Quotations

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**Aristotle**

The probable is what usually happens.

**Bertrand, Joseph**
*Calcul des probabilités*

How dare we speak of the laws of chance? Is not chance the antithesis of all law?

**Boethius (ca. 480-525)**
*The Consolation of Philosophy*

Chance, too, which seems to rush along with slack reins, is bridled
and governed by law.

**Boole, George**
*An Investigation of the Law of Thought*

Probability is expectation founded upon partial knowledge. A perfect acquaintance with *all* the circumstances affecting the occurrence of an event would change expectation into certainty, and leave neither room nor demand for a theory of probabilities.

**Born, Max**

The conception of chance enters in the very first steps of scientific activity in virtue of the fact that no observation is absolutely correct. I think chance is a more fundamental conception that causality; for whether in a concrete case, a cause-effect relation holds or not can only be judged by applying the laws of chance to the observation.

**Bulwer, Lytton E.G.**
*Eugene Aram*

Fate laughs at probabilities.

**Cardano, Girolamo**
*De Vita Propria Liber*

To throw in a fair game of Hazards only three-spots, when something
great is at stake, or some business is the hazard, is a natural
occurrence and deserves to be so deemed, and even when they come up
the same way for a second time if the throw be repeated. If the third and
fourth plays are the same, surely there is occasion for suspicion on
the part of a prudent man.

**Caesar, Julius**

Iacta alea est. (The die is cast.)

**Christie, Agatha**
*The Mirror Crack'd*

``I think you're begging the question,'' said Haydock, ``and I can see
looming ahead one of those terrible exercises in probability where six men
have white hats and six men have black hats and you have to work it out by
mathematics how likely it is that the hats will get mixed up and in what
proportion. If you start thinking about things like that, you would go round
the bend. Let me assure you of that!''

**
Cicero**

Probability is the very guide of life.

**Coolidge, Julian Lowell**

In H. Eves, *Return to Mathematical Circles*

[Upon proving that the best betting stragegy for *Gambler's Ruin*
was to bet all on the first trial.] It is true that a man who does this
is a fool. I have only proved that a man who does anything else is an even
bigger fool.

**Davis, Philip and Hersh, Reuben**
*The Mathematical Experience*

How many really basic mathematical objects are there? One is surely the `miraculous' jar of the positive integers 1, 2, 3 . . .
Another is the concept of a fair coin. Though gambling was rife in the ancient world and although
prominent Greeks and Romans sacrificed to Tyche, the goddess of luck, her coin did not arrive on the
mathematical scene until the Renaissance. Perhaps one of the things that had delayed this was a metaphysical
position which held that God speaks to humans through the action of chance. . . .
The modern theory begins with the expulsion of Tyche from the Pantheon.
There emerges the vision of the fair coin, the biased coin. This coin
exists in some mental universe and all modern writers on probability theory
have access to it. They toss it regularly and they speculate about what they
'observe.'"

**Democritus**

Everything existing in the universe is the fruit of chance.

**
Descartes**
*Discourse on Method*

It is a truth very certain that when it is not in our power to determine what is true we ought to follow what is most probable.

**
Doob, J.**

Quoted in *Statistical Science*

While writing my book [Stochastic Processes] I had an argument with
Feller. He asserted that everyone said ``random variable'' and I asserted
that everyone said ``chance variable.'' We obviously had to use the same
name in our books, so we decided the issue by a stochastic procedure.
That is, we tossed for it and he won.

**Doyle, Sir Arther Conan**
*The Sign of Four*

When you have eliminated the impossible, what ever remains, however
improbable, must be the truth.

**Einstein, Albert**

I will never believe that god plays dice with the universe.

**Feller, William**
*An Introduction to Probability Theory and its Applications*

Probability is a mathematical discipline
whose aims are akins to those, for example, of geometry of analytical mechanics.
In each field we must carefully distinguish three aspects of the theory: (a) the formal logical content, (b) the intuitive background, and (c) the applications. The character, and the charm, of the whole structure cannot be appreciated without considering all three aspects in their proper relation.

*An Introduction to Probability Theory and its Applications*

All possible definitions of probability fall short of the actual practice.

**Galton, Francis**

The 'Law of Frequency of Error' . . . reigns with serentiy and in complete
self-effacement amidst the wildest confusion. The huger the mob . . . the more
perfrect is its sway. It is the supreme law of Unreason. Whenever a large
sample of chaotic elements are taken in hand . . . an unsuspected and most
beautiful form of regularity proves to have been latent all along.

**Gay, John**

Lest men suspect your tale untrue,

Keep probability in view.

**Gould, Stephen Jay**

Misunderstanding of probability may be the greatest of all impediments
to scientific literacy.

