This is a collection of humorous quotes from scientific and technical talks, classes, etc. that I’ve attended.

Note: One of the ground rules for this collection is that I had to witness the event. I’m not looking for outside submissions. Consider starting your own list.

As you may infer from the significant number of quotes from a single source, this collection started with a professor from my undergraduate days, who had a penchant for quotable comments in his lectures. We students started writing down these quotes, and at the end of the semester, we typed them up and gave him a copy. He seemed to enjoy it (he put it on his office door), and so did we.

Ever since then, I’ve been trying to take note of the humor in things that can often be rather dry. And now, I’m posting it on the virtual equivalent of my office door. (The real thing is too covered with cartoons to have room for all of this anyway.)

Note that every quote has an HTML id attribute, allowing you to link directly to a specific quote if you want to. Just hover your mouse over the beginning of the quote and a link symbol (🔗) should appear. You can copy the link address, or you can click on it to jump to the particular link in your browser.

And thanks to my colleague Sarat Sreepathi for motivating me to get this back online, after a long hiatus.

So, enjoy…


If I’m writing that code, what’s the point of having a compiler?

Jeff Hammond, DOE Performance, Portability and Productivity Annual Meeting, April 2019


In The Carpentries, whatever the question, the answer is community.

Unknown, HPC Carpentry "Flash BOF", SC18, November 2018


One of the reasons that her work is not better known is that no one knows how to pronounce her name.

Desmond Higgins, referring to Paulien Hogeweg, CarpentryCon 2018, May 2018


On a big machine, one barrier can ruin your whole day.

Lawrence Rauchwerger, Workshop on Exascale Software Technologies, February 2017


Q: How do you protect that data? You can’t back it all up.

A: I go to church every Sunday.

Keith Gray, HPC User Forum, Austin, Texas, September 2016


Is that what you mean by “smaller is better”? A smaller font?

Al Geist, CORAL Quarterly Review, August 2016


Dogs are not man’s best friend. Its Python. You can do anything with Python.

Glen Hammond, Environmental System Science Workshop on Model-Data Integration, May 2015


When MPI is your hammer, every problem looks like a thumb.

Andrew Lumsdaine, 19th International Workshop on High-Level Parallel Programming Models and Supportive Environments, May 2014


Big data is like teenage sex: everyone talks about it, nobody really knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it.

Chris Johnson (quoting Dan Ariely), SIAM Parallel Processing, February 2014


So rather than pretend knowledge where none exists, embrace ignorance.

Tim Mattson, Workshop on Exascale Programming Challenges, July 2011


That’s a practical issue. I’m not a practical person.

Jayadev Misra, Workshop on Exascale Programming Challenges, July 2011


Communication is an issue. The scientist says “…something-Sham pseudo-potential.” The computer scientist says “Oh, you mean array A.”

Sanjya Kale, International Workshop on Scalable Engineering Software, June 2010


This code is dramatically faster. But it is dramatically wrong.

Jeff Larkin, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, April 2010


I don’t think there’s any debate. Its just that some people are slower to catch on.

Unknown, Workshop on Architectures and Technology for Extreme Scale Computing, December 2009


I’m not a statistician, and I didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, so I don’t know what I’m talking about.

Marvin Adams, Nuclear Energy Systems at the Extreme Scale,, May 2009


If it weren’t for the students, and for the administration, the life of a professor would be pretty darn good!

Barney Maccabe, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, September 2008


We’re going to… Hey Arnold, pay attention! You’re “we”!

Don Batchelor, to Arnold Kritz, International Tokamak Physics Activity CDBM IMAGE Working Group, May 2007


Nature is not as modular as your software, so the recursion has to stop somewhere.

V. Balaji, MODEST-7c Workshop, September 2006


We like to use things that work. That may sound like a pretty low bar, but you’d be surprised.

Michael Sherman, CompFrame Workshop, June 2005


I’m not an expert either, but I sit next to one at work.

Gary Kumfert, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, June 2005


Everyone has had their heart broken by a parallel language.

