Why is it that Serge Lange's Linear Algebra, published by no less a Verlag than Springer, ostentatiously displays the sale of a few thousand copies over a period of fifteen years, while the same title by Seymour Lipschutz in the The Schaum's Outlines will be considered a failure unless it brings in a steady annual income from the sale of a few hundred thousand copies in twenty-six languages?

Combinatorics is an honest subject. No adèles, no sigma-algebras. You count balls in a box, and you either have the right number or you haven't. You get the feeling that the result you have discovered is forever, because it's concrete. Other branches of mathematics are not so clear-cut. Functional analysis of infinite-dimensional spaces is never fully convincing; you don't get a feeling of having done an honest day's work. Don't get the wrong idea - combinatorics is not just putting balls into boxes. Counting finite sets can be a highbrow undertaking, with sophisticated techniques.

Every lecture should state one main point and repeat it over and over, like a theme with variations. An audience is like a herd of cows, moving slowly in the direction they are being driven towards. If we make one point, we have a good chance that the audience will take the right direction; if we make several points, then the cows will scatter all over the field. The audience will lose interest and everyone will go back to the thoughts they interrupted in order to come to our lecture.

God created infinity, and man, unable to understand infinity, had to invent finite sets.

If we have no idea why a statement is true, we can still prove it by induction.

Richard Feynman was fond of giving the following advice on how to be a genius. You have to keep a dozen of your favorite problems constantly present in your mind, although by and large they will lay in a dormant state. Every time you hear or read a new trick or a new result, test it against each of your twelve problems to see whether it helps. Every once in a while there will be a hit, and people will say, "How did he do it? He must be a genius!"

THE COMPUTER IS JUST AN INSTRUMENT for doing faster what we already know how to do slower. All pretensions to computer intelligence and paradise-tomorrow promises should be toned down before the public turns away in disgust. And if that should happen, our civilization might not survive.

Philosophers and psychiatrists should explain why it is that we mathematicians are in the habit of systematically erasing our footsteps. Scientists have always looked askance at this strange habit of mathematicians, which has changed little from Pythagoras to our day.

A mathematician's work is mostly a tangle of guesswork, analogy, wishful thinking and frustration, and proof, far from being the core of discovery, is more often than not a way of making sure that our minds are not playing tricks.

The progress of mathematics can be viewed as progress from the infinite to the finite.

Are mathematical ideas invented or discovered? This question has been repeatedly posed by philosophers through the ages and will probably be with us forever.

The pendulum of mathematics swings back and forth towards abstraction and away from it with a timing that remains to be estimated.

Very little mathematics has direct applications - though fortunately most of it has plenty of indirect ones.

It is a common public relations gimmick to give the entire credit for the solution of famous problems to the one mathematician who is responsible for the last step.

Every field has its taboos. In algebraic geometry the taboos are (1) writing a draft that can be followed by anyone but two or three of one's closest friends, (2) claiming that a result has applications, (3) mentioning the word 'combinatorial,' and (4) claiming that algebraic geometry existed before Grothendieck (only some handwaving references to 'the Italians' are allowed provided they are not supported by specific references).

[In mathematics] There are two kinds of mistakes. There are fatal mistakes that destroy a theory, but there are also contingent ones, which are useful in testing the stability of a theory.

There is something in statistics that makes it very similar to astrology.

We often hear that mathematics consists mainly of "proving theorems." Is a writer's job mainly that of "writing sentences?"

Nature imitates mathematics.

How did he do it? He must be a genius!

The apex of mathematical achievement occurs when two or more fields which were thought to be entirely unrelated turn out to be closely intertwined. Mathematicians have never decided whether they should feel excited or upset by such events.

Our faith in Mathematics is not likely to wane if we openly acknowledge that the personalities of even the greatest mathematicians may be as flawed as those of anyone else.

Mathematicians also make terrible salesmen. Physicists can discover the same thing as a mathematician and say 'We've discovered a great new law of nature. Give us a billion dollars.' And if it doesn't change the world, then they say, 'There's an even deeper thing. Give us another billion dollars.'

Mathematicians - for what they do - are really poorly rewarded. And it's a very competitive field, almost as bad as being a concert pianist.

The lack of real contact between mathematics and biology is either a tragedy, a scandal or a challenge, it is hard to decide which.

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