Quotation for the week: Littlewood

J. E. Littlewood’s book A Mathematician’s Miscellany (1953) contains quite a few remarks that don’t do much for the image of mathematics, accurate though they may be. Here’s one of them.

Improbabilities are apt to be overestimated. It is true that I should have been surprised in the past to learn that Professor Hardy had joined the Oxford Group. But one could not say the adverse chance was 10^6 : 1. Mathematics is a dangerous profession; an appreciable proportion of us go mad, and then this particular event would be quite likely.

Cattish, perhaps, but he had a point.

(DP)

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