Brad Chamberlain, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, May 2005


The problem is that the brain capacity of chemists doesn’t scale with Moore’s Law.

Torsten (last name unknown), SOS9 Conference, March 2005


This is not our machine. I included this picture because it looks much better than our machine.

Remy Evard, SOS9 Conference, March 2005


It’s red, so it must be bad.

Pete Beckman, SOS9 Conference, March 2005


I’m not going to tell you where this graph came from, and I’ve stripped off the labels of the x and y axes.

Pete Beckman, SOS9 Conference, March 2005


John asked me if I was going to have any insightful comments and I responded, it depends on how you spell “incite”.

Phil Colella, SciDAC Math ISICs PI Meeting, October 2004


To a quantum chemist, a mouse and a rat don’t look that different.

Steve Gwaltney, Bartlett Birthday Symposium, April 2004


A picture is worth 1000 words. Sometimes most of them are 4-letter words.

Roger Crawfis, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, December 2003


Q: You call that human readable?

A: For a certain class of humans.

Wael Elwasif, LACSI Symposium, October 2003


Ugly problems require ugly solutions.

Wael Elwasif, Common Component Architecture Forum, 2003


Nobody wants to be an “alpha” user forever.

Wael Elwasif, Workshop on the Road Map for the Revitalization of High End Computing, June 2003


I was instructed not to express any personal opinions. It doesn’t leave me with much to say.

Thomas Sterling, Workshop on the Road Map for the Revitalization of High End Computing, June 2003


Don’t confuse momentum with progress. A rock rolling down hill has momentum. But if its rolling towards your house, it isn’t progress.

Dan Reed, Workshop on the Road Map for the Revitalization of High End Computing, June 2003


I can’t underestimate the importance of this enough.

Sharon Hays, Workshop on the Road Map for the Revitalization of High End Computing, June 2003


Moderator: You have two minutes left.

Speaker: Oh, then I’ll have to slow down!

W. Jay Larson, SWMF-ESMF Interoperability and Model Coupling Workshop, February 2003


Before we dig this hole deeper, we ought to decide if we like this hole.

Dennis Gannon, Common Component Architecture Forum, January 2002


Every computer science talk has to have a tree, so here’s mine.

Tiffani Williams, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, August 2001


The difference between theory and practice is larger in practice than in theory.

Gary Kumfert, Common Component Architecture Forum, March 2001


The juvenile sea squirt wanders through the sea searching for a suitable rock or hunk of coral to cling to and make its home for life. For this task it has a rudimentary nervous system. When it finds its spot and takes root, it doesn’t need its brain any more so it eats it. It’s rather like getting tenure.

Seen on the 'net, original source unknown


They ask, “What do you teach?” When I answer “chemistry,” they get that look like they’ve just been forced to eat Brussel sprouts.

Scott Wierschke, Dept. of Defense High-Performance Computing User Group, 1997


In real life, chemistry is messy.

Michele Parrinello, 9th International Congress of Quantum Chemistry, 1997


It is what they call “embarassingly parallel” but to tell the truth, I’m not very embarassed.

Michele Parrinello, 9th International Congress of Quantum Chemistry, 1997


In colloquial English, “we” means more than one person. If a king or emperor says “we did it”, it means “I did it.” When a professor says “we did it” is means “my graduate student did it.”

Vladimir E. Bondybey, 9th International Congress of Quantum Chemistry, 1997


1023 simple things is not something you want to deal with on a Sunday morning.

Richard Stratt, American Conference on Theoretical Chemistry, 1996


We’re going to use the method of wishful thinking.

Mike Zerner, American Conference on Theoretical Chemistry, 1996


There’s lots of factors of two in this theory. Some of them are right and some of them are wrong.

Mike Zerner, American Conference on Theoretical Chemistry, 1996


The term is extremely whimsical but fortunately small.

Grzegorz Chalasinski, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory


The horrible truth in its gory glory.

Jim Wiss, Physics 332, University of Illinois, Spring 1984


Again, I think that’s something everyone was born with: conservation of energy, conservation of linear and angular momentum, etc.

