Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Analytical Thought

Just as compulsory primary education created a market catered for by cheap dailies and weeklies, so the spread of secondary and latterly of tertiary education has created a large population of people, often with well-developed literary and scholarly tastes, who have been educated far beyond their capacity to undertake analytical thought.
— Peter Medawar

Saturday, 28 January 2012

The Companionship Of The Herd

A fool always finds a greater fool to admire him.
 — Nicholas Boileau

Friday, 27 January 2012

Resistance Is Useful

I shall not submit to injustice from anyone. 
I shall conquer untruth by truth. 
And in resisting untruth, I shall put up with all suffering.
 — Mahatma Gandhi

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Plus Ça Change, Plus C'est La Même Chose

This here's the wattle -
the emblem of our land.
You can stick it in a bottle
or you can hold it in your hand.
 — Monty Python 'Bruces' (1970)

Oi Oi Oi

Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.
 — Samuel Johnson

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Education > Training

'I think he was a silly little man,' said Councillor Tompkins. 'Worthless, in fact; no use to Society at all.'
'Oh, I don't know,' said Atkins, who was nobody of importance, just a schoolmaster. 'I am not so sure: it depends on what you mean by use.'
'No practical or economic use,' said Tompkins. 'I dare say he could have been made into a serviceable cog of some sort, if you schoolmasters knew your business. But you don't, and so we get useless people of his sort.'
— JRR Tolkien 'Leaf By Niggle'

Tuesday, 24 January 2012


A gentleman is one who never hurts anyone's feelings unintentionally.
 — Oscar Wilde

Sunday, 22 January 2012


There are no fools so troublesome as those that have wit.
 — Benjamin Franklin

There are no fools so troublesome as those that have a little wit.
 — Sherlock Holmes quoting 'the old French philosopher'

Saturday, 21 January 2012

The Ability To Deny The Truth

Natural selection favours the forces of psychological denial [if] the individual benefits as an individual from his ability to deny the truth even though society as a whole, of which he is a part, suffers.
 — Garrett Hardin 'The Tragedy Of The Commons'

Friday, 20 January 2012

The Age Of Endarkenment

What's happened, of course, is that the age of enlightenment has been dimmed, shall we say, the age of reason and evidence which caused the flowering of science. When you have 40% of the American population believing in homeopathy or intelligent design, or anything, and thinking that anything goes, that any opinion has equal weight to any other…we had a profound change in attitudes in countries like the US and of course there's quite a lot of it here, and I'm sure there's plenty of it in Australia as well.

So the age of enlightenment, if not dead, is greatly dimmed. And if you have that, then you really are in trouble, and I remember when I was still the high steward of Cambridge sitting on a little committee with the then vice-chancellor Alison Richard, looking at the salaries of the non-clinical professors. That was the final port of call. They really re-did all the salaries there. And I noticed in the top category there were very few non-scientists, and so as a scientist I felt I should speak up on behalf of my non-scientist friends and I asked why there were so few. And Alison Richard said, 'Well, I'm afraid arts and humanities people have drunk too deeply of the well of this attitude and we have to wait for a generation to pass before we can get them up to speed again.'

 — Bridget Ogilvie

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Mass Debating On Email Lists

The discipline of the written word punishes both stupidity and dishonesty.
 — John Steinbeck


Wednesday, 18 January 2012

The Right-In-Exile

The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule.
 — HL Mencken

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

One More Mystery Explained

I have it; it's a moron convention.
 — Cat

Cavity Waves

Vacuity propagates faster than the speed of light.

Monday, 16 January 2012

What Has Been Going On

It was really bitter to be disliked that much. But after a time I was getting a certain wry satisfaction out of it, because I got so contemptuous at what was going on. It hardened my resolution….
 — Frances Ames - Recipient of the Star of Africa from Nelson Mandela

Sunday, 15 January 2012


A thing is a phallic symbol if it's longer than it's wide
 — Melanie Safka 'Psychotherapy'

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Thursday, 12 January 2012

The Name of the Rose

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
 — William Shakespeare 'Romeo And Juliet'

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Playing The Game

Tit for tat is a highly effective strategy in game theory for the iterated prisoner's dilemma. It was first introduced by Anatol Rapoport in Robert Axelrod's two tournaments, held around 1980. An agent using this strategy will initially co-operate, then respond in kind to an opponent's previous action. If the opponent previously was co-operative, the agent is cooperative. If not, the agent is not.

Monday, 9 January 2012


The infinite monkey theorem states that a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type a given text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare.

The Rhetorical Use Of Obscurity

The rhetorical use of obscurity is, however, a vice. It is often said … that the purpose of obscure or difficult writing is to create the illusion of profundity … in its more subtle usages, obscurity can be used to create the illusion of deeply reasoned discourse.
— Peter Medawar

… no-one who has something original or important to say will run the risk of being misunderstood; people who write obscurely are either unskilled in writing or up to mischief. The writers I am speaking of are, however, in a purely literary sense, extremely skilled.
— Peter Medawar

Style Without Substance

Style has now become an object of first importance, and what a style it is! For me it has a prancing, high-stepping quality, full of self-importance; elevated indeed, but in a balletic manner, and stopping from time to time in studied attitudes, as if awaiting an outburst of applause. It has had a deplorable influence on the quality of modern thought in philosophy and in the behavioural and ‘human’ sciences.
 — Peter Medawar

Sunday, 8 January 2012


But suppose there is no argument; suppose that the text is asseverative in manner, perhaps because analytical reasoning has been repudiated in favour of reasoning of some higher kind. If now the text is made hard to follow because of non sequiturs, digressions, paradoxes, impressive-sounding references to Gödel, Wittgenstein, and topology, ‘in’ jokes, trollopy metaphors, and a general determination to keep all vulgar sensibilities at bay, then again we shall have great difficulty in finding out what the author intends us to understand.
— Peter Medawar

The Arm-Chair Revolution

Make trouble.
 — Jay Lemke

Saturday, 7 January 2012


Egotism is the anæsthetic that dulls the pain of stupidity.
 — Frank Leahy

Friday, 6 January 2012

Low & Behold

Imagine the Creator as a low comedian,
and at once the world becomes explicable.
 — HL Mencken

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Club Members

I don't care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members.
 — Groucho Marx