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Who said: “As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.”
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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index H > Robert Heinlein Quotes

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Robert Heinlein
(7 Jul 1907 - 8 May 1988)

American author who is one of the foremost of the science fiction novelists, noted for maintaining plausibility in his treatment of science in his stories.

Science Quotes by Robert Heinlein (57 quotes)

A fake fortuneteller can be tolerated. But an authentic soothsayer should be shot on sight. Cassandra did not get half the kicking around she deserved.
— Robert Heinlein
In 'From the Notebooks of Lazarus Long', Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long (1973), 257.
Science quotes on:  |  Authentic (8)  |  Deserve (65)  |  Fake (3)  |  Half (59)  |  Kick (10)  |  Shoot (20)  |  Sight (134)  |  Soothsayer (4)  |  Tolerate (6)

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
— Robert Heinlein
In Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long (1973), 265.
Science quotes on:  |  Account (193)  |  Act (276)  |  Alone (318)  |  Analysis (242)  |  Balance (80)  |  Being (1277)  |  Bone (100)  |  Build (204)  |  Building (158)  |  Butcher (9)  |  Change (617)  |  Comfort (61)  |  Computer (130)  |  Cooking (12)  |  Cooperation (38)  |  Death (398)  |  Design (199)  |  Diaper (2)  |  Efficiency (46)  |  Equation (135)  |  Fight (44)  |  Gallant (2)  |  Hog (4)  |  Human (1491)  |  Human Being (180)  |  Insect (87)  |  Invasion (9)  |  Manure (8)  |  Meal (19)  |  New (1247)  |  Order (635)  |  Pitch (17)  |  Plan (119)  |  Problem (708)  |  Program (53)  |  Set (396)  |  Ship (67)  |  Solution (275)  |  Solve (137)  |  Sonnet (5)  |  Specialization (23)  |  Wall (70)  |  Write (238)  |  Writing (192)

A magician is a rule-of-thumb engineer. … And…a philosopher is a scientist with no thumbs.
— Robert Heinlein
In Glory Road (1963, 1981), 156.
Science quotes on:  |  Engineer (133)  |  Magician (15)  |  Philosopher (266)  |  Scientist (856)  |  Thumb (18)

A touchstone to determine the actual worth of an “intellectual”—find out how he feels about astrology.
— Robert Heinlein
In Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long (1973), 268.
Science quotes on:  |  Actual (117)  |  Astrology (44)  |  Determination (77)  |  Determine (147)  |  Feel (365)  |  Find (1003)  |  Intellectual (257)  |  Touchstone (5)  |  Worth (170)

A zygote is a gamete’s way of producing more gametes. This may be the purpose of the universe.
— Robert Heinlein
In Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long (1973), 262.
Science quotes on:  |  Gamete (5)  |  More (2559)  |  Produce (109)  |  Purpose (324)  |  Universe (883)  |  Way (1214)  |  Zygote (3)

A “critic” is a man who creates nothing and thereby feels qualified to judge the work of creative men. There is logic in this; he is unbiased—he hates all creative people equally.
— Robert Heinlein
In Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long (1973), 365.
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A “pacifist male” is a contradiction in terms. Most self-described “pacifists” are not pacific; they simply assume false colors. When the wind changes, they hoist the Jolly Roger.
— Robert Heinlein
In 'From the Notebooks of Lazarus Long', Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long (1973), 258.
Science quotes on:  |  Assume (41)  |  Change (617)  |  Color (148)  |  Contradiction (69)  |  Describe (129)  |  False (104)  |  Male (26)  |  Most (1729)  |  Pacifist (2)  |  Self (267)  |  Term (352)  |  Terms (184)  |  Wind (138)

Always listen to experts.They’ll tell you what can’t be done, and why. Then do it.
— Robert Heinlein
In 'From the Notebooks of Lazarus Long', Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long (1973), 256.
Science quotes on:  |  Cant (10)  |  Do (1905)  |  Expert (67)  |  Listen (78)  |  Tell (341)  |  Why (491)

Always store beer in a dark place.
— Robert Heinlein
In 'From the Notebooks of Lazarus Long', Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long (1973), 256.
Science quotes on:  |  Beer (10)  |  Dark (141)  |  Place (184)  |  Store (48)

