Body Titlesort icon

You have millions of people here in the affluent part of the planet who turn their heads. They see the house on fire; they see the child screaming from the upstairs window, and they say: I’ve got to go to the library and read a book about combustion because I don’t know enough about fires. (‘Changing Culture: Choosing Life over Money’, in Welton & Wolf, (Eds.), Global Uprising, p.28)

Kevin Danaher

I've learned that new economic thinking means reading old books. (here via here)

Mark Thoma

... is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy: that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. (J.K. Galbraith via Polly Toynbee)

The modern conservative...

... is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.

Richard Feynman, h/t Robert Wilson.

The first principle...

"... people generally experience a strong motivation to associate themselves meaningfully with groups of 'kindred spirits' to reduce feelings of boredom and loneliness. To cope with and alleviate such feelings of loneliness, people pursue various strategies, including shopping (Rubenstein and Shaver 1980). The desire for human interaction thus may drive some shoppers to stores in which they find salespeople friendly and communicative."

Yue Pan and George M. Zinkhan, “Determinants of retail patronage: A meta-analytical perspective,” Journal of Retailing 82, no. 3 (2006): 229-243. p.231

Kindred spirits

People have a great capacity for change. Those people can and will continue to lead us as our institutions fail and eventually harm us. Mikeal Rogers


We didn’t need new ideas, all we needed for the most part was to remember things that we somehow forgot. (27th Oct 2011)


... is worse than you can possibly imagine, even if you take account of the fact that it’s worse than you can possibly imagine. (Krugman)

The hard right...

In this electric age we see ourselves being translated more and more into the form of information, moving toward the technological extension of consciousness... By putting our physical bodies inside our extended nervous systems, by means of electric media, we set up a dynamic by which all previous technologies that are mere extensions of hands and feet and bodily heat-controls - all such extensions of our bodies, including cities - will be translated into information systems.

in this google book

Marshall McLuhan 1964

At first we shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us. (via comment at Dark Mountain)

Marshall McLuhan

... is like spoiled food; you don’t have to eat it all to know something is badly wrong. Just a few bites will do. (via puckerclust)


Why is it that they think every paper which strengthens the case for global warming is some kind of fraud, but every paper which they think weakens the case is some kind of "bombshell"?

Tamino at Open mind


If academic research is not devoted to finding the truth, it is a form of propaganda, and not necessarily to be preferred to other forms much cheaper and perhaps more persuasive. Academic research is a laborious, expensive and time-consuming way of investigating problems. It can only be justified on the ground that those who undertake it have been trained to put the attempt to get it right above all considerations whatsoever.

Lord Russell, Academic Freedom (1993)

Academic freedom

... is that it involves too many choices. The economist

The trouble with simplifying your life...

You must stop selfishly pursuing your pleasure in finding things out. To be frank: fuck your research.

Speech to AGU.

Greg Craven

We are not just a species who uses symbols. The symbolic universe has ensnared us in an inescapable web. Like a 'mind' virus, the symbolic adaptation has infected us, and now by virtue of the irresistable urge it has instilled in us to turn everything we encounter and everyone we meet into symbols, we have become the means by which it unceremoniously propagates itself through the world.

Terrence Deacon, symbolic species

If you happen to be sitting next to a sleeping grizzly bear, the fact that the bear may have its own reasons for waking up in a bad mood is not a good argument in favor of poking it repeatedly with a stick... The way of life common to most of the world’s industrial nations might best be described as an elaborate arrangement to poke nature’s sleeping bears with as many sticks as possible. (Archdruid report)


Models are an enormously important tool for clarifying your thought. You don't have to literally believe your model - in fact, you're a fool if you do - to believe that putting together a simplified but complete account of how things work... helps you gain a much more sophisticated understanding of the real situation. People who don't use models end up relying on slogans that are much more simplistic than the models. (at his blog.)

Paul Krugman

I had a growing feeling in the later years of my work at the subject that a good mathematical theorem dealing with economic hypotheses was very unlikely to be good economics; and I went more and more on the rules (1) Use mathematics as a shorthand language, rather than as an engine of inquiry. (2) Keep to them until you have done. (3) Translate into English. (4) Then illustrate by examples that are important in real life. (5) Burn the mathematics. (6) If you can't succeed in (4), burn (3). This last I did often. (in a letter written in 1906 to A. L. Bowley)

Alfred Marshall

Your most important reader is the most reasonable person who disagrees with you. (initforthegold)


Years ago, I heard a news report: "The NRC has reported a potential meltdown at 3-Mile Island ... repeat ... The NRC has reported a potential meltdown at 3-Mile Island. Now a break for this commercial message." That's when I learned what we will do when Armageddon comes. Guardian comment


The remark, however, must here be once more repeated, that knowledge insufficient for prediction may be most valuable for guidance. It is not necessary for the wise conduct of the affairs of society, no more than of anyone’s private concerns, that we should be able to foresee infallibly the results of what we do. We must seek our objects by means which may perhaps be defeated, and take precautions against dangers which possibly may never be realized.

John Stuart Mill, Logic, book 6, ch.ix

When they say "why?" what am I supposed to say? That I thought that the god I saw in all beings needed a place to live and something to eat?

