✒ talking to physicists at parties

“So, what do you do?”

“Me? I’m a physicist.”

“Hey, isn’t that a coincidence? I hated physics!”

“Really? Wow.”

“I was so terrible at it in school, and my teachers were simply awful. But you must be a genius!”

“Um... actually...”

“Oh, hi! Nice to meet you. A mathematician? I was so bad at math...”

That exact conversation is more common than you might think. I’m sure that lawyers get evil-lawyer jokes and accountants get some variant of, “Gee, that’s boring,” but physicists are told that their passion is dreadful in a way that’s supposed to be a compliment. It would be easy to slip into the conceit that what we’re doing is so esoteric and so painfully difficult that we are modern-day wizards, but that would be a lie.

Physics isn’t about out-of-this-world things like flux capacitors and trips across the eighth dimension: it’s as in-this-world as you can get. It’s a fascination with all the little things that our world does, such as ice crystals growing on a spider web on a signpost. (...)

From “Coffeshop Physics” by Jim Pivarski. Make sure to check out other of his brilliant posts, like “Leprechauns and laser beams” or the Physics in a Nutshell section.

Activating the laser cannon

📎 keep your identity small

  • Politics, like religion, is a topic where there's no threshold of expertise for expressing an opinion. All you need is strong convictions.
  • I think what religion and politics have in common is that they become part of people's identity, and people can never have a fruitful argument about something that's part of their identity. By definition they're partisan.
  • If people can't think clearly about anything that has become part of their identity, then all other things being equal, the best plan is to let as few things into your identity as possible.


📎 on the phenomenon of bullshit jobs

In the year 1930, John Maynard Keynes predicted that, by century's end, technology would have advanced sufficiently that countries like Great Britain or the United States would have achieved a 15-hour work week. There's every reason to believe he was right. In technological terms, we are quite capable of this. And yet it didn't happen. Instead, technology has been marshaled, if anything, to figure out ways to make us all work more. In order to achieve this, jobs have had to be created that are, effectively, pointless. Huge swathes of people, in Europe and North America in particular, spend their entire working lives performing tasks they secretly believe do not really need to be performed. The moral and spiritual damage that comes from this situation is profound. It is a scar across our collective soul. Yet virtually no one talks about it.


💬 shoutout to the sleep-deprived

Cause I’ve got the brains, they’re there in my head
All that remains is just to get out of bed
I’m missing the best part of the day
Stealing tomorrow to help me get over today

— The Fratellis, “Lazybones”

✒ Gauss facts

The Chuck Norris of mathematics.


  • When Gauss died, he did not leave any conjectures but exercises.
  • Gauss knows the last digit of pi.
  • Erdos believed God had a book of all perfect mathematical proofs. God believes Gauss has such a book.
  • Fermat once made Gauss angry. The result - Fermat’s Last Theorem.
  • The common phrase used by mathematicians, “Let n be an integer”, is literally a request to Gauss to allow it to be so.
  • Gauss didn’t discover the normal distribution, nature conformed to his will.
  • Gauss doesn't understand stochastic processes because he can predict random numbers.

✒ the importance of being earnest

Some select quotes.

  • The truth is rarely pure and never simple.
  • All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does, and that is his.
  • The good ended happily and the badunhappily. That is what fiction is.
  • Never speak disrespectfully of society, Algernon. Only people who can’t get into it do that.
  • “How can you sit there, calmly eating muffins when we are in this horrible trouble, I can’t make out. You seem to me to be perfectly heartless.”
    “Well, I can’t eat muffins in an agitated manner. The butter would probably get in my cuffs. One should always eat muffins quite calmly. It is the only way to eat them.”
  • My dear fellow, the truth isn’t quite the sort of thing one tells to a nice, sweet, refined girl. What extraordinary ideas you have about the way to behave to a woman!
  • To be natural is such a difficult pose to keep up.
  • I am sick to death of cleverness. Everybody is clever nowadays.
  • In any case, she is a monster without being a myth, which is rather unfair.
  • “Oh, that’s nonsense, Algy! You never talk anything but nonsense.”
    “Nobody ever does.”
  • He was eccentric, I admit. But only in later years. And that was the result of the Indian climate, and marriage, and indigestion, and other things of that kind.
  • “Gwendolen, it is a terrible thing for a man to find out suddenly that all his life he has been speaking nothing but the truth. Can you forgive me?”
    “I can, for I feel that you are sure to change.”

Oscar Wilde, 1895