Any priest or shaman must be presumed guilty until proved innocent.
— Robert Heinlein
In 'From the Notebooks of Lazarus Long', Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long (1973), 256.
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Anyone who cannot cope with mathematics is not fully human. At best he is a tolerable subhuman who has learned to wear shoes, bathe and not make messes in the house
— Robert Heinlein
In Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long (1973), 265.
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But does Man have any “right” to spread through the universe? Man is what he is, a wild animal with the will to survive, and (so far) the ability, against all competition. Unless one accepts that, anything one says about morals, war, politics, you name it, is nonsense. Correct morals arise from knowing what man is, not what do-gooders and well-meaning old Aunt Nellies would like him to be. The Universe will let us know—later—whether or not Man has any “right” to expand through it.
— Robert Heinlein
In Starship Troopers (1959), 186.
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By the data to date, there is only one animal in the Galaxy dangerous to man—man himself. So he must supply his own indispensable competition. He has no enemy to help him.
— Robert Heinlein
In 'From the Notebooks of Lazarus Long', Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long (1973), 256.
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Certainly the game is rigged. Don’t let that stop you; if you don’t bet, you can’t win.
— Robert Heinlein
In 'From the Notebooks of Lazarus Long', Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long (1973), 256.
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Cheops’ Law: Nothing ever gets built on schedule or within budget.
— Robert Heinlein
In 'From the Notebooks of Lazarus Long', Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long (1973), 259. Note: Cheops built the Great Pyramid at Giza. Of course, exceptions do exist, for example, the Empire State Building was built speedily, and under budget.
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Delusions are often functional. A mother’s opinions about her children’s beauty, intelligence, goodness, et cetera ad nauseam, keep her from drowning them at birth.
— Robert Heinlein
In 'From the Notebooks of Lazarus Long', Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long (1973), 257.
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Democracy can’t work. Mathematicians, peasants, and animals, that’s all there is—so democracy, a theory based on the assumption that mathematicians and peasants are equal, can never work.
— Robert Heinlein
In Glory Road (1963, 1981), 233.
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Everything is theoretically impossible, until it is done. One could write a history of science in reverse by assembling the solemn pronouncements of highest authority about what could not be done and could never happen.
— Robert Heinlein
…...
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Expertise in one field does not carry over into other fields. But experts often think so. The narrower their field of knowledge the more likely they are to think so.
— Robert Heinlein
In Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long (1973), 367.
Science quotes on:  |  Carry (127)  |  Expert (67)  |  Expertise (8)  |  Field (372)  |  Knowledge (1610)  |  Likelihood (10)  |  More (2559)  |  Narrowness (2)  |  Other (2233)  |  Think (1096)  |  Thinking (425)

From somewhere, back in my youth, heard Prof say, “Manuel, when faced with a problem you do not understand, do any part of it you do understand, then look at it again.” He had been teaching me something he himself did not understand very well—something in math—but had taught me something far more important, a basic principle.
— Robert Heinlein
In The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (1996), 365. The sentence in quote marks is also listed on this webpage as a quote in its own right.
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Get a shot off fast. This upsets him long enough to let you make your second shot perfect.
— Robert Heinlein
In 'From the Notebooks of Lazarus Long', Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long (1973), 257.
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Had that wordy vacuum skull thought what this would do to every critical figure in science and engineering? … Throw away every book, table, instrument, and start over? I know that some of my ancestors did that in switching from old English units to MKS—but they did it to make things easier.
— Robert Heinlein
In The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (1966), 160.
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If it can’t be expressed in figures, it is not science; it is opinion.
— Robert Heinlein
In Time Enough For Love: the Lives of Lazarus Long (1973), 257.
Science quotes on:  |  Express (189)  |  Figure (162)  |  Measurement (177)  |  Opinion (285)

It has long been known that one horse can run faster than another—but which one? Differences are crucial.
— Robert Heinlein
In 'From the Notebooks of Lazarus Long', Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long (1973), 257.
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It is better to copulate than never.
— Robert Heinlein
In 'From the Notebooks of Lazarus Long', Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long (1973), 259.
Science quotes on:  |  Better (486)  |  Never (1088)

It is said that God notes each sparrow that falls. And so He does … because the Sparrow is God. And when a cat stalks a sparrow both of them are God, carrying out God’s thoughts.
— Robert Heinlein
Stranger in a Strange Land. Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 141
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Magic is not science, it is a collection of ways to do things — ways that work but often we don’t know why.
— Robert Heinlein
In Glory Road (1963, 1981), 156.
Science quotes on:  |  Collection (67)  |  Know (1526)  |  Magic (90)  |  Why (491)