Jim Wiss, Physics 332, University of Illinois, Spring 1984


But then a miracle appeared. I mean a real miracle, courtesy of Newton or somebody!

Jim Wiss, Physics 332, University of Illinois, Spring 1984


It’s not the fall that kills you, it’s the hard stop.

Jim Wiss, Physics 332, University of Illinois, Spring 1984


As usual, energy trumps momentum as a conecpt

Jim Wiss, Physics 332, University of Illinois, Spring 1984


Timing is everything when it comes to killer satellites.

Jim Wiss, Physics 332, University of Illinois, Spring 1984


Newton was clearly a smart dude.

Jim Wiss, Physics 332, University of Illinois, Spring 1984


So I can lecture like a man posessed.

Jim Wiss, Physics 332, University of Illinois, Spring 1984


You have to use a kind of blobology or bagology.

Jim Wiss, Physics 332, University of Illinois, Spring 1984


Virtual displacement – the displacement that time forgot.

Jim Wiss, Physics 332, University of Illinois, Spring 1984


Right now I think it’s intuitively obvious, which means that I don’t want to prove it.

Jim Wiss, Physics 332, University of Illinois, Spring 1984


It’s physics therefore it’s right – or at least it’s mathematically consistent.

Jim Wiss, Physics 332, University of Illinois, Spring 1984


Good idea, I think I’ll patent it.

Jim Wiss, Physics 332, University of Illinois, Spring 1984


So why did I go through all of this garbage? It has to do with the fact that I didn’t like the Star Trek episode last night.

Jim Wiss, Physics 332, University of Illinois, Spring 1984


All of these are available to the true theoretical mechanician – Mr. Bad Wrench.

Jim Wiss, Physics 332, University of Illinois, Spring 1984


Now judging from the [exam] average, these were well reasoned, incorrect arguments.

Jim Wiss, Physics 332, University of Illinois, Spring 1984


I guess that’s obvious, which is another way of saying I don’t understand it.

Jim Wiss, Physics 332, University of Illinois, Spring 1984


… the intuitive, i.e. dangerous approach.

Jim Wiss, Physics 332, University of Illinois, Spring 1984


That’s what we would jokingly refer to as the answer.

Jim Wiss, Physics 332, University of Illinois, Spring 1984


This actually had something to do with Nelson’s defeat of the Spanish Armada. It seems that the British would fire and hit and the Spanish would fire and miss… consistently. Then they went to Australia and had to do it backwards.

Jim Wiss, Physics 332, University of Illinois, Spring 1984


F=ma is always a downer because you have to consider all the forces.

Jim Wiss, Physics 332, University of Illinois, Spring 1984


We may not understand it, but at least we ought to write it down.

Jim Wiss, Physics 332, University of Illinois, Spring 1984


What we always like to do in this case is to pull out a sleazoid mathematical trick.

Jim Wiss, Physics 332, University of Illinois, Spring 1984


I can’t think of any way to say it so I’ll use dramatic imagery.

Jim Wiss, Physics 332, University of Illinois, Spring 1984


This is an artist’s conception of something.

Jim Wiss, Physics 332, University of Illinois, Spring 1984


There is always a set of axes where life is simple, you just have to find them.

Jim Wiss, Physics 332, University of Illinois, Spring 1984


Proof by intimidation.

Jim Wiss, Physics 332, University of Illinois, Spring 1984


Whoever he is, he’s famous.

Jim Wiss, Physics 332, University of Illinois, Spring 1984


I think that’s obvious even without the Byzantine imagery.

Jim Wiss, Physics 332, University of Illinois, Spring 1984


My intuition used to be good to 15%, but now its right on.

Jim Wiss, Physics 332, University of Illinois, Spring 1984


I’m running low on symbols.

Jim Wiss, Physics 332, University of Illinois, Spring 1984


So we’re done with this jazz, thank God!

Jim Wiss, Physics 332, University of Illinois, Spring 1984