Dirk Bertels

The greatest malfunction of spirit
is to believe things (Louis Pasteur)

Quotations and Statistics

Last updated 01 October 2014


  • We are such stuff as dreams are made on.
    And our little life is rounded with a sleep.
    (W. Shakespeare 'The Tempest')
  • Know well what leads you forward and what holds you back - choose the path that leads to wisdon. (Buddha)
  • I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past. (Thomas Jefferson)
  • In the abscence of leadership there are certain people who would follow anybody.
  • Man can change anything but his passions.
  • There are no facts, only interpretation. (Neitzsche)
  • Reason is and ought only to be the slave of the passions (David Hume)
  • The ego is like a tired old dog. We can never kill it, so put it out on the back porch, let it rest there, and step around it. (C. Castaneda)
  • Walk calmly in the shadow, fearing both the evil and the good - all too often, they are the same. (Douglas E. Winter, Run)
  • Man is quite insane - he wouldn't know how to create a maggot and creates gods by the dozen. (Michel de Montaigne, Essais)
  • One should not aim long at the target if one wished to hit the bull's eye.
  • We go into 'flow' (time stops) when our highest strengths are just matched to the challenges that have come our way.
  • Politicians like scaring the shit out of stupid people.
  • And remember, no matter where you go, there you are. (Confusius)
  • A novelist should make you realize nothing is stable. If you don't believe anything with robustness, you're doing something more radical than anything else. (Howard Jacobson)
  • The greatest malfunction of spirit is to believe things. (Louis Pasteur)
  • Every science has philosophy built into it. (Sam Harris - The end of Faith)
  • So much of what we value in life is an actual sensitivity to reality. (Sam Harris)
  • Beauty is that to what the human mind responds at its deepest and most profound. (Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar)
  • A man must love a thing very much if he not only practices it without any hope of fame or money, but even practices it without any hope of doing it well. (G. K. Chesterton)
  • Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible; thought is merciless to privilege, established intuititions, and comfortable habit. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid. Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man. (Bertrand Russell)
  • There's nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come. (Victor Hugo)
  • Every language is a collection of forgotten metaphors. (Harold Goal: Language in History)
  • A man can do as he will but not will as he will. (Shopenhauer)
  • The purpose of life is to enhance awareness (Carlos Castaneda)
  • I learned that when all seems hopeless in life, you need to wait a little. (Andes air crash survivor)
  • There are two types of people: Those who don't know and those who don't know they don't know.
  • The purpose of life is to give life purpose
  • The most frightening mask is the one without a face
  • Move or Die (cardinal rule on how to stay healthy)
  • To be enlightened is to be intimate with all things. (Soto Zen)
  • The way you do one thing is generally the way you do all things.
  • There is no reality, only perception.
  • Whatever situation you're in, it will eventually become the norm.
  • Disbelief is the beginning of belief. (Cardus)
  • Grief is the price we pay for Love.
  • At what point does perseverance become stupidity?
  • The less you know, the more you believe.
  • To grow old wisely and well is to understand the perspective of years. (Cardus)
  • What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
  • What we do in life echoes in eternity.
  • Quitting an addiction is hard, not quitting is harder.
  • There comes a time when your mind outlives your desires.
  • While I thought I was learning how to live, I was learning how to die. (Leonardo Da Vinci)
  • The 5 stages in dying are: Anger - Denial - Bargaining - Depression - Acceptance.
  • The closest definition of being good is not being greedy.
  • Reality hits when you run out of excuses.
  • Love, the one game you lose by refusing to play.
  • Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. (Santayana)
  • We promise according to our hopes and perform according to our fears. (Francois Duc De La Rochefoucauld)
  • The universe is made of stories, not atoms. (Muriel Rukeyser)
  • Every virtue is a means between 2 extremes, each of which is a vice. (Aristotle)
  • What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning. (Heisenberg)
  • Teach us to care and not to care. (T.S. Elliot)
  • People complain about over-population but no one wants to leave. (Schulz in Peanuts)
  • He calmly rode on, leaving it to his horse's discretion to go which way it pleased, firmly believing that in this consisted the very essence of adventure. (Cervantes, Don Quixote)
  • A friend is someone you can share profanities with.
  • Matter is what you view from the outside. Mind is what you view from the inside.
  • He who has noble thoughts is never alone.
  • There's none so blind than those who not wish to see.
  • You teach people how to treat you.
  • The universe is a process made up of events rather than things.
  • You can't reason with someone who didn't use reason to arrive to his conclusion.
  • Courage is largely the absence of anxiety.
  • Jesus is coming - look busy.
  • Be the person you want to be with.
  • Situations believed to be real, become real in their consequences. (Thomas theorem)
  • Carpe Deum: Seize the day
  • Plan to be surprised
  • Fanaticism is overcompensation for doubt
  • Freedom is self-determination. (Spinoza)
  • Fact starts with rumour
  • Reason connot defeat emotion, an emotion can only be displaced or overcome by a stronger emotion. (Spinoza)

