Catherine Hood Consulting

Some favorite quotes about
time series, mathematics, computer programming, and life.

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Catherine's Quotation Page

Blaise Pascal

The last thing one knows when writing a book is what to put first.
Pensees. 1670.

The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing.

Douglas R. Hofstadter

Hofstadter's Law: It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter's Law.

Ecclesiastes 9:11

I returned and saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

Isaiah 40:4

Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.

Agustín Maravall

There is no deterministic world. There was one once, but then God told Adam and Eve they would have to live in a stochastic world.

Marie Curie

Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.

Benjamin Franklin

Lost time is never found again.

Danica McKellar

Math is the only place where truth and beauty mean the same thing.

Maryam Mirzakhani

The beauty of mathematics only shows itself to more patient followers.

John Horton Conway

People think that mathematics is complicated. Mathematics is the simple bit; it’s the stuff we CAN understand. It’s cats that are complicated.

Ada Lovelace

Mathematical science shows what is. It is the language of unseen relations between things. But to use and apply that language, we must be able fully to appreciate, to feel, to seize the unseen, the unconscious.

Rene Descartes

Divide each difficulty into as many parts as necessary to resolve it.

Sir Josiah Stamp

The government are very keen on amassing statistics -- they collect them, add them, raise them to the n'th power, take the cube root, and prepare wonderful diagrams. But what you must never forget is that every one of those figures comes in the first place from the chowty dar [village watchman] who just puts down what he pleases.
in "Some Economic Factors in Modern Life", Chapter VIII, Human Nature in Statistics
P.S. King & Son, Ltd: Orchard House, Westminster, 1929.

Andrew Lang

He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts . . . for support rather than illumination.

Mark McLemore

Boonie's hit, on a scale of 1 to 10, was huge.
(Referring to Brett Boone's hit in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, 2001)

Yogi Berra

Baseball is 90% mental, the other half is physical.

The future ain't what it used to be.

Dan Quisenberry

The future is much like the present, only longer.

John Sladek

The future, according to some scientists, will be exactly like the past, only far more expensive.

Baltasar Gracian

All that really belongs to us is time; even he who has nothing else has that.

Marcus Aurelius Antoninus

Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.
In Meditations, 200 AD

Robert Fulford

I have seen the future and it doesn't work.

Alan Kay

The best way to predict the future is to invent it.

Dan Quayle

The future will be better tomorrow.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?
In The Sign of Four, 1890

Niels Henrik David Bohr

Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.
As quoted in Teaching and Learning Elementary Social Studies (1970) by Arthur K. Ellis, p. 431.
There is some indication that this saying had been around for a while in Denmark, perhaps from the Danish poet Piet Hein or from the Danish cartoonist Robert Storm Petersen.

An expert is a person who has found out by his own painful experience all the mistakes that one can make in a very narrow field.
in "Dr. Edward Teller's Magnificent Obsession" by Robert Coughlan, in LIFE magazine (6 September 1954), p. 62.

Ambrose Bierce

Predict, v. To relate an event that has not occurred, is not occurring and will not occur.
Prophecy, n. The art and practice of selling one's credibility for future delivery.

T.S. Eliot

Time present and time past are both perhaps present in time future and time future contained in time past.

John Wayne

Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes to us at midnight very clean. It's perfect when it arrives and puts itself in our hands. It hopes we've learned something from yesterday.

Steve Jobs (1955-2011)

You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something -- your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.
From commencement address at Stanford University, June 2005

William Hazlitt

Most of the methods for measuring the lapse of time have, I believe, been the contrivance of monks and religious recluses, who, finding time hang heavy on their hands, were at some pains to see how they got rid of it.
In "On a Sundial, Sketches and Essays"

Abraham Lincoln

If we could first know where we are and whither we are tending, we could better judge what to do and how to do it.

I fear explanations explanatory of things explained.

John F. Kennedy

We must use time as a tool, not as a crutch.

Hearcleitus (513 BCE)

All is flux, nothing is stationary.

Pliny the Elder (23 AD - 79 AD)

In these matters the only certainty is that nothing is certain.

Ursula K. LeGuin

The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty; not knowing what comes next.

Stephen Gallogly

The role of the economist is to make weathermen look good.

Edmund Burke

The age of chivalry is gone. That of sophisters, economists and calculators has succeeded.
from Reflections on the Revolution in France

John Kenneth Galbraith

There can be no question, however, that prolonged commitment to mathematical exercises in economics can be damaging. It leads to the atrophy of judgement and intuition . . .
Economics, Peace, and Laughter


Today is the tomorrow you were worrying about yesterday.

