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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index A > Hannes Alfvén Quotes

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Hannes Alfvén
(30 May 1908 - 2 Apr 1995)

Swedish astrophysicist.


Science Quotes by Hannes Alfvén (10 quotes)

I have never thought that you could obtain the extremely clumpy, heterogeneous universe we have today, strongly affected by plasma processes, from the smooth, homogeneous one of the Big Bang, dominated by gravitation.
— Hannes Alfvén
Quoted in Anthony L. Peratt, 'Dean of the Plasma Dissidents', Washington Times, supplement: The World and I (May 1988),196.
Science quotes on:  |  Affected (3)  |  Big Bang (38)  |  Dominate (13)  |  Gravity (89)  |  Heterogeneous (3)  |  Plasma (7)  |  Smooth (13)  |  Thinking (222)  |  Universe (563)

I have no trouble publishing in Soviet astrophysical journals, but my work is unacceptable to the American astrophysical journals.
[Referring to the trouble he had with the peer reviewers of Anglo-American astrophysical journals because his ideas often conflicted with the generally accepted or “standard"” theories.]
— Hannes Alfvén
Quoted in Anthony L. Peratt, 'Dean of the Plasma Dissidents', Washington Times, supplement: The World and I (May 1988),197.
Science quotes on:  |  American (34)  |  Astrophysics (12)  |  Conflict (49)  |  Idea (440)  |  Journal (13)  |  Publication (83)  |  Soviet (2)  |  Standard (41)  |  Theory (582)  |  Trouble (55)

I was there when Abbe Georges Lemaître first proposed this [Big Bang] theory. ... There is no rational reason to doubt that the universe has existed indefinitely, for an infinite time. .... It is only myth that attempts to say how the universe came to be, either four thousand or twenty billion years ago.
[Expressing his belief that the Big Bang is a myth devised to explain creation. He said he heard Lemaître (who was, at the time both a member of the Catholic hierarchy and an accomplished scientist) say in private that this theory was a way to reconcile science with St. Thomas Aquinas' theological dictum of creatio ex nihilo—creation out of nothing.]
— Hannes Alfvén
Quoted in Anthony L. Peratt, 'Dean of the Plasma Dissidents', Washington Times, supplement: The World and I (May 1988),196.
Science quotes on:  |  Saint Thomas Aquinas (15)  |  Attempt (94)  |  Big Bang (38)  |  Creatio Ex Nihilo (2)  |  Creation (211)  |  Dictum (5)  |  Doubt (121)  |  Exist (89)  |  Indefinitely (9)  |  Infinite (88)  |  Monsignor Georges Lemaître (5)  |  Myth (43)  |  Rational (42)  |  Reason (330)  |  Theology (35)  |  Theory (582)  |  Time (439)  |  Universe (563)

Most people today still believe, perhaps unconsciously, in the heliocentric universe. ... Every newspaper in the land has a section on astrology, yet few have anything at all on astronomy.
[Realizing that his plasma universe may take a long time to penetrate the popular consciousness. When addressing a number of physicists with the first half of the quote, the groups was at first incredulous, but nodded agreement upon hearing the remainder of the quote.]
— Hannes Alfvén
Quoted in Anthony L. Peratt, 'Dean of the Plasma Dissidents', Washington Times, supplement: The World and I (May 1988),196.
Science quotes on:  |  Astrology (35)  |  Astronomy (175)  |  Belief (400)  |  Heliocentric (2)  |  Newspaper (27)  |  Unconscious (13)  |  Universe (563)

Scientists tend to resist interdisciplinary inquiries into their own territory. In many instances, such parochialism is founded on the fear that intrusion from other disciplines would compete unfairly for limited financial resources and thus diminish their own opportunity for research.
[Naming territorial dominance, greed, and fear of the unknown, as some of the influences on the increasing specialization of science]
— Hannes Alfvén
Quoted in Anthony L. Peratt, 'Dean of the Plasma Dissidents', Washington Times, supplement: The World and I (May 1988),192.
Science quotes on:  |  Compete (4)  |  Diminish (7)  |  Enquiry (75)  |  Interdisciplinary (2)  |  Intrusion (2)  |  Money (125)  |  Opportunity (43)  |  Research (517)  |  Resist (10)  |  Scientist (447)

