“Non Cogitant, Ergo Non Sunt”

Aphorisms of 18th-century German physicist Georg Christoph Lichtenberg:

  • “There are people who think that everything one does with a serious face is sensible.”
  • “To read means to borrow; to create out of one’s readings is paying off one’s debts.”
  • “How close may our thoughts come at times to grazing on a great discovery?”
  • “I would often rather read what a famous author has cut from one of his works than what he has let stand.”
  • “A golden rule: one must judge men not by their opinions, but by what their opinions have made of them.”
  • “My body is that part of the world which my thoughts can change. Even imaginary illnesses can become real ones. In the rest of the world, my hypotheses cannot change the order of things.”
  • “It’s questionable whether, when we break a murderer on the wheel we aren’t lapsing into precisely the mistake of the child who hits the chair he bumps into.”
  • “What makes a prolific author is often not his great knowledge but rather that fortunate relation between his abilities and his taste, by virtue of which the latter always approves what the former have produced.”
  • “To make astute people believe that one is what one is not, is harder in most cases than actually to become what one wants to appear.”
  • “Indisputably, masculine beauty has not yet been portrayed enough by those hands which alone could do so — feminine hands.”

“There is a great difference between still believing something and believing it again. Still to believe that the moon affects the plants reveals stupidity and superstition, but to believe it again is a sign of philosophy and reflection.”

“He Who Praises Everybody Praises Nobody”


Observations of Samuel Johnson:

  • “We are inclined to believe those whom we do not know, because they have never deceived us.”
  • “I never desire to converse with a man who has written more than he has read.”
  • “Men more frequently require to be reminded than informed.”
  • “To be happy at home is the ultimate result of all ambition, the end to which every enterprise and labour tends, and of which every desire prompts the prosecution.”
  • “In order that all men may be taught to speak truth, it is necessary that all likewise should learn to hear it.”
  • “He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.”
  • “It is strange that there should be so little reading in the world, and so much writing. People in general do not willingly read, if they can have any thing else to amuse them.”
  • “I live in the crowd of jollity, not so much to enjoy company as to shun myself.”
  • “Example is always more efficacious than precept.”
  • “Self-confidence is the first requisite to great undertakings.”
  • “Wickedness is always easier than virtue; for it takes the short cut to everything.”
  • “It is very strange, and very melancholy, that the paucity of human pleasures should persuade us ever to call hunting one of them.”
  • “No man will be a sailor who has contrivance enough to get himself into a jail; for being in a ship is being in a jail, with the chance of being drowned.”
  • “Every state of society is as luxurious as it can be. Men always take the best they can get.”
  • “Wine makes a man more pleased with himself. I do not say that it makes him more pleasing to others.”
  • “If you are idle, be not solitary; if you are solitary, be not idle.”
  • “The applause of a single human being is of great consequence.”
  • “[S]uch is the delight of mental superiority, that none on whom nature or study have conferred it, would purchase the gifts of fortune by its loss.”
  • “The world is not yet exhausted: let me see something to-morrow which I never saw before.”

Harold Nicolson wrote, “Dr. Johnson is the only conversationalist who triumphs over time.”


  • Fletcher Christian’s first son was named Thursday October Christian.
  • 16384 = 163 × (8 – 4)
  • Of the 46 U.S. presidents to date, 16 have had no middle name.
  • “It is ill arguing against the use of anything from its abuse.” — Elizabeth I, in Walter Scott’s Kenilworth

Star Trek costume designer William Ware Theiss offered the Theiss Theory of Titillation: “The degree to which a costume is considered sexy is directly proportional to how accident-prone it appears to be.”

(Thanks, Michael.)

Niven’s Laws

By science fiction author Larry Niven:

1.a. Never throw shit at an armed man.
1.b. Never stand next to someone who is throwing shit at an armed man.
2. Never fire a laser at a mirror.
3. Mother Nature doesn’t care if you’re having fun.
4. F × S = k. The product of Freedom and Security is a constant. To gain more freedom of thought and/or action, you must give up some security, and vice versa.
5. Psi and/or magical powers, if real, are nearly useless.
6. It is easier to destroy than create.
7. Any damn fool can predict the past.
8. History never repeats itself.
9. Ethics change with technology.
10. There ain’t no justice.
11. Anarchy is the least stable of social structures. It falls apart at a touch.
12. There is a time and place for tact. And there are times when tact is entirely misplaced.
13. The ways of being human are bounded but infinite.
14. The world’s dullest subjects, in order:
a. Somebody else’s diet.
b. How to make money for a worthy cause.
c. Special Interest Liberation.
15. The only universal message in science fiction: There exist minds that think as well as you do, but differently. (Niven’s corollary: The gene-tampered turkey you’re talking to isn’t necessarily one of them.)
16. Never waste calories (i.e., don’t eat food just because it’s available, or cheap; only eat food you’ll enjoy, because you have to limit overall calorie intake).
17. There is no cause so right that one cannot find a fool following it.
18. No technique works if it isn’t used.
19. Not responsible for advice not taken.
20. Old age is not for sissies.

See Lessons Learned.

“Love Cools Quickly”

Irish proverbs:

  • Laziness is a load.
  • A good run is better than a long stand.
  • The tools are half of the trade.
  • Bribery can split a stone.
  • The pleasant humorous people are all in eternity.
  • A promise is a debt.
  • What cannot be had is just what suits.
  • It is better to be alone than in bad company.
  • It is easier to scatter than to gather.
  • The horses die while the grass is growing.
  • Be afraid and you’ll be safe.
  • The deed will praise itself.
  • Poverty is no shame.
  • It is better to be lucky than wise.
  • Tell me your company and I’ll tell who you are.
  • Time is a good historian.
  • Self-love is blind.
  • Avarice is the foundation of every evil.
  • Patience conquers destiny.
  • Nothing is preferable to reconciliation.

And “There is no forest without as much brushwood as will burn it.”