John Baez
Quotes
Things He either said
our wrote.
(Usually taken out of
context on purpose)

"...Now let's take
these simple ideas and make them sound more complicated, just to prove
we're mathematicians."

"Most mathematicians
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’."

Some conference
participant asked "Is that notation related to the same idea in
algebraic geometry?", and John Baez responds, "I don't know, I just made
it up."

"I keep thinking I'm
in the first scene of a movie where blackmasked 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
on."

“I like
addition better than multiplication because I learned it
earlier.”

“At the
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.”

“I’ve never
used a decimal point in a math talk before. I’ll see how it
feels.”

“Like
[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
hurt.”

“Somehow
mathematics in blue – it doesn’t seem quite as true as mathematics in
black.”

“People who
write about Dynkin diagrams apparently haven’t heard of the empty
set.”

“They’re
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
students.”

“Category theory is the subject
where you can leave the definitions as exercises.”

“In
mathematics, there’s plenty of justice to go around. It’s when people get involved –
never.”

“You have dialed an imaginary
number. Please multiply by
i and dial
again.”

“Exponentiation commutes with stupidity. Preserves stupidity, I should
say.”

“They’re
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.”
