My favorite quotes.

  • It only has to do with the respect with which we regard one another, the dignity of men, our love of culture. It has to do with those things. It has to do with, are we good painters, good sculptors, great poets? I mean all the things that we really venerate and honor in our country and are patriotic about. It has nothing to do directly with defending our country except to help make it worth defending.” –– Robert R. Wilson, answering Congress’ question on how the new accelerator will affect the nation’s security (1969)

  • “If we are honest – and scientists have to be – we must admit that religion is a jumble of false assertions, with no basis in reality. The very idea of God is a product of the human imagination. It is quite understandable why primitive people, who were so much more exposed to the overpowering forces of nature than we are today, should have personified these forces in fear and trembling. But nowadays, when we understand so many natural processes, we have no need for such solutions. I can’t for the life of me see how the postulate of an Almighty God helps us in any way. What I do see is that this assumption leads to such unproductive questions as why God allows so much misery and injustice, the exploitation of the poor by the rich and all the other horrors He might have prevented. If religion is still being taught, it is by no means because its ideas still convince us, but simply because some of us want to keep the lower classes quiet. Quiet people are much easier to govern than clamorous and dissatisfied ones. They are also much easier to exploit. Religion is a kind of opium that allows a nation to lull itself into wishful dreams and so forget the injustices that are being perpetrated against the people. Hence the close alliance between those two great political forces, the State and the Church. Both need the illusion that a kindly God rewards – in heaven if not on earth – all those who have not risen up against injustice, who have done their duty quietly and uncomplainingly. That is precisely why the honest assertion that God is a mere product of the human imagination is branded as the worst of all mortal sins.” –– Paul Dirac (1927)

  • “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it. … An important scientific innovation rarely makes its way by gradually winning over and converting its opponents: it rarely happens that Saul becomes Paul. What does happen is that its opponents gradually die out, and that the growing generation is familiarized with the ideas from the beginning: another instance of the fact that the future lies with the youth.” –– Max Planck (1950)

  • “Premature optimization is the root of all evil.” –– Donald Knuth (1974)

  • “When in doubt, use brute force.” –– Ken Thompson

  • “Be conservative in what you do, be liberal in what you accept from others.” –– Jon Postel (1981)

  • “L’essenziale è invisibile agli occhi.” –– Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1943), translated

  • “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” –– Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1890)

  • “Some people, when confronted with a problem, think “I know, I’ll use regular expressions.” Now they have two problems.” –– Jamie Zawinski (1997)

  • “There is nothing more permanent than a temporary hack.” –– Kyle Simpson (2015)

  • “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” –– George Santayana (1905)

  • “Perfect is the enemy of good (il meglio è nemico del bene).” –– Italian proverb

  • “All models are wrong, but some are useful.” –– George Box (1978)

  • “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” –– Thomas Watson (1943)

  • “There are only two kinds of languages: the ones people complain about and the ones nobody uses.” –– Bjarne Stroustrup

  • “There are two ways of constructing a software design: One way is to make it so simple that there are obviously no deficiencies and the other way is to make it so complicated that there are no obvious deficiencies. The first method is far more difficult.” –– C.A.R. Hoare (1980)

  • “In time, every post tends to be occupied by an employee who is incompetent to carry out its duties.” (a.k.a. Peter’s Corollary) –– Laurence J. Peter & Raymond Hull (1969)

  • “When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.” (a.k.a. Goodhart’s law) –– Marilyn Strathern (1997)

  • “In an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.” –– Herbert A. Simon (1971)

  • “Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit: There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.” –– Frank Wilhoit (2018)

  • “If that is so, it remains for us to live as though it were not so.” –– H. G. Wells (1895)


Some recommended reading.

  • Triggering on Heavy Flavors at Hadron Colliders (copy) by Luciano Ristori and Giovanni Punzi. (2010)

    This paper describes an amazing track trigger invented at the Fermilab CDF experiment. It was designed to trigger on heavy-flavor decays (such as $b$ and $c$ decays). The paper explains how to break down the track reconstruction problem, as well as introduces the use of associative memory electronics at the trigger. The slicon vertex trigger (SVT) became instrumental for the discovery of the top quark and enabled a wide range of B-physics.

  • Efficient BackProp by Yann LeCun, Leon Bottou, Genevieve B. Orr, and Klaus-Robert Mülleri. (2012)

    A classic introduction to the artificial neural network and back-propagation that powers it. The paper was written before the recent deep learning techniques, however, most of the math explained here remains true.

  • “Google’s secret and Linear Algebra” by Pablo Fernández Gallardo. (2004)

    Pablo explains Google’s PageRank algorithm using a very friendly language for linear algebra and some graph theory concepts. He shows how the the behavior of billions of webpages can be turned into a problem of finding eigenvalues and eigenvectors, and how the solution can evolve with additional new information. Near the end, he also makes some interesting observations about the structure of the web graph.