Quirky Quotations

  • This sheriff is as much use as tits on a boar.
  • Behind every great man there's always a woman rolling her eyes...
  • When I was drinking I was violating my standards quicker than I could lower them
  • There is no problem so great that it cannot be fixed by small explosives carefully placed.
  • Truth is a rare and precious commodity. We must use it sparingly. (C.P. Scott, Spectator, 1982)
  • They make the perfect couple, she likes horses and he doesn't (Schulz in Peanuts)
  • If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then give up. There's no use in being a damn fool about it. (W.C.Fields)
  • I like work; it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours. (Jerome K. Jerome)
  • My son has taken up meditation - at least it's better than sitting around doing nothing (Max Kaufmann)
  • Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save. (Will Rogers)
  • When I was a kid, my parents moved a lot, but I always found them. (Rodney Dangerfield)
  • I have noticed that people who are late are often so much jollier than the people who have to wait for them. (Robertson Davies)
  • When women go wrong, men go right after them. (Mae West, 1933)
  • First the doctor told me the good news: I was going to have a disease named after me. (Steve Martin)
  • My wife and I were happy for twenty years. Then we met. (Rodney Dangerfield)
  • The trouble with being punctual is that nobody's there to appreciate it.
  • I think they just want him (Ronald Reagan) on a stamp so they can lick his ass.


From The Joy of Stats, a documentary hosted by Hans Rosling, the inventor of the online statsgraph application gapminder:

  • One byte of (uncompressed) data is equal to one letter in a book.
  • 5 MB of data can store the complete works of Shakespeare.
  • 10 Peta bytes (one million GB) are recorded every second by the world's largest particle accellerator.
  • 6 Exabytes (1000 Peta bytes) is the amount of data you get when you sequence the genome of every single person on earth.
  • In 2009 the internet added up to 500 Exabytes, and in one year it doubled to more than 1 Zettabyte.
  • One billion Google searches are executed every day.
  • The average person in an entire lifetime is exposed to 100 million words in conversation. Multiply this by the amount of people in the world and you have the amount of words that Google has available at any one instance of time.

In the book Ever since Adam and Eve, Potts and Short describes what happens in the world every minute:

  • 1 million human eggs are ovulated
  • 60000 men ejaculate
  • 260 births occur
  • 21 infants under the age of one die, mostly of malnutrition
  • one woman dies from pregnancy, childbirth, or abortion
  • 40 abortions are deliberately induced.

