Linus Pauling quote on math

  • #1
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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?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
fresh_42
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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.
 
  • #3
berkeman
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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...
 

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