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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index M > N. David Mermin Quotes

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N. David Mermin
(30 Mar 1935 - )

American physicist who specializes in solid-state physics. He shares credit with Herbert Wagner for the Mermin-Wagner theorem with applications in quantum field theory and statistical mechanics. He coined (1976) the term “boojum” applied in context of one of the phases of superfluid helium-3.

Science Quotes by N. David Mermin (8 quotes)

A distinguished Princeton physicist on the occasion of my asking how he thought Einstein would have reacted to Bell’s theorem. He said that Einstein would have gone home and thought about it hard for several weeks … He was sure that Einstein would have been very bothered by Bell’s theorem. Then he added: “Anybody who’s not bothered by Bell’s theorem has to have rocks in his head.”
— N. David Mermin
In 'Is the Moon There When Nobody Looks? Reality and the Quantum Theory', Physics Today (Apr 1985), 38-47.
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Bridges would not be safer if only people who knew the proper definition of a real number were allowed to design them.
— N. David Mermin
In 'Topological Theory of Defects', Review of Modern Physics (Jul 1979), 51, No. 3. 591–648. This is seen widely on the web (? mis-)attributed to H.L. Mencken, for which Webmaster has so far been unable to find any validation whatsoever.
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I am awaiting the day when people remember the fact that discovery does not work by deciding what you want and then discovering it.
— N. David Mermin
In 'How Not to Create Tigers', Physics Today (Aug 1999), 52, No. 8, 12. Collected in Why Quark Rhymes with Pork: And Other Scientific Diversions (2012), 150.
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If I were forced to sum up in one sentence what the Copenhagen interpretation says to me, it would be “Shut up and calculate!”
— N. David Mermin
In column, 'Reference Frame: What’s Wrong with this Pillow', Physics Today (Apr 1989), 9. The Copenhagen interpretation refers to quantum mechanics. Mermin has since asked, 'Could Feynman Have Said This?', in Physics Today (May 2004), 10, if Richard Feynman may have used the “Shut up and calculate” retort first, since there were numerous examples giving that attribution on the web. To date (6 Jun 2015), no response supporting Feynman as a source has ever been received by Mermin. This was confirmed in an email to the Webmaster, which stated, “Nobody ever sent me any evidence that Feynman had said it. I’ve concluded that he didn’t, but it’s hard to prove a negative.” The reasonable conclusion is that this would almost certainly be a misattribution by the so-called Matthew effect to a more-famous person. Even seen attributed to Paul Dirac! In a Physics Forum web post (28 May 2014) The Austrian remembers being taught by a QM lecturer who liked using the quote, but added: “there is not much else to do in QM anyway.”
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Over the past fifty years or so, scientists have allowed the conventions of expression available to them to become entirely too confining. too confining. The insistence on bland impersonality and the widespread indifference to anything like the display of a unique human author in scientific exposition, have transformed the reading of most scientific papers into an act of tedious drudgery.
— N. David Mermin
In Boojums All the Way Through: Communicating Science in a Prosaic Age (1990), Preface, xi-xii.
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Particle physics has become the archeology of physics.
— N. David Mermin
In 'What's Wrong With Those Epochs', Physics Today (Nov 1990). Collected in Why Quark Rhymes with Pork: And Other Scientific Diversions (2016), 60.
Science quotes on:  |  Archaeology (49)  |  Become (815)  |  Particle (196)  |  Particle Physics (13)  |  Physic (516)  |  Physics (533)

Relations between authors and referees are, of course, almost always strained. Authors are convinced that the malicious stupidity of the referee is alone preventing them from laying their discoveries before an admiring world. Referees are convinced that authors are too arrogant and obtuse to recognize blatant fallacies in their own reasoning, even when these have been called to their attention with crystalline lucidity. All physicists know this, because all physicists are both authors and referees, but it does no good. The ability of one person to hold both views is an example of what Bohr called complementarity.
— N. David Mermin
In Boojums All the Way Through: Communicating Science in a Prosaic Age (1990), 19-20.
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Scientists wrote beautifully through the 19th century and on into the early 20th. But somewhere after that, coincident with the explosive growth of research, the art of writing science suffered a grave setback, and the stultifying convention descended that the best scientific prose should sound like a non-human author addressing a mechanical reader.
— N. David Mermin
In Boojums All the Way Through: Communicating Science in a Prosaic Age (1990), Preface, xii.
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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
Quotations by: • Albert Einstein • Isaac Newton • Lord Kelvin • Charles Darwin • Srinivasa Ramanujan • Carl Sagan • Florence Nightingale • Thomas Edison • Aristotle • Marie Curie • Benjamin Franklin • Winston Churchill • Galileo Galilei • Sigmund Freud • Robert Bunsen • Louis Pasteur • Theodore Roosevelt • Abraham Lincoln • Ronald Reagan • Leonardo DaVinci • Michio Kaku • Karl Popper • Johann Goethe • Robert Oppenheimer • Charles Kettering  ... (more people)

Quotations about: • Atomic  Bomb • Biology • Chemistry • Deforestation • Engineering • Anatomy • Astronomy • Bacteria • Biochemistry • Botany • Conservation • Dinosaur • Environment • Fractal • Genetics • Geology • History of Science • Invention • Jupiter • Knowledge • Love • Mathematics • Measurement • Medicine • Natural Resource • Organic Chemistry • Physics • Physician • Quantum Theory • Research • Science and Art • Teacher • Technology • Universe • Volcano • Virus • Wind Power • Women Scientists • X-Rays • Youth • Zoology  ... (more topics)
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- 100 -
Sophie Germain
Gertrude Elion
Ernest Rutherford
James Chadwick
Marcel Proust
William Harvey
Johann Goethe
John Keynes
Carl Gauss
Paul Feyerabend
- 90 -
Antoine Lavoisier
Lise Meitner
Charles Babbage
Ibn Khaldun
Euclid
Ralph Emerson
Robert Bunsen
Frederick Banting
Andre Ampere
Winston Churchill
- 80 -
John Locke
Bronislaw Malinowski
Bible
Thomas Huxley
Alessandro Volta
Erwin Schrodinger
Wilhelm Roentgen
Louis Pasteur
Bertrand Russell
Jean Lamarck
- 70 -
Samuel Morse
John Wheeler
Nicolaus Copernicus
Robert Fulton
Pierre Laplace
Humphry Davy
Thomas Edison
Lord Kelvin
Theodore Roosevelt
Carolus Linnaeus
- 60 -
Francis Galton
Linus Pauling
Immanuel Kant
Martin Fischer
Robert Boyle
Karl Popper
Paul Dirac
Avicenna
James Watson
William Shakespeare
- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
Niels Bohr
Nikola Tesla
Rachel Carson
Max Planck
Henry Adams
Richard Dawkins
Werner Heisenberg
Alfred Wegener
John Dalton
- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
Edward Wilson
Johannes Kepler
Gustave Eiffel
Giordano Bruno
JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
Archimedes
David Hume
- 30 -
Andreas Vesalius
Rudolf Virchow
Richard Feynman
James Hutton
Alexander Fleming
Emile Durkheim
Benjamin Franklin
Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Hooke
Charles Kettering
- 20 -
Carl Sagan
James Maxwell
Marie Curie
Rene Descartes
Francis Crick
Hippocrates
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
Aristotle
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton



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