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Mechanism Quotes (25 quotes)

A bird is an instrument working according to mathematical law, which instrument it is within the capacity of man to reproduce with all its movements, but not with a corresponding degree of strength, though it is deficient only in the power of maintaining equilibrium. We may therefore say that such an instrument constructed by man is lacking in nothing except the life of the bird, and this life must needs be supplied from that of man.
'Of the Bird's Movement' from Codice Atlantico 161 r.a., in Leonardo da Vinci's Notebooks, trans. E. MacCurdy (1906), Vol. 1, 153.
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A calculating engine is one of the most intricate forms of mechanism, a telegraph key one of the simplest. But compare their value.
From chapter 'Jottings from a Note-Book', in Canadian Stories (1918), 174.
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Contrary to popular parlance, Darwin didn't discover evolution. He uncovered one (most would say the) essential mechanism by which it operates: natural selection. Even then, his brainstorm was incomplete until the Modern Synthesis of the early/mid-20th century when (among other things) the complementary role of genetic heredity was fully realized. Thousands upon thousands of studies have followed, providing millions of data points that support this understanding of how life on Earth has come to be as it is.
In online article, 'The Day That Botany Took on Bobby Jindal by Just Being Itself', Huffington Post (5 Aug 2013).
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Essentially only one thing in life interests us: our psychical constitution, the mechanism of which was and is wrapped in darkness. All human resources, art, religion, literature, philosophy and historical sciences, all of them join in bringing lights in this darkness. But man has still another powerful resource: natural science with its strictly objective methods. This science, as we all know, is making huge progress every day. The facts and considerations which I have placed before you at the end of my lecture are one out of numerous attempts to employ a consistent, purely scientific method of thinking in the study of the mechanism of the highest manifestations of life in the dog, the representative of the animal kingdom that is man's best friend.
'Physiology of Digestion', Nobel Lecture (12 Dec 1904). In Nobel Lectures: Physiology or Medicine 1901-1921 (1967), 134
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I should be the last to discard the law of organic heredity ... but the single word “heredity” cannot dispense science from the duty of making every possible inquiry into the mechanism of organic growth and of organic formation. To think that heredity will build organic beings without mechanical means is a piece of unscientific mysticism.
In 'On the Principles of Animal Morphology', Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (1888), 15, 294-295. Original as Letter to Mr John Murray, communicated to the Society by Professor Sir William Turner. Page given as in collected volume published 1889.
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I think that the event which, more than anything else, led me to the search for ways of making more powerful radio telescopes, was the recognition, in 1952, that the intense source in the constellation of Cygnus was a distant galaxy—1000 million light years away. This discovery showed that some galaxies were capable of producing radio emission about a million times more intense than that from our own Galaxy or the Andromeda nebula, and the mechanisms responsible were quite unknown. ... [T]he possibilities were so exciting even in 1952 that my colleagues and I set about the task of designing instruments capable of extending the observations to weaker and weaker sources, and of exploring their internal structure.
From Nobel Lecture (12 Dec 1974). In Stig Lundqvist (ed.), Nobel Lectures, Physics 1971-1980 (1992), 187.
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In the vast cosmical changes, the universal life comes and goes in unknown quantities ... sowing an animalcule here, crumbling a star there, oscillating and winding, ... entangling, from the highest to the lowest, all activities in the obscurity of a dizzying mechanism, hanging the flight of an insect upon the movement of the earth... Enormous gearing, whose first motor is the gnat, and whose last wheel is the zodiac.
Victor Hugo and Charles E. Wilbour (trans.), Les Misérables (1862), 41.
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Is the very mechanism for the universe to come into being meaningless or unworkable or both unless the universe is guaranteed to produce life, consciousness and observership somewhere and for some little time in its history-to-be?
Quoted in P.C.W. Davies, God and the New Physics (1984), 39, from J.A. Wheeler, 'Genesis and observership', Foundational Problems in the Special Science (1977), 39.
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It appears unlikely that the role of the genes in development is to be understood so long as the genes are considered as dictatorial elements in the cellular economy. It is not enough to know what a gene does when it manifests itself. One must also know the mechanisms determining which of the many gene-controlled potentialities will be realized.
'The Role of the Cytoplasm in Heredity', in William D. McElroy and Bentley Glass (eds.), A Symposium on the Chemical Basis of Heredity (1957), 162.
