In the 1960s, Andrey Kolmogorov derived a measure of the complexity of a string: the length of the shortest program, coded in some fixed language, needed to generate it. So did Gregory Chaitin. Googling for references about these two this morning, I came across a page of maths and computing quotes collected by Doron Zeilberger...
I liked this quote, said by a University of Stockholm official to Kimmo Eriksson:
This was NOT a proper math talk. Many in the audience could almost understand it.
I felt reassured as a programmer by Donald Knuth's famous
Premature optimization is the root of all evil.and even more so by Shalosh B. Ekhad's
If after two weeks of computing, I quit the program with an error message: "System Error — ran out of memory" it does not mean that you are on the wrong track, all it means is that you need a bigger and/or faster computer.
I felt reassured as a person, somewhere between the apes and the angels, by John Allen Paulos's remark in his book Once Upon A Number:
We ourselves are co-called non-linear dynamical systems... I don't feel quite so pathetic when I interrupt a project to check on some obscure web site or newsgroup or derive an iota of cheer by getting rid of pocketful of change.
But the following quote by Noam Zeilberger seemed particularly apposite. Because I like elegance. And one might posit, as Chaitin does in his book Meta Maths: The Quest for Omega, that a program is "elegant" if it is the shortest program for producing the output it does. Zeilberger reminds us that there are some systems, or descriptions of systems, that are completely inelegant. Any information they contain deserves to be compressed, but only by being hurled into the nearest car crusher.
Over the last few years, in a rush to exploit a society driven by buzzwords and Microsoft press releases, computer book publishers have spewed out a mountain of meaningless books, at best worthy of being used as toilet paper and in some cases not even. This constant onslaught of garbage has left the task of finding good books about as difficult as getting Internet Explorer uninstalled. The good books are out there, but they are swamped in a sea of "Build your own ...", "... in C++", and "Advanced ..." trash.And if we could lose these books, my local Borders could get rid of all those structural pillars it's had to install under the Computing Section, and we'd have more space for the café.