William Allen White

I am not afraid of tomorrow, for I have seen yesterday and I love today.

Sir Kendall

The essential idea of trend is that it shall be smooth.
in Time Series, 1973

Andrew Harvey

There is no fundamental reason, though, why a trend should be smooth.
in Forecasting, Structural Time Series Models and the Kalman Filter, 1989.

Wayne Fuller

What is a trend? A trend is an estimate that comes from a trend estimator.

The public trusts us to design the questionnaire, train the interviewers, collect the data, tabulate the data, and then, at the very last moment, you worry that the public doesn't trust us to get the seasonal adjustment correct?
(In response to possible objections to concurrent seasonal adjustment)

C.W.J. Granger, refering to seasonal adjustment diagnostics

The criteria I suggested have been shown to be impossible to achieve in practice, and, thus, should be replaced by achievable criteria. However, I am at a loss to know what these criteria should be.

William Bell and Steve Hillmer

Whereas seasonal adjustment was originally done as part of the analysis of time series data by statisticians and economists, computerized seasonal adjustment has come to serve the needs of government officials, business managers and journalists---on the whole, a statistically unsophisticated group with little interest in time series modeling.
in "Issues Involved with the Seasonal Adjustment of Economic Time Series" (1984), Journal of Business and Economic Statistics, 2: 291-349.

George E.P. Box

All models are wrong, but some are useful.
in G.E.P. Box (1979), "Robustness in the Strategy of Scientific Model Building" (1979), Robustness in Statistics (Launer & Wilkinson eds.), p. 202.

And the following variation: Remember that all models are wrong; the practical question is how wrong do they have to be to not be useful.
in Box & Draper (1987), Empirical Model-building and Response Surfaces, Wiley, p. 74.

Statisticians, like artists, have the bad habit of falling in love with their models.

I want to tell you how I got to be a statistician. I was, of course, born in England, and in 1939 . . . when war broke out in September of that year, although I was close to getting a degree in Chemistry, I abandoned that and joined the Army. They put me in the Engineers (and when I see a bridge I still catch myself calculating where I would put the charges to blow it up).
     Before I could actually do any of that, I was moved to a highly secret experimental station in the south of England. At the time they were bombing London every night, and our job was to help to find out what to do if, one night, they used poisonous gas. Some of England's best scientists were there. There were a lot of experiments with small animals. I was a lab assistant making biochemical determinations; my boss was a professor of physiology dressed up as a colonel, and I was dressed up as a staff sergeant. The results I was getting were very variable, and I told my colonel that what we really needed was a statistician. He said, "We can't get one, what do you know about it?"
     I said, "Nothing, I once tried to read a book about it by someone called R. A. Fisher, but I didn't understand it."
     He said, "You've read the book, so you better do it."
     So I said, "Yes, sir."
in "An Accidental Statistician" (2010) on
Editor's Note: Dr. Box later married Joan Fisher, R.A. Fisher's second daughter.

Ronald "R.A." Fisher

To call in the statistician after the experiment is done may be no more than asking him to perform a post-mortem examination: he may be able to say what the experiment died of.
in "Presidential Address by Professor R. A. Fisher, Sc.D., F.R.S.", Sankhyā: The Indian Journal of Statistics, Vol. 4, No. 1 (1938), p. 17.

John W. Tukey

Far better an approximate answer to the right question, which is often vague, than an exact answer to the wrong question, which can always be made precise.
in "The future of data analysis." Annals of Mathematical Statistics 33: 1-67, p. 13.

J.M. Hammersley, often attributed to Sir David Cox because it was a favorite of his, but he attributed the phrasing to Hammersley

Most real life statistical problems have one or more nonstandard features. There are no routine statistical questions, only questionable statistical routines.

Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss)

Today is gone. Today was fun.
Tomorrow is another one.
in One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish

J.E. Littlewood

A good mathematical joke is better, and better mathematics, than a dozen mediocre papers.
in A Mathematician's Miscellany, Methuen and Co. ltd., 1953.

Josiah Willard Gibbs

Mathematics is a language.

Alfred Renyi

If I feel unhappy, I do mathematics to become happy. If I am happy, I do mathematics to keep happy.

Gottfried Whilhem Leibniz

Music is the pleasure the human soul experiences from counting without being aware that it is counting.
In N. Rose, Mathematical Maxims and Minims, Raleigh NC:Rome Press Inc., 1988.