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My original decision to devote myself to science was a direct result of the discovery which has never ceased to fill me with enthusiasm since my early youth—the comprehension of the far from obvious fact that the laws of human reasoning coincide with the laws governing the sequences of the impressions we receive from the world about us; that, therefore, pure reasoning can enable man to gain an insight into the mechanism of the latter. In this connection, it is of paramount importance that the outside world is something independent from man, something absolute, and the quest for the laws which apply to this absolute appeared to me as the most sublime scientific pursuit in life.
'A Scientific Autobiography' (1948), in Scientific Autobiography and Other Papers, trans. Frank Gaynor (1950), 13.
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Natural selection is a mechanism for generating an exceedingly high degree of improbability.
Natural Selection, Heredity, and Eugenics (1983), 27. In Gary William Flake, The Computational Beauty of Nature (2000), 339.
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Science has thus, most unexpectedly, placed in our hands a new power of great but unknown energy. It does not wake the winds from their caverns; nor give wings to water by the urgency of heat; nor drive to exhaustion the muscular power of animals; nor operate by complicated mechanism; nor summon any other form of gravitating force, but, by the simplest means—the mere contact of metallic surfaces of small extent, with feeble chemical agents, a power everywhere diffused through nature, but generally concealed from our senses, is mysteriously evolved, and by circulation in insulated wires, it is still more mysteriously augmented, a thousand and a thousand fold, until it breaks forth with incredible energy.
Comment upon 'The Notice of the Electro-Magnetic Machine of Mr. Thomas Davenport, of Brandon, near Rutland, Vermont, U.S.', The Annals of Electricity, Magnetism, & Chemistry; and Guardian of Experimental Science (1838), 2, 263.
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Science is a mechanism, a way of trying to improve your knowledge of nature. It's a system for testing your thoughts against the universe, and seeing whether they match.
'Isaac Asimov Speaks' with Bill Moyers in The Humanist (Jan/Feb 1989), 49. Reprinted in Carl Howard Freedman (ed.), Conversations with Isaac Asimov (2005), 143.
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Scientists and particularly the professional students of evolution are often accused of a bias toward mechanism or materialism, even though believers in vitalism and in finalism are not lacking among them. Such bias as may exist is inherent in the method of science. The most successful scientific investigation has generally involved treating phenomena as if they were purely materialistic, rejecting any metaphysical hypothesis as long as a physical hypothesis seems possible. The method works. The restriction is necessary because science is confined to physical means of investigation and so it would stultify its own efforts to postulate that its subject is not physical and so not susceptible to its methods.
The Meaning of Evolution: A Study of the History of Life and of its Significance for Man (1949), 127.
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The laws of physics must provide a mechanism for the universe to come into being.
As restated in Alan Lindsay Mackay, A Dictionary of Scientific Quotations (1991), 260. Compare with P.C.W. Davies, God and the New Physics (1984), 39, for quotation footnoted from J.A. Wheeler, 'Genesis and observership', Foundational Problems in the Special Science (1977), 39.
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The question whether atoms exist or not... belongs rather to metaphysics. In chemistry we have only to decide whether the assumption of atoms is an hypothesis adapted to the explanation of chemical phenomena... whether a further development of the atomic hypothesis promises to advance our knowledge of the mechanism of chemical phenomena... I rather expect that we shall some day find, for what we now call atoms, a mathematico-mechanical explanation, which will render an account of atomic weight, of atomicity, and of numerous other properties of the so-called atoms.
Laboratory (1867), 1, 303.
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The self-regulating mechanism of the market place cannot always be depended upon to produce adequate results in scientific research.
[Co-author with American lawyer Byron S. Miller (1915-2003)]
The Control of Atomic Energy (1948), 17
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The world is not as it was when it came from its Maker’s hands. It has been modified by many great revolutions, brought about by an inner mechanism of which we very imperfectly comprehend the movements; but of which we gain a glimpse by studying their effects: and their many causes still acting on the surface of our globe with undiminished power, which are changing, and will continue to change it, as long as it shall last.
Letter 1 to William Wordsworth. Quoted in the appendix to W. Wordsworth, A Complete Guide to the Lakes, Comprising Minute Direction for the Tourist, with Mr Wordsworth's Description of the Scenery of the County and Three Letters upon the Geology of the Lake District (1841), 6.