Magic … is a symbol for any process not understood.
— Robert Heinlein
In Chap 17, The Number of the Beast (1980), 160.
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Men are more sentimental than women. It blurs their thinking.
— Robert Heinlein
In 'From the Notebooks of Lazarus Long', Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long (1973), 256.
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Most “scientists” are bottle washers and button sorters.
— Robert Heinlein
In 'From the Notebooks of Lazarus Long', Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long (1973), 257.
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Moving parts in rubbing contact require lubrication to avoid excessive wear. Honorifics and formal politeness provide lubrication where people rub together.
— Robert Heinlein
In Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long (1973), 265.
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Much like engineering. Design by theory, then beef it up anyhow.
— Robert Heinlein
In Glory Road (1963, 1981), 156.
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No storyteller has been able to dream up anything as fantastically unlikely as what really does happen in this mad Universe.
— Robert Heinlein
Time Enough For Love: the Lives of Lazarus Long (1973), 51.
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Nursing does not diminish the beauty of a woman’s breasts; it enhances their charm by making them look lived in and happy.
— Robert Heinlein
In 'From the Notebooks of Lazarus Long', Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long (1973), 258.
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Of all the strange “crimes” that humanity has legislated out of nothing, “blasphemy” is the most amazing—with “obscenity” and “indecent exposure” fighting it out for second and third place.
— Robert Heinlein
In 'From the Notebooks of Lazarus Long', Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long (1973), 259.
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One man’s “magic” is another man’s engineering. “Supernatural” is a null word.
— Robert Heinlein
In Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long (1973), 269.
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Revolution is a science only a few are competent to practice. It depends on correct organization and, above all, on communications. … Correctly organized and properly timed it is a bloodless coup. Done clumsily … the result is civil war, mob violence, purges, terror.
— Robert Heinlein
In The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (1966), 59.
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The difference between science and the fuzzy subjects is that science requires reasoning while those other subjects merely require scholarship.
— Robert Heinlein
In Time Enough For Love: the Lives of Lazarus Long (1973), 366.
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The earth is simply too small and fragile a basket for the human race to keep all its eggs in.
— Robert Heinlein
Speech, undated. As given in Bill Swainson (ed.), Encarta Book of Quotations. [This quote is many times seen ascribed to Arthur C. Clarke. If Encarta is to be believed, the attribution to Clarke is not correct. —Webmaster]
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The greatest productive force is human selfishness.
— Robert Heinlein
In Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long (1973), 366.
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The phrase is self-contradictory; “sense” is never “common”.
— Robert Heinlein
In Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long (1973), 47.
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The truth of a proposition has nothing to do with its credibility. And vice versa.
— Robert Heinlein
In Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long (1973), 265.
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The universe is what it is and can’t be changed by jiggery-pokery. It works by exact rules, like a machine. … Natural law never takes a holiday. The invariability of natural law is the cornerstone of science.
— Robert Heinlein
In Glory Road (1963, 1981), 115.
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There are hidden contradictions in the minds of people who “love Nature” while deploring the “artificialities” with which “Man has spoiled ‘Nature.’” The obvious contradiction lies in their choice of words, which imply that Man and his artifacts are not part of “Nature”—but beavers and their dams are.
— Robert Heinlein
In Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long (1973), 263.
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There are three schools of magic. One: State a tautology, then ring the changes on its corollaries; that’s philosophy. Two: Record many facts. Try to find a pattern. Then make a wrong guess at the next fact; that’s science. Three: Be aware that you live in a malevolent Universe controlled by Murphy’s Law, sometimes offset by Brewster’s Factor; that’s engineering.
— Robert Heinlein
From the last chapter of The Number of the Beast (1980), 553.
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There is no conclusive evidence of life after death. But there is no evidence of any sort against it. Soon enough you will know. So why fret about it?
— Robert Heinlein
In 'From the Notebooks of Lazarus Long', Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long (1973), 257.
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There ought not to be anything in the whole universe that man can't poke his nose into—that’s the way we’re built and I assume that there's some reason for that.
— Robert Heinlein
Methuselah's Children, revised (1958). In The Past Through Tomorrow: 'Future History' Stories (1967), 666.
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This Universe never did make sense; I suspect that it was built on government contract.
— Robert Heinlein
The Number of the Beast (1980), 14. In Carl C. Gaither, Physically Speaking (1997), 340.
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To stay young requires unceasing cultivation of the ability to unlearn old falsehoods.
— Robert Heinlein
In Time Enough For Love: the Lives of Lazarus Long (1973), 364.
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Touch is the most fundamental sense. A baby experiences it, all over, before he is born and long before he learns to use sight, hearing, or taste, and no human ever ceases to need it.
— Robert Heinlein
In Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long (1973), 366.
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What happens when you place an insupportable strain on a mass, such that it cannot remain where it is? While leaving it nowhere to go? This is … the oldest proto-paradox, the one about the irresistible force and the immovable body. The mass implodes. It is squeezed out of its own world into some other.
— Robert Heinlein
In Glory Road (1963, 1981), 114.
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When an apparent fact runs contrary to logic and common sense, it’s obvious that you have failed to interpret the fact correctly.
— Robert Heinlein
In Orphans of the Sky (1963, 1964), 169.
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When faced with a problem you do not understand, do any part of it you do understand and then look at it again.
— Robert Heinlein
In The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (1996), 365. The paragraph containing this quote is also on this webpage to give it in context, beginning: “From somewhere, back in my youth…”.
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Wisdom is not additive; its maximum is that of the wisest man in a given group.
— Robert Heinlein
In Glory Road (1963, 1981), 233.
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You live and learn. Or you don’t live long.
— Robert Heinlein
In 'From the Notebooks of Lazarus Long', Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long (1973), 269.
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Your enemy is never a villain in his own eyes. Keep this in mind; it may offer a way to make him your friend. If not, you can kill him without hate—and quickly.
— Robert Heinlein
In 'From the Notebooks of Lazarus Long', Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long (1973), 259.
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“Logic” proved that airplanes can’t fly and that H-bombs won’t work and that stones don’t fall out of the sky. Logic is a way of saying that anything which didn't happen yesterday won't happen tomorrow.
— Robert Heinlein
In Glory Road (1963, 1981), 54.
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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- 90 -
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- 40 -
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