Neumann

It might be a good rule simply to avoid any prestigious task.
If it didn't suck, they wouldn't have had to make it prestigious.

Paul Graham, How to Do What You Love

It's my view that Pluto for historical reasons should remain a planet.
Otherwise, school kids will be confused. Any object that's bigger than Pluto should also be a planet.

Frank Bertoldi, quoted in The Washington Post, 2 February 2006.

Inside, a curvy staircase leads up to a tiled food court, surrounded by deluxe cafeteria stations, grills and sushi bars, each advertising itself on a brightly colored marquee: Old World. Upper Crust. Center Stage. Traditions. Innovations. Cravings.

Here in this found poetry, I think, is the heart and soul of the modern university.
New York Times Magazine, 21 May 2006.

Back in high school I told my dad, "I'm going to have a computer someday."
And he said that it cost as much as a house-the downpayment on a house.
And I said, "Well, I'll live in an apartment."

Steve Wozniak

"It's easy to find undergraduates to participate,
but with the guys nothing makes sense because they all eat like animals."

Brian Wansink, quoted in The New York Times

Software development takes immense intellectual effort. Even the best programmers can rarely sustain that level of effort for more than a few hours a day. Beyond that, they need to rest their brains a bit, which is why they always seem to be surfing the Internet or playing games when you barge in on them.
Joel Spolsky, How Hard Could It Be?: Five Easy Ways to Fail

Warning: The SSLF security settings are not intended for the majority of enterprise organizations. The configuration for these settings has been developed for organizations where security is more important than functionality.
Windows Vista Security Guide

Another [time management] strategy is to ignore the fact that you are slowly killing yourself by not sleeping and exercising enough. That frees up several hours a day. The only downside is that you get fat and die.
Scott Adams, The Dilbert Blog: Time Management

What do you make of the fact that John McCain was ranked 894 in a class of 899 when he graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy?
I like to think that the reason he ranked so low is that he was out drinking beer, as opposed to just unable to learn stuff.

Charles Murray, interviewed in the New York Times, 19 September 2008

There is surely no more reliable way to kill enthusiasm and interest in a subject than to make it a mandatory part of the school curriculum. Include it as a major component of standardized testing and you virtually guarantee that the education establishment will suck the life out of it.
Paul Lockhart, Lockhart's Lament

Remember that accumulated knowledge, like accumulated capital, increases at compound interest: but it differs from the accumulation of capital in this; that the increase of knowledge produces a more rapid rate of progress, whilst the accumulation of capital leads to a lower rate of interest. Capital thus checks its own accumulation: knowledge thus accelerates its own advance. Each generation, therefore, to deserve comparison with its predecessor, is bound to add much more largely to the common stock than that which it immediately succeeds.
Charles Babbage, The Exposition of 1851, 1851

UVa CS David Evans
Department of Computer Science
University of Virginia
Other Addresses