It is unworthy of excellent men to lose hours like slaves in the labor of calculation.
(written in 1671)

Freeman Dyson

The bottom line for mathematicians is that the architecture has to be right. In all the mathematics that I did, the essential point was to find the right architecture. It's like building a bridge. Once the main lines of the structure are right, then the details miraculously fit. The problem is the overall design.
in "Freeman Dyson: Mathematician, Physicist, and Writer" --Interview with Donald J. Albers, The College Mathematics Journal, vol 25, no. 1, January 1994.

Karl Friedrich Gauss

I have had my results for a long time: but I do not yet know how I am to arrive at them.
In A. Arbor, The Mind and the Eye

You know that I write slowly. This is chiefly because I am never satisfied until I have said as much as possible in a few words, and writing briefly takes far more time than writing at length.
In G. Simmons, Calculus Gems, New York: McGraw Hill Inc., 1992.

Charles Babbage

Errors using inadequate data are much less than those using no data at all.

On two occasions I have been asked [by members of Parliament], 'Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?' I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question.

Steve McConnell

A good program never puts out garbage, regardless of what it takes in. A good program uses 'garbage in, nothing out'; 'garbage in, error message out'; 'no garbage allowed in' instead. 'Garbage in, garbage out' is the mark of a sloppy program.
in Code Complete

John Wallin

Is it better to suffer the strings and errors of outrageous FORTRAN or suffer through the C of discontent?

Agatha Christie

I continued to do arithmetic with my father, passing proudly through fractions to decimals. I eventually arrived at the point where so many cows ate so much grass, and tanks filled with water in so many hours. I found it quite enthralling.

Ronan Conroy

I'm not an outlier; I just haven't found my distribution yet.

Alexander Pope

Order is Heaven's first law.
An Essay on Man IV.


I have hardly ever known a mathematician who was capable of reasoning.

Mathematics is like checkers in being suitable for the young, not too difficult, amusing, and without peril to the state.

St. Augustine

The good Christian should beware of mathematicians, and all those who make empty prophecies.

Matthew Pordage

One of the endearing things about mathematicians is the extent to which they will go to avoid doing any real work.
In H. Eves, Return to Mathematical Circles, Boston: Prindle, Weber and Schmidt, 1988.

Jonathon Edwards

When I am violently beset with temptations, or cannot rid myself of evil thoughts, [I resolve] to do some Arithmetic, or Geometry, or some other study, which necessarily engages all my thoughts, and unavoidably keeps them from wandering.
In T. Mallon, A Book of One's Own. Ticknor & Fields, New York, 1984, p. 106-107.

Art Buchwald

Whether it's the best of times or the worst of times, it's the only time we've got.

Louis Pasteur

Chance favors only the prepared mind.
In H. Eves, Return to Mathematical Circles, Boston: Prindle, Weber and Schmidt, 1988.

In good philosophy, the word "cause" ought to be reserved to the single divine impulse that has formed the universe.
In God--Seen Through the Eyes of the Greatest Minds by Michael Caputo, Howard Publishing Co.

Albert Einstein

The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once.

I never think of the future. It comes soon enough.

If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.

Since the mathematicians have invaded the theory of relativity, I do not understand it myself anymore.
In A. Sommerfelt "To Albert Einstein's Seventieth Birthday" in Paul A. Schilpp (ed.) Albert Einstein, Philosopher-Scientist, Evanston, 1949.

Do not worry about your difficulties in mathematics, I assure you that mine are greater.

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

The truth of a theory is in your mind, not in your eyes.
In H. Eves Mathematical Circles Squared, Boston: Prindle, Weber and Schmidt, 1972.

I want to know how God created this world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thoughts; the rest are details.
In God--Seen Through the Eyes of the Greatest Minds by Michael Caputo, Howard Publishing Co.

If A is a success in life, then A equals x plus y plus z. Work is x; y is play; and z is keeping your mouth shut.

Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the the universe.

Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.
(Sign hanging in Einstein's office at Princeton)

I defend the Good God against the idea of a continuous game of dice.
In God--Seen Through the Eyes of the Greatest Minds by Michael Caputo, Howard Publishing Co.

You believe in God playing dice, and I in perfect laws in the world of things existing as real objects, which I try to grasp in a wildly speculative way.

Stephen Williams Hawking

Not only does God definitely play dice, but He sometimes confuses us by throwing them where they can't be seen.

Carl Jacobi

God ever arithmetizes.

Mathematics is the science of what is clear by itself.

Leonardo da Vinci

No human investigation can be called real science if it cannot be demonstrated mathematically.

