Mathematical folklore

  • The highest moments in the life of a mathematician are the first few moments after one has proved the result, but before one finds the mistake.
  • Golden rule of deriving : never trust any result that was proved after 11 p.m.
  • The professional quality of a mathematician is inversely proportional  to the importance it attaches to space and equipment.
  • Relations between pure and applied mathematicians are based on trust and understanding. Namely, pure mathematicians do not trust applied mathematicians, and applied mathematicians do not understand pure mathematicians.
  • Some mathematicians become so tense these days that they do not go to sleep during seminars.
  • In the sciences, we are now uniquely privileged to sit by side with the giants on whose shoulders we stand.
  • If I have not seen as far as others, it is because giants were standing on my shoulders.
  • Mathematicians stand on each other's shoulders while computer scientists stand on each other's toes.
  • These days even the most pure and abstract mathematics is in danger to be applied.
  • The reason that every (major) university maintains a department of mathematics is that is cheaper to do this than to institutionalize all those people.
  • Proof by funding : How could three different government agencies be wrong ?
  • Proof by example : The author gives only the case n=2 and suggests that it contains most of the ideas of the general proof.
  • Proof by omission : The reader may easily supply the details. (VARIATION : The other 253 cases are analogous.)
  • Proof by intimidation : Trivial.
  • Proof by seduction : Convince yourself that this is true !
  • Proof by cumbersome notation : Best done with access to at least four alphabets and special symbols.
  • Proof by wishful citation : The author cites the negation, converse, or generalization of a theorem from the literature to support his/her claim.
  • Proof by reference to inaccessible literature : The author cites a simple corollary of a theorem to be found in a privately circulated memoir of the Slovenian Philological Society, 1883.
  • Proof by importance : A large body of useful consequences all follow from the proposition in question.
  • Proof by accumulated evidence : Long and diligent search has not revealed a counterexample.
  • Proof by cosmology : The negation of the proposition is unimaginable or meaningless.


  • Imagination is more important than knowledge. (A. EINSTEIN)
  • Everything you can imagine is real. (P. PICASSO)
  • The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. (A. EINSTEIN)
  • Besides language and music, mathematics is one of the primary manifestations of the free creative power of the human mind. (H. WEYL)
  • The author of the Iliad is either Homer or, if not Homer, somebody else of the same name. (A. HUXLEY)
  • Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored. (A. HUXLEY)
  • We are never deceived; we deceive ourselves. (J.W. von GOETHE)
  • The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you're still a rat. (L. TOMLIN)
  • The hardest thing of all is to find a black cat in a dark room, especially if there is no cat. (CONFUCIUS)

Some of my favourites

My favourite colour


My favourite fruit


My favourite "Golden Rule"

Whoever has the gold makes the rules.

My favourite writers/authors

Albert Camus

Richard Dawkins

Daniel C Dennett

My favourite composers

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Sergey Rachmaninov

Dmitri Shostakovich

Antonin Dvorak

My favourite books (fiction)

Albert Camus : The Outsider

Kazuo Ishiguro : The Remains of the Day

My favourite books (non-fiction)

Daniel C Dennett : Darwin's Dangerous Idea

John Brockman (ed) : This Will Change Everything.

John Brockman (ed) : What Have You Changed Your Mind About ?

John brockman (ed) : What are You Optimistic About ?

John Brockman (ed) : What is Your Dangerous Idea ?

John Brockman (ed) : What We Believe but Cannot Prove

Richard Dawkins : The Selfish Gene

My favourite actors

(Sir) Anthony Hopkins

Kevin Spacey

My favourite city


Last Modified: Tue, 17 Jan 2012 17:17:20 SAST