Cryptonomicon Quotes

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Cryptonomicon Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson
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Cryptonomicon Quotes Showing 1-30 of 346
“Arguing with anonymous strangers on the Internet is a sucker's game because they almost always turn out to be—or to be indistinguishable from—self-righteous sixteen-year-olds possessing infinite amounts of free time.”
Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon
“Show some fucking adaptability!”
Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon
“Like every other creature on the face of the earth, Godfrey was, by birthright, a stupendous badass, albeit in the somewhat narrow technical sense that he could trace his ancestry back up a long line of slightly less highly evolved stupendous badasses to that first self-replicating gizmo---which, given the number and variety of its descendants, might justifiably be described as the most stupendous badass of all time. Everyone and everything that wasn't a stupendous badass was dead.”
Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon
“Ronald Reagan has a stack of three-by-five cards in his lap. He skids up a new one: "What advice do you, as the youngest American fighting man ever to win both the Navy Cross and the Silver Star, have for any young marines on their way to Guadalcanal?"

Shaftoe doesn't have to think very long. The memories are still as fresh as last night's eleventh nighmare: ten plucky Nips in Suicide Charge!

"Just kill the one with the sword first."

"Ah," Reagan says, raising his waxed and penciled eyebrows, and cocking his pompadour in Shaftoe's direction. "Smarrrt--you target them because they're the officers, right?"

"No, fuckhead!" Shaftoe yells. "You kill 'em because they've got fucking swords! You ever had anyone running at you waving a fucking sword?”
Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon
“Let's set the existence-of-God issue aside for a later volume, and just stipulate that in some way, self-replicating organisms came into existence on this planet and immediately began trying to get rid of each other, either by spamming their environments with rough copies of themselves, or by more direct means which hardly need to be belabored. Most of them failed, and their genetic legacy was erased from the universe forever, but a few found some way to survive and to propagate.”
Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon
“He walked straight out of college into the waiting arms of the Navy.

They gave him an intelligence test. The first question on the math part had to do with boats on a river: Port Smith is 100 miles upstream of Port Jones. The river flows at 5 miles per hour. The boat goes through water at 10 miles per hour. How long does it take to go from Port Smith to Port Jones? How long to come back?

Lawrence immediately saw that it was a trick question. You would have to be some kind of idiot to make the facile assumption that the current would add or subtract 5 miles per hour to or from the speed of the boat. Clearly, 5 miles per hour was nothing more than the average speed. The current would be faster in the middle of the river and slower at the banks. More complicated variations could be expected at bends in the river. Basically it was a question of hydrodynamics, which could be tackled using certain well-known systems of differential equations. Lawrence dove into the problem, rapidly (or so he thought) covering both sides of ten sheets of paper with calculations. Along the way, he realized that one of his assumptions, in combination with the simplified Navier Stokes equations, had led him into an exploration of a particularly interesting family of partial differential equations. Before he knew it, he had proved a new theorem. If that didn't prove his intelligence, what would?

Then the time bell rang and the papers were collected. Lawrence managed to hang onto his scratch paper. He took it back to his dorm, typed it up, and mailed it to one of the more approachable math professors at Princeton, who promptly arranged for it to be published in a Parisian mathematics journal.

Lawrence received two free, freshly printed copies of the journal a few months later, in San Diego, California, during mail call on board a large ship called the U.S.S. Nevada. The ship had a band, and the Navy had given Lawrence the job of playing the glockenspiel in it, because their testing procedures had proven that he was not intelligent enough to do anything else.”
Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon
“This "sir, yes sir" business, which would probably sound like horseshit to any civilian in his right mind, makes sense to Shaftoe and to the officers in a deep and important way. Like a lot of others, Shaftoe had trouble with military etiquette at first. He soaked up quite a bit of it growing up in a military family, but living the life was a different matter. Having now experienced all the phases of military existence except for the terminal ones (violent death, court-martial, retirement), he has come to understand the culture for what it is: a system of etiquette within which it becomes possible for groups of men to live together for years, travel to the ends of the earth, and do all kinds of incredibly weird shit without killing each other or completely losing their minds in the process. The extreme formality with which he addresses these officers carries an important subtext: your problem, sir, is deciding what you want me to do, and my problem, sir, is doing it. My gung-ho posture says that once you give the order I'm not going to bother you with any of the details--and your half of the bargain is you had better stay on your side of the line, sir, and not bother me with any of the chickenshit politics that you have to deal with for a living. The implied responsibility placed upon the officer's shoulders by the subordinate's unhesitating willingness to follow orders is a withering burden to any officer with half a brain, and Shaftoe has more than once seen seasoned noncoms reduce green lieutenants to quivering blobs simply by standing before them and agreeing, cheerfully, to carry out their orders.”
Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon
“This made him a grad student, and grad students existed not to learn things but to relieve the tenured faculty members of tiresome burdens such as educating people and doing research.”
Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon
“Ask a Soviet engineer to design a pair of shoes and he’ll come up with something that looks like the boxes that the shoes came in; ask him to make something that will massacre Germans, and he turns into Thomas Fucking Edison.”
Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon
“The best way to know someone is to have a conversation with them.”
Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon
“Gold is the corpse of value...”
Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon
“I beg your pardon?" Robson says.