Andrejs Dunkels

It is easy to lie with statistics. It is hard to tell the truth without it.

Leonard H. Courtney, often attributed to Mark Twain, who himself often attributed the quote to Benjamin Disraeli.

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.


God is supreme logic, a distant home.

Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.

Morris Kline

Logic is the art of going wrong with confidence.
In N. Rose Mathematical Maxims and Minims, Raleigh NC:Rome Press Inc., 1988.

Martin Luther

Medicine makes people ill, mathematics makes them sad, and theology makes them sinful.

Paul Valery

The trouble with our times is that the future is not what it used to be.

Cartoon, Sun Newspaper, London, 29 February 1972

One fortune teller to another:
No doubt about it, Zelda, the future isn't what it was used to be.

Cartoon, The New Yorker, December 10, 1984

One man to another as they walk down the street at Christmas time:
Yes, I'm somewhat depressed, but seasonally adjusted I'm probably happy enough.

Hugo Rossi

In the fall of 1972 President Nixon announced that the rate of increase of inflation was decreasing. This was the first time a sitting president used the third derivative to advance his case for reelection.
"Mathematics Is an Edifice, Not a Toolbox", Notices of the AMS, v. 43, no. 10, October 1996.

Edgar Allen Poe

To speak algebraically, Mr. M. is execrable, but Mr. G. is (x + 1)- ecrable.
[Discussing fellow writers]
In N. Rose, Mathematical Maxims and Minims, Raleigh NC: Rome Press Inc., 1988.

Susan Landau

There's a touch of the priesthood in the academic world, a sense that a scholar should not be distracted by the mundane tasks of day-to-day living. I used to have great stretches of time to work. Now I have research thoughts while making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Sure it's impossible to write down ideas while reading "Curious George" to a two-year-old. On the other hand, as my husband was leaving graduate school for his first job, his thesis advisor told him, "You may wonder how a professor gets any research done when one has to teach, advise students, serve on committees, referee papers, write letters of recommendation, interview prospective faculty. Well, I take long showers."
In Her Own Words: Six Mathematicians Comment on Their Lives and Careers. Notices of the AMS, V. 38, no. 7 (September 1991), p. 704.

My youngest child

All I wanted was a car, and you gave me toothpaste.

Gian-carlo Rota

We often hear that mathematics consists mainly of "proving theorems." Is a writer's job mainly that of "writing sentences?"
In preface to P. Davis and R. Hersh, The Mathematical Experience, Boston: Birkhauser, 1981.

Vannevar Bush

If scientific reasoning were limited to the logical processes of arithmetic, we should not get very far in our understanding of the physical world. One might as well attempt to grasp the game of poker entirely by the use of the mathematics of probability.

Sir Arthur Eddington

We used to think that if we knew one, we knew two, because one and one are two. We are finding that we must learn a great deal more about 'and'.
In The Harvest of a Quiet Eye, 1977

Johann von Neumann

In mathematics you don't understand things. You just get used to them.

Frank Wilczek

I went off to college planning to major in math or philosophy---of course, both those ideas are really the same idea.

Bertrand Russell

How dare we speak of the laws of chance? Is not chance the antithesis of all law?
Calcul des probabilites.

Although this may seem a paradox, all exact science is dominated by the idea of approximation.
W. H. Auden and L. Kronenberger (eds.), The Viking Book of Aphorisms, New York: Viking Press, 1966.

A habit of basing convictions upon evidence, and of giving to them only that degree or certainty which the evidence warrants, would, if it became general, cure most of the ills from which the world suffers.
In G. Simmons, Calculus Gems, New York: McGraw Hill Inc., 1992.

Aristotle maintained that women have fewer teeth than men; although he was twice married, it never occurred to him to verify this statement by examining his wives' mouths.
In The Impact of Science on Society, 1952.

I wanted certainty in the kind of way in which people want religious faith. I thought that certainty is more likely to be found in mathematics than elsewhere. But I discovered that many mathematical demonstrations, which my teachers expected me to accept, were full of fallacies, and that, if certainty were indeed discoverable in mathematics, it would be in a new field of mathematics, with more solid foundations than those that had hitherto been thought secure. But as the work proceeded, I was continually reminded of the fable about the elephant and the tortoise. having constructed an elephant upon which the mathematical world could rest, I found the elephant tottering, and proceeded to construct a tortoise to keep the elephant from falling. But the tortoise was no more secure than the elephant, and after some twenty years of very arduous toil, I came to the conclusion that there was nothing more that I could do in the way of making mathematical knowledge indubitable.
In Portraits from Memory

Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty---a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture, without appeal to any part of our weaker nature, without the gorgeous trappings of painting or music, yet sublimely pure, and capable of a stern perfection such as only the greatest art can show. The true spirit of delight, the exaltation, the sense of being more than Man, which is the touchstone of the highest excellence, is to be found in mathematics as surely as poetry.
In Study of Mathematics

Work is of two kinds: first, altering the position of matter at or near the earth's surface relatively to other such matter; second, telling other people to do so. The first kind is unpleasant and ill paid; the second is pleasant and highly paid.