**Gould, Stephen Jay**

Probability does pervade the universe, and in this sense, the old chestnut
about baseball imitating life really has validity. The statistics of
streaks and slumps, properly understood, do teach an important lesson about
epistemology, and life in general. The history of a species, or any natural
phenomenon, that requires unbroken continuity in a world of trouble, works
like a batting streak. All are games of a gambler playing with a limited
stake against a house with infinite resources. The gambler must eventually
go bust. His aim can only be to stick around as long as possible,
to have some fun while he's at it, and, if he happens to be a moral agent
as well, to worry about staying the course with honor!

**Kac, Mark**
*Enigmas of Chance*

Steinhaus, with his predilection for metaphors, used to quote a Polish proverb, *`Forturny kolem sie tocza'* [Luck runs in circles], to explain why
*Pi*, so intimately connected with circles, keeps cropping up in probability theory and statistics, the two disciplines which deal with randomness and luck.

**Kolmogorov, Andrey**
*Foundations of the Theory of Probability*

The theory of probability as a mathematical discipline can and should be developed from axioms in exactly the same way as geometry and algebra.

**Laplace, Pierre Simon**
*Théorie Analytique des Probabilités, 1812*

It is remarkable that a science which began with the consideration of games of chance should have become the most important object of human knowledge.

*Théorie Analytique des Probabilités, 1812*

The most important questions of life are indeed, for the most part, really only problems of probability.

Probability theory is nothing but common sense reduced to calculation.

**L'Engle, Madeline**

The world of science lives fairly comfortably with paradox. We know
that light is a wave and also that light is a particle. The discoveries
made in the infinitely small world of particle physics indicate randomness
and chance, and I do not find it any more difficult to live with the paradox
of a universe of randomness and chance and a universe of pattern and purpose
than I do with light as a wave and light as a particle. Living with
contradiction is nothing new to the human being.

**Leucippus** (5th century B.C.)

Nothing occurs at random, but everything for a reason and by necessity.

**Maxwell, James Clerk**

The actual science of logic is conversant at present only with things
either certain, impossible, or entirely doubtful, none of which (fortunately)
we have to reason on. Therefore the true logic for this world is the
calculus of Probabilities, which takes account of the magnitude of
the probability which is, or ought to be, in a reasonable man's mind.

**Milton, John**, *Paradise Lost*, I. 907
*Chaos* umpire sits,

And by decision more embroils the fray

By which he reigns: next him high arbiter
*Chance* governs all.

**Nietzsche, Friedrich**, *Thus Spake Zarathustra*

I say unto you: a man must have chaos yet within him to be able to give birth to a dancing star: I say unto you: ye have chaos yet within you . . .

**Paley, William**

What does chance ever do for us?

**Pascal, Blaise**

The excitement that a gambler feels when making a bet is equal to the amount he might win times the probability of winning it.

**Pasteur, Louis**

Chance favors the prepared mind.

**Pearson, Karl**

The record of a month's roulette playing at Monte Carlo can afford us material for discussing the foundations of knowledge.

**Petronius**

Suam habet fortuna rationem. (Chance has its reasons.)

**Pierce, Charles S.**

Quoted in *Mathematically Speaking*

This branch of mathematics [Probability] is the only one, I believe, in which good writers frequently get results which are entirely erroneous.

**Plato**
*Phaedo*

I know too well that these arguments from probabilities are imposters, and
unless great caution is observed in the use of them, they are apt to be
deceptive.

**Plum, Stephanie**
*Hard Eight*

I graduated from Douglass College without distinction. I was in the top 98% of my class and damn glad to be there.
I slept in the library and daydreamed
my way through history lecture. I failed math twice, never fully grasping
probability theory. I mean, first off, who cares if you pick a black ball
or a white ball out of the bag? And second, if you're bent over about the color,
don't leave it to chance. Look in the damn bag and pick the color you want.

**Poe, Edgar Allen**

Arsene Dupin, in *The Murders in the Rue Morgue*

Coincidences, in general, are great stumbling blocks in the way of that class of thinkers who have been educated
to know nothing of the theory of probabilities---that theory to which the
most glorious objects of human research are indebted for the most glorious of illustrations.

**Rickey, Branch**

Luck is the residue of design.

**Twain, Mark**

There are two times in a man's life when he should not speculate;
when he can't afford it, and when he can.

**von Neumann, John**

Quote in *Conic Sections* by D. MacHale

Anyone who considers arithmetic methods of producing random digits is, of course, in a state of sin.

**Wilde, Oscar**

Always be a little improbable.

**Yule**
*In a letter to *Maurice Kendall

Isn't it extraordinary how difficult it is to get a
sample really random? Every possible precaution, as it may seem, sometimes fails to protect one. I remember Greenwood telling me that, in some experiments done by drawing different coloured counters from a bag, there seemed to be a bias against one particular colour. On testing, they concluded that this colour had given the counters a slightly greasy surface, so that it tended to escape the sampler's fingers.