Quotations by Bohr, Niels


Never express yourself more clearly than you are able to think.

Niels Bohr (1885-1962) Danish physicist
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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Of course I don’t believe in it. But I understand that it brings you luck whether you believe in it or not.

Niels Bohr (1885-1962) Danish physicist
(Attributed)


When asked why he had a horseshoe on his wall.

Variants:

  • "Of course I don't believe in such nonsense. However, I've been told that a horseshoe brings you good luck whether you believe in it or not."
  • "I believe in no such thing, my good friend. Not at all. I am scarcely likely to believe in such foolish nonsense. However, I am told that a horseshoe will bring you good luck whether you believe in it or not."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 7-Sep-12
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Genius is the capacity to make all possible mistakes in the least amount of time.

Niels Bohr (1885-1962) Danish physicist
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.

Niels Bohr (1885-1962) Danish physicist
(Attributed)


Also attrib. to Yogi Berra, various humorists, Danish poet Piet Hein ("det er svært at spå - især om fremtiden"), Robert Storm Petersen ("Storm P"), and Markus M. Ronner.

Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 7-Sep-12
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There are things that are so serious that you can only joke about them.

Niels Bohr (1885-1962) Danish physicist
(Attributed)

Sometimes misattributed to Werner Heisenberg. Quoted in A Pais, The Genius of Science: A Portrait Gallery (2000). Other sources give Pais' translation as ""Some subjects are so serious that one can only joke about them."

Alt trans.: "Some things are so serious that one can only joke about them."

Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 7-Sep-12
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An expert is a person who has found out by his own painful experience all the mistakes that one can make in a very narrow field.

Niels Bohr (1885-1962) Danish physicist
(Attributed)

As quoted by Edward Teller, in "Dr. Edward Teller's Magnificent Obsession" by Robert Coughlan, LIFE magazine (6 Sep 1954). Variant: "An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made in a very narrow field."
Added on 12-Oct-12 | Last updated 12-Oct-12
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We are all agreed that your theory is crazy. The question that divides us is whether it is crazy enough to have a chance of being correct.

Niels Bohr (1885-1962) Danish physicist
(Attributed)

Said by Bohr to Wolfgang Pauli after his presentation of Heisenberg's and Pauli's nonlinear field theory of elementary particles, at Columbia University (1958), in Dale Lee Wolfe, Symposium on Basic Research (1959) by Dael Lee Wolfle.

Variants:

  • "Your theory is crazy, but it's not crazy enough to be true." (Spencer Scoular, First Philosophy: The Theory of Everything (2007)).
  • "We are all agreed that your theory is crazy. The question which divides us is whether it is crazy enough."
  • "We are all agreed that your theory is crazy. The question is whether it is crazy enough to be have a chance of being correct."
  • "We in the back are convinced your theory is crazy. But what divides us is whether it is crazy enough."
  • "Your theory is crazy, the question is whether it's crazy enough to be true."
  • "Yes, I think that your theory is crazy. Sadly, it's not crazy enough to be believed."
Added on 19-Oct-12 | Last updated 9-Dec-12
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Two sorts of truth: profound truths — recognized by the fact that the opposite is also a profound truth, — in contrast to trivialities where opposites are obviously absurd.

Niels Bohr (1885-1962) Danish physicist
(Attributed)

As quoted in Hans Bohr, "My Father", in Niels Bohr: His Life and Work (1967).

Variants:

  • " The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth."
  • "It is the hallmark of any deep truth that its negation is also a deep truth." [Quoted in Max Delbrück, Mind from Matter: An Essay on Evolutionary Epistemology, (1986)] 
Added on 26-Oct-12 | Last updated 26-Oct-12
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