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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 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 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.”










© 2009 Christopher Walker