Ernest Rutherford

If your experiment needs statistics, you ought to have done a better experiment.
In N.T.J. Bailey, The Mathematical Approach to Biology and Medicine, New York: Wiley, 1967.

Mary-Chapin Carpenter

The stars might lie, but the numbers never do.
From her song, "I Feel Lucky"

Penn and Teller

Luck is probability taken personally.
In a commercial for Las Vegas, Nevada

Captain H.M. "Howlin' Mad" Murdock

Sir, as this is Tuesday, it's my feeling that Wednesday could occur officially as early as tomorrow.
From The A-Team, Season 2, Episode 18

Nursery Rhyme -- an old spin on "trading day"

Monday's child is fair of face,
Tuesday's child is full of grace,
Wednesday's child is full of song,
Thursday's child is brave and strong,
Friday's child is loving and giving,
Saturday's child works hard for its living,
And the child that's born on the Sabbath day
Is bonny and blithe and good and gay.

William Shakespeare

The Witches:
The weird sisters, hand in hand,
Posters of the sea and land,
Thus do go about, about,
Thrice to thine, and thrice to mine,
And thrice again, to make up nine.
Peace! The charm's wound up.

Double, double, toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
MacBeth, Act I, Scene iii and Act IV, Scene i

Macbeth: Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death.
MacBeth, Act V, Scene v

Though this be madness, yet there is method in't.
Hamlet, Act II, Scene ii

I am ill at these numbers.
Hamlet, Act II, Scene ii

Lewis Carroll

The different branches of Arithmetic -- Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision.
Alice in Wonderland

"Can you do addition?" the White Queen asked. "What's one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one?"
"I don't know," said Alice. "I lost count."
Through the Looking Glass

"It's very good jam," said the Queen.
"Well, I don't want any to-day, at any rate."
"You couldn't have it if you did want it," the Queen said. "The rule is jam tomorrow and jam yesterday but never jam to-day."
"It must come sometimes to "jam to-day"," Alice objected.
"No it can't," said the Queen. "It's jam every other day; to-day isn't any other day, you know."
"I don't understand you," said Alice. "It's dreadfully confusing."
Through the Looking Glass

Alice laughed: "There's no use trying," she said; "one can't believe impossible things."
"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."
Alice in Wonderland

And never, never, dear Madam, put "Wednesday" simply as the date! That way madness lies.
Feeding The Mind

Robin Green and Mitchell Burgess

Time is just something that we assign. You know, past, present, it's just all arbitrary. Most Native Americans, they don't think of time as linear; in time, out of time, I never have enough time, circular time, the Stevens wheel. All moments are happening all the time.
from the TV show Northern Exposure, Episode: "Hello, I Love You", 1994

Eric Hoffer

A preoccupation with the future not only prevents us from seeing the present as it is but often prompts us to rearrange the past.
from The Passionate State of Mind, 1954

William Ralph Inge

Events in the past may be roughly divided into those which probably never happened and those which do not matter.

Will Rogers

Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save.
in the New York Times, Apr. 29, 1930.

Even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there.

Noelie Alito

The shortest distance between two points is under construction.

Walt Disney

Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we're curious . . . and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.
Title Card for Meet the Robinsons

Sir Winston Spencer Churchill

I had a feeling once about Mathematics - that I saw it all. Depth beyond depth was revealed to me - the Byss and Abyss. I saw - as one might see the transit of Venus or even the Lord Mayor's Show - a quantity passing through infinity and changing its sign from plus to minus. I saw exactly why it happened and why the tergiversation was inevitable but it was after dinner and I let it go.
In H. Eves, Return to Mathematical Circles, Boston: Prindle, Weber and Schmidt, 1988.

Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened.

It is a good thing for an uneducated man to read books of quotations. 
Roving Commission in My Early Life, 1930.

Quotes collected by Catherine C.H. Hood
Last modified: 30 September 2023

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