December 29th, 2009


It is not even misquoted?

As one can readily find on Google, Wolfgang Pauli is said to have said, of an unclear paper, "Das ist nicht nur nicht richtig, es ist nicht einmal falsch!" (This is not only not right, it is not even wrong!) But when did he say it, and where did that quote come from? I'm not having any luck finding it; the closest I can come to an original source is this biographical article in Biographical Memiors of Fellows of The Royal Society, which quotes him as saying "It is not even wrong" (in English), without detailed attribution, although the author generally says that it and several other things he quotes come either from "trusted sources" or from situations where he was personally present. Less pithily but along similar lines, the author also quotes him saying (to L. Landau, who after a long argument had asked Pauli to at least admit that what he was saying wasn't all nonsense), "Oh, no. Far from it. What you said was so confused that one could not tell whether it was nonsense or not."

In any case, does anyone know of an original source for the full version of the quote, and/or the German version?

Similarly, I can find dozens upon hundreds of places attributing, "There are trivial truths and the great truths. The opposite of a trivial truth is plainly false. The opposite of a great truth is also true," to Neils Bohr, but none of them give any source for that either. Any leads?