From various sources:

  • It takes 1000 years to create 2 cm of soil
  • All the gold ever mined on earth would only fill 3 olympic size swimming pools.
  • The average depth of the ocean is 3.2 Km
  • It takes one million carbon atoms to span the diameter of one hair
  • The nucleus is relative in size to an atom as the apple is to the earth
  • The supercomputer can calculate 1015 floating operations per second
  • The Challenger has covered 230 million km, voyager 1 so far has travelled 17.4 billion km.
  • 99% of our cells are bacterial
  • Over the last 30 years, 30% of the animal species have been wiped out
  • Space isn't remote at all. It's only an hour's drive away if your car could go straight upwards. (Fred Hoyle, 1979)
  • One handful of earth contains more organisms than all the people that have ever lived on this planet.
  • 3/4 of all animal species are insects
  • 1/3 of all insect species are beetles
  • Year in which the world's population reached
    • 1 billion: 1804
    • 2 billion: 1927
    • 6 billion: 2006
  • About 300 million cells die in your body every minute

A selection from the book Number Crunch by John S. Croucher, ISBN 10-0-3304-2278-2

  • Proportion of women worldwide with naturally blonde hair: 2%
  • Proportion of US shoppers who turn right after entering a store: 85%
  • Sum of the numbers on a roulette wheel: 666
  • Proportion of the world's precious opals produced in Australia: 95%. Black opals: 99%
  • Number of different species of mosquito: about 2700
  • Average time a cockroach can live without a head: 7 days
  • Highest recorded flight of a bird (Rupell's vulture): 11.3 km
  • Number of species of ant in the world: about 8000
  • Number of dust mites on a typical bed mattress: 100,000 - 10,000,000
  • Percentage of bird species that are monogamous: 90%
  • Normal length of a human male's flaccid penis: 7.5 - 11.5 cm
  • Length (not depth) of a human female's vagina: 7 - 11 cm
  • Proportion of men who are sexually active at age 80: 12%
  • Average lifetime of a blood cell: 120 days
  • Length of Uluru (the world's biggest monolith), NT, Australia: 3.6 km; max width: 2.4 km; height: 348 m
  • Reported emails received each day by Bill Gates: 4 million
  • Number of times healthy young men break wind each day: 14-25; women: 7-12
  • Number of neurons in a guman cerebral cortex: 25 billion
  • Proportion of all living organisms in the world that are bacteria: 70%
  • Estimated deaths worldwide from the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic: 40-50 million
  • Number of different chemical components in an average cup of coffee: over 1000
  • Estimated number of stars in the Milky Way: over 100 billion; Number we can see with the naked eye: 3000
  • Weight of the average smell: 760 nanograms
  • Number of planets that rotate clockwise: 1 (Venus)
  • Estimated age of the universe: 13.7 billion years (age of mankind: 100,000 - 250,000)
  • Time it takes for sunlight to reach Pluto: over 5 hours
  • Proportion of total weight of the solar system that is due to the sun:99.87%
  • Thickness of ice that covers Antarctica: about 2 km
  • Reported number of lines of code in Windows XP: about 40 million
  • Proportion of dry air that is
    • nitrogen: 78.08%
    • oxygen: 20.95%
    • argon: 0.93%
    • all other gasses: 0.04%
  • Proportion of oxygen required of all living things on Earth that is provided by algae: 70%
  • The number of edible foods for humans that will never go bad: 1 (honey)
  • Proportion of marriages that survive news of an affair: 50 %
  • Proportion of surveyed Australian women who were unaware that they can become pregnant on only 2 days each month: 94 %
  • Time taken for French student Alex Lemaire to calculate the 13th root of a 100-digit number using mental arithmetic: 3.62 seconds; The 13th root of a 200-digit number: 513 seconds


  • From: Marnie
  • Date: 2013-01-14 15:25:09
Greg told me to look at you site as I have been collecting short quotes for a project I am working on - you have some great ones on here. My favourite "What we do in life echoes in eternity".

At this stage the ones I have collected are hand notes so can't share but will do when at some stage I type them up - my favorite from my collection are Hesse.

  • From: Dirk
  • Date: 2013-01-15 14:42:43
Hi Marnie - sounds like a fun project you're working on.
It's interesting how different quotations seem to appeal at different times - I've been through a few favorites now.

Looking forward to see some of your collection.

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