Monday, January 19, 2009

Quotes from Robert A Heinlein's "Have Space Suit - Will Travel" (novel, space opera)

The quotes from Robert Heinlein's (juvenile) novel "Have Space Suit - Will Travel". I list them in order they appear in the book.


  1. Taxman: "The law requires written records."

    "Look again. The law can't even require a man to read & write."
  2. "Money problems can always be solved by a man not frightened by them."
  3. "a tough prep school back east can drill you so that you can enter Stanford, or Yale, or any of the best - but you can pick up false standards, too-nutty ideas about money & social position & the right tailor. It took me years to get rid of ones I acquired that way."
  4. "Once I had a large income and a larger ulcer; I now have a small income and no ulcer."
  5. "There is no such thing as luck; there is only adequate or inadequate preparation to cope with a statistical universe."
  6. "in the long run it won't matter. A man almost always gets what he wants badly enough."
  7. "any statement that starts 'I really ought to -' is suspect. It means you haven't analyzed your motives."
  8. "Find out what you want to do, then do it. Never talk yourself into doing something you don't want."
  9. "A man uses around three pounds of oxygen a day - pounds mass, not pounds per square inch."
  10. 'people talk about "the bitter cold of outer space" - but space is vacuum & if vacuum were cold, how could a Thermos jug keep hot coffee hot? Vacuum is nothing - it has no temperature, it just insulates.

    Three-fourths of your food turns into heat - a lot of heat, enough each day to melt fifty pounds of ice & more... when you have a roaring fire in the furnace, you are cooling your body; even in the winter you keep a room about thirty degrees cooler than your body. When you turn up a furnace's thermostat, you are picking a more comfortable rate for cooling. Your body makes so much heat you have to get rid of it, exactly as you have to cool a car's engine.

    Of course, if you do it too fast, say in a sub-zero wind, you can freeze - but the usual problem in a space suit is to keep from being boiled like a lobster. You've got vacuum all around you and it's hard to get rid of heat.'

    There are some very interesting remarks on the concept of temperature in Hal Clement's "Sunspot". Basic physics, but it's easy to forget by the time we grow up.
  11. On getting admission into a good university: "more depended on the student than on the school."
  12. "the first principle of survival is not to worry about the impossible & concentrate on what's possible."
  13. On moon: "one-sixth gravity is a better mattress than all the foam rubber ever made".
  14. "in a dilemma, it is helpful to change any variable, then reexamine the problem."
  15. "Getting a problem analyzed is two-thirds of solving it."
  16. "Some people insist that 'mediocre' is better than 'best.' They delight in clipping wings because they themselves can't fly. They despise brains because they have none."

    You also see this as a theme in Ursula K Le Guin's "The Flyers of Gy".
  17. "the more you learn, the more you need to learn."
  18. "They were encouraging my body to repair itself - not scar tissue but the way it had been. Any lobster can do this & starfish do it so well that you can chop them to bits & wind up with a thousand brand-new starfish.

    This is a trick any animal should do, since its gene pattern is in every cell. But a few million years ago we lost it."
  19. 'I never met one of their young. Joe explained that children should not see "strange creatures" until they had learned to feel understanding sympathy. That would have offended me if I hadn't been learning some "understanding sympathy" myself. Matter of fact, if a human ten-year-old saw a Vegan, he would either run, or poke it with a stick.'
  20. Ideal governmental laws would be the ones that simply encourage you to live your nature: "How could one possibly act against one's own nature?"
  21. Dumb machines: '"You'll have to drag me."

    This is not what to say to a robot. It did.'
  22. On aliens' view of empty earth: "When we clear jungle to make farms, do we worry if baboons are there first?"
  23. "You speak of 'justice.' I know what you think you mean. But no two races have ever agreed on the meaning of that term, no matter how they say it."
  24. During one of the emotional moments in court room drama: "It's not a defense, you don't want a defense. All right, take away our star. You will if you can & I guess you can. Go ahead! We'll make a star! Then, someday, we'll come back & hunt you down - all of you!"
  25. "'good luck' follows careful preparation; 'bad luck' comes from sloppiness."
  26. "The best things in history are accomplished by people who get 'tired of being shoved around.'"