Category Archives: Enrico Fermi

Confused on a Higher Level and About More Important Things

Enrico Fermi? Bernt Øksendal? Earl C. Kelley?

Dear Quote Investigator:  My favorite quotation should resonate with anyone who has tried to master a difficult subject:

We have not succeeded in answering all our problems. The answers we have found only serve to raise a whole set of new questions. In some ways we feel we are as confused as ever, but we believe we are confused on a higher level and about more important things.

I first saw it several years ago, but I cannot remember where. So I searched for it on the internet and discovered a reference to a math textbook: Stochastic Differential Equations. The information provided about the provenance of the quote is very limited [SDE]:

Posted outside the mathematics reading room, Tromsø University

Could you find out where this quotation came from?

Quote Investigator: The earliest instance of this humorous quote located by QI is in a book for teachers about workshops and the educational process. The 1951 volume is titled “The Workshop Way of Learning”, and it discusses a long-running series of workshops. The passage in the book has been streamlined over the years to yield the modern version. (Thanks to top-notch urban-legend researcher Bonnie Taylor-Blake for verifying the citation on paper.)

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