Vinay Gupta

Physics constitute a logical system of thought which is in a state of evolution, whose basis cannot be distilled, as it were, from experience by an inductive method, but can only be arrived at by free invention. The justification (truth content) of the system rests in the verification of the derived propositions by sense experiences. The skeptic will say: 'it may well be true that this system of equations is reasonable from a logical standpoint. But it does not prove that it corresponds to nature'. You are right, dear skeptic. Experience alone can decide on truth.

Einstein, 'Ideas and Opinions'

People make mistakes. What distinguishes you from the morons is what you do when the mistakes get pointed out. (link)

Ben Goldacre

Our job in explaining things to the public is to focus on the aspects that are most revealing of the facts, not on the aspects that can most easily be used to obfuscate. (link)

Michael Tobis

Scientists are people who never repressed the insatiable curiosity about the world that all of us possess from birth. (link)

Deech56 at climatesight

The head chief told us that there was not a family in that whole nation that had not a home of its own. There was not a pauper in that nation, and the nation did not own a dollar. It built its own capitol, and it built its schools and its hospitals. Yet the defect of the system was apparent. They have got as far as they can go because they own their land in common. It is Henry George's system, and under that there is no enterprise to make your home any better than that of your neighbours. There is no selfishness, which is at the bottom of civilisation. Til this people will consent to give up their lands, and divide them among their citizens so that each can own the land he cultivates, they will not make much more progress. (CiB link)

Senator Henry Dawes, 1885

The computer has changed the very nature of mathematical experience, suggesting for the first time that mathematics, like physics, may yet become an empirical discipline, a place where things are discovered because they are seen.

David Berlinski

How would you physicists like it if you had to survey a bunch of molecules to find out what they planned to do, only to have most of them change their minds anyway, and the government restructure the laws of physics because of some opinion poll? (link)

Gaz at Tamino's blog

You can have all the access to enlightenment that Google brings, but if you choose ignorance, ignorant you stay. (independent)

Howard Jacobson

And so I said to him, let us suppose that these elements of the state are the big departments of state: foreign affairs, the economy, home affairs and so on. And the following things will happen, and we must have a 'system 2'... and I built it up on a piece of paper lying on the table between us. Then a system 3 and a system 4, and I got that far. And then I got to system 5 - and I drew a big, histrionic breath, and I was going to say, 'this Companero Presidente, is you!'

Before I could say it, he suddenly smiled very broadly, and he said, 'Ah! System 5. At last - the people.' That was a pretty powerful thing to happen. It had a very big influence on me. (CiB link)

Stafford Beer

Economics are the method - the object is to change the soul.

Margaret Thatcher

The minority view was always that power could be undermined by truth. Once you read Foucault as saying that truth is simply an effect of power, you've had it. But American departments of literature, history and sociology contain large numbers of self-described leftists who have confused radical doubts about objectivity with political radicalism, and are in a mess.

Alan Ryan

Trust God but, you know, tie up your camel. ...

There's a saying...

The abbot sent his bailiff and his men to the villages around to confiscate quernstones and take them back to St. Alban's, where he used them to pave his new patio. (CiB link)

Medieval patios

You come. You buy the land. You make a plan. You build a house. Now you ask me, what colour do I want to paint the kitchen? This is not participation! (Cib link)

African farmer, anon.

In Brazil there's a custom among the mothers , in the shanty towns. When the children are crying with hunger in the evening, the mothers put a pan of water on the fire, put some stones in it and boil these stones. Then the mothers say: 'wait, wait, supper will be ready soon,' in the hope that their starving children will go to sleep, and stop crying in the meantime. That happens every day, repeated a thousand times. (CiB link)

Jean Ziegler

A company is a company and a company doesn't have a heart. (CiB link)

Karl Otrok

It is precisely 'traditional' magic, with its built-in explanation and fear of the natural world, which makes possible renewal and transformation. Magic delineates, it reduces the space for experiments to socially acceptable proportions. (CiB link)

Jan douwe van der Ploeg

Once, he'd been doing a tour with some old women from the area, and was explaining that a few markings on the rock must have been put there more recently, because they made no sense. "Yes they do - those relate to women's business," the ladies said. This was news to Mark, and he asked what they meant. "Those relate to women's business," they replied. (CiB link)

Mark, Mutawintji

In England we have not yet been completely embowelled of our natural entrails… We have not been drawn and trussed, in order that we may be filled, like stuffed birds in a museum, with chaff and rags and paltry blurred shreds of paper about the rights of man. We preserve the whole of our feelings still native and entire, unsophisticated by pedantry and infidelity. We have real hearts of flesh and blood beating in our bosoms.

Edmund Burke

The designers and users of informatics systems have been acutely aware of the power in information, decentralising certain activities while centralising ongoing surveillance over their performance. (CiB link)

Gareth Morgan

In a society organised around consumer freedom everybody is defined by his or her consumption. Insiders are wholesome persons because they exercise their market freedom. Outsiders are nothing else but flawed consumers. (CiB link)

Zymunt Bauman

The host community is reflected in the restaurants of TGI Fridays and in Starbucks coffee shops through incorporation of culturally relevant décor. (CiB link)

Business in the Community 2002

Had humans found bromine cheaper or more convenient to use than chlorine, it is quite likely that by the time Crutzen and his colleagues made their discovery, we would all have been enduring unprecedented rates of cancer, blindness and a thousand other ailments, that our food supply would have collapsed, and that our civilisation itself was under intolerable stress. And we would have had no idea of the cause until it was too late. (CiB link)

Tim Flannery on CFCs