Things He either said
(Usually taken out of
context on purpose)
"...Now let's take
these simple ideas and make them sound more complicated, just to prove
think anything they really understand is trivial. I think that’s
why we usually explain things so badly: to keep other mathematicians —
and even ourselves — from really understanding things, and then
labelling them ‘trivial’."
participant asked "Is that notation related to the same idea in
algebraic geometry?", and John Baez responds, "I don't know, I just made
"I keep thinking I'm
in the first scene of a movie where black-masked ninja terrorists rappel
up the walls of the building, break in, kidnap me, and torture me for
the rest of my summer vacation."
"Alas, these are
things I am not allowed to explain. If you become an algebraic
geometer, and pay your initiation fees, someone will knock on your door
one night, take you out back, and whisper a few sentences in your
ear. Then all these concepts will become incredibly clear!
But having been initiated myself, and taken the vow of secrecy, I am not
at liberty to say these sentences in public. Someday I may
rebel. But not yet."
"I think there should
be some conferences where they take 4 or 5 people, throw them into a
dungeon, and only let them out when they figure out what’s going
addition better than multiplication because I learned it
beginning of Friday, the universe consisted of two circles, and by the
end of Friday it collapsed into one circle.”
“When you see physicists
scribbling these things on a napkin, they are really working with
symmetric monoidal categories.
Just don’t tell them that.”
used a decimal point in a math talk before. I’ll see how it
[growling] sl(n,C). That’s
me saying ‘sl(n,C)’ in gothic.
But if I did a whole course like that my throat would
mathematics in blue – it doesn’t seem quite as true as mathematics in
write about Dynkin diagrams apparently haven’t heard of the empty
not paying me enough to do that.
I mean, they’re paying me enough, but not to do that… That’s what
grad students were invented for.
If you don’t have enough theorems, then you need more grad
“Category theory is the subject
where you can leave the definitions as exercises.”
mathematics, there’s plenty of justice to go around. It’s when people get involved –
“You have dialed an imaginary
number. Please multiply by
i and dial
“Exponentiation commutes with stupidity. Preserves stupidity, I should
called symplectic – don’t ask me why. I could tell you – but then I’d
have to kill you. On the
day of Obama’s inauguration, a Riverside professor goes crazy …. That
would be bad.”
“It’s like psychic vampirism –
sucking energy from your audience.”