Quote of the moment: Frank Zappa, on hydrogen or stupidity


Some scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe.

Cover of The Real Frank Zappa Book

Cover of The Real Frank Zappa Book - Wikimedia image

–  Frank Zappa and Peter Occhiogrosso: The Real Frank Zappa Book , 1989, page 239

Actually, I think the claim is that hydrogen is the most common element in the universe, since it’s so simple.  Its abundance is a result of that simplicity.

Physics in 2010 would probably go for dark matter as even more plentiful than hydrogen, but so little is known about dark matter.  As we learn more about dark matter, we could discover Zappa was a physics theorist before his time.  It’s a short line from Zappa to Zwicky.

______________

I’m relieved to have a credible source for the quote — I had found it attributed to Einstein, another case of Darrell’s Law of Quote Misattribution (“any good quote whose source is unknown will be attributed to Jefferson, Lincoln or Einstein; consequently any quote attributed to those people should be sourced before being taken as accurate”).

A couple more I’d like to put to bed, both attributed to Einstein:

  • “The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits” (from a coffee mug I got years ago at the late Shakespeare, Beethoven & Co.).
  • “Coffee makes me smart” (from another coffee mug).
Simulation of the distribution of dark matter haloes - Max Planck Institute

Simulation of the distribution of dark matter haloes - Max Planck Institute

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4 Responses to Quote of the moment: Frank Zappa, on hydrogen or stupidity

  1. “Stupidity is the basic building block of the universe.”-Zappa….http://frankzapppa.blogspot.com/2014/02/frank-zappa-quotes.html

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  2. ligne says:

    it might have been an IOP postcard, but i really can’t remember precisely. this was a couple of years ago, and my branes don’t work that well :-)

    but i might still have one lying about somewhere; i’ll see if i can find it.

    i’m afraid i’m not terribly familiar with Einstein’s writing style, outside of his scientific works. i’d always sort of seen him as someone with an impish streak to his character, though that could just as much be due to the stream of bons mots attributed to him.

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  3. Ed Darrell says:

    I have that one — but can’t confirm it to Al, either. Do you know of anyone who can pin it down to a source?

    One of the things that gives some of these faux Einstein quotes away is the phrasing. If you’re familiar with his writings, you know it’s difficult to find quotable sections — so these pithy little bon mots just don’t seem in character, at least not to me.

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  4. ligne says:

    a few years ago, as a physics undergrad, i heard it as “only two things are infinite: the universe, and stupidity. and i’m not sure about the former”. attributed to Uncle Al, natch.

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