Theory Versus Practice


“In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But in practice, there is.” – Jan L.A. van de Snepscheut

“The people heard it, and approved the doctrine, and immediately practiced the contrary.” – Benjamin Franklin, The Way to Wealth

“Theory is when you know everything but nothing works. Practice is when everything works but no one knows why. In our lab, theory and practice are combined: nothing works and no one knows why!” – Anon.

“Beware of bugs in the above code; I have only proved it correct, not tried it.” – Donald E. Knuth, The Art of Computer Programming

“At school, we learn the theory to do the practice, but they didn’t teach you that in real life you learn from the practice to know the theory.” – Goitsemang Mvula

“An economist is someone who says, when an idea works in practice, ‘let’s see if it works in theory.’” – Walter W. Heller

“Well, it may be all right in practice, but it will never work in theory.” – Warren Buffett on how the academia considers his investment techniques

“I have a name for people who went to the extreme efficient market theory—which is “bonkers.” It was an intellectually consistent theory that enabled them to do pretty mathematics. So I understand its seductiveness to people with large mathematical gifts. It just had a difficulty in that the fundamental assumption did not tie properly to reality.” – Charlie Bonker

“Before I got married I had six theories about raising children; now, I have six children and no theories.” – John Wilmot

“Very simple was my explanation, and plausible enough—as most wrong theories are!” — H.G. Wells, The Time Machine

“In Theory everything is possible; however, I live in Practice and the road to Theory has been washed out.” – Anon.

“In my relativity theory I set up a clock at every point in space, but in reality, I find it difficult to provide even one clock in my room.” – Albert Einstein

“As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.” –  Albert Einstein

“If the facts don’t fit the theory, change the facts.” – Albert Einstein

“A theory with mathematical beauty is more likely to be correct than an ugly one that fits some experimental data,” – Paul Dirac

“It’s a recession when your neighbor loses his job; it’s a depression when you lose yours.” – Harry S Truman

“If Edison had a needle to find in a haystack, he would proceed at once with the diligence of the bee to examine straw after straw until he found the object of his search… I was a sorry witness of such doings, knowing that a little theory and calculation would have saved him ninety per cent of his labor.” – Nikola Tesla, New York Times, 19 October 1931

“How empty is theory in the presence of fact!” – Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

“It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong.” – Richard P. Feynman

Always remember, theory and practice are just theoretically related…

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My name Edmark M. Law. I work as a freelance writer, mainly writing about science and mathematics. I am an ardent hobbyist. I like to read, solve puzzles, play chess, make origami and play basketball. In addition, I dabble in magic, particularly card magic and other sleight-of-hand type magic. I live in Hong Kong. You can find me on Twitter` and Facebook. My email is

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