Academic put-downs

When it comes to put-downs (often good-natured, and sometimes nasty) about other people and their calling, and sometimes, about the human condition itself, academics are certainly among the best! Here is a partial list. If you happen to know of other such put-downs, do please let me know through your comments.

  • Study Materials Science: everything else is immaterial. (slogan on our Department T-shirts)
  • There is Physics; then there is stamp collecting. (Rutherford)
  • God gave all the easy problems to the physicists. (found in Stephen Robbins’ text on Organizational Behaviour)
  • It is evolution by jerks. (attributed to biologists who hold a dim view of the theory of “punctuated equilibrium” due to Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge; quote taken from a talk by Paul Krugman, an economics professor now at Princeton)
  • Mathematical physics is that which hasn’t enough rigour and generality to be math, but not enough contact with reality to be physics. (attributed to unnamed cynics by Cosma Shalizi and William Tozier in their paper on a simple model of the evolution of simple models of evolution)
  • … philosophy is the misuse of a terminology which as invented just for this purpose. (attributed to W. Dubislav, and found in Eugene Wigner’s famous article on the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in the natural sciences )
  • A mathematician may say anything he pleases, but a physicist must be at least partially sane. (J.W. Gibbs)
  • Mathematics is an interesting intellectual sport but it should not be allowed to stand in the way of obtaining sensible information about physical processes. (Richard Hamming)
  • As I understand it, the claim is that the less you use Homeopathy, the better it works. Sounds plausible to me. (David Deutsch)
  • Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and
    I’m not sure about the universe. (Albert Einstein)
  • Genius may have its limitations, but stupidity is not thus handicapped. (Elbert Hubbard)
  • Make it idiot-proof, and someone will make a better idiot. (Anonymous)
  • In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is…. (Yogi Berra,
    a well known academic …)

* * *

This was posted on a now defunct blog on 6 January 2005. I will add more as and when I find new ones.

In the meantime, here are some others: 1, 2, 3 and 4.

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