One thing Waterhouse likes about these Brits is that when they don't know what the hell you're talking about, they are at least open to the possibility that it might be their fault.”
Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon
“Men who believe that they are accomplishing something by speaking speak in a different way from men who believe that speaking is a waste of time.”
Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon
“Chester nods all the way through this, but does not rudely interrupt Randy as a younger nerd would. Your younger nerd takes offense quickly when someone near him begins to utter declarative sentences, because he reads into it an ssertion that he, the nerd, does not already know the information being imparted. But your older nerd has more
self-confidence, and besides, understands that frequently people need to think out loud. And highly advanced nerds will furthermore understand that uttering declarative sentences whose contents are already known to all present is part of the social process of making conversation and therefore should not be construed as aggression under any circumstances.”
Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon
“But then, Cap'n Crunch in a flake form would be suicidal madness; it would last about as long, when immersed in milk, as snowflakes sifting down into a deep fryer. No, the cereal engineers at General Mills had to find a shape that would minimize surface area, and, as some sort of compromise between the sphere that is dictated by Euclidean geometry and whatever sunken treasure related shapes that the cereal aestheticians were probably clamoring for, they came up with this hard -to-pin-down striated pillow formation.”
Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon
“Ares always reemerges from the chaos. It will never go away. Athenian civilization defends itself from the forces of Ares with metis, or technology. Technology is built on science. Science is like the alchemists' uroburos, continually eating its own tail. The process of science doesn't work unless young scientists have the freedom to attack and tear down old dogmas, to engage in an ongoing Titanomachia. Science flourishes where art and free speech flourish.”
Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon
“Enoch...why are you here?
Why has my spirit been incarnated into a physical bodi in this world generally? Or specifically, why am I here in a Swedish forest, standing on the wreck of a mysterious German rocket plane while a homosexual German sobs over the cremated remains of his Italian lover?”
Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon
“Most of the brain's work is done while the brain's owner is ostensibly thinking about something else, so sometimes you have to deliberately find something else to think and talk about.”
Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon
“Clearly Mr. Drkh has had a long career of being the weirdest person in any given room, but he's about to go down in flames.”
Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon
“Of course, the underlying structure of everything in England is posh. There is no in between with these people. You have to walk a mile to find a telephone booth, but when you find it, it is built as if the senseless dynamiting of pay phones had been a serious problem at some time in the past. And a British mailbox can presumably stop a German tank.”
Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon
“There was no room for dust devils in the laws of physics, as least in the rigid form in which they were usually taught. There is a kind of unspoken collusion going on in mainstream science education: you get your competent but bored, insecure and hence stodgy teacher talking to an audience divided between engineering students, who are going to be responsible for making bridges that won’t fall down or airplanes that won’t suddenly plunge vertically into the ground at six hundred miles an hour, and who by definition get sweaty palms and vindictive attitudes when their teacher suddenly veers off track and begins raving about wild and completely nonintuitive phenomena; and physics students, who derive much of their self-esteem from knowing that they are smarter and morally purer than the engineering students, and who by definition don’t want to hear about anything that makes no fucking sense. This collusion results in the professor saying: (something along the lines of) dust is heavier than air, therefore it falls until it hits the ground. That’s all there is to know about dust. The engineers love it because they like their issues dead and crucified like butterflies under glass. The physicists love it because they want to think they understand everything. No one asks difficult questions. And outside the windows, the dust devils continue to gambol across the campus.”
Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon
“World-class cereal-eating is a dance of fine compromises. The giant heaping bowl of sodden cereal, awash in milk, is the mark of the novice. Ideally one wants the bone-dry cereal nuggets and the cryogenic milk to enter the mouth with minimal contact and for the entire reaction between them to take place in the mouth. Randy has worked out a set of mental blueprints for a special cereal-eating spoon that will have a tube running down the handle and a little pump for the milk, so that you can spoon dry cereal up out of a bowl, hit a button with your thumb, and squirt milk into the bowl of the spoon even as you are introducing it into your mouth. The next best thing is to work in small increments, putting only a small amount of Cap’n Crunch in your bowl at a time and eating it all up before it becomes a pit of loathsome slime, which, in the case of Cap’n Crunch, takes about thirty seconds.”
Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon
“It appeared that way, Lawrence, but this raised the question of was mathematics really true or was it just a game played with symbols? In other words—are we discovering Truth, or just wanking?”
Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon
“It is early in November of 1942 and a simply unbelievable amount of shit is going on, all at once, everywhere.”
Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon
“-How long do you want these messages to remain secret?[...]
+I want them to remain secret for as long as men are capable of evil.”
Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon
“You should be a billionaire, Randy.
Thank god you're not."

"Why do you say that?"

"Oh, because then you'd be a highly intelligent man who never has to make difficult choices - who never has to exert his mind. It is a state much worse than being a moron.”
Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon
“Unfortunately, this category of secret is itself so secret that it's very existance is secret, and he can't actually reveal it to anyone.”
Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon
“He parks in the far corner of the lot, explaining that it is more logical to do this and then walk for fifteen seconds than it is to spend fifteen minutes looking for a closer space.”
Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon
“The leaders of Nippon were stupid. They took all of the gold out of Tokyo and buried it in holes in the ground in the Philippines! Because they thought that The General would march into Tokyo and steal it. But The General didn’t care about the gold. He understood that the real gold is here—" he points to his head "—in the intelligence of the people, and here—" he holds out his hands "—in the work that they do. Getting rid of our gold was the best thing that ever happened to Nippon. It made us rich. Receiving that gold was the worst thing that happened to the Philippines. It made them poor.”
Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon
“Lawrence immediately saw that it was a trick question. You would have to be some kind of idiot to make the facile assumption that the current would add or subtract 5 miles per hour to or from the speed of the boat.”
Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon

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