Since religion intrinsically rejects empirical methods, there should never be any attempt to reconcile scientific theories with religion. [An infinitely old universe, always evolving may not be compatible with the Book of Genesis. However, religions such as Buddhism get along without having any explicit creation mythology and are in no way contradicted by a universe without a beginning or end.] Creatio ex nihilo, even as religious doctrine, only dates to around AD 200. The key is not to confuse myth and empirical results, or religion and science.
— Hannes Alfvén
Quoted in Anthony L. Peratt, 'Dean of the Plasma Dissidents', Washington Times, supplement: The World and I (May 1988),196.
Science quotes on:  |  Attempt (94)  |  Creatio Ex Nihilo (2)  |  Creation (211)  |  Empiricism (16)  |  Method (154)  |  Myth (43)  |  Reconcile (10)  |  Reject (21)  |  Science And Religion (267)  |  Theory (582)

Students using astrophysical textbooks remain essentially ignorant of even the existence of plasma concepts, despite the fact that some of them have been known for half a century. The conclusion is that astrophysics is too important to be left in the hands of astrophysicists who have gotten their main knowledge from these textbooks. Earthbound and space telescope data must be treated by scientists who are familiar with laboratory and magnetospheric physics and circuit theory, and of course with modern plasma theory.
[Lamenting the traditional neglect of plasma physics]
— Hannes Alfvén
Quoted in Anthony L. Peratt, 'Dean of the Plasma Dissidents', Washington Times, supplement: The World and I (May 1988),197.
Science quotes on:  |  Astrophysicist (7)  |  Astrophysics (12)  |  Circuit (12)  |  Concept (102)  |  Data (100)  |  Existence (254)  |  Fact (609)  |  Ignorant (27)  |  Knowledge (1128)  |  Laboratory (120)  |  Neglect (23)  |  Plasma (7)  |  Student (131)  |  Telescope (74)  |  Textbook (19)  |  Theory (582)

The difference between myth and science is the difference between divine inspiration of “unaided reason” (as Bertrand Russell put it) on the one hand and theories developed in observational contact with the real world on the other. It is the difference between the belief in prophets and critical thinking, between Credo quia absurdum (I believe because it is absurd–Tertullian) and De omnibus est dubitandum (Everything should be questioned–Descartes). To try to write a grand cosmical drama leads necessarily to myth. To try to let knowledge substitute ignorance in increasingly large regions of space and time is science.
— Hannes Alfvén
In 'Cosmology: Myth or Science?' Journal of Astrophysics and Astronomy (1984), 5, 79-98.
Science quotes on:  |  Belief (400)  |  Contact (24)  |  Cosmology (17)  |  René Descartes (43)  |  Difference (208)  |  Divine (42)  |  Drama (10)  |  Ignorance (190)  |  Inspiration (50)  |  Knowledge (1128)  |  Myth (43)  |  Observation (418)  |  Prophet (8)  |  Question (315)  |  Real (95)  |  Reason (330)  |  Bertrand Russell (148)  |  Science (1699)  |  Substitute (23)  |  Theory (582)  |  Thinking (222)  |  Time And Space (30)  |  World (667)  |  Write (87)

The technologists claim that if everything works [in a nuclear fission reactor] according to their blueprints, fission energy will be a safe and very attractive solution to the energy needs of the world. ... The real issue is whether their blueprints will work in the real world and not only in a “technological paradise.”...
Opponents of fission energy point out a number of differences between the real world and the “technological paradise.” ... No acts of God can be permitted.
— Hannes Alfvén
'Energy and Environment', Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (May 1972), 6.
Science quotes on:  |  Blueprint (7)  |  Critic (17)  |  Difference (208)  |  Fission (7)  |  Nuclear (24)  |  Opponent (10)  |  Paradise (7)  |  Reality (140)  |  Safety (39)  |  Solution (168)  |  Technologist (5)

We should remember that there was once a discipline called natural philosophy. Unfortunately, this discipline seems not to exist today. It has been renamed science, but science of today is in danger of losing much of the natural philosophy aspect.
[Pointing out the increasing specialization of science during the century to explain the resistance to his ideas,]
— Hannes Alfvén
(1986) Quoted in Anthony L. Peratt, 'Dean of the Plasma Dissidents', Washington Times, supplement: The World and I (May 1988),192.
Science quotes on:  |  Aspect (37)  |  Discipline (38)  |  Natural Philosophy (21)  |  Science (1699)



Quotes by others about Hannes Alfvén (1)

During Alfvén's visit he gave a lecture at the University of Chicago, which was attended by [Enrico] Fermi. As Alfvén described his work, Fermi nodded his head and said, 'Of course.' The next day the entire world of physics said. 'Oh, of course.'
Quoted in Anthony L. Peratt, 'Dean of the Plasma Dissidents', Washington Times, supplement: The World and I (May 1988), 195.
Science quotes on:  |  Description (72)  |  Enrico Fermi (17)  |  Lecture (54)  |  Of Course (11)  |  Work (457)


See also:
  • 30 May - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Alfvén's birth.

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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