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The [mechanical] bird I have described ought to be able by the help of the wind to rise to a great height, and this will prove to be its safety; since even if... revolutions [of the winds] were to befall it, it would still have time to regain a condition of equilibrium; provided that its various parts have a great power of resistance, so that they can safely withstand the fury and violence of the descent, by the aid of the defenses which I have mentioned; and its joints should be made of strong tanned hide, and sewn with cords of strong raw silk. And let no one encumber himself with iron bands, for these are very soon broken at the joints or else they become worn out, and consequently it is well not to encumber oneself with them.
'Of the Bird's Movement' from Sul Voio degli Uccelli, 8 [7] r. in Leonardo da Vinci's Notebooks, trans. E. MacCurdy (1906), 153-4.
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To produce a really good biological theory one must try to see through the clutter produced by evolution to the basic mechanisms lying beneath them, realizing that they are likely to be overlaid by other, secondary mechanisms. What seems to physicists to be a hopelessly complicated process may have been what nature found simplest, because nature could only build on what was already there.
What Mad Pursuit (1990), 139.
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We cannot cheat on DNA. We cannot get round photosynthesis. We cannot say I am not going to give a damn about phytoplankton. All these tiny mechanisms provide the preconditions of our planetary life. To say we do not care is to say in the most literal sense that “we choose death.”
In Maurice F. Strong (ed.), Who Speaks For Earth (1973), 31. In Robert Andrews, The Columbia Book of Quotations (1993), 261.
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We may say that life has borrowed from inanimate processes the same mechanism used in producing these striking structures that are crystals.
‘The Nature of Forces between Large Molecules of Biological Interest’, Nature (1948), 161, 708.
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When we no longer look at an organic being as a savage looks at a ship, as something wholly beyond his comprehension; when we regard every production of nature as one which has had a long history; when we contemplate every complex structure and instinct as the summing up of many contrivances, each useful to the possessor, in the same way as any great mechanical invention is the summing up of the labour, the experience, the reason, and even the blunders of numerous workmen; when we thus view each organic being, how far more interesting, I speak from experience, does the study of natural history become!
From the Conclusion of Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, Or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (3rd. ed., 1861), 521.
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When we understand how animals are resistant to chemicals, the mechanisms are all independent of whether its natural or synthetic. And in fact, when you look at natural chemicals, half of those tested come out positive.
Paper to the American Chemical Society, 'Pollution, Pesticides and Cancer Misconceptions.' As cited by Art Drysdale, 'Latest Insider News: Natural vs. Synthetic Chemical Pesticides' (14 Feb 1999), on the mitosyfraudes.org website. Bruce Ames has written a similar sentiment in various other publications.
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[The] structural theory is of extreme simplicity. It assumes that the molecule is held together by links between one atom and the next: that every kind of atom can form a definite small number of such links: that these can be single, double or triple: that the groups may take up any position possible by rotation round the line of a single but not round that of a double link: finally that with all the elements of the first short period [of the periodic table], and with many others as well, the angles between the valencies are approximately those formed by joining the centre of a regular tetrahedron to its angular points. No assumption whatever is made as to the mechanism of the linkage. Through the whole development of organic chemistry this theory has always proved capable of providing a different structure for every different compound that can be isolated. Among the hundreds of thousands of known substances, there are never more isomeric forms than the theory permits.
Presidential Address to the Chemical Society (16 Apr 1936), Journal of the Chemical Society (1936), 533.
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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Sophie Germain
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Ernest Rutherford
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Marcel Proust
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Paul Feyerabend
- 90 -
Antoine Lavoisier
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Euclid
Ralph Emerson
Robert Bunsen
Frederick Banting
Andre Ampere
Winston Churchill
- 80 -
John Locke
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Bible
Thomas Huxley
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Erwin Schrodinger
Wilhelm Roentgen
Louis Pasteur
Bertrand Russell
Jean Lamarck
- 70 -
Samuel Morse
John Wheeler
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Robert Fulton
Pierre Laplace
Humphry Davy
Thomas Edison
Lord Kelvin
Theodore Roosevelt
Carolus Linnaeus
- 60 -
Francis Galton
Linus Pauling
Immanuel Kant
Martin Fischer
Robert Boyle
Karl Popper
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Avicenna
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William Shakespeare
- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
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- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
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JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
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Archimedes
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- 30 -
Andreas Vesalius
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- 20 -
Carl Sagan
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- 10 -
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Isaac Asimov
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