# Linus Pauling quote on math

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• Trying2Learn
In summary, there is an anecdote about Linus Pauling giving a lecture where a student pointed out a numerical error. Pauling responded by saying "numbers are just placeholders for ideas." This quote is not among the commonly cited quotes from Pauling, but it can be found in a few anecdotal sources online.

#### Trying2Learn

TL;DR Summary
Request for reference
Hello!

I am hoping someone can find me a reference for this anecdote.

I have a vague memory of reading this somewhere (about ten years ago) and would love to have a reference (I could have it all wrong).

But here goes...

Linus Pauling was giving a lecture when a student raised his hand to point out a numerical error Pauling had made.

Pauling responded by saying something like, "No matter... numbers are just placeholders for ideas."

Has anyone heard of this, before? And, if so, a reference to an exact quote?

I have read a dozen of quotations from Pauling now, e.g.
If you want to have good ideas you must have many ideas. Most of them will be wrong, and what you have to learn is which ones to throw away.
but the one with the placeholders was not among them.

Trying2Learn said:
Summary:: Request for reference

Has anyone heard of this, before? And, if so, a reference to an exact quote?

Google searching the phrase and associating it with Pauling generates a couple hits, but they are pretty anecdotal...

https://statanalytica.com/blog/arithmetic-vs-mathematics/

The most evident distinction is that number-crunching is about numbers and science is about hypothesis. In school, I have a striking memory of Linus Pauling¹ conveying a visitor address and subsequent to scribbling hypothetical science all more than three chalkboards, an understudy lifted his hand and brought up that multiple times 8 had been duplicated wrong in one of the previous advances.

Pauling’s answer was, “Goodness, that… numbers are only placeholders for the idea.” And, he just waved away the way that the numerical end was clearly not precise. Presently, that was in the sixties before the abundant access to adding machines and PCs, so his point is considerably increasingly legitimate today.
There is a "1" that looks like a pointer to a reference about Pauling, but I'm not finding the reference at the bottom of that web page...

## What is the Linus Pauling quote on math?

Linus Pauling was a renowned chemist and peace activist who once said, "The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas." This quote emphasizes the importance of creativity and experimentation in the scientific process, including the use of mathematics to generate and test new ideas.

## What does this quote mean in the context of math?

In the context of math, this quote suggests that having a diverse range of ideas and approaches can lead to breakthroughs and innovative solutions. By utilizing various mathematical concepts and techniques, scientists can push the boundaries of knowledge and make new discoveries.

## Why is this quote relevant to scientists?

This quote is relevant to scientists because it highlights the importance of open-mindedness and experimentation in the scientific process. By encouraging scientists to explore a variety of ideas and approaches, it can lead to new and groundbreaking discoveries in their research.

## How does this quote apply to the scientific method?

The scientific method involves making observations, forming a hypothesis, testing that hypothesis, and analyzing the results. This quote applies to the scientific method by emphasizing the importance of generating multiple ideas and hypotheses, rather than sticking to one preconceived notion.

## What can scientists learn from this quote?

From this quote, scientists can learn the value of creativity and thinking outside the box in their research. It also serves as a reminder to not get too attached to one idea or approach, as there may be other perspectives and solutions that can lead to breakthroughs in understanding and knowledge.