John von Neumann quotes

“If people do not believe that mathematics is simple, it is only because they do not realize how complicated life is.”
 John von NeumannSource : John von Neumann's remarks as keynote speaker at the first national meeting of the Association for Computing Machinery (1947) as quoted in "Archaeology of computers: Reminiscences, 19451947" by Franz L. Alt, Communications of the ACM, Volume 15, Issue 7, special issue: Twentyfifth anniversary of the Association for Computing Machinery (p. 694), July 1972.

“There probably is a God. Many things are easier to explain if there is than if there isn't.”
 John von NeumannSource : "John Von Neumann: The Scientific Genius Who Pioneered the Modern Computer, Game Theory, Nuclear Deterrence and Much More". Book by Norman Macrae, 1992.

“If one has really technically penetrated a subject, things that previously seemed in complete contrast, might be purely mathematical transformations of each other.”
 John von Neumann 
“The calculus was the first achievement of modern mathematics and it is difficult to overestimate its importance. I think it defines more unequivocally than anything else the inception of modern mathematics; and the system of mathematical analysis, which is its logical development, still constitutes the greatest technical advance in exact thinking.”
 John von NeumannSource : John Von Neumann, F. Bródy, Tibor Vámos (1995). “The Neumann Compendium”, p.620, World Scientific


“Anyone who attempts to generate random numbers by deterministic means is, of course, living in a state of sin.”
 John von Neumann 
“When we talk mathematics, we may be discussing a secondary language built on the primary language of the nervous system.”
 John von NeumannSource : "John Von Neumann, 19031957". Book edited by John C. Oxtoby, Billy J. Pettis and G. B. Price, 1958.

“There's no sense in being precise when you don't even know what you're talking about.”
 John von Neumann 
“Young man, in mathematics you don't understand things. You just get used to them.”
 John von NeumannSource : Quoted in Gary Zukav, The DancingWu Li Masters (1979)


“Truth is much too complicated to allow anything but approximations.”
 John von NeumannSource : John Von Neumann, F. Br¢dy, Tibor V mos (1995). “The Neumann Compendium”, p.626, World Scientific

“It would appear that we have reached the limits of what it is possible to achieve with computer technology, although one should be careful with such statements, as they tend to sound pretty silly in 5 years.”
 John von Neumann 
“The emphasis on mathematical methods seems to be shifted more towards combinatorics and set theory  and away from the algorithm of differential equations which dominates mathematical physics.”
 John von Neumann 
“With four parameters I can fit an elephant, and with five I can make him wiggle his trunk.”
 John von Neumann 

“Anyone who considers arithmetical methods of producing random digits is, of course, in a state of sin.”
 John von Neumann 
“The sciences do not try to explain, they hardly even try to interpret, they mainly make models. By a model is meant a mathematical construct which, with the addition of certain verbal interpretations, describes observed phenomena. The justification of such a mathematical construct is solely and precisely that it is expected to workthat is, correctly to describe phenomena from a reasonably wide area.”
 John von NeumannSource : John Von Neumann, F. Bródy, Tibor Vámos (1995). “The Neumann Compendium”, p.628, World Scientific

“It is just as foolish to complain that people are selfish and treacherous as it is to complain that the magnetic field does not increase unless the electric field has a curl. Both are laws of nature.”
 John von Neumann 
“Neumann, to a physicist seeking help with a difficult problem: Simple. This can be solved by using the method of characteristics. Physicist: I'm afraid I don't understand the method of characteristics. Neumann: In mathematics you don't understand things. You just get used to them.”
 John von Neumann 

“It is exceptional that one should be able to acquire the understanding of a process without having previously acquired a deep familiarity with running it, with using it, before one has assimilated it in an instinctive and empirical way... Thus any discussion of the nature of intellectual effort in any field is difficult, unless it presupposes an easy, routine familiarity with that field. In mathematics this limitation becomes very severe.”
 John von Neumann 
“Problems are often stated in vague terms... because it is quite uncertain what the problems really are.”
 John von Neumann 
“You insist that there is something a machine cannot do. If you tell me precisely what it is a machine cannot do, then I can always make a machine which will do just that.”
 John von Neumann 
“All stable processes we shall predict. All unstable processes we shall control.”
 John von Neumann 

“Technological possibilities are irresistible to man. If man can go to the moon, he will. If he can control the climate, he will.”
 John von Neumann 
“I would like to make a confession which may seem immoral: I do not believe in Hilbert space anymore.”
 John von NeumannSource : "John Von Neumann: Selected Letters".

“Any one who considers arithmetical methods of producing random digits is, of course, in a state of sin. For, as has been pointed out several times, there is no such thing as a random numberâ€“ there are only methods to produce random numbers, and a strict arithmetic procedure of course is not such a method.”
 John von Neumann 
“You don't have to be responsible for the world that you're in.”
 John von NeumannSource : John von Neumann's advice to Richard Feynman as quoted in "Los Alamos from Below" in Richard Feynman "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!", 1985.


“Kurt Godel's achievement in modern logic is singular and monumental  indeed it is more than a monument, it is a landmark which will remain visible far in space and time. ... The subject of logic has certainly completely changed its nature and possibilities with Godel's achievement.”
 John von Neumann
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